The dangers of a gender essentialist approach to sexual violence

In December, when controversy about the rape apologist org the Good Men Project was all over the feminist internets, I wrote about problems with the juvenile way of thinking about people in terms like “good” and “bad.” In that post, I briefly mentioned that to address the reality of sexual violence we need a more sharply nuanced conversation all around, including when it comes to gender. The post included this line:

Most men aren’t rapists; some women are rapists; some people who aren’t men or women have experiences with sexual violence.

Community member Red commented on the post, and I’ve been thinking about this response ever since:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I am genderqueer and was raped 4 years ago. And I have never had my experience validated before in anything I have heard. I have been mis-gendered, mis-believed, and mis-treated in every step of my healing process by law enforcement, therapists, other feminists and my own friends.
I know this comment is unrelated to the actual blog post, and I apologize for fixating on this one sentence. Feel free to delete this comment. I just wanted to thank who ever thought to write that one sentence, because for the very first time I feel like someone might understand what happened to me.

This is heartbreaking. And it shouldn’t be this way. As feminists, we have a responsibility to address the ways we talk about and do sexual violence work that exclude actual survivors.

Rape is absolutely a gendered crime. This is true of how it plays out in the real world, and of our concept of rape – both the act and idea of rape are used to perpetuate a patriarchal gender hierarchy. Violence in general is function and gendered, as Eesha Pandit made clear in her powerful theory of violence. We know sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women. But we don’t actually know how strong the gender disparity is largely because of how gendered our concept of rape is. The FBI has only recently begun changing their archaic definition of rape from “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will,” an incredibly narrow definition that means FBI statistics exclude lots of female survivors, and anyone the FBI doesn’t identify as female. Because our idea of sexual violence is gendered in such an essentialist way, we don’t actually have a broad picture of the gendered ways these crimes play out in the real world.

This is part of how the gender binary works. It sets up two boxes: one for the people in power – men – and one for the people to oppress – women. Anyone who doesn’t fit our culture’s narrow definitions for man or woman, and anyone who isn’t a man or a woman, falls outside, where it’s difficult to even make people recognize our humanity, let alone our experiences of oppression. There’s a ton of problems with this set up, not the least of which is painting women broadly as victims and men as perpetrators. Another way gendered violence functions is by erasing the many people whose experiences of sexual violence don’t fit this model – survivors who are men (cis or trans), trans women, genderqueer, two spirit, or in some other way gender non-conforming, intersex folks, and survivors of crimes perpetrated by atypical attackers, like survivors of queer relationship violence. Sadly, feminists end up perpetuating this exclusion when we talk about victims only as women and perpetrators only as men. Rape is absolutely a gendered crime, but the act of rape itself doesn’t necessarily follow those rules. We need to be able to hold an understanding of rape as a genderless act at the same time that we recognize it as embedded in a gendered culture of violence. No one said feminism was easy.

Sadly, Red’s experience is not unique. We have a very hard time recognizing and understanding sexual violence that doesn’t fit the standard narrative. I have to wonder how much this plays into the widespread shocked reaction to cases like that of Jerry Sandusky or the Catholic Church. It’s also been difficult for these cases which involve the abuse of boys to come to light. I have to wonder about the cases involving men we don’t  hear about, not to mention cases involving gender non-conforming people, which most of our culture doesn’t even know how to talk about.

Lori and I have written a good deal on this site about expanding abortion care to people who aren’t women but who need abortions. As I wrote about that topic:

Yes, the majority of people who have abortions are cis women. Recognizing that not everyone who needs to access the procedure is a woman does not erase this fact, or do anything to make abortion less accessible to this majority. I certainly do not want to see women taken out of the discussion at all – I just want to see it expanded to include everyone who’s lived reality includes abortion. But the idea that abortion politics should be focused on cis women because they are the impacted majority is pretty much the opposite of a social justice stance. It’s the people in the margins – usually a minority – who most need their voices and concerns lifted up. Because they are the easiest to forget about, the easiest to exclude.

