Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What does a homophobic, weightist comment have to do with rape culture?

I was talking to a friend of my sister's today and he made a statement I've heard other variations of many times. He said, 

"As straight guys, we don't like to be around gay guys anyway, but especially not a fat, gay guy cause he could rape us." 

The statement made me pretty angry. I was angry as an lgbt ally. I was angry as a feminist. Statements like this are really interesting to me because they make me really angry before I can even express why. I often use my feelings of outrage as a sign that I need to dissect a statement or experience in order to understand something. Usually I end up better understanding the subtle ways rape culture slips into our common ideas and beliefs. So let's dissect this statement a little bit because I feel like there are a whole lot of things wrong with it.

Right off the bat I have to tell you that I know A LOT of straight men who don't mind being around gay men at all. In fact, most of the men I know recognize that whether a person is gay or straight or bisexual or pan sexual or asexual doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not he/she is someone they want to be around.This attitude is really, disgustingly homophobic.

Then he starts talking about rape. But what does he even mean? What was this man really trying to say?

Maybe he was implying that gay men would all be rapists if they were strong or big enough. I wish that this idea was just too outrageous to be taken seriously by any sane person, it's hard to believe someone could make such an insidious blanket statement about such a large, diverse group of people. Unfortunately, however, this belief does exist, just look at all the controversy around the issue of gay leaders in the Boy Scouts.  Just in case you actually subscribe to this bullshit - you can't take an entire demographic of people and just assume that they are all rapist or pedophiles. That. Is. Insane.

But that isn't really what this blog is about, and I don't really think that's what he was trying to say.

Maybe he's just really arrogant.  I mean, this guy really thinks that he's so attractive and witty and great that no gay man could possibly resist him? Seriously?

Actually, I don't really think that's it either. At least, I think there is more to it than that. There is this idea that if someone CAN force intercourse with a subject of desire he WILL. Let me re-word this statement a little differently and we'll see if we can make the underlying message a little more clear.

He said: As straight guys, we don't like to be around gay guys anyway, but especially not a fat, gay guy cause he could rape us.

He also said: I don't like being around people who may be attracted to me, but especially not if they are larger than I am because they could rape me.

Is it surprising that my first thought was, Well, at least you can understand how women feel all the time?

And that isn't because I hate men or I'm afraid of men or I think that all men are rapists. I know that only a very small percentage of men rape. I know and love many men. Also, I know a lot men that I could definitely beat the shit out of, if it came down to it.

So where does this idea come from? This fear that women and men have in common? Well, maybe that question is a little bit erroneous. The fact is that the fear of being raped, which is very common in women, is almost non-existent in men. On top of that, women's fear is often misplaced, we're afraid of strangers, walking home at night, etc, when statistically, very few rapes occur in these conditions.

When this statement was made, it was regarding a social setting. It was said in a tone of voice which implied "truth-in-humor."
So, somewhere, subconsciously, this man believes in the idea that "People who are attracted to me and are larger than I am are likely to rape me." But he also believes that that's funny. If he thought it was a real possibility that something so horrible could happen to him he wouldn't have said it, but he probably believes that men don't get raped; it's a common misconception. The truth is that 1 in 7 men in Utah is a victim of sexual violence. When we perpetuate the myth that men don't get raped we telling male survivors that they are alone, that they should be ashamed that they weren't "manly" (what doesn't that even mean??) enough to avoid sexual violence.

Subsequently, it implies the message that women are "meant" to be raped.

So, maybe what this statement was implying is that rapes happen often and it's funny as long as it doesn't happen to men?

The only way a person could say something like this is if he/she subconsciously carries the belief that women are less than men... less than human.

And it all comes back to objectification and how it exacerbates the epidemic of sexual violence.

Remarks like this are made often and casually. They are made as jokes. It seems to me that people don't even know what they are saying. I seriously doubt that if I asked this guy if he thought women were less valuable than men, if he thought it was funny when women were raped, or if he thought gay men were all rapists, that he would say yes. In fact, I feel fairly confident that he would say no.

But he did say all of those things. He said them with one statement he didn't even have to think about. Still think rape culture isn't a thing?


  1. I think that there is also something there about assumptions made about fat people's sexuality...the idea that they are animals and if they get access to anyone that they want to have sex with that they will do anything to get sex. As a fat activist, I've had several instances where comments have been made to me about "being happy that anyone would have me" or that "all fat chicks are super wild in bed". It all plays into oppression and rape culture.

  2. Thank you so much for adding this Delal!!