Why do we blame male victims of rape?

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Do we blame male victims of rape and sexual assault?

Abigail Rine writing in The Atlantic says we do. Rine who teaches gender studies at George Fox University in Oregon in The US explores why we seem to be more likely to blame male victims of sexual violence.

Supporting male victims of sexual violence is a topic that gets raised each year at the National Conference for Men and Boys. To take part in this year’s event  BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE TODAY.

While I’m not going to dispute the pervasiveness of misogyny in most cultures, this standard narrative doesn’t fully account for what happened in Norwood, where there was a similar epidemic of victim-blaming, but no female victim. In fact,

According to Rine, victim blaming in rape cases is often put down to the hatred of women. But Rine says that research into sexual violence suggests that male victims of rape elicit comparable or even more blame for their attacks than female victims. The roots victim-blaming attitudes are not in misogyny (or misandry), but in perceived violations of traditional gender roles, she argues.

Rine observes that the study of male rape has been comparatively neglected with some saying that research and resources for male victims lags behind female  by a good 20 years. In recent years, she says, women’s advocates have focused on debunking myths about female rape that they say contribute to victim-blaming.

According to Rine:

“Distinct but corresponding myths about men likewise fuel victim-blaming, as burgeoning research on male rape demonstrates. A 2009 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence surveys a number of these false beliefs, including the perception that males, as the physically powerful sexual instigators, can’t be raped, or are not as traumatized if they are assaulted.

“These rape myths spring from deeply entrenched gender norms about permissible and idealized behavior for men and women, and rape victims of both sexes are blamed when they openly transgress the social expectations of their gender. A woman who goes out alone at night, for example, is prone to blame, as is a woman who is slut-shamed for having had prior sexual partners. A man who fails to physically overcome his attacker is likewise seen as contributing to his own victimization; he must have secretly wanted it.”

For male victims, coming forward and speaking out about his assault can further transgressed the gendered expectation to “man up,” and remaining stoic and invulnerable in the face of violence.

According to Rine, while all victims are susceptible to blame the groups most susceptible to blame for being raped are gay men raped by men and straight men raped by women. This she says is consistent with the gender role expectation hypothesis, as victims in those scenarios “fall prey to the pervasive ideal of the hyper-sexed, insatiable male who invites and enjoys any sexual encounter.”

Rine states that men will generally judge rape victims more harshly than women, but that recent research indicates that the tendency to blame victims has more to do with an individual’s belief about gender roles . In other words, she says, “men blame at higher rates not because they are more susceptible to misogyny or misandry, but because they are more likely to endorse traditional views of masculinity and femininity. On the flip side, both men and women are equally inclined toward “benevolent sexism” says Rine, which means reserving your sympathy for those who fulfill gender ideals.

Rine concludes by pointing to a recent study of attitudes in Sweden published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression where victim-blaming amongst men and women is said to be scarce. “If we want to get at the underlying cause of victim-blaming attitudes”, she says, “we can’t afford to focus only on female victims or misogyny, lest we risk misdiagnosing the root problem. This is not simply a woman-hating world; it’s a world that polices the boundaries of gender to the detriment of all.”

Read the full article, No Rape Victim, Male or Female, Deserves to be Blamed

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