Men Get Raped 2
In the last year, I’ve gotten back into mobile gaming. My social games of choice are RTS, or Real-Time Strategy, in which real people coordinate to build their profile’s strength and perform tasks and objectives to build their collective strength. Having a strong guild — group of real people — to play with has been a fixture of a handful of different game genres, dating back to World of Warcraft, and tabletop games before that. After all, it’s not like you can play Sorry! or Monopoly by yourself. Of course, gaming online, or “remotely” as we may call it in this post-covid world, means you can’t even see the people you’re working with or against in an RTS, let alone know much about them. However, you can chat with them plenty, coordinating across time zones and swapping small talk. But sometimes, the active players end up having some “real talk.”
One evening, as I sat around tapping my screen and doing quick mental math to complete challenges as efficiently as possible, a new member, K, popped up and said hello. He came to us from another guild with some socio-political baggage. He’d been kicked out of the biggest, most powerful guild on the map because, in K’s opening words, “They kicked me because I made a joke to a girl and then some white knights got angry.”
Now, if you’re even remotely aware of misogynist, incel, men’s rights activists, 4chan, or similar spaces and cultures on the internet, you probably know both the definition and connotation of a “white knight” in this context. For those of you that don’t, let Urban Dictionary help you out:
“Usually a man who puts himself in someone else’s business to stick up for a girl, even if she’s wrong or has done something wrong. White Knights usually do this for some sort of reward, nudes, sex, or something along those lines.”
For those of you well versed in internet slang, a white knight is a step above a simp:
“It is when a male is overly submissive to a female and gains nothing from it. So overly submissive that other guys cringe and feel ashamed when seeing them. This applies to males in relationships when they are so submissive that they say literally anything to be in favor with the female.”
While the misogyny, misandry, and heteropatriarchal normativity ring out louder and more harshly than Notre Dame’s bells in a small middle school gymnasium, I’ll leave dissection of those topics to the many other writers who’ve already addressed them. For my purposes here, the understanding of K’s tone and word choice are important.
I am an officer in our guild in this RTS game. Simultaneously, my guild leader and I both messaged each other privately about K. Our consensus was that as long as having him didn’t cause problems with our members, and as long as the guild that kicked him out didn’t attack all of us for “harboring” him, we didn’t care too much about some he-said-she-said. He was an active player, and we needed those. Our guild leader went about smoothing things over with the other guild, and life went on.
At this point, you may be ready to call me, an apparently female/femme/woman author, a traitor for permitting such behavior and harboring a misogynist incel piece of shit. Well, I could say something weak about needing active players and his behavior being irrelevant to the game, but like I said, that would be flimsy at best. I don’t condone behavior like his, and he even admitted it himself, but calling him out and immediately booting him wouldn’t have changed his mind whatsoever. For someone to be receptive, they first have to view you in a positive light. Plus, the person in charge of the guild saw eye to eye with me, so, if K became a problem, I had seniority and leadership on my side. K had no ties in the guild yet. If he transgressed, he would go, and I would stay.
So, did I think I was going to get a chance to prosletyze the good word of feminism in a mobile RTS game where everyone called eachother by he/him pronouns unless corrected? Most were gracious when corrected, but some changed their behavior — usually in the way that old blue collar men suddenly stop swearing and making sex jokes when a woman walks out on the production floor in a manufacturing shop. When the rare, “How old is everyone,” question comes up in chats, you’d be surprised by how many active players are actually in the 40–60 age bracket. Considering their generation is into the whole “brotherhood” thing, it makes sense that military-simulation games would satisfy that cultural itch.
So, in this anonymous, goal-oriented, brothers-in-arms mobile RTS game chat where everyone thinks I’m a man since I have never indicated otherwise, a unique opportunity presented itself.
One afternoon, K posted that if he was suddenly gone, he wasn’t ghosting us, but had probably been thrown in jail because his niece had accused him of touching her.
Whoa. That’s both awful, and, like, way more than we usually bargain for in game chats. But you know what? I’m not letting that off with a simple, “Thanks for letting us know; good luck.” The guild leader and a couple others seemed to be of the same mindset, offering some support in the forms of humor, practical advice, and questions. It helps to talk about an overwhelming, socially taboo situation. And, despite how he came to our guild, it seemed unlikely that a molester would expose himself to a bunch of strangers who have no bearing on his situation whatsoever. Plus, backhanded as it may sound, how cunning could a guy who spells niece “nesse” really be through a totally text-based channel?
Eventually, I ended up dominating the conversation because of my knowledge and involvement with male friends who have been raped, and who have been falsely accused of rape. Yes, that messy situation actually happens, and not nearly so cut-and-dried as misogynist naysayers would love everyone to believe. In asking about his situation, I told K about some of my friends who’d been accused. One was a guy who’s girlfriend decided after the fact that she hadn’t liked how they’d been having sex. She brought him to court, but he had the conversations in text, and walked free due to the evidence. Consent is important, but can’t be revoked afterward. Regret is an emotion you can’t take out on someone else legally.
