For many years, the FBI defined rape as “carnal knowledge of a female” perpetrated “forcibly and against her will”, which, according to some researchers, had resulted in sexual violence towards men being underestimated in cultural studies and, in some cases, even statistics.
While there hardly seems to be any reason to suspect the veracity of the sexual subjugation of women throughout history or the harmfulness of myths surrounding rape, authors of a new peer-reviewed paper, recently published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, claim that insufficient information and false beliefs aren’t helpful to anyone.
Having sifted through massive amounts of federal data on many tens of thousands of people, the authors claim their paper “provides more definitive estimates about the prevalence of female sexual perpetration than has been provided in the literature to date. Taken as a whole, the reports we examine document surprisingly significant prevalence of female-perpetrated sexual victimization, mostly against men and occasionally against women”.
The paper analyzed a number of surveys on adult men and college-age males, showing that roughly 40-50% of respondents report incidents of sexual coercion, with the majority of them being perpetrated by females and resulting in forced penetration.
One study carried out in 2012 using data from the U. S. Census Bureau’s nationally representative National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found little difference in the sex of self-reported sexual perpetrators. Of those who affirmed that they had “ever forced someone to have sex with you against their will,” 43.6% were female and 56.4% were male.
“Given these statistics, it’s all the more striking that so few women ever end up on sex offender registries. One five-state study of registries found that between 0.8% and 3% of the people on sex offender registries are female; other surveys have found proportions lower than 2%,” writes Steven Blum.
Analyzing data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the authors found that women are much more likely to be sexually victimized by fellow inmates than male staff. The most surprising finding, however, was that women state prisoners were more than three times as likely to experience sexual victimization perpetrated by women inmates (13.7%) than were men to be victimized by other male inmates (4.2%).
Furthermore, it is likely that abuse by female perpetrators is underreported. Several studies published in 1993 found that men who experience sexual violence at the hands of both men and women are less likely to report victimization by a female, and actually tend to misreport the abuser as male.
This may be partly explained by culturally prevalent notions of masculinity, encouraging men to interpret traumatic sexual experiences as rites of initiation, thereby making them seem more benign, or hide them altogether for fear of being seen as weak and/or unappreciative of their alleged luck.
Responding to claims that the paper is attempting to upend the women’s rights agenda, the authors claim that “attention to female perpetration is consistent with feminist approaches that take into account power relations, intersectional analyses, and the imperative to question gender-based stereotypes”.
Sources: theatlantic.com, broadly.vice.com.