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Feminspire | April 25, 2014

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Excluding Men From Rape Culture: How Chris Brown Lost His Virginity

Excluding Men From Rape Culture: How Chris Brown Lost His Virginity

| On 08, Oct 2013

We speak often of rape and rape culture within feminist circles. One of the reasons this topic is so discussed and rehashed and constantly in the forefront of many feminist discussions is because rape culture is so prevalent and all-encompassing. Rape culture permeates even the most minute aspects of our daily lives in the form of microaggressions and every-day misogyny enacted in the form of various privileges. But rape culture does not just harm women; it harms men, and all gender identities and expressions. And while this sometimes is brought up, the lack of attention drawn to the harm rape culture also has on men can have the deleterious effect of obfuscating crimes of a sexual nature against boys and men, like rape and sexual assault.

A current example of this is the misleading and inappropriate reporting of how Chris Brown lost his virginity. In a recent interview for The Guardian, the tale of how Chris Brown first had sex is relayed to the reader thusly:

“He lost his virginity when he was eight years old to a local girl who was 14 or 15. Seriously? ‘Yeah, really. Uh-huh.’ He grins and chuckles. “It’s different in the country.” Brown grew up with a great gang of boy cousins, and they watched so much porn that he was raring to go. ‘By that point, we were already kind of like hot to trot, you know what I’m saying? Like, girls, we weren’t afraid to talk to them; I wasn’t afraid. So, at eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it. You can be the best at it.’ (Now 24, he doesn’t want to say how many women he’s slept with: ‘But you know how Prince had a lot of girls back in the day? Prince was, like, the guy. I’m just that, today. But most women won’t have any complaints if they’ve been with me. They can’t really complain. It’s all good.’)”

The Guardian leaves it at that and moves on to the next question. There is no mention of rape, sexual assault or molestation within the article. For reference, the age of consent and statutory rape laws in Virginia, Brown’s home state, list the age of consent as 18. So while neither child was able to consent, statutory rape in Virginia is also defined as, “Carnal knowledge of a child between ages 13 and 15 when the actor is a minor and the victim is three or more years younger.”

Chris Brown was raped, and many media outlets (including Allhiphop.comVibe.com, and even “feminist” website Jezebel) are reporting that he lost his virginity at age eight to a 14 or 15 year old girl and either stopping there, or are making it seem like having sex at such an early age is something that makes him macho rather than a victim of abuse.

Of these, the most egregious reporting comes from Doug Barry of Jezebel. In his piece, Barry asserts that Brown is bragging about losing his virginity and states that, “Of all the pop stars milling about the culture landscape these days, Chris Brown has a singular talent for making it impossible to sympathize with him even if he’s recounting a vaguely traumatic incident from his childhood. You know, like that time he lost his virginity to teenage girl. When he was eight.” What in the actual ever-living fuck, Doug Barry? What the shit is that about?

Here’s the thing: no matter what Chris Brown has said or done, having sex with a 14 or 15 year old when you are eight years old is rape. If you can’t extend sympathy to a child that was raped because you don’t like the actions they have committed as an adult, your empathy chip is broken. When Chris Brown described his first sexual experience, he described a rape. To refer to it as a “vaguely traumatic incident from his childhood” is to complete overlook and dismiss the sexual assault levied at Chris Brown as a child. In doing this, Barry is simultaneously dismissing and silencing any other man or boy who has been raped by insinuating that what happens to them is not actually ”rape rape“ but more of something to brag about.

In a heteronormative culture that values stereotypical masculine straightness as the norm, along with sexual partners being viewed as sexual conquests as a sign of prowess, it is easy to see how Chris Brown could identify or contextualize his experience as consensual. When so much of how we view and portray masculinity is wrapped up in male sexuality, it could be easier for Chris Brown to view this as an activity he was mentally and emotionally mature enough to engage in rather than a rape, especially when most of the news outlets reporting on it do not frame it as rape and when authors like Barry trivialize the rape as an experience Brown is using to brag and demonstrate his masculinity. This is how rape culture hurts men along with hurting women. By refusing to acknowledge and address that men and boys can be and are raped and that a man’s value is not inherently tied to his sexuality, the experiences of men and boys who have been raped are hidden, obscured by a culture that considers them the aggressor, never the victim.

Chris Brown was a victim, and no matter how anybody feels about anything he has done, claiming that him being raped as a child was nothing more than a “vaguely traumatic incident from his childhood” propagates the sentiment that boys and men can not be raped, and sex at any age is a marker of masculinity and makes it damn near impossible not only for male victims to identify that they have been raped or assaulted, but also impossible for them to report their rapes and assaults without fear of ridicule for not being “man enough.”

