UPDATE: I’ve become aware that the complete article I linked to isn’t available for free for everyone. Apparently a publicly funded organization in Norway called Helsebiblioteket (Health Library) have bought access to JAMA for everyone who has an IP adress that’s physically located in Norway. All the quoted text in the post below are from the actual paper and NOT from the National Geographic article I also linked to.
Michele L. Ybarra, MPH; Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD Prevalence Rates of Male and Female Sexual Violence Perpetrators in a National Sample of Adolescents JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 07, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2629 available here: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1748355
This study found that females and males have carried out sexual violence at nearly equal levels by the age of 18 — 48 percent on the female side, 52 percent on the male side. 4% (10 females and 39 males) reported attempted or completed rape.
Other interesting findings:
females also appear to be more likely than males to engage in perpetration as part of a team or group: 2 of the 10 female perpetrators in this study engaged in group sexual assault compared with 1 of the 39 male perpetrators.
The term “sexual assault” means rape and attempted rape in this context (see the finding that 10 women and 39 men reported attempted or completed rape). I’ll write a bit about how this study appear to define rape later.
On victim blaming:
Fifty percent of perpetrators said that the victim was completely responsible; one-third (35%) said that they, the perpetrator, were completely responsible for the incident. Again, differences by perpetrators’ sex or age at first perpetration were not noted.
And the authors has this to say on challenging bias:
It is not uncommon to believe that a man cannot be raped by a woman. Gender stereotypes can make it difficult to imagine a dominant woman coercing or forcing an unwilling man to have sex. Accordingly, male victims of female perpetrators are judged more harshly than male victims of male perpetrators. Moreover, the same behaviors perceived to be sexually aggressive when committed by a male can be perceived as romantic or promiscuous when committed by a female. Nonetheless, physiological data suggest that men can be raped; an erection does not necessarily mean sexual arousal and can be reflexogenic. Adolescent health care professionals need to assess the potential for their own gender biases in this area so that they can be more effective in identifying and treating female perpetrators and male victims when they present.
In this National Geographic article about this paper Sharmili Majmudar of Chicago-based Rape Victim Advocates (which was not associated with the study) said that the paper also found that completed rape is predominantly a male crime—a finding that is in line with general attitudes about rape.
What I immediately ask myself then is how does the study define rape. They don’t state it outright in the paper, but they did write this:
Sexual violence perpetration was queried using 4 items. Three items were modified from the Sexual Experiences Survey and are consistent with the Bureau of Justice Statistics definition of rape, which can include “psychological coercion as well as physical force.”28
The reference (28) includes a link to a page on the BJS website.
Due to the the shutdown in the US the BJS website is currently unavailable, but the Wayback Machine has a cached version from May 2013 (http://web.archive.org/web/20130216185755/http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=317) which states:
Rape – Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.
By this definition a woman forcing a man to vaginal intercourse is NOT a forced sexual intercourse and hence NOT rape.
No wonder the paper found that men are the predominant perpetrators of rape if that’s the definition they’ve used.
Now, some of the language in other places in the paper makes me wonder whether they actually use the BJS definition in regards to the “penetration” clause. I have contacted one of the authors Dr. Michele Ybarra to ask about this. This post will be updated if I get a reply.
Hat-tip to commenter OlaOla who in comment made me aware of this JAMA paper.