The same is true when it comes to sexual violence. We absolutely must continue highlighting the gendered nature of sexual violence. But it’s vital to do so in a way that doesn’t leave people out. There are real world implications to only seeing victims who are cis women. Respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported harassment and denial of equal treatment in domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, as well as other health care facilities and at the hands of law enforcement. Trans and gender non-conforming people are often excluded from services all together. I want to be clear: letting the Violence Against Women Act expire is absolutely despicable. As Zerlina highlighted so personally, this legislation funds vital services that real people depend on. While VAWA’s name is very gendered, in principal the legislation is supposed to be gender neutral. In practice, it’s an ongoing process to make sure services VAWA covers reach as many people as possible. In an incredibly disturbing turn, the House GOP’s apparent reason for letting VAWA expire was that it would offer too many services to immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT folks. Yes, they killed VAWA in an attempt to ensure vital services wouldn’t reach my community. We absolutely need VAWA, and we need to keep expanding its services to people who aren’t cis women. One piece of positive change that has occurred within government: last year, the Department of Justice released national standards to prevent prison rape that include protections for trans and gender non-conforming folks. We need more changes like that, and less changes like killing VAWA because it might help too many LGBT folks.

Given how overwhelmingly gendered sexual violence is, it’s easy and understandable to slip into essentialist language when talking about the issue, to paint all victims as women and all perpetrators as men. By missing parts of the reality, we’ve left space for folks like Men’s Rights Activists to fill. Obviously, the feminist take on rape has much more to do with reality than the MRA take. But when you’ve got one side going “what about the menz!” and another side responding “but victims are overwhelmingly women!” you’re having the wrong conversation. As feminists, we need to find ways to do this work that serve everyone who’s been targeted with sexual violence.

Violence in general is incredibly gendered in our culture, as Maya wrote in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. We absolutely need to be talking about violence and masculinity. We should continue taking to the streets to shout that rape and sexual violence are gendered crimes that are embedded in and perpetuate patriarchy. But we need to work to do this in a way that doesn’t perpetuate the exclusions of the gender binary by leaving victims out.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Lindsey Weedston

    I like to approach the issue by talking about getting past gender roles and norms. It includes benefits for both boys and girls – girls won’t be taught to be submissive and boys won’t be taught to be dominating and violent. Boys and girls and men and women can act however they want without being excluded, ostracized and left in the dust. This leads nicely into thinking of gender as a spectrum rather than a binary. How we define ourselves is all that matters, no one else is allowed to define our existence for us or tell us what we should be. The more we try and break ourselves of the habit of trying to cram everyone into a set number of categories, the less people are hurt, the more accepting we become.

    This is something we should all be able to agree on. Every human is a whole human, and no one wants to be defined solely by their body parts. This is what we should be teaching the kids. Forget about teaching them to act more like the gender you’ve assigned to them. Teach them to express themselves however THEY choose, based on what feels right to them.

  • Intersexroadshow

    Thanks for posting on this topic–an important one.

    Sexual violence relates to power and marginalization, but to think of that only in terms of the power of cis men over cis women misses a lot of the picture. Wherever people are marginalized, they are at greater risk of rape. Rapists often choose victims who are socially ostracized or shamed because they know we’ll be less likely to go to the police, and less likely to be believed. As someone whose social networks full of sex and gender variant people, I can see that the number of folks who are survivors of sexual assault is appallingly high.

    I’m an intersex man. I was raped when I was younger by some I later found out had victimized a series of other sex and gender variant people. None of us went to any authorities–the rapist picked people who were ashamed, or closeted, or afraid, or targets of street harassment–as many intersex and trans* people are.

    My spouse, an intersex woman, was sexually assaulted by the counselor she saw when she was trying to gender transition away from her male assignment-at-birth. Who knows how many trans women he assaulted, knowing that they needed a letter from him to get access to medical transition services, telling them as he told my wife “Say anything, and I’ll see that no other therapist will ever take you as a client.” Like far too many visibly trans women, this was just one of several times people have attempted to sexually assault her. I’ve read that a trans woman of color has a 60% likelihood of being raped, though I think statistics like this are very difficult to collect. I fear the risk is even higher.

    The really difficult thing for many trans women rape survivors is that cis woman are so often suspicious about their trying to attend a support group, and frame them as potential rapists rather than as real survivors. We have to call our cis women friends out on this.

