Myths and misconceptions about the sexual abuse of men make the reality of being a survivor a difficult one.
Misinformation that victims/survivors either believe, or think that others believe, increase feelings of isolation and shame – and contribute in some measure to the fear that makes it hard for survivors to talk about their experiences.
Below we dispel some of the common myths surrounding male sexual abuse.
Myth: Men can’t be sexually abused.
Reality: They can. Any man or boy can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance or sexual orientation.
Myth: If you were drinking or taking drugs, it was your fault.
Reality: We believe that nothing you do entitles another person to take sexual advantage of you. If you have been drinking or taking drugs and someone sexually abused you, that doesn’t make it your fault or mean that you asked for or deserved what happened.
Myth: Only gay men and boys are sexually abused.
Reality: Heterosexual, gay and bisexual males are equally likely to be sexually abused. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation. Your sexuality has no more to do with being abused than being robbed.
Myth: Only gay men sexually assault other men.
Reality: Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight another reality — that sexual assault is about violence, anger, power and control over another person, not lust, desire or sexual attraction. 1
Myth: Sexual abuse makes you gay.
Reality: It’s very common for men who have been sexually abused by another person to have questions about the effect that that experience might have on their sexuality. We often get asked “Was I assaulted because he/they thought I was gay?”; “Does this happening to me mean that I am gay.” It’s common for these experiences to raise fears about sexual identity.
Many of our gay clients ask if sexual abuse suffered in childhood could have determined their sexuality as adults. In our experience, the majority of men sexually abused by other men in childhood identify as heterosexual in adult life. What research there is points to sexual abuse having no significant effect on adult sexual orientation.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually abused by women.
Reality: Although the majority of perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually abused (though not legally raped) by women.
Research (American, Canadian and Australian) indicates that up to 25% of sexual abusers of all children are female.2
The same studies tell us that women are responsible for about 40% of sexual abuse of boys.
Myth: Erection or ejaculation during a sexual abuse means you “really wanted it” or consented to it.
Reality: Erection and ejaculation are physiological responses that may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. These responses do not imply that you wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about your sexual orientation.
Some abusers and rapists are aware how erection and ejaculation can confuse a victim of sexual assault — this motivates them to manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage people from telling their story.
Myth: Being sexually abused will make you an abuser.
Reality: The vast majority of men who have experience childhood abuse or adult assault rape do NOT go on to sexually offend against children or other adult men. Statistical analysis is unreliable and current thinking is that the figure is around 5%.3
1 – Groth and Birnbaum (1978)
2 – Ogloff, Cutajar, Mann, and Mullen (2012)
3 – Tsopelas, Christos, Tsetsou Spyridoula, and Douzenis Athanasios. “Review on female sexual offenders: Findings about profile and personality.” International journal of law and psychiatry 34.2 (2011): 122-126.