“Homophobic obsession with anal sex arguably has less to do with the act itself – increasingly acceptable in heterosexual discourse – than the perception that a man is denigrating himself by taking on what is perceived to be the passive, feminine role.”
Published last Monday, the Stern Review sets a new benchmark in discussions of rape and sexual assault by describing victims in gender-neutral language. Male rape was only recognised by English and Welsh law in 1994 and as a result there is little statistical history, with what there is varying wildly. According to the Stern Review, the victim is male in around 8% of all recorded rape cases. The unrecorded figure is thought to be far higher. UK charity Mankind suggests that three in 20 men are victims of sexual violence – a figure that corresponds with statistics in the United States. Neither takes into account instances of rape within prisons – to which there is a collective state of denial in the UK relative to the US.
Rape and sexual assault are seen as women’s issues – the victims are female, the perpetrators male. But it is no longer acceptable to pretend, as some do, that rape and sexual assault are only committed by men against women. The proportion of men who go on to report sexual assault is extremely low and the number of victims greater than the government or media coverage would suggest. Male rape victims face an enormous amount of social prejudice in coming forward. One organisation working with male victims told the Stern Review: “Very few men will access the police to report a rape, they don’t want to feel less of a man, don’t want to be regarded as gay.”