Tearing Down Stereotypes with Changing Definition of Rape

By Kyle Sepe
Elm Staff Writer

Male rape victims are stigmatized by society’s constructed perceptions of gender roles. While men are perceived to be initiators of sex, dominant, protective, and not capable of being raped, it is that impression which insidiously falters humanity.

One out of 10 rape victims are male, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Yet an estimated five percent of male victims actually file a crime report. That being said, it was not until the 1980s when scholars even began to confer rape in the context of men. The lack of research is indicative of how our society views men, their role, and the conception of rape itself.

Thus, myths develop in regards to female-male and male-male rape discourse because dismal research is implemented in comparison to female rape victims. These emerged myths launch misleading conclusions, which affect personal, societal and legal assessments.

For instance, an emblematic falsehood of male rape is that only gay men are the victims of such sex crimes.

As purported by the DOJ in 2011, 60 percent of men who were raped did identify as homosexual. Anti-gay violence and instances of date rape attacks exclusive to this demographic group accounted for the high percentage. Even though more than half of victims are gay, does this affect the way society views homosexuality? How are straight men affected?

In contrast, the statistics in the study are flawed because the definition of rape utilized by the FBI was different than it is currently. Also, in some jurisdictions, female-male rape is not even considered possible and thus was not documented. While the statistics are skewed, this emanates instances of gender inequality due to the physical attributes of men.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, rape was “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” for the past 85 years.
The “carnal knowledge” of a male “forcibly and against his will” was only considered “assault.” So, were male rape cases treated the same as female rape cases in a court of law?

Regardless, this past January, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to revise the definition to provide “comprehensive statistical reporting of rapes nationwide” in the future.

The new definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This change, which applies to both genders, is a step in the right direction because dependable and consistent research can be conducted while it is becoming more socially acceptable for male rape victims to verbalize this conflict.

Now, those men who have suffered from this devastating crime can finally be accounted for.

Rape is an act of violence used to exert power and control over another person. According to the study, though, most male responses were derived from gender roles and preconceived notions of male dominance.

How are we as a society supposed to progress if fixed gender stereotypes negatively impinge on those who don’t emulate “typical” characteristics, or disregard those who suffer from these types of crimes?

Consequently, both gay and straight male victims of rape experienced inexorable humiliation, anxiety, and greater risk of suicide. The study found that homosexual men also suffered complications with subsequent relationships while heterosexual men suffered from the “sexual aspect,” as opposed to the “violent aspect.”
Social and physical barriers in conjunction with gender stereotypes must collapse in order to analyze both male and female rape uniformly and to identify the tribulations of each.

Male rape victims cannot be shamed, and stereotypes should not manipulate personal or legal judgments.

Thus, if we are serious about seeing rape in the context of both genders and breaking down these barriers as a result, a man should never be made unseen just because he is a man.

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