They can and they are far more often than people realize. Unfortunately, poor education on the subject of rape results in many societies scoffing at the idea of a man being truly assaulted in this manner by a woman–especially a woman who he could physically dominate. This stereotype has had a negative impact on trauma therapy for men, with many rape support groups focusing only on female victims.
Brain Vs. Brawn
When a woman rapes you, she forces sexual intercourse on you against your will. Having the physical resources to defend yourself from this kind of assault is not the only thing that matters. Your psychological response to being assaulted is going to determine how you use your physical resources. For many men, their mental response to being assaulted causes them to feel unable to defend themselves, even in cases in which their rapist is significantly weaker than they are. If this was the case for you, does it mean you are a sissy? Not at all. Before you start calling yourself a bunch of derogatory names, you need to get better educated about how your mind works.
Two Defense Strategies
Your mind is extremely intelligent and able to make complex threat assessments with lightning speed. When your mind senses that sexual assault is about to happen, it quickly assesses its options. Should you fight or cooperate? How your mind answers this question has nothing to do with a lack of courage. If you think about it, it actually takes immense courage to martial your resources and commit to enduring an experience as degrading as sexual assault.
So if you’re not a coward, what is your mind basing its decision on? For humans, it’s all about self-preservation. Your mind’s goal is to get you through the crisis with the least amount of damage. Just as humans are born with different eye and hair colors, they are born with different emergency response instincts. The “freeze and cooperate” response is just as wise as the “fight and run” strategy. Both of these responses are focusing on the same two goals of self-preservation and damage control, and once you see the wisdom in both, you can see that they both deserve equal respect.
In the “fight and run” strategy, the goal is to throw everything you’ve got at the enemy all at once, catch them off guard, and turn the tables on them. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, it’s a mess.
In the “freeze and cooperate” strategy, the goal is to avoid antagonizing your attacker by resisting. Your mind very reasonably assumes that if you make your attacker upset, she’ll get even more violent towards you, and that will result in greater injury to yourself. Remember that your mind’s top priority in these situations is to minimize damage to yourself. When this second strategy is employed, your mind figures that going along with what your rapist wants will be the fastest way to get her out of your face.
So which strategy is the most sound? They are both equally valid, and at times they both succeed in accomplishing the goal of minimizing damage. Other times, they both fail. You see, the key in these scenarios is what’s going on in the mind of your rapist. There are many different psychological factors that cause people to feel an intense need to rape. Certain rapists will definitely escalate their violence towards you if you resist them. Others will panic and flee. If you could see inside the mind of your rapist, you could better assess which defense strategy would work the best in a specific situation. But since you can’t read other people’s minds, all you can do is make a strategic guess, and your natural temperament will determine which strategy your mind automatically defaults to.
Seeking Out Assault
The explanation I just gave applies best to first time rape experiences in which you are surprised by an attack that you didn’t see coming. But when it comes to repeat assaults in which you find yourself actually seeking out a rape experience or choosing to remain in a relationship with someone who is sexually abusing you, things get more complex. The seriousness of your situation is the same: you are being raped, and you deserve as much compassion and help as female victims do. But while your gender in no way minimizes the horror of what is happening to you, it is important to ask yourself “Why am I making myself such an easy target?”
In cases where you keep seeking out new partners who will sexually assault you, there is often a need to self-punish or a need to reenact a past abuse situation. These impulses can become so overwhelmingly strong that you will see yourself going through a lot of hassle just to set up a new assault experience. The amount of effort you are putting in to making yourself feel horribly degraded is a direct reflection of how stressed your mind is. In this kind of situation, your mind is in a state of trauma. Trauma occurs when you go through a terribly upsetting experience in life that you don’t know how to make peace with. When minds are distressed, they start to obsess, and traumatized minds spend a lot of time thinking about the life experiences which they feel most threatened by.
Whenever you are trying to make sense out of your own behavior, you must begin with the fact that your mind is always trying to protect itself. You also need to understand that your mind is extremely logical–meaning that from its own perspective, everything it does makes rational sense. For many minds, seeking out a degrading experience is a very logical way of trying to resolve a past trauma–often one that involved some form of assault.
