CDC: “Being made to penetrate isn’t rape”

One of the many things that bugged me about The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey was how researchers categorized sexual violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers divided sexual violence into several categories, and specifically counted “being forced to penetrate” as separate from rape. According to the researchers:

Being made to penetrate is a form of sexual victimization distinct from rape that is particularly unique to males and, to our knowledge, has not been explicitly measured in previous national studies. It is possible that rape questions in prior studies captured the experience of being made to penetrate someone else, resulting in higher prevalence estimates for male rape in those studies.

They did this specifically to reduce the rate of reported rape against males. Some people took issue with that conclusion, suggesting that I placed nefarious intent on the researcher’s part where none existed. I think the part that preceded the above quote proves my case:

As an example of prevalence differences between the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and other surveys, the lifetime prevalence estimate of rape for men in this report is lower than what has been reported in other surveys (e.g., for forced sex more broadly) (Basile, Chen, Black, & Saltzman, 2007). This could be due in part to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey making a distinction between rape and being made to penetrate someone else.

The researchers clearly wanted to distinguish the two acts, even though being forced to penetrate (or more accurately being forced to have sex) counts as rape or sexual assault in all 50 states in the United States.

But if that is not convincing, there is something else. Frequent commenter Tamen emailed the CDC shortly after they released their findings. Here is their response:

Mr. Yyyyyy,

Thank you for your interest in the NISVS Survey. The NISVS subject matters experts have provided the following information in response to your inquiry:

We understand your concern that the 12 month prevalence for Made to Penetrate was not included in the press release. Unfortunately, due to space limitation in a press release, we were not able to highlight many of the important findings. This information, however, was included in main summary report. In addition, we are currently working on preparing a number of more in-depth reports to follow our first summary report, including one that focuses specifically on sexual violence.

With regards to the definitional issues you mentioned, Made to Penetrate is a form of sexual violence that is distinguished from rape. Being made to penetrate represents times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone else (i.e., the perpetrator) without the victim’s consent. In contrast, rape represents times when the victim, herself or himself, was sexually penetrated or there was an attempt to do so. In both rape and made to penetrate situations, this may have happened through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm; it also includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.

In summary, rape victimization constitutes times when the victim is penetrated. Made to penetrate are incidents where the victim is forced to penetrate their perpetrator, so does not meet the definition of rape.

Appendix C on page 106 of the report lists the victimization questions. As you will see, the questions were asked in such a way that the perpetrator was the one being penetrated by the victim in made to penetrate cases, not a third party. For example, “how many people have ever used physical force or threats of physical harm to make you have vaginal sex with them?” Or “how many people have ever used physical force or threats of physical harm to make you perform anal sex, meaning they made you put your penis into their anus?” Or “when you were drunk, high, drugged or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male: penis}?”

The FBI definition of rape does not apply here – made to penetrate as we have defined it is distinct from rape and should not be included in a definition of rape.

Until the special reports are available and/or the data set is ready for public use, if there are additional specific questions we can answer, we would be happy to do so. We appreciate your interest in these data.

Sincerely, CDC NISVS Team

Let us start from the top. If you look at the initial press release, they would only need to add an extra line in both sections to note the 12-month findings. Cutting out two other sentences would provide the space.

When the team tries to explain why they did not count being forced to penetrate as rape, they cannot give clear answer other than saying that rape is only when the abuser does the penetrating. However, when they describe how the acts can occur, they describe the exact same scenarios. The only difference is who is doing the penetrating.

The researchers freely admit that they are not using the FBI or any state’s definition of rape. They give no reason for this, either in the study itself or in their response to Tamen. Perhaps that is contained in the special reports, however, I looked for them and only found portions linked by to the initial study.

I do, however, have a guess as to why the researchers do not want to included being forced to penetrate as rape:

For male victims, the sex of the perpetrator varied by the type of sexual violence experienced. The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators. For three of the other forms of sexual violence, a majority of male victims reported only female perpetrators: being made to penetrate (79.2%), sexual coercion (83.6%), and unwanted sexual contact (53.1%). For non-contact unwanted sexual experiences, approximately half of male victims (49.0%) reported only male perpetrators and more than one-third (37.7%) reported only female perpetrators (data not shown).

That bolded portion is why they do not include it. If they counted it, the rate of rape against males rises from 1 in 71 (1.4%) to 1 in 16 (6.2%). While I still believe that is a low estimate, it is much higher than anyone expects to see. Likewise, the majority of the rapists of males would be female. If you are part of a group invested in painting sexual violence as a women’s issue and a crime only men commit, those results would severely hurt your argument.

Here is another guess: the CDC researchers likely made their decision about categorizing sexual violence after they saw the results. They likely did not expect such high rates of reported sexual violence from males, especially given the victim-oriented wording of their questions. They could not deny the data or withhold it, however, they could present in such a way as to significantly lower rate of sexual violence against males than their numbers actually show. Since the researchers had to know that a report about rape would garner more attention than anything about sexual assault, I think they chose to play semantics in order to protect the above political agenda.

