A few days ago a news story popped up in my Twitter feed. It was the shocking report of how a 19 year old was lured into a car by four much older women on the pretense of giving him a ride home. Instead, the gang drove him to a secluded spot where all four of them sexually assaulted him before stranding him and fleeing the scene in their car. By anyone’s standards, this premeditated abduction and sexual assault makes disturbing reading. But columnist Rosie DiManno doesn’t think so.
DiManno turned the story into a joke, calling the sexual assault a “bizarre anomaly” and describing the rapists as “not cougars on the prowl”, mocking their weight as if taking the piss out of another woman’s appearance in accordance with dominant ideas of beauty is what matters here. The tagline (probably created by a subeditor) reads “Enquiring minds are eager to know what the heck befell a young man who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a group of women in downtown Toronto.” Because of course a man can’t be raped – everyone knows men are so sexual that they’re up for it 24/7. DiManno writes “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s sexual fantasy come true” and “Sexual assault, you say? Lucky guy others say, nudge-nudge, a fivesome and didn’t even have to pay for it” These are comments that a paper would never dare make about a female assault victim. DiManno is also discrediting the victim’s story, suggesting he’d consented and so it wasn’t assault at all.
But DiManno isn’t done yet. “[T]he inference to be drawn [is] that perhaps the victim pondered his options for a while, perchance needed some coaxing to report,” she claims – obviously ignorant of the fact that the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. DiMannio also speculates about how serious the assault was and notes that the victim wasn’t stabbed, as if that’s somehow relevant to the fact that these rapists sexually assaulted someone and all men in their community are in danger from these women.
DiManno’s hilariously witty movie-referencing conclusion:
These clubbing vamps are a bizarre anomaly, pack hunters in their getaway SUV — Thelma and Louise and Tiffany and Debi, four white chicks who may have gang-groped or otherwise molested a teenager because they didn’t have the balls to pick on, or pick up, a man their own age.
Wanted: Bad girls in black minidresses and stilettos, approach with caution.
No, Rosie DiManno. They’re not fictional heroines. They’re rapists who committed a planned sexual assault of a teenager not because they “didn’t have the guts to pick up a man their own age”, but because they’re RAPISTS.
So it seems that although female rape victims are sometimes not believed or are bullied for reporting sexual assault (like Rehtaeh, Audrie Potts and Amanda Todd) it can be tough getting people to take you seriously if you’re a male victim too. Gender stereotypes work against both sexes. A story about men gang raping a woman wouldn’t be “reported” in this tongue-in-cheek way. And it definitely wouldn’t end in a lighthearted description of the rapists’ clothing and say “approach with caution” – it would probably stress that all women were in danger. Maybe even inappropriately suggest that women modify their behaviour or give up their freedoms to go where they please until the rapists are caught. And it definitely wouldn’t call gang rapists “bad boys”.
There’s nothing funny about this. These women premeditated their attack. It was well-planned: they ganged up so they would be able to control their victim. They picked on a young boy instead of an experienced, less naive man. They used lies to abduct him instead of physical strength. They didn’t assault him until they were in a secluded spot. They took a car to make a quick getaway.
And since men don’t usually think they’ll be victims of sexual assault and counselling services are usually aimed at female victims, it might actually be worse for male victims than female ones.
I just hope the victim never reads this story. And I hope women who are thinking about rape don’t read it because this story only encourages sexual assault. Rape: just another wild night, a cool anecdote you can dig out at parties or use to impress your friends.
This article is a cruel gender-reversed parralel to the media’s sympathy for rapists which characterized the Steubenville case.
And it’s not like giving women the freedom to assault men without censure will benefit women. Treating it as a joke while treating sexual assault of women seriously harks back to the age when female purity was valued and tied to honour while men were free to do as they wished. This article isn’t female supremacy. It’s just a re-branded version of the patriarchal idea that while the integrity of women’s bodies matters, men’s don’t.