You know this guy.
He's the one who in any conversation about sexism, rape culture, or sexual assault against women, retorts "well men get raped too," and "women abuse men too," and prefers to focus on how false accusations of rape ruin men's lives instead of how the reality of rape ruins women's lives.
He insists that women do not have it worse than men; that it's not sexism at play when women are sexually assaulted, it's just some asshole, jerk or psycho. It's evil individuals, not a cultural pattern.
I have come across so many versions of this guy. I've met him in Cambridge, Austin, Poughkeepsie and San Francisco. He goes to school at Harvard, MIT, Vassar and UT Austin, among other highly respected schools. He is particularly talented at sounding the alarm whenever he hears a generalization, and uses individual anecdotes to supposedly refute that generalization.
He doesn't care that the generalizations you might make about sexual violence against women and sexism represent trends, supported by unambiguous data. Sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime, according to the American Medical Association. One in four women will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime, and one in five will be raped, according to the CDC. False reports of sexual violence are lower than those of any other felony. According to this Ms. Magazine article: "Research has shown that only roughly
2 to 8 percent of rape reports are untrue, (for car thefts, another
felony offense, that number is about 10 percent)." Yet how often do we hear, "but you could be ruining this man's life with this car theft accusation!"
Despite what this guy believes, my goal is never to deny the fact that men are also victims of terrible abuse and sexual violence. The CDC found that one in seven men will experience intimate partner violence, which is unacceptable. But the existence of sexual violence against men does not negate or excuse the extremely high rates of sexual violence against women or the rape culture (great explanation of the term here) that pervades our magazines, tv shows, films, political dialogue ("legitimate rape" anyone?) and communities.
I still haven't figured out the best way to talk to this guy, because I have a hard time figuring out where he's coming from. Is it that he feels that discussion of male-on-female sexual assault is implicitly accusatory to him? Is it that rape is so disturbing to discuss that it's easier to just deny that it's a cultural problem? Is it that he only acknowledges the examples of sexual assault and violence that adhere to what he's already decided about it?
Perhaps I should explain to him that rape culture breeds
hyper-vigilance, which reduces women's freedoms. It's in all of the
little things: My mother doesn't want me to run on a popular Philadelphia running
trail in daylight without pepper spray--a serial rapist has attacked many women there. It's not safe for my sister to walk
alone in Manhattan, but fine for my brother to. While alone in a foreign country, I would never get in a car with a male stranger, but my male friend had a lovely time in Turkey being driven around by new friends he met. There are so many risks that women must weigh so often.
This guy is infuriating and sometimes insufferable. But he is exactly the kind of person we have to get through to if we have any chance of moving away from a rape culture.