By Waled Aadnan:
Part 2 of 2 part series on Myths and Male Rapes. Part 1 here.
If we go by statistics, the perpetrators of male rape are not all men. At least 2-3% of them are believed to be women. The position of the Supreme Court regarding this phenomenon is not only short-sighted but also shows the misunderstanding regarding what can be considered consensual sexual intercourse, even at the highest level of the judiciary. Whereas most medical experts will exclude gender as a factor while defining rape, such is unfortunately not the case in society at large. Although the institution of marriage involves allowing one to have intercourse with one’s partner, the distinction between such intercourse being consensual and forced is narrow. While feminists in India have repeatedly called the typical Indian marriage as legalised prostitution, the victims in a small minority of cases are men. But just because female rapists are small in number does not make their crime any less serious. If emotional blackmail by women is factored in, the number of male rape instances will only rise. The problem, of course, arises in the reporting of such instances.
Men are often made to believe that if they are assaulted and they get an erection, they are in effect enjoying it and therefore, the act does not qualify to be called a rape. However, this is a gross misunderstanding of the workings of the human body. An erection is simply the body’s reaction to the immediate environment. It is not uncommon for men to have an erection during a medical test of the prostate (called the Digital Rectal Exam) or even when they wake up in the morning. Neither constitutes a statement of willingness on the part of the man to indulge in intercourse. Similarly, an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault does not make the act any less heinous. However, men are often convinced by those assaulting them that they had “enjoyed” the act and as such, it does not constitute rape. Of course, this is based on the premise that even if they were convinced to the contrary, they would go ahead and file a complaint and draw tremendous social stigma onto themselves.
The situation is made graver by the utter disregard of aid agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to rehabilitate rape victims. The beneficiaries are all women. Most reports on rape ignore the possibility of men being raped and if it is acknowledged, not more than a passing sentence or footnote is devoted. A study by Lara Stemple at the University of California cites that only 3% of 4,076 NGOs that have addressed wartime sexual violence mentioned the experience of men in their literature.
In a world where women are increasingly being made victims of sexual crimes, male victims are best described as the proverbial Indian street dog. Their equation with masculinity and invulnerability is not only a misconception but also an insult to women as they are then seen as relatively weak and vulnerable. A move towards gender equity requires that not only are women given equal roles in society, but also that the chauvinistic ideas regarding male characteristics are broken down and it be recognised that men too have weaknesses.
As of now, society is satisfied with imagining that male rapes occur only in prisons or in rainbow parties. Given the general disgust towards criminals and homosexuals, there isn’t much ethical consideration or sympathy for the victims either. We live in a society where not only is sex taboo, but also when allowed, the gender roles are rigid. The idea that a man can be assaulted is an idea too far out of the typical Indian’s comfort zone. As such, we continue to imagine the problem away. There are a few today who are willing to listen to the stories of women victims. As for their male counterparts, there are none.