While cultural and legal spotlights have been brought to bear on the rape and sexual assault of girls and women due to pressure from the feminist movement in the 1980s, research and public attention on the sexual assault of men and boys has remained in the shadows, perpetuating the stereotypes – propagated by that same feminist movement – of women as victims in need of paternalistic protection and men as villains, specifically sexual predators in need of control and incarceration.

Two studies – both by highly-qualified women academics – have undermined those almost universal perceptions and taken the lid off of the well-hidden problem of male sexual victimization by both women and men.

The first is limited by the use of a single national study, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of crime victimization. While useful in examining men’s reporting of criminal assault and their personal narratives, it suffers from the kind of criminological bias that has long under-reported male victimization (for instance, until 2013 the FBI defined rape in their Uniform Crime Reporting program as the forcible penetration of a woman – men were entirely ignored).

The second uses five more diverse and recent national studies that cover a much broader spectrum of both criminological and public health focused data that demonstrates a far higher incidence of male sexual victimization than the previous one. Both, however, put the data within the cultural context which tends to minimize and reject the reality of male sexual victimization – even by the men themselves.

Neither study is freely available on-line, but both were send to me by their authors. I present summaries of each.


Male Sexual Victimization: Examining Men’s Experiences of Rape and Sexual Assault, by Karen G. Weiss, West Virginia University, published in Men and Masculinities, Volume 12 Number 3, April 2010.

[Karen Weiss is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and teaches courses in the areas of crime, victimization, and data analysis. She earned an MA and PhD in Sociology from Stony Brook University (2006) and MA in Women Studies from San Francisco State University (1997). Her new book, Party School: Crime, Campus and Community, examines campus crime victimization and looks at the consequences of extreme drinking for students and others in the college community. Her research on sexual victimization has been published in Theoretical Criminology, Violence against Women, Men and Masculinities, Feminist Criminology, and Violence and Victims.]


This study examines men’s sexual victimization experiences in the United States using a nationally representative sample of victim narratives from the National Crime Victimization Survey. An analysis of men’s incidents reveals many similarities to women’s rapes and sexual assaults as well as some rather gendered differences, particularly in regard to offender sex, victims’ willingness to report to officials, and a few uniquely masculine ways in which some men frame their experiences.

While there has been a vast literature published during the past 30 years on sexual violence against women, relatively few studies have investigated men’s sexual victimization experiences in the general US population.

According to the NCVS, 9% of victims of rape and sexual assault are male… a sizable minority of male victims who have been largely ignored by researchers and theorists.

Social Definitions of Sexual Violence and Masculinity

The paucity of research on male victims of rape and sexual assault may be…because of the ways in which sexual violence has been legally, politically, and theoretically constructed over the years. For instance, until the 1980s, most states’ rape laws excluded the potential of men as victims by specifically defining rape as a crime committed against women… More important, for more than 30 years, rape and sexual assault have been largely framed by activists as a women’s safety issue and by feminist scholars as a substantive area within a broader violence against women literature. Ensconced within a movement and scholarship devoted to understanding and eradicating violence against women, it is not surprising that most prevalence studies and other empirical research on rape and sexual assault have focused their attentions almost exclusively on female victims.

Moreover, theories developed over the years to explain why men are sexually violent toward women have clearly established men in their roles as sexual predators, with women as the targeted prey. By ascribing sexual violence to men’s nature, men’s dominant position in society, or the ways in which men are socialized, theoretical linkages between sexual aggression and masculinity, or hypermasculinity, are so well established in the ways in which rape and sexual assault have been conceptualized over the years that to envision men as victims (or women as aggressors) requires a conscious bracketing of preconceived notions about both sexual violence and gender.

Indeed, social ideals about gender may especially contribute to non-recognition of men as victims. For instance, while social constructs of femininity – as physically weak and sexually vulnerable – fit overall perceptions of sexual victims, social expectations of what it is to be a man in our society – as strong, tough, selfsufficient, and impenetrable – counter images of victimization in general and sexual victimization in particular. With “real” men expected to avoid behaviors associated with femininity, men who are overpowered by others may be judged to have failed in their masculine duty to stick up for themselves.

