One of our biggest secrets
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 100 19:15:18 -0700
Subject: One of our biggest secrets
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
[A lot if information about a rarely-discussed subject.
Warning: Low humor content, but interesting, nonetheless.
Forwarded-by: Barbara Millikan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: a hypnotherapy newsgroup in responst to a query about male rape
Rape of Males
Stephen Donaldson Article from the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality,
Wayne R. Dynes, ed.,
1990, NY: Garland Publications.
Rape is a sexual act imposed upon a nonconsenting partner. The method of
imposition is often violent, though it may be by threats or intimidation
or abuse of positions of authority. Rape is one of the most misunderstood
of all crimes, and when the victim is male, the misconceptions are severely
compounded. Many legal jurisdictions do not even recognize a crime of rape
against a male victim, but instead use terms such as "forcible sodomy" or
"child abuse." Nonetheless, rape of males in the non-legal sense is a much
more common event than is usually supposed, covered as it is with a blanket
of silence. If prisoners are included, on any given day in the United States
there may be more males raped than females.
It appears that the rape of females by females, while not unknown, is very
rare, and little is known about it.
The rape of males by males is a practice protected by the silence observed
by its victims, responding to a set of popular beliefs centering around
the notion that a "real man" cannot be raped. The phrase "homosexual rape,"
for instance, which is often used by uninformed persons to designate
male-male rape, camouflages the fact that the majority of the rapists as
well as of the victims are generally heterosexual.
In antiquity, the rape of males was more widely recognized. In Greek
mythology, Zeus, king of the gods, abducted Ganymede for sexual purposes.
In the Oedipus myth, Laius, king of Thebes and Oedipus' father, abducted
Chrysippus, son of his host, King Pelops; the boy killed himself out of
shame, occasioning Pelops' curse on Laius that he should be slain by his
In some societies the rape of a defeated male enemy was considered the
prerogative of the victor in battle, and served to indicate the totality
of the former's defeat. Even in ancient times, we find the widespread belief
that a male who is sexually penetrated, even by force, thereby "loses his
manhood," and hence can no longer be a warrior or ruler. In the twentieth
century, the best-known instance of this kind of humiliation occurred when
the Englishman T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") was captured by the
Turks, who were well known for this custom, during World War I. The
subsequent disruption of Lawrence's life, while a surprise to his
contemporaries, can now be recognized as a typical consequence of male Rape
Gang-rape of a male was also considered an ultimate form of punishment,
and as such was known to the Romans (for adultery) and Iranians (for
violation of the sanctity of the harem).
In modern times, until recently, rape of one male by another was considered
rare outside of the special context of incarceration. Virtually all the
non-penological literature on rape assumes that the victim is female; police
did not (and usually still do not) even collect statistics on "male rape."
When the feminist movement led to the establishment of rape crisis centers
in the United States in the 1970s, however, it became obvious that there
was a large number of hidden cases of male rape. Most of these came to the
attention of rape counselors due to injuries inflicted on the victims
(usually anal) which could not be hidden from medical personnel. Rape crisis
centers willing to deal with male victims found that anywhere from three
to forty per cent of their counselees were male, with the higher figures
resulting from specific efforts to publicize the availability of the centers
for male victims.
This development led to research aimed at discovering the extent of male
rape, and in 1982 to an anthology on the subject, Anthony M.Scacco, Jr.'s
Male Rape. The results of this research have surprised virtually everyone
by indicating the vast extent of rape of males in North America.
Extent of Male Rape "in the Community"
Students of sexual abuse, drawing upon a wide number of studies conducted
in the 1980s which sought to overcome the reluctance of the abused to
discuss their experiences, have now concluded that boys and girls up to
the early teen years have an equal chance of being sexually victimized; a
summary of these studies was published by Eugene Porter in 1986.
For the later teens and adult males, figures are harder to come by, but a
consensus appears to be forming that "in the community" (a phrase excluding
incarceration facilities) between one-seventh and one-fourth of all rapes
involve male victims.
A household survey conducted for the United States Bureau of Justice
Statistics stated that the rapes of males reported to their interviewers
were 25.9% of the number of completed rapes reported by females in the same
survey; when applied to the national population that would be about 12,300
rapes of males per year.These figures are believed to be underestimates
due to a reluctance of male victims to identify themselves to the
Phenomenology of Male Rape
Research indicates that the most common sites for male rape involving
post-puberty victims "in the community" are outdoors in remote areas and
in automobiles (the latter usually involving hitchhikers). Boys in their
early and mid teens are more likely to be victimized than older males
(studies indicate a median victim age of 17). The form of assault usually
involves penetration of the victim anally and/or orally, rather than
stimulation of the victim's penis.
