Body of letter/petition:
It has become a matter of public knowledge, following the case of Miranda Smith, who recorded and distributed video of herself sexually imposing herself on her own 2-year-old son, that Ohio’s state law against rape has a gender-based loophole. Historically, this has been an ongoing issue with sexual violence legislation. As laws against various types of sexual violence evolved around the protection of women and girls, male victims have historically been omitted from consideration. Legislators may even have believed existing law protected both sexes, but according to the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio’s rape law only protects victims who are sexually penetrated. If the sexual assault involves penetration of the perpetrator by any part of the victim’s body, even against the victim’s will, the Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that the crime does not constitute rape. This omission, while perhaps an act of neglect rather than malice, represents a discriminatory standard set by the state in regard to the human right of bodily autonomy: Under existing law, an intimate attack by a perpetrator imposing sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent is deemed a lesser offense if it is done by enveloping the victim’s genitalia than it is if the perpetrator engages in the same imposition while penetrating the victim’s genitalia.
Such a loophole deems the human right of bodily autonomy to be a gendered right, respected and protected when the human in question is female, but given a lower standard of protection when the human in question is male. This discriminatory standard raises the question of whether the state of Ohio considers men and women to be equally human, with the right to equal protection under the law, or whether the state considers men and boys to be less human than women and girls, and less deserving of human rights protections that our law and policy offers to women and girls. It should take no more questions than that to inspire Ohio legislators to update the law to close that loophole. If something is a human right, it is the right of all human beings, not just one sex or the other.
Just as important as equal protection under the law is equal accountability. The sex of a crime victim does not define or characterize the actions of the perpetrator. Contravention of a human being’s bodily autonomy or exploitation of one’s inability to consent reflects the same disregard for one’s welfare whether one is male or female. The sex of a perpetrator should also not determine one’s level of culpability for criminal behavior. Trespass against another human being does not become less malicious or less callously exploitative because the violator is female. Being female does not make a person less capable of appraising her actions or exercising self-control. It should not reduce one’s accountability for respecting the human rights of other people, including the right to bodily autonomy.
If ensuring that the State of Ohio offers all citizens equal treatment under the law is not enough, the impact of sexual violence on male victims provides ample reason to update the standard.
Male victims are physically endangered and often harmed when they experience an intimate attack. Physical force can injure a man or boy just as it can a woman or girl. Males are as vulnerable as females to infectious diseases that can be transmitted during sexual contact. Neither the sex of the victim nor that of the perpetrator changes the fact that these injuries can result from an intimate attack. The law should not treat that risk as more acceptable when it is inflicted by a female perpetrator, or upon a male victim.
Male victims are financially endangered and often harmed by their intimate attack. Erection and ejaculation are not voluntary actions, but can occur even if the victim is averse, afraid, or in some circumstances, physically incapacitated. These autonomic responses to stimulation do not constitute consent to anything. An intimate attack can result in conception against the male victim’s will. Unlike female victims, male victims do not have any opportunity to terminate a pregnancy that was conceived by their perpetrator’s assault against them. A male victim has no choice in whether an intimate attack makes him a biological parent. If he does not (or cannot) take custody of his child conceived under this circumstance, a male victim may be extorted for child support by the mother (who has custody at least until the birth of the child,) or by the state on behalf of foster parents. Historically, courts have even imposed child support obligation on male victims who themselves were children, too young to legally obtain gainful employment. This is at least an 18-year-long financial consequence of being raped, an unreasonable imposition on victims of sexual violence that uniquely affects those who are male. Current Ohio law does not provide any victim exemption, yet it is lenient toward the perpetrator who inflicts such a lengthy and serious consequence on the victim, since she would do so without penetrating him.
Male victims are emotionally and psychologically harmed by their intimate attack, even if they don’t have to confront the complicated emotional considerations of imposed, unplanned and unwanted parental status in a culture that treats all uninvolved fathers as willful deadbeats. Female victims, though they may not be universally supported in their recovery, do have community and justice system support. Sparse representation in the justice system and advocacy community can isolate a male victim, leaving him on his own to deal with emotional trauma that can include feelings of anger, powerlessness, shame, disbelief and shock, anxiety, fear, emasculation, and depression. While suffering these reactions he may experience a lack of compassion from even his own social circle, as female-perpetrated intimate attacks on male victims are often treated in popular culture as positive or humorous experiences for the victim, giving the impression that he would not need their consideration.
However, just as a female victim does, a male victim may feel made unclean by the experience, especially if anything about the nature of it violated his moral, ethical, or religious code, or if the assault inflicted upon him included a sexually transmitted infection. He may feel dishonored, exploited, violated, or duped. A man raped by envelopment is likely to suffer confusion, or cognitive dissonance, as the memory of his body’s involuntary reaction and his knowledge of how sex works compete with his knowledge that he did not want what was done to him. His experience of emotional pain related to the rape will likely compete with his understanding of society’s attitudes about men and sex, and in particular, the expectation frequently displayed in popular culture that men always want and appreciate sexual contact. He may question his own sexuality because of social attitudes about men and sex.
