Misc: Male-Male Rape
From: Kelly Pierce
Subject: review: male on male rape
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 1997 05:20:09 -0600
This review was presented to the task Force on Gays and Lesbians
in the Criminal Justice System of the Cook County State's
Attorney's Office at its meeting on December 3, 1997.
Book Summary: Male on Male Rape: The Hidden Toll of Stigma and
by Michael Scarce
Plenum Publishing/Insight Books
New York, 1997
Cook County State's Attorney's Office
2650 S. California
Chicago, IL 60608
Perhaps the crime most feared and most under reported is that of
male on male rape, says Michael Scarce in his new book Male on
Like most efforts in the incipient victim's rights movement, the
book and Scarce's own career as coordinator of Ohio State
University's Rape Education and Prevention Program got their
genesis in someone's own victimization and transformation as a
male rape survivor. For Scarce, the events leading up to and
surrounding his and many other male rapes are rooted in
homophobia--the unfounded fear and hostility toward homosexuals.
It started for Scarce in the fall of 1989 when he and his friend
Tom began their sophomore year at Ohio State, sharing a dormitory
room at Bradly Hall and serving as President and Vice President
of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. As campus gay leaders they
raised questions and initiated dialogue on issues about which
many men on the campus felt uncomfortable, including all the men
on the third floor of Bradly Hall. As a result, they received
hate mail, death threats, harassing telephone calls, and daily
confrontations from the other men on their floor. To escape the
hostility, Tom headed home for the weekend and Michael visited a
downtown columbus, Ohio gay bar. Michael meets a man there who
hours later would in Michael's dormitory room would rape him. He
describes dramatically how he could not call for help from the
other men who were gay bashers and homophobes.
Scarce wastes no time in politicizing his experience in the first
chapter. The Woman Studies major describes his own assault "as
an highly-useful illumination of how homophobia...creates
climates that foster and perpetuate rape behavior. A rape
culture we all live in. A culture that encourages and condones
sexual violence wielded as a tool for the control and
subordination of those with less power in our society."
What we actually know about male rape is very little. It is, as
William B. Rubenstein of the UCLA School of Law describes it in
the foreword, "something like a stack of disparate snapshots
desperately in need of someone to sit down and arrange them into
a photo album. Scarce gives us a photo album and much more. His
is not the first book on the subject however. Richie McMullen of
the London-based group survivors wrote the first book in 1990,
Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on the Last Taboo. Scarce
though traverses the 20 studies that have been conducted in the
past 30 years. These are the only studies that have examined the
issue in a non-institutionalized setting, such as prisons. Here
is what we do know, from the shards of information Scarce
expertly and exclusively narrates.
* Male rapes constitute about five to 10 percent of all rapes.
* Most perpetrators self-identify as heterosexual.
* Most offenders are white.
* Most offenders are in their early to mid-20s.
* Most offenders rape out of anger or to overpower, humiliate and
degrade their victims rather than out of lust or passion or
* Most victims are usually in their late teens to late 20s at the
time of assault.
* African Americans are over represented as victims in proportion
to their level in the population of the community studied.
* When documented at all, gay men were raped at rates higher then
* Weapons are frequently used in male rape and at a much higher
rate than that of women.
* Multiple assailants are more common in the rape of men than of
* Anal penetration of the victim was the most common form of
assault Oral penetration was the second most common.
* Stigma and shame are common responses from male rape victims.
This is followed by guilt.
* Like women, rape trauma syndrome immediately following a male
rape is common.
* The most common psychiatric diagnosis is post traumatic stress
* Contemplation of suicide is fairly common among male rape
survivors, especially among those men who feel that they
cannot reach out for the support that they so desperately
* The studies draw conflicting conclusions as to the degree of
stranger versus acquaintance rape, likely as a result of the
different population samples used.
When acquaintance rape was studied, the focus centered on gay
domestic violence, such as the 1985 rape of Olympic diver Greg
Louganis by his live-in boyfriend. When the boyfriend discovered
that Louganis had been sexually active with another man, "Tom
grabbed me from behind and held a knife to my neck and forced me
face down on to the bed. With a knife at my throat he tore off
my clothes. To keep control he grabbed one of my arms and held
it behind my back. Then he raped me...I was crying and begging
him to stop and told me I deserved it and didn't stop until he
was finished," he wrote in his 1995 book Breaking the Surface.