I could be wrong. The researchers could be completely neutral and innocently chose to separate the acts based on some perception about penetration being a requisite for rape. However, I do not think that is likely given the team’s response to Tamen.

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39 thoughts on “CDC: “Being made to penetrate isn’t rape”

  1. @Archy – No indication of any significant follow up as yet. The reports of “special reports” is an indication of taking existing data and data mining – in other words regurgitation of the same study and findings in different ways.

    It’s already been acknowledged that the FBI redefined rape is going to lead to a major hike in supposed rape stats and that will not doubt be used to bludgeon everyone with the idea that America is the Land of The Free and the Home of nothing but rapists. The terrorisation of people through bogey men just goes on – and it;s pretty disgusting to watch.

    The politicians and other many have caught on to the twisting and absue of reality – but the media game to keep Jo and Joanna Public in-line with the rape message and keep support for fraudulently obtained funding still goes on.

  2. The NISVS study was sponsored through VAWA. It is unfortunate, no – socially devastating, that a formerly well respected research entity, the CDC, would fall victim to feminist political pandering. This is the exact reason we need to establish the White House Council for Men & Boys.

  3. I would really like to know the educational and political background of the researchers. Are they women’s studies graduates? Have they been active in feminist organizations? Maybe that is impossible to dig up but it would be useful. What I keep finding is that people try to evade feminist responsibility in these matters in any way they can and the CDC can be blamed on the government and seen as not having anything to do with feminism.

  4. There is an obvious response to Tamen’s question, whose absence is most telling.

    Simply speak of the pros, cons, neutral effects of the option of including “forced to penetrate” as another case of rape when asked about it. Be open, and straightforward. Attempt to be perceived that way. Explore it.

    Their response gives more credence to a deceptive motive. That shouldn’t be as acceptable in science as in politics. An allegiance to the scientific truth should be stronger than any results unless you prefer the state of affairs before science. Seems where we are headed though in “social science” as the new religion.

  5. As I heavily implied in my post on /r/MensRights, I think it’s related to Mary P Koss having been sitting in different advisory roles in the CDC over the years. Here is some entries from her CV:

    1996: Expert Panel Member, “Definitions of Sexual Assault,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    2003- : Selected to direct the Sexual Violence Applied Research Advisory Group, VAWNET.org, the national online resource on violence against women funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    2003- : Member, team of expert advisors, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on teen partner violence

    2003- : Panel of Experts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control on scales to measure intimate partner violence, resulted in the publication of CDC Intimate Partner Violence compendium, 2005

    2003-4: Consultant, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Intimate Partner Violence compendium, 2005 IPV Compendium on assessment of sexual violence and inclusion as recommended standard assessments in the field of two Koss-authored assessments (Sexual Experiences Survey-victimization, and Sexual Experiences Survey-perpetration)

    Mary P Koss has published a paper in 1993 on methodology in measuring rape prevalence. In that paper she argues:

    Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of the legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with a woman.

    That does not necessarily preclude Jacob’s guess and I suspect it certainly was a factor in CDC not “bucking” the old learnings of Koss. But I seriously believe Koss by her positions in CDC have been a factor in how this issue is viewed in CDC. I even suspect the Jacob’s guess may have originally influenced Koss because I’ve seen studies from the eighties and nineties finding that at least as many men as women have experienced unwanted sex. Nicola Gavey is another feminist arguing the difference and base her statement that it’s fundamentally different if a woman performs oral sex on a non-consenting sleeping man than if a man performs oral sex on a noon-consenting sleeping woman. She cites studies finding that more men than women (I think there was about 20 percentagepoints difference between men and women) reported unwanted sex while twice as high percentage of women than men reported being very upset about the unwanted sex. Voila: not rape and not the same.

  6. I found this on Yohamis blog and thought it might be of interest to you:

    “Twenty four. Drunk drugged girl is some dude’s girlfriend. She follows me home screaming my name and saying she’s going to have herself killed on the street unless I let her in and fuck her. So I do it. Her boyfriend later finds out and apologizes for her behavior.

    Twenty five. Girl student rapes me in a bathroom, where Im puking after having had too many tequilas, while her boyfriend is waiting at the table.”

    http://yohami.com/blog/2013/04/07/girls-with-boyfriends/

  7. “It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with a woman. ”

    That must be an example of feminists working on men’s problems like we talked about in the previous entry.

  8. Tamen, that info about Koss and the CDC is great to have.

    Toysoldier, have you considered writing a book? Your blog is very good and you have great overview of the data. I think you could write a very good book on the subject. Not how easy it would be to publish something like that but there is always self publishing on the web.

    My local feminists have had great success with publishing anthologies and co written books where different people write different chapters. There are several people in this blogopshere that I think could write good chapters on certain specific topics they have a particularly good grasp on but maybe have some way to go before they could write a book by themselves. Maybe something to consider.

