Concerning sex with children

The opinions some people have regarding sex with children do not particularly surprise me. One can find a host of people who have varying ideas about what is and is not acceptable. Likewise, one can find people who will allow many things to occur that would, if brought to light, likely result in criminal charges.

However, while I am not surprised by people’s opinion regarding sex with children, I am still disturbed by the conclusions people will draw, especially in an attempt to minimize sexual abuse against boys.

One such instance involves an account from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s father. Pal Sarkozy wrote in his book So Much Life that his first sexual encounter was at 11-years-old with his nanny, whom he “seduced:”

He writes: ‘Sleep! That’s a joke! I innocently asked the nanny to lie down next  to me as if to give me a big cuddle while whispering the story. She obeyed.

‘I slipped my clumsy but hurried hand under her skirt while she, unperturbed,  continued reading.’

After ‘finding peace with my body, my desire satisfied’, she rearranged her  dress and kissed him on the forehead. ‘From then on, I would ask for my nurse and stories every night.’

It is possible that the 81-year-old man recounted his experiences exactly as they happened. It is also possible that he embellished them, changed the facts, forget what actually occurred, or simply fabricated the story. From this excerpt there is not much to work on.

That does not, however, stop some from drawing conclusions. One blogger* draws the conclusion that:

Our culture has the assumption that children below a certain age are essentially a-sexual, but as Sarkozy’s story illustrates, not all children are sexually innocent and some are even sexually predatory. Our laws, our judgments and our most basic moral beliefs are all based on the assumption of pre-adolescent a-sexuality, and Sarkozy’s story, together with my creepy nephew, make me wonder if it is time to re-examine such beliefs.

As for her “creepy” nephew:

When my nephew was about 9 or 10, he developed an obsession with my daughter’s body. He spied on her and her friends, grabbed her breasts, her ass and even tried to stick his hands in her crotch. When my daughter told him to keep his hands to himself, or complained about his behavior, my mother scolded my daughter! My mother insisted that my daughter not “make a fuss” and absolutely refused to believe that my nephew’s behavior was sexual in nature. She could not, would not believe that a pre-adolescent boy could have sexual thoughts let alone act like a drunk middle aged man at a Christmas party.

The blogger has a point that our culture tends to think of children as completely asexual. However, children are anything but. Their understanding of sex is much different than that of adults, but children are curious about their own bodies and the bodies of others and will experiment. What the blogger regards as “creepy” behavior is not particularly abnormal, at least in terms of interest. In terms of actions, her nephew’s is abnormal, although not in the way the blogger concludes.

Again, children do not think like adults, so clearly adult sexual behavior is not something innate in children. It is something they learn. The question the blogger should have asked is why her nephew is so sexual?

In most instances, highly sexual children are victims of sexual abuse. When victims act out, they may try the acts done to them with someone much younger or their own age. Usually they will mimic what was done to them right down to grooming the other child. In other instances they may become very promiscuous and try the acts with anyone. And in others they repeat the behavior with those who are similar to the person who abused them. If the blogger’s nephew was sexually abused, which is a possibility, the latter two scenarios seem most probable. Of course, it is much easier to assume the boy is “creepy” than to assume one’s relatives, particularly a female relative, may have abused him and he was simply reenacting what happened or participating in the existing abusive situation.

It is also possible that he was simply mimicking behavior he saw on television, in a film, or that he witnessed at home. The point is that it is extremely unlikely that a prepubescent child would randomly become sexually aggressive.  It is not impossible, just very improbable.

That leads to the second conclusion drawn, this time by Hugo Schwyzer, that boys who have sex with adult women are actually the aggressor, i.e. the rapist. As Schwyzer states:

Christine is struck by the circumstances of the encounter that Pal relates. Though only eleven, the father of the French president recalls himself as the initiator, and the nanny as silently acquiescent. Lots of power dynamics are at play. She is older, but he is male. She is his nanny, but he is the son of her employers. She is an adult, he a child — but he is the aggressor. Christine notes that today, we might charge the nanny with a crime for failing to stop Pal’s overtures. But the story raises the troubling reminder that aggressive sexual behavior, and a disdain for consent, is not limited to adolescents or adults.

