On the Male Privilege Checklist (henceforth “the list,”) I wrote:
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.
I question some of the stats… For example, the myth that rape only happens to men in prison (or gay men), when the FBI stats (if you want to believe the FBI) are that it happens way more often than we think. No one wants to talk about and even if they do, no one wants to hear about it. But I’ve met enough men (straight, never been in jail) who have talked to me about it (cause people tend to tell me stuff they don’t normally share) that I tend to suspect the FBI’s “1 in 7 men; 1 in 3or4 women” had some validity.
My response to Karmaq:
First, Karmaq is mistaken about what the FBI’s statistics say. The FBI only counts the small proportion of rapes that are reported to police, and they calculate their numbers per year, rather than per lifetime. As a result, the FBI’s numbers are far, far, far lower than the numbers you provide here. Most importantly, because the FBI’s inexcusably sexist definition of rape excludes men (“forcible rape, as defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will”), the FBI’s numbers are irrelevant to Karmaq’s point.
Second, contrary to Karmaq’s remarks, I never claimed that “rape happens only to men in prison (or gay men).” That would obviously not be true.
What I said is, that for men who aren’t in prison, the chances of being raped are very low, and I stand by that claim.
According to this study by the Centers for Disease Control, 15% of women and 2% of men in the US have ever been raped in their lifetime. That difference alone is enough to justify my statement. (The CDC’s numbers are based on interviews with a representative sample of the US population, not on police reports.)
Although the CDC’s is one of the best rape prevalence studies, I believe their results underestimate the prevalence of rape, especially for women. One particularly striking (but not at all unusual, as these studies go) flaw of the CDC’s survey is that their interview questions didn’t include a specific question asking about rapes that take place while the victims are unconscious or otherwise unable to resist due to drink or drugs – which is to say, a prototypical frat-house rape. Of course, anyone can be raped while passed out, but anecdotally I believe it happens significantly more often to women. (Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any good studies addressing this question, so anecdotal evidence is all I have.)
Readers may be wondering, of that 2% of men who report having been raped, how many were raped in prison? The CDC did not ask if rapes took place while incarcerated, so there’s no way of knowing what portion of the 2% of raped men, were raped in prison. However, it’s at least plausible that a significant portion of that 2% represents prison rape.
According to this Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 5% of US men have been in prison at some point in their lives. If one in ten men are raped while in prison – and some studies suggest prison rape prevalence may be that high or much higher – that would account for a quarter of all the male rape victims in the US. So although this is speculative, it’s plausible that a substantial number of the 2% of American men who have been raped, were raped while in prison.
* * *
Does it matter where rape takes place or who the victims are? In every moral sense, it does not matter. No one deserves to be raped. Prison rape is rape, and is totally inexcusable. Rape is rape, evil and wrong no matter where or to whom it happens. Every rape victim deserves sympathy and support.
But one point of the male privilege checklist is to make visible some ways a male-centric society harms women. (I believe that male-centric societies also harm men, but that’s a subject for a different post). Pretending that there’s no statistical difference in the likelihood of being raped goes against that purpose. In that context, that rape in ordinary US society is a crime overwhelmingly committed by men against women is important, and must be acknowledged.
It should be noted that the prison rape epidemic is probably going to get worse. Over the next couple of decades, the proportion of male rape victims may increase, because the proportion of men who have been in prison is projected to skyrocket. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ projections, if our current rate of sending men to prison is maintained, then at some point in the future 15% of American men will have spent time in prison. (6% of white men, 17% of Latinos, and 32% of Black men. For comparison’s sake, the projections for women are 1%, 2% and 6%.)
If those projections are true (or even partly true), and if the prison rape epidemic continues unabated, the overall number of American rape victims will vastly increase over the coming decades. This is true even if rape prevalence outside of prison doesn’t change at all. This is one reason why it’s essential to support strong measures to combat prison rape; unfortunately, all that’s gotten through congress so far are weak half-measures.