Sexual Male Violence: Why don’t men speak up?

By Aikaterini Morali

Limited attention has been given to sexual male violence, as it is considered to be a new notion[1], and it hasn’t been studied outside of clinical[2].

Sexual male victimization seems to be unseen or even obscure. According to rape myths, sexual male violence is incompatible with notions of masculinity[3]. Myths of rape depict male victimization as either aberrant or benign preventing male victims from reporting sexual violence and harassment[4].

Multiple misconceptions arising from our heteronormative society, and one of the challenges is trying to get an accurate image of sexual male victimization. Misconceptions such as “it is impossible for men to have unwanted sexual experiences with women” or “men always want sex” make male victims far more unwilling to disclosure unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault[5]. When another male commits the crime of sexual violence against a male victim, another misconception is taking place, such as “heterosexuality is proof of manhood with the stigma associated with homosexual encounters”[6].

Reported evidence has shown that survivors of sexual male violence state that masculinity plays an important role and it acts as a barrier in reporting the crime, as they are afraid of being weak, labeled homosexual, and lose their identity inside the society[7].

It is evident that patriarchy and power are central to masculine identity[8]. Research on heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity reveals that gender arrangements, traditional beliefs, and behaviours lead men to conquer power over women and men[9]. Furthermore, according to the theory of heterosexuality, bodies are either penetrating or penetrated[10]. Culturally, the male body is identified as a “penetrator” and not “penetrated”[11]. This theory and study provide evidence why male victims of sexual violence are reluctant and afraid of speaking about their victimization. It is, without doubt, that in societies where patriarchy is present, male victims of sexual violence encounter stigmatization contributing to a sense of shame[12].

The literature review supports the fact that based on rape myths, people blame and condemn male victims of sexual violence because they seem to have failed in their masculine identity to support and protect themselves[13].

A study conducted by examining young men’s narratives reveals that victimhood is outside of cultural norms of masculinity, and as a result, male victims are excluded from the sphere of victimization[14]. This leads to the fact that male victims of sexual violence prefer not to speak up about their experience, and to be ashamed to open up.

In addition to this, the norms of gender and sexuality restrained male victims’ ability to reveal their experiences and traumas outside of “heteronormative ideals”[15].

According to Nils Christie’s theory about the “Ideal Victim”, five characteristics of ideal victimhood have been identified: 1)the victim is weak (female, elderly), 2) respectful, 3) blameless, 4) the offender is big and bad, 5) there was no relationship between the victim and the offender[16]. As a result, men victims are not considered to be “ideal victims”, which explains why they prefer not to express their vulnerability and they are harshly judged.

Furthermore, feelings of self-blame and credibility issues are another explanation of why men victims decide don’t speak up. Society’s stigma, the cultural norms, and the stigma of homosexuality act as catalytic generators that restrain male victims from disclosing experienced sexual violence[17].

Unreported sexual violence is closely linked to fear of not being believed, treated in a negative manner, blamed, or not taken into account. Male victims of sexual violence experience shame and stigma, and they have not received assistance, support, and professional help to recover from the trauma. Male victims encounter stereotypes about rape and gay men, to recover masculinity. Education and awareness about sex/sexuality and sexual violence are needed in order to fight stereotypes, protect victims of sexual violence and heal the trauma.



[1] Graham, R. 2006. ‘‘Male Rape and the Careful Construction of the Male Victim.’’ Social & Legal Studies 15:187–208.

[2] Frazier, P. A. 1993. ‘‘A Comparative Study of Male and Female Rape Victims Seen at a Hospital-based Rape Crisis Program.’’ Journal of Interpersonal Violence 8:64–76.

[3] Heather R. Hlavka 2016. “Speaking of Stigma and the Silence of Shame: Young Men and Sexual Victimization” 482-502.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Vitelli R. 2020. “Why Aren’t male Victims of Sexual Abuse Speaking Out?”, available at:

[6] Ibid.

[7] Heather R. Hlavka 2016. “Speaking of Stigma and the Silence of Shame: Young Men and Sexual Victimization” 482-502.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Kitzinger, C. 2005. ‘‘Heteronormativity in Action: Reproducing the Heterosexual Nuclear Family in After-hours Medical Calls.’’ Social Problems 52:477–98.

[10] Butler, J. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, p. 485.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid, p. 498.

[16] Schwobel-Pater C. 2015. “Nils Christie’s “Ideal Victim” applied: From Lions to  Swarms”, available at:

[17] Heather R. Hlavka 2016. “Speaking of Stigma and the Silence of Shame: Young Men and Sexual Victimization” 482-502.