I frequently come back to wondering about this...
What if it was a kiss? With tongue?
What if it was a fifteen minute conversation while holding hands?
At what point of "intimacy" does it cross the line from a creepy annoyance into full-blown life-shattering hell that justifies you being called a "victim" or "survivor"...?
Is rape as terrible as it is purely because of some quality or qualities inherent in sex, or is it - at least in part - because we have centuries and centuries of mythology and social taboo bundled up with sex?
Sex is "dirty", sex is "intimate" and "private", and should only be shared with someone "special".
Sex is a one-way commodity. Think about the common terminology - none of these are universal, but all of them are common. Males "get some" while females "give it up". Girls "lose" their virginity (their innocence, their purity, their virtue, their honor), males "take" it. A male might "give" a female his dick, but a female "gives" a male herself.
Ok, now, shake loose of the illustration. This isn't an essay about "Wah! It's so unfair being a girl!" The illustration is only there to show how steeped in taboo and sexism the nature of intercourse typically or often is for many people. (and especially historically - you know, in that time period when our current traditions and social outlooks were formed)
So, the question is this. If we hadn't invested so much time, energy, and effort building up this mythology of personal worth and social value and shame around sex and sexuality, would rape be as big a deal as it is? Or would it be pretty much the same, in a reasonable scale, with any other kind of unwanted physical attention?
There's the matter of the possibility of pregnancy, of course. If someone corners you and holds your hand for an hour, you stand little chance of having your life ruined (and by ruined, I mean "blessed by the gift of a child", of course) by it. Is that a meaningful moderator of the subject, or is that another layer of the same kind of question - If humans were better at making distinctions between a fetus and a person, between a baby and a potential for a baby, would termination of a pregnancy be as big a deal as it is now?
Don't get me wrong, please. I'm not saying "Rape isn't a big deal" or even "Rape isn't as big a deal as we make it". This essay isn't a statement or a proclamation, it's a question. What I'm saying is, what is it in our history, or society, or mental, psychological, and social makeup that makes rape as huge and devastating a deal as it is?
If we had more data from males who'd been raped, how would that shape the answers to these questions? Is it pretty much the same for them? Better? Worse?