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Because one can of worms is never enough!

Okay, gang, I'm off to spend an evening canoodling with my significant other, and will not be on the internet.

Please be civilized to each other in the prior post, I beg of you, while I'm not here to bounce. This is one topic where emotions run really high, and I don't want to have to close threads because I think it's an important topic to discuss, and we're all basically on the same side. If the conversation DOES get ugly, it's okay to say "I don't see anything productive coming out of this," and step away.

It's okay to be pissed. Just be polite.

However, before I go, for the purposes of discussion, one thing I've run across in this discussion (and other posts related) that I hardly ever run across is fear vocalized on the part of men that they'll be accused of rape or sexual harassment when they're just tryin' to get lucky as best they can.

Now, my kneejerk reaction is to scoff a bit, I confess--that's a kneejerk, and I make no bones about it--because, well, being female, my fear is that some dude is gonna rape me, then carve me up like a christmas ham in the basement and wear my skin around like a little hat. This is the sort of thing I worry about. My kneejerk, therefore, is something like "Pfff! You think YOU have problems?"

And that may well be unfair. Hell, granted that fear is not a zero-sum game, it's definitely unfair. Everybody has a right to be scared of ill treatment.

But--thing is--every single woman I know, with no exception I can think of, knows somebody who has been sexually assaulted or abused. In fact, with VERY few exceptions, that person is either somebody close to her, or her own self. These aren't stories, this is...y'know...something that we basically just live with. Life sucks, lots of people get hurt, we brazen on through because the only alternative is to curl into fetal position and weep for humanity.

However. It occurs to me that I may be doing men a disservice in general by dismissing this fear just because it seems like women get so much more of the short end of the stick. Suffering, too, is not a zero-sum game. So. I'll ask two questions then:

A) If male, are you afraid of being falsely accused of rape? Is this a Major Fear--i.e. something you worry about every time you're trying to get to know a woman? (Hell, is this something you worry about if you're, say, alone in a parking garage with a female in the next aisle getting into her car?)

B) If either gender, do you personally know anybody who has been falsely accused of rape? (Not friend-of-a-friend stories, but you, yourself, are at least the level of on-line acquaintanceship with them.)

(Okay, two and a half.)

Somebody'll probably suspect that this is a snarky passive-aggressive way to get men to admit that this is a load. It's not. Honestly. I'm genuinely curious. For all I know, a staggering percentage of men really do go into a relationship in mortal terror that they're going to end up with their testicles in a vise. I KNOW what it's like to be female, but I've never yet been male (at least not in this life!) and I honestly don't know what my own response to the discovery that this might genuinely be a widespread problem would be. 

I am not afraid of being falsely accused of rape, because I am so very rarely in a situation where that would hold any water. But I've long been afraid of being falsely accused of sexual harassment. My brother almost lost his job and had his permanent record sullied by a false accusation of sexual harassment. This is a very real and very powerful possibility. Not worse than rape, but bad.

I know no one who was falsely accused of rape.

But to turn this around. I've been sexually abused by a stranger and so have many men I know. We were kids, and the predator was a man.

Anyway, I thought the solution to the false accusations of harassment was to fight actual harassment and improve the system for catching it, so fewer people have to be afraid of it.

Edited at 2008-04-28 02:28 am (UTC)

a) I'm not male, but I do occasionally worry about being so badly misinterpretted that I get accused of harassment, and it's not that big a leap to rape.

b) I do not know anyone that has been falsely of rape (by which I mean, charged with rape in reference to a physical act that they did not commit). However I do know people who have been accused of statutory rape in which the girl was a willing participant, one went to prison.

Only tangentially related, I have had sex where the only reason it was not rape was that I did not say no. I was in a relationship where it was not standard practice to get explicit permission before enjoying each other, and I didn't manage to figure out that I didn't want to have sex beforehand. I attribute my failure to say anything in the middle to boundary issues that I have been working on since then. Hopefully it will not happen again. In one case I am not certain that the boy in question would have stopped even if I had told him to stop. I suppose it was safer for me to retain the illusion of control.

Premise 1: Rape is an absolutely heinous crime - personally I would prefer being accused of murder than of rape because murder can be informed by motives that have nothing to do with satisfaction of one's basest desires at the expense of causing another person to never, ever feel safe again.

Premise 2: People are starkers. Being alone with a strange woman is therefore always dangerous, because she might be starkers in a way that will lead her to accuse you of something outlandish.

Therefore I always feel anxious when alone with a strange woman. The fear may not be rational, but to the man of honour, no accusation could be worse, and this particular loss of reputation is worse even than death. This is because most men of honour would be quite content to kill rapists if there weren't a legal system that prevented it.

The answer to question B is difficult, because a man who claims to be falsely accused of rape will be viewed by men of honour as a bullshit artist who is probably guilty and therefore worthy of death. In other words there is no way this can be measured, and that is the reason that a false accusation of rape is so deeply feared.

Semantic breakdown - probably a "this side of the pond" thing - "starkers usually means "naked" in my lexicon *g* So being alone with a strange person who is starkers...

Please pardon the anonymous post. I don't mind discussing this with close friends, but your reader base is a bit larger than my own.

A. I do not fear this, although to be honest I am almost never in a situation where this could possibly happen. I'm a hermit and spend about 99% of my time alone.

B. I know someone who is currently in prison for molestation. He was, at one time, a very good friend -- but I've since lost contact with him. He was accused of making sexual advances towards a young boy. He claims that he did not, and I'm inclined to believe him -- although that's just based on second-hand information and a general feeling about things. So I can't say for sure that he was falsely accused of rape, but I believe he was.

