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Sexual violence against the LGBTQA community


photography by Ludovic Bertron

In an age of social media, connectivity and simultaneous isolation exist on the same stage. Dating applications such as tinder and various websites are the means we use to find potential sexual partners and form physical human connections. This is short rather than long-term mate selection, and has less to do with procreation and more with variety and choice. However, despite the complexity of the modern world, primitive mechanisms are at work; and the darker side of short term mate selection can result in a slippery slope. Despite living on a planet with over 7 billion people: mate selection relies on proximity, similarity, endogamy (internal group), and exogamy (external group). In the US alone, the density of LGBTQ groups is 1.2-6.8% of the population( Gates, Gary J, 2011; Patterson, D’Augelli, 2012) out of 318.9 million (2014; The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP).

We have often heard our friends or family or maybe ourselves make the statement “all the good men/women are gay or bi” unconsciously highlighting the perception that if these individuals shared their sexual orientation they would have a chance with them.

An area of exploration is the irrational assumption that ones pool of sexual partners is limited or inadequate, mixed in with a toxic cocktail of unhealthy sexual attitudes rejection may result in aggressive sexual behaviour. This is telling when those within the LGBTQA community (Lesbian , Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning and/or Queer and Asexual) are the most at risk of sexual violence.

So what happens when individuals are presented with groups that do not correspond with normative gender based mating behaviour?

Ullstein Bild—Getty Images

According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010)

  • Those in the LGBTQ community face the greatest levels of sexual violence and experience this at an early period of development

Interestingly, research on the asexual population and their experiences of sexual assault is ambiguous to non-existent. However, inference would suggest social pressure to engage in sexual behaviour (consensual or otherwise) based on gender norms may be present.

Coercive sexual violence

Chimpanzee’s exhibit coercive sexual violence in mate selection displaying more violence towards females for reproductive success. (Photographer: Gerry Ellis, Minden pictures)

Animal coercive sex is often a tactic used by half of all observed mating in the animal kingdom; occurring in dolphins (Wrangham, & Peterson,1996), chimpanzees (Smuts, Barbara, 1993), avian foul (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000) and is considered homologous in homosapians as a gene-promotion strategy. This behaviour is the intimidation, attempted violence or trickery of a victim into sexual behaviour. Coercive behaviour is also observed in human males emphasising sex differences in mating tactics (Mussweiler & Foster, 2000) with rape or sexual assault being perceived as a way for unsuccessful males to achieve reproductive success. While structural theorists suggest that cross-societally males are rewarded for aggressive behaviour (Hogben, 2001), cis gender males are not the unique perpetrators of sexual violence towards those in the LGBTQ community, but they make up a majority percentage.

  • 46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3% heterosexual women reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual men reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes. (Walters, Chen & Breiding, 2013). 
  • In eight out of ten cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them (Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher,& Martin, 2007).

Perceived sexual ownership

“It’s a trap” popular social media meme started on 4chan

While the word patriarchy is one that is used ironically and/or satirically in social media spaces, the discussion must focus on how a society views those who do not conform and this includes those that stray from strict patriarchal gender roles. Despite the focus on the LGBTQ community, this theory can be applied across to many vulnerable groups in society. Social appraisal relates to reinforcement of ideas and behaviour and encompasses how society views acts of sexual violence in general and towards the LGBTQ community when considering masculinity and gender roles. this form of reinforcement is needed on attitudes related to sex and the assertion of sexual contact and dictates our views on sexual autonomy. While limited mate selection is not logical in today’s world, it becomes dangerous in individuals that are fixated on strict gender roles.

Diversity is a fact of life and shaping our view points along a continuum of competing ideologies. However, strict systematic gender roles which are the mass agreed upon ideology unknowingly rewards the violence of those who do not fit this mould. Transgender women especially face “toxic masculinity” and violence. While blameless individually, the hive mind of social media memes such as “its a trap” which focuses on transgender women and transgender men in the “reverse trap”, suggests these individuals existing to trick heterosexual cis men and women.

In cases  of cis gendered men and women attempting to “cure” gay, bisexual and transgender women/men through rape or sexual assault, a term has be coined as “corrective rape”. Perhaps a tactic lacking logical reasoning, this lends itself more to our primitive insecurities surrounding mating success which so heavily has directed our gender roles. So, the desire to cure individuals of their non-heteronormative orientation highlights how we as a species view those that logically we cannot reproduce with but on a primitive level have the desire to.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943-54), sex is at the centre of our basic human needs along with food, warmth and shelter, far more immediate than that of safety. What then does this suggest about our society and the emphasis on sex and sexual behaviour.

Are we as a society unknowingly promoting an entitlement of sex and metaphorically “green lighting” sexual violence to those who break the status quota?

Do we unconsciously claim ownership of the sexual behaviours of others?

Is this violence as simply as anger derived from breaking the familiar status quota or perhaps the result of sexual rejection?

Do you think sexual violence is used as a weapon on members of the LGBTQA community?



Corrective rape:  Rape with the intention to convert an individual of the LGBTQA community to a hereto-normative orientation enforcing conformity with gender stereotypes.



Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Charlotte J. Patterson ; Anthony R. D’Augelli (2012). Handbook of Psychology and Sexual Orientation. Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0199765218.

Gates, Gary J. (April 2011). “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?”. Williams Institute, University of California School of Law

 Krebs, C. P., Lindquist, C., Warner, T., Fisher, B., & Martin, S. (2007). The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: Final report.

Smuts, Barbara B (1993). Male Aggression and Sexual Coercion of Females in Nonhuman Primates and Other Mammals: Evidence and Theoretical Implications. Advances in the Study of Behavior 22

Thomas Mussweiler and Jens FiSrster (2000). The Sex >Aggression Link: A Perception-Behavior Dissociation . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 79, No. 4, 507-520. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.79.4.507

Thornhill, R., and Palmer, C.T. (2000). A natural history of rape: Biological bases of sexual coercion. Massachusetts: MIT Press

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.

Matthew Hogben, Donn Byrne, Merle E. Hamburger, Julie Osland (2001). Legitimized aggression and sexual coercion: Individual differences in cultural spillover.  Aggressive Behaviour. Volume 27, Issue 11/31 pg 26-43. DOI: 10.1002/1098-2337(20010101/31)27:1<26::AID-AB3>3.0.CO;2-VView

Walters, M.L., Chen J., & Breiding, M.J. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation.


One Comment

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  1. As a member of LGBT, i thank you for writing this article. Its a topic no one can really understand unless they are part of the oppressed or have been a victim. And as a gay man myself, I had been subjected to catcalls and unwanted touches. Most times, physically force is the only way to fight back just to get them away. But many have not had that option. Victim blaming is a scapegoat that most people will do just to keep their vision of the world clean. Assault is assault, no matter what form it is.

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Written by Charmaine Taylor

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I am a MSc graduate of Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology. I love thinking of new ways to explore psychological theory and how it manifests in our daily lives. Curiosity is the basis for deep thinking.

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Sexual violence against the LGBTQA community