Sexual Assault Myths for Men
MYTH: Males can’t be sexually assaulted
REALITY: Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted every day. It can happen to any male, regardless of his sexual orientation, size, strength, appearance, occupation, race or culture. It happens at home, at work, in locker rooms and in cars — just about anywhere a perpetrator thinks he can get away with it. It’s not unusual for a male victim to “freeze” out of shock or fear of physical harm. Few, if any, males have ever considered the possibility of such a thing happening, and are therefore totally unprepared.
MYTH: Only gay males are sexually assaulted
REALITY: The incidence of sexual assault involving gay male victims is slightly higher than for heterosexual males, but this is largely due to the fact that gay men can become the target of anti-gay violence perpetuated by other men. Heterosexual males can be, and are, sexually assaulted in large numbers.
MYTH: Only gay men sexually assault other males
REALITY: The vast majority of male offenders who sexually abuse or assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. Some offenders target males simply because it gives them a greater feeling of dominance, power and control than abusing a woman. Sexual assault is usually much more about violence and anger than it is about lust or sexual attraction. The vast majority of males who target boys for sexual abuse aren’t gay.
MYTH: Males who experience child sexual abuse will grow up to become abusers themselves
REALITY: Although premature sexual experiences often cause profound emotional damage to boys, most male survivors don’t repeat the abuses that happened to them. In fact, statistics show that many men who commit sexual abuse or sexual assault actually suffered from something OTHER than child sexual abuse (most likely physical or emotional abuse or witnessing domestic violence) when they were young.
MYTH: Males can’t be sexually assaulted by females
REALITY: Women can and do sexually abuse and assault men, but it rarely gets reported by the survivor. If you include emotional blackmail as a way of forcing a male to submit to sexual assault, then the number of crimes greatly increases. Sexual assault of a male by a female does not have to involve penile penetration; a female attacker can use sex toys or other foreign objects on an unwilling male. It’s also not uncommon for males to experience involuntary erections during a sexual assault.
MYTH: Getting an erection or ejaculating during a sexual assault means the survivor “really wanted it” or even consented
REALITY: This myth causes major issues of guilt and confusion for all male survivors. Physical stimulation can cause an erection whether the recipient wants it to happen or not. Pressure in the prostate gland can cause the same reaction. Having an erection or ejaculation is a normal, involuntary physiological response, and does not automatically equate with arousal — or with consent. A male survivor may be bewildered or confused about his physiological response during the event, or may feel guilt or shame, and may therefore be inclined not to report it.
MYTH: If the perpetrator is a woman, a boy or teenager should consider himself to have been “initiated” into the exciting world of sex
REALITY: No matter who provokes it — a relative, babysitter, teacher, boss or other woman in a position of power or authority over a young male — that kind of sexual experience is all about control and domination, not gratification and pleasure. Premature or forced sex causes confusion, anger, depression and other major psychological problems. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person is always abusive and traumatizing.
MYTH: Males who are sexually assaulted don’t suffer as much as females who are assaulted: after all, they don’t risk becoming pregnant
REALITY: All sexual assault survivors suffer many of the same reactions: depression, anger, anxiety, confusion, fear, numbness, self-blame, helplessness, suicidal feelings and shame are common ones. Some responses are gender specific, others are not. Sexual assault directed against gay men is more likely to involve higher levels of violence, use of weapons and multiple assailants. Statistically, male survivors are at higher risk of committing suicide. And while they don’t become pregnant, male survivors of anal rape are at a high risk of internal damage, which leads to a greater possibility of HIV infection.
MYTH: Sexual assault between gay partners does not exist
REALITY: Sexual abuse and sexual assault can occur within any relationship. Through physical, psychological or emotional coercion, some gay men are forced by their partners to engage in non-consensual sexual acts. A gay man in a committed relationship is not the sexual property of his partner.
Source: Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services website: www.aasas.ca