|CHAPTER VIII – SEXUAL ABUSE OF BOYS
The purpose of this study is to examine sexual abuse, incest and memories, and the after effects that sexual abuse leaves on an individual.
In my practice I have seen both male and female survivors, however my experience with females outweighs my experience with male survivors in large measure – one man to five women. There is also more literature and research of abuse on women than men. In my research, Gartner reported the sexual betrayal of boys.
We can ask why are there really only a few male incest survivors and a few female perpetrators. Both Russell and Finkelhor endorse the overwhelming body of research findings that the vast majority of victims of reported incest are female and the vast majority of perpetrators are male.
More boys are abused than we think, but the ratio stays more or less the same. Both Russell and Finkelhor project that when all the perpetrators that abuse boys are taken into consideration, about 20% of perpertrators of incest are women.
Actually Russell responded that only 5% of their female relatives were perpetrators, a figure she calls “very low” and she acknowledges that the inclusion of male victims would alter this number. And while Finkelhor found 19% of perpetrators were female, he defined incest to include sexual experimentation. He also found that more females were likely to experiment than violate. Women also committed fewer acts of abuse and their acts were found to be much less “severe” and devoid of violence.
As I said earlier, men experience the world differently than women – but “boys’ experiences of sexual abuse are basically similar to girls”6 and the treatment follows similar lines.
When David Finkelhor surveyed the existing literature on sexual abuse of boys in 1984, he concluded that this area headed the list of sexual abuse areas that were “in crying need of research”. Probably, the most serious question in regard to boys is how their victimization differs from that of girls and how clinicians can take this difference into account.
In 1990, Urquiza and Capra wrote with justification that “If the body of literature concerning female victims is still in its infancy… the parallel body of literature concerning males may best be described as in an embryonic stage”. Psychoanalytic literature is sparser. All the literature we read on male sexual victimization supports the idea that men are sexually abused in boyhood and form a distinct population. Sexual abuse has different meanings for boys and girls and these different meanings have implications for how the child reacts to it, defines it, and deals with it later on as an adult.
Let’s take the example of a son being abused by his father. If the abuse starts at a young age and the father forces his son to keep it secret – can you imagine what goes through the son’s mind all this time? He can even be convinced that it is normal. He is my father, he loves me, I love him, and maybe it is the same in all families? The young boy is a victim of paternal incest and is traumatized by premature childhood sexual experiences with his father. “Sexual betrayal” encompasses a greater range of human experiences than the more common expressions “sexual abuse”, “incest “ and “sexual trauma” – because, betrayal is the violation of implicit or explicit trust. It is by definition an interpersonal experience the closer and more necessary the relationship in which it appears, the greater the degree of betrayal in the violation.7 In betrayal, unbreakable bonds are broken and treachery is introduced into the most private, personal and trusting relationships.8
The betrayed individual feels jagged awry, fractured, recklessly hurt. Betrayal is “a violation not only of the trust and of the other, but of the sanctity of intimate relationships…an implicit covenant has been broken or denied…. It changed something fundamental, a belief or a frame of reference from which to view the world of interpersonal relationship”.9
There is a big difference when sexual abuse occurs between two adults, than when a child is involved. A child is not developmentally capable of considering or comprehending the emotional implications of sexual behavior with an adult especially one who in some ways real or symbolic has control over him and his fate.
The power imposed can occur in different ways: Who is the abuser? (Family or not). Age difference? But what is consistent is that the natural development of the sexuality of the child has been violated and hurried into awareness. This very childhood is violated.
Incest is a psychologically catastrophic form of sexual abuse. It has even more far reaching consequences than extra-familial sexual abuse because it occurs often chronically, in the context of a family system that somewhat supports it. This is particularly true when the abuser is a parent, because the child grows up emotionally trapped in at least one twisted primary relationship. Incest therefore constitutes betrayal at a most profound level.
Gartner points out that male sexual abuse is underreported and has received comparatively little study, at least partly because sexual relations between boys and adult women are not considered abusive or unwelcome. If boys have premature sexual experiences, especially with girls or women, they are thought to be sexually initiated, not molested.10 And Gartner continues to say “If a man claims that premature sex that took place in an abusive situation was not traumatic, or even claims that it was desired by him we must accept this as a possibility”. At the same time we must continue to listen for other and less conscious reactions. For example, as in the case of Mary Kay le Tourneau in the late 1990’s who was a 35-year-old schoolteacher and had sex with her student who was 12 years old. The boy maintained that he had initiated the sexual relationship saying, “All that maters was that we loved each other”.