Comparing rapes of females with rapes of males, it has been found that in
cases involving male victims, gang-rape is more common, multiple types of
sexual acts are more likely to be demanded, weapons are more likely to be
displayed and used, and physical injury is more likely to occur, with the
injuries which do occur being more serious than with injured females.
Whereas cases of sexual assault of young girls usually involves a relative
or family friend, young boys are more likely to be sexually abused by
strangers or authority figures in organizations such as church, school,
athletics, or scouting. It is also noteworthy that men who rape boys,
according to one study, have on the average well over three times as many
victims each as men who rape girls. One perpetrator kept records showing
he had sexually assaulted over three hundred boys in one summer, mostly
hitchhikers; he was arrested only when one of the boys complained to the
police, the rest having remained silent.
While gay males are also raped, there is no evidence that they are
victimized in appreciably greater numbers than their proportion of the
general population; most male rape victims are heterosexual.
What is even more surprising to the average man is that, according to
several studies, most rapes of males are committed by men who are
heterosexual in their consensual sexual preference and self-identity; only
7 per cent of the rapists of men in the Groth-Burgess study were homosexual.
(Indeed, it has been reported that homosexual men are far less likely to
engage in rape than heterosexual men.) Half or more of these rapists choose
victims from both genders.
Theorists have sought to explain this as rooted in the nature of rape as
primarily a crime of power and domination through violence rather than a
sexually motivated act, though it is clear that sexuality has something to
do with it. The exact relationship between the quest for power and dominance
on the one hand and sexual drive on the other is little understood, and
probably varies a great deal from one rapist to another. It is clear that
rapists are often not erotically attracted to their victims, and examples
of sexual dysfunction (impotence, inability to ejaculate) are common in
"community" rape. On the other hand, one can cite instances of "marital
rape" among gay couples where an erotic element is clearly present.
One of the most interesting findings of recent research on rape has profound
implications for public policy regarding male rape: anywhere from 80 to
100 per cent (depending on the study) of adult male rapists (of women) have
a history of childhood sexual victimization themselves. The implication is
that rape is a vicious cycle in which boys, unable to even discuss their
own rape traumas, much less find effective treatment for them, grow up to
take revenge on others in the same fashion.
Public Attitudes Towards Male Rape
Generally speaking, rape of males is a taboo subject for public discussion,
so that for most women and many men, it does not exist. On the popular
level, however, there are numerous mistaken beliefs which are common among
the male population. These include the notions that male rape is very
rare; that to be raped indicates a weakness which is not to be found in a
"real" male, hence "real men" cannot be raped; that rapists of males are
necessarily homosexual; that being raped turns the victim into a homosexual;
and most importantly, that for a man to be raped is to "lose his manhood"
It is because of these attitudes, which surround male rape with an aura of
total humiliation for the victim, that it is rare for a male rape victim
(especially past the early teens) to acknowledge his victimization even to
his family or friends, much less to the police. If ever there was a crime
hidden by a curtain of silence, it is male rape. For the same reason, most
victims outside of jail consider themselves to be relatively unique, and
loathe to call attention to themselves.
Given such pervasive silence, there is no demand for treatment programs
for male victims as there is for female victims; there is no pressure for
law enforcement activity; and the perpetrator is usually protected from
even being accused, much less convicted. So powerful is the suppression
of knowledge of male rape that criminals such as burglars and robbers
sometimes rape their victims as a sideline solely to prevent them from
going to the police.
Rape Trauma Syndrome
Rape is an extremely traumatic experience centering on the total loss of
control of one's own body and usually the inside of that body, the most
intimate sanctum of self. On top of this trauma, which is common to all
rape victims, the heterosexual male survivor must deal with the experience
of sexual role inversion and the pervasive popular mythology revolving
around "loss of manhood" and homosexuality. The psychological devastation
of rape is difficult to imagine for a male who has not been through such
Survivors of rape, and often of rape attempts, usually manifest some
elements of what has come to be called Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS), a form
of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The effects of RTS often last
for years or decades, and can be lifelong. Apart from a small number of
therapists and counselors specializing in sexual assault cases, few
psychotherapists are familiar with the literature on RTS. For this reason,
a rape survivor is usually well advised to consult with a rape crisis center
or someone knowledgeable in this area rather than relying on general
counseling resources. The same applies to those close to a rape victim,
such as a lover or parent; these people are termed "secondary victims" by
rape crisis counselors.
