For a long time our paradigm of sexual assault
has been of a male perpetrator and female victim and for good reason because historically
rape has been a tool of female subjugation and statistically women are likelier to be
raped by a male perpetrator. That paradigm also leaves out some important nuance. As
I am reminded pretty much any time I talk about on Stuff Mom Never Told You women, consent
and sexual assault, someone raises their hand to say hey it happens to men too. And you
know what? They’re right. Fact number 1: Male sexual victimization happens
more often than you might think. Laura Stemple with UCLA’s Health and Human Rights Law project
analyzed five federal surveys in the United States and the high rate of sexual victimization
among men directly challenges our assumption that men are only the perpetrators. Fact 2:
Certain groups of men are at higher risk of sexual assault. Male prisoners are to rape
as well as coerced sex. When that happens it’s not counted in data of sexual assault
among the general population which not only diminishes the personhood of prisoners, but
also would more accurately reflect how often this happens. Fact 3: Sometimes women are
the perpetrators. According to the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence
Survey 93.9% of men who reported being raped also reported male perpetrators. However,
when the CDC also asked about men who were made to penetrate, 1 in 21 men reported that
yes that that had happened to them and 79.2% of those perpetrators were female. Similarly
among men who reported being sexually coerced over 83% of those perpetrators were also female.
Remember friends consent is a two-way street. Which leads us to fact number four, that researchers
have found men are hesitant to report instances of sexual victimization because they are ashamed,
because they’re scared they won’t be taken seriously. Because they’re scared that it
will threaten their very masculinity and manhood because talking about paradigms, our prevailing
paradigm of sex and gender is that men are insatiable and they never wouldn’t want it.
Which when it comes to the realm of consent we’re in very dicey territory at that point.
As much as we absolutely need to dismantle the slut-shaming and victim-blaming and sexual
double-standards that also leaves women often in a double bind when it comes to reporting
sexual assault, we also need to make sure that men too have the ability to report and
have their victimizations taken seriously. Finally fact number 5: we probably need new
or broader language to talk about sexual assault. It wasn’t even until 2012 that the FBI updated
it’s official definition of forcible rape to remove the word female and effectively
de-gender it. Statistics will change and experiences will be illuminated when we focus on more
penis-specific questions and scenarios. Bonus fact: addressing the issue of male sexual
victimization and yes the existence of female perpetrators does not in any way not one iota
diminish the need for our continued conversations and focus and resources for female victims
of sexual assault and male perpetrators and ending that whole cycle as well. Our resources
and our compassion in general should be neither finite nor gender segregated. No one deserves
to be assaulted, no one deserves to be coerced, no one deserves harassment or unwanted sexual
contact but everyone, everyone should have access to resources and a pathway to healing.
Full stop.