Our society is still plagued by myths and misconception about male sexual abuse and rape. In order to help men and young men who have experienced sexual violence we must challenge these misconceptions and explode the myths.
Accepting and understanding the reality rather than buying into the myths can give survivors the strength they need to come forward and speak out. The reality of male sexual abuse needs to be understood by survivors themselves, their partners, family and friends and by professionals in other disciplines who work with them.
Below are a selection of the most common questions that are asked about male sexual abuse and rape and some of the more common myths that we hear about. We hope they help you gain more understanding of this issue in whatever capacity you are reading this page.
What is male sexual assault?
Male sexual assault happens when you are forced to participate in any sexual act with another man or woman which you do not want to consent to.
Who gets sexually assaulted?
Actually any man can potentially be sexually assaulted. It may have happened when you were a child or young man or as an adult. As with female sexual assault vulnerable children are easier targets. Male sexual assault is not a gay crime, statistics show that sexual assault happens to more heterosexual men than gay men.
What are the effects of sexual assault?
The effects may include anger, depression, feelings of guilt, isolation, suicidal thoughts and attempts, self injury, low self esteem, obsessive compulsive behaviours, severe PTSD, alcohol and drug addictions. The above list is not exhaustive and every individual will be affected differently.
How common is male sexual abuse?
As a result of the barriers society creatures around male disclosure accurate statistics are difficult to quote. Sources place prevalence between 5 and 20%. The one thing everyone agrees on is that male sexual assault is hugely under reported.
Why is male sexual assault and rape not talked about?
Society has placed norms on male behaviour just as unfairly as it does with women. Men are expected to be ‘strong’, ‘resilient’, ‘protective’, and ‘able’ to look after themselves and other people’. When a man or young man has been sexually assaulted these stereotypes make seeking support very difficult. If no one speaks out society likes to believe there is no problems. Male survivors often end up blaming themselves for not living up to the societal expectations. A common belief within wider society is that male rape and sexual assault does not happen.
Myth: ‘Real’ men don’t get sexually assaulted, only gay men.
Reality: Men and young men are sexually assaulted every day and abusers do not discriminate on any grounds. Sexual assault is often used in anti-gay violence, but by no means exclusively so. As previously stated the true extent of male sexual abuse is not known. Some studies suggest that a reason for under reporting amongst gay men may be fear of any unsympathetic response from the police, whilst heterosexual men often refuse to report sexual assault through fear of being thought of or labelled as gay.
Myth: If a man experiences sexual arousal or orgasm during assault, it means he was willing and enjoyed it.
Reality: Men can and do have an erection during anal penetration regardless of whether this is consensual or not. It is purely an involuntary physiological reaction that is outwith conscious control. It is a bit like when it is cold you get goose bumps, whether you want them or not is irrelevant; you cannot control them, they are an involuntary physiological reaction. However with sexual assault, abusers often use this as evidence of sexual arousal and therefore of willingness and enjoyment. In fact it does not mean that at all, it is a purely physiological reaction over which there is no choice.