Study: Can Boys Be Coerced Into Sex?


The notion of teenage boys as sexual aggressors is so engrained, the results of a new study, which reveal that they are being coerced into sex by girls and young women, will surprise many.

Lizzie Crocker writes:  There was nothing outwardly headline-grabbing about Bryana H. French’s latest study, published in the august and largely unread pages of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, an academic journal that typically reaches an audience of dozens. While her findings were depressing, they were depressingly banal: according to French and her team of researchers at the University of Missouri, “sexual victimization continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States.” Well, we know that.

“This study should be a wake-up call to parents and educators everywhere…”

— Dr. Barbara Greenberg

So why the media scrum? Because the authors concluded that “43 percent of high school boys and young college men”—yes, boys and young men—“reported they had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor.”In a press release, French pointed out that “the victimization of men is rarely explored” and concluded hopefully that her team’s findings could “help lead to better prevention by identifying the various types of coercion that men face and by acknowledging women as perpetrators against men.”

The idea that boys (those sex-obsessed little monsters) could be victims of “sexual coercion,” while young girls (so often on the receiving end of clumsy and aggressive sexual advances of the sex-obsessed little monsters) could be perpetrators is, to many, both counterintuitive and unlikely.

“This is such an under-discussed topic,” clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg told The Daily Beast. “We’ve been grossly negligent when it comes to talking to teenage boys about sex because society makes the assumption that young adult men are sex-crazed maniacs. But men and teenage boys have tender feelings too, and we often neglect them when it comes to sexuality.”

That females can be sexually aggressive—and young men and teenage boys can sheepishly submit to sexual aggression—is considered peculiar because “coerced sex” is narrowly imagined as violent or forced sex. But according to French’s research, only “18 percent [of respondents] reported sexual coercion by physical force” while 31 percent said “they were verbally coerced [and] 26 percent described unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors.”

According to French, “unwanted seduction” of young men by women is largely overlooked in existing academic research but “was a particularly pervasive form of sexual coercion in this study, as well as peer pressure and a victim’s own sense of an obligation.”

Indeed, 95 percent of those surveyed said they were sexually coerced by girls or women. French told The Daily Beast that a “broadening of the definition” partially explains the rise in sexual victimization amongst young men and boys. “I think that’s a large reason why we’re seeing numbers come up more [and] I think we need to have more conversations about what consent looks like across both genders.”

“We’ve been grossly negligent when it comes to talking to teenage boys about sex because society makes the assumption that young adult men are sex-crazed maniacs.”

But it’s not a redefining of terms alone that explains the increase, says Dr. Greenberg. “I really do believe that girls are more aggressive sexually today than they were ten years ago, and I haven’t seen the same trend in boys. I think it has a lot to do with the hook-up culture where there’s this permission to get involved physically without getting involved emotionally. Boys were always expected to be the sexual initiators, and now girls are doing the initiating.”

One familiar trope in the news cycle is the female high school and middle school teacher preying on a male student. These sexual relationships are consensual—and rarely deemed “rape”—but the large age differential is a type of coercion….Read more…

The Daily Beast

3 Comments on “Study: Can Boys Be Coerced Into Sex?”

  1. Robert says:

    I have often thought about my first sexual experience, I was 13 years old at the time and the lady was in her twenties, when I think of what happened I feel that it was rape but then what is a young boy to do about this, report it to the police?, say something to your parents?, I’m afraid that was out of question as it was/is perceived that boys/men do not get raped especially by women.

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