Women Raping Men


Five years ago, a few months before his first semester at Ohio State, Nick (not his real name) lost his virginity on the floor of a dark living room, surrounded by sleeping party goers. “She told a lot of people she was going to fuck me,” says Nick, 23, sitting in a booth at the Blue Danube, a greasy spoon in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. “She gave me a lot of vodka and she did it. I was barely awake. But I remember — it was so weird — she said, ‘Look, I’m either going to fuck you or go to the kitchen and fuck a cucumber.'”

He was too drunk to remember the hows of what followed, but he knows there was no condom, no consent, and, at first, no problem.

The next morning, “I woke up and I’m like, ‘Holy shit! I must be in love,'” Nick says. “And she says, ‘Get real. I was just fucking you.'”

Upon suffering a variety of emotional problems Nick sought counseling, and it was then that he came to believe that in losing his virginity he had become not a man but a victim of rape.

The concept of a woman raping a man seems so bizarre that most people would look at Nick and suspect he’s just an oversensitive guy who wasn’t equipped to handle a sexually assertive woman. But there is a slowly building body of controversial research that suggest the idea may not be quite the Penthouse-Forum-letter-gone- bad scenario it appears. “These guys are around,” says Peter B. Anderson, a professor of health and human sexuality at the University of New Orleans. “But they don’t want to talk. And frankly, not that many people want to listen.”

Occasionally some, like Nick, will talk, and their stories are often similar. Take Brad (not his real name). In December 2002, he was a Florida college student working as a bartender when, he says, he was drugged and raped by a woman. An athletic 22-year-old, Brad say he’d had only a couple of beers before two women — one a friend and the other a stranger — offered him a drink called a surfer on acid. Soon after, Brad says, he “went from zero to shit- faced in, like, three seconds,” which he doubts alcohol alone could have accomplished.

When he was falling in and out of consciousness, Brad says, he was taken to the apartment of the women he didn’t know, and she dragged him into a bedroom and undressed him. “I was pretty wasted, so I couldn’t put up much of a struggle,” he says. Soon, the woman fondled him into an erection and, without using a condom, climbed on top of him.

“At that point, it was going to happen,” Brad says matter-of-factly, “so after about five minutes, I pretended to orgasm and rolled over. If anything happened after that, I don’t know.”

Evidence of female-on-male rape is almost entirely absent from the usual crime markers: police reports and the statistics that rely on them. If you are a man who has been raped by a woman, there are fairly obvious reasons you wouldn’t call the cops. For one thing, there’s the stigma. That’s why Brad decided to file his experience in the “crazy shit that happened to me” category of his life and just try to forget it. “For a guy in particular,” he says, “if I told people about that, they’d think I’m just joking.”

Beyond the social humiliation, there is the legal system’s reluctance to recognize the concept. It wasn’t until 1992 that the FBI dropped its official definition of rape as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and without her consent” in favor of a gender- neutral description. Still, many states continue to frame laws so that men cannot be raped — and women cannot be rapists — unless the victims are sodomized.

And since cases in which a woman rapes a man are more likely to be categorized as something else, like aggravated assault, statistics about the frequency of female-on-male rape are nearly impossible to come by. “There are male victims out there, but the summary information is limited,” says Maryvictoria Pyne, head spokeswoman for the FBI’s Information Services division. “[Male victims] aren’t represented in the literature.”

Even if they were willing to press forward with their cases, legally speaking, neither Nick nor Brad would have much of a shot at justice, thanks to the presence of alcohol. “With cases of alleged date rape or acquaintance rape involving drugs or alcohol, the jury can’t be expected to reconstruct what happened,” says Linda Fairstein, former head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sexual Crimes Unit and now a successful crime novelist. “It wouldn’t be prosecutable — even with a female victim.”