A gendering (or feminization) of victimization can be seen in the derogatory labels (e.g., sissies, pansies, pussies) hurled at boys and young men who are victimized or, more broadly, fail to live up to the standards of hegemonic masculinity measured by control over one’s emotions, one’s destiny, and others. In short, men’s victimization undermines the dominant ideals of masculinity.

Furthermore, men who are victimized by rape or sexual assault contradict hegemonic definitions of male sexuality that require men to be sexually potent, dominant, and in control. In other words, “real” men are expected to want sex (with women) and to initiate and pursue sex, and are often rewarded for sexual assertiveness. Thus, within a culture where men are not supposed to take no for an answer and where sexual restraint is seen as women’s responsibility, men who admit that they do not want sex or, worse, were forced to have sex violate codes of male (hetero)sexuality.

Expectations for men to achieve certain standards of masculinity, coupled with a fear of being perceived as gay or “womanly,” may prompt boys and young men to demonstrate masculine behaviors as part of a process of impression management. For instance, “hooking up” sexually with as many females as possible may help men to “prove” to others that they are both masculine and heterosexual. Other demonstrations of masculinity (e.g., physical toughness, risk taking, ability to take care of matters themselves) may also be enacted as part of men’s self-presentations and can be particularly useful for male victims of rape and sexual assault, seeking to repair or reestablish masculinity after being victimized by incidents that typically happen to women.

This study examines male sexual victimization as a specifically gendered experience and pays particular attention to the ways in which male victims interpret and respond to situations that clearly contradict social definitions of sexual violence and masculinity. Thus, the study examines both men’s descriptions of sexual victimization and their demonstrations of masculinity during the disclosure of these incidents. An analysis of men’s own narratives of unwanted sexual experiences allows for both a delineation of the types of sexual crimes men are experiencing and an exploration of the ways in which men frame their sexual victimization experiences.

This study examines a broad range of men’s sexual victimization experiences revealed to the NCVS and collected during the years 1992 through early 2000. The NCVS is a large-scale probability survey of people twelve years and older that provides annual estimates of crime and victimization rates in the United States. The data used for analysis in this study incorporate both NCVS structured responses and incident narratives. The NCVS incident narratives are open-ended responses to a final question at the end of the interview that asks victims to describe what happened to them.

Sexual victimization incidents in this study consist of rape, attempted rape, and a broad range of other sexual assaults. It is important that sexual assaults for purposes of this study also include “nonclassifying” incidents, cases reported to NCVS interviewers but, because they are presumed to lack the legal requirement of force necessary for incidents to be defined as serious crimes, are excluded from NCVS public use files and BJS published reports. Nonclassifying sexual victimization incidents (approximately 20% of total sex-related cases) include sexual coercion without force, “inappropriate” touching, indecent exposure, and sexual harassment. These cases were included in the present study’s sample to examine a broader range of unwanted sexual situations from the victims’ own perspectives

Comparing Men’s and Women’s Sexual Victimization Incidents

While the frequency of sexual victimization is certainly far less common for men than for women (i.e., 9% percent of victims of rape and sexual assault are men and 91% are women), cross-tabulations of victim characteristics by sex show many similarities between male and female victims… For instance, physical injuries requiring medical care occur in only about 9% of men’s incidents, a percentage that is not significantly different from that for women’s incidents. A weapon is used in 7% of both men’s and women’s incidents… Approximately 89% of both male and female victims use some form of resistance strategy in their efforts to thwart an attack. And approximately 95% of both men’s and women’s incidents are perpetrated by only one offender.

However, despite the many similarities between men’s and women’s experiences outlined above, there are also a few highly significant gendered differences. First, and perhaps not surprising, women are significantly more likely than men to be victims of rape and attempted rape rather than sexual assault (29% percent of men’s incidents are defined by NCVS as rapes and attempted rapes, while 42% of women’s incidents are rapes or attempted rapes).

