Another prevalent issue in the military that goes widely unrecognized is the vast amount of males that are sexually assaulted. Based on research done by the Pentagon there are approximately “10,400 male service members [that] said they were sexually assaulted, compared to 8,500 women” (Holmes). This number is larger than the number of females due to the fact that the majority of the military is comprised of males. And men are less likely to report a rape for multiple reasons (Holmes).
First of all, Holmes reports “men were much less likely than women to think of their assault as a sexual act, and more likely to describe it as “hazing” or an “attempt to humiliate them.’” This reflects back to rape culture in that we normalize violence, and in this case violence against men is normalized. A second reason states, “Military culture and its high regard for masculine traits such as strength and self-reliance can be a particularly potent influence on how male service members respond to issues such as sexual assault” (Steiger). This reflects the pervasive gender stereotypes and expectations in our society.
Men may think that a “real man” would not have been raped. They may resist coming forward as a victim because they believe that is characteristic women but not of men. Similarly, it was “stated that male victims may misunderstand physical responses that they experienced during the assault, and in some cases may conclude that they subconsciously ‘wanted it’ and ‘invited’ the attack” (Steiger).
There are actually more male victims of sexual assault in the military than females due to the overwhelming majority of men in the military.
Again, this all comes back to rape culture and our society’s standards of masculinity for men. If men admit to being raped, they may feel emasculated, ashamed, and at fault. At the estimated rate of “thirty-eight military men being sexually assaulted every single day” there is no doubt that this is a serious issues, especially considering that 81% of men do not report the assault (Thomas). One soldier was told by a doctor, “’Son, men don’t get raped’” (Penn). There is a stigma in relation to men being raped that implies they lack masculinity or are less manly because of what happened.
Rape culture often causes men to feel it is their fault and coming forward incites a fear of violating the gender norms that are so pervasive in society.
Violence, within the military for both men and women, is normalized, disregarded and often explained away. These ideas, as stated in many feminist theories, are harmful to both men and women. When men feel as if they will be thought of as “weak” or not-manly for being assaulted, we see destructive norms and stereotypes at work. When women’s voices and experiences in reaction to violence are expressed, they are often silenced.
Many aspects of feminist theory attempts to address these issues by working against gender norms and stereotypes, against normalizing violence, against excusing violence due to gender, and against the shame and stigma associated with sexual assault. Perhaps by challenging gender stereotypes in our everyday lives and speaking out when we see shaming, blaming, or oppression, we as individuals, can begin to make a dent in the system that stigmatizes and silences victims of sexual assault.
Holmes, Steven A. “Sharp Decrease of Sexual Assault in Military, Study Finds.” Cnn.com. CNN Politics, 1 May 2015. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/01/politics/military-sexual-assault-report/>
Steiger, Kay. “The Forgotten Victims Of Military Sexual Assault: Men.” Thinkprogress.org. Think Progress, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. <http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/03/20/3636773/forgotten-victims-military-sexual-assault-men/>.
Thomas, Madeleine. “Sexual Assault Against Servicemen Is Worse Than We Thought.” Psmag.com. Pacific Standard, 6 Nov. 2015. Web. <http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/sexual-assault-against-servicemen-is-worse-than-we-thought>.
Penn, Nathaniel. ““Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”.” Gq.com. GQ, 2014. Web. <http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape>.