Male sexual assault – dispelling the myths

Male sexual assault is a serious crime that is often “hidden” from the publics view for a number of complex sociological reasons.  For some this blog entry will be stating the blindingly obvious, for others it might be the first time they have thought about this issue.  For others however, I hope it will begin to break down some lingering myths around male sexual assault.

Male rape is not a new phenomenon, but it is only just beginning to be fully recognized by our legal system. It only became a specific legal offence in 1994.

Some people refuse to believe that male rape (or sexual assault) happens regularly enough for it to be considered as a serious policy issue.  This is far from the truth.  Although men are disproportionately the perpetrators of sexual offences, recorded crime shows that men are also victims of it.

There is an on-going myth that male sexual assault is somehow related to either the perpetrators or the victim’s sexuality.  Firstly, it should be noted that the majority of male sexual attacks are undertaken by heterosexual men on heterosexual men.  Secondly it should be noted that rape, in the act itself (whether it be on a women or a man) has been shown to be about control, power and dominance not about sex or sexuality.

Men are often considered to be in a better situation to “get over it” than women because they are more robust and do not risk pregnancy.  Rubbish, men have the same potential to feel shame, self-blame and guilt as women.  For some men, being sexually assaulted can lead to serious long-term consequences that should not be underestimated.  Whilst being assaulted some men experience erections and sometimes ejaculations.  This can lead to the victim questioning their sexuality; it can result in erection problems or an inability to ejaculate.  It can lad to the victim questioning whether they might have sub-consciously “wanted it”.  None of the physical reactions imply there was consent or even genuine sexual arousal.

It is often said that women do not assault men.  Rubbish again.  Although the majority of male sexual assault cases reported are men attacking men, women can, and do attack men.  Often men find it hard to report such a crime for the stigma attached to it.

People often think about male sexual assault in a stereotypical sense with it only occurring in prisons or Catholic churches. People find it harder to interpret the rugby initiations sessions, or the other “normal” activities as potential locations that can lead to male assault.  Male rape, like raping a woman is disproportionately likley to be undertaken by someone the victim knows.  As a man, you are very unlikely to be raped, but incredibly unlikely to be raped by a stranger.

Male rape remains an exceptionally large taboo.  The likelihood of a victim reporting an incident remains low.  The likelihood of the police taking the victim seriously and then undertaking a proper investigation that is not plagued by false assumptions and prejudices remains lower.  If someone confides in you remember it has taken a lot of courage for them to tell you. Do not assume that the victim “has to tell police” but hand power back to the victim by offering them help by simply asking what you can do.  You can always refer them to the specialist help centres set up to help people through such terrible incidents. or ring Survivors UK on 020 73576677


Filed under sexuality

5 responses to “Male sexual assault – dispelling the myths

  1. Pingback: Power not sexuality is behind the Cardinal’s resignation | Hynd's Blog

  2. Alan-a-dale,

    “Notwithstanding the fact that women do sometimes assault men in a variety of ways, rape – of both men and women – is usually carried out by men.”

    This was already pointed out in the original post, and is already common knowledge- indeed, the great majority of people overestimate the extent to which it is true. All bringing it up again in the comments does is further marginalize male victims of sexual violence by diverting discussion of males as victims into a discussion of males as victimizers, thus reinforcing both the invisibility of male victims and the “men are strong and invulnerable” cultural attitudes you refer to.


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  4. Alan-a-dale

    Notwithstanding the fact that women do sometimes assault men in a variety of ways, rape – of both men and women – is usually carried out by men.

    Surely part of the reason for this (without getting into the psychology of individual perpetrators) is that we continue to promote an image of men in society that values the very characteristics that lead some men to carry out sexual assaults – strength, power, dominance and control.

    Sadly, for some men who cannot find a legitimate way to achieve personal power or demonstrate their strength and influence by, say, becoming a politician or joining the army, rape becomes an alternative route to personal affirmation of their masculinity.

    Rape – of either sex – is a societal problem related to how we raise boys as much as it is about the criminal behaviour of certain disturbed individuals.


  5. Martin Whiteside

    Excellent – important topic and interesting. I would be interested to know a bit more about current thinking on the power, control and dominance ‘reasons’ of the perpetrators of both male and female rape. What works in terms of addressing the underlying causes at individual and society level?


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