LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone, talks about the social implications of sexual assault and rape.
TW – rape and sexual assault.
Rape and sexual assault are the only crimes where society blames the victim. Quite often you hear the terms interchangeably and a lot of people do not actually know the difference. Even fewer know that there are two types of sexual assault.
Rape is the penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by another person’s penis, without consent. Under UK law, this definition states that only a person with a penis can commit rape, whilst anyone: men, women, children, non-binary etc can be raped.
However, there are social implications to this law, rape is a very gendered crime and often when discussing consent and sexual health a lot of the time it can appear to target men and focusses mainly on how to prevent men from becoming rapists. This, in turn, creates stereotypes that men are violent, men are always up for sex and that men should be having a lot of sex, which feeds drastically into toxic masculinity and strengthens the cycle of sex education presenting men as rapists. It is far more productive to have a comprehensive sex education aimed at all genders. Just because women can commit sexual assault by penetration and be treated equally as male rapists in a lawful sense, does not mean that men and women are treated equally in society.
When thinking of the connotations of rape and sexual assault, rape is built up to be worse than sexual assault, the media flaunts rape cases all over the news but neglects to inform about sexual assault by penetration. This narrow-minded view makes males less likely to be involved in sex education over the fear they will be branded rapists. The whittled trajectory is substantially damaging and needs to be overhauled. Men are not rapists just because they are men, a rapist is someone who undertakes sexual acts with another person without their consent and UK law should reflect this to increase engagement and improve the sex education that is taught in schools.
Sexual assault by penetration is defined by UK law as being the penetration of a person’s vagina, mouth or anus by another person using other body parts or items without their consent. This definition is essentially an umbrella term for anyone without a penis that performs a sexual act with another person without their consent.
It was only in 1994 that UK legislation recognised a man could be raped by another man. The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 defined the victim of rape gender-neutral, finally encompassing the notion that absolutely anyone would be raped regardless of gender.
The latest update to UK law regarding rape was made 17 years ago. Think of what can happen in 17 years. A great deal.
The main difference between rape and sexual assault by penetration is essentially due to one sexual organ: the penis. Sexual assault is the touching sexually of another person without their consent. Sexual assault by penetration is the penetration of a person without their consent with anything other than a penis. Rape is the penetration with a penis without their consent. Men can commit all three of these crimes, women can only commit two.
Rape and sexual assaults are not always violent, it is not always a stranger hiding in the bush, it does not necessarily leave visible marks, but it almost certainly leaves traumatic memories. It is important to support all victims of rape/sexual assault and lead an example of the society we want to live in and not asphyxiate one gender with rapist branding.