Can a man be raped?

“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” -Kurt Cobain

A Societal Frontier

We have long considered the typical rape victim to be female, and their perpetrator male. This stereotype has been perpetuated through the media, pop culture and research. While this idea is by no means unmerited, there are a number of factors and unearthed studies to consider. Until the population changes its view on the subject, there may be male rape victims who will not receive the council they require because professionals do not realize the need or have not been properly educated to handle a male client. Furthermore, an unsettling reality is that many male victims may not even come forward to seek help due to a fear of being seen as weak and live with feelings of fear guilt, anger, shame and or depression.


Merriam Webster:

rape: unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. Attempts or assaults to commit rape are also included; however, statutory rape and incest are excluded.

Center for Disease Control

A sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.

National Crime Victimization Survey

Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal or oral penetration by the offender (s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.

In years past, these various sources have reported that males account for 10% or less of all rape victims. In 2011 the Center for Disease Control reported that 1 in every 5 woman in the U.S. had been raped, however only 1.7% of men had.

Looking through a different lense

The CDC's numbers are accurate according to their definition, but could be considered misleading when other factors such as gender, victimization and bias are included. In fact, such statistics paint a picture of the United States housing a rampant rape culture where females are more often then not the lonely victims.

There are several discrepancies in the CDC's methodology that could lead to a misinformed public.

  1. The CDC reported 2 million U.S. women had been raped and that 6.7 million had been the victims of some other form of sexual violence. In the same year the NCVS only reported 238,000 incidents of rape or sexual assault. This is most likely since the CDC reported acts of sexual violence that were not deemed criminal whereas the NCVS focused on criminal offenses.
  2. One question on the CDC's survey asks participants "how many people have used physical force or threats to make you engage in a sexual activity." A more direct question would have been to ask if physical force or threat had caused them to engage in sexual activity. Construing the wording of questions to make them unclear or inherently bias in one direction can lead to false positives, and people are more likely to answer positively even if they had never considered the option before. This is especially misleading when the survey asks coercive sexual behavior.
  3. 2/3's of rape reported by the CDC are considered "incapacitated" rape. This means the victim was intoxicated, high, drugged or passed out making them unable to consent. Incapacitated rape is illegal by nature but considering intoxicated, for example, includes people who were too drunk to consent.

The statistic showing that only 1.7% of men had been raped is due in part to their definition of sexual assault which focuses heavily on consent, but the more surprising skew is that these statistics only refer to...

men who have been forced into anal sex or made to perform oral sex on another male.

The CDC did report that 7% of men reported being made to penetrate another person (majorly in reference to vaginal intercourse), receive oral sex or perform oral sex on a women. This statistic was not highly publicized nor was it considered rape, but as "other sexual violence." Most interestingly when males had been asked if they were "forced to penetrate" (majorly in reference to vaginal intercourse), they reported positively at the same rate as women who reported being raped (1.7% women; 1.6% men).

So can a man be raped?

The answer depends on who you ask and how you ask it. Most people would say yes but not to the capacity nor fashion that is potentially ongoing.

A new perspective

The CDC has retained its methodology and definitions since its 2011 survey however the NCVS has since broadened its definition. The new definition includes the term "forced penetration" without mention of gender, and the results look starkly different.

Interestingly enough the most common male victims of rape are members of the military. A male service member is 10 times more likely to be raped than a male non-service member. In fact, in the military, there are more male victims of rape than women. This usually stems from a superior officers desire to assert their dominance over a lower ranking subordinate.

Södersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm is a 24 hour clinic which helps 600-700 female victims of sexual assault annually has recently began admitting males. One physician at the hospital says male rape victims can suffer more than women, yet the subject remains "taboo, given the general perception that men cannot be raped."

Resources Thumbs Up!

Work cited

Bureau of Justice Statistics Home page

CDC: Nearly 1 in 5 women raped Jessica Dur-o -

The CDC's Rape Numbers Are Misleading

National Post View: Male victims of sexual assault need help, too

National View -

Sexual Assault / Abuse


Violence Prevention


Created with images by Unsplash - "man portrait black and white"

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