This bullshit has to stop. Rape is rape. Over and over and over again this keeps being said, but somewhere along the line, boys and men who have been raped got lost in the shuffle, their story not worthy of being told because surely they must have “wanted it.” And where do we often hear that? How often does a woman who has been raped hear that she must have “wanted it,” or “I know you want it?” This is the flip side of the same shitty coin and is a clear example of how rape culture hurts everybody.

If you or somebody you know has been raped and is in need of support or guidance, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline  or search for a local crisis center in your area.

What do you think about the effects of rape culture on boys and men? Is there a double standard? How can we collectively work to change this?

Written by Sara Luckey
Follow her of Twitter, talk beauty with her here , or engage in a conversation about current events as viewed through a sociopolitical, feminist lens here.

  • Chanel

    Chris, you was 8 years old and the girl was 14 or 15 years old. You was rape. Get that through your head and stop bragging bout it, acting like a little kid, grow up and stop comparing yourself to Prince, I don’t think Prince was raped at 8 years old by a girl who was either 14 or 15 then brag about it in a freaking interview.
    Now it explains a lot. You seen your own mother get beat up day in and day out so you beat up Rihanna that night that we all know and probably beat up on her more times than that but she probably covered for you by wearing a lot of make up.
    Thank God your not my favorite singer, don’t get me wrong you do have talent but I wouldn’t put you in my favorite artist category.
    You need more help than anything. I have lost all hope for you now after reading that you are bragging about being rape. I’m done.

    • Heather Hancock

      EXCUSE YOU.

      You do not EVER tell another human being how they have to react to being sexually assaulted or raped. EVER. If this is how he chooses to cope with what happened, who do you think you are to act as if it is a personal offense to your delicate sensibilities?

      When it comes to AN EIGHT YEAR OLD, who has been taught his whole life by the media and society–and his own damn family–that men should be ready to have sex at any age having sex with someone who was literally almost twice his age, you do not get to decide he isn’t broken up enough about it. Especially since this is a relatively common coping technique when it comes to coerced sex and sex where one of the participants are too young to understand, let alone consent.

      You do not get to ever, EVER judge a rape victim and decide they’re not coping appropriately.

      • NonnieRocks

        Thank you.

  • dirtydudley

    There is the chance that Chris is lying as well. Trying to be so cool that even as an 8 year-old he could “bag” a woman. Regardless of that, your point is awesome, no-one talked about this sex as abuse, as it obviously was, and it needs to be pointed out to Chris that the 15 year old girl with him probably had trauma or neglect in some vital areas, and she isn’t some pride point on his timeline. Maybe beginning there, one could lead the lost dude to some semblance of reason/accountability

    • 23Skiddsy

      Doesn’t presuming he’s lying feed into victim blaming? I mean, it’s not like this doesn’t happen, Lil’ Wayne has discussed his rape at a tender age. RAINN stats indicate 1 in 6 men are raped before age 18; (Or at least had a sexual encounter against their will, because legal definitions of rape still exclude many victims)

      And her being a victim doesn’t mean she can’t also be a perpetrator. I mean, Chris Brown being raped doesn’t suddenly mean his domestic abuse doesn’t count as abuse any more. You are still framing this as something positive for him, and not something that he has repressed in such a way because society doesn’t allow for male victimhood, and especially not black male victimhood.

      I mean, I was in high school at age fifteen – an eight year old is third grade. I don’t think we recognize how big this age gap was. She was nearly twice his age.

    • saint2e

      There’s no way a rape victim would lie. How dare you suggest such a thing?

      #ibelievechris

  • Tinab81

    Jeeeeeesus. That’s horrifying. The fact that it happened. The way it was reported. Just fucking awful. My little nephew just turned 8 and I cannot even imagine.

  • Dan

    Could you please explain how this is rape?
    He doesn’t express any form of traumatic feelings of this event – rape is initiated against another persons will, but clearly from this excerpt it doesn’t say anything about it him being “forced” against his will to do it.
    And yes, a mans worth is linked to his sexuality, quit feeding people false beliefs. Look up pre-selection if you don’t believe me.

    • edtastic

      We’re talking about a 8 year old here.

      That’s a kid in second grade being pushed into sex by a high school girl. It doesn’t matter if he liked it or not.

    • Bob_By

      You need to do some research. Rape isnt always about force.

    • miasopapia

      Wrong. Rape is nonconsensual sex.

      Or, to use your phrasing, rape is initiated without another person’s consent.

    • miasopapia

      Also, slightly off topic, but still related (and certainly related to all these people who seem to be confused why Chris Brown isn’t just devastated over this experience):

      Rape does not have to be traumatic, just like someone having their money taken without their consent does not have to be traumatic, but whether something is traumatic or not doesn’t stop nonconsensual sex from being rape or nonconsensual money transactions from being thievery.

