Friday, 6 May 2016

Rape: Denial of Women’s Impact and Agency

Author: Blaise Wilson
Update 28/09/2016: new petition has been launched - let's get this one debated in parliament!
Articles in this series:
Gendered Equality of Opportunity:
Definition of UK rape law:
Campaign Info:
Impact on Reports:
Denial of Women’s Impact and Agency: This Article
Reponse the the GovUK Reply:


In this series we are looking at the legal UK definition of rape and the effect it has on society. We are concentrating on a feminist perspective by looking at how the definition recognises women’s impact and agency.

Although binary language has been used, it is assumed these findings are relevant to all self-identified genders.

This is in support of a UK Petition the Government campaign:

If you are a UK citizen, please sign and share it. If you are not, please share it with your UK followers and raise awareness.

Women’s Agency

The legal UK definition of rape excludes female perpetrators, leaving their male and female victims incapable of getting justice [6].

Women can, and do, force oral sex, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse onto both men and women using threats of physical violence, including threatening their victims lives, sometimes with a weapon, physical and emotional domination, abuse and aggression, restraints, and either use or take advantage of intoxication by drugs or alcohol to victimise others [2] .

Both men and women with high impulsivity, hostile attributional bias, poor emotional regulation, and callousness coupled with neurological and psychological factors increase motivation and willingness to use aggression, including sexual aggression [3].

Women’s Impact

Although victims of female violence can be both male and female, male victims suffer some unique challenges due to the intersexual consequences of being both a male victim and of a female perpetrator.

Male and female victims can be physically sexually aroused without mental consent. Women self-lubricate and men have an erection, or even climaxing with victims reporting orgasming during violent and traumatic rape [2]. An erection is not consent, but can occur during heightened emotional states such as fear and anger [2].

Both female and male victims, even those with combat or martial arts training, have a tendency to freeze up with helplessness, especially if their life has been threatened [2].

Victims of either gender can suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) such as flashbacks, insomnia, isolation and feelings of guilt [10]. It also impacts their social life, emotional state, and sexual functions including impacting their quality of life and future relationships by being averse to sex [2].

When the perpetrator was a women, all victims suffer from disbelief, negative stereotypes, rape myths, and a focus on physical harm by society. However, men potentially suffer additional challenges as a result of their perceived masculinity [2].

Stereotyping and Myths

Rape Myths have been strongly linked to victim blaming and vindication of the perpetrator [2].

Kassing, Beesley, and Frey (2005) listed six categories which classify male rape myths:
  1. men’s physical strength and size mean that they are incapable of being overpowered and forced into sexual activity
  2. men instigate sexual intercourse and consequently would not be targets for rape
  3. men who are victims of rape lose their masculinity
  4. that the rape of men is rare
  5. men are emotionally and physically strong enough to cope with being raped
  6. male rape only occurs in prison [2]

Gendered Language and the Feminist Influence

Sexual victims of female perpetrators see it as an act of aggression, rather than a sexual act [2]. This is in line with the Feminist assertion that rape is an act of domination rather than sexual fulfilment [2]. However, as a feminist it is my utter shame to admit that feminists are some of the worst offenders of gendered language and the denial of female perpetrators and their victims, especially if those victims are male.

Feminists are well aware of the influence of gendered language on society with their fight to change terms like policeMAN, postMAN, and spaceMAN to more gender neutral terms [2, 3]. Many Feminists view women as victims and men as perpetrators, encouraging empathy and tenderness towards women and denying it to men [2, 3]. An example of this is the Duluth Model [5]. Feminists generally only apply Rape Culture and Rape Myths to female victims of male perpetrators [2, 3].

Gendered languages has huge ramification on the methods of data gathering as already discussed in the previous article [8], effectively silencing victims within research and official statistics. Suitable measures must be adopted that take biological differences into account. For example a study by Susan Wachob and Rick Nizzardin “Male Survivors” hypothesised that because male survives describe their victimisation in graphic detail and often with great anger, it makes the trauma they suffered seem not only less believable, but could be taken as a crank call, glorification his own sexual gratification, or even motivated by harassing the person taking the call [1].

By concentrating on men as only perpetrators and women only as victims society is not equipped to conceive or comprehend victims of female violence [2].

Belief of Society

Due to the rape myths and the gendered language, victims of female perpetrators are not believed. Women’s agency and impact is denied and victims suffer as a direct result.

Belief is the foundation stone of supporting victims. This is not an avocation that all reports be believed without question, but every report should be investigated and not dismissed on the bases of rape myths. A balance must be struck, however when a false allegation can be categorically proven the full force of the law should bear down to discourage such behaviours. False rape allegations by any gender reduces the belief in genuine rape cases and promotes a rape culture of disbelief, in addition to creating a legal and social victim in the falsely accused.

The attitudes of the legal system, from the initial reporting to the courts creates further demonstration of the harm the rape culture against victims of female perpetrators creates.

A 2005 article by Walker et al. found that only 5 of 40 males reported their rape to the police, 4 of those 5 regretted it due to the insensitively and negative victim blaming they received [2]. If it manages to get to court the victim can be further traumatised by ‘secondary victimisation’ that can be worse than the rape itself as law enforcement, attorneys, the jury, support networks, friends, family, and the wider community act with disbelief and victim blaming [2].

