So per our laws, men cannot be raped. Even though I had heard this several times in the past, it was a bit unsettling hearing it in a criminal law class. The dismay was not with the lecturer. He was merely repeating what the laws of the country state. The shock was that the statute book on criminal offences in the country was couched in a manner that essentially denied male victims of non-consensual and coercive sexual acts any justice.
Section 98 of ACT 29 defines rape as the carnal knowledge of a female of not less that sixteen years without her consent. Our understanding of what constitutes carnal knowledge is defined by the common law we inherited from the British which essentially means penile penetration of the vagina. As a result, the courts have construed that to mean since it is a man who does the penetration and not the woman, the latter cannot be said to be guilty of rape since she cannot penetrate a man.
There is no need arguing how misguided that understanding of sexual interaction is. But there is a need to engage how that construction of penile penetration effectively denies justice to male victims of “rape” committed by women (for rape cases which are of a homosexual nature, the law fully recognizes it and gives a harsh sentence. Confusing huh?). When you have a system which invalidates the legitimate victimhood of a particular class of people, you effectively silent whatever cry they might have wanted to let out. You tell these people there is no need to report because if you do, nothing would come out of it. You perpetuate their continued oppression, sexual oppression in this case. You tell these people to stay mute for the rest of their lives.
The situation is worsened a thousand times over when patriarchy rears its sexist head into the fray. Growing up, men are socialized to never cry. Bema n su, to wit men don’t cry, resulting in crying becoming an effeminate act which men who wanted to assert their masculinity never wanted to be a part of. So male rape victims could neither cry nor report to the police. The other arm of a man’s socialization is how he is sexually lionized. Men grow up viewing sex as a predator-prey situation. Your clout in your boyhood circles is based on how many “kills” (popularly known as body counts) you have. So sex is not something you run away from. It is something you are told to naturally gravitate towards. In that light, why would you be a victim of rape?
This is made clearer when you consider how men respond to sexual assault and rape claims by other men. Take actor Terry Crews as an example (actor who played the role of father in Everybody hates Chris). When he testified before the congress of the USA on his sexual assault, other men on social media ridiculed him. There was once a thread on Joy FM’s Facebook asking men to share their rape/sexual assault stories. It became a joke fest with men saying they wanted to be raped and others saying they were once raped at a particular scene and kept on returning to that same scene just so they could be raped again.
The unhealthy marriage of patriarchy’s imputation of default sexual consent on a man and ACT 29’s definition of rape would continue to perpetuate a culture where men stay silent about their sexual assault/rape experiences.