Perceptions of consent in male rape: evidence and inclusive policymaking




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Cambridge Scholars Publishing


Book chapter

Peer reviewed


Interest in evidence-based policy making in the UK and elsewhere has been documented over many years. There has also been much attention given to the issue of sexual violence from policy makers – virtually all of this attention has been gendered in the sense that it has focused on female victims and male perpetrators. Given the gendered nature of rape this is hardly surprising. However, to say that sexual violence and victimisation is a gendered phenomenon is not to suggest that males are invulnerable to sexual violation. Indeed, the empirical data makes clear that ‘each and every body is permeable and appropriable’. While the inclusion of males within the legal definition of rape under English law occurred more than twenty years ago, policy development has not been similarly re-framed. It is the contention of this chapter that policy makers have failed to appropriately consider the experience of adult male victim-survivors as part of the UK government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy and what is needed is an examination of female and male sexual victimisation at the policy level. This chapter will use findings from an empirical study of attitudes towards adult male rape, along with other data to examine the way in which myths and assumptions shape understandings of adult male rape and the credibility of complainants. It will be argued that given that one of the objectives of the VAWG strategy is to change attitudes and behaviours in the context of female victim-survivors, a similar approach is needed for males. This chapter points to the various ways in which this neglect of male victim-survivors causes harm and why awareness raising and challenging problematic attitudes is important. It concludes by arguing for gender inclusive policy making in the context of sexual violence.



Rape, public policy, evidence, male victims


Rumney, P. and Hanley, N. (2016) Perceptions of consent in male rape: evidence and inclusive policymaking. In: Wake, N., Reed, A. and Ashford, C. (Eds.) Legal Perspectives on State Power: Consent and Control. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp.185-246.


Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society