I'm male. Question A is not something I've ever worried about. I find it a perplexing concern. There's something weirdly demonizing about it. (I think there are two ways to answer the question, btw -- "are you concerned about people lying for whatever reason when you didn't even appear to be committing an act of sexual violence," and "are you concerned about appearing to commit such an act.")

Question B -- nope, never heard about it, which doesn't mean it never happened to someone I know but not to my knowledge.

The number of people I know, male and female, who have been sexually abused/raped is staggering, though I myself have been lucky enough so far to have avoided everything but some unwanted groping which I was able to very quickly stop. The number is honestly appalling, and I live constantly with the knowledge that those are just the ones I know about. I have many, many acquaintances and friends that I'm not that intimate with, and I'm only too aware that some of those people have been abused or raped.

I know one man who might fit the bill for #2. One.

ETA: Incidentally, I know (am not friends with, but know) at least three people who were accused of rape/molestation, and who were very much guilty. Two were convicted, the third was not, and remains at large.

Edited at 2008-04-28 02:39 am (UTC)

A. Not male.

B. No, the closest I have to that is a male coworker currently under scrutiny for sexual harassment. And a number of stories about women making up stories to get guys fired. Which is a really bad scene, that women feel they should abuse that that way.

Male, straight, bad at detecting interest, phobic of making unwanted advances, and paranoid about appearing to be making advances, whether or not I actually am. I can't articulate why I have this complex or how it came about. However:

A) I'm not even slightly afraid of such an accusation; I know intellectually that it would be a really bad thing to have happen, but it seems so farfetched - my gut reaction is "Surely nobody ever makes false accusations of rape?!" Probably because:

A.5) I am small and inoffensive-looking; I honestly do not believe I would register as a threat in a scenario like that.

B) I have never heard of its happening to anyone, whether or not I knew them personally.

and, C) I know several people, women, men, and other, who were raped or sexually abused, and in one case I saw a whole bunch of the subsequent trauma; which puts the whole topic in the category of Things Far Too Much A Big Deal To Lie About Ever. I realize that not everyone has this category, but I consider that a bug in their social conditioning.

I kinda jumped into this before reading the other comments, but here goes:

I personally know two guys who were sexually assaulted by women, and I firmly believe both of them when they told me that they truly felt uncomfortable, used, and degraded when it was over. They were never in fear of their lives, but they did feel the same shame and lack of control that women feel when they get sexually abused.

I think that part of being a female feminist is believing and accepting that even though a person is a woman, it doesn't mean that she can't do truly horrible and nasty things.

As a male, I've been married to the same woman for 35 years, (yes, longer than you've been alive, Ursula). She was the only girl I've ever dated and the only one who has ever shown a romantic interest in me to my knowledge, so I've never been a-feared of being accused of rape. I have never personally known anyone who has been falsely OR correctly accused of rape.

One of my closest friends was falsely accused - and my little sister was the one who made the accusation, because she was young and wanted to end her first relationship but didn't know how. I still lose sleep over it, so I can only imagine what he went through.

I know two other people who've been falsely accused as well. One was out at a nightclub at the time he supposedly raped her at her home; she was known for faking pregnancies and medical drama. The other was accused because he turned someone down.

I know men who are terrified of the prospect of an accusation, who regret their height and build and even their gender because of the fear it can inspire. I've been sexually assaulted myself, but the whole thing saddens me - rape and assault are awful, awful things, but condemning everyone born male is not the answer.

A. Nope. Not even a minor fear, really.
B. Nope.

I equate the fear of being falsely accused of rape to any of the many ways one could be treated badly by others. When meeting new people for any reason, let alone flirting or dating, there is always the risk of bad things happening to you. The person you just met could be a serial killer, or a con artist. Or the person you just slept with, where the condom broke, might have an STI. These all fit into the category of "bad luck", and that's how I think about, as a male, the risk of being falsely accused of rape. Could it happen to me? Yes, and it'd be bad luck.

I don't view women's fear of being raped in the same way AT ALL. Rape and harassment are much more common, making the risk of the "bad luck" of rape much more likely. Women I know are much more cautious with men and prepare themselves, by carrying mace or learning self-defense, in ways that far exceed any fears that I have as a male. This is, in fact, a big, defining aspect of "male privilege."

But--thing is--every single woman I know, with no exception I can think of, knows somebody who has been sexually assaulted or abused. In fact, with VERY few exceptions, that person is either somebody close to her, or her own self.

I'd like to add, here, that quite a few of the people I know who have been sexually assaulted or abused are male. I'm pretty sure you know it doesn't just go one way (yes, a fair amount of that sexual abuse was perpetrated by girls or women), but I wanted to get it in black and white.

That's true; I know four people who have been raped, and two of those are male (by other men).

But--thing is--every single woman I know, with no exception I can think of, knows somebody who has been sexually assaulted or abused.

Same here - more people than I like to count right this moment. (As for those people being close to me - well no shit, how often do casual acquaintances tell you about their life-altering sexual traumas?)

A) Yes. I'm a big, broad-shouldered guy who's not only terribly shy, but who's occasionally startled women by doing nothing more sinister than walking into a room. Once, I was visiting my mother at her office, and an alarmed male coworker burst through the door, thinking that I was some goon attacking her. (He said it was because I had a "very serious expression" on my face; well, yeah, I was letting my mother know how an appointment with my oncologist had gone.)

I'm not so worried about being accused by a random woman in a parking garage, but by some woman I make an enemy of. I have no faith in the criminal justice system, either for victims or the wrongly accused.

(As for children - well, in this day and age of paranoia, the only sensible thing is to avoid other peoples' children. Enough said.)

B) Yes. It was rather rough on him, and he was lucky - the charges got dropped. He wouldn't have survived prison.

Well I'm not male. But I've never known someone to be falsely accused of rape. I do however, know people and someone who have been raped two or three times.