But the behavior of Mrs. le Tourneau who is an adult was sexually abusive and this case can be a good example to differentiate abuse from trauma.11
Even if we are exposed with daily life cases that we can see on TV and in the news (Michael Jackson, le Tourneau and rapists who kidnap little girls to rape and kill) and this is happening right now on TV, which is a scandal. A man, who was a sexual abuser twenty years ago, committed suicide after killing five little girls in an Amish school community. He left a note saying that he wanted to abuse some children again and instead of abusing again, he decided to kill them in a very gruesome scene and then he killed himself leaving a wife and three children. According to the interviews of people who knew him, he was a wonderful devoted father and husband. This happened very recently in October 2006 in an Amish county in Pennsylvania. What message does this give you? What is behind all of this? Why did he kill instead of abusing them again? What happened to him when he was a child? In the note that he left, is it true what he wrote? Is it an excuse? A crime? What is the message that we as TV viewers should understand from such a heinous crime? Does a suicide note come to grips to understanding forgiveness? This man is giving us a message of hate, he hates himself, he hates young girls, he hates God, he was obviously paralyzed by the crime he committed twenty years ago on young family members and out of anger and hate he had to destroy himself and revenge himself by killing innocent children in a very bucolic peaceful community. This incident confirms that sexual abuse is all over the place coming sometimes as an explosion of crime, murder, hate and it covers all the news. If it is not a murder crime, it can be a kidnapping and missing children and it is indescribable.
This leads me to say, we have another interesting way to learn more and it is exposed to the public – I speak about movies (I did my own movie Happy Birthday in Chapter Vll). There are a few interesting movies in which sexual abuse between boys and girls are depicted. They show how sexual abuse is viewed both by its victims and the abuser. It is very important because movies are a popular media that reflect and guide cultural and daily events.
Basically in our culture it is ingrained that boys will encode early sexual behavior with women as pleasurable initiations and by contrast sexual behavior between boys and men is portrayed as shameful in the movies. This is true whether the sexual situation is portrayed as humiliation, incest molestation, sexual initiation or rape. I have selected three movies to explore. “All That Jazz” (1979) is the story of a famous choreographer who’s compulsive womanizing, alcoholism, amphetamines addiction, chain smoking and workaholic all lead him to a series of heart attacks. In a flash back we see him as a teenage dancer working burlesque houses. His mother tells us he hardly noticed the strippers, but we see him surrounded by their nearly naked bodies as they tease him and offer him easy sex. At one point, he is masturbated by these strippers just before going on stage to dance and his performance ends in ridiculing laughter as the patrons see the wet semen stains on his white pants.
The implications of his over stimulating early experiences are ambiguous – as an adult he is attractive to women, loves being with them and is cherished and adored by them. On the other hand he is totally unable to stay with any of the women he loves, including his daughter and ultimately his compulsive behavior contributes to his early death from heart disease.
The other movie I have chosen “The Graduate” is a dark comedy where Benjamin, a recent college graduate, is not actually underage, but his erotic, tortured affair with Mrs. Robinson the bored wife of his father ‘s business partner, has the emotional impact of a molestation of an adolescent by an older more powerful mother substitute. The more dominant position is underlined by her remaing “Mrs. Robinson” to him even when they are having an affair while he remains “Benjamin” to her. She blatantly and single-mindedly sets out to seduce him. When he says, “Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me!” she dismisses his accusation while furthering the seduction and then blaming him for it. “Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you are saying.”
When they are interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Robinson, Mrs. Robinson wrongly tells Benjamin that he should telephone her and they can “make some kind of arrangement” – Benjamin is confused, but obviously excited and aroused by Mrs. Robinson. He does call and makes a date. When he tries to stop their liaison before it is consummated, she pushes him to complete the sex act by pointedly suggesting he is an “inadequate” inexperienced lover. Throughout their relationship it is clear that Mrs. Robinson is only interested in Benjamin for sex. When he asks if they can converse, she tells him they do not have much to say to one another. When Benjamin later falls in love with Elaine (Mrs. Robinson’s daughter), Mrs. Robinson is furious, she does not want that and viciously accuses him of rape.
At the end, Benjamin interrupts Elaine’s hastily scheduled wedding to another man and the two flee together leaving the “adults” behind.
I want to end this chapter on another movie, the third one I have selected, which is creepily offbeat and disturbing called “Blue Velvet” made in 1986. In this movie a woman comes close to raping a young man at knifepoint after forcing him to strip. The scene is frightening, but erotic. The young man whispers how much he likes what the woman is doing to him and his sexual involvement with her becomes a willing one. She is portrayed as weak, pitiful and terrified, while he saves her life and solves the mystery at the heart of the movie plot.
It is true that Hollywood rarely makes movies about men being sexually abused as Europeans do, but lately we had this interesting movie in 2006 called “Brokeback Mountain” were two men are in love with each other and one of them is sexually assaulted in the mountains.
6 Gartner, R.B. (1999) Betrayed As Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men. New York: Guilford.
7 Freyd, J.J (1996) Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 20.
8 Cheselka, O. In 1996 from Gartner, R.B. (1999) Betrayed As Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men. New York: Guilford.
9 Gartner, R.B. (1999) Betrayed As Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Med. New York: Guilford. Page 13.
10 Gartner, R.B. (1999) Betrayed As Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Med. New York: Guilford. Page 42.
11 Gartner, R.B. (1999) Cinematic Depictions of Boyhood Sexual Victimizaton. Gender and Psychoanalysis, page 254. Thus boys are multiple motivations for not encoding premature sexual encounters as either abusive or traumatic. This makes it difficult to judge whether a specific experience was indeed benign rather than traumatizing.