Picture the following:
You are at a public bus stop. Two other people are there; Person A and Person B.
Person A says something degrading and sexually explicit to a complete stranger, person B.
Person B, shocked, offended, outraged, hauls off and slaps person A across the face, hard.
Have you unconsciously assigned genders to the two people, male for A, female for B?
If I told you A, whose words were so offensive, was female, and B, who experienced A’s act of verbal abuse, was male, would you be less comfortable with the slap B dealt to A?
Would you judge B for being offended, instead of A for being rude?
In reality, what both individuals did in the situation was abusive and aggressive, but regardless of the sexes of those involved, with nothing more than words coming from Person A, Person B’s reaction was an unjustified and unnecessary escalation from rudeness to violence.
Most men’s issues advocates and activists, especially those whose focus is on issues surrounding intimate partner and sexual violence, already know the sex of the individual taking an action doesn’t change its nature... but what about the rest of society?
There are several videos on youtube showing the general public’s tendency to respond differently to violence depending on whether it’s perpetrated by a man or woman. The response to sexual violence is even more stark. When a woman accuses a man of sexual violence, the public doesn’t always even wait for evidence before engaging in condemnation and often even aggression against the accused. When a man accuses a woman, he faces a range of unsympathetic reactions including gay-shaming, being mocked as a wimp, being accused of lying, being treated as an invader of a female issue, and his experience being minimized in comparison to that of women.
Of course, that’s the perception of the unwashed masses, right? What about the more educated? There’s clearly gender disparity here. Doesn’t that make this a feminist issue? So how have feminists addressed it?
Not so well, actually.
Rather than study violence as a dysfunctional human behavior which must be addressed with an eye toward prevention, feminist researchers and other academics sought to suppress evidence of female perpetration and emphasize or even exaggerate male perpetration. The methods used to achieve this have been exposed by numerous critics, including Eugene Kanin, a retired sociology professor from Purdue University quoted in October of 1993 by the Toledo Blade describing feminist sexual violence prevalence research as “highly convoluted activism rather than social science research.”
That article also included criticism by researcher Margaret Gorden of the University of Washington, who classified herself as feminist but vehemently disagreed with the direction feminist-led sexual violence prevalence research was taking. She said, “There was some pressure - at least I felt pressure - to have rape be as prevalent as possible.” Gorden’s study, which used direct questions and found that 1 in 50 women had been raped or sexually assaulted, was largely ignored by feminists in favor of higher prevalence findings.
Berkeley Social Welfare professor Neil Gilbert set off protests at his university by publishing an article pointing out that
bad methodology had led some feminist studies to exaggerate the rate of rape and other sexual violence.
What had he dared to criticize? Researchers had used questions designed to ignore respondents’ assessment of their own experiences and impose feminist beliefs, instead, resulting in findings in which the researcher applied the label “rape” where ¾ of their respondents did not, and nearly half had further relations with their supposed rapists.
Christina Hoff Sommers, also cited in the article, has made a career of criticizing feminism’s approach to these issues. She tore apart the researcher whose method ultimately became the standard for feminist sexual violence prevalence research: Mary Koss, whose survey question template led the charge in writing feminist beliefs over women’s experiences. It wasn’t until the 21st century, however, that Koss was called out on the other egregious aspect of her design: Defining rape to exclude female perpetrators who victimize men or boys, by excluding victims who were forced to penetrate (also known as forcibly enveloped) by their attackers. Under Koss’s definition, a female perpetrator who imposes herself on a male victim through coitus or fellatio is not labeled a rapist. Instead, the behavior gets dumped into “other sexual assault,” the same category as things like groping. How’s that for minimizing an experience?
They haven’t done any better with intimate partner violence. Feminist researchers even have a label for female-perpetrated partner assault against a male victim: Preemptive self-defense.
The incredible bias in feminist-led partner violence research was best exposed by Murray Straus, in his report “Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” Tom Golden provided a great summary of Straus’s revelations in his article, “Straus Exposes the Academic Veils Placed on Domestic Violence Research.” He points out that feminists use biased research, selective suppression of information, false framing, and outright lies to manipulate partner violence research findings.
The question is, why the hell would they do that?
Erin Pizzey, speaking publically, has explained this numerous times. As she discovered when she founded the shelter movement, it is easy to get funding to assist the rescue and recovery of female victims of violent men, a fact second-wave feminists latched onto and capitalized on rather quickly.
It is damned near impossible to do the same for male victims of violent women, and not just when asking private donors.
