Despite a recent increase in research about male victimization, the topic remains largely obscure. We still lack any clear understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence against males. One of the reasons for this is researcher bias.
Many researchers studying sexual violence are feminists. While being a feminist does not make one dishonest, it does introduce an ideological bias. Feminism paints sexual violence, particularly rape, as an act of oppression committed by men against women. That theory provides the framework most feminist researchers use to examine sexual violence.
The potential bias is obvious. If sexual violence is something that men do to specifically oppress women, what should we make of instances of male victims? If rape is a tool of male dominance over females, can males be raped? What of the reverse? What if a woman rapes a man? Is that rape? Could the act even hurt or impact male victims?
In most instances, the feminist response to these questions is no. This leads to feminist researchers, who make up the majority of sexual violence researchers, ignoring male victims or downplaying the severity of male victimization. The most recent and blatant example of this was in the the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
The researchers defined rape as an act in which only the victim could be penetrated:
– Among women, rape includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes vaginal or anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.
– Among men, rape includes oral or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.
As I noted in my previous post about the survey, “according to that definition women cannot rape men or women by forcing the victims to penetrate them. They cannot rape men by forcibly performing oral sex on the victims. The researchers instead created a separate definition called “being made to penetrate someone else” that is not counted as rape.”
This move baffled many advocates and non-feminists. In most states, forcing a man or boy to vaginally or anally penetrate someone counts as rape. So does performing oral sex on a male. This is particularly true if the male is a minor. Yet the researchers chose to define being made to penetrate as a separate, less emotionally and physically traumatizing act. As they explained in their conclusion:
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.
This makes little sense until one factors in the ideology guiding these arguments. If the researchers view rape as something men do to oppress women, then the notion that women can rape men simply does not parse. It turns out that one of the researchers in charge of deciding the definition holds such a position.
Researcher Mary Koss gave an interview several months ago. Reporter Theresa Phung asked Koss about female-perpetrated sexual violence, specifically whether she considered female-on-male rape possible. This was her response:
The reporter Theresa Phung: Dr. Koss says One of the main reasons the definition does not include men being forced to penetrate women is because of emotional trauma, or lack thereof.
Dr. Koss: How do they react to rape. If you look at this group of men who identify themselves as rape victims raped by women you’ll find that their shame is not similar to women, their level of injury is not similar to women and their penetration experience is not similar to what women are reporting.
In short, rape hurts males less than it hurts females. Of course, Koss does not factor in the myriad of cultural and social norms that would cause males to downplay their experiences and their impact. There is likewise no mention of that in the CDC survey. It is simply accepted without question that males report less emotional and physical trauma without anyone bothering to ask why.
When Phung mentions Charlie, a man she interviewed who recounted his rape at the hands of a woman, Koss dismissed Charlie and his experiences:
Theresa Phung: “For the men who are traumatized by their experiences because they were forced against their will to vaginally penetrate a woman..”
Dr. Mary P. Koss: “How would that happen…how would that happen by force or threat of force or when the victim is unable to consent? How does that happen?”
Theresa Phung: “So I am actually speaking to someone right now. his story is that he was drugged, he was unconscious and when he awoke a woman was on top of him with his penis inserted inside her vagina, and for him that was traumatizing.
Dr. Mary P. Koss: “Yeah.”
Theresa Phung: “If he was drugged what would that be called?”
Dr. Mary P. Koss: “What would I call it? I would call it ‘unwanted contact’.”
Theresa Phung: “Just ‘unwanted contact’ period?”
Dr. Mary P. Koss: “Yeah.”
If it looks bad in writing, it sounds much worse in audio (it starts at 8:15).
This is the person who helped rewrite the FBI’s definition of rape. This is the person who defined rape for the CDC survey. In the interview, Koss defines sexual violence as a women’s issue that affects men in the same way breast cancer affects men. This is despite study after study, including the CDC’s 2010 survey, showing that there are more male victims than people believe and that there are likely as many male victims as female victims. Her own survey revealed that information, yet Koss still holds to the notion that women cannot rape men.
This is the kind of thing advocates for male victims combat and this it what male victims face when they want to come forward. Here is a preeminent researcher essentially laughing at male victims of female rapists and telling them that they are not emotionally or physically traumatized, that what happened to them is as rare as male breast cancer, and that at best it is nothing more than “unwanted sexual contact.”
As much as I detest the concept of “rape culture” and all the faux logic that comes with it, if ever there were evidence of it existing, Koss’s statement would be it.