My hands sweat as I readjust my keys, making sure they stick out between my fingers. I’ve done this since I started driving, the constant reminder of my parents that I could be attacked on my way to the car ringing in my ears. I don’t carry a purse, and my back pack is held in my hand instead of strapped to my back. I can feel my heart race as the light near my car flickers, I really should have parked in a better place, but I was in a hurry to get to class. It’s only after I open the door to my car, scurry inside, and lock the doors that I breathe a sigh of relief and feel myself begin to calm down.
It’s my first term here, and before I’d even completed my orientation I and the other new students had been given information on how to protect ourselves against sexual assault. Tips like traveling in groups, making sure people knew where you were at all times, taking some form of self defense training, things I’ve been told since I’d hit puberty. There was nothing new, except who to call should something happen. Some of the men around me, who don’t know I’m one of them due to my feminine body, scoffed and made jokes at the information, saying things like real men can’t get raped, or how if a man lets another man rape him, he’s secretly wanting it. They ignore the fact that almost 3 million men have been the victim of attempted or completed rape. Because the percentage of men who have come forward as victims of rape is so low, only around 3%, they don’t believe it could possibly happen to them.
When it comes to rape, people often focus on blaming the victim, even if they don’t mean to. If it’s a woman, she must have done something to deserve it. She didn’t take enough precautions (some of which I list herefor reference), she must have given her rapist mixed signals, or she just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other women around her were just more prepared than she was, and that was why she was assaulted.
If only she’d been more careful.
Men on the other hand, their rapes are often brushed off as “hazing”, or that they secretly wanted it. How else would that person have been able to rape them? If it was a woman who raped them, it must mean that they’re gay if they didn’t enjoy the sex. It couldn’t possibly be that they didn’t want to have sex and she forced him to do so against his will because men are stronger than women and he could have easily fought her off if he didn’t secretly enjoy it…right? Besides, women can’t rape men! They don’t have a penis to use! Rape only happens if you’re penetrated by a penis!
Yeah, that’s not how rape or sexual assault works, thankfully.
In 2013 a new definition for rape was adopted by the FBI, replacing their old UCR definition, removing the requirement that rape only be possible if the victim was a female, and only via sex. The new definition stated, “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” allowing for a much broader interpretation and allowance for men to be included as victims and survivors of rape. The problem though, is that very few men actually come forward after their assaults, due mostly to the belief that doing so means they’re weak and, like women have been taught their whole lives, they must have done something to deserve it. It was their fault after all, they should have been able to fight them off.
While rape is the most well known thing to be considered sexual violence, I can’t help but think back to the times when I’ve been groped, had people grab me without my consent, or grind against me to simulate having sex with me to show me how they “liked me.” I’m not the only one to deal with this, as most of us have been conditioned to brush off these events instead of coming forward. “Oh, he pulled your hair because he likes you!” rings through my ears when I think about how I was trained to believe sexual and physical assault meant affection and love. A man grinding against he means he likes me, and he wants to know me better. Someone grabbing my rear end means they think I’m cute. Having my breasts groped means I’m attractive, and if I fight back, I’m just some prude who (and I wish I was joking when I said this) “just needs a good dicking to fix” my problem. Apparently if I just didn’t fight back and allowed them to have sex with me, all my problems would be solved.
It turns out, being a man doesn’t remove the fears and paranoia I’ve been conditioned to feel.
Even though I am now out, and I dress and act like a man, even though my voice has dropped two octaves since starting hormones, I’m still constantly on edge as I travel about. I’m afraid that my dirty little secret will be discovered, that my private parts are still those associated with a woman.
If the men who have accepted me as a guy find out…will I become yet another victim? I’m still smaller than them, and even though I’ve taken self defense classes, and I refuse to drink alcohol or any form of drink offered to me, what if they drug me? What if it’s put in the food? What if more than one of them decides to join in?
All of these fears and more course through my mind whenever I’m out. I’m hyper vigilant, afraid of my own shadow when traveling in places with low light. I see others around me strolling along, and yet I am here just waiting for a bogeyman I know is statistically improbable to jump from the shadows and drag me off, just like I’d been taught would happen if I didn’t take every precaution possible.
I was taught to make sure I was less rapeable than the person next to me…