In addition, men are more than three times as likely as women to reveal in their narratives that they were drinking or using drugs prior to an incident. While this finding may simply reflect the fact that more men than women use alcohol and drugs in general, it may also indicate that men are more likely to admit to being sexually victimized when they are intoxicated since alcohol impairs a victim’s ability to resist attacks and therefore provides a plausible explanation for how it was possible for men to have been victimized in the first place (especially if the person overpowering them was a woman much smaller in physical stature and strength).

It is most important that while 99% of women are sexually victimized by men, only 54% of men are victimized by other men, with the remaining 46% of men victimized by women. The fact that men are victimized so often by women certainly contradicts cultural stereotypes about women as passive, both physically and sexually, as well as the assumption that men are exclusively the aggressors of sexual violence.

While approximately 18% of both men and women are assaulted by strangers, more men than women are assaulted by coworkers (22% vs. 11%), whereas more women than men are assaulted by intimate partners (23% vs. 15%)… Female-on-male offenses are most likely to be committed by intimates (28% of female offenders are intimate partners vs. 4% of male offenders).

While 30% of women report their sexual victimization incidents to officials, only 15% of men report their incidents. Because there are no significant differences between men and women in terms of serious injury requiring medical care, men’s lower reporting may be more reflective of the difficulty men have recognizing or acknowledging that what happened to them was a reportable crime, particularly when rape and sexual assault are supposed to happen only to women. And while women, too, are often hesitant to report sexual victimization to the police for various reasons that include embarrassment, fear of retaliation, and police distrust, men’s reluctance may be exacerbated by a sense of shame for not fulfilling their masculine roles that dictate they be in control and take care of matters themselves.

Norms of masculinity (and shame for not conforming to those norms) may especially help to explain men’s greater reluctance to report sexual victimization incidents perpetrated by women. For instance, 22% of male-perpetrated incidents were reported to authorities, whereas only 7% of female-perpetrated incidents were reported. While men’s greater willingness to report incidents perpetrated by men rather than women may be because of the higher likelihood of serious injuries occurring from male-on male incidents, the numbers also suggest that men may interpret unwanted sexual incidents by other men to be more serious violations, perhaps because female offenders do not threaten their heterosexual identity. Of course, these numbers may also reflect an anticipation of ridicule or stigma from admitting to sexual victimization by women.

Examining Men’s Sexual Victimization Experiences

An examination of NCVS narratives reveals a wide variation of male sexual victimization experiences, ranging from stranger rape and attempted rape by acquaintances to a full range of sexual assaults including intimate partner “coercion” and unwanted sexual touching in the workplace and public places. The NCVS narratives collectively demonstrate that men are indeed victimized by forced sex, attempted forced sex, and other sex-related incidents much more commonly identified as crimes against women.

While few men use the term rape in their descriptions of what happened to them, NCVS narratives certainly reveal that men experience incidents that fit today’s legal definitions of rape and attempted rape. In fact, 20% of men’s incidents are classified as rape by NCVS, and another 9% of men’s incidents are classified as attempted rape.

The majority of men’s rapes or attempted rapes resemble more typical “date rapes,” incidents that are perpetrated by dates and intimate partners… In addition, while there are certainly incidents of men being sexually coerced by male dates and intimate partners, the vast majority of date rapes described in men’s narratives are attributed to girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, or female “friends”.

Perhaps what is most surprising about men’s narratives of date rape is how similar they are to women’s experiences of being sexually forced by dates or partners who feel entitled to sex and refuse to take no for an answer. Yet based on assumptions that men, by nature, need and want sex, and because of persistent cultural scripts regarding (hetero)sexuality that cast men as sexual initiators and women as gatekeepers responsible for restraint, men’s incidents may seldom be acknowledged as “real” crimes… Also, it is a common misconception that if a man has an erection or ejaculates, he must have consented. As the…NCVS narratives illustrate, women do rape men vaginally and orally by coercing them to have involuntary erections.