Suppose you’re reading through a textbook and you come to a paragraph that makes no sense to you. What do you do? If you feel that it is very important to understand what the author is saying, then your eyes will automatically jump back to the start of the paragraph and read it again. If you still feel confused, you will repeat the process, reading through the same text again, and again, and again. The more frustrated you become, the slower you will read–focusing on certain phrases that seem the most confusing, taking the time to look up the definitions of certain words, and probably reading certain parts out loud to yourself over and over. Your mind goes through a similar process when it is traumatized. It keeps reviewing the same upsetting memory files over and over and over, scrutinizing certain details, trying to relive the same emotional experience. Reliving some aspect of a past experience by setting up a new assault experience today is just another analysis tool that your mind uses when it is frustrated and trying to gain understanding. If you look for common elements in the kinds of rape experiences you seek out today, those elements will give you important clues as to what past traumatic experience your mind is obsessing over. For example, what kind of rapists do you seek out? Do you look for women of a certain age or ethnicity or type of build? What kind of assault experience do you find yourself trying to create: a long, drawn out situation with plenty of suspense, or a quick, violent attack?
Staying With An Abusive Partner
When your rapist is your girlfriend or wife instead of a set of virtual strangers, then things get complicated in a different way. The common stereotype of rape is a situation in which a male rapist threatens to physically harm a female victim if she doesn’t cooperate. For example, he might wave a gun and say “I’ll shoot you if you try to resist.” A similar situation is often at play when you keep sticking with a female partner who frequently rapes you, only in these situations, the power she’s holding over you is often emotional, not physical.
Unprocessed trauma creates major vulnerabilities that other people can take advantage of. Many men feel so emotionally starved for any kind of female affirmation, that they will submit to all kinds of physical and sexual abuse just to hear their female partners say affirming things to them. And yet how can it really be so addicting to hear “I love you” spoken by the same woman who is grossly abusing your body and mind? Often in these cases, your mind is viewing your partner as a powerful symbol of someone from your past (often a mother) who you feel a desperate need to please. This kind of symbolism is extremely common among humans: we are constantly creating mental links between people we know today and people from our past.
The main reason couples argue so much over what to name the baby is because each person has a long list of negative mental associations with names based on their personal experiences in life. A man doesn’t want to give his daughter the same name as his ex-girlfriend even though the name is just a neutral label and did nothing to cause that relationship to end in heartache. Yet once the man associates a particular name with a painful memory, he will automatically dislike that name. In the same way, your mind will often form links between your current partner and significant people from your past. When your relationship with a powerful figure from your past (often a parent, sibling, or previous spouse) is or was a royal mess, your mind will often seek out someone who can symbolically represent that person, allowing you to then try to symbolically “fix” the original relationship.
Suppose your mother died before you could say important things to her. Suppose you then acted in a play in which some random woman pretended to be your mom and you played the role of yourself. In the play, you finally get the chance to tell your “mom” all of the things you didn’t get to tell her in real life. If you were to do this kind of thing, you’d find the experience very emotionally moving. The more the woman acting your mom resembled your real mom either in appearance or mannerisms, the more meaningful the experience would feel to you. This is the sort of thing your mind is trying to do when it pushes you to seek out partners who will dominate and degrade you in ways that remind you of how an important female from your past treated you. The goal in these scenarios is for you to try and make peace with the past relationship by finding a way to get along with your current symbolic partner. In these situations, your mind often decides that if you can appease your symbolic partner by submitting to frequent abuse, she will eventually be satisfied and turn nice. If she does this, it will feel like that really important person from your past is finally being nice to you, forgiving you, accepting you, or whatever it is that you needed them to do.
So what’s the remedy in these situations? Once again, we need to respect the fact that your decision to remain in an abusive relationship is being driven by intense psychological need. Your mind has decided that there is something very important to be gained from this relationship, which is why it resists the idea of you leaving, even when other people in your life are telling you to walk away.
In cases of symbolic partners, the first step is to identify who it is that your partner represents to your mind. Of course, sometimes it isn’t a case of “who” but “what.” For example, some men feel intensely ashamed of something they’ve done in the past, and they are remaining in an abusive relationship as a way of managing their guilt. Because they feel they deserve to be miserable, they feel they have a moral obligation to suffer. In these scenarios, there is often a sense of psychological relief that comes with more severe forms of abuse, as the man thinks to himself, “Finally I am getting what I deserve for being such a terrible monster.” When self-loathing is a primary motivation for you to stick with a woman who assaults you, learning self-compassion will be a vital part of your recovery process.
No One Deserves To Be Raped
Regardless of what psychological factors are involved in your personal situation, you do not deserve to be raped. All humans have great intrinsic value and all are deserving of respect. Sexual assault is always a horrible situation and both genders deserve the same amount of compassion and help for this issue.
Looking for advice? You can submit an anonymous request through the Ask a Question page.