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Men Say ‘No,’ Too: Debunking the Female as Victim, Male as Perpetrator Paradigm

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Men Say ‘No,’ Too: Debunking the Female-as-Victim, Male-as-Perpetrator Paradigm

By: Erin Pine

July 20, 2021

In 2011, the Obama/Biden administration conducted an overhaul of Title IX – the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex on college campuses – by issuing the controversial “Dear Colleague Letter.” In theory, Title IX already addressed sexual assault. But the introduction of the Dear Colleague letter had the effect of removing key due process protections for the accused. On the heels of dozens of high-profile accusations, the Department of Education took a hard stance in order to prove that the Obama administration was cracking down on sexual assault. But did the DOE policy cause more harm than good?

The Office of Civil Rights introduced the infamous Dear Colleague letter in order to prod universities toward stricter campus policies. The letter sought to provide assurances that sexual misconduct would not be tolerated on college campuses – a valid and important concern. But while the Dear Colleague letter was well-intentioned, it can be better described as misguided. The letter’s overbroad, even threatening language imparted a fear of loss of government funding. As a result, university officials became quick to aggressively respond to any and all accusations of sexual misconduct.

Unless those accusations came from male students.

In 2014, UCLA researchers Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer published an assessment of five federal surveys conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation between 2010 and 2012.[1] This data was gathered as part of an investigation into the belief that men rarely, if ever, experience sexual assault.[2]

Surprisingly, the information collected by Stemple and Meyer demonstrated that the prevalence of sexual victimization in men mimics the prevalence of sexual victimization in women.[3] The 12-month data with respect to male victims is as follows:

    • Made to penetrate: 1.1%
    • Sexual coercion: 1.5%
    • Unwanted sexual contact: 2.3% [4]

With respect to female victims, the corresponding numbers are:

    • Rape: 1.1%
    • Sexual coercion: 2.0%
    • Unwanted sexual contact: 2.2%

Stemple and Meyer also identified the three most common factors that perpetuate misconceptions about male sexual victimization: reliance on traditional sex stereotypes, outdated and inconsistent definitions, and methodological sampling biases that exclude inmates.[5] Their report concluded by recommending societal changes that move beyond archaic gender assumptions, which can harm both women and men.[6]

The UCLA study is not an anomaly. A survey conducted by the Rape Abuse Incest National Network — RAINN — found that as of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape.[7] This equates to roughly one in 33 American men.[8] In 2015, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey produced similar numbers to that of the UCLA study. Over the 12-month period, approximately 1.6% of men experienced sexual coercion, while 2.0% of men reported unwanted sexual contact.[9]

But perhaps the most eye catching statistic: the majority of male victims (70.8%) of completed or attempted rape reported that their first experience occurred prior to age 25.[10] With college-aged students averaging between 18 and 22 years of age, it stands to reason that a majority of the sexual misconduct incidents making up that 70% occurs on college campuses. So, why is it that an accusation by a male complainant is so rarely investigated, adjudicated, or publicized?

The unfortunate truth is demonstrated by Doe v. Marymount University, a 2018 decision out of the Eastern District of Virginia.[11] John Doe presented a variety of evidence to demonstrate the university’s sex bias. Most notably, Doe alleged that in a subsequent sexual assault investigation at Marymount, a male student accused a female student of touching his genitals without his consent.[12]

Professor Lavanty, the Title IX investigator in that case as well as in Doe’s, allegedly asked the male student if he was aroused by the unwanted touching.[13] The male student responded ‘no.’ Yet Lavanty, in apparent disbelief, asked the male student again, ‘not at all?’”[14] With all inferences in favor of Doe as the non-moving party, the court concluded, “Lavanty’s decision-making was infected with impermissible gender bias, namely Lavanty’s discriminatory view that males will always enjoy sexual contact even when that contact is not consensual.”[15]

The story doesn’t end there. On June 15th of this year, a decision was rendered in the appellate-level case, Doe v. Denver University.[16] Among the many key points highlighted in the decision, Doe presented striking statistics regarding the university’s unwillingness to investigate misconduct complaints brought by male students.[17]

Specifically, between 2016 and 2018, the University of Denver failed to launch a formal investigation into any of the 21 sexual-misconduct complaints brought by men.[18] By contrast, during that same period there were roughly 105 complaints brought by women, 14 of which were formally investigated.[19] Additionally, over the course of those two years DU received five complaints brought against female students.[20] Of those five cases, four of the complainants were male and only one was female.[21] The University failed to investigate the four male-initiated complaints against female respondents, but fully investigated the female-initiated complaint.[22]

The evidence further showed that a DU female student found guilty of non-consensual touching was given a deferred suspension, while a male student found guilty of the same offense was fully suspended.[23] In the court’s view, this was sufficient to show a pattern of implicit sex bias at the school.[24]

With similar victimization numbers between men and women, the failure of colleges to investigate male-driven accusations is proof that their hypervigilance in adjudicating sexual misconduct claims is not inspired by notions of even-handed justice. Universities are sending a message to male students that their boundaries will not be respected, and their claims will not be heard. Biased assumptions about sexual trends on college campuses harm not only the accused in these cases, but the accusers as well.

But all is not lost. Since the 2011 rollout, several public policy groups and university officials have been voicing their concerns with the sexual misconduct-related Title IX policies. And those concerns are starting to be heard. It is undebatable that sexual misconduct is a widespread problem in this country that needs to be addressed and eradicated. But the one-sided effect of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter undermines the cause it seeks to uphold. Due process applies to both parties and should be regarded as such.

Believe male victims, too.



[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.


[8] Id.


[10] Id.

[11] Doe v. Marymount Univ., 297 F. Supp. 3d 573, 585 (E.D. Va. 2018).

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Doe v. Univ. of Denver, 1 F.4th 822, 835 (10th Cir. 2021).

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.