It had never occurred to Louganis to make a police report, seek
medical attention, or seek support from a friend. He told no one
for five years. In fact, he called his boyfriend the next day
and apologized, believing the rape to be his fault and fearful
that he would be left alone.
Scarce says that "some studies show that male survivors are more
hostile and angry than female victims immediately following the
rape. The man may feel a great deal of anger at the rapist and
toward those support persons closest to him after the assault,
and toward a society that does not recognize or validate his
experience, toward service providers that are inadequately
prepared to meet his needs and toward himself for not preventing
the assault in the first place."
Confusion on sexual orientation identity is common. Heterosexual
survivors are mistakenly believe that they might be gay,
particularly when met by homophobic reactions. Gay men may feel
that they were targeted because they were gay.
MALE RAPE AND HOMOPHOBIA
Further, Scarce takes aim at homophobia, which he believes male
rape is the extreme embodiment of this attitude. In fact, he
leads off chapter four with the manifesto. "No single factor is
more responsible for the stigma attached to male rape than
homophobia...the cultural confusion of where sex ends and rape
begins places sexual preference at the center of insensitivity in
justice and disbelief directed at survivors of same sex rape.
Every survivor I interviewed for this book expressed some amount
of difficulty related to their sexual identity related to the
course of their survival and recovery."
One of the effects of homophobia, Scarce tells us, is the
confusion by family, friends, and law enforcement of an erection
and/or ejaculation during the rape with orgasm. The victim is
thought to have had consensual sex. "As male rape is widely
believed to be impossible anyway, this extra element of doubt may
eliminate what few resources male survivors might access," Scarce
The analysis of homophobia includes the correlation of anal rape
to that of vaginal rape. Ingrained homophobia makes making anal
rape not similar to vaginal rape. Anal rape is seen as a
homosexual experience, even though a woman can be anally raped,
it is rare.
One of the most disturbing passages in the book was learning who
gets raped and why. We learn that "homophobia actually serves as
a social deterrent to men raping men in most instances for [the]
reason of compulsory heterosexuality." But the men selected as
targets of sexual violence are not chosen at random.
"[Homophobia] simultaneously and dramatically increases the
likelihood that men who do not conform to traditional notions of
manhood will be sexually violated." Survivor Russ Ervin Funk
adds, "there is no way to see men as victims and still as men."
For heterosexuals, homophobia, we learn, takes its toll on male
rape survivors, as they are washed with the stigma and shame of
homosexuality. For gay men, their survival from a male rape is
bathed in stereotypes. Gay men are perceived to be sexual
predators on the prowl at any cost to have sex, including non-
consensual sex with heterosexual men. In fact the incidence of
gay men raping heterosexual men is relatively low, with Scarce
calling the fears of such violence "greatly exaggerated."
Through Scarce, we discover that actor Ned Beatty who played an
outdoorsman that was raped by a mountain man in the georgia
wilderness in the 1972 film deliverance is still taunted by other
men when he is in public. "Squeal like a pig" they shout,
mimicking the rapist's words in what is perhaps the most graphic
mass media portrayal of male on male rape. Beatty says in a 1989
New York times guest editorial that men need to distance
themselves from the role he played as a rape survivor so as to
distance themselves from their own vulnerability to sexual
While the incredibly powerful and frightening scene resulted in a
fear that expressed itself in homophobia, author James Dickey,
who wrote the book on which the film is based, was clear in his
objective: "What I wanted to do was have a scene that would
focus the most abiding and deepest fear of people in our time and
in our century, which is the fear of being set upon by malicious
strangers--to be assaulted by people who would as much kill you
as look at you. That is the fear of our time."
Moreover, we learn that homophobia and its accompanying
stereotypes is frequently found among rape crisis and prevention
workers, those whom we would believe to be most likely to be open
and understanding of the male rape survivor. "Without exception,
when I speak to a group about male rape, and state that the
majority of men who rape other men self-identify as heterosexual,
I am met with expressions of surprise and confusion. This
reaction often comes from individuals working in the field of
rape prevention and treatment. People who are well versed in the
"rape is violence not sex" doctrine," Scarce shares.