It is not hard to imagine that Pal’s nanny weighed the cost of resisting the boy’s advances. He wasn’t an infant; if he made his displeasure known in one way or another, she might well have feared for her job. His capacity to consent was vitiated by his age, but hers was no less vitiated by her subordinate economic status. Given that all we have now are the recollections of a man describing an event that took place before the Second World War, there’s little more we can say definitively.

There is one thing that we do need to point out, and that is that even pre-pubescent boys can be sexual aggressors. Their targets are usually those who are, for reasons of age or status, vulnerable. An eleven year-old boy who is sexually assaulted by his thirty year-old female teacher is in a very different position than an eleven year-old boy who initiates sex with his thirty year-old nanny. Age compromises the capacity to consent, as we all know. But we must also acknowledge that class, status, and fear compromise consent as well.

It seems woefully improbable that an adult woman, even a poor woman working for wealthy people before the Second World War, is incapable of refusing the demands of an 11-year-old boy. She was his nanny, and therefore in a position of power over him. While that position was contingent on her employer’s pleasure with her service, she was still in a position of authority, not helpless. So to excuse an adult woman having sex with a boy because she might fear losing her job is preposterous.

As I stated on Schwyzer’s blog, it is unfortunate that he appears to condone adult women having sex with prepubescent male children, particularly as he would never state that an 11-year-old girl who had sex with a male caregiver was the aggressor, regardless of whether the man risked losing his job if he continued to resist. He does a great disservice to boys who are raped by women, although I understand that he does not believe such acts happen, and apparently believes the boys are actually the predators.

Coincidentally, Schwyzer partially acknowledges that Pal Sarkozy is an unreliable source. The man is 81-years-old and it is not uncommon for males, particularly older men, who were abused by women to re-frame the abuse in a way that presents the then boy as the initiator and the one in power. The notion of innate male sexual prowess is a powerful social narrative that permeates through most Western cultures. The last thing Sarkozy would want to state is that his nanny took advantage of him. It is much easier to say he took advantage of her.

Rather than questioning that element and whether potential abuse by a trusted nanny may have lead to Sarkozy’s present adultery, Schwyzer jumps to the bizarre conclusion that this is somehow an issue about not thinking of women as people. His comments about how wonderful the women in his life were have nothing to do with Sarkozy’s experiences, although they do come across as a dismissal of any claims that some female caregivers are sexually abusive and that those experiences could harm the boys.

One can take Sarkozy at his word, but even if one does, the account he gives is of a woman who did not seem bothered by what occurred. The blogger called the nanny “traumatized,” but the wording Sarkozy used was “unperturbed.” According to him, the nanny “continued reading” as he fumbled along. That is a much different response, one that suggests the nanny was a willing or complicit participant. It may also suggest that there is more to what occurred than Sarkozy is letting on.

This is one of the reasons why such encounters are viewed as abusive today. We cannot be sure whether Sarkozy, or the blogger’s nephew, are actually “aggressors” or whether their nannies, older cousins, family friends, siblings, or parents simply took advantage of a child’s normal interest in other people’s bodies and caused or created situations where sexual activity could take place.

Again, if this were a woman recounting “seducing” men at 11-years-old, there would be no argument about men fearing for their jobs or girls being sexual aggressors or girls being “creepy.” Everyone would state that any man should know better than to have sex with a child and that any man who did not is a sex offending dirtbag. Everyone would ask who abused the girl to make her so sexual. There is no reason this should not apply to women who “have sex” with prepubescent boys.

* As per this individual’s request, I have removed any direct reference to her name on this blog. However, I have not removed the link to the original post.

63 thoughts on “Concerning sex with children

  1. And that is why I rarely go to Hugo’s place. As you say if this had been and 81 year old woman retelling having sex with a male nanny at a young age there is no way he would try to twist this into meaning that she was the aggressor or that she didn’t think of men as people.

    This seems to be a good example what happens when you decide on a specific gendered approach to a situation from jump street.

  2. It is also a good example of why so many abused boys never think of what happened to them as abuse. All it takes is someone implying that they are responsible or in control for the boys to think what was done to them was okay or harmless.

  3. Toysoldiers:

    I generally agree with you, and it is true in this case, for instance, that Hugo is a man hating hypocrite.

    And yet, when I read about this encounter : Isn’t it possible that everything balanced out (her age vs his, his presumably superior social status and ability to get her fired etc) and that neither of the two were damaged?

