Originally posted on July 18, 2007
Most males who have been abused at some point ask that question. The male body is a rather peculiar and misunderstood thing. It does things all on its own, completely ignoring any desires the male might have. Many males are aware of this, though most probably think little about it, except when it comes to embarrassing public instances. They accept that is just how their bodies work. For male victims of abuse the situation is a little different.
The male body does not differentiate between genders. If something stimulates it, the body responds accordingly. This in turn can cause instances in which males might find acts committed against them good, pleasurable or enjoyable. Our society adds another element to this, and suddenly males go from simply accepting this as a normal reaction to asking what it meant for their bodies to respond in that way. That is perhaps one of the most insidious elements of sexual abuse. It forces males to prove their sexual identity.
Sexual identity issues are a primary concern for male victims. While some female victims may question their sexual identity, society does not attach the same level of importance to female sexuality as it does to male sexuality. A woman’s attraction to either gender does not alter her status as a woman. A male’s attraction to either gender does, and to varying degrees. A man or boy abused by another man who enjoyed aspects of it is forced to question whether he is straight or gay. If he did not enjoy it, he still gets forced to question what the abuse meant as his gender implies consent. If the abuser was female and the abuse was enjoyed, then it is of little issue. However, if it was not enjoyed questions about his sexuality begin.
None of that is fair to male victims, especially when it comes to boys. It adds another level of shame to the abuse, another reason to keep silent. More so, it forces boys and men to prove their sexual identity. Of course, there is no real means of “proving” one’s identity. Instead, one can only conform to what society demands or ignore it and be ostracized.
In a sense, this is double betrayal. First, one’s body does whatever it wants, and then those who should be understanding instead hold one responsible for that reaction. Secondly, one is demanded to fit into ever-changing yet equally impossible standards for male sexuality and conduct. No matter who one associates with, the demand remains intact, and unless one fulfills those expectations one will continue to face ridicule. The simplest solution would be to cease having sex altogether, yet that too only brings further judgment concerning one’s sexuality.
However, why should it matter what it means? While it is technically rude to answer a question with a question, in the end it is the only appropriate response. If a boy enjoyed some parts of his abuse, it casts no reflection on his sexual orientation. That orientation and identity is something he is born with and cannot be altered on a whim. More so, the enjoyment stems from his body’s response to the act, not the act itself. It stems from his feelings towards the abuser, not the abuser’s intent. And the two are not necessarily connected. A boy can like the person and hate the act and yet like how the act feels. None of that locks the boy into any particular sexual identity. Anyone forcing male victims to choose are doing so for their own personal benefit, not the victim’s.
That said, many male victims still suffer through this needless self-examination. A great deal of self-hatred is caused over something that ultimately does not even matter. It is not male victims who should be ashamed, but the society that compels male victims to feel ashamed.