In addition to men’s experiences with rapes and attempted rapes, NCVS narratives also reveal that men are victimized by a broad range of sexual assaults that include incidents in which they are grabbed or touched inappropriately, sexually threatened, or even flashed. Indeed, 71% of the incidents men reveal to the NCVS are sexual assaults (57% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men and 43% by women).

NCVS narratives also reveal a variety of female-perpetrated incidents that contradict gendered images of sexual victimization that assume women to be the objects of sexual desire and men as the aggressors and voyeurs. Since men are expected to want to see and touch women’s bodies anywhere, and anytime, situations…where women expose themselves, unexpectedly fondle men, and unabashedly invite sexual activity, challenge accepted gender roles of men as predators and women as prey of the sexual hunt.

Despite the stereotype that men are perpetually ready and able to engage in sex with women, NCVS narratives illustrate various scenarios where men clearly reject and rebuff sexual overtures by women.

References to shame and embarrassment are evident in several NCVS narratives, mostly in response to why victims did not report their incidents to the police… Shame may especially help to explain why men are less willing to report female-perpetrated incidents to authorities than situations perpetrated by other men.

Another potential reason for men’s shame, and certainly a reason that may help to explain men’s reluctance to report male-perpetrated incidents to police, is the assumption that men who are raped or sexually assaulted by other men are gay.


An analysis of NCVS data shows that men experience a wide range of unwanted sexual situations, including rape, attempted rape, and various incidents of sexual assaults. …men’s victimization incidents are surprisingly similar to women’s incidents, in terms of both victim characteristics and incident conditions (e.g., number of offenders, injury, weapon, location, time, resistance). However, there are some significant differences between men’s and women’s sexual victimization experiences, especially in terms of offender sex and reporting to officials.

For instance, men are almost as likely to be sexually victimized by women as by men, whereas only 1% of women are victimized by other women. And, once victimized, men are only half as likely as women to report incidents to the police or other authorities.

An exploration of men’s narratives also finds that male respondents sometimes describe their incidents in ways that demonstrate masculinity, most specifically drawing on one of two “masculine” behaviors: getting drunk and fighting back. In the first narrative type, men blame alcohol for their loss of control and vulnerability. By invoking intoxication, men are able to rationalize their vulnerability to attack while also emphasizing their participation in a risk-taking or “masculine” behavior. In the second narrative type, men emphasize how they fought back against their offenders and were able to take care of matters like “real” men. By emphasizing physical retaliation specifically toward male offenders, men are able to demonstrate a masculine response that also asserts their heterosexuality (i.e., making it clear they are not sexually interested in other men).

Men’s narratives also reveal that men are often embarrassed by their experiences and ashamed to report their incidents to the police or other authorities. Perhaps this is not surprising in a society that has been slow to acknowledge male sexual victimization as a real problem and where men who violate codes of masculinity are often negatively sanctioned. After all, “real” men are supposed to be tough, self-reliant, and in control. Moreover, norms of male sexuality expect men to be virile and heterosexual. Thus, admitting to sexual victimization clearly contradicts social definitions of what it means to be a man.

Social implications of the findings from the present study underscore the need to better educate men as well as women about risks of sexual victimization. This means expanding social definitions of sexual violence and dispelling gender stereotypes that obscure recognition of both men as victims and women as offenders. Raising awareness of male rape and sexual assault through education, community services, and scholarship is necessary to expand overall knowledge of sexual victimization beyond its present focus on violence against women. Until practitioners and researchers more readily acknowledge male victims, it is unlikely that men themselves will be readily willing to disclose their unwanted sexual experiences. A collective silence surrounding the topic of male sexual victimization only exacerbates the belief that “real” men cannot be raped.