    Why is it we constantly seem to think that even the most minor of touches (even if they are borderline in terms of even being sexual in the first place) will definately cause major trauma or some sort of damage even if both participants seem willing? Is it it totally because of the difference in age? Suppose this guy had a girl closer to his age and this exact scenerio played out?

    I’m not some NAMBLA person, and certainly any kind of sex or even unambiguously sexual contact between a teen or adult and a pre-pubescent child should be avoided, though we probably over estimate the power of a single bad touch to traumatize even then, and so when punishing hte perp we should be careful not to stigmatize or retraumatize the kid anymore than they already might have been. But once kids get old enough to become sexually curious on their own I think we should loosen up just a wee little bit on the subject of touching when it is consensual in nature and doesn’t lead to full blown intercourse.

    Anyway, I’m sorry but in this particular case, provided the account is accurate I don’t see how I could bring myself to prosecute either him OR the servant, at least not as the first resort.

  4. Well, Schwyzer isn’t allowing me to respond now.

    He might find in future that he’ll be getting dozens of responses from male victims and probably a few counselors too.

    There’s a sizeable activist group coming together over my way and apologists such as Schwyzer are prime targets for some inexpensive, simple and fun activity. I wonder how much time he has for moderation duties.

    Oh for the love of Peter, Paul, Mary, all the angels and the saints… the “women are perps and men and boys the real victims of sexual violence” crowd really comes out of the woodwork at times like this.

    Extraordinary hyperbole and attempted shaming of victims who dare to speak out. You demonstate no understanding of male victims whatsoever.

    Your actions serve to keep victims IN the woodwork. Don’t you get it? Or is your ideology such that you can willingly turn your back on those who have been violated?

    Understand that more than half of the men convicted of sexual offences against women have been previously abused by women. With adolescent offenders it’s nearly all of them. Your marginalisation of victims is an impediment to our acting preventatively.

    Shame on you.

  5. Why is it we constantly seem to think that even the most minor of touches (even if they are borderline in terms of even being sexual in the first place) will definately cause major trauma or some sort of damage even if both participants seem willing? Is it it totally because of the difference in age? Suppose this guy had a girl closer to his age and this exact scenerio played out?

    The situation is not black and white all the time, that is true. Every touch is not a major trauma or causes serious, immediate damage. However, the problem is that what damage and trauma that does occur is not always immediately obvious. For instance, Pal Sarkozy could just naturally like to have lots of sex partners. It is also possible, however, that as a result of experiencing sex so young that he may have grown to want many sex partners. I know a few gay men who describe sex with older or adult family members or friends in very loving ways. Yet, most of those men have trouble in their relationships now. Some of them literally play out what happened to them as children and teens with older and sometimes younger men.

    Every person does not end up that way, and I am sure you could find people where the sex was completely consensual. The point, however, is that it is not obvious at first. So what may seem harmless now could have a real impact later. Likewise, it is not easy for people to stop at touching. It particularly would not be easy for a child just hitting puberty as their body would almost immediately respond. That level of confusion with an adult who may only be interested in having sex could cause lasting problem. Just on that point, even the Greeks and Romans realized how quickly things could escalate and created laws barring adult men from penetrating boys.

    I would say that it would be better to take each situation on a case by case basis, for the sake of being fair and it can often be more traumatizing for a child to lose the relationship that was formed than to have been abused. That said, I do not think allowing adults to touch children in sexual ways is a good idea, no matter what the intent is.

  6. I am not surprised by Hugo’s response. I am, however, disappointed that the only response he could muster was to attack male victims and their advocates as if the criticism was unwarranted and unfair. I cannot imagine he would have any different response if the situation were reversed. It is shameful to see anyone resort to that kind of line, especially someone who works with boys and therefore has a greater likelihood of encountered abused boys. In a bizarre way I feel ashamed for him.

  7. I am very impressed with the way that Mythago emptied both barrels on him. good for her! Also Greg Allen delivered a pretty serious threat.

  8. I am rather impressed as well, although it appears the condemnation has prompted Hugo to moderate the comments. That was not unexpected, however, I suspect Hugo did not think other feminists to take him to task.

  9. And I’m deadly serious about it too.

    Hugo has a track record and clearly the only way he will be prevented from more of the same is for large numbers of victims and those who work with them to make it clear that it wont be tolerated any more.

