A new study seeks to challenge the way Americans think about rape specifically that men are the perpetrators and that women are the victims. In an essay for Slate, Hanna Rosin details a new study by Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer which shows that “the rates of nonconsensual sexual contact is basically equalized, with 1.270 million women and 1.267 million men claiming to be victims of sexual violence.”
Another remarkable revelation was that for 46 percent of male victims, the perpetrators were female. To many men and women this sounds almost impossible. Putting aside the cultural stereotype that men are “sexually insatiable,” this marked increase in male victims—which historically have comprised anywhere from five to 14 percent of sexual assault victims—comes from data typically ignored.
First, the definition of rape is expanded to include a CDC-created term: made to penetrate. Essentially it’s exactly what it sounds like, someone forces another to penetrate his or her body. By dismissing the idea that an erection equals consent, this includes hundreds of thousands of cases wherein a female forces herself on an unwilling male partner.
Also included in Stemple and Meyer’s numbers are data gathered from US prisons, which are also inexplicably left out of national rape statistics. An examination of Bureau of Justice Statistics data on prisons found that reality defied the commonly held prejudices. Female inmates were far more often sexually assaulted by other inmates, whereas men were more likely to be assaulted by male guards.
Arguably, these data confirm what many have already suspected. The hole left by underreported male rape alone stunted any substantive discussion about rape and sexual violence in America. Of course, like any discovery of this nature, further research needs to be done in order to confirm or dispute these results. Yet it seems as if these male victims were always out there but, like female rape victims before them, no one wanted to see them.
Photo by Samantha Marx via Flickr Creative Commons.