Men’s unwanted sexual experiences (MUSE) – or sexual violence and harassment towards men – remains an under explored topic of research in the UK, where men rarely seek formal or informal support for their experiences. A recent survey by the Male Survivors Partnership (MSP) found that 42% of men have experienced at least one form of unwanted sexual contact, while ManKindUK (a male survivors support service) has reported a 95% increase in referrals since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the prevalence of unwanted sexual experiences for men, it would appear that social and cultural barriers remain, impacted men’s help-seeking behaviours and ways of understanding their experiences.

Led by Dr Carl Bonner-Thompson (School of Applied Sciences) and Dr Kirsty McGregor (School of Humanities and Social Science) the MUSE project aims to explore the barriers that men face in seeking support for their unwanted sexual experiences and the relationships these experiences have with masculinity and vulnerability. The research employs qualitative approaches, conducting online interviews and creative workshops with male survivors in collaboration with visual practitioner Jon Ralphs. Having completed the first phase of data collection in South East England and London, the second phase of the project is currently underway, recruiting and interviewing participants in North East England.

This collaborative project is funded by Healthy Futures, Male Survivors Partnership, and The Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender (CTSG) at the University of Brighton and has recently been granted funding by the UKRI to hold a series of participatory workshops involving charity partners – including ManKindUK, Breaking the Silence, and MSP – and participants.

The above image was created by a participant during one of the creative workshops 

Plans are currently underway to hold public dissemination events in both Brighton and Newcastle involving an exhibition to showcase the artwork produced by participants within the creative workshops, alongside analysis workshops with partners and participants. Collaborative steering group workshops with community stakeholders in Brighton and Newcastle are also set to take place in the coming weeks as part of plans to develop a larger funding bid to the ESRC to expand the MUSE project nationwide.

Additional details are to be found on the MUSE website.