    We also have to stop treating female-assigned-at-birth folks who don’t identify as such as being “members of a sisterhood” united by surviving sexual assault. This essentialist response is so deeply undermining of identity, and disturbingly parallel to the misogynist claim that cis male survivors of rape have been “unmanned” and feminized.

    Again, thanks for bringing up the issue.

  • John

    “We should continue taking to the streets to shout that rape and sexual violence are gendered crimes that are embedded in and perpetuate patriarchy. ”

    As an MRA I don’t agree with feminism often, but I do try to understand it. I can see how sexual violence could be considered a gendered crime, but how would a cis woman raping a cis man be perpetuating the patriarchy? Wouldn’t it be completely opposite?

    • Cassidy

      John, did you read this article? The point of what it’s describing is to recognize the need to be careful in how we communicate in order to recognize the root of sexual violence while still making sure not to exclude instances of violence that aren’t just a cis man attacking a cis woman. In the example you bring up of a cis woman attacking a cis man, while it’s important to recognize that it’s a relatively uncommon instance, it’s also important to move away from a discussion that only recognize sexual violence as a male-on-female because in doing so the experiences of people who have survived the situation you’ve described (as well as other forms of sexual violence) are erased. Delegitimizing violence against women perpetuates the patriarchy AND failing to recognize male victims of sexual violence (because of a perception that it just doesn’t happen to men) also perpetuates the patriarchy. Jos makes a point of describing the complexities of this particular issue, I think you could benefit a lot from a close re-reading of the article.

      • T.A.O.


        In the example you bring up of a cis woman attacking a cis man, while it’s important to recognize that it’s a relatively uncommon instance,

        Considering that NISVS 2010 Report found that every 5th rape victim alive is a man while every 2nd rape victim victimized in 2009 is a man (in the last 12 months for the survey condicted in 2010) I find this statement to be horribly minimizing.

        79.2% of those male rape victims report a single female perpetrators (page 24).

        • Lamech

          79.2% of male rape victims, in the lifetime category, that fell under the CDC category of “made to penetrate” where victimized by a female. And that category included at least about 80% of male rape victims.

          We don’t know about the perps genders for those who were assaulted in 2009.

          • T.A.O.

            That’s right. However, those men who were raped (made to penetrate) in 2009 are a subset of the men who were raped (made to penetrate) in their lifetime. I meant to refer to all the male victims who reported being made to penetrate someone else in my comment.

        • song

          “I think you may be stretching a bit to find equivalence.

          From the executive summary at the start of the full report – nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the US have been raped at some point in their lives. 1 in 21 men reported they were made to penetrate someone else in their lifetime.

          In the lifetime table for men, it’s 1.58 million estimated victims of rape; in the lifetime table for women it’s 21.84 million estimated victims of rape. There are no numbers for the 12 month period for men being raped, whereas it’s 1.27 million for women – i.e. almost as many women are raped in a single year as the entire number of men raped over their lifetime*.

          For sexual violence other than forcible penetration (sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact sexual experiences) it’s 53 million women, or 44.6 – i.e. 1 in 2 women will be subjected to unwanted sexual events/assault in their lives. For men, it’s 25 million lifetime sexual violence, or somewhat over 1 in 5.

          The breakdowns are dis-similar also; over the 12 month period, 1.1% of all men in one year made to sexually penetrate someone, 1.5% sexual coercion, 2.3% unwanted sexual contact and 2.7% unwanted sexual contact. For women, it’s 2.0% sexual coercion, 2.2% unwanted sexual contact and 3.0% non-contact unwanted sexual experience.

          *I’ll also note that for the lifetime figures for rape for men, 27.8% of those were first completed before the age of 10, vs 12% for women. More than 3/4 of female rapes occur before the age of 25 however.

          While rape and sexual assault against children is indeed a serious problem that indeed needs addressing, especially given that it’s almost entirely caused by intimate family or acquaintances in childhood, I’m not convinced that it is useful to conflate that with rapes commited against adults.

          Also; 98% of rapes against women were committed by males; 92.5% of sexual violence other than rape was by males. For males, 93% of rapes were solely male perpetrators; sexual contact was 53% male; non-contact sexual experience was 49% male, and forced to penetrate was 20% male.

