I’ve had this talk a few times with female friends. This mindset also applies to other things, like racism, homophobia, etc. Trauma is trauma. Its effects are lingering and irrational. As soon as I say “PTSD” I know eyes will roll, but it is real. After a few harrowing experiences with bad cops, I spent months avoiding any cop for any reason. My anxiety just made me look suspicious to any cop that was around me then, and in turn, made me the focus of their unwanted attention. It was a vicious cycle that didn’t help. And after a few harrowing encounters with angry racists, I still get edgy when I hear a White person use “nigger” or “nigga.” To them, it’s just a word. To me, it’s an indicator of “fight or flight.”
So I get rape anxiety. The guy part of me tends to downplay it as an irrational over-reaction, but that’s the time when I have to lend sympathy and benefit of doubt. Trauma is trauma. Anxiety isn’t a voluntary reaction, it’s instinctive. Before you can talk it down, you have to acknowledge that it’s real. “Guys being guys” can feed that anxiety, even if it’s unintentional. Any guy who was physically abused as a kid can relate to their own weird triggers.
My fellow men, if this ever comes up in conversation with women, please take the time to try to understand. Being dismissive will get you put into the same category as the men who caused her rape anxiety in the first place. You don’t want to be there, especially if it’s a loved one. You don’t have to understand it or even agree with it, just acknowledge it.