Author: Mike Shipley
The longer the #MeToo debate goes on the more I notice how cisheteronormative it all is. The entire conversation is framed as a binary between cishet men and women with cis women being the victims and cis men being a class of oppressors who take rape culture as an entitlement. This is valid as far as it goes and I don’t bregrudge cishet women this moment. I am happy it is happening and I don’t want to take away from it. I want to add to it!!
You see, the binary cishet dialogue about rape culture erases the sexual assaults by purportedly cishet people on queer people nearly always excused by intoxication and often deeply shrouded as “humor”. These range from verbal assaults via uninvited flirtations and making the queer person a butt of jokes in group settings to full on rape. I have been groped by cishet women and pressured to grope them in return “to see how it feels”. I have been kissed and flashed and groped by both men and women without my consent and I have been pressured in group settings to allow myself to be kissed “on a dare” for entertainment. Queer people are especially vulnerable to social pressure because we know the pain of ostracism so well. One time I was taunted and goaded into putting my tongue in a vagina in front of a room full of people whose “friendship” I was terrified of having withdrawn.
There is another category, too. And that is queer on queer sexual violence. I have been raped at least twice (that I perceive as rape) and probably more if I gave it some serious reflection. And there’s something sick about these moments because rape is primarily an act of dominance. When a man rapes another man, the victim experiences an emasculation which in turn connects to the self loathing of the internalized homophobia which is just misogyny with an extra twist of cruelty. It triggers a profound sense of defeat and self disgust. “Why didn’t I just punch him?” “Why did I get so high?” “Wasn’t I out looking for sex?” “What did I think would happen?”. These feelings are connected to the narrative that tells us we don’t deserve to walk the planet, that our sexual aspect exists as a perpetual abomination. Why would I tell anyone? In a world that doesn’t believe I am human, who would care if I got raped? Can I even see it clearly for myself?
I may never be able to have a healthy romantic life for the reasons of internalized homophobia alone, much less the way rape and other sexual trauma compounded it. And as long as the #MeToo moment is limited by cisheteronormative boundaries around what counts as rape culture, queer people are denied the empowerment and healing that the rest of society is experiencing. I want and deserve empowerment and healing too. I want to live in a world set free of rape culture, where sex is never used to assert dominance except by the informed consent of both parties as a mutual power exchange and where queer youth never have to grow up so broken they can never enter relationship whole.
In summary, I want to sit for a moment with the notion that my post is itself ciscentric and I know that. I am not trans so my perspective is missing where the trans experience goes, and I don’t intend to erase the substantially greater violence against trans people. It is invisible in my personal story but let it not go unspoken. Trans pain matters too, hate violence and sexual violence intersect in especially harmful ways for trans people and if I can see that as a cisgay man, then I hope our cishet allies can in turn see the points I made here as valid. The #MeToo moment is huge already, but it needs to be even bigger. All of us, including cishet women, deserve to live in a world set free of rape culture. ALL OF US.