In the scene in Pulp Fiction where Marsellus gets raped, I would have felt a lot worse if it was a woman. When it comes to male rape, for me the physical pain and loss of control is a lot more important than the sexual aspect. When a woman is raped however, the feeling is totally different. There, the sexual aspect is the most important. Why do I have these double standards?

In the scene in Pulp Fiction where Marsellus gets raped, I would have felt a lot worse if it was a woman. When it comes to male rape, for me the physical pain and loss of control is a lot more important than the sexual aspect. When a woman is raped however, the feeling is totally different. There, the sexual aspect is the most important. Why do I have these double standards?

Male Rape Affects Me less than Female Rape – Why?

I just finished watching “Pulp Fiction” – great movie! Funny in a surreal sort of way, where you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. But there was one scene that got me thinking. In it, a gangster boss called Marsellus is raped by a couple of random psychos – pure freak chance. He got revenge on them minutes later, and the dialogue he gives his rapist pretty cool. “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass!”.

But while I felt bad for Marsellus (who wouldn’t?) I can’t help but notice that I would have felt far worse if it had been a woman who was raped instead. I get pretty disturbed with rape scenes in movies – even those that are merely implied and not actually shown. Sharon in Battlestar Galactica, the terrifying scene in “Irreversible” and many, many others. The disgust, horror, and anger goes way beyond the mere physical pain and helplessness of the woman.

But when I saw Marsellus being raped, my sympathy was restricted to the fact that what was happening must hurt like hell, and that he was helpless and going to die in a meaningless way for no reason – even though I didn’t particularly like or hate him up to that point. When I think of male rape, the sexual aspect doesn’t really affect me as much as the physical pain.

I would view a man being raped in the same way I view someone being held captive and tortured. There’s nothing beyond the mere physical pain, confinement, and loss of control. As a guy, if someone gave me a choice “Either you get raped, or get a single fingernail ripped out”, I would choose to get raped. Presumably it would hurt less – I can’t say for sure. But in any case, I would choose whichever situation brought me less physical pain. The “sexual” aspect of male rape doesn’t seem to bother me as much.

When it comes to a woman being raped however, suddenly the physical pain becomes a lot less important than the fact that she is being raped!. It disturbs me a hell of a lot more than male rape. Why these double standards? I don’t know… But it’s not just me. In some interviews, quite a few women themselves admitted to having different feelings towards male rape vs female rape.

If a woman was given the choice between being raped and having a fingernail pulled out, I can quite easily imagine lots of lots of women choosing the fingernail option. Somehow, the sexual aspect of the deed when it comes to female rape is a hell of a lot more important than the physical pain. In fact, I would imagine that the actual physical pain of male rape is greater than what a woman would feel – again, this is just an assumption.

If any women are reading this, am I right in thinking that rape is a worse fate than having a fingernail pulled out? And any guys who would choose a lost fingernail fingernail over rape?

So for me, that’s the essential double standard I see in myself and I don’t know why. I get less disturbed by male rape because I look at it from the point of view of physical pain, but I get a hell of a lot more agitated if it happens to a woman. I’m not sure what the reason is.

What do you think of this post?
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  1. I think that rapes are all about power, to show that you are more powerful and that you can humiliate the other person. We are protective towards our things, our homes and most of all our bodies – it is our private space. For somebody to take it away by invading our most private space is painful. To do it with violence with the intent of causing pain, hurt or worse, is like underlining the lack of power of the victim. In that sense, I feel equally bad for both men and women who are raped.


    • In reply to Sunil Deepak

      That’s true. But surely torture (or murder!) is every bit as big a violation of our bodies as rape… So why does rape elicit more of a reaction?


      • In reply to bhagwad

        I think it’s still justifiable in our minds if a person wants to rape another person (man or woman) purely for revenge, if the latter is not related to us. But when one does it mainly for enjoyment wherein revenge takes a backseat, it is our primal instinct to compete that causes us extreme jealousy. But since jealousy is not an acceptable trait in society we simply masquerade it as “wrong”. Think about it, if all civility and rationality were removed from your conscience, you’d rather it was you raping the woman. Subconsciously, this ensures our survival. Rape is far more complex than other forms of punishment.

        How about it if you were gay and had strong feelings for a guy who got raped? Or if the guy was family? I’m sure it would become much more personal. Also, we (sociopaths and psychopaths excluded) simply cannot endure the more vulnerable being exploited. Women are perceived to be more vulnerable than men.

        I’ve made several disparate points here but it’s too much work to bring them all together. Maybe someone here can help?


      • In reply to Narayanan

        Some interesting points…Difficult to look at objectively, but interesting nonetheless.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Interesting. I’ve just begun reading your previous entry, “Rape and Men’s Psychology” (I’ve had a long hiatus on your blog.) Some points in my previous post are similar to yours.


  2. No, I think that’s just social conditioning working. It’s something we can’t really escape completely. Male rape should disturb you as much as any other.

