The vulnerability of the penis: sexual violence against men in conflict and security frames

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Sexual violence remains a persistent scourge of war. The use of sexual
violence against men in armed conflict, however, remains underresearched
and is often sidelined. As an explanation, this inter-disciplinary
article situates the issue of sexual violence against men within a new
analytical framework. It does so through a focus on the core subtext which
this violence reveals – the vulnerability of the penis. Highlighting critical
disconnects between what the penis is and what it is constructed as being,
it argues that the vulnerable penis is deeply destabilizing to the edifice of
phallocentric masculinity, and hence it has wider security implications.
Conflict-related sexual violence has increasingly been securitized within the
framework of human security. The concept of human security, however, is
deeply gendered and often excludes male victims of sexual violence. This
gendering, in turn, reflects a broader gendered relationship between sexual
violence and security. Sexual violence against women manifests and
reaffirms their long-recognized vulnerability in war. Sexual violence against
men, in contrast, exposes the vulnerability of the penis and thus
represents a deeper security threat. Fundamentally, preserving the
integrity and power of the phallus is critical to the security and integrity of
phallocentric masculinity, and thus to maintaining a systemic stability that
is crucial in situations of war and armed conflict.


Original languageEnglish
JournalMen and Masculinities
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2017


  • bodies , conflict , hegemonic masculinity , performativity , violence , war