The Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization among Homosexual Men
Krahe, Barbara, Schutze, Stephan, Fritsche, Immo, Waizenhofer, Eva, The Journal of Sex Research
Sexual aggression of men toward women has received widespread attention in psychological research for many years (e.g. Allison & Wrightsman, 1993; Craig, 1990; Koss et al., 1994; Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997). Sexual aggression includes a range of forced sexual activities, such as rape (unwanted sexual intercourse through the use or threat of physical violence), unwanted sexual intercourse through the use of verbal pressure, and other unwanted sexual acts, such as touching and kissing (cf. Abbey, McAuslan, & Ross, 1998). There is ample evidence to show that sexual aggression is a serious problem in heterosexual relationships. For example, Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski (1987) reported that 15% of women in a large college sample had been forced to engage in unwanted sexual intercourse since the age of 14. Over 4% of their male respondents indicated they had forced a woman into sexual intercourse since the age of 14. Other more recent studies provide similar rates of experiencing or performing sexual aggression (e.g., Abbey et al., 1998; Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, & McAuslan, 1996; Himelein, 1995; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 1998).
In contrast, the problem of sexual aggression against male victims has been largely ignored in sexual aggression research, and evidence on the prevalence and determinants of male sexual victimization is limited. This may be due in part to the fact that legal definitions of rape have traditionally been restricted to female victims, and changes in legal regulations are slow to be implemented (King, 1992; Scarce, 1997). Until 1997, the German penal code defined rape as the use or threat of violence against a woman to force her into extramarital sexual intercourse. In a revision which came into effect in July 1997, a broader definition was adopted which removed the restriction to female victims and nonmarital intercourse. The new legal definition includes the use or threat of violence or the exploitation of the victim's incapacitated state to force another person into sexual activities. Forced sexual activities qualify as rape if the act involves penetration of the victim's body, which is no longer restricted to vaginal intercourse.
Given that men feature as the main group of perpetrators of sexual aggression, homosexual men are at greater risk of being forced into unwanted contacts because they seek sexual contacts with a male partner. Evidence comparing the risk of sexual victimization for homosexual and heterosexual men is scarce, but it suggests that homosexual men are particularly vulnerable to sexual victimization (e.g., Stermac, Sheridan, Davidson, & Dunn, 1996). Hodge and Canter (1998) looked at both heterosexual and homosexual victims of male sex offenders and found that assaults on homosexual victims tended to be more violent than those on heterosexual victims. Further studies explored the prevalence of sexual victimization in homosexual men without including a heterosexual comparison group. In a sample of 930 homosexually active men, Hickson et al. (1994) reported that 27.6% had been subjected to unwanted sexual contact at some point in their lives. In a much smaller sample of 34 homosexual college students, Waterman, Dawson, and Bologna (1989) identified a prevalence rate of 12.1%. These studies suggest that even though prevalence rates may be lower than for female victims, sexual aggression is a problem among homosexual men that needs to be addressed. This is especially true since the traumatizing effect of sexual assault on a male victim was shown to be no less serious than on female victims, often following the pattern of the "rape trauma syndrome" identified for female victims of sexual assault (Anderson, 1982; Coxell & King, 1996; Scarce, 1997; Turner, 1992).
However, the current body of evidence on sexual aggression among homosexual men is limited not only by the small overall number of studies, but by additional methodological problems: