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Young men are often coerced into sex

Harold Mandel's picture

Sexual coercion is a pervasive problem which young men, not just young women, often experience. We tend to think primarily of young women as being targeted to be lured into or actually coerced into sex. However, young men also are the targets of such experiences. This type of sexual experience can take an emotional toll on young men as much as it does on young women. There are also of course always concerns about the possibility of catching venereal diseases, which can sometimes be deadly, from such sexual encounters.

Sexual coercion is a pervasive problem which has rarely been examined in men, reports the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Researchers examined sexual coercion and the psychosocial correlates seen among 284 diverse adolescent and young adult males in high school and college. It was found that greater than 4 in 10 participants experienced sexual coercion. Specifically, the participants reported various types of sexual coercion, including:

1: Verbal coercion (31%)

2: Seduction coercion (26%)

3: Physical coercion (18%)

4: Substance coercion (7%)

The rates were similar across high school and college students. Ninety-five percent of the respondents reported that women were the perpetrators.Participants also described other considerations in their descriptions of coercion experiences, such as internal obligation, seductive, and peer pressure tactics.

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Psychosocial outcomes were observed to be associated with sexual coercion tactics and resulting sexual activity, which included fondling, attempted intercourse, and completed intercourse. Specifically, it was found that sexual coercion which resulted in sexual intercourse was associated with greater sexual risk-taking and alcohol use. Psychological distress was found to be associated with verbal and substance coercion. Substance coercion was also found to be associated with sexual risk taking.

This study found that coerced sex is not uncommon for young men and teenage boys, reported the American Psychological Association on March 25, 2014. This experience resulted in distress and risky behavior, but not in lower self-esteem. According to this research a large proportion of teenage boys and college men report that they have been coerced into sex or sexual behavior.

About 43 percent of high school boys and young college men have reported that they have had an unwanted sexual experience. Out of these participants 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the sexual aggressor. Lead author Bryana H. French, PhD, of the University of Missouri, has said, “Sexual victimization continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States, but the victimization of men is rarely explored.” French thinks the findings from this research can help lead to better prevention by identifying the various types of coercion which men are confronted with and by acknowledging that women are often perpetrators against men.

Half of the students who had experiences with sexual coercion said they ended up having intercourse, while 10 percent reported there was an attempt to have intercourse and 40 percent said the situation resulted in kissing or fondling. Coercion into having sexual intercourse was associated with risky sexual behaviors and more drinking among the victims. There was significant distress among students who were sexually coerced while drunk or drugged.

The finding that having unwanted sex did not appear to affect the victims’ self-esteem provoked some thought by French. She has commented, “It may be the case that sexual coercion by women doesn’t affect males’ self-perceptions in the same way that it does when women are coerced. Instead it may inadvertently be consistent with expectations of masculinity and sexual desire, though more research is needed to better understand this relationship.”

In order to differentiate between sexual coercion and possible incidents of child abuse, the survey instructed the students not to include sexual experiences with family members. The research authors wrote the findings from this study revealed there is a need for more scientific investigations of the thin line which exists between sexual seduction and sexual coercion.

French has pointed out that although not typically addressed in sexual violence research, unwanted seduction was found to be a particularly pervasive form of sexual coercion in this study. Peer pressure and a victim’s own sense of an obligation were also found to be significant factors. French also noted that seduction was a particularly salient and potentially unique form of coercion experienced by teenage boys and young men when compared to their female counterparts.

Over the years I have heard of many cases of sexual coercion directed against young men. In view of the potential negative psychological, physical, social, and sometimes legal problems which can be associated with such experiences this problem should not be ignored. Of course this should not lead us away from sharing concerns about the consequences of sexual coercion of young women in reverse. However, in all fairness to both the women and men who have experienced sexual coercion it should be highlighted that the potential for negative consequences can be significant for each sex. It would appear wise to bring this problem out in the open for discussions on how to best avoid the problem and how to best cope with it if it occurs.

Photo courtesy of Charisma/Freedigitalphotos.net