He may blame himself for the experience, even if his attacker was violent, even if he protested, even though he was averse to the attack. If he is involved in an intimate partner relationship, he may even experience a sense of guilt as though he had betrayed his partner by being raped.
Because boys are trained from early childhood to be more stoic than girls, male victims are more likely to internalize their emotional responses to being raped. Having learned to keep private any experience of vulnerability, self-doubt, hurt, anxiety, or fear, they cannot simply flip an emotional switch and begin explaining these responses to others after an emasculating experience. They may even be ashamed to admit to such vulnerability. Having been raised to be independent, or self-dependent, many men and boys are ill-equipped to seek help in assessing and addressing the emotional fallout one experiences following a rape. They may feel obligated to put on a brave face and carry on as if they are unaffected by the experience.
Evidence shows that many are profoundly affected. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) common experiences shared by men and boys who have experienced sexual assault include:
- Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, and eating disorders
- Avoiding people or places that remind them of the assault or abuse
- Concerns or questions about sexual orientation
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
- Feeling like “less of a man” or that they no longer have control over their own body
- Feeling on-edge, being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
- Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if they experienced an erection or ejaculation
- Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation
- Worrying about disclosing for fear of judgment or disbelief
A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 by William C. Holmes, MD, MSCE and Gail B. Slap, MD, MS. “Sexual Abuse of Boys: Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae, and Management,” noted that sexually exploited boys, including those who did not consider themselves victims, presented an increased rate of a broad range of issues indicating trauma.
They reported that sexually abused boys experienced twice the rate of low self-esteem, behavioral problems, and antisocial personality disorder. They are four times as likely to experience major depression, and could be up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide, twice as likely to run away from home or have legal problems, and three times more likely to have bulimia, are up to five times as likely to report sexually related problems, including sexual dysfunction. The reviewers also found an increased rate of post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, dissociation, somatization, anger, aggressive behavior, and poor school performance, gender role confusion, and insecurity about intimate partner relationships, with both men and women.
A publication titled Sexual Assault: Males, by the National Center for PTSD, makes similar statements about both adult and underage male victims, including the fact that men and boys who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and a tendency to engage in risky behavior than those who have never been abused sexually. The impact is clear. It is just not as widely acknowledged.
It should be unnecessary to address the question of whether sexual violence against male victims is common enough to merit legislative change. A crime does not have to be common to be a violation of the rights of its victims, or an act for which its perpetrators must be accountable. However, it would not matter if rarity would excuse ignoring the loophole. Researcher Lara Stemple, evaluating data from National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence surveys, found that sexual violence against male victims is more common than many would believe. According to her report, when victims who were made to penetrate were taken into consideration, the rates of nonconsensual sexual contact basically equalized between the sexes. Just about as many male respondents reported having been victimized as female respondents. Meanwhile, a 2017 report on sexually violent women published in The Official Journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences found that overall, 10% of women reported perpetrating sexual violence. If the rate of female victim experiences and the presumed rate of male perpetration have constituted an emergency that must be addressed with legislation, policy, funding, and information campaigns, then would the same not be true of the equally high rate of male victim experiences and female perpetration? At the very least, state law penalizing the crime of rape must not discriminate by failing to protect male victims or reducing the accountability of female perpetrators!
In light of the existing loophole and the danger it presents to men and boys, we petition Ohio’s representatives to do the following two things:
- Update the state’s definition of sexual conduct under Section 2907.01 of the Ohio Revised Code to include acts of sexual imposition that involve oral, anal, or vaginal envelopment, no matter how slight, of the victim’s penis, so that doing these actions without the victim’s consent would unquestionably be considered rape under Section 2907.02.
- Create a legal pathway and reasonable time frame for rape victims to terminate their parental rights and responsibilities toward a child conceived during their rape, upon conviction of the perpetrator. Victims should be able to do this without requiring agreement from the perpetrator or having to fulfill any requirement other than to establish that the child was conceived during the crime for which their perpetrator was convicted.
There is no valid excuse to not do this. Ohio law should not include discrimination against either sex. Please take quick action to eliminate this embarrassing and intolerable blemish on our state’s relationship with its citizens.
Thank you for your kind attention,
Last week we briefly discussed a loophole in Ohio’s rape law that relegates to a lesser tier of recourse any victims of female perpetrators who commit the crime via envelopment rather than penetration of the victim. Tune in Thursday, August 3rd, 2023 at 7PM to hear us examine this story live. More listing and viewing options along with the article being read are available at
https://www.patreon.com/posts/87110077 available shortly after liveshow
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