The official response to female violence is also dramatically different from the response to male violence. In their report “The Helpseeking Experiences of Men Who Sustain Intimate Partner Violence: An Overlooked Population and Implications for Practice,” Emily M. Douglas and Denise A. Hines disclosed that while family members and mental health care professionals can be supportive, police and victim’s services organizations are a different story. These researchers reported that male victims of female abusers faced bias and discrimination at every turn. Upon seeking abuse victims’ agencies’ and hotline assistance, they were sometimes rebuffed with the explanation that the service was only for female victims, sometimes accused of lying and even of being perpetrators, sometimes ridiculed, and sometimes referred to batterer programs even if they weren’t labeled abusers.
Upon seeking police assistance, they faced the possibility of being ignored, ridiculed, or even arrested. The report went on to state, “Within the judicial system, some men who sustained Intimate partner violence reported experiencing gender-stereotyped treatment. Even with apparent corroborating evidence that their female partners were violent and that the helpseekers were not, they reportedly lost custody of their children, were blocked from seeing their children, and were falsely accused by their partners of intimate partner violence and abusing their children. According to some, the burden of proof for male intimate partner violence victims may be especially high.”
On a side note, the National Organization for Women uses portrayal of fathers as abusers in their arguments against equally shared parenting, but according to statistics from the U.S. Health and Human Services department, the majority of children abused by one parent have historically been abused by their mothers.
Victims of female sexual violence don’t necessarily fare much better than those of female partner violence, even when they are underage. Government sponsored research such as the Centers for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey uses Mary Koss’s female-perpetrator-excluding rape definition to avoid having to report the rate of rape perpetrated by women. The researchers don’t even know why they’re using that definition.
The following link goes to a recorded segment of the call during which I found that out.
The team responded to being alerted to this bias by ceasing to report the sex of respondents’ alleged perpetrators.
In the court system, female perpetrators are not treated as harshly as male perpetrators. In separate studies, Sonja Starr, an assistant law professor at the University of Michigan, and Jill K Donner, a Bowling Green State University student doing research for her Doctoral Thesis, found that convicted men receive much longer sentences than women convicted of the same crimes with the same basic details. Starr found similar disparity at every step of the process, from police response, where women are less likely to be arrested, to time served, where women are more likely to see rehabilitative therapies substituted for incarceration, and if incarcerated, to serve less of their sentences, already shorter than those imposed on men, before being released.
Male victims of female rapists face an additional injustice that is unique to their sex: While female victims of a rape in which a child is conceived have abortion, adoption and safe-haven abandonment as means to avoid having parental responsibility imposed against their will as a result of the rape, fathers do not have the advantage of having physical custody at birth. A male rape victim whose rapist conceives a child with him during the crime faces the possibility that not only will his rapist have custody of his child from birth… she can use the child support system to extort money from him as long as she retains that custody… even if the father is underage…
...even if he is so far underage that he cannot legally earn the money to pay that debt. Ask Shane Seyer, forced to pay child support his rapist after conceiving at the ripe old age of 13.
Often when men’s issues activists discuss this information, the only response we get is bombardment with increasingly crappy excuses. Feminists blame their shoddy research methods on men’s hesitance to report being victimized. Official responses to female perpetration are blamed on prevalent attitudes and beliefs about gender, which feminist advocates are quick to call symptoms of a patriarchal system… but who is stopping that system from modernizing its approach?
Groups like the National Organization for Women actively promote some of the myths surrounding gender disparity in sentencing in conjunction with advocating lighter and alternative sentencing for only women. These same groups’ advocacy led to enactment of the Violence Against Women act, which promotes Duluth’s patriarchal dominance theory on partner violence and contains federal financial incentives for policies which promote mandatory arrest, prosecution, conviction, sentencing, and sentence enforcement, all of which primarily affect accused men due to the use of that Duluth model.
The result? At every turn, social, institutional, and legal barriers hinder victims of female perpetrators who seek support, escape, protection, and justice. This has led to an environment which perpetuates cycles of violence rather than providing a means to end them.
It endangers both sexes. Research shows that female-initiated intimate partner and sexual violence either directly or indirectly contributes significantly to harm experienced by both sexes. This indicates that, at every level from the personal to the institutional, eliminating society’s blind spot toward female violence could go a long way toward reducing the overall incidence of intimate partner and sexual violence. In fact, it may be fair to say the biggest hurdle between anti-violence activists from all facets of the political spectrum and potential success in their efforts is that bias.