The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions by Lara Stemple, JD, and Ilan H. Meyer, PhD, American Journal of Public Health, April 2014

[Lara Stemple is the Director of Graduate Studies at UCLA School of Law, and directs the Health and Human Rights Law Project. Previously, Stemple was the Executive Director of Just Detention International, and a Post Doctoral Fellow at Columbia University’s Program on Sexuality, Gender, Health and Human Rights. She also served as the Senior Advocacy Officer at the Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, and worked briefly for the domestic and international programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women, and is the Deputy co-Director of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise on Women’s Health and Empowerment.]


We assessed 12-month prevalence and incidence data on sexual victimization in 5 federal surveys that the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted independently in 2010 through 2012. We used these data to examine the prevailing assumption that men rarely experience sexual victimization. We concluded that federal surveys detect a high prevalence of sexual victimization among men – in many circumstances similar to the prevalence found among women. We identified factors that perpetuate misperceptions about men’s sexual victimization: reliance on traditional gender stereotypes, outdated and inconsistent definitions, and methodological sampling biases that exclude inmates. We recommend changes that move beyond regressive gender assumptions, which can harm both women and men.

Stemple - Table 1

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The sexual victimization of women was ignored for centuries. Although it remains tolerated and entrenched in many pockets of the world, feminist analysis has gone a long way toward revolutionizing thinking about the sexual abuse of women, demonstrating that sexual victimization is rooted in gender norms and is worthy of social, legal, and public health intervention. We have aimed to build on this important legacy by drawing attention to male sexual victimization, an overlooked area of study. We take a fresh look at several recent findings concerning male sexual victimization, exploring explanations for the persistent misperceptions surrounding it. Feminist principles that emphasize equity, inclusion, and intersectional approaches; the importance of understanding power relations; and the imperative to question gender assumptions inform our analysis.

We show that 12-month prevalence data from 2 new sets of surveys conducted, independently, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found widespread sexual victimization among men in the United States, with some forms of victimization roughly equal to those experienced by women.

Despite such findings, contemporary depictions of sexual victimization reinforce the stereotypical sexual victimization paradigm, comprising male perpetrators and female victims. As we demonstrate, the reality concerning sexual victimization and gender is more complex.

For example, in 2011 the CDC reported results from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), one of the most comprehensive surveys of sexual victimization conducted in the United States to date. The survey found that men and women had a similar prevalence of nonconsensual sex in the previous 12 months (1.270 million women and 1.267 million men). This remarkable finding challenges stereotypical assumptions about the gender of victims of sexual violence. However unintentionally, the CDC’s publications and the media coverage that followed instead highlighted female sexual victimization, reinforcing public perceptions that sexual victimization is primarily a women’s issue.

We explore three factors that lead to misperceptions concerning gender and sexual victimization. First, a male perpetrator and female victim paradigm underlies assumptions about sexual victimization. This paradigm serves to obscure abuse that runs counter to the paradigm, reinforce regressive ideas that portray women as victims, and stigmatize sexually victimized men. Second, some federal agencies use outdated definitions and categories of sexual victimization. This has entailed the prioritization of the types of harm women are more likely to experience as well as the exclusion of men from the definition of rape. Third, the data most widely reported in the press are derived from household sampling. Inherent in this is a methodological bias that misses many who are at great risk for sexual victimization in the United States: inmates, the vast majority of whom are male.

The conceptualization of men as perpetrators and women as victims remains the dominant sexual victimization paradigm. Scholars have offered various explanations for why victimization that runs counter to this paradigm receives little attention. These include the ideas that female-perpetrated abuse is rare or nonexistent, that male victims experience less harm,8 and that for men all sex is welcome.

Some posit that because dominant feminist theory relies heavily on the idea that men use sexual aggression to subordinate women, findings perceived to conflict with this theory, such as female-perpetrated violence against men, are politically unpalatable. Others argue that researchers have a conformity bias, leading them to overlook research data that conflict with their prior beliefs.