          When it comes to multiple perpetrators for rape and sexual violence, 16% of women raped had been raped by two different attackers; 12% had been raped by 3 or more different attackers, and 30.8% of women who’d suffered sexual violence had done so from 3 or more attackers. I don’t see similar statistics for men.

          Look, I’m not trying to downplay or minimise rape, sexual assault or domestic violence against men. It is a problem, and it’s far too common. A large part of that is committed by men against other men, or men against boys.

          However, the numbers of women subjected to rape, sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence are utterly horrifying, and almost entirely men against women.

          To try and draw an equivalence between women attacking men and the numbers of men attacking women is simply false.”

          from Metafilter

          • T.A.O.

            From this I can only assume that you are on the same page as Mary P. Koss and that you don’t consider forcing a man to have unconsensual PIV/PIA/PIM sex with a woman to be rape. That’s your perogative, just as it’s mine to consider you a bigot for doing so.

          • T.A.O.

            Perhaps my previous comment was a bit harsh and you just happened to not read beyond the executive summary of the NISVS 2010:

            I’ll quote the definition used for rape and for “being made to penetrate someone else” and then you can tell me if you agree with CDC that “being made to penetrate someone else” is not rape:

            Rape is defined as any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal (for women), oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm and includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent

            1 in 71 men and 1 in 5 women reported the above in their lifetime.
            0 men and 1 in 100 women reported the above the last 12 months.

            Being made to penetrate someone else includes times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone without the victim’s consent because the victim was physically forced (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threatened with physical harm, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.

            0 women and 1 in 21 men reported this in their lifetime.
            0 women and 1 in 100 men reported this in the last 12 months.

            Are you still telling me that the latter isn’t rape?

        • Cassidy

          I did not mean for there to be confusion, when I posted my reply I made an effort to avoid using any language to trivialize the experiences of any rape survivors (i.e. with my use of “relatively” in my phrasing that was quoted). I apologize if that is how it came off. My intention wasn’t to argue whether or not any particular situation is or isn’t rape, I meant to communicate that instances of rape where men are the victim are less common than instances where the victims are women.

      • Sam

        I agree at the point of the article is that we need to be careful about how we discuss this issue. However, I don’t think we’ve addressed John’s question: why is the rape of cis men by cis women also perpetuating patriarchy? I’m interested in learning more as well. I’ve done a little bit of searching but I have not come up with an answer yet. Can anyone clue us in?

  • QuantumInc

    rape culture/commodity model/patriarchy seems to define rape as the theft of a sort of imaginary reproductive resource, and the idea of this reproductive resource doesn’t really make sense if you also acknowledge LGBT people, or even really women with their own libidos…but I think any well read feminist has heard about this constellation of ideas. In this mainstream view only a certain type of woman is harmed by rape. A “dirty slut” isn’t allowed to complain, and for the same reason cis-men and everyone else isn’t allowed to complain either.

    The 2010 National Intimate Partern and Sexual Violence survey included a new statistic, it said that 4.8% of men had been “forced to penetrate” someone else. It’s unfortunately about this rather vague, but implies that nearly 4.8% of men have been raped by a woman, compared to 1.4% who were “raped”, i.e. penetrated by someone else. Even the CDC seems to have a somewhat gendered way of defining rape, it only counts if there is a penis going into your body, otherwise it is a completely different number.

    As much as I would hate to say it, feminist rhetoric often functions to erase rapes that don’t fit the cis-male attacking a cis-female model. Feminist rhetoric has expanded the definition of rape to cover many scenarios where previously the victim would’ve simply have been dismissed. However this expansion obviously need to cover anyone who is made to be part of a sexual act that they never wanted to be part of. If you have any rights, then you have to right to your own body, and the right to refuse anything you don’t want, even if getting laid is ostensibly wonderful. So transgressing those rights is just a fundamental human rights issue. It’s a women’s issue because 18.3% of women report being raped (same CDC survey) but rape is wrong for reasons of basic morality, not gender politics.

    • T.A.O.

      Even the CDC seems to have a somewhat gendered way of defining rape, it only counts if there is a penis going into your body, otherwise it is a completely different number.

      As much as I would hate to say it, feminist rhetoric often functions to erase rapes that don’t fit the cis-male attacking a cis-female model.

