Papering over inconvenient crime

According to the Executive Summary of the 2010 CDC National Intimate Partner Violence Survey Report[1]

Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.

Regardless of the lifetime numbers, the more reliable previous year figures on tables 2.1 and 2.2 (pages 18 and 19) show rates of rape for women of 1.1% and rates of “made to penetrate” for men of…huh. Wouldn’t you know it? 1.1%.

Unfortunately, lifetime stats are the least accurate, which is why reports like this almost always include previous 6 or 12 month figures.

From the full report’s definitions:

Rape is defined as any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal (for women), oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm and includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent. Rape is separated into three types, completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and completed alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.

Among women, rape includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes vaginal or anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.

Among men, rape includes oral or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.

Being made to penetrate someone else includes times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone without the victim’s consent because the victim was physically forced (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threatened with physical harm, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.

Among women, this behavior reflects a female being made to orally penetrate another female’s vagina or anus.

Among men, being made to penetrate someone else could have occurred in multiple ways: being made to vaginally penetrate a female using one’s own penis; orally penetrating a female’s vagina or anus; anally penetrating a male or female; or being made to receive oral sex from a male or female. It also includes female perpetrators attempting to force male victims to penetrate them, though it did not happen.

This is already problematic, since it lumps in both attempted and completed “forced/nonconsensual sex” by penetration of the victim (I use the quoted term, because both rape and being made to penetrate fall into that category and have basically identical definitions, yet the survey chose to apply two different terms), and then claims that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes.

Not the case. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men reported having experienced completed or attempted rape, as the survey defined rape, in their lifetimes.

If they’d used an egalitarian definition of rape–that is, if they had included “made to penetrate” in their definition of rape, the lifetime numbers (less reliable than previous year ones, remember) would have been 1 in 5 women and 1 in 17 men experiencing completed or attempted rape.

Regardless of the lifetime numbers, the more reliable previous year figures on tables 2.1 and 2.2 (pages 18 and 19) show rates of rape for women of 1.1% and rates of “made to penetrate” for men of…huh. Wouldn’t you know it? 1.1%.

A cluster of studies on gender and sexual violence show that women are about as likely as men to use aggressive strategies, including coercion, force, and drugs/alcohol, to get sex from unwilling partners. One study determined that 15% of female subjects had admitted having done so, or having attempted to do so, to get sex from an unwilling man. Other surveys and studies have found higher rates.

In addition, a number of studies on gender and perceptions of violent victimization indicate that men are more likely than women to forget or recontextualize as consensual sexual violence perpetrated against them (even in childhood), and that perceptions of the severity of female violence (by witnesses of both sexes) decreases over time. One study found that only 16% of men (compared with 64% of women) with a documented history of child sexual abuse reported it on a survey designed to capture victims of child sexual abuse. (Sorry, I don’t have the link on hand, it was Ahola, et al.)

These two phenomena likely account for the much larger disparity between the previous 12 month and lifetime numbers for men who were “made to penetrate” than exists between the 12 month and lifetime numbers of rape for women. Extrapolating from the previous 12 month numbers, the lifetime rates for women should be slightly higher, but for men, they should be MUCH higher. Incidentally, 79% of men who were made to penetrate over their lifetimes (page 24) reported a single female perpetrator.

Men recontextualizing sexual violence against them (especially by women) as consensual complies with the cultural narrative of “men are (sexually) aggressive/women are (sexually) passive” as well as “men are perpetrators/women are victims”.

That narrative is certainly evident in the figures the NISVS chose to highlight in their executive summary (the largest female victim/male perpetrator and smallest male victim/female perpetrator numbers), and which acts of sexual violence they chose to “recontextualize” as “something other than rape” in their survey definitions (that is, the most common form of rape suffered by men, primarily perpetrated by women, and for which there were NO reported female victims at all).

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

Further study: http://business.highbeam.com/435388/article-1G1-107203500/women-sexual-aggression-against-men-prevalence-and

For a more detailed analysis with citations see: Manufacturing Victims; Marginalizing Men

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