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It’s not bullying or sodomy, it’s male rape

A horrific story of six white pupils raping a black schoolmate with a broomstick has provoked introspection on the way South Africans talk about male rape. Writer and social analyst, Eusebius McKaiser, who is himself a rape survivor, spoke out against the taboo of calling male rape what it is.

McKaiser was asked to do an interview after details of the racially motivated rape of a schoolboy at a Northern Cape school emerged. Despite writing in his book, A Bantu In My Bathroom, about how his cousin raped him when he was seven years old, McKaiser noted that the journalist who contacted him “could not get herself to request an interview to talk about the boy being RAPED”, and instead referred to incidents of “assault” and “bullying”.

“The reason for the taboo is, I think, some really, horrendously unfortunate, ideas of what it means to be ‘a man’. A man does not get raped,” McKaiser wrote on Facebook.

According to McKaiser, there is a fear among media, where acknowledging a man is raped is akin to diminishing his masculinity in a similar way to when gay men are called “moffies”. But McKaiser asserts that the media’s perpetuation of men as “indestructible” limits spaces “for them – for us – to emote, cry, speak freely, and seek help”, and consequently discourages action against rapists. Thus, McKaiser says, it is vitally important that members of the media begin to talk about male rape.

“You don’t render me vulnerable by doing so. Why? Because, simply in virtue of being human, I already AM vulnerable, capable of being broken, and injured,” McKaiser writes.

Alongside the language of “bullying” and “assault”, news outlets described the rape of the schoolboy as sodomy. A City Press headline that read “Schoolboy sodomised in horror ‘race attack’” was changed to read “Schoolboy raped in horror ‘race attack’” after such headlines drew criticism. A note at the bottom of the article says: “The headline and story have been changed to say the boy was raped”.

Brad Cibane, a South African law graduate and blogger, says that sodomy is the “lawful sexual act by two consenting adults”, which has now become a discriminatory term that underpins the “entrenched” homophobia in the country.

“Today, the word ‘sodomise’ is derogatory; it refers to consensual male sex,” writes Cibane for Daily Browser. “Sodomy is not rape. Rape is not sodomy.”

For McKaiser – who says his interviewer “mercifully” did not refer to male rape as sodomy – words like sodomy, bullying and assault belie the trauma male rape survivors experience and can never substitute the sexual violation of rape.

“Men rape. And some men get raped. Let’s say so, plainly,” McKaiser writes.

– Featured image: Via GovernmentZA Flikr

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