    I question his motivation. He has no need to comment on any instance of this type. He has demonstrated time and again that his only reason for doing so is minimisation of scope and impact and the continued monopolisation of the broader issues.

    Given the distinct cyclical nature of much of the abuse that does occur it is clear to me that we can act preventatively but it requires us to fair to all victims. Marginalising victims, particularly when gender political ideology is the source, is foolish in the extreme. It causes me to believe that the ideology gets in the way of finding solutions.

  10. I am less concerned about his motivation than I am that he works with children while harboring such views. We have seen recently with the Church sex abuse cases, the US juvenile prison system, and the Boy Scouts how dangerous it is to allow people who hold views similar to Schwyzer’s to be in positions of authority and power.

    What happens if a boy or girl who was abused by a woman comes to Schwyzer seeking help? Will he feed them the comments that he made? Will he asked if the boy was actually the aggressor?

  11. The question Woodman should have asked is why her nephew is so sexual?

    Thank you for reiterating this. I would guess Woodman was too focused on protecting her daughter (understandably so) and outraged at her mother’s idiocy to pay attention, but it’s particularly egregious given her comparing his behavior to that of a ‘drunk middle-aged man’. A little boy simply doesn’t have the same maturity, development or motivation, and doesn’t behave in this way unless something is very, very wrong.

  12. Quite true.

    Not somewhere I was going to go with him. I was annoyed enough already.

    There will be no carrots for Hugo, only the stick.

    I’ll leave this here because he will delete it.

    Oh for the love of Peter, Paul, Mary, all the angels and the saints… the “women are perps and men and boys the real victims of sexual violence” crowd really comes out of the woodwork at times like this.

    How dare you invoke the names of biblical personages to silence victims.

    Yes, that’s right. It was victims responding Mr Schwyzer. You should contemplate your own contribution to their being in the “woodwork” to begin with. Make no mistake you are a contributor.

    Serious request Mr Schwyzer…

    In future please refrain from any commentary regarding male victims. It serves no purpose and has no possible positive outcome. It’s time we stopped playing politics with the lives of victims. I can assure you that the consequence of your continuing to do so will be increasing numbers of victims making their displeasure known to you. I WILL see to this.

    You are NOT qualified to speak to their issues regardless of your claimed track record. It seems you’ve learned nothing and you prove this time and again.

    I was raped by an aunt as a seven year old. One of the shaming devices used to shut me up on numerous occasions has been an assertion that I “must have wanted it”. Your performance over years – and I have been watching – shows you to be no better than any one of those hypocrites.

    Leave them alone. You do them harm. Leave the victims and those who work with them and for them to do what they need to do unmolested by your ignorance and your silly politics.

  13. To be honest, I do not think Schwyzer thought past his initial response to reading Woodman’s post. The remark he made that you quoted above seems to demonstrate that. Likewise, despite what he stated in response to some of the comments and in other posts, I do not think he genuinely does believe boys and men are victims of sexual violence. The above comment was clearly stated in spite, and in many instances when people make comments in spite they are actually speaking their minds. They state what it is they truly feel, and do so in a manner intended to hurt.

  14. Took the words right out of my mouth. Couldn’t have stated it more eloquently than me.

    Toysoldier, I find it hard to believe Hugo even bothers to think past every single response or comment he makes regarding male victims. When you’re so set in your ideology, thinking about the negative impact your comments might make is at the bottom of your list.

    I know what I’m about to say is going to be awaiting moderation, but I don’t care. Hugo is an ideological bigot. No mincing words. He doesn’t care one iota about the boys and men he works with. This is the guy who once said that you should mentor young boys and men mainly because they’re more priveledged than women. That’s it. Seriously, he’s got an agenda and no doubt subtly mixes it in with his so-called support. Someone who can’t see past the gender of their clients, fix their inability to separate the person from their own political goals doesn’t deserve to work with boys and men in the first place.

    Not only do I endorse Gwallen’s final comment towards Hugo, I think it should be also be passed out to anybody who thinks Hugo cares about boys and men in the first place. People should be warned, particularly male victims and fathers of sons. He’s a pro-feminist chivalrest white knight all the way and wouldn’t hesitate to throw men and boys under the bus in the name of “Equality”.

