In a previous article, I supposed that due to various stigmas, fear of reporting, the refusal of police and social workers to act, disparity in social acceptability of assault depending on the gender of the assailant, and other problems, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with respect to male victimization. Since then, the CDC has published a special report of data collected between 2010 and 2012.
Past-year CDC data from 2010, 2011, and 2012 reports on the prevalence of sexual assault called rape of women and called made to penetrate of men. These are the same act committed in opposite directions (forcibly penetrating a person, vs. forcing a person to penetrate you, either vaginally, anally, or orally). I use italics to indicate that I’m using these terms the same way that the CDC uses them, since any reasonable person would agree that made to penetrate is also a form of rape as it’s colloquially understood. (So when I say rape and rapists, I am referencing forcible penetration of the victim, whereas rape and rapists reference forcible intercourse in either direction.)
Here are the definitions, taken directly from p17 of the report (which even goes so far as to clarify that all instances of made to penetrate were completed, since attempted acts did not happen):
The reason the two terms are separated for data collecting purposes has been described several times by Dr. Mary P. Koss, a prominent sexual violence researcher with the CDC, whose justification is as follows.
From a 1993 paper:
Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with women.
From a 2007 paper:
We acknowledge the inappropriateness of female verbal coercion and the legitimacy of male perceptions that they have had unwanted sex. Although men may sometimes sexually penetrate women when ambivalent about their own desires, these acts fail to meet legal definitions of rape that are based on the penetration of the body of the victim.
From a 2015 interview on the radio show “You are Here”:
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. If he was drugged what would that be called?
Mary Koss: What would I call it? I would call it unwanted contact.
In other words, Koss rejects the possibility that a man can feel legitimately violated by having his penis used against his will, so she has insisted on classifying this phenomenon differently from female victimization. The result is that the CDC only publishes conclusions regarding male-perpetrated rape and its female victims, since male-on-male rape is far less common (most people are heterosexual) and women who force men to have sex with them are placed into a separate category to be ignored. These definitional shenanigans enable the CDC to claim that the vast majority of rape victims are female (since, thanks to Koss’s categorization, the majority of rape victims are female).
Fortunately, the above mentioned comprehensive 2010-12 NISVS special report gives data for the gender of perpetrators of several listed acts across those three years. Women reported that between 91.1 and 100% (depending on the state) of their rapists were male (I averaged to 95.5%). Men reported that women were their rapists (made to penetrate-ists) at an average of 78.5% of the time (reported range between states of 71.8 to 89.7%). There were reported gender perpetrator breakdowns of male rape victimization, but I have left that out of the following analysis, since there was not a statistically significant amount of men forcibly penetrated in 2010-2012 past-year data, and also because the reciprocal act (female victimization of made to penetrate) was not broken down by the gender of the perpetrator, so there would be nothing to compare it to, biasing my analysis in favour of male perpetrators. Instead, I am comparing the two opposite-but-identical acts of forcible penetration of women (rape) and forcible envelopment of men (made to penetrate). All the figures on perpetrator by sex are provided on page 4 of the report (though your PDF viewer will likely call it page 18).
To be clear, I focus on past-year data rather than lifetime reports because it is much more reliable (Alison Tieman provides one reason for this here), and also because it is important to observe trends (either in the frequency of events or the willingness of victims to report them) as they change from year to year. I also focus primarily on opposite-sex assault, not because I wish to prioritize it over same-sex assault, but because the available data makes it easiest to compare male-on-female to female-on-male incidents.
Here is my analysis of that data, complete with screenshots that include the CDC web address from which they’re taken. As a disclaimer, I am not a statistician. What I have done is simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Feel free to check my math if you are skeptical. I have provided every number I’ve used and its source.
1.1% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,270,000 women.
- Range of male-on-female victims: 1,157,000 – 1,270,000 women
- Average estimate of male-on-female victims: 1,213,000 women
- Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 57,000 women
1.1% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,267,000 men
- Range of female-on-male victims: 910,000 – 1,136,000 men
- Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 995,000 men
- Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 272,000 men
It should already catch your attention that exactly the same 1.1 percent of men and women reported forcible intercourse in 2010. Factoring in the gender breakdowns of perpetrators (on p4 of the NISVS special report) based on the average estimates of victims by gender (1,231,000 women and 995,000 men), 45% of opposite-sex rapes in 2010 were perpetrated by women and suffered by men, meaning that men and women perpetrate and are victimized at similar rates.
1.6% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,929,000 women.
- Range of male-on-female victims: 1,757,000 – 1,929,000 women
- Average estimate of male-on-female victims: 1,842,000 women
- Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 87,000 women
1.7% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,921,000 men
- Range of female-on-male victims: 1,379,000 – 1,723,000 men
- Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 1,508,000 men
- Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 413,000 men
In 2011, the percent of men actually slightly exceeds the percent of women reporting past-year victimization, which should be a big deal, and yet it has barely been reported on, if at all. Again, once you factor the genders of perpetration, opposite-sex rape breaks down to about 55% male-on-female, 45% female-on-male.
1.0% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,217,000 women.
- Range of male-on-female victims: 1,109,000 – 1,217,000 women
- Average estimate of male-on-female victims: 1,162,000 women
- Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 55,000 women
1.7% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,949,000 men
- Range of female-on-male victims: 1,399,000 – 1,748,000 men
- Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 1,530,000 men
- Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 419,000 men
Staggeringly, male victimization for 2012 is reported at almost twice the rate of female victimization, with men estimated at over 700,000 more rape victimizations than women (and again, radio silence on the subject). When factoring in perpetrator genders, opposite-sex rape, this time, is about 57% female-on-male, 43% male-on-female, more than reversing the gap that existed in the previous two years.
Even if you want to play it safe and compare the highest possible male-on-female rates to the lowest female-on-male rates, that still places our numbers at about 53% female-on-male, 47% male-on-female, with female rapists still in the lead.
It’s important to remember that these are not magic statistics representing the exact rate of crime as it’s committed. No researcher was a fly on the wall for these events. They are self-reported. So we should bear in mind that it is less likely that significantly more men were raped in 2012 than in 2010 as it is that more men in the recent survey were willing to report having been raped, showing what may be a more accurate representation of the rates of male victimization than we have seen in the past.
The 2012 data may be a fluke. 2010 and 2011 both demonstrate a more balanced and consistent breakdown of male and female perpetration and victimization. However, we should keep an eye on past-year data over the next few years and see what trends emerge. It could very well be that we are starting to see more of that iceberg. As the 2012 data suggests, there may very well be more men raped by women than women raped by men.