We question the assumption that feminist theory requires disproportionate concern for female victims… When the harms that women experience are held out as exceedingly more common and more worrisome, this can perpetuate norms that see women as disempowered victims,7 reinforcing the idea that women are “noble, pure, passive, and ignorant”… The belief that men are unlikely victims promotes a counterproductive construct of what it means to “be a man”… Expectations about male invincibility are constraining for men and boys; they may also harm women and girls by perpetuating regressive gender norms.

Another common gender stereotype portrays men as sexually insatiable ..[which] runs counter to evidence that men who experience sexual abuse report problems such as depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, loss of self esteem, and long-term relationship difficulties.

A related argument for treating male victimization as less worrisome holds that male victims experience less physical force than do female victims …a recent multiyear analysis of the BJS National Crime Victim Survey (NCVS) found no difference between male and female victims in the use of a resistance strategy during rape and sexual assault (89% of both men and women did so). A weapon was used in 7% of both male and female incidents, and although resultant injuries requiring medical care were higher in women, men too experienced significant injuries (12.6% of females and 8.5% of males).

A male victim’s sexual arousal, which is not uncommon during nonconsensual sex, may add to the misapprehension that the victimization was a welcome event. Feelings of embarrassment, the victim’s fear that he will not be believed, and the belief that reporting itself is unmasculine have all been cited as reasons for male resistance to reporting sexual victimization.

The minimization of male sexual victimization and the hesitancy of victims to come forward may also contribute to a paucity of legal action concerning male sexual victimization. Although state laws have become more gender neutral, criminal prosecution for the sexual victimization of men remains rare and has been attributed to a lack of concern for male victims.

Not only does the traditional sexual victimization paradigm mask male victimization, it can obscure sexual abuse perpetrated by women as well as same-sex victimization… One multiyear analysis of the NCVS household survey found that 46% of male victims reported a female perpetrator. Of juveniles reporting staff sexual misconduct, 89% were boys reporting abuse by female staff.

Despite such complexities, as recently as 2012, the National Incident Based Reporting System (a component of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program [UCR]) included male rape victims but still maintained that for victimization to be categorized as rape, at least one of the perpetrators had to be of the opposite sex.

Although the definitions and categorization of these harms have become more gender inclusive over time, bias against recognizing male victimization remains.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began tracking violent crime in 1930, the rape of men was excluded. Until 2012, the UCR, through which the FBI collects annual crime data, defined “forcible rape” as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” (emphasis added). Approximately 17,000 local law enforcement agencies used this female-only definition for the better part of a century when submitting standardized data to the FBI.

In 2012 the FBI revised its 80-year-old definition of rape to the following: “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.” Although the new definition reflects a more inclusive understanding of sexual victimization, it appears to still focus on the penetration of the victim, which excludes victims who were made to penetrate.

The NISVS’s 12-month prevalence estimates of sexual victimization show that male victimization is underrepresented when victim penetration is the only form of nonconsensual sex included in the definition of rape. The number of women who have been raped (1,270,000) is nearly equivalent to the number of men who were “made to penetrate” (1,267,000)… both men and women experienced “sexual coercion” and “unwanted sexual contact,” with women more likely than men to report the former and men slightly more likely to report the latter.

Stemple - Figure 1

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This striking finding – that men and women reported similar rates of nonconsensual sex in a 12-month period – might have made for a newsworthy finding. Instead, …in the first headline of the fact sheet aiming to summarize the NISVS findings the CDC asserted, “Women are disproportionally affected by sexual violence.” .. Unsurprisingly, media outlets then emphasized the material the CDC highlighted in its summary material.

In addition, the full NISVS report presents data on sexual victimization in two main categories: rape and other sexual violence. “Rape,” the category of nonconsensual sex that disproportionately affects women, is given its own table, whereas “made to penetrate,” the category that disproportionately affects men, is treated as a subcategory, placed under and tabulated as “other sexual violence” alongside lesser-harm categories…

Additionally, much more information is provided about rape than being made to penetrate. The NISVS report gives separate prevalence estimates for completed versus attempted rape and for rape that was facilitated by alcohol or drugs. No such breakdown is given concerning victims who were made to penetrate, although such data were collected… These various reporting practices may draw disproportionate attention to the sexual victimization of women, implying that it is a more worrisome problem than is the sexual victimization of men.