  15. I dont understand what woodman was thinking, its rediculous, I can recall where or any of the finer details, but I found a study done on childrens sexuality by some hotshot professor somewhere (its been like five years its all kinda hazy) that there is a growing curiosity about the opposite sex even before puberty sets in. I cant remember the specific age and what was observed in the study at those ages, but I do recall that early on children show an interest in “naughty areas of the body” with “toilet humor” that we always brush aside as mindless humor. Its later that they get curious about others of therir own gender and soon after curiosity of the opposite.
    Its not always directly sexual in nature, one example I remember well was of the the children games of “house” and “doctor”. House in specific is a childs way of playing the social roles of husband, wife, daughter, or son as observed in the family. Doctor is just a game where one child examines another child and so fueling that curiosity of others.

    I am surprised at your way of thinking toysoldier. As I read the acticles I never came to the conclusion of sexual abuse to being a cause of these problems. I dont know if any of them were abused or why they choose to preform those actions if they had, but I can only hope that you are wrong for their sake

  16. I am surprised at your way of thinking toysoldier. As I read the acticles I never came to the conclusion of sexual abuse to being a cause of these problems. I dont know if any of them were abused or why they choose to preform those actions if they had, but I can only hope that you are wrong for their sake

    …there is an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders, and sexually aggressive men, 59% (Petrovich and Templer, 1984), 66% (Groth, 1979), and 80% (Briere and Smiljanich, 1993). A strong case for the need to identify female perpetrators can be found in Table 4, which presents the findings from a study of adolescent sex offenders by O’Brien (1989). Male adolescent sex offenders abused by “females only” chose female victims almost exclusively.

    The Invisible Boy

    A psycholgist of my acquaintance who works in the prison system puts it at 75% – currently. He also works with juvenile offenders whom he claims to all be previous victims.

  17. “The question the blogger should have asked is why her nephew is so sexual?”

    I agree and it’s good that you reiterated it here. It would raise a red flag to anyone who is aware of the nature of sexual abuse.

    The blogger did write about the nanny, “…This passivity in response to sexual advances seems likely a learned response.” And then also states, “No un-traumatized women I know would sit idly while being molested by an eleven year old.”

    In those statements the blogger at least seems aware that the nanny was probably a victim of child sexual abuse herself, despite being an adult. How conscious or unconscious she would be of her own trauma would be speculative given how little we know other than his account of the incident.

    Quite frankly, while I’m not surprised either by the opinions some people have regarding sex with children or just the flippant sounding attitudes about sexual abuse in general, I still find the sweeping generalizations and conclusions disturbing.

    “From this excerpt there is not much to work on.”

    I agree with that observation. Other than recognizing symptoms of sexual child abuse, I wouldn’t feel comfortable speculating about anything else with the limited amount of information that was given. It was another time and another place in that sexual abuse is talked about more than what it was in the past. When children probably had no resources at all to help them deal with the past trauma.

    The incident that Pal Sarkozy recalls sounds very similar to one described in the book by Alice Miller—Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child.

  18. You are all absolutely right: I never even considered that my nephew might have been the victim of sexual abuse. The comments here and elsewhere, prompted our branch of the family to discuss at some length both the possibility that my nephew was abused and why none of us had even considered such a scenario before now.

    We came to three conclusions: first, we doubt that my nephew was sexually abused in the classic sense of the term, but it now seems glaringly apparent that he was psycho-sexually traumatized by the heavily patriarchal environment in which he was raised in ways I will describe in a moment. Second, (and we are all smacking our foreheads on this one) we assumed that a child who successfully bullied almost all of the adults in his world was highly unlikely to be abused. This was a particularly stupid error, since allowing such behavior is, in itself, a form of abuse. Third, my nephew’s story is far more important than I had originally thought and for different reasons than I had thought. He was raised with a level of gender-based privilege which I have assumed that Sarkozy enjoyed and which continues to be very common in very heavily patriarchal cultures, but it is almost completely unheard and certainly almost never discussed in contemporary America

    Boys in heavily patriarchal cultures are raised with assumption that their gender entitled them to make demands on the women who cared for them. While I understand that most Americans cannot conceive of a world in which men are so dominant that even male children dominate their caregivers, this is the case in many cultures around the world and it was the case in the family into which my nephew was born. While his father and grandfather could refuse his demands or discipline him for bad behavior, they were not his primary caregivers and they rarely exercised their power to keep him from harming the women who cared for him. So my nephew grew up a boy-tyrant who did as he pleased, and usually bullied the woman in our family, into doing what he wanted as well. And here is where my reasoning took me astray: I had assumed that my nephew’s legendary nuclear tantrums together with the inordinate power his parents and grandparents had bestowed on him would protect him from abuse since it had certainly shielded him from most forms of discipline or accountability. Obviously, I was wrong, and I am sad now that I never saw him for what he was, a scared little boy who desperately needed good parenting.

