This is a post I've been mulling over, off and on, for a while now but was never really sure how to write it. In (almost) any discussion about rape you will have a contingent of men who bemoan how male victims of rape are never talked about (What about the men?!?) - and this is done in such a way as to derail the discussion at hand. This isn't done out of a genuine desire to learn or educate about the victims of rape who are men. One of the responses you often see to these comments is something along the lines of "This isn't the place to talk about that - if you want to have that discussion then have it, but not on a post/comment/article about women and rape" - and I've often said similar things myself.

I want to have this discussion, so that's what this post aims to do - and do it in such a way as to not minimize the female victims. And I hope it come across as a discussion of the topic at hand and not as a kludge to silence anyone else.

Today, I came across an article in Slate - "When Men Are Raped". The subheading was "A new study reveals that men are often the victims of sexual assault..". I knew the statistic that 1 in 6 men are victims of childhood sexual assault, and I was also aware (in the abstract) that male victims of rape are chronically under reported (as are female victims of course). What I wasn't expecting was this line:

"Last year the National Crime Victimization Survey turned up a remarkable statistic. In asking 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence, the survey uncovered that 38 percent of incidents were against men."

38% of incidents rape and sexual violence were against men? That was a numberfar greater than I was expecting.[*]

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A new paper has been published (The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions Stemple, Meyer) that looks at 5 different federal studies of sexual victimization, including, the NCVS study and a 2010 CDC study titled the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

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Part of this reporting problem is how rape and sexual violence are defined - up until 2012 the FBI's definition of rape was "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will". Legally, men could not be victims of rape(according to the FBI). They've since updated their definition to focus on "penetration" with no mention of gender - but no FBI statistics have been gathered using that definition as of yet.

What is interesting about the CDC study is that it created a new classification of sexual assault they referred to as "being made to penetrate". This includes victims who were forced to penetrate someone else with their own body parts by force or when they were otherwise unable to consent. When those cases were taken into account - the rates of nonconsensual sex nearly equalized between men (1.267 million victims) and women (1.270 million victims) in the 12 months prior to the study period.

This graph (from the Stemple/Meyer study) illustrates the the distribution of Rape vs Made to Penetrate (In percentage of victims in the population):

The CDC summaries do not put "Rape" and "Made to penetate" on equal footing however - when it comes to the charts they released, Rape has its own category whereas "Made to penetrate" is lumped in with "Other sexual Violence", which also includes categories like "Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences". To quote the Stemple study:

"In addition, the full NISVS report presents data on sexual victimization in 2 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 such as 'noncontact unwanted sexual experiences […]"

Media and information summarized and released by the CDC reflected that view as well:

"[…] in the first headline of the fact sheet aiming to summarize the NISVS findings the CSC asserted, 'Women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.' Similarly the fact sheet's first bullet point stated '1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.' Because of the prioritization of rape, the fact sheet failed to note that a similar number of men reported nonconsenual sex […]"

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The Slate article has a personal story from Rafael Yglesias regarding his childhood rape - and it hit me in the gut (I can directly relate to the difference between words like 'molested' and 'raped'). I won't post the excerpt here because it's a bit more graphic than I want - but under the old FBI definition, what happened to him (and me, and millions of other victims) wasn't rape (but if the genders were swapped, it would be). Without the new CDC classification, being forced to penetrate someone isn't rape.

"Made to penetrate" is an awkward phrase that hasn't gotten any traction. It's also something we instinctively don't associate with sexual assault. But is it possible our instincts are all wrong here? We might assume, for example, that if a man has an erection he must want sex, especially because we assume men are sexually insatiable.

This part also hit home - because it speaks to a massive degree of internalized misogyny. Because this assumption is held by so many people that what happens to men can't be rape. If they have an erection, it can't be rape because they obviously want it. This is a feminist issue (not an issue with feminists) - this is why I need feminism, and why it is good for men. These ideas are incredibly damaging.

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The other statistic that I found very surprising was that 46% of male victims reported a female perpetrator. This challenges the (misogynistic) idea that women are weaker than men, and that women can't be predators. This does not mean men experience the same culture around rape that women do, or that they have it worse. It is different and can't really be compared directly - except that you can follow the roots back to the patriarchal society we live in.

The fact that these numbers were so surprising to me speaks loudly about how I've come to understand sexual violence in society - and I think the Stemple/Meyer study's conclusion is aptly put:

"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, the 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."

This is a conversation that needs to happen.

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TL;DR - I want this post to provide some information that I found troubling on male victims of sexual assault/abuse/rape. I want to present it in a way that isn't throwing any other people under the bus (except rapists, they are free to go under a bus) and I hope I accomplished that. I do not want this to be used as ammo to derail arguments about women - I am putting this here because I think this is something that needs to be discussed in place/form that doesn't make something women are experiencing about men.

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[*] - (For some background - the NCVS study is done annually via interviews, twice a year and asks the respondents about the number and characteristics of victimizations experienced in the last 6 months (Information here). For the 2012 study they interviewed 92,390 households and 162,940 people 12 and older.)

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Some resources for help:

https://1in6.org/

http://www.rainn.org/

http://www.malesurvivor.org/

http://pandys.org/

(Updated 6/6/14 - After reading the study I reworded some parts that were ambiguous, and added a chart from the study)

This Post also appears here.