Prioritizing rape over being made to penetrate may seem an obvious and important distinction.. But a more careful examination shows that prioritizing rape over other forms of nonconsensual sex is sometimes difficult to justify, for example, in the case of an adult forcibly performing oral sex on an adolescent girl and on an adolescent boy. Under the CDC’s definitions, the assault on the girl (if even slightly penetrated in the act) would be categorized as rape but the assault on the boy would not.

By introducing the term “made to penetrate,” the CDC has added new detail to help understand what happens when men are sexually victimized… The CDC’s own press release about the survey, for example, uses the word “rape” (or “raped”) seven times and makes no mention of “made to penetrate.”

Similarly, the FBI’s revised UCR definition, although a distinct improvement over the 1929 female-only definition, still seems to maintain an exclusive focus on the victim’s penetration. Therefore, to the extent that males experience nonconsensual sex differently (i.e., being made to penetrate), male victimization will remain vastly undercounted in federal data collection on violent crime.

This focus on the directionality of the act runs counter to the trend toward greater gender inclusivity in sexual victimization definitions over the past four decades. The broader and more inclusive term “sexual assault” has replaced the term “rape” in at least 37 states.

Without seeking to outline an entirely new classification scheme, we posit that “rape” as currently defined by the CDC and the FBI will continue to foster the under-recognition of the extent of male victimization. Terms such as “sexual assault” and “sexual victimization,” if defined in gender-inclusive ways, have the potential to capture the kind of abuse with which federal agencies ought to be concerned.

Sampling Bias

In population-based sexual victimization studies, as in many other areas, researchers use a sampling frame that is restricted to US households. This excludes, among others, those held in juvenile detention, jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers. Because of the explosion of the US prison and jail population to nearly 2.3 million people and the disproportionate representation of men (93% of prisoners and 87% of those in jail) among the incarcerated, household surveys – including the closely watched NCVS – miss many men, especially low-income and minority men who are incarcerated at the time the household survey is conducted.

The National Inmate Survey 2011–2012 shows that slightly more men than women in jails and prisons reported staff sexual misconduct, which includes all incidents of sexual contact with staff… Women in jails and prisons reported more inmate-on-inmate abuse than did men.

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In the National Survey of Youth in Custody 2012, about 9.5% of male and female juvenile detainees reported sexual victimization in the 12 months before the interview… But gender differences were observed: females were more likely than were males to report sexual victimization by other youths and males were more likely than were females to report sexual victimization by facility staff.

The 2012 NCVS’s household estimates indicate that 131,259 incidents of rape and sexual assault were committed against males. Using adjusted numbers from the detainee surveys, we roughly estimate that more than 900,000 sexual victimization incidents were committed against incarcerated males.

The newer NISVS and the BJS detainee surveys show less disparity between male and female reports of sexual victimization than does the longstanding crime survey, NCVS. In 2012, male victims experienced 38% of incidents, but the previous five years of NCVS data show…the percentage of rape and sexual assault incidents committed against males ranged from only 5% to 14% from 2007 to 2011… The victim-sensitive survey methods used more recently in the NISVS and the BJS detainee surveys may be especially useful for eliciting male disclosure.


While recognizing and lamenting the threat that sexual victimization continues to pose for women and girls, we aim to bring into the fold the vast cohort of male victims who have been overlooked in research, media, and governmental responses. In so doing, we first argue that it is time to move past the male perpetrator and female victim paradigm. Over-reliance on it stigmatizes men who are victimized, risks portraying women as victims, and discourages discussion of abuse that runs counter to the paradigm, such as same-sex abuse and female perpetration of sexual victimization.

