Information on male rape
1) Dear Alice,
Is male rape possible? Where can I find more information on male rape?
— Floor question
Why is it that, in all the movies and stuff about sex, it is always the woman who feels pressured? I felt pressured my first time and no one would believe me if I told them. Any comments would be helpful.
Dear Sensitive guy and Floor question,
Thank you for your courage in asking these questions. Anyone can be a survivor of sexual assault, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. There is a misconception that women are the only survivors of sexual assault and rape; this is likely due to widespread social beliefs about gender which tend to invalidate men’s experiences with sexual assault. In truth, both men and women (and other gender identities) can be perpetrators or survivors of sexual assault and rape. If you have experienced sexual assault or rape, it’s important to know that it’s not your fault, no matter the circumstances. There are a number of resources at both the local and national level that can be accessed for more information about male rape (more on this later).
Sexual assault is sexual activity that occurs without consent, such as sexual coercion or rape. It’s important to note that while rape—sexual penetration using sexual organs, other body parts, or foreign objects and without consent—is a form of sexual assault, not all sexual assault is rape. In fact, sexual assault can also include fondling or unwanted touching and forcing the victim to perform sexual acts such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that between 25 to 43 percent of men reported experiencing sexual assault. Other research has estimated that up to 65 percent of men have been sexually assaulted, but the cases could still be underreported. The observation of women often being victims of sexual coercion in movies and media is a prime example of these gender norms. These ingrained beliefs about gender may make it difficult for male survivors to come forward, either out of fear of being perceived as powerless or because they don't believe that men can be survivors of sexual assault or rape.
To answer your question, Floor—in the United States (US), about ten percent of all rape survivors are men, additionally, almost three percent of the male population in the US have experienced rape. Among male survivors, some are made to penetrate (MTP), where a survivor is forced to penetrate someone. If you have experienced rape, MTP, or another form of sexual assault, it is recommended that you seek safety and medical care as soon as possible. If you feel comfortable, you can speak with rape crisis professionals about your experience or potential next steps if you would like to file a police report. You might also reach out to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) which has a National Sexual Assault Hotline and online chat hotline for survivors who are seeking support.
Sensitive guy, you mentioned feeling pressured to have sex; it may be helpful to you to have more information on sexual coercion. Sexual coercion occurs when someone is pressured into performing or receiving sexual acts. A perpetrator might repeatedly ask someone to have sex. They may also abuse a power dynamic to threaten the other person if they do not have sex. Coercion could sound like “you don't really love me if you don’t do this”, “if you don’t have sex with me, I’ll fire you”, “I’m ending the relationship if you don’t have sex with me”, or other manipulative statements. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services details some actions you can take if you are being sexually coerced including being firm in your refusal to have sex, reporting it to an authority figure, or calling 911 if you need immediate emergency services.
Every experience of sexual assault and rape is different, but all reactions and emotions are valid. While it is happening, some survivors might speak firmly with the perpetrator or may try to leave, but these methods are not always possible. Others might feel aroused during the assault, leading to confusion or shame. Among male survivors specifically, physiological responses during an assault like erection and ejaculation might occur. However, these are involuntary and do not justify the perpetrators actions. Many survivors also feel guilty that they were not able to defend themselves, even though what they experienced is not their fault. In general, it’s advised to seek professional help for any emotional, mental, or physical concerns you might have after experiencing sexual assault.
Due to stigmatization around male survivorship, one may experience barriers when accessing certain institutions (i.e., the police, the justice system, etc.). This may require a certain level of self-advocacy or advocacy support from a professional. This combined with the many different legal definitions of sexual violence, assault, and rape leads to survivors being unable or unwilling to describe their experiences, which in turn leads to more underreporting and underrepresentation of male survivors. As more space is given to men to share their stories and experiences of sexual violence, the stigma against male survivors may start to decrease, and more research on men’s experiences might be funded and conducted. It’s important to remember that it’s always up to the survivor if, when, and how much of their experience they want to share when seeking support. Sharing an experience can be difficult and re-traumatizing, so it’s important for people to give themselves space and grace when reaching out for help.
If you would like more information about sexual assault, rape, and male survivors, consider checking out some of these resources:
- 1in6, an organization dedicated to male survivors of sexual assault
- RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN resources)
- NSVRC, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC resources)
- Malesurvivor.org, dedicated to male survivors
- NOVA, the National Organization for Victim Assistance
Originally published Dec 01, 1994
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