Brighton’s pioneering research examining men’s unwanted sexual experiences

University of Brighton is running a groundbreaking research project spotlighting the widely overlooked area of men’s unwanted sexual experiences (MUSE).

Dr Carl Bonner Thompson and Dr Kirsty McGregor
Dr Carl Bonner-Thompson (left) and Dr Kirsty McGregor

Led by Dr Carl Bonner-Thompson and Dr Kirsty McGregor, MUSE is speaking to some of the many men who have had unwanted sexual experiences at some point in their life, focusing initially on the London and South East region – though there are plans to expand nationally.

A recent survey by the Male Survivor Partnership found 42% of men said they have experienced at least one form of unwanted sexual contact in their lives  – yet rarely seek formal support. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, referrals to the ManKindUK male survivors’ support service have increased by 95%. However, there remains little documented research on the impact of these experiences on men’s lives in the UK.

The MUSE study aims to explore the reasons why men might not seek support, and the barriers men face  when they do try to access support (both formal and informal) with regard to unwanted sexual experiences. The Brighton team is using a blend of interviews and arts based workshops.

The project is being funded internally by the University’s Healthy Futures research and enterprise initiative, and is working in collaboration with ManKindUK and the Male Survivors Partnership. Full details plus a video introduction to the project on the MUSE website.

Senior Lecturer, Dr Bonner-Thompson, said: “Men sometimes don’t recognise these experiences might require support, and even when men do attempt to speak to someone there are lots of barriers to getting the right help. Our project aims to explore reasons why men haven’t looked for or accessed support in order to identify the key barriers. 

The MUSE study will also feature input from psychologist Dr Willem Stander from the University’s Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender, plus visual practitioner Jon Ralphs, who will facilitate individual and small group work through pictures, words and colours.

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