Not Just Women…

The next chapter in my #TroubleTexasStyle series is now live.

This one is another Goodbye Earl – told 100% from Reb’s perspective. And for the first time, we get deeper into his complicated family dynamics as well as what happened to him.

Reb was raped.

Every bit as much as Stacey was. But that goes against what society has taught us about rape.

Rape is about sex. NOT!

Rape is an act of control and violence. Even if there are no bruises. Rape has been used as a weapon of war as far back as we have history – for this very reason. Rape is devastating to mental health. Not just the survivor, but those that care about them and sometimes, as in war, the whole community.

But that reality is rarely portrayed in books, movies or television.

Growing up, I remember the controversy that the soap opera General Hospital caused with its Luke and Laura storyline. Laura was happily married. Luke was her stalker. He raped her. She fell in love with him and left her husband.

And certainly, the romance genre has a well-deserved infamy as ‘bodice rippers.’ In my favorite book, Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small, the heroine is repeatedly raped. By her first husband, by Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, by Henry Navarre, she is even sold into sexual slavery – twice.

I’ll admit I have written non-consent. My Njörður’s series in particular, even I am not sure if I cross the line.

Rape is a crime against women. NOT!

Rape can and does happen to children and men, too. Sadly, any statistics that I could quote here would be irrelevant. Because the stigma attached to rape means that it goes under-reported. Period. Full stop.

But especially for men. In many (most? all?) societies the stigma of rape is even more profound for males. If rape is about sex, then the issue becomes convoluted with homosexuality. Was the perpetrators gay? Or maybe the survivor? Because, of course…

It is impossible for a woman to rape a man. NOT!

Yes, it is. And it happens all too often. Getting an erection is a physical response to stimulation, not consent.

Remember those bodice rippers I grew up on? The other grand dame of that genre was Johanna Lindsey. Her Prisoner of My Desire blurb reads:

Spirited Rowena Belleme must produce an heir – or incur the dangerous wrath of a ruthless stepbrother who stands to forfeit his ill-gotten wealth. And the magnificent Warrick deChaville is the perfect choice to sire her child – though it means imprisoning the handsome knight and forcing him to bend to her amorous whims.

Vowing to resist but betrayed by his virility, noble Warrick is intoxicated by Rowena’s sapphire eyes and voluptuous beauty. Yet all the while he plans a fitting revenge – eagerly awaiting the time when his sensuous captor becomes his helpless captive. . .and is made to suffer the same rapturous torment and exquisite ecstasy that he himself has endured.

Yes, she chains him to the bed and rapes him. For three days. And he plots and gets his revenge.

But it is more complex than that. Over the past quarter of a century and especially the last decade, feminists, including the #MeToo movement, have fought hard to redefine rape to include the use of coercion and too drunk to consent.

I admit that personally I am dubious about this one. I have never been ‘raped,’ i.e. forcibly violated. But the number of times I have felt coerced? Loads. My problem is… Does calling those rape diminish the experiences of those who were physically forced? The debate continues as it should.

But what I found enlightening as I did my research for this story is that one major (close to a million people) study found that if those same standards of being pressured into an act that you did not want to perform or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol were equally applied – there is no difference between the prevalence between men and women. At least not statistically speaking, but in fact, more of the men reported being ‘raped’ by those standards than women.

So, we then have to include in these debates the re-education of women in terms of our responsibility to get consent. So far at least, this has not been going so well as the recent case of a high profile female politician who was at the very least involved in what would be considered inappropriate relationship with an intern (if she were male). Or those hot female teachers ‘seducing’ teenage boys?

But the hardest part is…

The almost total dearth of resources for male and transgender rape survivors

That was part of my research, too. The sad truth is…there aren’t many. It is a bit better here in the UK where I now live than back home in the US. But that is only because of a law suit that forced the government to fund them. Men have only a handful of resources, most in major cities.

And what about pre-op trans persons? Where do they go?