Typically, the first stage of RTS involves a phase of denial and disbelief.
Child victims commonly experience amnesia, partial or total, regarding the
assault; memory, however, may return years later and initiate a
A sense of guilt, shame, and humiliation is commonly found, exacerbated by
the common tendency of those who should be supportive to instead "blame
the victim."The sense of stigma, whether internalized or reinforced by
others (in the case of public knowledge of the rape), is pervasive.
Heterosexual male survivors typically show enormous anxiety and confusion
regarding issues of masculine identity and homosexuality. The survivor's
sexuality may show severe distortions and malfunctions. Serious depression
is likely and suicide may result. The victim's rage may explode under
Other manifestations of RTS include a sense of heightened vulnerability,
anxiety, powerlessness, helplessness, nightmares, paranoia, sleep
disturbances, fixation on the incident, inability to concentrate,
dependency, fear of intimacy, chaotic relationships, multiple personality
development, drug and alcohol abuse, and revictimization.
Survivors of childhood sexual assault and of rape in institutional
surroundings often have to contend not with a single incident, but with a
continuing series of involuntary sexual activities which may stretch over
years. In such cases, the adaptation process by which the victim learns to
live with the continuing pattern of assault further complicates and
strengthens the RTS pattern.
As mentioned above, a certain number of male rape survivors become rapists
themselves. It is not known how large this number is, though it appears to
be more common among those victimized as boys than as adults.
It has also been suggested that "queer-bashers", violently homophobic males,
are likely to be survivors of childhood sexual abuse, laboring under the
usually mistaken idea that the male who assaulted them must have been
While rape of males is a serious problem in the community, it is in the
institutions of confinement (prisons and jails, reformatories, mental
institutions) and, to a markedly lesser extent, in other all-male
residential settings (boarding schools, hobo camps, the military) that male
rape is most common, even an accepted part of institutional life.
Rape of males in confinement differs from male rape in the community in
that it is generally open, is accepted if not condoned by the prisoner
subculture, usually involves repeated patterns of sexual assault following
the initial rape, is far more likely to be interracial, and serves a social
function in converting heterosexual young prisoners into sexual slaves to
be acquired by more powerful men. Thus, once raped, the victim is forced
into a pattern of perpetual sexual abuse which may in time appear consentual
to a casual observer, but which is rooted in the need for protection of
the rape survivor from further mass assaults.
Confinement institutions furthermore have the effect of legitimizing to
their graduates the use of rape as a means of validating their masculinity,
and of converting non-violent offenders, by raping them, into ex-convicts
full of rage and potential for violence (often rape) once released. In
these ways the institutions help perpetuate the practice of rape of women
and of men.
Rape of males, while a widespread and extremely serious problem, has escaped
the attention of society because of deep taboos springing from popular
conceptions that to be raped is to forfeit one's masculinity. The actual
dynamics of rape are only beginning to be explored, and very little of what
is known to students of the phenomenon has penetrated the public
Rape crisis centers in the United States have developed much of what is
known about rape and its effects, including Rape Trauma Syndrome, yet many
if not most such centers, run by feminist women, still see rape as a
"women's issue" only and have made little or no effort to reach out to boys
and men who have experienced rape. The public media have continued to treat
rape of males as a taboo subject.
Until this taboo is broken, there can be little hope that survivors of male
rape will be enabled to deal constructively with rape trauma or that the
vicious cycle of rape can be effectively undermined.
Stephen Donaldson, The Rape of Males: A Preliminary Statistical Look at
the Scope of the Problem, 2nd ed., Ft. Bragg, California: People Organized
to Stop Rape of Incarcerated Persons, 1985.
A. Nicholas Groth, and Ann W. Burgess, Men Who Rape, New York: Plenum Press,
1979; and "Male Rape: Offenders and Victims," American Journal of
Psychiatry, 137 (1980), 806-10.
Arthur Kaufman et al., "Male Rape Victims: Noninstitutionalized Assault,"
American Journal of Psychiatry 137 (1980), 221-23.
Eugene Porter, Treating the Young Male Victim of Sexual Assault, Syracuse,
NY: Safer Society Press, 1986.
Anthony M.Scacco, Jr., Male Rape: A Casebook of Sexual Aggressions, New
York: AMS Press, 1982.
Wayne S. Wooden and Jay Parker, Men Behind Bars: Sexual Exploitation in
Prison, New York: Plenum Press, 1982.
Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc.
Post Office Box 632, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Email contact: Tom Cahill (email@example.com)
© 2000 Peter Langston