Why can’t this man talk about rape?

How easy is it for a man to talk about rape? Do they have any right to get involved in the conversation? Do we care what they have to say?

We need more men to get involved in conversations about rape, assault and abuse. Which means we need to recognise how hard that can be. Talking about abuse is hard – even for those of us who do it all the time.

Chris Packe shares his thoughts in the video below and will have more to say at The Clear Lines Festival on August 1st.

Get involved in the conversation at the UK’s first festival on sexual assault. Chris will be part of ‘Where have all the good men gone?’ on the 1st August, with White Ribbon’s James Chespy, Alex Feis-Bryce from National Ugly Mugs Scheme and Dr Nina Burrowes.


  1. I really appreciate this topic, and its importance. I also thank Chris for making the effort to get involved, and for attempting to be an ally to women. I have to say, however, that I was quite shocked at the way the poem ended. There was, to my ears, an outburst of anger toward women who might find it difficult to trust a man and openly discuss sexual assault with him. It felt like a demand to be trusted. Trust is earned, over time, and I did not hear much in this poem to convince me, personally, to open up to the speaker about my own past. The rest of the poem was about the speaker (Chris or an ‘everyman’ persona, it was not clear) feeling lonely and misunderstood, ashamed of his gender and afraid to engage with the topic of rape. If those are Chris’s true feelings, they are valid, of course, but what is their source? Given that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual violence, surely the poem should be directing the majority of its anger towards them? The culture of hypermasculinity (rather than male biology or healthy masculinity) is to blame for sexual violence, and as a survivor of sexual violence I personally need to hear men break the ‘bond of brotherhood’ by getting angry with perpetrators and challenging male complicity, for example, silence or laughter at rape jokes.

    I also need to hear empathy – an attempt to imagine what it might be like to be assaulted, or to walk in fear of it. I don’t know if Chris was being honest when he said he felt numb about rape, and detached from his feelings, or was just expressing the persona of his poem, but while I agree this is a serious problem for men in general, a man needs to get professional help to overcome an inability to empathise before he enters into sensitive conversations with women about rape. Why should a woman who has been raped be expected to help a man unfreeze his feelings about rape? Is she supposed to describe what happened to her in the hopes it will heal *him*? In my experience, unfortunately, opening up even a little bit can lead to highly defensive or frankly misogynist reactions, which are very painful to hear from someone you consider your friend. And is that what women exist for, to heal men? Why don’t men take responsibility for sharing feelings with each other, or try on their own to imagine what it might be like being a woman – smaller, less able to defend oneself, culturally conditioned to be co-operative, expected to dress attractively, but risking being punished for doing so. Is it really so hard, or taboo, to even imagine being a woman? Is the topic of rape, for a man, really all about him? I am hoping that Chris has more to say than this video suggests, or that the other men on the panel will challenge him or open up the discussion, as this did not feel a very promising beginning for a gender-mixed discussion to me. Perhaps it should be an event for men only. I think that would be perfectly fine.

    Men are raped too, of course, but this poem felt directed toward women. Personally, I do not at all think all men are monsters, or incapable of empathy. I have close male friends who have been very supportive to me about my own history. I told one recently that my insomnia was related to a fear of falling asleep in case a man invades my sleeping area (which has happened twice), and the next time I saw him he gave me a relaxation CD and a little stick-on window alarm. I was very touched. Feelings are not just about heat – they are also about warmth. I do understand that Chris has taken a risk in engaging in this topic, and respect him for opening himself up to comments. I hope he can listen to and learn from all the responses, even if they aren’t quite what the speaker of the poem wants to hear.

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