Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

The Dark Side of Men: The Nature of Masculinity and Its Uneasy Relationship with Male Rape

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

The Dark Side of Men: The Nature of Masculinity and Its Uneasy Relationship with Male Rape

Article excerpt

Introduction

Although there has been a large amount of studies published during the past 30 years on sexual assault and rape against women, relatively little research has explored men's experiences of rape and sexual assault in the United Kingdom. (1) Some research on male rape, which comprises any oral and anal penetration of a sexual nature committed by a man against another man, has attempted to explain why male rape occurs among men (see Groth & Burgess, 1980). However, much of the research on male rape emanates from the United States and has predominately focused on particular male populations; for example, male victims of child sexual abuse (Nelson & Oliver, 1998), sexual coercion among college men (Struckman-Johnson, Struckman-Johnson, & Anderson, 2003), rape in prison (Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2006), and rape in the army (Belkin, 2008). Despite a wealth of research on vulnerable populations in the contemporary world, there is very little work on precisely why male rape victims remain invisible. (2) In the vast array of social research literature on sexual violence, male rape is neglected. However, there is a small body of research literature on male rape.

Researching only female rape is problematic, as "in necessarily attempting to rectify the invisibility and marginalization of women's experiences, little ... research has considered the male experience" (Owen, 1995, p. 256). Highlighting female rape is understandable, considering that sexual violence against women is an "everyday" experience for women (Stanko, 1990), and women do suffer various forms of violence, such as intimate partner violence wherein alcohol is involved (see Javaid, 2015b). However, segregating men as rape offenders and women as rape victims suggests that rape is a gendered crime, in which a clear distinction can be formed between offenders and victims of rape (Javaid, 2014a; Newbum & Stanko, 1995). This segregation and compartmentalization can hinder a complete understanding of male rape, as the prevalence of male rape victims and male victims more generally directly challenge dominant assumptions of sexual violence and men's victimization more broadly. Consequently, the focus of male rape is needed to examine the different ways that we understand rape and sexual assault. Another form of negligence of men's experiences of rape comes through criminology, in that it tends to focus predominately on men's criminality rather than their victimization (Newbum & Stanko, 1995; Stanko & Hobdell, 1993). However, ironically, men are more likely to be victims of violent crime (Davies, 2011), although they tend to not be so consciously aware of their risk to crime and refuse to be called a "victim," because they see this label as challenging or threatening their masculinity (Weiss, 2010). It is important, thus, to examine what role gender, masculinity, and sexuality play in men's particular experience of rape, given that the wealth of research has only conceptualized men as the sexual aggressor.

That said, the present study aims to increase our knowledge on the rather limited information on male rape within England and Wales, United Kingdom, by more closely exploring the specific and unique experiences that men undergo. Recent figures show there were 2,164 rape and sexual assaults against men aged 13 or above recorded by the police in the year ending September 2013 (Ministry of Justice, 2014). Although these numbers certainly make clear that rape and sexual assault against men occur, the data also point to the issue that theorists and researchers, particularly in the United Kingdom, have largely ignored male rape victims. Therefore, the present research aims to contribute to a better understanding and explanation of the unwanted sexual experiences of men in the United Kingdom. In doing so, this article contributes theoretically to discourses on unacknowledged and unreported rape, and also to a broader literature on non-reported crime. …

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