The Shocking Truth About Male Sexual Assault

Male_Rape
From Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow to Terry Richardson and Charlotte Waters, high-profile accusations of sexual assault have been in the news a lot lately. And, the definition of just what constitutes terms like "rape" and "sexual assault" — and just who gets to define them — has been up for considerable debate. But, except for a few isolated headlines, the subject of male rape, and what exactly that phrase means, has remained firmly outside the mainstream conversation.
Until now, that is. A new study, published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, surveyed 284 high school- and college-aged young men on their sexual experiences. Of those 284, 43% said they had experienced sexual coercion, with 18% reporting experiences of women or men using physical force to coerce them into having sex.
The subjects cited nonviolent forms of coercion as well — 31% said they had experienced verbal coercion to engage in sexual activity, while 26% cited "unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors." Probably most shocking, however: One in five respondents who had experienced sexual coercion said it resulted in them having sex against their will. It bears mentioning here that "sex," for the purposes of the study, was defined as oral, anal, or vaginal. Also, researchers pointed out that the "coercion" did not always originate from the sexual partner — both peer pressure and self-coercion were cited as factors in a few of the cases reported. The researchers also found that 95% of the reported instances of "unwanted sexual contact" were made by women.
In its coverage of the research, Time asked the study's authors a pretty tone-deaf, if not unexpected, question: Is it possible for a man to get raped if he doesn't have an erection (or even if he does)? The scientific community has long established that men experience involuntary erections. Just because a man is physically capable of having penetrative sex does not necessarily mean he has consented to it.
It's questions like these that lead to a slippery slope when we discuss sexual assault. Anyone who feels they have the right to categorize which (demonstrably traumatic) experiences count as sexual assault and which do not are only a stone's throw away from those who think certain types of sexual assault are more legitimate than others. We exist in a culture where male sexual coercion and assault is a topic that we don't know how to talk about — largely because of the way masculinity and male sexuality are constructed in our culture. Maybe now that there are at least some solid numbers that demonstrate the prevalence of this issue, we'll be able to figure out a way to actually talk about it like adults.

More from Sex & Relationships

I had just ended my second “serious relationship” and had been back in the usual rotation of dating apps when I met Drew*. Drew was a man that my mother ...
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that sexting can be great for your relationship. Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a while or you’re just ...
Heartbreak doesn’t just hurt, it often feels impossible. So many questions come along with the pain: How can I move on? How do I get through this? Will it ...
Amber Rose doesn't do "off days." "I always feel confident," she tells us. "I never allow myself to not feel confident. I wake up and say, I’m going out ...
In the best-case scenario, you go on a first date with someone, and you hit it off. The chemistry is off the charts, and you're never at a loss for what to...
Sexting was never my thing, and I sure as hell never thought I would even consider cybersex. I knew myself — or at least, I thought I did. I’ll get too ...
Historically, women in West Africa have not had a voice. Men decide if their wife or wives can use birth control or have access to money; fathers decide if...
(Paid Content) You don't need a degree in common sense to know getting involved with a coworker is a bad idea. Yet, we probably all know someone who has, ...
Foreplay often doesn't get enough credit — not to mention time or attention. In one study of heterosexual couples published in the Journal of Sexual ...
Aside from encountering creeps and starting conversations that just don't go anywhere, one major problem online daters face is catfishing. According to a...
A version of this story originally appeared on Shape. When it comes to female pleasure, there's enough misinformation out there to fill a book. One of ...
This article was originally published on December 18, 2015. According to stereotypes, men are the sexually voracious cheaters and women are the ...
We're great fans of accessorizing in the bedroom. Au naturel stimulation is wonderful, but sex toys can do things that people just can't. The sex toy ...
Even as the sex toy market continues to expand, there remain a few vital "firsts" for the industry to tackle. This week, with the arrival of the Buck-Off...