Police in Toronto are on the hunt for four heavyset women in their 30s who sexually assaulted a young man in a parking lot after he left a bar in the their company and accepted a ride from them.
This story is both horrifying and interesting at the same time. It opens up two conversations that I think we definitely need to be having.
The first conversation has to do with male victims of sexual assault. There are no details about exactly what went down in the parking lot, other than the man in question felt sufficiently violated to go to the police, and he did not require medical treatment.
That could mean a lot of things, and Kristina Hansen does a great job exploring the stigma and shame that follows ALL victims of sexual assault, but men in particular.
This case makes it patently clear that women CAN and DO sexually assault men. Rosie DiManno, writing for the Toronto Star, takes a snicker at the young man, and writes that “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s fantasy”.
Nice. Would you ever write that about a woman being sexually assaulted by four two hundred pound men? I doubt it.
There are enough accounts of women raping men on the internet to demonstrate that male victims of rape find their ordeals just as harrowing as women do. Here’s just one:
Hansen, and others, have made the argument that the stigma and shame attached to men who are raped by women results in massive underreporting of male rapes.
I want to put forward another suggestion: that even when a sexual experience meets the LEGAL definition of rape, men often don’t regard it that way, and that has everything to do with how a man perceives his influence on the world in general.
Here’s a true story: I’m not going to preface it with any “trigger warnings”, but I will say that I have complete authority from the man involved to write about this. You know him as PrinceCharming.
PrinceCharming is a good-looking, intelligent, very accomplished man who works in senior management in an aspect of healthcare, and he is an adjunct professor at the local college. By all accounts, a good catch. He hasn’t been caught yet, but not for a lack of trying from the ladies.
He works with a woman that I’ll call CourtneyCougar. She’s 45, never married, and in very good physical condition. For 45, she looks great! And she likes Charming.
Very, very much.
Charming is more than a decade younger than Courtney, but that isn’t the barrier to exploring her attraction a little further. Charming, you see, has a “don’t shit where you eat” policy when it comes to fucking his co-workers. And that’s very sensible.
That doesn’t stop Courtney. She enjoys making her attraction obvious, and makes lots of crude, raunchy comments to Charming. Astonishingly, he hasn’t collapsed in despair and become a quivering shell of his former self under her constant harassment. Hell, he hasn’t even reported Courtney to HR. His whole attitude is “Well, duh. Of course she wants to fuck me! I’m awesome!”
Imagine the genders reversed. If Courtney was the 30 something manager and Charming was the 45 year old aggressor, there would be a lawsuit brewing.
We’ll come back to that in a second.
Cue an office party, held at Charming’s house. Charming has a bit too much to drink (oops!), and Courtney stays close by him. Eventually, everyone staggers home and it’s just Charming and Courtney left at his house.
And we know what happens next, right? She straddles him and makes her desires very clear, and the Laphroaig has gone to his head and his resolve against sleeping with colleagues wavers a bit.
They start making out and things look like they are headed for naked.
But then Charming comes to his senses and decides “this is a terrible idea”. So he tries to put the brakes on the train to poundtown.
Courtney is having none of it.
Here’s where I should mention that Courtney maintains her awesome body with mixed martial arts training, and Charming is an experienced wrestler. That probably made for an interesting tussle.
At some point, Charming realized that whatever happened, the outcome was going to suck. He could either have an earnest fight with her and physically chuck her out of his house (and that would by no means have been an easy thing to do), creating a very awkward situation at work, or he could give in and fuck her, and still face an awkward situation at work.
So he went with fuck her. He decided not to risk getting hurt in a physical fight with her, which he didn’t want to do anyways, because he likes Courtney. He complied with her demand to have sex to avoid getting physically hurt (or hurting her), under the influence of way too much Scotch.
Legally, he was raped. Charming sees that the experience meets the legal definition of rape, and it’s not shame or embarrassment that keeps him from charging her criminally.
Not at all. While he regrets the experience, he also owns his role in it. He had a whole bunch of choices to make, and he made bad ones. He drank too much, he let her stay after everyone else had left, he got physical with her and then changed his mind. And then he decided to go ahead with it anyways because first of all, sex! And second, getting rid of her wouldn’t be easy.
The idea that Charming would hold Courtney responsible for all of his own shitty decisions is alien to him. His mind just does not work that way. He is a manager at work, with tons of responsibilities and a large budget to administer and he is accustomed to making decisions and facing the consequences. Yes, Courtney behaved in a totally inappropriate way, but it’s not like it was a mystery to Charming that she wanted to have sex with him. He let a situation get out of control, and he takes the responsibility for that.
In other words, he’s a grown-up.
I don’t want to diminish the experiences of men who respond differently to their experiences of sexual assault. Of course men experience the full range of human emotions, and some men are much more emotionally vulnerable than others, and will be preyed upon for precisely that reason. Men should have the full force of the law at their disposal when they experience sexual assault, just as women do.
But I also think that far more men respond to situations that meet the legal definition of assault like Charming did. He understood the role he played in the situation, and also understood that while he could have physically removed her from his house, and he would have been well within his rights to do so, there would be consequences for that action, too.
He’s just taken the experience as “lesson learned – no more drinking with Courtney”. And life goes on.
I think that attitude from men explains why there is such an underreporting of rape and sexual assault from men. The Toronto case is an anomaly not because women rarely behave in sexually aggressive ways that meet the legal definition of assault, but because men don’t feel the need to report those experiences, or even define them as assault.
Men tend not to cast themselves as victims, even when they are. Charming was definitely a victim in the scenario with Courtney, and not just a victim of assault. He was primarily a victim of his own reluctance to physically restrain or hurt Courtney, which he certainly could have done. He faced a choice: unwanted sex or beat the crap out of a girl who really likes me.
Charming HAD that choice, and he made it. I’m guessing that kid in Toronto had no such choice, facing down 800lbs of sexually aggressive womanhood. Yikes. It must have been scary, and he was absolutely right to report the assault to police.
I caught a shit-ton of flack for calling out the Steubenville rape victim as an idiot for putting herself in such a vulnerable position in the first place, and I’m going to do the same for the kid in Toronto, too. Four two-hundred pound cougars in their thirties? Are you crazy? Of course he didn’t DESERVE to be taken to a parking lot and assaulted, and those bitches deserve their comeuppance, but honestly? He didn’t see that as an intensely vulnerable position to put himself in?
My guess is no. He honestly didn’t, because as a culture, we like to pretend that rape is something that only ever happens to women. That women are blushing maidens when it comes to sex, and that sexual aggressiveness is the sole domain of men.
The Toronto story is a warning shot across a cultural landscape that is changing, and that’s a good thing. Obviously, it’s not a good thing that a young man was sexually assaulted, but it is an unmitigated good thing that women are being held responsible for how they take advantage of and abuse men, especially in a sexual context.
The lessons here are manifold:
Men DO get raped and sexually assaulted
Two hundred pound women are SCARY. Four of them are downright TERRIFYING.
EVERYONE has some responsibility to make good decisions
And finally, for the love of god,
DO NOT ACCEPT RIDES FROM PEOPLE WITH NECK TATTOOS.
Lots of love,