Why Isn’t Male Rape On Our Screens More?
Narratives of women as sexual assault victims are featured in all areas of TV and cinema – Game of Thrones's Sansa gets brutally raped in an uncomfortable scene; Lena Dunham's Girls told a story of (speculated) non-consensual sex; Jessica Jones is manipulated and the story details she's also been sexually assaulted by her evil boyfriend; Downton Abbey's sweet housemaid Anna Bates was attacked by an evil butler; Claire Underwood confronts a rapist in House of Cards.
Although women are more than eight times more likely to be raped than men, according to Rape Crisis statistics, this doesn't erase the fact 12,000 men are raped every year in England and Wales alone. But their stories are rarely represented in Hollywood or on the small screen and are, for some reason, more "taboo". And when those narratives are told – Outlander, Deliverance, Pulp Fiction – they are often overlooked. But one filmmaker wants to change this.
In a bid to up the anti on the fact men do get sexually assaulted (and experience the same pain, guilt and trauma as anyone), French novelist and filmmaker Justine Bo exclusively brings us a short film documenting one young man's experience after being attacked by a female friend.
Yasin follows a shy 17-year-old New York kid of the same name who is raped by Eve, a girl he meets at a party. Tackling gender relations, the poignant short flips the script on typical accounts of sexual violence as Yasin struggles to come to terms with what happened.
"I thought it was important to show that this reality is not exclusively about women," Bo tells us. "I wanted to reverse the rhetoric and show that women are capable of the very same violence we often identify as purely male."
Starring rising young actors from NYC, the short yields an arresting colour palette and equally salient soundtrack from Finnish band TV Resistori. You maybe, probably, definitely should watch it. With pop culture failing to harvest stories of violence against men and boys, Yasin is here to not only raise awareness, but to spark your senses, however uncomfortable it gets.
Konbini: What messages about gender relations do you want to send with Yasin?
Justine Bo: Broadly speaking, I consider rape and sexual violence as a denial of one’s humanity. However difficult it is to trust figures, we know that this type of violence mainly targets women.
In a male-dominated society, it is another tool of domination. The underlying statement is that women are weak. The more they are taught to be weak – at home, at school, at work – the more likely they are to be dominated, including through sexual violence.
There is nothing more irritating than hearing that women deserve more credit and respect because they are intrinsically better than men. No. The day we understand that they can commit the very same crimes as men do, male domination will start to fade.
What prompted you to write the story of Yasin, a teen boy who gets sexually assaulted?
Justine Bo: I have always been interested in capturing adolescence for its volatile essence. As for the character of Yasin, he resembles all the characters I tend to create: however smart he is, he is a rather 'out of time' guy, which makes him indifferent to most things other people his age care about.
"Male rape is often not treated as rape. It is romanticised, neglected, mocked or even wished"
I loved exploring the confrontation between his bubble and her absolute selfishness.
Was the story drawn from personal experience? And how did you decide the narrative of the aftermath of the attack, when Yasin is struggling to register what has happened?
Justine Bo: The script is not the restitution of one particular story, but it definitely was inspired by my own experiences and feelings on sexual violence. My own thoughts, sensations, feelings and countless discussions with friends have shaped that story little by little.
Being haunted myself by similar memories, I was more interested in the reconstruction process than in the trauma itself. I did not want to show Yasin weeping, suffering. I wanted to show him confronting his offender with irony, however masochistic his reaction might seem.
What are your thoughts on the disparities between the representation in pop culture of male victims and female victims of sexual assault?
Justine Bo: It is funny how male rape is often seen – it is not treated as rape. It is romanticised, neglected, mocked or even wished, and as such, it is being denied its actual nature.
I find it interesting that violence against both men and women is mostly a source of fantasies – even if a double standard clearly remains between these two situations.
Why did you want to focus on a male getting raped?
Justine Bo: Men are among the victims of sexual violence and we hear very little about it. I often hear it cannot technically happen to men, that it is just a fantasy, etc. I thought it was important to show that this reality is not exclusively about women.
"Women are capable of the very same violence we often identify as purely male"
I wanted to reverse the rhetoric and show that women are capable of the very same violence we often identify as purely male. I believe that breaking the implicit combo women/weakness is a necessary step to end violence against women – since it mainly relies on the assumption that they are weak.
Watch Yasin exclusively below and view more from Justine Bo on her website.
By Lydia Morrish, publish on 25/01/2016