Women don’t need alcohol or drugs to rape men. Cindy Struckman- Johnson, a professor of psychology at the University of South Dakota, published a study in the Archives of Sex Research in 1994 detailing cases of college men who were sexually coerced by women. One scenario involves men waking up in the middle of the night to find a woman taking advantage of their natural nocturnal erections. Another common ploy is emotional blackmail, most often in the form of threats like “Do me, or I’ll tell everyone you’re gay” or “Do me, or I’ll tell your girlfriend you did.”

Megan (not her real name), a senior at the Universoty of California, Berkeley, is, if not exactly an admitted rapist, the kind of super-sexually-aggressive woman whose mindset may offer clues to how a female rapist might think. Megan’s promiscuous behavior includes letting herself into mens’ bedrooms as they sleep or calling them “at horribly late hours and [saying] ‘I’m coming over and not taking no for an answer.'” Although she admits she would never stand for a guy doing the same thing to her, she describes her rationalization like this: “Even if a guy says no, girls think they’re doing him a favor by having sex with him anyway.”

If Nick and Brad don’t have a legal leg to stand on, one might fairly ask why their experiences can be called rape at all. “Look,” admits Nick, “I’m not sure how many guys would see this as rape. Other guys would think, This rocks! Free lay!”

Those who would doubt that a man was forced into sex might wonder at any number of apparently contradictory details, starting with his erection and orgasm. Irene Anderson heads the Oasis Center at the University of Arizona, a sexual-assault clinic where one in 10 clients is male. She points out that inadvertent sexual excitation is not an unheard-of experience among female victims of date or marital rape, and it’s not the same thing as being turned on. “If a woman is raped and has an orgasm, there’s terrible guilt,” says Anderson. “Sexual response is not a will of emotion; it’s a physiological response. It gets very convoluted very quickly.”

It’s also possible, by the way, for a man to get an erection even when he’s so drunk he can barely stand. “It takes a lot of alcohol – – a lot — to completely obliterate the possibility of arousal,” says Anderson.

But the biggest problem most people would have with Nick’s story is the basic question of exactly how a woman forces herself on a man. The answer is that the force involved isn’t physical; it’s psychological. And if recent studies are to be believed, women are more than capable of that kind of aggression.

In 1988, the Journal of Sex Research published a study of nearly 1,000 college students. Its most surprising finding was that far more men than women reported having suffered unwanted intercourse — 62.7 percent to 46.3 percent. A 2001 study of 285 women at a private midwestern university identified 52 as sexually “coercive” – – based on self-reported admissions of verbal manipulations, and insistent, deceptive, or threatening (including physically) behavior. Of those women, 30 reported “becoming so sexually aroused that they felt it was useless to stop even though the partner did not want to have sex.”

Peter B. Anderson, the University of New Orleans professor, co- edited — with Struckman-Johnson — a book called Sexually Aggressive Women. In one study they conducted, 51 percent of college-age women polled admitted they had once taken advantage of a man who was drunk or high. “If we were applying the same standards as we apply to men,” says Anderson, “these women would be talked about as date-rapists.”

That’s not the same thing, he concedes, as saying those same standards should be applied, which is exactly the criticism other experts level at research like his. They contend that just because women are capable of sexual coercion doesn’t mean man can be raped. “Women are neither biologically nor socio-culturally disposed to rape,” says John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute. “They may assert dominance over men in more subtle and less catastrophic ways.”

The problem with trying to decide whether Nick and Brad were really raped is that their cases seem trivial compared with the violent experiences suffered by so many women. But even if one thinks the idea that a man could be raped by a woman is just PC nonsense, anyone who believes himself a victim has some unique issues to contend with.

“Sexual assault impugns masculinity in a way that doesn’t apply to female victims’ sense of femininity,” says Nick’s therapist, who requested anonymity to protect his client’s confidentiality. In other words, a man raped by a woman is liable to feel like he’s not a man at all.

“I hated that I didn’t enjoy it,” says Nick. “I was a deviant, a freak. Because a real man would have fucked her blue and liked it.”