When I tweeted a link to a Guardian article and put it on my Facebook page I didn’t intend it to be an experiment, but due to the resounding silence that greeted it, it kind of turned out that way.
And the results were very interesting.
I was about to head for bed on Sunday night when I came across the article, which was about the use of rape as a weapon of war, primarily in Africa.
What was unusual about this article was the subject.
It concerned the systematic rape, not of women but of men in various conflicts, and the physical, psychological and cultural fallout from this most unspeakable of crimes, with a particular focus on Uganda.
Perhaps understandably, the “Like” button on my Facebook page next to the link remains unclicked.
What I found more interesting was that no-one among the four hundred or so people who regularly see my messages on Twitter had anything to say whatsoever. Not a response or a retweet of any kind came my way.
As always with the subject of male rape, it was met with silence.
Nor did Margot Wallström, the Swedish politician and UNHCR figure mentioned in the article, respond to the tweet I sent her in the hope that she would go into more detail on the subject.
To put it all in context, a tweet about David Norris a couple of months ago made its way around the world as everyone from gay activists to right-wing evangelical Christians wrestled with the meaning of pederasty, and the Norris presidential campaign replied to me in person.
Unfortunately I’m not aware of any mechanism that would allow me to see who or how many people actually clicked on the link to the male rape article.
I’m guessing a lot of people did, looked at the headline and went “no, this is not for me”.
Which is a shame, because the only way such unspeakable, unthinkable evil can be understood and dealt with is if it is dragged from the shadows and given the full scrutiny it deserves.
Like the more “standard” version of rape (for want of a better term), the sense of shame must be removed altogether from those who suffer it and placed firmly where it belongs with the perpetrators.
Interestingly, a fabricated story about Muammar Ghaddafi’s troops being given Viagra and condoms and told to go rape everything they saw during the recent uprising in Libya was given great credence and exposure by the media.
When it was subsequently pointed out that there was no evidence whatsoever that this had taken place, it was quietly ignored.
This, coupled with the muted response to the Guardian article, says a lot about our attitudes to rape, especially when it is used as a weapon.
We still don’t want to think of men as being the victims. Men themselves (me included) don’t like to countenance the idea that this happens, even less so that it could happen to them.
It calls into question everything we believe about men in society – that they should be strong and resilient and warrior-like, and never supine or vulnerable or humiliated.
The article in question is well worth ten minutes of your time, and not just because it puts this unspeakable, unthinkable subject on the agenda.
It represents a chance to see rape for what it really is – a crime that has little or nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power.
And if enough people read it, maybe we will begin to realize that the only innocent party that has anything to be ashamed of is a society that still blames its victims.