More than four in 10 teenage boys and young men say they’ve been coerced into unwanted sexual behavior, according to a new study.
The study published by the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity was based on a survey of 54 high school students and 230 college students, ages 14 to 26.
The survey, which was completed by high schoolers in the classroom and by college students electronically or in the classroom, found 43 percent of respondents had at least one unwanted sexual experience.
In those cases, 95 percent of respondents said the aggressor was a female acquaintance.
“Sexual victimization continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States, but the victimization of men is rarely explored,” said lead author Bryana H. French, of the University of Missouri. “Our findings can help lead to better prevention by identifying the various types of coercion that men face and by acknowledging women as perpetrators against men.”
The researchers found a strong relationship between sexual coercion and risky sexual behavior and alcohol use, and students who had been sexually coerced while under the influence of alcohol or drugs showed significant distress.
However, the researchers said, having unwanted sex did not appear to affect the victims’ self-esteem.
“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,” French said. “Instead it may inadvertently be consistent with expectations of masculinity and sexual desire, though more research is needed to better understand this relationship.”
According to the survey, 18 percent reported sexual coercion by physical force, 31 percent reported verbal coercion, 26 described unwanted seduction through sexual behavior, and 7 percent said they were compelled after being given alcohol or drugs.
Half the students had unwanted sexual intercourse, 10 percent reported an attempt to have intercourse, and 40 percent said they were coerced into unwanted kissing or fondling.
In written descriptions, 40 percent of Latino students reported sexual coercion, compared to 22 percent of black students, 19 percent of white students, and 8 percent of Asian students.
Students were asked not to include sexual experiences with family members to differentiate sexual coercion from possible incidents of child abuse.
Some examples of coercion included “my partner threatened to stop seeing me,” “my partner has tried to interest me in sexually touching but I was not interested,” and “my partner threatened to use or did use a weapon.”
They were also asked to describe in writing an instance when they felt sexually coerced.
“While not typically addressed in sexual violence research, unwanted seduction 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,” French said. “Seduction was a particularly salient and potentially unique form of coercion for teenage boys and young men when compared to their female counterparts.”
[Image: Closeup portrait of very sad, depressed, stressed, alone, disappointed, gloomy young man, student, worker, resting face on hands, isolated on white background. Negative emotion facial expressions via Shutterstock]