Second, we note that to bring greater attention to the full spectrum of sexual victimization, definitions and categories of harm that federal agencies use should be revised to eliminate gendered and heterosexist bias. Specifically, the emphasis on the directionality of the sex act (i.e., the focus on victim penetration) should be abandoned. Such revisions in terminology and categorization of harms should aim to include sexual victimization regardless of the gender of victims and perpetrators. To better capture the forms of victimization with which federal agencies ought to be concerned, studies should use victim-sensitive survey methods that facilitate disclosure and may be especially prone to illicit male reporting.

Third, any comprehensive portrayal of sexual victimization in the United States must acknowledge the now extensively well-documented victimization of incarcerated persons to accurately reflect the experiences of large numbers of sexually victimized men. Because the United States disproportionately incarcerates Black, Hispanic, low-income, and mentally ill persons, accounting for the experience of the incarcerated population will help researchers and policymakers better understand the intersecting factors that lead to the sexual victimization of already marginalized groups. Homeless persons and other institutionalized individuals may be similarly vulnerable. To arrive at better estimates of sexual victimization, analytic approaches that combine data from households and non-household populations are necessary.

Finally, a gender-conscious analysis of sexual victimization as it affects both women and men is needed and is not inconsistent with a gender-neutral approach to defining abuse. Indeed, masculinized dominance and feminized subordination can take place regardless of the biological sex or sexual orientation of the actors. We therefore advocate for the use of gender-conscious analyses that avoid regressive stereotyping, to which both women and men are detrimentally subject. This includes an understanding of how gender norms can affect the sexual victimization of all persons.


by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes

See also:

When Progressive Social Change Becomes Regressive Ideology: From Women’s Liberation to Cultural Misandry – ReHonoring Masculinity & Achieving Gender Justice

Misandric Feminism vs. Progressive Gender Equality (excerpt of above)

Male Victims of Sexual Violence (also an excerpt of the first essay)

Yellow Journalism and the Meme of “Rape Culture” – Rolling Stone and U-VA Gang Rape

Dear President Sullivan – letter from 17 attorneys involved with campus sexual assault claims throughout America, detailing specific reasons why they “are concerned that the University’s Proposed Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is both vastly over inclusive in attempting to define prohibited conduct and ill equipped to guarantee a procedure for resolving allegations that is fair and impartial”.

It’s Time for a U-VA Apology – Op-Ed from a 25-year U-VA professor and his U-VA junior son

Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas – the Sabrina Rubin Erdely Story

New Puritanism – New Paternalism – The “Rape Culture” Narrative Demeans Women, Demonizes Men, and Turns Universities into Witch Hunt Tribunals

Dear Senators – letter from 20 attorneys critical of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 2692)

Sexual Assault and Justice: Can we reconcile the belated attention to rape on campus with due process? by Nancy Gertner, feminist lawyer, retired federal judge and Harvard Law professor

The Pendulum Reverses – Again – The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses & Men Strike Back against Title IX Tribunals

HELP for DOE Regulatory Excess – A Senate Task Force Report Recommends Scaling Back the Mountain of Regulations Strangling Higher Education Institutions

Men are Twice-Raped – Domestically and Globally, Men and Boys are Victims of Sexual Violence at rates Equal to those of Women, and are Assumed to be Villains whenever a Woman Accuses

All Sex is Rape – All Men are Rapists : Patriarchy = Rape Culture

A Model of Campus Gender-Based Harassment – The Columbia University “Mattress” Story

A Case Study in “Politically-Correct” Reactionary Response – The Duke Lacrosse Team Stripper Rape Hoax

When the Megaphone becomes the Gavel – Two legal experts on sex discrimination law and procedure argue that the current Title IX mandates for America’s colleges and universities are legally unsupportable and both practically and ethically indefensible.

Two Over-Privileged Millennials Engage in Sex and Get F-cked – The Stanford “Model” Student and her Silicon Valley Mentor



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