Further, we learn from Scarce that acceptance of male on male
rape survivors is not much different in the gay community than in
mainstream society. "Given that a great deal of homophobia is
firmly rooted in sexual violence mythology, it seems strange that
gay and lesbian political movements have thus far been
uninterested in addressing male rape. Apart from the survivors
of this violence, many gay community leaders feel highly public
discussions of gay men raping gay men as an unnecessary airing of
dirty laundry. For this risks provision of fodder to
opportunistic enemies who are anxious for information that
demonizes homosexuality when taken out of context. The negative
consequence of this protective state of affairs is that gay male
survivors feel silenced and predict that if they seek support and
provide testimony to their experiences they will betray their own
For prosecutors, Scarce gives a through analysis of the defense
used by attackers and murderers of gay men. The self-defense
contends that the person was merely trying to prevent a male rape
or HIV infection. It relies on stereotyped notions that gay men
are sexual predators and most have HIV.
For AIDS educators and prevention workers, Scarce seeks to
eliminate the pervading belief that AIDS transmission is that of
mere choice and personal responsibility. AIDS information
unknowingly blames the victim as it is his fault for making
unhealthy choices. For example, the 1992 brochure from the
Illinois Department of Public Health "You Can Control Your
Exposure to HIV" does just that by imploring, "You can control
whether or not you become infected with HIV."
AIDS educators and HIV test counselors must become better
equipped to tailor presentations and discussions with the
assumption that rape survivors are a sizable percentage of their
very audience rape crisis intervention skills and referrals
should also be on hand as frank and open discussions of sexual
behavior may trigger a rape survivor to come forward about his
experiences for the first time, seeking support from an
identified expert working in the field of sexual health," Scarce
recommends on page 145.
HIV testing was another area of Scarce's inquiry. All questions
on most AIDS risk assessment forms are phrased in such a way that
suggest conscious choice and consensual activity. "Additionally,
when a heterosexual man indicates that he is penetrated by
another man without the use of a condom, the test counselor may
wrongly assume that he is gay and jump into a discussion of safer
sex between men. Doing this redefines rape as sex while
inappropriately challenging the survivor's sexual orientation.
Few HIV test counselors receive rape sensitivity training and
information on same sex rape is generally absent," Scarce
informs. There are no national standards for training of HIV
test counselors. (page 146)
Scarce confronts politically the AIDS industry, in which he
worked from 1993 to 1995 as an AIDS educator. "Many AIDS groups
still refuse to take any stand on the issue of mandatory testing
for sex offenders, continue to discuss behaviors in ways that
deny the possibility of sexual violence and fail to understand
the connections between rape oppression and HIV as a pandemic of
society's undesirables, even when this negligence is brought to
their attention. The mainstreaming of AIDS service organizations
since the mid-1980s has been accompanied by establishing a
distance from feminist and other anti-oppression movements in
efforts to gain legitimacy in the eyes of private and
LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPLICATIONS
Scarce devotes an entire chapter on law enforcement and the
courts, as he does to the medical profession and HIV/AIDS issues.
From his in-depth discussions of 24 male on male rape victims and
survivors, Scarce reflected, "Of those survivors I interviewed
who reported their rape to authorities, all but one had an
intensely negative experience. The one survivor who was the
exception had only a neutral interaction, neither helpful or
overtly detrimental. The most common complaints I have heard
from survivors who I interviewed and have worked with
professionally have been disbelief, mockery, homophobia, or a
combination of all three from police officers. I do not believe
that the majority of police officers intend to be malicious or
insensitive, but rather lack the necessary training and
experience in working with adult male survivors of sexual
violence. The shock and surprise many officers display when
confronted with a male rape report quickly transform into
reactions grounded in the many stereotypes about same sex rape.
In these cases, the survivor is not only denied the benefit of a
proper investigation, but risks internalizing such insensitivity
to the degree that he may actually begin to believe that the
experience was not rape--that he must have wanted or deserved it
or such a crime is no worse than any other physical non-sexual
A hospital social worker encouraged Andrew to call the police
from the emergency room where he was being treated for gang rape.
"When I was with the social worker, he encouraged me to call the
police and report what had happened. I thought 'I don't want
this to happen to anyone else.' I called the Denver police that
night at the hospital. I called and was connected with a
detective. I told him where I was and told him what had
happened. He said, 'Well probably you really wanted this to
happen. You wanted to have sex with a man. Then you got scared,
and now you want to say it was something else.' I just hung up,"
Andrew said to Michael Scarce on page 217.
