Why aren't boys allowed to be victims?

When it comes to sexual abuse perpetrated by women, boys are treated as lucky little Lotharios.


Tracy Clark-Flory
October 22, 2007 10:45PM (UTC)

I'm fascinated by the media frenzy over female teachers who sexually abuse male students -- partly because the coverage distorts the fact that the vast majority of teacher-student abuse is perpetrated by men. But I'm more troubled that boys who fall victim to abuse by female teachers are treated as lucky little Lotharios or junior Don Juans. As you might remember, Details declared a few months back that "we ought to be happy for these pubescent pioneers ... any one of those little Miss Crabtree-bagging twerps is probably being carried atop the shoulders of his classmates like some conquering hero." In other words: Break out the beer -- these pubescent boys are culturally sanctioned men!

Jesus, it's disturbing.

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But a mainstream media outlet -- the Associated Press, no less -- has finally tackled this cultural double standard. The article gives voice to 54-year-old Jeff Pickthorn, who was sexually abused at age 12 by his seventh-grade teacher, a 24-year-old woman: "Hollywood, they think it's such a hot thing when a guy gets laid at a young age. I tell you, it's not a hot thing." The abuse left him "with no boundaries" as an adult, and the AP summarizes his life as "marred by affairs, gambling, and ruined marriages."

Boys who suffer from sex abuse "are seen as studs," the article notes, while girls are viewed as vulnerable victims, not by virtue of their age but their gender. As a result, male sex abuse victims have to process their feelings about the abuse while receiving a congratulatory pat on the back and frat-boy punch to the shoulder. Psychologist Richard Gartner, author of "Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse," said: "A boy is likely, with a female teacher, to claim that it wasn't a problem, it wasn't molestation, it wasn't abuse, he wasn't hurt by it." It can be several decades before he comes to terms with the abuse. "In our society, we're socialized to think that men aren't victims, that that's the province of women," Gartner added. "To say that you are a victim and particularly a sexual victim, for many boys and men, is to say that you're not entirely a man."

Of course, the worst of it is that the prey-predator construction doesn't stop there -- it's iterated throughout our culture and across age groups, leaving us all in its wake.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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