      It not only function like that, but it’s also willfully designed to function like that by feminist. It’s a conscious and deliberate decision. You think I am wrong?

      We all know of Mary P. Koss, here’s what she writes about methodologies around measuring rape in her paper Detecting the Scope of Rape : A Review of Prevalence Research Methods:

      Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of the legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with a woman.

      page 206

      Note how she uses the word “engage”. A man being made to penetrate a woman either by force, threats or coercion is engaging in sex with her? He is the actor?

      On screening for rape using adopted colloquial or euphemistic language (like “Has anyone ever tried to make you have sexual relations with them against your will”):

      Among men, the terms “sex” and “sexual relations” may activate schemas for situations where they penetrated women. Clarification is necessary to ensure that male respondents realize that the situations of interest are those in which they were penetrated forcibly and against their will by another person, and not situations where they felt pressure or coercion to have sexual relations with a woman partner.

      page 208

      Note how she uses terms like “forcibly” and “against their will” when talking about the men being penetrated while when she talks about men penetrating women she uses terms like “felt pressure” and “coercion”.

      She ends with a set of some recommendation when measuring the prevalence of rape, this is the second one:

      2. If men and boys are to be included, care must be taken to ensure that their data are accurate counterparts of rape prevalence among women. This means that men must be reporting instances where they experienced penetration of their own bodies (or attempts).

      page 218

      CDC took a small step forward when they actually measured the extent men report being forced to have sex with a woman, but they still weren’t able to call it rape. That decision was made by someone.

      This is what happens when one call rape a gendered crime. This is why many male victims don’t trust feminists on this issue.

    • caro

      The ‘forced to penetrate’ crime is not so much a woman raping a man, as a male victim being forced to have sex with another – could be a man or a woman, by a man or a woman, but usually more than one perpetrator. It is a crime where women are represented as perpetrators, and seems to be a crime much more associated with the young. Like all other forms of rape and assault its purpose is to generate fear and humiliation, esp when a young man is forced to penetrate another man , as this is nearly always done as an act of homophobia, to debase the males further.

      • T.A.O.

        Please read the NISVS 2010 Report before you state assumptions as if they were facts.

        Page 24 of the report states that 79.2% of male victims of “being made to penetrate someone else” reports a single female perpetrator. Which makes your claim that it’s usuall more than one perpetrator just plain wrong.

        Also your statement that this is not so much a woman raping a man (when that actually accounts for 79.2% of the reported cases) is also plain wrong.

  • Andrea

    A similar hijacking of the thread by MRA’s happened at Sociological Images, concerning a story on Fox News and a statement made by a “feminist” on their panel. The same statistics and focus on the “made to penetrate” aspect of sexual assault utterly derailed the topic. Yes, the inclusion of sexual assault with regards to people not on the gender binary is important, both in language and description, as well as access to crisis support, etc.

    Please ban the MRA derails or you will in for a flood of hijackers.

    • T.A.O.

      Yes, the inclusion of sexual assault with regards to people not on the gender binary is important, both in language and description, as well as access to crisis support, etc.

      What about people on the gender binary? Are both included? Or just cis straight women?

      Bringing up the statistics on female-on-male rape, female-on-female and any other combination not usually considered when discussion rape is not a derailment – it’s putting the train on track again after it being derailed by many for many years, including Mary P. Koss, the CDC, and to a large degree men and women in general. The traditionalist perception of rape as a man-on-woman only crime adopted by feminists like Koss doesn’t change by itself and only by bringing the subject up can awareness be brought about.

      If feminists had been on the ball when the NISVS 2010 Report came out and not been “blinded” by already held beliefs and therefore omitting and/or mischaracterized male victimization rates they might’ve a better take on this aspect of rape than the MRA. Now they don’t because the kicking and screaming of “no, it isn’t so” when the male victimization rates are mentioned reveals exactly how much of a take feminists in general have on it.

      I for instance haven’t seen even only one feminist written a blog-post/article to seriously discuss what the last 12 months prevalency numbers for raped women and raped men (including those men who were made to penetrate someone else) means and if it should have any effect on how the discourse on rape should be going forward. Have anyone?

