I have no idea why I woke up with this memory going through my head but I did and thought it was worth discussing.
Trigger warning for content including abstract discussion of rape.
My senior year of high school I took a home economics class. I needed the credits from the second semester but couldn’t sign up for just half the class. One of my best friends was stuck in the same boat as me so we got together to make sure we were in the same class. There was also another band/drumline kid and the three performing arts self-made outcasts in the class banded together. We were some of the strongest voices that challenged the other students and the teacher during group and class exercises. I don’t know how the rest of the class felt about it but the three of us were pretty proud of challenging the status quo.
This led to one of the most awkward moments during the sex ed weeks. There was one class period where we lined up and had to physically cross the room to say whether we disagreed or agreed with a statement at the end of a little story. Things that were asked was whether oral and anal penetration was considered sex, whether STDs could be spread even without penetration, and a variety of scenarios that may or may not be considered rape. There were several questions that many of the students saw as ambiguous. Enough so that many people would stand in the middle because they couldn’t decide one way or another. Was it rape if a woman said yes but during foreplay or even after penetration she changed her mind and said no. Over three-quarters of the class crossed to the “no” side. A few stood in the middle. Me and my two friends feet were firmly grounded in the yes side. The teacher agreed with us and a five-minute discussion of why happened and when the next question was another similar scenario and about half the class joined the yes side. Victory!
I couldn’t verbalize it at the time but three of us, a distinct minority, managed to show that the patriarchal based status quo is wrong and can be challenged. I can’t speak too much for other band student because he frequently argues points that he doesn’t agree with just to watch what happens. I’m pretty sure that my best friend felt similar to what I did. He was a pretty damn awesome dude and I’m pretty sure one of the first male feminists that I knew though none of the other feminists really considered ourselves as such. I’m not sure I knew much more about the feminist movements than that they were seen as people who rocked the boat of the nation and I thought that was awesome all on its own. The fact that feminism was still needed hadn’t even crossed our minds.
Then came the questions including alcohol. The first few were pretty clear given the previous debate about consent and all that good jazz. However, they all had focused on only women as the intoxicated ones in heterosexual and homosexual situations. Men were a focus in homosexual situations also and everyone typically agreed with us that men could be raped by other men. The last question flipped all the previous scenarios around where a man was intoxicated and was targeted by a sober woman.
I can’t remember the exact phrasing of the question but it was along the lines of, “a man is at a college party and a woman, a mutual friend of a mutual friend, approached him and began to flirt. He was already two beers in and he continued drinking while they danced and talked. I don’t remember if she was drinking as well but that is besides the point here. That flirting led to her leading him upstairs and to an empty bedroom where she stripped down and started to take off his clothes. He said he really wasn’t interest, he didn’t want to do that when he had just met her. She continued to strip him, and he really was too intoxicated to keep her from doing it and going further and they had sex together including ejaculation for him. Was he raped?”
This is when I discovered that I go into protector rage mode when a deeply patriarchal concept, that men cannot be targeted or damaged by women, is demonstrated before my eyes. The trio of us stayed firmly planted in the “yes” side of the room. No one was in the middle, everyone else was on the “no” side. A man cannot be raped by a woman in their eyes. Even if he said no before it started. Even if he’s too intoxicated to be able to stop it. Because he’s a man and he still got hard and still had an orgasm he obviously enjoyed it and that made it not rape.
The worst part though is that the teacher agreed with the rest of the class. We argued back and forth for over ten minutes. He was intoxicated, he said no regardless of whether he experienced orgasm or not, was met with he still should have been able to stop her because he’s bigger and stronger, if he really meant it he wouldn’t have gotten hard, he wouldn’t have ejaculated. During the course of the debate only one other student joined us on the yes side. He was very uncomfortable and I believe he felt like he was painting a target on his head, but he still walked across to join us.
To summarize only FOUR teenagers out of 30 something agreed that men could be raped by women. Three of those four were heterosexual males and one heterosexual female. The female teacher agreed with the rest of the class that the man in the above scenario was not raped.
Let’s go over this again; Around 85% of a class in 2004 believed that an intoxicated man who said no could not be raped by a woman.
A man cannot be raped by a woman.
What. The. Fuck?!?!
It was at that moment that I lost all respect for those students and that teacher who otherwise was fairly progressive in her beliefs about homosexuality, equal rights, racism, and many other topics. 12 years later I still have trouble understanding how so many people just didn’t get it. 12 years later I still cannot respect anyone holding that same opinion.
I hope that the others at least had something to think about when four people stood up and refused to deny the personal history and stories of men that have been raped. I’m so proud of the other three with me for standing strong and firm against the pressure from the rest of the class and the teacher.
I can’t help but point out that this is just one of hundreds of ways that the culture of patriarchy in the United States is harmful to men as well as women. This is why feminism is important and needed for ALL people regardless of sex, gender, or sexuality. This is why the many social movements raging against the stagnant US culture are important and need all the support they can get. I’m pretty damn proud of my 17 year-old self. I hope my 41 year old self will be just as proud of what I stand up for now.