Sexual Violence Against Men and Women in War: A Masculinities Approach

31 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013 Last revised: 22 Sep 2015

See all articles by Valorie K. Vojdik

Valorie K. Vojdik

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2013


Rape and sexual violence against men in war remains largely invisible, yet pervasive across time and place. The silence around male rape raises critical questions about male bodies, gender, and power that have been largely ignored by legal scholars and international courts. While feminist and human rights scholars have theorized rape of women as a weapon of war, they have largely ignored sexual violence against men. Following the mass rape of women in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, international tribunals recognized that sexual violence against women can constitute a weapon of war and a crime against humanity. In both conflicts, men were also raped, castrated, and sexually assaulted; yet male bodies are virtually absent from the international jurisprudence of gender violence during war. Drawing upon masculinities theory, this Article seeks to enrich feminist and human rights accounts of gender violence. Sexual violence against men and women during war are not separate phenomena, but rather are inter-related and mutually constitutive. Both function as gendered tools to empower particular male groups within specific social spaces. Further, sexual violence against men is best understood as part of a continuum of violence against men in society, from bullying of boys, to the rape of men in prison, and the sexual humiliation of Muslim Arab men in Abu Ghraib. Within these settings, sexual violence against men tends to be normalized, shaming its male victims and rendering the violence invisible. By illuminating male-on-male sexual violence, this Article seeks to enrich feminist accounts of gender violence to better explain both violence against men and women.

Keywords: masculinities, male sexual violence, rape, war, human rights, feminism, castration

Suggested Citation

Vojdik, Valorie K., Sexual Violence Against Men and Women in War: A Masculinities Approach (July 1, 2013). Nevada Law Journal, Forthcoming, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 217, Available at SSRN: or

Valorie K. Vojdik (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865-974-2331 (Phone)

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