Before any other conversation takes place about Shia LaBeouf’s claims that a female visitor raped him at his #IAMSORRY art exhibit, the following should be made clear:
Men can be raped by women, and they do not need to fear physical force for rape to occur. Piers Morgan’s comments that LaBeouf's claims are "absolute baloney" echo the all-too-frequent refrains aimed at female and male sexual assault victims alike who are told their rapes aren’t real.
For the unaware: LaBeouf shared the story of his alleged rape in a recently published interview with Dazed’s Aimee Cliff:
One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me … There were hundreds of people in line when she walked out with dishevelled hair and smudged lipstick. It was no good, not just for me but her man as well. On top of that my girl was in line to see me, because it was Valentine’s Day and I was living in the gallery for the duration of the event—we were separated for five days, no communication. So it really hurt her as well, as I guess the news of it travelled through the line. When she came in she asked for an explanation, and I couldn’t speak, so we both sat with this unexplained trauma silently. It was painful.
As Lindy West wrote, "The truth is that we know almost nothing about LaBeouf’s emotional and psychological state during #IAMSORRY." But such is the case with many victims, who should not be expected to divulge every detail of their experience publicly in order to be believed. Even if LaBeouf hadn't allegedly been whipped for 10 minutes, as West says, "Men are just as capable as women of being taken advantage of during emotionally fragile moments ... And men are just as likely not to report their assaults, because of exactly the backlash that LaBeouf is facing now." And much of that backlash, perfectly encapsulated in Morgans' comments, is of the victim-blaming variety: "LaBeouf is one of the toughest actors in Hollywood ... [but] he just let it all happen." Imagine how the untold thousands of male sexual assault survivors in the U.S. military would feel hearing this: You're supposed to be tough, but you let it happen.