New study finds that the sexual assault of men is much more common than we've been led to believe.
“Made to penetrate” is an awkward phrase that hasn’t gotten any traction. It’s also something we instinctively don’t associate with sexual assault. But is it possible our instincts are all wrong here? We might assume, for example, that if a man has an erection he must want sex, especially because we assume men are sexually insatiable. But imagine if the same were said about women. The mere presence of physiological symptoms associated with arousal does not in fact indicate actual arousal, much less willing participation. And the high degree of depression and dysfunction among male victims of sexual abuse backs this up. At the very least, the phrase remedies an obvious injustice. Under the old FBI definition, what happened to Rafael Yglesias would only have counted as rape if he’d been an 8-year-old girl. Accepting the term “made to penetrate” helps us understand that trauma comes in all forms.
So why are men suddenly showing up as victims? Every comedian has a prison rape joke and prosecutions of sexual crimes against men are still rare. But gender norms are shaking loose in a way that allows men to identify themselves—if the survey is sensitive and specific enough—as vulnerable. A recent analysis of BJS data, for example, turned up that 46 percent of male victims reported a female perpetrator.