All Saints – Men Can Be Raped, Too

A discussion we had recently about the reluctance of the media to portray men as being the victims of rape reminded me of an All Saints storyline from a few years ago (season 11 – 2007). One of the doctors, Jack (Wil Traval) is revealed to have been sexually abused as a teenager. The storyline arcs over most of the season, from Jack initially coming across his abuser Patrick by sheer bad luck, to his alliance with another of Patrick’s victims, Travis, through to Patrick and then Travis’s deaths and Jack’s emotional breakdown. For the most part I thought Traval did well with the material he was given, but an ongoing omission infuriated me.

At no point in the arc do they say Jack was raped. They use ‘sexually abused’ and ‘molested’ a few times, but never ‘rape’. As I watched it for the first time, I thought the omission was a bit odd, but it was only until he meets up with Travis that it gets established that Jack was raped. Not because they actually say that, but because Travis says he’s HIV positive. It turns out to be another terminal illness, but it scares Jack enough to get himself tested. ‘Cos apparently you can get through several years of medical school, internship and surgical residency without needing any blood tests. But beyond that stupidity, it infuriated me as a roundabout way of say he was raped without actually saying it.

It made me think: if it had been a woman who had been raped as a teenager by a paedophile, would they have shied away from using the word, or would it all have been ‘poor victim’ (now let’s bring in a man to rescue her)? It’s hard to say, because the last three seasons of AS were so full of sloppy writing that it wouldn’t surprise me that they were just being lazy (their other great faux pas include linking Downs Syndrome to incest, and having a lesbian falsely accuse a female co-worker of sexual misconduct after being rejected, ‘cos lesbians are lying deviants, see). But I’m also inclined to say that no, they wouldn’t have. I think we live in a world where it’s OK to have a woman be raped, but not a man (or boy).

But the thing is – if you don’t have the guts to do it honestly, then don’t bother at all. And OK, I get that some people just don’t know how to; I’ll grant some leeway on that. But sometimes you can tell when they’re trying, and when they simply didn’t give it a thought beyond what they, personally were comfortable with, and I didn’t get the feeling that was the AS writers’ intentions to write honestly about a male child being sexually abused.

The sad thing is, AS has covered rape/sexual abuse storylines with honesty and class three times before, including one storyline with a main male character, Jarad. That particular storyline, without being graphic, was honest and intense. So, dear AS writers; I know you could have done it, you just didn’t try.

I would like to see writers and producers willing to call men and boys raped when they are. Rape is not about sex; it’s about power, a stronger person exerting power over a weaker one. That includes men and boys when the perpetrator is bigger/stronger/able to intimidate them, as it is with women and girls. The idea that only females can be raped is a fallacy, and one that ultimately harms all of us as a society.


  1. Sylvie says

    I don’t find it surprising at all that they didn’t call it rape. I was molested for five years and I had to learn to call it rape. No one encouraged me to. Kids aren’t ‘raped’ unless they’re also dead.

    • says

      Exactly. It’s not just gender, it’s age. We almost never use the word ‘rape’ when talking about a child. Now, the line when it becomes “rape” instead of “molestation” is different for boys and girls. So long as the boy is straight and below the age of consent, it’s molestation. Once a girl hits visible puberty, it’s “rape” with all the rape apology that entails.

      • Scarlett says

        Well they refer to Jack being thirteen at least twice (it actually surprised me that they were consistant with that – by that point in the show, the AS writers were pretty bad about forgetting their own details, even just a few episodes later) so to me that’s adolescent/teenager, not child. But I think Attackfish has a point – if a boy is straight and below the age of consent, them it’s molestation/sexual abuse.

        One of the things that occured to me while writing this article was in one of the previous sexual abuse storylines the show has covered featuring a main character, it was a woman who had been molested by a family friend. They don’t actually give her age – although she talks about being in Brownies, which would put her at no older than 11 unless NSW Brownies is different to WA Brownies – and they do the same thing, only refer to her having been molested. But at least in that case, they don’t actually give us evidence, even in passing, that she WAS raped.

        Which is what mostly pissed me off about the storyline. Travis goes to Jack, says he has HIV (actually turns out to be Wilson’s – Travis decided that the symptoms fit and never bothered to, like, see a doctor) which to me is glaringly obvious that he was raped. Jack gets himself tested at the end of the episode and reiterates that in the following one which again, glaringly obvious allusion to rape. For a moment I’ll set aside the underlying issue that the media/culture doesn’t like referring to the fact that men/boys can be raped; I felt if they weren’t willing to go there, they shouldn’t have brought in the HIV element.

  2. DragonLord says

    Slightly unrelated side note, over here (in the UK) one of the rape victim support charities has started adding male actors to it’s radio adverts as rape victims. Which I thought was fairly significant, and coupled with finding out about this series, I’m starting to think that it’s a fairly significant shift in the male psyche to allow for the fact that “it could happen to them”. In time I suspect that men will start being more forgiving to women that it happens to, or they will stigmatise the men that have been raped as being closet gays, dressing like one, or something else that will pin the blame squarely on the one person that is not in a fit mental state to effectively refute allegations.

    I’m hoping it will be the former, but expecting the latter.

    • says

      men will start being more forgiving to women that it happens to

      I’m assuming you didn’t mean to imply there IS actually anything to forgive a rape victim for, but I’m not sure what precisely you did mean. If some people’s thinking suggests there is something to forgive, they don’t need to become more forgiving, they need to change their thinking.

        • DragonLord says

          I did indeed. After all why would a victim need to be forgiven?

          One of the problems of the English language :(

          • says

            Thanks for clarifying – makes perfect sense now.

            The reason I had to ask is that, back in the 80s and earlier, it was common for male partners of raped women to react with disgust toward the victim and treat her more like a cheater than a victim, and even leave her for having been raped. I remember seeing talk shows about how wrong this was, and guys saying stuff like, “I just can’t stand the thought that some other man’s touched her, and I can’t stand to look at her because she disgusts me now.” Exactly appropriate if someone’s willfully cheated on you. I remember some of them eventually admitting they saw no difference between cheating and rape, because either way some other man had touched her, and that made her used goods, and they figured she owed them an apology for “letting” another man touch her.

  3. DragonLord says

    I must admit that I’m (and have done in the past) struggling to understand how anyone could think that way. However as the evidence is right there to be seen, I have to accept that it is true, and live with the consequences of it.

  4. Scarlett says

    I was thinking recently about a discussion we had in one of my uni lectures (it was a journo degree, but the faculty was mostly staffed by quite radical feminists, so we had some quite interesting discussions!) about how men are meant to be the dominating pentrators and women the passive penetrated, and so lesbianism, while considered ‘sus’, is a whole lot less repulsive than homosexuality (not my thoughts). And I wonder if that’s part of the reason it’s just not done to discuss male rape the way it is for females – because male rape is not only about a loss of power, but masculinity.

    Obviously, I think that’s a lot of twaddle, rape is rape and about power, not sex or sexuality, but I thought I’d put it out there.

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