Male sexual assault: it’s not all about the damsel in distress

March 2015

“Guys don’t just get pulled into alleys by girls.”

Men are big and strong. Men are powerful and able. But despite those stereotypes, men are raped too.

While American society views it to be horrifically insensitive to be unsympathetic to the experiences of female rape victims, male rape victims rarely receive the same attention. From 1927 to 2012, the legal definition of rape according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations did not even include the possibility that males were susceptible to rape.

For 85 years, the FBI defined rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This excluded the possibility of male victims as well as narrowing the definition of what constituted rape on females.

“Laws on rape should totally apply to males too,” said sophomore Snehal Pandey. “The original law is completely wrong, thank God they fixed it.”

The 2012 update on the definition of rape encapsulated many more scenarios of sexual assault:
“the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network found in a 2006 study that males are least likely to report a sexual assault, even though they are estimated to make up 10 percent of all victims. A major factor of this trend are the social attitudes that cannot reconcile the view of masculine power and sexual fervor with the vulnerability and unwillingness of rape.

There are many myths surrounding male rape that add to the unlikeliness of males feeling comfortable in reporting assault. Some fear the possibility of being seen as weak for being overpowered and violated, while others are silenced by the common societal opinion that straight men always want sex when a woman offers it.

“People don’t consider the varieties of ways that sexual harassment happens,” said senior Michael Bereket. “Girls definitely get away with more stuff than guys do- some things that would be going way too far if a guy did it to a girl aren’t even thought about if the roles are reversed.”

Others fear that society will not be on their side if they do come forward, due to the trend of women being the assumed victims of sexual harassment cases. In the case of civil liberties activist James Landrith, a survivor of rape at age 19 by a 24-year-old pregnant woman, his assailant threatened to tell authorities that Landrith had raped her if he tried to resist.

Landrith complied and let the abuse continue, feeling he wouldn’t stand a chance with the authorities as a drunken Marine fighting the word of a sober, pregnant woman.

“Feminism is important because women gain equality with men on many levels, especially socially,” said sophomore Blake Atkins. “This is helpful because men need equality with women just as much as women need it with men, especially in situations where society ignores them, like sexual assault.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association published in 2013 that after the age of 18, males and females perpetrate sexual violence at very close rates: 52 percent of males and 48 percent of females. The age of first perpetration was most commonly 16 years old.

It also found that women are more likely than men to start unwanted presexual contact like kissing or touching against another person’s will.

“Those aren’t the kind of results I would have expected, but I don’t really know why,” said freshman Denali Wilson. “It’s probably just because I hear about sexual assault [perpetrated] by guys so much more often.”

Some people question male rape by a female by targeting the male’s erection as proof that “he must have wanted it.” Arousal, however, is an involuntary reflex of the body’s nervous system that does not constitute consent for sexual activity.

Blaming a male for rape because “he must have wanted it” is similar to the argument that females “were asking for it” by their choice of clothing or behavior. Both arguments target the victim instead of the perpetrator of the assault.

“I think a lot of the time, guys just don’t realize that what girls are doing to them could be considered harassment,” said senior Austin Driver. “It can seem acceptable because it’s just seen as teasing or something when a girl does it.”

Despite the prevalence of sexual assault against women in media and the general societal view, sexual assault against males is just as real an issue. The 2006 National Violence Against Women Survey found that about 3 percent of American men – 2.78 million men in total – had been raped at some point in their lives.

“Whenever you talk about male survivors, women have it statistically worse, but it’s not a competition — and we each need our time to talk about it,” Landrith said.

Often, the media only centers around sexual assault on females. However, assault on males is just as much of a dark reality.

Often, the media only centers around sexual assault on females. However, assault on males is just as much of a dark reality.


Originally published in The Highlander


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