    However, my nephew’s gender and the sense of entitlement it carried on that side of the family, meant that I and most other female relatives could not correct him, could not even say, “No, you cannot have that.” or “No, I will not do that for you.” or as I really wanted to say, “If you do not stop that right now, so help me you will not watch Blue’s Clue’s again until you are in college!” It also meant that if my daughter was visiting that side of the family, she did not have any “right” to enforce her no. Even though she was considerably older than my nephew, she was not allowed to correct him, chide him and had she physically enforced her no, the censure she would have received would have cost her greatly. She had to appeal up the chain of command to my mother, who would then have approached the child’s grandfather. As I think about it now, I realize the futility of such an effort. My daughter one tried to plead her case directly to the child’s grandfather and for her trouble received as stern lecture about her inviting sexual contact because she wore jeans and t-shirts rather than a long skirt.

    This environment likely led my nephew to be psycho-sexually traumatized in at least two ways: First it is likely that he witnessed some male relative engaged in sexually harassing behavior on a female relative. Both his father and his grandfather had a reputation for using the same sort of “grabby” behavior – one part sexuality and two parts gender-contempt – on female relatives. It is reasonable to assume that he believed that this was a legitimate way for men to use their power. If this is the case, then his outrage at my daughter’s assertion that she and she alone had the right to decide who touched her body must have been insulting to him. Second, the privilege accorded my nephew meant that he was allowed to trespass the bodily boundaries of the adult women in his family. Specifically, my nephew’s mother allowed him to sleep in her bed until he was well into middle-school This was not a cozy “family bed” situation, nor was it what the child’s mother wanted. She saw him as an intrusion but one she did not have the right to refuse. My nephew’s father occupied his wife’s bed only occasionally and for a brief period in the early evening to exercise his conjugal rights, and then would leave to sleep in another room. I am told that as he left, he would call out to his son, “Okay, it’s all yours now.” Whether the “it” was the boy’s mother or her bed seems open for debate.

    Sometimes it takes the views of outsiders to make a person realize how truly sick or bizarre their world is, and I as I write this I am struck by how far this situation is from our concepts of mainstream behavior. Seeing it now as an outsider, I am angry at myself that I even allowed my daughter to visit that side of the family. But having grown up in such a heavily patriarchal culture I still considered it wrong but not evil. It also makes me aware of how far removed most of us are from the world in which our not-too-distant ancestors grew up and that it is the world still inhabited by millions of families around the world today. We forget, sometimes, how much a sever skew in the balance of power can change everything in society.

    Did that culture scar my son and was that scarring what caused him to act out on my daughter? I would have to answer undoubtedly to the first half and quite likely to the second. Did similar beliefs likely influence Sarkozy’s behavior towards women? Quite possibly. Does this make either of them victims of sexual abuse, I don’t know. And think that that debate is one which I should bow out of since my history makes it unlikely that I will see a tyrant, even a child-tyrant, as a victim. But if my daughter had frozen rather than responded with anger, would her greater age made her a sexual predator given how disempowered she was in those moments? My absolute and fierce defensiveness of her would prompt me to scream, “Hell no!” But in all honesty, that is yet another question which my history makes me ill-equipped to answer.

    What I can state with absolute certainty is that in cultures where women are systematically oppressed, such situations are inevitable, and that we need to have conversation about what happens to children when they are placed in the care of adults whose social power is dwarfed by the child’s. This is not only an issue for those cultures in which women are still considered chattel; it is also a consideration in a nation which employs illegal immigrants to care for its young.

  19. I wrote this in sections, and had intended to ask rhetorically if it scarred my son who visited and my nephew who acted out on my daughter. I did not mean to write that my son acted out on my daughter in any way. I have felt quite a lot of regret, as I have been responding, and my emotions have led me to be sloppy with my writing.

  20. I know what I’m about to say is going to be awaiting moderation, but I don’t care. Hugo is an ideological bigot. No mincing words.

