The other night, I was sitting, with two of my friends, in the lounge area of a club whose usual members are senior citizens. After a few minutes of regular, polite talk (especially considering the surrounding population), we found ourselves passionately arguing about the reason why sex is still a taboo. Before reaching a conclusion and on an obvious jump, probably to avoid going much deeper into the debate, my friend who had actually started the last topic changed it to male rape. He was insisting that the current laws do not recognise men, adult males, as rape victims. They still view men as as sexual predator. This seemed deeply odd to me, I simply couldn’t believe that in the twenty first century we still have such discriminatory laws. As an act of defiance, I Googled the issue. (Interestingly, the club whose members average age is probably above 60, has free Internet!)To my huge surprise, my friend was right.
Based on a quick skim through first search results, current legal systems around the world normally assume victims of rape as females or under-age males (there are few exceptions like FBI’s Uniform Crime Report in 2012). This is obviously rooted in the traditional prejudice of men’s role in society. The reality, however, tells a whole different story.
Based on various studies around the world, at least 10% of “reported” rape victims are male. Some studies (the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) have even shown that one in every 71 men experience rape or sexual assault during their lives. In some regions, for example Hong Kong, the reported number of male rape is surprisingly more than female rape.
Male rape has always been part of prison life. It is so famous that has become a cliche for depicting male prisons in books and movies. However, the exact numbers of the incidents is not widely released.
It has also been part of military life for thousands of years. Even today, “according to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. These are the stories you never hear—because the culprits almost always go free, the survivors rarely speak, and no one in the military or Congress has done enough to stop it”.
Male rape has and still is being used as a weapon in wars to humiliate or terrorise enemies. Syrian civil war can be mentioned as a very recent example .
This issue is surrounded by a number of misconceptions about rape, men’s physical and their social characteristics:
1- Having an erection is a sign of consent and enjoyment: men can get erection with simple physical stimulation, it’s completely mechanical, it can happen even in painful or traumatic situations and does not necessarily imply arousal or consent.
2- Men want sex, anytime, anywhere, with anyone: this is particularly relevant to the case of female to male rape. There’s a prejudice that men want to have sex at anytime, with any woman. So if a woman has sex with a man without his consent, the man is not considered as a victim but a lucky person. Any complaint from him, may undermine his masculinity.
Apart from misconceptions, there are other obstacles in the way of proper treatment of this problem:
One of the main challenges in dealing with this issue is the insufficiency of data which makes the estimation of the scope of the problem extremely difficult. The main reason for this difficulty is the reluctancy of victims to report the assault. This, on its turn, relies on many social and sexual prejudices as well as psychological complexities:
- Due to the traditional masculine cultures and male-dominant societies, the victims feel ashamed to report the problem, they fear being ridiculed, not being seen as men. In many situations, even victims’ families do not want to acknowledge the assault publicly because of the shame carried with it.
- Some heterosexual male victims, may be confused and think this assault makes them gay.
- Homosexual victims may think of it as a punishment because of their choice of life-style.
- Male rape, just like any other type of rape, is a form of power conflict and not just about sexuality. So, as a result of the assault, the victim feels weak and powerless.
- “Male survivors may blame themselves for the assault, believing they were not ‘strong enough’ to fight off the perpetrator. Many are confused by the fact that they became physically aroused during the attack, despite the assault or abuse they endured.” 
I think now it’s a good time to raise awareness about male rape. There is a huge debate currently going on about rape in colleges and that momentum can be immensely helpful in making the public think about other forms of sexual violence going on in societies.
* Featured Image credit: robertsc4.wordpress.com