  9. Toysoldier, have you considered writing a book?

    I prefer to leave that sort of thing to the professionals. I have never written anything longer than a novella, and that proved a tedious effort.

  10. Sherlock, that psot by Yohami was gold. I posted it to the Men’s Rights subreddit because it is going to resonate with a lot of people over there.

  11. Toysoldier; I don’t know if you’ve ever covered the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CWES). In addition to the sexist common law definition of rape in SOA 2009 it turns out that they (CWES) really goes out of their way to undercount male victims of rape (by envelopment):
    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2009/01/05/can-women-rape-men-rp/#comment-504891

    SensitiveThug made me aware that the CWES conducted a split-sample experience with two different question sets for the respondents ( http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2009/01/05/can-women-rape-men-rp/#comment-509104 ).

    I took a closer look and did not like what I saw at all: http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/1dbc0h/crime_survey_for_england_and_wales_victims_of/

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  13. Yet another example of how double standard bullshit hurts victims and society in general. What’s good (or bad) for the goose should be the same for the gander…

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  18. I agree it’s ridiculous. Male rape victims should stop being ignored, but how exactly did you calculate the 1 in 16 men statistic?

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  20. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2014/10/destrehan_high_school_teachers.html

    Please read this and tell me if the rolls were reversed if the charges for these women predators would applied to men ..

    Fact these women were his teachers. Fact they’re both 10+ years older than him. Fact he is a minor (i.e. he is 16 -v- age of constent @17). The fact that rape charges haven’t filed is further recklessness.

    This goes well with the whole CDC changing definitions of rape issue. Another win for feminists when skewing the data.

    So women can’t find good men. Does this excuse them? Is this a rare occurence with women teachers preying on male students? Why is this not shocking news?

    If you missed my sarcasm .. please refrain from operating heavy machinery until further notice.

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  23. I find the folks insisting “blah blah blah feminists are evil blah” to be really odd and clearly not paying much attention to currents in feminism today. Much of feminism is currently focused on the idea of healthy self perception as in no matter your sex, being held to reasonable standards as a human being above all.
    However I am not a feminist, I am a misandrist but being a sane human being who is trapped with other humans, it is obvious that we are all together in this cesspool and might as well at least treat each other with respect. Doesn’t mean I don’t see the average buffoon for what he is but at the end of the day we all deserve basic respect.
    Anyway main point, the irony is, I am happy to hear that there are finally statistics covering the other damage due to irrational masculine ideals, it forces this issue into an all or nothing sum game which it is!!!
    NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE RAPED especially since it is such an easy crime to not do. Literally don’t force or coerce another person into having sex with you and the world is a happier place. But these unrealistic expectations of women as victimized human potato and man always as predatory kitchen knife erode our ability to interact with each other as human beings and fix problems.
    Its interesting though how it seems like the women on the “fringes” at least in terms of sanity seem to be the ones doing the crimes and getting away with it while the men who get away with it seem to be he more popular types.
    I guess it boils down to expectation of violent potential, even though she might be crazy they always assume she can’t do much damage whereas the popular guy always gets the “he’d never do that” benefit. Don’t let popular douches and crazy bitches rape?

  24. Ellsz:

    I find the folks insisting “blah blah blah feminists are evil blah” to be really odd and clearly not paying much attention to currents in feminism today.

    Criticizing someone is not the same as calling them evil.

    Much of feminism is currently focused on the idea of healthy self perception as in no matter your sex, being held to reasonable standards as a human being above all.

    Feminists actions and behavior appear to contradict this notion, particularly as it relates to being male.

    I am a misandrist but being a sane human being who is trapped with other humans

    I do not think hating and fearing half the human population is a sign of sanity.

    Anyway main point, the irony is, I am happy to hear that there are finally statistics covering the other damage due to irrational masculine ideals, it forces this issue into an all or nothing sum game which it is!!!

    Then you should also be interested to know that the CDC attempted to bury the numbers. They did not mention them in the press release, and when advocates brought the numbers up, the CDC responded as I noted in the above post.

    Its interesting though how it seems like the women on the “fringes” at least in terms of sanity seem to be the ones doing the crimes and getting away with it while the men who get away with it seem to be he more popular types.

    That is also untrue. Most of the women in the stories I cover on this blog as average women in the midst of society. It is very common tactic, particularly among feminists, to claim that only crazy women abuse.

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  28. It is rape. They have a misconception and they should be prosecuted. It goes against the Free will clause which is consent. MTP which is not classified under the FBI as not rape is a ridiculous conception for us males, because MTP is used when the victim is drugged and has the inability to consent. Officials of this are down right wrong on solidifying their political agenda to silence victims of wrong doing, and should be prosecuted for crimes against an individual. That is un-consentual sex, and men have the ability to choose when they want it, and when they don’t. They do this to whistle blowers shut up or else. Its a brute force tactic. Men can be raped, just like women. We have sexual organs. This is the war on individuals who are non-violent in nature, but believe in a higher cause for good. They need to get it right, and realize that rape goes for both men, and women..

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