Myths and misconceptions about the sexual abuse of men can make the reality of being a survivor a difficult one, increasing isolation and maintaining stigma.
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 I was drinking or taking drugs, it was my fault.
Reality: Nothing you do entitles another person to assault you. If you had 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 men and people who identify as nonbinary or trans are equally likely to be sexually abused. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with your current or future sexual or gender identity.
Myth: Only gay men sexually assault other men.
Reality: Sexual assault is about violence, anger, power and control over another person, not lust, desire or sexual attraction.
Myth: Sexual abuse makes you gay.
Reality: Sometimes survivors question whether the sexual abuse has had an impact on their sexual orientation. You may worry that you were abused because you were gay, or that the abuse ‘made’ you gay. 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. However, being a survivor can leave you uncomfortable or unsure about your sexual identity.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually abused by women.
Reality: Although the majority of perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually abused by women.
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 perpetrators 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 experienced childhood abuse or adult assault do NOT go on to sexually abuse.