      It’s understood that youth under 18 are not in a position to understand what it is they are consenting to and/or can easily be coerced into consenting, therefore children cannot consent. This second point about coercion is exactly why Virginia has the extra clause about age difference (rape as occurring when “actor is a minor and the victim is three or more years younger”), because it’s generally understood that differences in power and knowledge, in this case determined by being older, can be what coerce a child into consenting to something they don’t truly understand and therefore cannot truly consent to.

      Of course, the reason why Chris Brown does not see himself as a rape survivor from this experience, as the author mentions, has much to do with the fact that we haven’t done much to reframe our understandings of male sexuality. No little boy should ever feel like it’s expected of them to be sexually virile at such a young age.

    • dejour

      It’s not forcible rape, it’s statutory rape. An 8 year old Chris Brown could not legally consent.

      That’s why statutory rape laws exist. If only forcible rape was problematic then you could just charge people with other rape laws.

    • http://asimplesyrup.blogspot.com/ Amanda Duncil

      Um, statutory rape is a thing, too. You did read this, right? There was an entire paragraph defining how it was rape.

    • Sara Luckey

      8 year old children cannot consent to sex. That is why it is rape. There are laws in place specifically to protect children and other vulnerable populations who are unable to consent.

    • Michelle Blood

      Anytime an 8 year old has sex with someone 6-7 years older than them, it’s rape. They may have “given” consent, but the fact stands an 8 year old is NOT by any means mentally able to know what they are doing, and can’t therefore give consent. My 8 year old daughter forgot to turn the water off in the sink and flooded the bathroom. She needs me to remind her half the time to brush her teeth. Do you honestly think they can understand life long consequences and feel that they are ready for that? Furthermore, if it were an 8 year old girl and a 14-15 year old male, no one would question if this was rape. As a society, as parents, as decent human beings, we should recognize that our children should be held to the same morals and standards whether they are male or female.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/indigofiction indigofiction

    Great job, Sara. I really appreciate hearing about it in these terms. I also think that it possibly gives context for (but doesn’t excuse) some of his later shitty behavior. I mean, we hear all the time about pedophiles being victims of similar abuse in their past and the continuation of a cycle, and I think that the revelation of this incident is a look into the toxic culture that made Brown who he is. He apparently wasn’t given a healthy context for sexual relationships.

    • Sara Luckey

      I agree. I think this childhood abuse is part of a cycle of abuse.

  • just a guy

    Nevermind that they both could have been, and in all likelihood were, consetual…if they both were it wasn’t rape. Age does not make it rape, lack of consent does.

    • L

      Statutory rape is different to Forced rape.

    • Sara Luckey

      Actually, age is a factor in some instance of rape. 8 year olds cannot consent and that’s why there are laws in place to protect children or other vulnerable populations that cannot consent.

  • Toysoldier

    “This is the flip side of the same shitty coin and is a clear example of how rape culture hurts everybody.”

    No, it is an example of how much the feminist narrative that rape is something only men do to only women hurts male survivors. Do not skirt around that, and do not try to co-opt my experiences or those of other male survivors because in 2013 it finally occurred to feminists that males might not like having sex without their consent.

    • Sara Luckey

      That’s not a feminist narrative at all. That’s a construct of the already existing patriarchy which feminism works to bring down so that there can be intersectional equality. Patriarchy says that men must always want sex and be desiring of it no matter what and that to be masculine you must want sex. This is something that feminism has been trying to draw attention to for decades, and me writing this is a continuation of that. This isn’t a new feminist idea in 2013; it’s been an ongoing process for a long time. This piece was intended to draw attention to the way this would have been portrayed differently in the media if the victim was a girl and the inequality of that. Race likely also comes into play. So anyway, no, you have the feminist narrative and the patriarchal narrative inverted.

    • Heather Hancock

      Only feminists have been talking about men being raped for a very long time? And explaining why it gets under-reported? And how awful it is men who discuss their sexual assault are often labeled as gay or freaks because the media and society reinforces the idea that men want sex all the time, no limits?

      I’m sorry if you have ran into people who have belittled your experience because you are a man. That’s never acceptable, ever.

  • kg

    i know a surprisingly high number of men who have had similar experiences. it’s usually a story involving a girl a lot older than them and them going along with it because they felt they were supposed to, not because they wanted to.

    • L

      And the fucked up thing is, even if the girl didn’t want it and (non legally) she was ‘raped’, by the 8 year old – SHE would still be the rapist.

  • Alex Cockell

    THANK YOU! FINALLY someone on the feminist boards gets it – I was sexually bullied at 12 – derailed my development completely, caused me to pile the weight on… only now at 42 am I fighting an uphill battle to regain the “locust years”