A US study has revealed that female sex offenders are more common than first thought.

While cultural stereotypes lead us to consider sexual offences by women as rare, a team of researchers at the UCLA School of Law have found this to be far from the truth.

Published in The Independent

Led by Lara Stemple, the researchers analysed data from four large-scale federal agency surveys and found that these types of cases against both male and female victims are surprisingly common.

Published in Aggression and Violent Behaviour, the researchers stress that while they are in no way intending to minimise the impact of sexual violence perpetrated by men, that their results are vital when considering “stereotypes between sexual victimisation and gender.”

Looking at data from the Center For Disease Control’s Survey, researchers found that in 2011 equal numbers of men and women reported being forced into non-consensual sex.

Similarly, the 2010 survey showed comparable results estimating that nearly 4.5 million men in the US had, at some stage in their lives, been forced to penetrate another person – and that in 79.2 per cent of cases, the perpetrator forcing the sexual act was a woman.

Stemple’s team also considered data from the U.S. Census Bureau which revealed that in 2012, a study of a percentage women and men who admitted to forcing sex found that 43.6 per cent of that subset were women, compared to 56.4 per cent of men.

Most recently they pointed to a 2014 college study of 284 men and boys which found that 43 had been sexually coerced into unwanted intercourse, with 95 per cent of the perpetrators reported as being female.

The researchers say that the data gives an interesting insight into the stereotype of women being considered only as passive or harmless. Instead, it highlights the reality that, while at a lesser rate, women can and do sexually offend.

“We call for feminist approaches – expansively interpreted – to challenge these stereotypes, making room to consider women who are abusive, power seeking, and sexually aggressive, while taking into account the troubled background many such women possess,” the researchers concluded.

“Those victimised by women are doubly harmed when we fail to treat their abuse as worthy of concern.”

By Sarah Young
Published in The Independent
13 July 2019