Commentary

Why is it ‘sodomized’ instead of ‘raped’ when it happens to men?

Rape can occur orally, anally, vaginally and in many other ways. I think the ambivalence about the use of the term “sodomize” comes from the fact that most people actually believe that being on the receiving end of sodomy must be an unpleasant thing, so folks have acquiesced to the term and they just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

I propose that when we talk about sexual assault, we talk about what really happened, and why that behavior is bad. I am not an expert in sexual assault or rape, but I have dealt with enough clients over the years to have some competency on this issue. Rape is a term people understand. Rape has a definition. Rape survivors have a network of therapists, shelters and non-profit agencies to rely on. There is more data, research, evidence and resources for survivors of rape. But my hunch is there is very little in the field of “sodomized.”

I also believe there is a double standard based on sex. I believe that when a woman is raped, it is classified as rape — even if she was anally raped. But if a man was anally raped, he was sodomized. What if these survivors and their families don’t see being “sodomized” the same as they see rape?

If they don’t see themselves as the victims of rape, because we are not calling it rape, won’t it interfere with the healing process and the effective delivery of competent counseling services? Are we averse to admitting that men get raped, leading us to use a completely different term for what it really is?

In my mind there is little difference between being raped with an object or by a person — in terms of what word we use. But I do fear that the sole use of the term “sodomize” when referring to anal rape is misleading, harmful and further marginalizes consensual anal sex and gay people as a whole.

(This post originally ran on The Bilerico Project in 2007.)

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