A different gender bias

If you Google ‘men raped by men,’ you will find that it’s not a particularly useful search. The top results report women raped by men, most of which describe events that are only distinctive because multiple men perpetrated each rape. After scrolling down, the next most frequent results represent a blend of assault definitions and survivor resources that encourage education and communication about male rape. In the first few pages of results, only two report a news story involving an identified man (or boy) whose assailants are being pursued.

Male rape is not a well-publicized topic. Only through our class have we been forced to acknowledge this issue. It is a representation of the kind of violence that women either avoid thinking about or don’t understand and most men want to ignore completely. For years the law and the press ignored the rape of men. Accusations went unpursued, victims were discredited, and rapists were free to continue their lives with no fear of retribution.  The silence surrounding male rape prevented prosecution, but more importantly, it prevented victims from healing.

That silence could perhaps be attributed to the lack of occurrence in certain places. Although male rape likely occurs everywhere, it is in the areas in which its frequency is reportedly more prevalent where people have started to speak out against the violence (INCASA). It is also likely that the silence continues because of the fear of association with homosexuality. According to Tjaden and Thoennes, approximately 3% of American men have been raped in their lifetime. In comparison to the 17.6% of women, the number of men affected by rape is relatively smaller (Tjaden 7). However, ‘relatively smaller’ still equals approximately 2.78 million people so logically, there’s no reason for prevalence to be an excuse used to rationalize the lack of resources for male victims.

Walker, Archer and Davies report that, “the help and support for male victims of rape is more than 20 years behind that of female victims” (Walker 495). Although their study was focused on white British survivors, their findings support the hypothesis that there exists a gender bias in how society reacts and supports victims of sexual assault. Many of their participants claimed they were motivated to respond to the research proposal because they wanted to promote “informed publicity about male rape.” Many struggled to communicate with professionals who were not prepared to react to male victims in the same manner as they responded to females (Walker 500). Men have to worry more about being believed, because as one of last summer’s ASKMEN articles shows, many people don’t believe women can rape men. As a consequence, some men are left feeling emasculated. They are expected to be able to defend themselves and may develop self-blame as a result.

The authors of the British study found that the majority (90%) of the victims had faced some form of violence during the assault (Walker 497). Whether their current sexual orientation was gay, straight, bisexual or asexual at the time of the survey, none of the men involved wanted this to happen to them. They were left psychologically and often physically damaged in equal need of support and reassurance as their female counterparts.



Tjaden, Patricia and Nancy Thoennes. National Institute of Justice. Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. January 2006. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/210346.pdf

Walker, Jayne, John Archer and Michelle Davies. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Effects of Rape on Men: A Descriptive Analysis. 2005

INCASA. Resources For Survivors. When Men Are Raped. 2011 http://www.incasa.org/advocacy/survivor-resources/when-men-are-raped/

Walsh, Wendy. ASKMEN.com. Men Raped By Women. Can A Man Be Raped? http://www.askmen.com/dating/love_tip_3800/3838_men-raped-by-women.html

3 thoughts on “A different gender bias

  1. Jthinksaloud: Good Job bringing together class readings and outside research. One thing we did not talk about in class but I would love to hear your thoughts on is how might the sex abuse that took place as Penn State impact the discourse on male survivors of sexual abuse and rape? And do you think that the fact that this took place in the hallowed halls of masculinity also know as a football program will raise awareness or encourage further silence?

  2. This is a real issue that threatens the masculinity of our men. To be thought of as victims is not ‘normal.’ They are the symbol of strength and might so, they prefer to avoid anything that will deem them victims; especially to a sensitve topic like sex. I think that most guys will agree that they would rather keep situations like this under wraps so that they have no affliction to weakness. We should not judge these men to harshly for being ashamed of professing their issues if it was us who created their stigma in the first place.

  3. I’m going to guess that in the right publicist’s hands, those events could have been very useful in raising awareness. Given that I had heard of Jerry Sandusky and his trial yet had no idea of the investigation and scandal surrounding other Penn State officials, I think they did a pretty good job isolating the blame in the media. It shows great progress that so many survivors felt safe enough to band together and come forward. In the event that these victims tell their own stories and allow the public to know their identities, I think they could have a huge impact on the discourse of sexual assault on male victims. At the same time, the length of time Sandusky got a way with his crimes could be very destabilizing to the surrounding community and most influentially in the male athletic community.

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