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Rape of Males: Burden of Masculinity and Stigma

By Ashley Scofield

At rape is defined as "the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse." This definition excludes males as possible victims of rape. Fortunately, law enforcement definitions or rape include experiences that may apply to male victims.

The legal definition of rape may include:

These rape behaviors may apply to nearly anyone, but people often assume they apply to females only. Why are males excluded from considerations of rape, other than being thought of as the perpetrator? Particularly ignored is the possibility that a female might rape a male. Perhaps this possibility has been ignored due to a set of myths about males, females, and sexuality.
Myth #1: Men and boys cannot be victims of female perpetrators.

Why? Males are taught that they must be able to defend themselves and be the stronger sex; certainly they should not be vulnerable to a female.

Reality: Boys are, first and foremost, children. They have neither the strength nor knowledge to fight off a rapist. With regard to men, they are usually shocked by what is happening and do not consider fighting until it is too late. Tactics used by female offenders will be discussed below.
Myth #2: If a boy or adolescent is assaulted, he should feel lucky to have been initiated into heterosexual sex.

Why? Males are taught that they should always want to engage in sex.

Reality: Whether the female is a stranger or known to the child, the boy will likely feel confused, enraged, and depressed at the realization that he is being used as a mere sex object.

Myth #3: Males are less traumatized by abuse than are females.

Why? Males do not have the fear of becoming pregnant and there is usually less physical force than when a male rapes a female.

Reality: Research has shown that males victims of rape may suffer just as much psychologically as do female victims. The long-term effects include PTSD, sexual dysfunctions, and depression. And, although men do not have to worry about pregnancy, they do face the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

Myth #4: If a male experiences an erection and/or ejaculation during an assault, he must have wanted and/or enjoyed the experience.

Why? Most people assume that an erection is always a voluntary action.

Reality: An erection can be voluntary or involuntary. The diagram below shows the neural pathways involving the penis. The bold black pathway shows the voluntary arousal of a male. This pathway travels from the penis to spinal cord to the brain and there is a deliberate decision to become aroused. The red line shows the involuntary erection that men often confuse with wanting to have sex. In this neural pathway a penis can be manipulated (stroked, fondled, sucked on) causing signals to be sent from the penis to the spinal cord and back to the penis, resulting in an erection. This means that a man can get an erection without wanting to or being aware of it. An example is when boy gets an erection during class or while sleeping.

Ejaculation is also a natural part of an erection. Neither an erection nor ejaculation automatically means that a male wanted to have sex. In fact. some females become aroused, lubricate, or orgasm while being raped, but does this means she wanted to be raped? The same logic applies to a male, with sexual response being similarly out of the individual's control.

Tactics Used by Female Rapists
  • Often the female is physically weaker than her victim, so she might use drugs and alcohol to incapacitate the male.
  • The element of surprise may be used so that male does not have time to resist.
  • The male may be threatened with psychological intimidation, such as, “Do me or I will tell people you are gay.”
  • The male’s erection and ejaculation may be used as a rationale to make the male believe he wanted sex: “You were hard and came, you must have wanted it.”
  • A female may manually stimulate a male to erection or take advantage of nocturnal erections.

Problems Males Frequently Face After an Assault
  • Most men are too ashamed to bring charges against their rapist for several reasons. Many men believe (rightly so) that the police will not take their accusations seriously. Some men have been told to “forget what happened to you”, “feel lucky you got some”, and “there is no point in trying to pursue this legally, you cannot win.” Also, being raped by a female is uncommon: Three percent of rapes reported by men have a female perpetrator.
  • Female rapists are not treated as harshly as are male rapists. The average time an adult female spends in jail for the rape of a male minor is 0-2 years. The average time for an adult male and female minor is 10-30 years along with subsequent registation on the community sex offender list.
  • Males frequently experience psychological problems such as guilt, shame, fear, confusion, depression, and loss of masculinity. These problems can become chronic because many males do not receive help.
  • Sexual dysfunction immediately and later in life also adds to the shame that a male may feel from his assault.

When a man is raped by a female the damage this causes can be devastating. The lack of help and understanding from law enforcement and the general public causes many men to deal with their ordeal alone. If you or a man you know has been raped or can provide help.

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