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First published online June 5, 2016

Speaking of Stigma and the Silence of Shame: Young Men and Sexual Victimization

Abstract

This study addresses male sexual victimization as that which is both invisible and incomprehensible. Forensic interviews with young men following reports of suspected sexual assault reveal patterns of heteronormative scripts appropriated to make sense of sexual victimization. These scripts show that victimhood is largely incompatible with dominant notions of masculinity. Sexual coercion and assault embodied threat to boys’ (hetero)gendered selves, as they described feelings of shame and embarrassment, disempowerment, and emasculation. These masks of masculinity create barriers to disclosure and help to explain the serious underreporting of male sexual victimization. Questions of coercion and consent are addressed, as it relates to matters of legitimacy, sexuality, and power. With few exceptions, boys’ constructions of sexual violence have received little attention. This study adds the voices of young men to the developing empirical and theoretical research on male victims of sexual assault.

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Biographies

Heather R. Hlavka is an associate professor of Criminology and Law Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University. Her research focuses on sex and gender, youth, sexual violence, and the law. Her current work investigates cultural narratives in contemporary rape trials.

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Published In

Article first published online: June 5, 2016
Issue published: October 2017

Keywords

  1. hegemonic masculinity
  2. violence
  3. youth
  4. culture
  5. criminology

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© The Author(s) 2016.
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History

Published online: June 5, 2016
Issue published: October 2017

Authors

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Heather R. Hlavka
Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Notes

Heather R. Hlavka, Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Marquette University, Lalumiere Hall 410, PO Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA. Email: [email protected]

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