THE BLOG
09/05/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Rape Culture Pervades Gay Culture Too

Way too many people seem to think it's funny, or even impossible, for a man to be raped. I'm not sure that it matches the indifference with which we view the rape of women, but the reactions are still disturbing.

Too often they even come from gay men, who are ourselves disproportionately subject to sexual violence.

Last week a gay Scottish man was convicted of sexually assaulting a sleeping straight man after a party. According to Scotland's Daily Record:

[Perpetrator Iain] Fisher had been at a bar with Ryanair colleagues Nicola Martin and Niamh Finnegan when they met the man and invited him to a house party. ...

[Fisher's attorney Bob Campbell] said they went back to the house party from [the] bar ... and after more drinking, the victim had fallen asleep in the bed.

Campbell said Fisher later got into the bed and Niamh and Nicola were next to him.

The lawyer added: "Nicola left, saying she felt uneasy, and she was followed by Niamh and Iain Fisher, leaving the victim in the bed.

That wasn't the end of the evening, though:

[Fisher] returned at about 6.30am and his victim awoke to discover Fisher performing a sex act on him.

[The] Court heard Fisher left the room "laughing". His upset victim went home in tears and told his father what had happened.

Gay Star News ran a piece about the incident. It seems to falsely imply that the men were in bed together when they fell asleep but makes it clear that the contact (oral sex) was not consensual.

Some readers over there have thoughts about the incident. Thoughts like:

  • "This is just silly and should not even be a discussion. There was no crime nor victim. Except the guy in jail."
  • "Oh a 22 year old man went home crying that he got a BJ, give me a break."
  • "Rediculous [sic] that he will have to register on the sex offender registry indefinitely. For a BJ that hurt no one."
  • "It never said anything about rape, just a sexual act had been preformed[sic] on him."

Did... did I mention that we're talking about the sexual assault of an unconscious person?

These aren't even anonymous comments. They're linked to Facebook and Twitter, with names and photographs right next to each one. These are things that people wanted to broadcast to the world, alongside their full name and photograph. And since others have noted that the most offensive comments have been deleted, it appears that they're not even the worst of the bunch.

When an activist friend shared that story on a social networking site, more gay men chimed in (for the record, the thread is public, so I'm not shaming anyone with private statements):

  • "Nobody got hurt, and that should have been the end of it. Drink like a fool, accept both responsibility and the consequences for it, be glad you're not dead, and quiturbitchin'. Just sayin'."
  • "Rape requires either overpowering physical force or taking advantage of someone who is unable to respond to the stimulation. If he 'responded' (you know what I mean) and later decided he wished he hadn't, that's not rape. He was just drunk enough to lower his standards... Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to work and pay for my law degree."
  • "If I go home with someone (guy or a girl) and sleep in their bed and an orgasm wakes me up so be it. It's not rape. If they penetrate me then it's rape... Both guys, same age, same condition, same bed, no violence, no penetration of the victim, not rape in the UK. I find it hard to feel that outraged at the situation. Yes it would be different if the victim were female that's reality."

Got that? Just be glad you're not dead; it's only rape if it makes you feel like a girl, and an attorney wants you to know that if you get an erection in your sleep, it's open season on you.

This isn't the first time I've noted a "divided" gay male response to a story about gay-on-straight sexual assault. It isn't even the first time this summer.

In June a New Zealand jury acquitted a gay man of fellating a self-identified straight man, who claimed to have been unconscious at the time. The alleged victim had consumed 12 to 14 drinks. Cannabis, which he did not recall smoking, was found in his system. He had just been denied entry into a casino because he was so drunk that an establishment that subsists on poor decisions would not let him in. The alleged perpetrator offered him a ride because he was sober enough to drive. The alleged victim claimed that he passed out and awoke to find the other man performing oral sex on him. The alleged perpetrator claimed that the straight man had consented, only to change his mind five minutes in.

I wasn't there to hear the testimony or see the evidence. I don't know if I would have agreed with the jury if I had. But for me -- and I hope for you as well -- the acquittal raises the question: Just how drunk can a person be and still legally consent to sex with a sober person in New Zealand? Because too drunk for a casino feels like a pretty good cutoff.

For Queerty this was an opportunity for catty, you-know-he-liked-it jokes about the alleged victim, complete with photo of a porn star eating a banana.

And the whole thing was, of course, completely non-consensual. ...

But Man #2 insisted he is not gay. To prove this, he brought his girlfriend to court with him, who sat quietly in the back of the room while he gave testimony. ...

During his testimony, Man #2 claimed that in addition to not remembering giving consent for the blowjob, he also had no recollection of sending two text messages that appeared on his phone around the time of the "unwanted" sex act, as well as no memory of smoking pot which showed up in his system in toxicology tests taken the next day.

Tony Greig, the lawyer representing Man #1, told the jury that alcohol often makes people do things they later regret, like making "tactless" comments... or accepting BJs from a strangers in the backseats of cars.

Hahaha: Rape. If you were too drunk and stoned to know what you were doing, obviously it was consensual!

They thought better of that coverage two days later. We know this because they slapped a question mark over the banana photo for their re-think piece.

A few of the comments on that follow-up:

  • "The dude knew what he wanted and probably wasn't drunk enough to enjoy it."
  • "Who cares? It's a f*cking blow job."
  • "People decide to get drunk to reduce inhibitions, so the consent for the consequences is often implicit in the decision to get drunk."
  • "BTW, the picture of this article is Corbin Fisher's Sean who is deceased."

Got that, guys? Who cares?! It's just a sex act. The guy just wasn't drunk enough! But by being drunk at all, he had implied consent. Also, it is distasteful to use a picture of a dead person in your rape joke.

I concede that, in this case, the alleged perpetrator's story was pretty believable. Sleazy, sure. Creepy. Predatory. And still rape. But believable.

So it took two days for the editorial staff at Queerty to figure out that there might be something wrong with making a joke out of what could charitably be described as sexual predation. And when they did, a remarkable percentage of their readership still felt the need to debate just how OK it is to be that sober creep circling the drunkest person in the bar at 2 a.m.

I realize that Internet comments and a few poor choices by small gay publications are not representative of the attitudes of the population as a whole. This is not what most gay men think, or what most men think (though we aren't that far off). Obviously, I am a gay man myself. And for every idiot who thinks it's OK to fellate a sleeping person without permission, or who sees nothing rapey about a sober person taking advantage of a stranger too drunk to walk into a casino, there are several to respond in disgust.

But holy hell, people. There is a vein of rape culture running through the online presence of gay men that has become impossible to ignore.

So I guess that, when it comes to things like consent, gay men are just as susceptible to being creeps or predators as, well, straight men. It's a depressing thought.