6 years ago a friend confessed to me that he had been raped by his sister’s older friend, and the best thing I could tell him was “whatever, you probably liked it”.
Men don’t get raped. Or at least not in the traumatizing way we think of women survivors of rape. That’s what Hollywood taught me. MaIe rape is funny. Male rape is the punchline.
Don’t drop the soap! *cue the laughs*
That is the most common way male sexual assault is mentioned in pop culture. Male survivors almost never trigger feelings of sympathy or concern. It’s either comic or dismissed as just an ordinary event. In Shawshank Redemption, there is a scene where a guy is ambushed in the store room and beaten up but they don’t show that he’s been raped, only insinuate it through Morgan Freeman’s narration. In True Blood, Jason is kidnapped by werepanthers and tied to a bed where he is raped for weeks by women who lined up outside the room, awaiting their turn. In a behind the scenes clip, the writer and director of that episode discuss the rape with a light heartedness that still baffles me, though it is accurately illustrative of the way most of us think of male rape. The scene was described as Jason getting pay back, since he is well known for being a womanizer.
The only show that I know has given male rape the attention that it deserves was Private Practice season 5 episode 13 “The Time Has Come”, where we meet a soldier who was raped by his superior and is having difficulties coping in his marriage. This was the first time I saw male rape being shown as the trauma that it is. No comic relief, no dismissal, no cutting to the next scene like it’s an ordinary event; they made it the central theme of the episode and I was thankful. Thankful because I prayed it would give us an opportunity for introspection on the way we treat male survivors, and learn to shape a society in which a man speaking out against this crime does not make him a target of ridicule. Because that is what Kevin Kantor got when he tried to speak out. But he spoke out anyway
There is a deep tenderness with the way I speak of my body. Of women’s bodies. Too many times, we are war zones. Battlefields of abuse, whether self-inflicted or endured from others, but we learn to give each other tenderness. To nestle our broken selves into each other’s hands and ask for help. I am not a man so I cannot tell a man how to deal with abuse, but I hope that we can learn to give this same tenderness to men’s bodies and emotions. To make room for them to speak out. To allow the safe space to let them speak on the pain they’ve been longing to relinquish. Make the effort as a friend, as a significant other, as a family member to no longer be the person who only thinks of Male rape as a punchline. I replay that scene in my head, of my friend telling me he had been raped. I wish I said something other than
“Whatever, you probably liked it”
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.