    I do not disagree with you on this. I do think that in many instances Schwyzer becomes blinded by his ideology to the point that he makes comments and draws conclusions that are reprehensible. I also think he is fully aware of this and, like many people stuck in that kind of contradiction, does not see a problem with it. It is not so much that he does not realize that what he stated is bigoted as it is that he likely does not care that it is bigoted. That is likely why he would attack victim advocates and male victims as he did. He simply may not care how much harm his words do. I could speculate about the reasons why, but in truth I do not care. What matters is the potential effects of his opinions, i.e. that he will either state or suggest his antipathy towards boys and men to the boys he works with, and that in turn may cause boys who might otherwise have reached out for help to remain silent.

  21. What you state may be true to an extent, however, one comment stood out to me: Second, the privilege accorded my nephew meant that he was allowed to trespass the bodily boundaries of the adult women in his family. Specifically, my nephew’s mother allowed him to sleep in her bed until he was well into middle-school This was not a cozy “family bed” situation, nor was it what the child’s mother wanted. She saw him as an intrusion but one she did not have the right to refuse. My nephew’s father occupied his wife’s bed only occasionally and for a brief period in the early evening to exercise his conjugal rights, and then would leave to sleep in another room. I am told that as he left, he would call out to his son, “Okay, it’s all yours now.” Whether the “it” was the boy’s mother or her bed seems open for debate.

    That sort of situation is the kind of abusive situation I mentioned. It may be the case that his mother saw him as an intrusion, but it may also be the case that she facilitated the intrusion and may have taken it further. The scenario would set off red flags for many people who treat abused boys. Not only is it possible that his father forced him into a potentially sexual situation with his mother, but it is also possible that your nephew’s mother used her son as a substitute for her husband. Again, it could have been limited to him simply physically filling his father’s spot in bed or gone as far as his mother taking out her anger at her husband by sexually abusing her son. I am uncertain, and for that reason I think you should be careful of assuming that because women on that side of the family were placed lower than the men that it is just or only that at play.

    Family dynamics are not always black and white, and those who may come across as powerless may at times demonstrate a great deal of power. That was certainly true, and probably remains so, with my family. My father and uncles were favored over their sisters, but it was my father and uncles who bore the abuse, not my aunts. Even though my aunts did not experience the level of abuse their brothers did, that did not stop my aunts from abusing their nephews or sons.

    I am not saying the same is true with your family, only that things are not always what they look like a first, second, or even third glance.

    What I can state with absolute certainty is that in cultures where women are systematically oppressed, such situations are inevitable, and that we need to have conversation about what happens to children when they are placed in the care of adults whose social power is dwarfed by the child’s. This is not only an issue for those cultures in which women are still considered chattel; it is also a consideration in a nation which employs illegal immigrants to care for its young.

    Such situations are inevitable whenever there is a strict power structure. One of my foster brothers grew up in a home where the women ruled. He was severely abused — emotionally, physically, and sexually. Not only did the adults of his family participate in the abuse, even his younger sisters had greater say than he did. These sorts of situations are not uncommon, just uncommonly heard of. There are also situations, like my own, where although women are treated differently than the men, those women were not powerless or oppressed and willfully abuse children. We must be careful not to create a situation in which we excuse female-perpetrated sexual violence by claiming that women are oppressed.

  22. Hi survivors: So sorry you have to put up with this. I usually like Hugo’s blog, but I have noticed this attitude towards male rape before, in a milder form. I’m quite shocked by this latest piece. Solidarity with you, and more power to your cause!

  23. I suppose that my experience of my nephew as a complete and utter bully, even when he was a toddler, made me believe that his sexual bullying was just another way in which he tried to subdue the people around him. I was likely (once again) wrong.

    As for his relationship with his mother; I think you make a good point. There is the possibility that he was a sexual abuse victim. In which case, it seems important, to shield his privacy. I have removed this discussion from my blog and I am asking that you remove my name from yours. It seems highly unlikely that such a discussion would ever reach that side of the family and in any case, I have tons of nephews. But still, it seems wise at this point to shield him from any possibility of identification.

  24. Understand that “patriarchy” has come to mean all males. When it’s waved around in the faces of male victims it serves no purpose apart from holding THEM responsible for their own experience of violation.

    Consider how many words you need to write to get across what you believe to be your point.

