I stumbled upon an interesting topical discussion on NPR about the sexual abuse of black boys. The discussion was only thirteen minutes long, so it was limited in terms of what could be discussed.
What I found most interesting was Dr. Carl Bell’s acknowledgment that there is a double standard in how people react to hearing about sexual violence against boys versus acts against girl because many people contend that the double standard is fair, or in the case of feminists, non-existent.
When I noted the difference in how differently people would respond to someone joking about female victimization, feminist blogger Cara not only claimed that this was not true, but considered it an attack on female victims to even suggest that no one would tolerate that kind of joke against women. From a feminist perspective, sexual violence against males, especially when committed by women, is little more than an extension of male privilege and society’s endorsement of it is, as Cara phrases it, paternalism — regardless that feminists represent the most vocal group that renders sexual violence against boys and men invisible and treats it as something other than rape.
Like Cara, those feminists disregard the notion that any of the women and girls who rape boys are individually or collectively responsible for their actions, nor do they acknowledge that women benefit from the privilege of having their sexuality viewed as so harmless as to be more helpful than traumatizing when they force themselves sexually on others. Instead, the blame is placed on males, on male privilege and paternalism, and on the victimized boys and men by virtue of their gender and their inherent complicity in the “patriarchy.” This coincidentally, meets Cara’s definition for “rape apologism,” one in which she and the other feminists on the thread completely ignore the responsibility women have to prevent the female predation on boys and men. Their solution to addressing female sexual violence against males is to alter society’s perception of masculinity, not discuss what leads women and girls to rape males or address society’s (and feminists’) perception of female sexuality as harmless.
Unfortunately, this dodge is repeated in the interview, though not with the same implied denial of female responsibility that occurred in Cara’s post. Instead, the commentors focus on how masculinity works to silence males victims, which is in and of itself a valid issue, especially within the black community where masculinity and femininity exist as even more exaggerated caricatures than the rest of society (perhaps with the exception of the Latino community). Given the shortness of the discussion, there was not enough time for anyone to question what leads to this level of hyper-genderfication, although it could be argued that the absence of fathers and positive male role models and black women’s antagonism towards black men may play a prominent role. Likewise, society’s view of black males as somehow less than men and less than human, and its requirement for black males as a group to prove themselves also may play a role. It also cannot be ignored that tendency for males without role models to group together and create their own, often far from helpful, role models may be a factor.
Society demands that males deal with everything on their own and to keep it to themselves. Seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness, not just by other men, but also by women. It is viewed as a male’s inability to handle a situation or problem, proof of his general inadequacy. This message is taught to boys at a very young age, and is very difficult to challenge, particularly when the “safe” places victimized men and boys could turn to often turn those males away. As a result, being vulnerable enough to ask for help puts males at risk socially, and it unfortunately puts them at risk to being abused again by someone, male or female, who detects their vulnerability and seeks to exploit it.
That said, the commentors missed the opportunity to discuss how society’s framing of female sexuality plays an equal role in maintaining the social taboo. Society’s current view is impacted not only by older views, but current feminist views, with both presenting women’s sexuality as inherently harmless. It would have been good to hear a discussion about how female abusers mitigate their actions by presenting themselves as victims or by playing on stereotypes created and perpetuated by society and feminists alike.
This would have been particularly helpful because when Talib Darryl shared his experience, he added the caveat that his abuser may have been abused, which is a very common remark when people discuss female sexual abusers. The notion that females only abuse because it was done to them first (presumably by males) reduces their culpability for their actions, and unfortunately this is an idea that is purported by society and feminists. Another important point that could have been addressed is the presentation of the female body as something that ought to be desired. Again, both society and feminists perpetuate this framing and vilify those who reject that female advances are always acceptable and wanted and that male consent is implied by the male gender, with the former framing males who disagree as gay while feminist frame them as the same and/or misogynists.
While the discussion is not a bad one, the major point that was missed is exactly how this plays out in the black community, particularly given that this is a community that places women on a very odd pedestal. There was no discussion of how the gender dynamic in the community prevents boys from coming forward or how the black community relegates all victims, male and female, to silence in an effort to prevent airing dirty laundry. There was no discussion on the reaction black women have they are told black males are frequently victimized by women in the community and how this affects their perception of the issue. There was no discussion about how race relations between the community and the police effect the reporting of abuse, arrests, charges and trials. Again, there was a very limited amount of time for the discussion, yet hearing those things would have given a much clearer picture of the specific reasons black boys and men do not come forward.
Nevertheless, the discussion is worth listening to and does bring to light some of the feelings and issues boys and men experience when they have been victimized and how they are treated by people at large and within their community.