Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Made To Penetrate

On December 14th 2014 the CDC released the compiled results from a study of sexual violence it had conducted four years earlier. The numbers illuminated the shocking extent that sexual violence shapes the interaction of people with the society in which we live. For instance, 1.3 million women had experienced being raped in the 12 months prior to the study, and 22 million women reported being raped in their lifetime. This implies that our country has millions of rape victims, and millions of rapists. Almost every person in the United States has probably had to interact with several rapists and rape victims. These data are so large that rape is not an isolatable crime, but a component of our society.

Rape statistics have generally been increasing, and one compelling reason for this is that victims are more likely to talk about being raped as our society begins to see it less and less as a mark of sexual deviance. Victims are not seen as equally culpable except by some of the most regressive of moralists; as victims speak out we see that there are more of them than we had imagined.

One group that has traditionally under-reported being raped is men. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) reported that over one and a half million men reported being raped in their lifetimes.

These data describe a suppurative moral cultural abscess that masquerades as sexual interaction.

In addition to the stats on rape the NISVS includes data on many different forms of sexual violence. From unambiguous physical threats to more subtle forms of coercion. The following is a definition from the NISVS for coercion.

Victim was pressured verbally or through intimidation or misuse of authority to consent or acquiesce to being penetrated. Examples include being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex or showed they were unhappy; feeling pressured by being lied to, or being told promises that were untrue; having someone threaten to end a relationship or spread rumors; and sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority (this is not an exhaustive list).

Anyone who has been in a bad relationship would, most likely, have experienced coercion as defined here. Almost 30% of the non-rape sexual violence was coercion for both men and women. The definitions of coercion could be used to categorize so many types of interaction that it is likely many respondents used their own pre-conceived notions of what interaction was coercive in answering. In other words these data may not capture the prevalence of a type of sexual violence but instead simply be some ephemeral number generated by confusion over the definition and the emotional framing of less than ideal sexual encounters.

Of all the interesting numbers from the NISVS there is one that stands out; it is the numbers for “Made to Penetrate” (MtP). MtP is described as an act of sexual violence perpetrated almost exclusively by women against men. The NISVS is the first major study to report the prevalence of this act, and according to it the act is almost as prevalent as rape of females. 1.26 million men were MtP in the preceding 12 months as compared to only 620,000 “Completed Forced Penetration” rapes of women.

Equivalency has been drawn between MtP of men and rape of women. These numbers have been used to present the idea that “more men are raped by women (by calling MtP rape) than women are raped by men”. By this reasoning millions of male victims and female rapists are also staining the fabric of our society. These numbers are huge.

How did they hide? With tens of thousands of professionals interacting with these victims how did such a problem go unnoticed for so long? What special tool was used to uncover this gigantic victim group? Well… The NISVS researchers actually called people at random, and asked them.

These are the questions they asked relating to sexual violence and coercion:

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever…
  • • had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina} {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}?
  • • {if male} made you perform anal sex, meaning that they made you put your penis into their anus?
  • • made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?
  • • made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?
  • • made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male: penis} {if female: vagina} or anus?

How many people have ever used physical force or threats to physically harm you to make you…
  • • have vaginal sex?
  • • {if male} perform anal sex?
  • • receive anal sex?
  • • make you perform oral sex?
  • • make you receive oral sex?
  • • put their fingers or an object in your {if female: vagina or} anus?
How many people have ever used physical force or threats of physical harm to…
  • • {if male} try to make you have vaginal sex with them, but sex did not happen?
  • • try to have {if female: vaginal} oral, or anal sex with you, but sex did not happen?
How many people have you had vaginal, oral, or anal sex with after they pressured you by…
  • • doing things like telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue, threatening to end your relationship, or threatening to spread rumors about you?
  • • wearing you down by repeatedly asking for sex, or showing they were unhappy?
  • • using their authority over you, for example, your boss or your teacher?

Because of the desire of the survey authors to detect and report subtle forms of sexual victimization, such as consenting to have sex because your partner says they are unhappy, the report makes it difficult to determine the prevalence of other potentially egregious forms of violence. This is particularly troublesome in the case of the emergent victim class of males that were MtP.

The MtP group has been vocal on social media. There is at least one outspoken advocate, and some online magazines as well as MRA sites on Reddit have anonymously presented stories contributed sporadically that are very similar to those of the advocate. Unfortunately the anonymous collection of anecdote and opinion can only conclusively state that there are maybe a dozen men who suffered harm as the result of something connected to an MtP event. This is woefully inadequate if there indeed is a huge group of male victims waiting to be helped.

It has been years since the NISVS, and there has not been a flood of victims seeking help at outreach centers. The rote explanation for this is that men do not seek help, but a sizeable enough minority of male rape victims seek help that if MtP victims presented themselves at half that rate there would be millions of victims noted.

Could the discovery of the giant group of MtP victims be caused by bad questions? Could these be a "non-victim" victim group; one that does not consider itself victims or experience victim-related symptoms of harm?

The NISVS was conducted in 2010. Surely the last five years have shone some interest on the coercion and MtP statistics the NISVS created?

Regardless of how new data informs our understanding of coercion and MtP there is no hiding from the fact that our country has endemic sexual violence to such an extent that it helps to shape our society into something it should not be.

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