    The point is, what makes you think rape wouldn’t necessarily be painful or as violent as a fingernail being pulled out? Rape isn’t just about penetration (though that’s the legal requirement), but it can and often does include a number of other violence factors. It includes emotional violence (as in marital rape cases) and physical violence (such as the Delhi bus rape).

    Personally, I would prefer to be penetrated without my consent (provided there is a lack of physical violence) than having my fingernail pulled out. Though really, what kind of options are these, lol!


    • In reply to Fem

      Yeah, these options are only for me to abstractly understand one isolated part of a situation. I come up with lots of weird stuff like this!

      Do you think some of it is a subconscious feeling (incorrectly), that a woman who is raped is “broken” in some way? And a feeling that a man is not? Even when we look at movies where male rape is dealt with seriously by the screenwriting, the situation can unintentionally take on overtones of black humor. If you take Pulp Fiction – the move referenced above – even though Marsellus says “No man – I’m pretty fucking far from being ok”, he’s depicted as having his shit together, and doesn’t seem broken in any way. What he says next is one of the most iconic lines of the film and the most well recognized – “I’m gonna get medieval your ass” (To the now helpless rapist).

      Whereas “rape revenge” movies where the woman gets revenge on her rapist present the woman as being so pushed over the top by what happened, that she’s become mentally deranged – a psycho.

      When I was maybe 4-5 years old, my parents watched a TV series – found the name later: “Two Women (1989) – with me in the room, where a young girl was gangraped in a church. On reflection, they should never have let me see this. Parental guidance, hello!!. I remember the scene to this day. After that, the girl was “broken”. Almost catatonic. Couldn’t even move at first. It must have had an impact on me and how I view the results of rape on women.

      I’ve never seen the aftermath of rape on men depicted in that way. Does this double standard when it comes to the portrayal of rape survivors have something to do with it?


  3. Important question indeed. There are many ways to cause more physical pain to a woman than rape. Pulling out a fingernail is likely to be one. One could easily come up with other horrific forms of torture, such as gouging out an eye. Yet, I am sure most crimes like these would carry lighter sentences than rape.

    Actually, our idea of female rape being inherently more heinous is certainly tied to age old ideas about the space between a woman’s legs being sacred in some special way…which is tied to the whole spiel about sanctity, virginity, marital rights, etc. When society views hurting a woman via penetration as inherently more heinous than pulling out a fingernail, there is no doubt that women are being reduced to their vaginas. The view of rape as a supremely heinous act does indeed come from a patriarchal view of women’s bodies, which is perhaps the ultimate irony.

    It is also hard to argue that the humiliation aspect makes all the difference. There are other ways of causing tremendous humiliation, such as forcing a person to eat human waste. Again, I am fairly sure that the sentence for this would be a *lot* lesser than rape.

    And as for me personally, yes, I too feel that rape is just more heinous. I can’t get over this ingrained belief myself and I don’t even want to try. Perhaps some things are better left to the Zeitgeist.


    • In reply to Sumit

      A lot of it might come down to the way movies themselves show the impact of rape on a woman. If the woman in the movie herself wasn’t so devastated, I would take it less seriously myself.


  4. Interesting perspective. I interned at a counselling center a few years back. Part of my job was to conduct sessions for rape victims. And rape of women and men both disturbed me equally. May be because I was trained to not look at it from a sexual perspective alone? No, even before doing MA in Social Work, it was like that. Until age 20, I was not aware that men could be raped. Yea, I was that much of an ignoramus (and not proud of my ‘innocence’). When I first read about rape, I was horrified. Books say that anal penetration is 10 times painful than vaginal. I quit that NGO because I myself went into depression. I dont know if this double standards or not, but rape of a child is far far more disturbing to me than rape of an adult. And I know this to be true for many I know. The child just knows something ‘bad’ has happened and it is ‘painful down there’. The hurt and confusion and fear is so so heart-wrenching that you curse yourself for being alive on earth.


    • In reply to Nidaa

      Agreed. It’s for this reason that many find animal cruelty far worse than cruelty to humans. A puppy being hurt can have an impact even on someone who has long gotten jaded to the human condition.


  5. Probably it is mainly because of the potrayal of men in the society in such a way that has led to inequality of emotional setbacks ,both the gender suffers but there is no heed paid to the stronger sex.Men are regarded as sturdy,bold and courageous,bravely handling situations whereas women have always been potrayed as meagre, week.As per various surveys i have read about ,male child are subjected to more physical abuses but this discussion lies undealt.Pain is related to humanity not gender.A male rape victim suffers equally from the emotional perspective but due to social or more precisely biological point of view, for women the aftermaths may be worse,probably because we are the ones who conceive!A man may suffer physically after rape but a women suffers biologically too impacting her life on the whole!


    • In reply to urvashi

      I think it’s definitely related to portrayal. I feel however, that the problem may lie in showing women as extra vulnerable instead of men as extra strong.


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