      I’d love to see that as feminists are very influentual in the rape discourse, the design and execution of anti-rape campaign, a strong lobby on rape policy making and so on. Feminism is the powerhouse when it comes to anti-rape policy and unfortunately that also means that feminism have become the establishment. An establishment seemingly unable to adapt to new facts going against commonly held beliefs.

      I haven’t seen any, not one feminist blogger or article writer even mentioning the last 12 months prevalency numbers for male victims of rape reported in the NISVS 2010 Report (I include “being made to penetrate someone else”). They apparently don’t want to touch it with a 12 feet pole. Either ignoring it completely or saying they don’t trust the number (although the number for female victims in the NISVS 2010 are a-ok). I can’t help but wonder why and none of the answers I can come up with is flattering. The response one receives when that statistics are pointed out in comments etc is, to put it mildly, defensive and dismissive.

      When I read feminists like Soraya Chemaly citing some statistics (but not that one) from the NISVS 2010 Report in the same article where she states that “only men can stop rape” I was so triggered that I can’t afford to put any stock in the assertion that feminism have anything to do with reality when it comes to male rape victimization. When feminist academics like Mary P. Koss thinks it’s important that male rape victims isn’t counted as rape victims I can’t put any trust in feminism on this subject. When I see very little or no pushback from feminists against Chemaly’s assertion that only men can stop rape or Koss’ dismissal of male rape victims I am disappointed. Saying that women can stop rape by men by dressing more modest to a crowd which includes female victims of male rapists are rightfully horrible and prompted protest such as the Slut Walks. Saying “only men can stop rape” to a crowd which includes male victims of female rapists are apparently nothing to protest against for feminists. When it’s only male victims and MRAs who protests that I again find OP’s assertion that feminists are more reality oriented in male rape than MRA to be pretty weak.

      Feminists have dropped the ball for many years hurling “what about the menz” at men – including male victims bringing the subject on male rape in the only arena where rape was discussed with what initially seemed to be empathy towards victims. “MRA!” seem to be the new invective replacing the “what about the menz”.

      I personally believe 1+1=3 when it comes to rape prevention. Rape prevention programs with a sincere equal representation on both axis of gender and orientation not only help teach people that other’s consent and boundaries are sanctity, but also that their own consent and boundaries are sanctity. A boy/man get countless messages that his consent and boundaries doesn’t really matter (“he wanted it” and so on). Women do to. A person who’s perceives that their consent and boundaries doesn’t matter is I believe less likely to respect the consent and boundaries of others. Or rather the other way around; someone who have been told that their consent matter and that other’s consent matters are more likely to care about consent from others than someone who has been told that their consent doesn’t matter (and never been told that it does) and that other’s consent matters (more).

      • Cassidy

        I’m very confused by your overwhelmingly negative reaction to a discussion that should make sense to you as what is focused on in this article is that it’s dangerous to discuss sexual violence as an exclusively male-on-female crime. You seem very willing to attack people that are agreeing that language that continues to marginalize experiences that are viewed as/perceived to be atypical is dangerous. When you make accusations of a group of people that is attempting to conduct this discussion THAT is “derailing”. Rape is, in many instances, a gendered crime that is male-on-female, but not exclusively. This is a dialogue that is intended to be inclusive, maybe try to listen before you accuse all feminists of being perpetrators of violence against men.

        • T.A.O.

          I haven’t accused all feminists of being perpetrators of violence against men. I have listed concrete instances of feminists minimizing and erasing male victims of rape based on their feminist ideas and theory.

          I have cited a reputable source finding that in every 5th rape victim alive is a man (1 in 5 = 20 in 100 for women and 1 in 21 = 4.76 in 100 for men, so in a population of 200 we have 20 female rape victims and 4,76 male rape victims which mades every 20/4.76=4,2 rape victim a man) for men) .

          And I cited that every 2nd rape victim in 2009 was a man (1.1% of women and 1.1% of men).

          When the response to that is several comments dismissing that finding:

          I think you may be stretching a bit to find equivalence

          The only stretching I did was to categorize “being made to penetrate someone else” as defined by CDC as rape.

          Others are quick to point out that female-on-male rape is a gendered crime (leaving it unsaid, but implies that male-on-male, female-on-male and female-on-female is not a gendered crime).

          Is rape a gendered crime when it’s female-on-male? What about male-on-male? What about female-on-female? What is the purpose and gain from this distinction?

