There’s a dangerous misconception in our society that women cannot be predatory and that men cannot be victims.
This is something that absolutely needs to change.
I recently read a post from the Huffington Post UK that happened to come across my Facebook news feed:
As I read the stories of these male survivors, I was not only saddened by their experiences and the aftermath thereafter, I was infuriated by the lack of action on the part of law enforcement, lawmakers and society at large for their flagrant disregard of the these men.
So, with that in mind, there are some uncomfortable things that we need to discuss.
Women CAN be predatory and abusive, and they can be predatory and abusive towards men.
Just as an experiment, I did a Google search for “abusive women.” The first page of the search yielded 10 results, 7 of which were directed toward abused women, three were directed toward abused men. On the second page, 8 links were directed toward women, two toward men. So, of the first 20 hits of a Google search for “abusive women,” only 25% of those search results were links to information about abusive women. The remaining 75% of the results were links to information for women involved in abusive situations.
This is a problem.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner, 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. Those are some pretty staggering numbers. Here’s where things get interesting, though:
According to the NCADV, 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.
Oh, and why is that?
Well, FBI defined rape as:
“the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”.FBI Unified Crime Report, 2010
The FBI in 2012 redefined rape as: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
In short, until 2012, we lived in a country where a man was relegated to implied consent simply because of his anatomy. In other words; according to the law, a man could not be raped.
What’s worse is the statistics I gave above are inaccurate. The NCADV cites the statistics from the 2010 CDC Report, specifically the National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).
I’d say that’s pretty shoddy work on the part of a national coalition.
Now, after 2012, we now acknowledge that men can be raped, and according to the NISVS 2015 report, the numbers are as follows:
- Nearly a quarter of men (24.8% or 27.6million) in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime with 3.5% of men experiencing contact sexual violence in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- About 1 in 14 men (7.1% or nearly 7.9 million) in the U.S. was made to penetrate someone else (attempted or completed) at some point in their lifetime.
- Approximately 1.6% of men were made to penetrate through completed forced penetration, 1.4% experienced situations where attempts were made to make them penetrate someone else through use of force, and 5.5% were made to penetrate someone else through completed alcohol/drug facilitation at some point in their lifetime.
- In the U.S., 0.7% of men (an estimated 827,000 men) reported being made to penetrate (attempted or completed) in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- About 2.6% of U.S. men (an estimated 2.8 million) experienced completed or attempted rape victimization in their lifetime.
- Approximately 1 in 10 men (9.6% or an estimated 10.6 million men) experienced sexual coercion (e.g., being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex, sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority) in their lifetime.
- Almost one fifth of men (17.9% or approximately 19.9 million men) reported unwanted sexual contact (e.g., groping) at some point in their lifetime.
Look carefully at those last two bullet points. 1 in 10 men experienced sexual coercion and almost one fifth of men reported unwanted sexual contact. You’re not going to tell me that all of their perpetrators were men. What’s more is that these surveys only cover sexual violence, they don’t even mention other issues such as emotional or financial abuse and the disparities in the family court system when it comes to alimony, child support and child custody/visitation.
As a woman, I am going to speak to the women, because this needs to be addressed.
Calling Out Bad Behavior
There are things that women really need to stop doing.
- Women need to stop assuming that guys “want it” all the time from every woman he is with or sees. Newsflash, ladies. Sometimes, he’s too tired, too stressed, in a bad place emotionally, or is just “not in the mood,” just like us. If your guy is in the mood and you aren’t, he’s supposed to respect that and leave you alone. It works the other way as well. This also applies when dealing with guys you’re not in a relationship with. You having a vagina does not make him interested by default. There’s nothing cute or funny about taking advantage of a man who is intoxicated, whether it’s your husband or a guy you met at a party. If a man were to do that, it would be considered rape. If a woman takes advantage of an underaged boy, that’s sexual abuse. If you touch a man’s genitals without consent, that’s sexual assault. You have no right to coerce or manipulate a man into engaging in sexual activities with you. You cannot justify your behavior by saying “well, he had an erection.” If a woman is raped and has an orgasm, her lack of consent to the act isn’t negated by her body’s response. The same concept applies to men. We also have to acknowledge that men have a greater disadvantage when it comes to dealing with sexual assault, because while it’s okay for a woman to pulverize a man that is trying to assault her (and I’m not saying they shouldn’t, we all have a right to defend ourselves), men are not in the same position. If a man were to physically fend off a woman in order to thwart unwanted sexual advances, he could be charged with assault. We also have to change the way men are responded to when they talk about rape and sexual assault. When a woman talks about being raped or assaulted, she is a victim and requires compassion and justice; when a man talks about being raped or sexually assaulted, he is a punchline. Ladies, we can do better than this. We have to.
