Studies of social attitudes show violence is perceived as more or less serious depending on the gender of victim and perpetrator. According to a study in the publication Aggressive Behavior, violence against women was about a third more likely to be reported by third parties to the police regardless of the gender of the attacker, although the most likely to be reported gender combination was a male perpetrator and female victim. The use of stereotypes by law enforcement is a recognised issue, and international law scholar Solange Mouthaan argues that, in conflict scenarios, sexual violence against men has been ignored in favor of a focus on sexual violence against women and children. One explanation for this difference in focus is the physical power that men hold over women, making people more likely to condemn violence with this gender configuration. The concept of male survivors of violence goes against social perceptions of the male gender role, leading to low recognition and few legal provisions. Often there is no legal framework for a woman to be prosecuted when committing violent offenses against a man.
Richard Felson challenges the assumption that violence against women is different from violence against men. The same motives play a role in almost all violence, regardless of gender: to gain control or retribution and to promote or defend self-image.
Writing for Time, Cathy Young criticised the feminist movement for not doing enough to challenge double standards in the treatment of male victims of physical abuse and sexual assault.
While women are more fearful of violent crime, men are at much higher risk of being victims of violent crime. This phenomenon is termed by researchers as the "fear of crime gender paradox".
In 2013, editor-in-chief of the journal Partner Abuse, John Hamel, set up the Domestic Violence Research Group to create the "Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (PASK)". PASK found parity in rates of both perpetration and victimisation for men and women.
Men who are victims of domestic violence are at times reluctant to report it or to seek help. According to some commentators, there is also a paradigm that only males perpetrate domestic violence and are never victims.Shamita Das Dasgupta and Erin Pizzey are among those who argue that, as with other forms of violence against men, intimate partner violence is generally less recognized in society when the victims are men. Violence of women against men in relationships is often trivialized due to women, on average, being physically weaker than men; in such cases, the use of dangerous objects and weapons is omitted. Research since the 1990s has identified issues of perceived and actual bias when police are involved, with the male victim being negated even while injured.
According to the journalist Martin Daubney "...there remains a theory that men under report their experiences [of violence by women against men] due to a culture of masculine expectations." The official figure in the United Kingdom, for example, is about 50% of the number of acts of violence by men against women, but there are indications that only about 10% of male victims of female violence report the incidents to the authorities, mainly due to taboos, fears of misunderstanding, and fears of not being believed or even ridiculed by authorities, created by a culture of masculine expectations. For example, 1.9 million people aged 16–59 told the Crime Survey for England and Wales (year ending March 2017), that they were victims of domestic violence and 79% did not report their partner or ex-partner. Of the 1.9 million, approximately 1.2 million were female and 713,000 were male. However, in a Canadian report, 22% more men than women reported being victims of violence in their current relationship. Additionally, researchers Stemple and Meyer report that sexual violence by women against men is often understudied or unrecognized.
Family violence scholar Richard Gelles published an article entitled "Domestic Violence: Not An Even Playing Field" and accused men's rights groups of distorting research findings on men's and women's violence to promote a misogynistic agenda. Some domestic violence scholars and advocates have rejected the research cited by men's rights activists and dispute their claims that such violence is gender symmetrical, arguing that their focus on violence against men stems from a political agenda to minimize the severity of the problem of men's violence against women and children and to undermine services to abused women.
Violence towards men can also be attributed to homosexuality. Due to cultural norms, religious beliefs, and toxic masculinity, men have been targeted for their sexual orientation.
In its December 2020 report, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found that homosexuality is criminalized in 67 of 193 UN member states and one non-independent jurisdiction, the Cook Islands, while two UN member states, Iraq and Egypt, criminalize it de facto but not in legislation. Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab of Emirates and Yemen still allow for the prescription of the death penalty if one engages in homosexual sexual activity. In 2021, Téa Braun of the Human Dignity Trust estimated that more than 71 million LGBT people live in countries where homosexuality is criminalized.
Anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, a predominantly Muslim region of Russia, have included forced disappearances—secret abductions, imprisonment, and torture—by local Chechen authorities targeting persons based on their perceived sexual orientation. There have been reports of concentration camps being created to house those who have disappeared. In February 2016 Hamas, which controls the Palestinian National Authority and rules Gaza, executed by firing squad Mahmoud Ishtiwi—one of the group's leading commanders—for homosexual activity. Report of vigilante executions, beatings, and torture have been reported in heavily Christian and Muslim regions of Africa, in countries such as Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, and Senegal.