A major author has caused loads of controversy lately by saying that trans women should not be allowed to use shelters and crisis centers for women. She says that ‘women’ are made uncomfortable by having someone with a penis in their safe place.

So, where do they go? To the handful of men’s rape centers? Wouldn’t they feel just as threatened in those as those women who are supposedly threatened by them?

Perhaps, ideally, you have a rape crisis and domestic abuse service for the trans community that is run by them or their allies? But in the real world where there is lack of funding for these services, where does that money come from? Are those women who are offended by trans women using ‘their’ centers willing to have funding to them cut in order to provide separate but equal ones?

For me personally, why I am conflicted about the broader definition is that my own experiences of ‘rape’ by this broader definition lack the elements of violence and even control which I associate with rape. As a result, the trauma has been minimal.

I don’t want that to sound callous or to trivialize other people’s experiences. My first sexual experience with a man might be considered ‘rape’ by some definitions. I went out drinking with a friend. She wanted to bring a guy home, but he had a friend. She pressured me into ‘hooking up’ with this guy.

He never knew I was a ‘virgin.’ I was not particularly attracted to him. It was the height of eighties casual sex. And I was not impressed. I remember clearly thinking…’What’s the big deal? I can do better than that with the handle of my hairbrush.’

But I sloughed it off. The next weekend we went out again. And this time I choose my own partner. It was better. Even sitting here writing this now, I shrug my shoulders. No, it was not the romantic, life-changing experience that I have given some of my characters. Do I feel cheated? Defiled? Robbed? No, I feel…nothing. Certainly not trauma. Maybe some would say that is a sign of the trauma, but I just don’t see it.

Besides, who do I blame? I went along with my friend. I even gave reluctant consent to the guy. Do I blame him for pressuring me? Hell, he was pressured by his friend just as much. he wanted to go home and get some sleep. Do I blame my friend? She was much older than I was. I lived in her home. There are all kinds of power dynamics there.

I choose to accept it for what it was and move on. As I did with most of other questionable situations. The only exception was my former boss. Our relationship began as consensual. But when I ended it, he began to sabotage my career. After I quit, I reported that. But when the company investigated, they did not focus on that at all. They only wanted to know if we had relations on company time or premises. I felt as violated by their questions as the way that man destroyed my career.

But then again, that led me here…to this moment.

For me, I feel that to some degree the standards of civil litigation apply to my situations. In civil law, guilt can be proportional. In other words, my guilt of consenting to an affair with my boss, does not negate his quilt for attempting to control me through my career.

But that is just my opinion, and you know what they say those are like…

If you notice a theme here? There are loads more questions than answers. Because I don’t have those answers. That is not the role of writers. Our task is to raise the questions, to encourage reflections, and foster civil debate. I am still enough of an idealist to believe there is such a thing. At least as long as I stay away from anti-social media.

But whether we find those answers or not will never change the fact that men as well as women and children are the victims of rape. How many we don’t know. And even that depends on how you define rape.

We might not be able to solve those bigger issues immediately, but each of us can and must take personal responsibility for our actions and reactions. Women in particular must realize that if we wish to broaden the definition of rape, then we must accept our duty of care not to become the perpetrators.

As a writer, I accept my part in that. As I am editing my Njörður’s series, it is with these issues in mind. I have taken on board the feedback from readers and attempt to go deeper into the motivations of the characters, Kirsty in particular.

Which brings me to what I believe is a jumping off point of those civil debates…

The best person to decide if it was rape is often the survivor.

If someone says that they felt violated, that they were afraid or did not feel comfortable with what happened. Even if they use the word rape. Listen. Because rape is more about the psychological impacts than the physical act. I recognize and accept that what happened to me might be rape to another person. I am not going to judge their experience by my own.

And all of us must recognize that men and trans people as well as women and children can be rape survivors. They have the same right to compassionate support and we, as a civilized society, have the obligation to provide that.

Until we do, the Rebs of this world will continue to feel stigmatized, isolated, and violated daily.

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