Pointing out that society has a rape problem should be about the least controversial thing you can do, in any setting. It’s impossible to say how many rapes occur (because so many go unreported), but there is universal agreement that too many women are being victimized and that the system often fails them. But we fail victims in another way, too: by automatically assuming, as we just did there, that all of the victims are women.
Most of us realize in theory that men can be raped by women as well, but it’s just not seen as that big of a problem. Unless the victim is a child, female-on-male rape is considered so absurd.
A significant proportion of victims of rape or other sexual violence incidents are male. Generally, rape is still thought to be a crime against women specifically (and has been historically defined this way), although many cases of male-victim rape have become a subject of public discussion. Rape of males is still a taboo, and has a negative connotation among both heterosexual and homosexual men.
Community and service providers often react to the sexual orientation of male victims and the gender of their perpetrators. Mostly, male victims try to hide and deny their victimization, similar to female victims, unless they have serious physical injuries. Eventually, the male victims may be very vague in explaining their injuries when they are seeking medical or mental health services. It is difficult for a male victim, heterosexual or gay, to report the sexual assault that was experienced by him, especially in a society with a strong masculine custom. They are afraid that people will doubt their sexual orientation and label them as gay. A perception of being gay is also a motive in many cases.
The research about male-victim rape only appeared less than 30 years ago, mostly focused on male children. The studies of sexual assault in correctional facilities focusing specifically on the consequences of this kind of rape were available in the early 1980s, but nothing was available during the previous years. Most of the literature regarding rape and sexual assault still focuses on female victims.
Only recently have some other forms of sexual violence against men being considered. In the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) measured a category of sexual violence called “being made to penetrate” which captures instances where victims who were forced to penetrate someone, either by physical force or coercion, or when the victim was intoxicated or otherwise unable to consent. The CDC found that 1.267 million men reported being “made to penetrate” another person in the preceding 12 months, similar to the 1.270 million women who reported being raped in the same time period. The definitions of rape and “made to penetrate” in the CDC study were worded with extremely similar language.
Male-on-male rape has been heavily stigmatized. According to psychologist, Dr. Sarah Crome, fewer than 1 in 10 male-male rapes are reported. As a group, male rape victims reported a lack of services and support, and legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime.
Several studies argue that male-male prisoner rape, as well as female-female prisoner rape, are common types of rape which go unreported even more frequently than rape in the general population. The rape of men by men has been documented as a weapon of terror in warfare (see also War rape). In the case of the Syrian Civil War (2011–present), the male detainees experienced sexual abuse such as being forced to sit on a broken glass bottle, getting their genitals tied to a heavy bag of water, or being forced to watch the rape of another detainee by the officials.
Female-on-male rape is under-researched compared to other forms of sexual violence. Statistics on the prevalence of female-on-male sexual violence varies. One study (Hannon et al.) found 23.4% of women and 10.5% of men reported they were raped while 6.6% of women and 10.5% of men reported they were victims of attempted rape. A 2010 study by the CDC found that 93.3% male rape victims reported only male perpetrators. 1 in 21 or 4.8% of men reported being “made to penetrate”. The survey also found that male victims reported only female perpetrators in instances of being made to penetrate (79.2%), sexual coercion (83.6%), and unwanted sexual contact (53.1%). A 2008 study of 98 men interviewed on the United States National Crime Victimization Survey found that nearly half of the men (46%) who reported some form of sexual victimization were victimized by women.
Regarding female-on-male sexual misconduct, the US Dept. of Justice reports in its opening statement (page 5): “An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.” Regarding female-on-male sexual misconduct. 121 male prison inmates who had been victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% reported sexual activity with female staff; an additional 16% reported sexual activity with both female and male staff.” “Nearly two-thirds of the male jail inmates who had been victimized said the staff perpetrator was female (64%).”
Male victims of sexual abuse by females often face social, political, and legal double standards. The case of Cierra Ross’ sexual assault of a man in Chicago gained national headlines and Ross was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and armed robbery with a bail set at $75,000. A similar case includes James Landrith, who was made to penetrate a female acquaintance in a hotel room while incapacitated from drinking, while his rapist cited the fact that she was pregnant to advise him not to struggle, as this might hurt the baby.
Several widely publicized cases of female-on-male statutory rape in the United States involved school teachers having illegal sex with their underage student victims, including underage children, have been forced to pay child-support to their attacker when their rapist conceives a baby as a result of the attack.
Males are not vulnerable
By masculine gender socialization, it is thought that males, even younger males, cannot be victims of rape, nor even that they are vulnerable. In some societies, it is considered shameful and unmanly if a male child cries, because the male stereotype depicts males as being able to protect themselves, which may not always be the case. People sometimes forget that young boys may be weaker and vulnerable to perpetrators, who are usually stronger. The perpetrators can use whatever they have to abuse the child, including money or other bribes. An adult male may also be helpless to fight back, or fearful of doing so because of the possibility of being arrested due to social double standards regarding the use of force in self-defense between genders, in some cases of female perpetrators.
Males always want sex.
A common societal belief is that a male must be aroused if he gets an erection or has an orgasm, and so that means that they are willing and enjoying any sexual activity. Roy J. Levin and Willy Van Berlo wrote in an article in the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine that slight genital stimulation or stress can create erections “even though no speciﬁc sexual stimulation is present.” An erection does not mean that the men consent to sex. Males can get erections even in traumatic or painful sexual situations, and this does not indicate consent.
Much like female erectile response, male erectile response is involuntary, meaning that a man needs not be aroused for his penis to become erect; mechanical stimulation is all that is necessary. Arousal and stimulation are distinct things. Stimulation is a physical response to a stimulus. Men can be physically stimulated without feeling aroused and thus causing an erection. Men can be scared and intimidated into an erection, especially if the person is older or an authority.
Males are less traumatized.
One notion is that males are less traumatized by the abuse experience than females are; this includes the belief that males are less negatively affected. Studies show that the long-term effects are damaging for either sex and males may especially be more damaged by social stigma and disbelief of their victimization. It is noted by Eogan and Richardson that male victims tend to feel more intense anger than female victims, while both go through similar feelings of distress after the rape. Frazier (1993) studied 74 male and 1,380 female rape victims. She found that the depression and hostility are more profound on male victims immediately post-rape than female victims.
Trauma recovery counselor Stephanie Baird says men who experience sexual attention as children often explain it to themselves.