Richie McMullen of the London based male rape organization
Survivors was even more critical of the criminal justice system.
"Many male victims report that the treatment they receive by the
police and in the courts is worse than the offense itself."
Scarce laments, "Until law enforcement officials are able to more
fully support male survivors and recognize the crime of same sex
rape, we are not likely to see an improvement in the reporting of
male rapes that typically remain hidden."
SURVIVAL: A VICTIM'S JOURNEY
Part of the powerful force of the book is the ability of the
reader to hear from victims and survivors themselves. Scarce
includes four chapter-length, long form essays from victims and
their struggle to live again. This review concludes with an
excerpt from chapter 10 titled "Survival." Christopher Smith was
24 at the time he was raped at gunpoint on October 27, 1994.
Christopher left work and was studying at a picnic table in a
forest preserve before heading to his M.B.A. class. A man with a
brown jacket and shoulder length hair raped Christopher in the
enclosed back of a pickup truck. He describes how the
victimization does not stop once the crime is over. The
narrative begins in the emergency room following administration
of a rape kit.
"I had just sat naked on a table in front of two complete
strangers having every hole in my body invaded by long wires with
Q-Tip ends that emerged covered with my own blood after combing
and plucking out my own pubic hairs one by one after being left
alone in a cold examining room after wandering aimlessly for
hours after having been raped and emotionally traumatized earlier
that afternoon. I was scared, embarrassed and feeling all alone
in the world, but it wasn't over yet.
In walked two of the forest preserve district's finest who were
responding to the hospital's call. The officers seemed the exact
opposite of each other. One was older gentle and kind and the
other was younger and gruff. They had arrived to take my
statement. It all seemed routine and was like what I had seen in
the movies and television.
First they asked for personal information--my name address,
occupation and so on. Then they took my statement and what had
happened. I reconstructed the story the best that I could under
the circumstances. Then I told the story again, then again.
They asked questions. They interrupted. They told the story
back to me but changed things. They inserted information that I
did not provide. Questions sprayed at me from every direction
like bullets from a machine gun. Everything became so cloudy and
confused. Was his jacket red or brown? Did he gesture left or
right? How's your marriage? Did he show you the gun? Was he
wearing tennis shoes? Do you have any friends who are gay?
I was trapped in the examining room with people who didn't
understand, who didn't care. I wanted only to go home. I wanted
to go to sleep and wake up so it would all be over, to leave
these horrible officers and be with someone who understood, who
cared. Then more questions, more changes. I wanted to scream at
them. I wanted to make them realize that they were torturing me.
They were questioning my every move, my every word. The more
they spoke the more I believed I was responsible for what
happened: that I deserved it that I wanted it. Then they asked
the question...that I will remember to my dying day. The
question that raises nothing but complete rage in my soul. 'Why
didn't you just run? He wouldn't have shot at you. It's too
hard to hit a moving target. I would have just started running.
Why didn't you run?'
"If only I had my wits about me at this point: 'Why don't you
hand me your gun, start running down the hall, and you tell me if
I hit you?" Maybe I could have done something differently, but
maybe than I would be dead. I believe with all my heart that I
did everything that I could within my power not to have any harm
come to me and stay alive. ...I have just one question for these
officers and for everyone else who might question me in any way:
'Why would I go through the extreme humiliation and pain that I
went through, not to mention the anguish that would follow if
there was anything else in the world that I could have possibly
"If this man had mugged me instead of raping me, the police would
have spent their time convincing me that I had done the right
thing to same my life. But because it was rape, suddenly
everything I did was questioned."
"...My marriage suffered. My relationships suffered. My
spiritual well-being suffered. My work suffered. I sank to
depths lower that I ever thought possible. I looked to other
outlets to network with other men in my situation. I found a
blockade down every path. Many of the rape crisis lines that I
called were rude or did not know how to handle me. Those that
were helpful had information that was so out-of-date that despite
their best efforts they were little help...the reality is that
there are more outlets for criminals than victims. Furthermore,
the help for victims of sexual crime is mostly for those who have
experienced childhood trauma. The handful of groups for rape
victims are totally dedicated to female survivors. Although all
of these things are good, the lack of understanding or even
concern for my predicament is still a source of frustration."
The Bibble Pages, Christian Molick