Shia LaBeouf recently made a statement, an important statement which surprised many peoole in the media, he came out and said he was the victim of a sexual assault. Shia LaBeouf explained that, while staging an interactive, one-on-one performance art project in New York, a woman had sex with him without his consent.
The claim that he was sexually assaulted by a woman has been widely debated. The common cry is that he is ‘attention seeking’ or – even worse – trying to deflect from the accusations of plagiarism that cast him out of favour last year.
But what if it wasn’t so taboo for us to accept that men are just as susceptible to sexual assaults as women? Is it really right that, just because he’s a man, Shia LaBeouf should be labelled an ‘attention seeker’.
Let’s just step back a moment shall we? Forget names and focus solely on context. Forget whatever we think we know about sexual assaults and rape. Let’s look at the facts.
The dictionary definition of rape is: ‘The crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will.’ (Oxford Dictionary)
Let’s look at the major sweeping statement there: ‘typically committed by a man’. Why is this accepted? Why is this allowed to be the definition?
Dictionaries are supposed to be impartial – but here’s a piece of gendered bias right there, in print, for posterity.
It’s sexist stereotyping, as defined by the societal norms, by which males are viewed as stronger, more masculine, and inherently violent and predatory.
This definition also implies that women are inferior, that they are weak and incapable of being threatening, and that they can’t be sexually dominant or manipulative.
What this stereotype, and those who speak before thinking, assumes is that a woman cannot rape a man because she cannot stick a fucking penis into him.
To be succinct – this definition is bullshit.
What it’s saying is this: a woman cannot drug a man, restrain him or manipulate his body physically. Oral sex and anal penetration can take place without the consent of a man or woman equally.
According to this definition, objects inserted into a man or unwanted arousal can’t possibly happen, though, because a woman isn’t capable – she’s too weak, isn’t she? Surely a man could just overthrow her? Well … no, actually.
It may have escaped the notice of the team in Oxford, but women can, and frequently do, grow taller, wider and more muscular than a man. They can manipulate a man with the threat of blackmail. They can stimulate his genitals against his wishes. But, most importantly, they can engage in sexual activity with a man without his consent.
See the point you’re not getting is that abuse of power is the root of rape – it’s about evil, messed up perversion, and not someone’s gender.
One rule in the fight against rape culture is that we should always assume that a rape victim is telling the truth. Only then can we correct the imbalance that sees only a tiny proportion of rape charges resulting in a conviction. That’s not to say we’re far from this stage – women who say they have been raped are regularly criticised, ridiculed and subjected to invasive cross-examination.
Suddenly we’re asked to consider why no one else witnessed the attack. We’re called to question why he would say this. But why? Doesn’t all this merely serve to do what rape culture always does – to undermine those who say they have been raped and to make it easier for rapists to get away with it?
I can’t begin to recount how many times I’ve seen people say a woman can’t rape a man. These people don’t seem to understand what rape actually is. Their ideas of rape are utterly bound up in insertive, heterosexual sex – the vaginal kind, usually, although there is an acceptance that anal rape happens too because it involves a penis penetrating another person. But why does rape have to involve a man penetrating someone else?
Here’s a thought – say the definition is right and only men can rape.
We know already that men rape men. But where does that leave gay men who have been forced to have sex with a woman? What if a gay man is sexually assaulted by a woman or forced to sleep with her by a family who wants to ‘correct’ him? Is this okay? Is this less horrific than if that gay man were replaced by a woman?
The core of what I’m saying here is this: rape needs a new definition. The one we have – or the one which people assume to be correct – ins’t working. I suggest this: ‘An act in which a sexual act is conducted upon a person without consent.’ See – not difficult is it?
This is about people doing evil things – REGARDLESS of them being male or female.
What that would mean is that we need to ensure the equal treatment of allegations from both men and women about sexual assaults. Rape is not trivial and regardless of a ‘supposed’ masculinity it can happen to anyone. Mentally, a man may never get over the experience – just as many women can’t.
As long as we make rape solely about men and their penises, rather than about one person abusing their power over another, we can never end rape culture.