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Research on Battered Men

Sexual Victimization

It Happens to Boys, Too

Dr. Peter B. Anderson
Peter B. Anderson, Ph.D.

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Sexually Aggressive Women, by Anderson and Struckman-Johnson. Book cover. Order on-line
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Two summers ago Andrea (not her real name) was staying at her parents house on Long Island. Andrea is an attractive, 21 year old, heterosexual college female with no history of victimization or serious life traumas. During a series of interviews with the author, she revealed that over the course of her visit she had the house to herself most of the time because her parents and siblings were away on vacation. Andrea discovered that the son of the family living next door had been "peeping" at her through her bedroom window. One evening when she had a girlfriend visiting her they set a trap for Mark (not his real name). Andrea stayed hidden downstairs while her friend pretended to get ready for bed. Andrea caught Mark in a tree trying to see in her bedroom window. Andrea threatened to call the police or tell his family, but her friend pleaded for mercy for the already embarrassed teenager. Andrea told Mark to go home and come to talk to her in a couple of days. In the meantime she would decide exactly what to do about his misbehavior.

Thus was the beginning of Mark's victimization. For the next three weeks Mark would be controlled, made to run simple errands, wash Andrea's car, and engage in sexual activities that he did not desire.

One of the common myths about sexual victimization in our culture is that men or boys are rarely victims of sexual abuse, especially with women as the sexual aggressors (Sarrel & Masters, 1982). Supporting this myth are two other myths: 1) that women don't or can't victimize men due to basic differences in size and strength, 2) that women have a special relationship with children (much more bodily contact, affection, and more caregiving activities including changing diapers and other associated nonsexual activities) that precludes sexual victimization (Finkelhor, 1979).

Despite these myths there is a new body of evidence that indicates that males are at risk of sexual victimization from childhood on. In a study of male runaways (McCormack, 1986), 38% had been victims of childhood sexual abuse. In other studies, 56% of male serial rapists (Burgess, Hartman, McCausland, and Powers, 1984) and 17% of male college students had been sexually victimized (Finkelhor, 1979). In a recent study conducted at Texas A&M University significantly more men than women (62.7% vs. 46.3%) self-reported that they had engaged in heterosexual intercourse "when they did not want to..." (Muehlenhard & Cook, 1988). Anderson and Aymami (in press) related that both women and men reported that women used tactics to achieve sexual contact with men commonly defined as sexually coercive, abusive, or violent. Relevant to this paper, 7.5% of women surveyed by Anderson and Aymami self-reported initiating sexual contact (kissing, fondling, or intercourse) with a man who was in a compromising position (i.e., being where he did not belong or breaking some rule).

During Andrea's interviews she described Mark as a "book worm type," definitely not a jock. She was sure he was a virgin. When Andrea had decided exactly what she was going to do to punish Mark for his indiscretion, she brought him into her house and purposefully dressed in a provocative outfit, so that she could tease him. She stood or sat in poses meant to excite him while she talked about what he was going to have to do to keep her from telling his parents or calling the police. First, she forced him to have oral sex with her but would not let him touch her in any other way. After she was satisfied she let him go home, but told him to stay in touch in case she needed anything. As far as Andrea knew, Mark didn't tell his family and most likely didn't tell anyone else either. Male victims of sexual assault are not likely to reveal their victimization for a number of reasons including embarrassment, guilt, fear of ridicule, loss of a sense of being masculine, and the fact that men in our culture are taught to be self-reliant and not to complain or share negative experiences (Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Lottes, 1991). Among teenage victims of sexual assault, males suffer the same post-assault trauma as females, suffer similar long-term negative effects, and are more likely than females to commit suicide (Finkelhor, 1984; calderwood, 1987).

Andrea reported that she loved her role as controller and seducer. She felt powerful and alive. She reveled in the delight of having someone under her control and whenever Mark would be reluctant to do her bidding, renewed threats would weaken his resistance. During her interviews she said she would have simply called Mark's parents if he had been younger and despite the fact that she enjoyed the experience she would be unlikely to repeat it. Andrea said she certainly isn't looking to find another similar situation. She believes that this was simply an unusual life event that won't reoccur.