This lack of belief even penetrates victim support groups and therapists, some of whom do not believe it is possible to be victimised by a women. Not only refusing to offer support but further harming the victim [2]. “The website of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council quotes the statistic that 86% of victims of female sexual predators aren’t believed.” [1, p4]

Researchers fair little better. There is a massive lack of academic research into the victims of female violence [2]. Even when unbiased raw data is collected and demonstrates similar victimisation and perpetration of the genders, it is often reported as a biased gendered issue, ignoring female perpetrators and male victims [1].

The legal UK definition of rape is often used within UK academic and official reporting, and is the root cause of excluding female perpetrators [2].


With statistics of only 5 – 25% of female victims of male rape being officially report to the police [2] it could easily be hypothesised that male victims of female perpetrators is significantly lower due to “failure to identify what happened to them as sexual assault, because sexual assault is widely viewed as something men do to women, not something that can even happen to a man; fear of being disbelieved; fear that because of the widely-known “intergenerational cycle of violence,” being identified as a sexual assault survivor may mean being also seen as a (at least potential) perpetrator; and fear that since men aren’t supposed to be sexual assault victims, admitting to such will tarnish others’ view of their masculinity. Men who were assaulted by other men may fear they will be viewed as “gay” if they report” [1, p4]


“Female abusers must do something severe and obvious before they will be held accountable as perpetrators. Males must be abused in more severe and obvious ways before we will take them seriously as victims.” -- Health Canada (1996) [1, p4]

“A 1994 article by Lisa Lipshires, “Female Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse: An Overview of the Problem,” relates many stories of district attorneys and judges dismissing cases against women because “women don’t do things like this”” [1, p1]

“The 2007 report by The Center for Sex Offender Management, “Female Sex Offenders,” plays out some of the practical implications of these myths: research on law enforcement officers has found they, “reacted with disbelief to allegations involving women, minimized the seriousness of the reports, viewed the female suspects as less dangerous and harmful, and were prone toward labeling the cases as ‘unfounded.’”” [1, p2]

Denying female perpetrators, and thus their victims, due to depictions of women as submissive, passive, and without sexual agency is hugely damaging to women being taken seriously in society, including in the workplace. But it is even more harmful to their victims, both male and female. It is time women’s impact and agency was recognised and take its place in society’s consciousness equally to men’s.

Unfortunately feminists are often some of the worst offenders of deny women their impact and agency. As a feminist, I hope to contribute to correcting that.

“The Home Office (2007) stated that victims ‘deserve to be supported, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to see their offenders brought to justice’ (pi). In order to give male victims the support, treatment, and respect they deserve it is essential that rape myths, gender stereotypes, and just world beliefs are dispelled and that there is a policy change so that the legal definition includes the rape of a man by a woman.” [2, p25]

If the UK legal definition of rape is changed, there could be a significant increase in reporting of female perpetrators by their victims [2], however this will change society’s perception of a victim and allow all victims to not only get the support they need, but equal justice.

If you are a UK citizen, please sign and share this petition. If you are not, please share it with your UK followers and raise awareness:


[1] Loree Cook-Daniels, Female Perpetrators and Male Victims of Sexual Assault: Why They are so Invisible, undated. Available at:
[2] Nicola L. Fisher, Afroditi Pina, An overview of the research literature on male sexual victimization, undated. Available at:
[3] Nicola Graham-Kevan, The Re-Emergence of Male Victims, 2014. Available at:
[4] CSEW questionnaire:
[5] EgaFem’s Duluth Analysis:
[6]Definition of UK rape law:
[7] Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[8] Impact on Reports:
[9] Petition the Government:
[10] NHS PTSD symptoms:

Previous Article: Impact on Reports:

Next Article: Reponse the the GovUK Reply:

Further Reading

A 1996 Health Canada study, “The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children and Teens,” found that “female [childhood sexual assault] victims were twice as likely to report their sexual abuse experiences.” [1, p4]
The final paper, by Tewksbury, discusses the emerging literature on adult male sexual victimization and the consequences such experiences have upon men’s physical and psychological health, and their sexual behavior. [3, p5]
David Lisak, The Psychological Impact of Sexual Abuse: Content Analysis of Interview with Male Survivors. Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol 7. No.4, 1994. Available at:


  1. Very interesting and well presented.

    I know a man who was sexually assaulted when he was 26 (in a fairly minor way)by a woman in an elevator and his recollection was precisely that of freezing.

    (I follow you on twitter and that is where I saw the link - I know from my own blog & site that it nice to know where readers come from.)

    It has just occurred to me that, if you would like, you could publish a shorter version of this in my blog with a link to the fuller version. Would you like to do that? We should talk...

  2. Not sure if you have any way to respond to my previous post as I didn't click 'Notify me'

    I have a group called "Feminism:What is it?" which is generally anti, but it is anti the same things you are anti and in favor of the same things you are.

    I blog at

    and twitter is @academia_sukun

    Damn! Clicked notify me, but it shows a non-working email address. So, if you want to respond you may have to use twitter.

    1. Contacted you on Twitter, and have the summary ready to role! Thank you for offering!

  3. "false allegation" not "false allocation"

    1. Thank you, I've corrected it now. Good spot!

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