        • Jacob Taylor

          Cassidy, I cannot speak for others, however, my negative reaction is specific: I do not see the author actually questioning whether it is dangerous to discuss sexual violence as an exclusively male-on-female crime because the author repeatedly states “rape is a gendered crime”. That phrase marginalizes male and transgender people’s experiences, which is the opposite of being inclusive.

          Consider this: the majority of victims of violence are male. Imagine if every time I mentioned violence against women I reminded them that that “violence is a gendered crime”. Would you think I was being inclusive by saying that?

          I do not think the way to get rid of marginalizing language is to keep using it. In context to the topic, there was no reason for the author to write “rape is a gendered crime”. The only reason I see for doing that is to shore up his/her feminist credentials by reminding people that really only women are victims and only men are rapists. If one removes that language, the piece reads a neutral. With the language there, it is a not-so-subtle reminder to male survivors like me that what happened to us really does not count.

    • song

      MRAs being allowed to constantly interrupt feminist discussions to inject their non-feminist perspectives is why there are so few productive discussions on Feministing. Feminists are not interested in focusing their efforts on MRA issues, and attempts to make us do so result in us finding spaces with less misogyny and fewer derailments. Feminists want to work together, and we don’t mean “together, with anti-feminist groups”.

      I used to read Feministing nearly every day, but in the last few years it’s more rare that I bother. Not because I am less of a feminist, but because my feminism has very little to do with MRAs and what MRAs think/feel/believe/want. Their issues seem to be front and center in the comments section here.

      • redsky

        I have the same problem you do; there are certain repeat commenters who seem to add nothing to any discussion except some clearly anti-feminist ideology, and only serve to derail everything with their “what about the menz” questions. It gets very frustrating having to stop in the middle of a discussion to explain basic principles like “sex without consent is always rape” to these people.

  • Jennifer

    cis, genderqueer, two spirit?? Not everyone has a degree that required a women’s study class to know these terms. If the point of the article is expand a conversation then making sure everyone has the same vocabulary is important. Please provide at least a link to a glossary for those who do not know those terms.
    When it takes so many words to describe a set of people effected by something shouldn’t we start to question which set of people we are excluding and why? I believe that the problem of patriarchy is that it has two sets of rights: those for some men and a lessor set for everyone else. Feminism is to me, the belief that there are only human rights that everyone is entitled to.
    Rape and outlawing abortion are denials of the same basic human right. Each of us, and only us, has the right to own our bodies. Rape and outlawing abortion force an unconsented use of another person’s body. While abortion is a service only those with a functioning uterus needs, the right of full bodily ownership that it derives from is a universal human right. Rape and sexualized violence has victims of every gender, age, race, religion, etc. We cannot and should not insist on being only victims allowed a voice.

  • Bob Smith

    “We absolutely need to be talking about violence and masculinity. We should continue taking to the streets to shout that rape and sexual violence are gendered crimes that are embedded in and perpetuate patriarchy.”

    Just to point out for the author, this study is showing that violent and aggressive behavior by males linked to testosterone is not genetically inherited, but is in fact environmentally affected by the mother’s behavior. So before you go off generalizing men as gendered violent offenders, you should probably analyze who made them that way.


  • Matt Markonis

    “We need to be able to hold an understanding of rape as a genderless act at the same time that we recognize it as embedded in a gendered culture of violence. No one said feminism was easy.”

    You’re making a moral argument about how people ought to be treated, it’s not brain surgery.

    The practical considerations of the article (i.e. VAWA, FBI definition of rape, etc.) are drowned out by the wishy-washy metaphysics, identity politics and social constructionism. It reads at times like an exploitation of the issue to promote a theoretical and ideological view.

    If you believe in being that orthodox, why not point out that the term “feminist” is precisely the kind of essentialism that’s being rejected. Why not adopt a humanist position regarding sexual violence? The critique of patriarchy is essentialist too; in its place might be substituted a critique of authoritarianism.

    Also, there’s a contradiction between the mention of normative society trying to categorize everyone and the feminist approach which is apparently to categorize everyone better:

    “survivors who are men (cis or trans), trans women, genderqueer, two spirit, or in some other way gender non-conforming, intersex folks”