Andrea's statements are consistent with recent research findings that indicate that female victimizers are less likely to use physical force on their victims, less likely to repeat the experience, and are not likely to view this behavior as harmful to their victims (Wolfe, 1985; Cochran & Druker, 1984). Our culture also views the victimization of males differently than that of females (Grauerholz & Koralewski, 1991). In a recent study of attitudes toward rape, Musialowski and Kelley (1987) reported that college students viewed a man raped by a woman as more likely to enjoy the activity and less likely to be frightened than a woman raped by a man. The respondents also viewed the rape of a male by a female as less serious than the rape of a female by a male.


Obviously, this single scenario can't provide health professionals with any clear picture of the incidence or prevalence of males who are sexually victimized as children or adolescents. It has been estimated that between 46,000 and 92,000 boys are sexually victimized by adults every year (Nielson, 1983). What this scenario can do is create awareness among teachers and parents that male sexual abuse does exist, help focus attention on this problem, to help young men and boys recognize that they are not alone in their victimization, and to encourage them deal with their victimization.

It is important for professionals involved in the lives of children and adolescents to remember not to ignore the signs of neglect and abuse in young males simply because our society has been slow to acknowledge their vulnerability. These signs include changes in personality, behavior, and grades. A normally quiet student may begin to be disruptive, a happy student may become sullen and withdrawn, and a student's grades may suddenly drop for no apparent reason. It took our society a long time to acknowledge the vulnerability of girls and women, but in the past few years awareness of the trauma and pain involved in the sexual victimization of women has increased dramatically. This awareness has led to treatment programs, public forums, educational programs and legal and social reforms on all levels. Males, as well as females, need to learn how to protect themselves from those who would victimize them, be able to report attempted or accomplished sexual victimization, and be able to find counseling and support systems to help them deal with the trauma of sexual victimization.


Anderson P., Aymami R., (1993). Reports of female initiation of sexual contact: Male and female differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior. In Press

Burgess A., Hartman C., McCausland M., & Powers P. (1984). Response patterns in children and adolescents exploited through sex rings and pornography. American Journal of Psychiatry. 14, 656-662.

calderwood, d. (1987, May). The male rape victim. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 53-55.

Cochran D., & Druker, L. (1984). Women who rape. Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Probation. Boston.

Finkelhor D., (1979). Sexually victimized children. New York: The Free Press.

Finkelhor D., (1984). Child sexual abuse: New theory and research. New York: The Free Press.

Grauerholz E, & Koralewski M, (1991). Sexual coercion. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books 185-197.

Lottes I., (1991). The social problem of child sexual Abuse. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality 4(1):37-59.

McCormack A., (1986). Runaway youths and sexual victimization: Gender differences in an adolescent population. Child Abuse and Neglect,10: 384-395.

Muehlenhard C. Cook S., (1988). "Real men" don't say no: Do men have sex when they don't want to? Journal of Sex Research,24:58-72.

Musialowski D, & Kelley K., (1987, April) Male rape: Perception of the act and the victim. Paper presented at the Eastern Regional Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, Philadelphia, PA.

Nielson T., (1983). Sexual abuse of boys: Current perspectives. Personnel & Guidance Journal, 62:139-142.

Sarrel P, & Masters W., (1982). Sexual molestation of men by women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 11:117-131.

Struckman-Johnson C., (1988) Forced sex on dates: It happens to men, too. Journal of Sex Research, 24:234-241.

Wolfe F., (1985, March) Twelve female sexual offenders. Paper presented at: "Next Steps in Research on the Assessment and Treatment of Sexually Aggressive Persons (Paraphiliacs)." Saint Louis, Missouri.

Peter B. Anderson, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor, Department of Human Performance and Health Promotion, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana 70148. He has published two books about Human Sexuality, contributed to chapters in two textbooks on Human Sexuality, written technical descriptions about sexuality for two encyclopedias, published approximately 20 articles in referred professional journals, presented more than 30 papers at professional meetings (primarily at the National and International level), and taught about cross-cultural issues in Human Sexuality in Denmark and Sweden. Many of his articles on sexuality, spirituality and other topics are on his Web site,


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