Another person was someone I knew through friends in high school, who those mutuals stayed in touch with. That guy had been a heroin user and drug dealer — which was actually pretty par for the area. He had a rough home life, redneck loyalty, and a future that revolved around staying in the area. He’d been accused of sleeping with a 17 year old when he was 19. The age of consent in that state was a hard 18, no exceptions. The story I received was that he’d been dating the girl and waiting for her to turn 18, but her father found out, got angry, and to save her own skin the daughter said she was raped. Considering that my own mother threatened to sue my high school boyfriend for statutory rape because he was 42 days older than me — and nothing had ever been nonconsensual — who knows what happened between the father and daughter. At least the daughter didn’t decide to spend a few weeks in a mental hospital so that she wouldn’t have to testify against her two-year-older boyfriend like a girl once told me she had done when her parents followed through with charges. However it happened, and however it panned out, my old acquaintance avoided jail time and ended up in court-ordered therapy that centered around anger management (suggesting it was geared toward violent offenders, the stereotypical rapists, rather than the complicated “we were dating but,” situations that seem to occur too often).
It came to light that K’s niece was 14, and he was in his early 30s. He was unemployed and had been living off unemployment and covid money. His sister, the girl’s mother, was supposedly mad that he was “making” money and not giving that money to them. I’m still not entirely clear, but it sounded like the 14 year old was working 35 hours a week supporting herself and the sister… which is illegal, so maybe he meant the sister was working 35 hours a week. Either way, K said he would have helped if he could, but it wasn’t like unemployment paid all that much. He said he was worried that getting convicted for touching a minor would bar him from being a janitor at a college nearby. He was also worried that he’d get attacked in prison if the legal proceedings put him behind bars. He had no idea how he would cover a lawyer’s fees, and didn’t trust a public defender to help him much. K was also frustrated that the accusation was putting his parents in the middle; his mom wasn’t talking to him and his dad was trying to remain neutral. That meant he couldn’t call his parents as character witnesses, so he asked us, a group of online anonymous folks, how he could submit his girlfriend’s statement if the whole thing went to court. They’d been dating long distance for five years and she had come to see him once, all the way from the Philippines. He said that she was always in his corner, and her smile made him so happy every night on videochat.
Anonymous, read as male, and not language policing in the slightest, I was able to hear the genuine concerns of a man accused of touching a 14 year old family member. I listened and occasionally prompted. Somehow this mixture made him comfortable enough to say that he had been molested when he was 12. His male cousin had been 13 at the time. K had never come forward because he didn’t want to ruin his cousin’s life. Now they were both in their thirties, his cousin had a wife and five kids, and K didn’t take his cousin for the type to touch his kids. K wrote it off as being young and experimenting — a passing phase, if anything.
I refrained from voicing any suppositions about his cousin because it simply wasn’t relevant to K’s situation. Instead, I tread very carefully to keep from giving him any cues that he may have been inoculated against by the incel community. I suggested that he “play off of the stereotype” of molesters having been molested as children. I told him that it may be a show of good faith to tell a lawyer or judge that the whole situation has brought up memories from his childhood, and he’d like to get therapy. After all, if the acquaintance of mine got off with court mandated anger management, K certainly had a chance of admitting to nothing about his niece and turning the whole thing into a possible benefit (as in, the court would pay for the therapy). K didn’t turn the idea down for any personal reason — he just didn’t want the whole town talking, wondering who did it, let alone ruining his cousin’s family’s lives.
If you’ve kept up on the debate about women coming forward and rescinding their accusations, or women coming forward long after the fact, then you have certainly heard the accusation that changing their story either way means they are lying. You’ve also likely heard at least some who never took legal action say, “Well, I just didn’t want to ruin his life.” I have heard this from people who just had some misgivings, and from a girl whose ex held her down and choked her out when she told him she was leaving him after a patently abusive relationship. Those discussions usually lead to conversations about internalized misogyny, but after hearing so many men talk about their assaults, I don’t think we’re having the right conversation.
In my previous article, I addressed the idea that men rape to assert dominance, and the idea that women rape to feel wanted. Why can’t it be both, and more? And why can’t we address that some rapes aren’t rapes, but misunderstandings both self and others? With so many cultural values muddying development of personal values, it certainly is possible to draw some commonalities between reasons people rape. Perhaps the accused also had messages about “always wanting it” or “pleasing your significant other,” or “getting them to like you,” drilled into them, and superimposed those over the personal feelings coming up. Maybe they’re going through puberty and just have questions that aren’t answered by adults and education, but they’re too young and inexperienced to understand how to ask, or say no — or even understand that they want to say no! Development throws an entirely new set of questions into the fray.
We have all been treating rape as a culturally consistent problem, taking a macro or large scale view, and seeing the forrest without ever identifying the trees. Different trees grow in different conditions, and different rapes have different stories. Sex and gender are only one small part of those stories. The real problem is the hearsay: if a rape happens in a forrest and no one is around to hear it firsthand, did anyone actually fall from grace? Was it really a rape — unlawful, unconsentual penetration — or was it rape, as in, abuse or violation?
The best question I asked K was the one I prefaced as rhetorical. Did he think that he may have done something that seemed normal to him but could have made his niece uncomfortable, and then been further misconstrued if she retold it to her mother? I had to phrase it like that to veil the seeds of the real idea I was trying to get him to think about: could he have violated a boundary that she had but he didn’t? I asked this before knowing about his molestation, but the experience makes an unwitting transgression more likely. Either way, even if he did decide he did something that could have been wrong, he would have to overcome the cultural reaction to rape — abhorr, rebuke, ostracize, and brand with a scarlett letter — in order to apologize… and those involved would have to overcome the cultural reaction to rape in order to accept that apology.
How do people move forward after the word “rape” enters their lives? The answers are as varied as the situations that word is used for.
Men get raped too, and accepting that fact is only the precursor to the conversation.