Males’ Stories of Unwanted Sexual Experiences: A Qualitative Analysis

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Unwanted sexual experiences of males are largely stigmatized in American culture. Although males have experienced various types of sexual victimization and coercion, there is limited research that specifically explores males’ experiences as distinctive from females’ experiences. Our objective was to use qualitative research to gain a greater understanding of college males’ unwanted sexual experiences while considering the potential influence of cultural context and myths about masculinity. Participants in this study were 590 undergraduate and graduate male students from a religious liberal arts college in the Midwest region of the United States who completed an online survey in the 2009–2010 academic year. Participants provided written responses to open-ended questions about unwanted sexual experiences (i.e., unwanted kissing, touching, intercourse, or any other form of sexual contact). The participants’ narratives included both childhood and adult experiences. Qualitative thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006) was used to draw meaning from the men’s stories. Seventeen percent (n = 102) indicated having had an unwanted sexual experience, and 64% disclosed their experience to another. The authors identified 4 primary categories of unwanted sexual experiences, namely, Childhood Incest/Molestation, Silent Reluctance (inability to express reluctance), and Sexual Assault (which included rape, date rape, and sexual intimidation). The 4th category was Regret, where the experience was wanted at the time but later regretted. Fifty-two percent (n = 34) of the narratives explicitly or implicitly described experiences within a hetero-normative sexual script; prevalence of scripts was explored within particular types of experiences. Clinical implications are discussed.

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