- Women need to stop weaponizing their vaginas. If you’re genuinely not in the mood, that’s fine. However, when withholding sex is used as a punishment or a bargaining chip, it’s not just manipulative and wrong, it’s actually abusive. Imagine for a moment how you would feel if HE refused you affection because you decided to have a spa day with your friends instead of hanging out with him and watching football. There’s a difference between not being intimate because there is an unresolved issue in the relationship and withholding intimacy because you’re not getting your way, and likewise using sex TO get your way. If there is a problem in the relationship and you want to deal with that before physical intimacy, that’s fine. Just make sure you communicate that. Furthermore, if you can’t resume intimacy because of the issue, end the relationship. To sum it up, if you tell your guy that if he chooses to go fishing with his friends instead of walking around the mall with you holding your purse, he won’t be getting sex; that’s wrong. If the only reason you’ll engage in sexual activities or intimacy with him is to get something out of him, that’s wrong. Look at it in the converse; would it be okay for someone’s husband to “make” his wife have sex with him in order for her to get money to spend time with her friends, new clothes or a vehicle? Of course not. It’s not okay to use sex to get those things either. Whether it’s a dating couple, a married couple, two people who met and happened to hook up; sex is something that is supposed to be mutually beneficial, mutually consented to, done because the people involved desire to be intimate with each other and the people involved are equally respected.
- We need to allow men autonomy in relationships. Ladies, when you get into a relationship, people would tell you to be suspect if he wasn’t allowing you to spend time with friends and family or made you give up hobbies or engaging in self care. It’s just as much of a red flag if a woman does it to a man. Jealousy and possessiveness is part of the human condition, and in small and manageable quantities can make us feel wanted. However, a man that’s insanely jealous or possessive is considered abusive and toxic. The same standard applies to a woman. Relationships are meant to be balanced; Yours, Mine & Ours, not “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” and that applies to time, money and body parts.
- We need to learn to keep our hands to ourselves. Men are raised with “a man never hits a woman” drilled into their brains. Woman are seldom if ever told not to put their hands on boys. Even in my own childhood (and I’m not proud of this) myself and other young girls would pinch, slap, hit and kick boys. Sometimes pull their hair, drag them around by their clothes; things that if a boy had done to a girl would get him in a lot of trouble. We weren’t defending ourselves, they didn’t do anything to provoke or deserve it, we just did it because we could. Society is ENTIRELY too permissive when it comes to a woman getting physical with a guy. So, I’m going to say this as loudly as I can: WOMEN, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO PUT YOUR HANDS ON A MAN JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ANGRY AT HIM OR YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY. PERIOD.
- We need to stop ending relationships with “don’t get mad, get even.” I know, we’ve all heard the adage a thousand times “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (which is actually part of a quote from a play, but I digress). Again, we need to do better here. Be aware that I am not talking about situations where there are issues of abuse or criminal behavior. I’m referring to situations where those issues don’t exist and things don’t work out. I understand that rejection is difficult, whether it’s the ending of a relationship or someone just not being interested. There could be other issues that make it more difficult. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be hurt, I’m not saying it’s not okay to get angry, what I am saying is we have to recognize that there is a difference between justice and revenge. Justice is leaving the relationship, justice is (where divorce/cohabitation is involved) a fair and equitable division of assets and responsibilities (that includes the children). Justice is not leaving him penniless because it didn’t work out. Justice isn’t holding the kids hostage or using them as a weapon. Whether it’s a husband or not, justice isn’t slashing his tires and destroying his property. Justice isn’t ruining his reputation where it isn’t warranted. None of those things benefit you in the long term. If he wasn’t faithful, leave, work on your trust issues and find someone else. If things didn’t work out between the two of you, irreconcilable differences, as it were; leave peacefully and don’t make your children pay for the breakdown in the relationship. They didn’t ask to be brought into the situation, and if the father of your children is willing and able to be present in the children’s lives, allow him to do that. If it was a guy you were dating and he broke up with you, get on with your life. We have to admit that a double standard exists. If a girl broke up with a guy and he slashed her tires, followed her around to see if she was talking to other men, made fake social media accounts to spy on her, tried to sue her for exorbitant amounts of money and kept their children from her; he’d be labeled a monster. Why is it okay when a woman does this? In fact, it’s not only regarded as okay, we make jokes of it. This behavior has to stop.
- We need to stop making men the butt of the joke. I remember some years ago being out by myself one day and seeing a group of friends, mostly couples. One woman asked her significant other an honest question, and he made a cruel joke at her expense, and it made her feel awful. The women immediately comforted her, and the other men told their friend that he was a complete asshole for what he did. On another occasion, I was out and saw another group of maybe three or four couples, and one of the women spent the majority of the night berating her significant other, and everyone in the group laughed. At first, he tried to laugh along, but eventually it was pretty easy to see that he was humiliated. No one went to comfort him, no one told his girl that she was being a real bitch. It was just sort of okay for her to act cruelly and make fun of him for almost an hour. If you are with someone that you feel the overwhelming need to make fun of all of the time, especially publicly, maybe you need to be with someone else. If you do nothing but incessantly complain about or criticize your boyfriend/significant other, then why are you with that person? I understand, we all need to vent, however, that venting needs to be confined to maybe one or two confidants, and it’s never okay to embarrass or put your boyfriend/husband down in public.
I am all about gender equality. Women want fairness and equity in the work place, at home, among society, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, we cannot demand equality in all things and then duck and cover or finger point when it comes to being equally accountable.