Violence towards gay men have also been present in sex-culture. In 2012, Jun Lin, a Chinese college student studying in Canada, was murdered by Luka Rocco Magnotta. The two had met on an anonymous Craigslist personals forum, with Magnotta seeking an individual to film a sex-tape with. In 2018, Blaze Bernstein was murdered after he went on a hookup from the gay hookup app, Grindr. Authorities determined that Bernstein was the victim of a hatecrime. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29 percent of straight men. Additionally, 40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of straight men.
Although a 2012 court ruling in Germany put the practice of male cutting under question, calling circumcision "grievous bodily harm," the German parliament passed a law to keep circumcision of boys legal. As of 2016, cutting of boys' foreskins is still legal worldwide.
Serbian victims during insurgency in the Kosovo War
A 9-year-old Muslim boy whose hand was cut off by Greek soldiers during the Yalova Massacre.
In situations of structural violence that include war and genocide, men and boys are frequently singled out and killed. The murder of targets by sex during the Kosovo War, estimates of civilian male victims of mass killings suggest that they made up more than 90% of all civilian casualties.
It was noted in 1990 that the English language is "bereft of terms and phrases which accurately describe male rape". In 2012, a UNHCR report stated that "SGBV (sexual and gender based violence) against men and boys has generally been mentioned as a footnote in reports".
According to the 2002 SAVI (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) Report, 9.7% of Irish men reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults (when they were aged 17 or older); 0.9% of those involved penetrative sex. A further 2.7% reported unwanted non-contact sexual experiences. By comparison, 20.4% Irish women reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults, 6.1% of which involved penetrative sex; a further 5.1% reported unwanted non-contact sexual experiences.
According to the 2018 Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia report, the Australian police recorded 4,100 male victims of sexual violence in 2016, as opposed to 18,900 female victims that year (thus, male victims constituted 17.8% of all victims). For male victims experiencing sexual violence since the age of 15, 55% reported a female perpetrator while 51% reported a male perpetrator (some who experienced sexual violence multiple times were victimised by men and women); by comparison, 98% of female victims since age 15 reported a male perpetrator, while 4.2% reported a female perpetrator (also some overlap here).
Wartime sexual violence committed by men against men is used as psychological warfare in order to demoralize the enemy. The practice is ancient, and was recorded as taking place during the Crusades. During periods of armed conflict men may be raped, sexually mutilated, sexually humiliated, or even enslaved. Castration in particular is used as a means of physical torture with strong psychological effects, namely the loss of the ability to procreate and the loss of the status of a full man. While sexual violence in all its forms is criminalized in international law, the culture of silence around sexual violence against men often leaves male victims with no support.
In one study, less than 3% of organizations that address rape as a weapon of war, mention men or provide services to male victims.
In the U.S., crime statistics from the 1976 onwards show that men make up the majority (88%) of homicide perpetrators regardless if the victim is female or male. Men are also over-represented as victims in homicide involving both male and female offenders (74.9% of victims are male). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women who kill men are most likely to kill acquaintances, spouses or boyfriends while men are more likely to kill strangers. In many cases, women kill men due to being victims of intimate partner violence, however this research was conducted on women on death row, a sample size of approximately 97 during the last 100 years.
In Australia, men are also over-represented as victims, with the Australian Institute of Criminology finding that men are 11.5 times more likely to be killed by a stranger than women.
In the United States, police killings are one of the leading causes of death for young men. A study by Esposito, Lee, Edwards predicts that 1 in 2,000 men and 1 in 33,000 women die as a result of police use of deadly force. The same study predicts the risk is highest for black men, as approximately 1 in 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police. Studies using recent data have found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American/Alaskan individuals are disproportionately stopped by police and killed in encounters.
^Mouthaan, Solange (2013). "Sexual violence against men and international law – criminalising the unmentionable". International Criminal Law Review. Brill. 13 (3): 665–695. doi:10.1163/15718123-01303004.
^Farr, Kathryn Ann (July 1997). "Aggravating and differentiating factors in the cases of white and minority women on death row". Crime & Delinquency. Sage. 43 (3): 260–278. doi:10.1177/0011128797043003002. S2CID57147487. They [women on death row] typically kill people they know, primarily men - most often husbands or lovers in domestic encounters (Mann 1996; Campbell 1993; Silverman et al. 1993; Weisheit 1993; Browne 1987; Goetting 1987; Wilbanks 1983). ... Many female murderers have killed husbands or boyfriends who battered them repeatedly (Gillespie 1989; Browne 1987).