We tend to assume that it's predominantly women who receive unwanted sexual advances. According to new research, however, young men also receive plenty of unwanted sexual attention, with women acting as the aggressors. This new survey, of nearly 300 male college and high school students across the U.S., found that 43 percent had been the victim of unwanted sexual attention, and 95 percent of the perpetrators were women they knew.
The study's authors looked at various types of sexual victimization—not just rape. More than half of the young men who'd been coerced said the advances were verbal or communicated through seductive behaviors. A smaller group—18 percent—said the women tried to use physical force to initiate sex. Seven percent of the men said the female perpetrators plied them with alcohol or drugs before initiating the seduction.
Half of the victims said they just gave in and wound up having sex with their aggressor, and 40 percent said they wound up kissing or touching instead.
The students who were drunk or drugged before they were coerced into sexual contact reported feelings of distress about the experience, much as female victims would. However, the men differed from female victims in some ways. For example, their self esteem was not impacted by the experience, the researchers found. For men, being the object of sexual attention—even if that attention is not wanted—"may inadvertently be consistent with expectations of masculinity and sexual desire," the researchers speculate in a release.
While questions remain for future research—such as examining the difference between seduction and coercion—the team hopes these findings start to break down double standards about what constitutes acceptable sexual advances. As they conclude in their paper: "The results from this study can provide a language for young men to describe sexaully coercive experiences and acknowledge that males can be victims of coercion by females, which can begin to challenge the notions of traditional masculinity and hypersexuality."