A study in the United Kingdom found that 71% of men had experienced some form of sexual victimization by a woman at least once in their lifetime. The most frequent forms of sexual victimization was fondling or grabbing. Participants who reported having experienced sexual victimization tended to have more pronounced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The study was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Sexual victimization encompasses a range of non-consensual sexual activities inflicted upon an individual. These include rape, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual violence. It can occur in various contexts, from intimate relationships to attacks by strangers, and impacts victims regardless of their age, gender, or background. This form of victimization can have profound physical effects, but can also lead to severe adverse psychological and emotional consequences, contributing to issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
While sexual victimization of women is an important topic in both the mainstream media and policy discussions, sexual victimization of men attracts relatively little interest. This is particularly the case for male sexual victimization in which women are the perpetrators. Societal reaction to these types of victimization are often very different from how society reacts to the sexual victimization of women. This is at least partly caused by the difference in gender norms.
There is a widespread cultural belief that male sexual victimization by women is impossible, “because men are supposed to be physically dominant and aggressive, independent, and able to protect themselves, whereas women are supposed to be the opposite: gentle, submissive, and weak,” the authors of this study explain.
With this in mind, study authors Jasmine Madjlessi and Steve Loughnan conducted a study that aimed to provide an estimate of how widespread male sexual victimization by women is. They also wanted to explore the mental health disorders associated with victimization and to see whether gender norms moderate the link between sexual victimization and mental disorders.
The research involved 1,124 heterosexual British men, recruited through Prolific Academic, who were compensated 1 GBP for their participation. To preserve participant anonymity, no further demographic data were collected.
Participants completed a Qualtrics survey that included assessments of sexual victimization (adapted from the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey), conformity to masculine gender norms (using the short form of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory), anxiety (the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7), depression (the Patient Health Questionnaire – 9), and PTSD symptoms (the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5).
The findings indicated that 71% of men reported experiencing sexual victimization by women at least once in their lives, with 57% victimized more than once, and 45% more than twice. Forty percent experienced attempted or completed forced vaginal/anal penetration, with 5% reporting victimization through force or threats of physical harm, 33% through pressuring, and 29% through exploitation of inebriation or inability to consent.
Fondling or grabbing was the most frequently reported form of sexual victimization, followed by vaginal sex, kissing, oral or anal sex, and public harassment. Those reporting higher frequencies of victimization exhibited more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD, even after adjusting for age and gender norm conformity.
“The current study further illuminates the occurrence of male sexual victimization by women and counters cultural myths prescribing that men cannot experience psychological suffering as a result of sexual victimization,” the study authors concluded. “The findings of the present study support that sexual victimization is a prevalent issue that may impact a significant percentage of the male population. Further, the study supports that male sexual victimization is of particular importance due to the association between victimization and experiencing mental disorders, namely anxiety, depression, and PTSD.”
The study sheds light on the little studied issue of male sexual victimization. However, it should be noted that the study was based on self-reports of an online sample, which leaves quite a bit of room for reporting bias. Additionally, the design of the study does not allow any cause-and-effect inferences to be drawn from the data.
The study, “Male Sexual Victimization by Women: Incidence Rates, Mental Health, and Conformity to Gender Norms in a Sample of British Men“, was authored by Jasmine Madjlessi and Steve Loughnan.