This is a difficult story to write. How do we talk about men being raped by women, when we don’t know what that looks like? We don’t have words for it and there are very few news articles about it.
But incidences of sexual violence against males – perpetrated by females – is more common than we think.
A survey of 40,000 households in the US found 38 per cent of the victims of sexual assault were male.
Partner this with a recent analysis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the US, which found 46 per cent of male victims were sexually assaulted by a female perpetrator.
In Australia the numbers are similar. An analysis of the 2013 ABS Personal Safety Survey found one in 25 men have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. That, in the year leading up to the survey, almost one in three victims of sexual assault were male. And that more men experience sexual assault perpetrated by a female, rather than a male.
Oftentimes, it’s the somewhat-predictable scenario of an older woman, and an adolescent or prepubescent male.
“Consent can’t really be given when you’re in that state no matter how immature or mature you may feel,” Aaron Gilmore told News.com.au of the abuse he suffered between the ages of 12 and 18. “She was genuinely nice to me. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my own mother, I even called her my second mother. She won my trust.”
Sometimes it’s child abuse.
“One of my best friends was raped by one of his mom’s friends’ daughter. He was 8, she was 17. He was ‘lucky’ and she was ‘just confused’. His dad called him a player, lady’s man, etc.” – fxckthehalo told Reddit
Sometimes the victim is an adult male. Penetrated, or forced to penetrate, without offering consent.
“I kept telling her that I didn’t want to go any further, and she kept telling me to ‘just relax’. I felt as though the word ‘no’ must have meant something different coming out of my mouth than the mouth of someone else,” ASoulNotASmithy said on Reddit. “That’s when she got me drunk. So drunk that I was barely conscious and had to piece together what had happened based on little flashes here and there – lying face up on a cold bathroom floor with her mouth wrapped around me, and her pushing her genitals onto my face. She told me what we had done afterwards, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if I didn’t even have the right to feel violated. Everyone I told still said it was my fault, and that my anxiety around drinking and sex during the following years was just ‘a case of the nerves’.”
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Men who’ve been sexually assaulted by a woman face issues and questions and problems that are unique to being a male victim.
First off, the most common question: How?
If he was erect, how does that count as sexual assault?
Imagine if we said the same thing about a woman? That if she presented some symptoms of physical arousal, wetness most comparatively, that she is somehow stripped of her right to say ‘no’?
Being forced into penetrative sex is the type of sexual assault men most commonly report. A 2010 study found 79.2 per cent of the perpetrators in these cases are female.
Then, if we’re talking about adult male victims, what were his options?
If a man pushes back against a woman who is being sexually coercive, if he takes physical control, what happens if he physically hurts the woman involved? “I figured the safest way and most discreet way I could end this situation, was by just going through with it,” Ijusthadtoshareit said via Reddit.
Finally, who talks to him?
The overwhelming statistics around females and sexual assault – that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – mean male victims are often forgotten. No one talks to male victims in awareness campaigns. There are fewer support groups. Less information about what constitutes male rape, how to report it, how to handle the aftermath.
Added to this, other men use language like “you were lucky” or “you got laid, right?” when talking to male victims of sexual assault. As if being coerced into non-consensual sex is something to be grateful for. Proud of, even.
The legal system is catching up, too. The definition of sexual assault varies from state-to-state around Australia. And police officers often don’t know how to react to reports of sexual assault when a male is claiming he is the victim. “The officer said ‘I’m failing to see a crime here’ and my partner lost it,” Gilmore told News.com.au.
As we build the conversation around keeping women safe. And tell women they have every right to refuse sex, no matter where they’re walking, at what time, in what dress, after how many gin and tonics, we need to also talk to male victims of sexual assault.
Because the repercussions for these victims can be just as damning, debilitating, far-reaching. Made worse by the fact there are fewer people to listen, and even fewer who understand that men, just like women, always have the right to say ‘no’.