The Sound of Silence

Firstly, #notallmen *rolls eyes. Because clearly when speaking of rapists, with the overwhelming majority of rapists being men, means I’m implying ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS. Right so that’s out the way.

Secondly, yes men get raped too, most often by other men and I’m certain that if we sort out the abhorrent attitudes of men to rape and the way women who are sexually assaulted are treated, things will be better for male victims too.  Not sure why women are responsible for fixing the world for men too – but there you have it.

Thirdly, I’ve left the ‘R’ word out of the title, if there’s one way to ensure low readership on a post, it is to include the word rape in the title.

So, to the topic of this blog post.

I am intrigued why men are so fucking silent on rape.

I recently, (well, binged it yesterday), watched a series from Netflix called Unbelievable, based on a true story. It is a harrowing, but incredibly interesting watch.  I have been the Marie too many times in my life, you can find some of that blogged here too.  The show portrays the victims very well, but it portrays the attitudes of ‘others’ even better.

I came across the show advertised on the Facebook Netflix page and looked at the comments.  There were over 1200 and I read 60.  Only two comments were from people who were easily identifiable as ‘men’.  One complaining of another Netflix show, and the other ‘advertising’ his security business. He proclaimed he’d set it up to protect women, like his mother, aunts, sisters and daughters, from the type of predators portrayed in the show.  There was no mention if women who were not ‘like his mother, aunts, sisters and daughters’ were worthy of protection.  The rest of the comments I read were focused on the show, the victims, the characters, their own experiences and how too very true the show is.

Why are men silent on rape?  I tried speaking with a male on this issue, one I consider fairly enlightened.  I could see the ‘shutters’ come down.  I briefly explained Unbelievable and how interesting it was.  He said, “I wouldn’t watch it, I watch TV to be entertained”.  I know what he watches on TV.  I asked how watching people’s bodies get beaten and mutilated in ‘fight’ scenes was entertaining.  The reply, “I’m not answering that question”!

I was unfortunately in a movie theatre a couple of weeks ago with ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ playing.  Thankfully I was so exhausted I slept through most of it, but woke to the sickening crunch of bodies being beaten.  It was the fullest I’ve seen a movie theatre in a very long time.  People, a mainly male audience, paying money to watch others graphically pretending to violently smash others until they are bloody and broken, but won’t watch a show like Unbelievable.
I came to the realisation that it is the ‘boy's club’, working for the protection of the right to women’s bodies.  

Beginning with the formation of the idea of human rights, Arati Rao discusses one of the main flaws in their development. This weakness is described by Rao as, “The dominance of men in the drafting, refinement, interpretation, ratification, and implementation of human rights.[i]

Rao describes the endless cycle in which a woman’s personhood is not recognized, the individuality of a woman is not acknowledged or appreciated because it has been embedded in various cultures that women are the property of men and women have no control over their own bodies.

Catherine MacKinnon, scholar and former special gender adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, speaks of crimes against women and the failure of society to recognise them as crimes.  Especially crimes such as the rapes and murders of prostitutes or other women who aren’t like your mother, sisters, aunts or daughters, the dehuminised ‘other’ women.

Women are experiencing trauma in ways that are sickening, and most men are never held accountable[ii]. Their actions are rarely questioned and the dominance of men in positions of power lead to an understanding between men, or as MacKinnon puts it, they allow such crime to occur as “one man to another[iii]”.  So, it’s not just me who’s come to the conclusion it’s the ‘boy's club’.

And, we have all seen the weapons used to silence women.  When a woman reports a sexual assault, what she wore, how much she has imbibed, if she wore nice underclothing or had condoms in her handbag, her virginity or lack of, if she is like someone’s mother, sister, aunt or daughters, is used to discredit her story and depict her as promiscuous.  And the shame of being raped is ALWAYS on the woman.  Name suppression ‘to protect the victim’, from what?  Society’s condemnation. Why? She hasn’t done anything wrong! 

The shame associated with sexual assault is due to rape culture.  Because it leads women to believe that their assault is their fault and that there was something that they should have done differently. Especially if their rape hasn’t been the persistent stereotype of ‘real rape’ that involves a stranger who violently penetrates a resisting woman in a public place (but should she really have been out anyway?).  Women are often blamed for their assaults and viewed as bringing it onto themselves.

Society then penalizes women for their lack of trust in men as a consequence of abuse (#notallmen). Women are scrutinized for not viewing the sexual assault of men as urgent an issue as the sexual assault of women. It is to men’s benefit that women feel shame for being raped, it keeps women silent because women who have been raped are seen as having lesser value. 

There are changes. The “Me Too” movement is encouraging open discussion of sexual misconduct and, some would like to think the public sphere is becoming a safer place to discuss and address these crimes. But the backlash against victims who go public, feminist writers, and the “Me Too” movement is incredible. With violent threats of rape, bodily harm and murder, that also go unpunished.

Danielle Cusmano stated in 2018 that “the domination of men in positions of power leaves women voiceless[iv]”.  Sadly, in New Zealand even having women in positions of power things aren’t changing quickly enough.  Success in their powerful positions for women means being an honorary member of ‘the boys club’ and their need to retain that power means they will protect it, no matter what the cost.  We’re watching that train wreck. 

Why are men silent about rape?  Because that silent complicity protects them too.

Yes actually, it IS all men.

War is against women.

Why most rape victims never acknowledge what happened.

[i] Rao, Arati, and Patrick Hayden. “Right in the Home: Feminist Theoretical Perspectives on International Human Rights.” The Philosophy of Human Rights, Paragon House, 2001. 505–525.
[iii] MacKinnon, Catherine, and Patrick Hayden. “Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights.” The Philosophy of Human Rights, Paragon House, 2001. 526–543.
[iv] Cusmano, Danielle, "Rape Culture Rooted in Patriarchy, Media Portrayal, and Victim Blaming" (2018). Writing Across the Curriculum


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