THE BLOG

It Wasn't Rape. Just Assault.

12/23/2013 01:35 pm ET | Updated Feb 22, 2014

Written by Ashkuff

When Mr. Robin Thicke sang "I know you want it" in Blurred Lines, the blogosphere decried it as a "rape song." When Ms. Christina Aguilera sang "I know you want it" in Your Body, well... nobody seemed to notice. Indeed, as an anthropologist and as an American man, I cringe at how we stereotype rape as a uniquely male crime against women.

In the United States, well over 90 percent of rape allegations are levied against men, while up to 41 percent of such allegations prove false in a particular study. Yet, federal policy effectively presumes the guilt of the accused, and strongly discourages due process. If any other demographic faced criminal over-representation like this, we'd likely cry discrimination.

In the vein of discrimination, since 1929, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defined forcible rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will," while "sexual attacks on males are counted as aggravated assaults." The FBI inherited this definition from the International Association of Police Chiefs, which formed in 1893, toward the end of the Civil War's Crisis in Gender, and the beginning of Women's Suffrage. For generations, this policy remained unchanged, perhaps because of the popular misconception that men cannot become aroused against their will. In 2011, the FBI finally updated its definition of rape. Yet, today's male survivors continue reeling from a century of wondering, "Was it rape or just assault?"

To this day, such stereotypes pervade academia. A university Women's Center defines "Rape Culture" as "an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture." But why exclude violence against men? With male victims, blockbuster comedies like Wedding Crashers turn graphic sexual assault into a punchline. Furthermore, although striking a man's sex organs self-evidently constitutes sexual violence, pop culture basically reduces it to a comedic trope.

Lastly, not only can men suffer rape, women can perpetrate. Some may rationalize that, because women are generally less muscular than men, they're less capable of sexual violence. However, rape doesn't require muscle if it happens at gunpoint. Plus, women can have sex with heavily intoxicated men (rape by diminished ability) and underage boys (statutory rape) with little fear of litigation. More broadly, up to 43 percent of men report sexual coercion, another form of rape, by female perpetrators.

How fair is it to discriminate against any demographic, or presume their guilt? How just is it to dismiss any survivor of sexual violence? How funny is it to spare one group, but victimize another? How wise is it, to ignore an entire strain of sex offender?

-- Ashkuff | An anthropologist's perspective on society, business, and ADVENTURE!!!!