The headline jumped out at me from CNN.com, and I clicked through fast: “3 Women in Zimbabwe Charged in Series of Sex Attacks on Men.”
My impulse to click was exactly the reaction CNN’s web team had targeted. But I read the article for a reason other than sexual curiosity. It was more a medical question: Can a woman really rape a man? What if he ejaculates? Is this rape?
The news story was this: Three women in their 20s were charged with raping 17 men in Zimbabwe and keeping their sperm in condoms for some sort of health-related ritual. (That logic is reason enough for the world to step up efforts to educate girls.) The young women apparently used drugs and raped the men at gunpoint. In regard to men raped by women, this is where the medical question popped into my head.
Can Men Come In A Stressful Situation?
We all know that a woman can certainly be raped while drugged and full of terror, but a man, well, a man has to sort of function to complete the task. But can he function on drugs or at gunpoint? I know men who can’t even pee if someone is watching.
Not convinced that a Google search would yield my answer, I decided to go to a real authority: my predominantly male Facebook page. There is a nice cross section of the male body (pun intended) among my 5,000 friends, so I knew they would have the answers. Not surprisingly, the comment stream was long. At the beginning, my male friends were as confused as I. Some dismissed the whole notion that this was a rape.
“Unless you are a straight man with dudes forcing sex on you, you can’t be raped,” said one. “You can’t rape the willing,” said another. More than a couple said they couldn’t comment because they were busy booking a ticket to Africa.
So, I brought up the drug and gunpoint thing again. Was ejaculation possible under such circumstances? The answers were mixed.
What Guys Think About Men Raped By Women
“If you’re scared and drugged, you’re not going to orgasm.”
“I don’t agree. If a man is stimulated, he would ejaculate regardless of ‘willing’ or not.”
“It’s not uncommon, since men produce sperm when intoxicated.”
Then came a true voice of wisdom. One of my Facebook friends teaches at a medical school and tells me this very question is sometimes on medical board exams. So here’s how the professor weighed in:
“Ejaculation is a spinal level reflex; it can happen. I have seen it happen in people having seizures or read documented evidence that it happens during hanging too. It’s even a question asked on med boards often enough whether a tetraplegic can ejaculate. It’s my understanding that as long as the sympathetic nervous arc is intact, one can come. For erection it’s a parasympathetic one, and it’s influenced by the higher centers, i.e. erotic thoughts, etc.”
Thanks, Doc. In household language, he’s basically saying that an erection isn’t necessary to produce sperm. Got it.
Of course, the much more important question here isn’t medical; it’s criminal. Can a woman rape a man? Yes. If someone does not agree to have sex with another and a sexual act is forced upon them, that is called rape. And it is clearly illegal, hopefully as much in Africa as in North America.
Editor’s Note: The quotes taken from Wendy Walsh’s Facebook page have been edited for clarity.