Using feminist theory to understand male rape

October 20, 2014

Decades of feminist research have framed rape and sexual assault as a 'women's issue', leaving little room for the experiences of male victims. But a new study published in the Journal of Gender Studies suggests that feminist theory, with its focus on the gendered nature of rape, can also help us understand the stigmas, social constructions and realities associated with male rape.

Aliraza Javaid of the University of York writes: 'Feminism conceptualises rape as a violent act which, along with a consideration of hegemonic masculinity, may help us understand why male rape has been widely overlooked and discover whether social and gender expectations facilitate this neglect.'

He adds: 'How a man perceives himself as a man and in what ways masculinities are formed within a social and cultural setting are vital to understanding male rape.'

To illustrate these points, Javaid refers to the work of key feminist sjoourcholars throughout his article, highlighting how some of the central notions – power, control, hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy – can produce difficulties for understanding male rape. Crucially, a focus on men as aggressors has meant less time spent focusing on men as victims and the consequent neglect of male victims as a subject for empirical study. The emphasis on rape as a women's concern has also created practical problems for male victims, such as a shortage of male police officers trained to help them and fewer means of support.

Javaid discusses in detail how cultural 'expectations' of men and masculinity pose challenges for dealing with male rape. The widespread belief that men cannot be raped – either by women or other men – as well as the expectation that men do not show emotion may contribute to the fact that men report rape at much lower rates than women. Falling victim to a crime that generally affects women challenges notions of 'hegemonic masculinity' and male power: male 'are judged, and judge themselves' to be 'failed ' for not fighting off perpetrators.

Javaid concludes that the widespread neglect of male by scholars 'functions to maintain and reinforce patriarchal power relations and hegemonic masculinities'. But even worse than that, such neglect of the male experience of rape undermines the cause of gender equality for which so many strive.

This article is essential reading for Gender Studies scholars as well as those involved in supporting victims of rape – of either sex.

Explore further: Web-based training can reduce campus rape

More information: "Feminism, masculinity and male rape: bringing male rape 'out of the closet.'" Journal of Gender Studies. Published online: 17 Sep 2014. DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2014.959479

Related Stories

Web-based training can reduce campus rape

September 15, 2014
Web-based training targeted at college-aged men is an effective tool for reducing the number of sexual assaults on U.S. campuses, according to a researcher in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

Young people are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual assaults

May 30, 2013
Sexual assault has almost as much to do with age as it does with gender, according to Penn State criminologists.

40 percent of women with severe mental illness are victims of rape or attempted rape

September 3, 2014
Women with severe mental illness are up to five times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault and two to three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, reveals new research led by UCL ...

Past sexual assault triples risk of future assault for college women

August 29, 2014
Disturbing news for women on college campuses: a new study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) indicates that female college students who are victims of sexual assault are at a much higher ...

New psychology study reveals unexamined costs of rape

October 9, 2012
Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are commonly associated with sexual assault, but a new study from The University of Texas at Austin shows that female victims suffer from a wide spectrum of debilitating effects ...

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Oct 21, 2014
Before you boys start imagining being forced hump playboy models, spare a thought for the fact that most male rapes are perpetrated by other males...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.