Men Don’t get Raped

a big white poster held on each side by someone's hand. The poster reads, "you wanted it though
Photography by Grace Brown

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”



3 thoughts on “Men Don’t get Raped

  1. As I’m sure you realize by now, it was a terrible response. You could hardly have come up with a worse one. I hope that you’ve said other things about this to your friend since then.

    The correct way to respond to men and boys who have been raped is not mysterious. In essence it’s the way you would respond to a woman or girl who has been raped. Tell them you’re sorry it happened. Refrain from making assumptions about their experience. Don’t tell them what it really meant. Don’t begin a discussion about toxic masculinity or rape culture or Shia LaBeouf. Just listen. You can never go far wrong if you just listen.

    If you want to get an impression of what the experience of rape for men is really like, watch the last twelve minutes of a film called “Descent” (2007) with Rosario Dawson and Chad Faust. (You might have a little difficulty in finding an uncut version, in which that part is left in.) It’s a pretty bad film, but that part is quite authentic. Just remember that in real life, for women and men, rape is rarely finished in just twelve minutes.

    You are entirely correct in your larger point. At present there are no safe spaces in society for men who have been raped: nowhere that they have a reasonable expectation of not encountering invalidation, denial, dismissal or contempt. (Sadly, this includes the majority of rape crisis centers and sexual assault treatment centers. The online hotline RAINN——is probably their best option at the moment.) The consequences of that fact are, literally, lethal. We kill ourselves a lot. Just how much depends on whose figures you believe. A new study of 40 male rape victims published two weeks ago found that 19 had attempted suicide. I’ve seen others that suggest that our risk of killing ourselves increases by anything from 400% to 1,400%—not, as people sometimes foolishly say, as a result of our rape, but rather of how we’re treated afterwards.

    Compassion is not a finite resource. It’s not even an expensive one. Rape victims of both sexes and all genders are in desperate need of it, and few of us, of both sexes and all genders, ever find it. That’s why posts like yours—honest and reflective ones—are important. We have to start where people are, and right now, the overwhelming majority of people are at “Whatever. You probably liked it.” Acknowledging that fact is the first step toward changing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this detailed response. I find it so difficult to talk about male rape. I don’t know how to spark conversations about it. I don’t know how to create that safe space, I don’t know to encourage my peers to take it more seriously. The most I’ve ever done is share articles about it, but I know that more can be done. When I was in college I volunteered as a medical advocate for sexual assault survivors, and we never even discussed men as survivors (I hope that has changed now). but I’m going to keep trying and keep sharing articles from men who speak out, and I do hope that we continue to amplify their voices. It’s the least I can do

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Opportunities will come. You’ve already had one; there’ll be others. You’ve created another here, and deserve all the credit in the world for that. It’s something of a chicken-and-egg scenario. People won’t stop deriding male rape victims unless we’re visibly out there; we won’t come out unless people stop deriding us. Breaking that cycle is partly on us—or, at any rate, those of us who are less vulnerable than others. But everyone can help. The first and most basic thing, as you’ve done here, is recognizing we exist, and that there are far more of us than people think. Statistically, it’s a certainty that you know more men who’ve been raped, in childhood or adulthood, than the friend who disclosed to you. Remembering that fact—that any time people are cracking wise about rape in prison, or making “hot for teacher” jokes, or simply speaking, when the subject of sexual violence comes up, as if they’re too inconsequential to mention, there’s probably somebody in that room, listening, and being made to choose between either outing himself in front of a hostile audience or keeping his mouth shut and being triggered to hell and gone—will make a difference all by itself. One doesn’t have to become a militant over it. All that does is put people’s backs up. Just don’t allow it go unaddressed either. It means a huge amount when a woman advocates for male rape victims, just as it does when a man does for female rape victims. Every one of us, without exception, has a duty to do so, on behalf of our sisters and brothers who are suffering badly. We’re all human beings: we’re on the same side in this fight.

        Liked by 1 person

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