For reasons of length, I have split this post into sections, linked below
On the one hand, there is nothing in it's basic assumptions that I haven't seen time after time from left-wing feminists, especially those of a "radical" persuasion. It merely takes some premises common in modern feminism and explicitly carries them to their pitilessly logical conclusions. And yet the ideas and attitudes about men, women, and sexual violence expressed in this post are, in all of their essentials, something that a rock-ribbed conservative circa 2010, or 1950, or 1850 could heartily agree with. It's a more literate version of some stereotypically macho meathead ranting about how Real Men don't suffer or get hurt or dominated by anything, least of all a girl.
Part Two: They Don't Feel Pain Like We Do
Murphy starts off by helpfully informing us that:
In speaking to the men I know who consider themselves to have ‘lost their virginity’ at a very young age (for example Lil’ Wayne’s first sexual experience, discussed in Cara Kulwicki’s article, was at 11. That counts as very young), they have all made it clear that they consider these experiences to be consensual. They don’t call these experiences rape and they don’t remember their experiences as being rape. Instead they tend to feel proud of this early introduction to intercourse. Women, on the other hand, do not tend to share this perception of their early sexual experiences.
Of course, considering how a person's behavior might be affected by trauma and feelings like shame, shock, fear, or confusion requires at least some degree of empathy and sympathy for that person- the ability and the willingness to think of that person as vulnerable, as a being that can be weak, that can be hurt, that can suffer, and to think of that fact as something that actually matters.
I feel very strongly that, to speak as though men raping women is the same as women raping men, is both deceptive and dangerous. Men and women aren’t the same. It is because we don’t live in an equitable society that, to talk about rape happening equally or in an equally significant way between men and women, is just not ok. I get the feeling that both authors want these men’s experiences to be viewed as equal to women’s experiences. As though they are equally at risk, equally victimized, as though men, just like women, are in constant danger of being raped. Bullshit.
...why are we, feminists, talking about men and women experiencing sexual assault in the same manner. Why is it that both these writers do not (seemingly) understand why this might be something that is joked about around men whereas it is in no way, ever, acceptable to joke about women and rape?
Fuck off. Rape is gendered. Domestic abuse is gendered. This is not to say that men aren’t raped. It is to say that or to imply that women are capable of raping a man in the same way that men are capable of raping women is damaging and unclear. A man can penetrate a woman. A man can penetrate a man. He has that power. A woman does not.Like many feminists, much of what Murphy says parallels traditionalist attitudes, but here mere parallel gives way to outright convergence. The only tip-off that this was written by someone who fancies herself an enemy of "Patriarchy" and not its champion is the use of the word "gendered;" that aside, it's nothing one of the right-wing hyenas at Pajamas Media who swarmed over James Landrith couldn't have written. Perhaps she and Bill Donohue have been cribbing from each other- their shared passion for discouraging people from noticing or caring about predatory sexual acts committed against boys gives them plenty of common ground.
Despite her apparent zeal to stand up for victimized women, Murphy completely throws women and girls raped or abused by other women under the bus. The conception of rape presented here, in which the badness or importance of a rape and the concern-worthiness of its victim is dependent on the sex of the perpetrator, has no more space for them than it does for males, and so they become collateral damage. Nothing sexual a female can do can matter in the way a man's actions can matter. Rape is gendered.
This is the principal means by which male victims are marginalized or attacked, as well; The sort of openly expressed balls-to-the-wall loathing and abuse in something like Murphy's post, or in the Pajamas Media thread about male rape victims linked above, kicks in primarily when the primary line of defense has been breached. Defining people out of existence is effective precisely because it doesn't require that sort of unpleasant spectacle- if it's doing its job, most people don't notice that there was ever a job for it to do. It's seldom the result of malice or ill will towards its victims; it works because it reflects, and in turn strengthens and sustains, an environment where it rarely occurs to either speaker or listener that there is a victim. It's not just who you don't talk about, it's who you talk about all the time without realizing or acknowledging it.
BUT when a person experiences something from a position of power and control it is different than when a person experiences something from a place where they do not have power, where they have been coerced, where their lack of power has been taken advantage of, ie. when they have been victimized. I do believe very strongly that people should be able to define their own experiences and therefore, if a man feels he has been raped by a woman, then it is rape. What I take issue with, is feminists, in particular, taking the rape conversation and applying it to men in an equal way as it as been applied to women. Are we not losing something very important when we do this? That something being GENDER?!...
So, the answer to the question “Can women rape men?” turns out to be: Kinda, technically, in a way that satisfies the strictly literal definition of the word “rape” but is largely devoid of the things that make rape a bad thing that people shouldn't do.
Let me be clear. I don’t think it is appropriate for anybody to have sex with anybody else without consent. But taking gender out of the equation and comparing the two situations as though they are equal to the experience of hundreds of thousands of women who are raped BY MEN every year is fucked.
Murphy takes it further than most, but her position differs from some much more common and typical ideas in degree, rather than in kind. It's the logical conclusion of the collectivism, myopic focus on the upper levels of male status hierarchies, and thinly disguised reiterations of traditional gender stereotypes and assumptions that pervade much of feminist thought. More next time.