    Too much jargon. Too much rationalisation.

    This political bullshit harms victims of both genders. It marginalises victims. It steals and stifles their voices.

    Time it stopped.

    I will not apologise for my aggression. Too many victims die because political agendas cast them into the abyss.

    There is no excuse.

  25. To Karen and Auntie…

    Because of the activities of my extended family I’ve spent a lifetime engaged in politics both mainstream and community. It’s a filthy business with which I have a severe love-hate relationship. Arguably I’ve grown up in the very heartland of the “patriarchy”. Yet the enduring lesson of that experience is that one should use one’s gifts for the benefit of others.

    Those who theorise about “patriarchy”, particularly from a feminist standpoint, typically have little understanding of or empathy for the dynamic that exists between men. It’s a laziness – notwithstanding the billions of words of jargon and justification and rationalisation – in that it permits people to easily categorise others on simplistic bases without ever having to consider the individual costs.

    But most of all it creates another class or caste system just as wrong as any that have gone before. This is the supreme irony in that it comes from folk who believe they are fighting against that very thing.

    It’s almost a truism that successive political regimes adopt all the little corruptions and complacencies of those they replace. The new coat of paint may look nice but all it does is change the colours. Nothing really ever changes.

    Thanks to each of you for demonstrating a willingness to think and discuss. It gives me hope. It’s just that sometimes I reckon we need to be able to look at things without reference to what we think we know. Because it’s when we “know” that we stop learning.

  26. Which is why the more male victims and people who care about them speak out against people like him, the more those boys he has an inkling to mentor can be warned of what his ideology entails beneath the empathy on display.

  27. I was unaware that the term patriarchy is one which pushes the buttons of some people. I will refrain from using the term and use a more accurate one: gender slavery.

    To be very clear, gender slavery is an ongoing practice both in conservative American religious traditions and is the law in other countries. I have lived it and is not only dehumanizing, it is also grotesquely abusive. I was born into gender-slavery and until I broke free never had any rights over my own body: I was passed as property from my first slave-holder, the operating “father” in the family to my next slave-holder, my first husband. I had no say in how my life would unfold. In my youth, I had no real education, I was barred from all institutions of higher education. I had minimal access to the outside world, no television, very limited radio, no non-related print media. I did not have the option of wearing .“normal” clothing but was required to wear “modesty” garments. In my case, as in most cases of gender slavery, I was severely battered and had more than one experience of non-consensual sex.

    My point was, and is, that gender-slavery was once nearly a universal norm and a good portion of the world’s female population are still gender-slaves. The radical power-imbalance created by slavery colors changes many things. While former slaves and those who continue to live in captivity have the responsibility to behave morally and legally, their own feelings of utter helplessness, of an inability to stop their own exploitation, or their feelings of rage, are likely to make such moral and legal behavior challenging.

  28. I really think Hugo has no idea of the damage and pain he’s causing with this post; he’s playing with fire. I think that level of ignorance and unwillingness to listen to survivors is one of the hardest things we face in our recovery. People think they know all about it, and that their opinion is as important on the matter as ours – they don’t understand what that does to us. I hope you keep fighting and keep using your voices, I try ot use mine whenever I can, one day I want to shout from the roof tops about this whole thing, but will people isten? To difficult, too uncomfortable, I think.

  29. I don’t know either. I tend to want to give him the benefit- of-the-doubt, because some of what he writes sounds that at least he has awareness and is sensitive. I am aware of what seems like a bias and he seems to view men in an unfavorable light, which makes me wonder what happened in his own life and childhood. That is how it appears at times, especially when he makes statements, like the one about empathy which he generalizes as if men lack the ability to empathize or to treat others with compassion. I spoke up there again too. I have no idea if anyone is listening.

    I first became aware of the site when I googled depression and he had written something about that, which at the time I found the focus did come off as sounding both aware and sensitive. Then I continued reading and found other subjects that were of interest. I’ve visited and commented on the site periodically over the last few years. I stopped visiting for a time, because some of the topics and responses of commentators bothered me from several different angles. Like when the BDSM people need to respond everywhere and the porn people take it over. Yes, some of these subjects need to be discussed, but it seems to attract respones from very angry, unhappy people and then it spirals out of control.

    I agree that people think they know how to talk about it, but others I believe don’t really care if they hurt someone else. I often feel the same wondering if people will listen, but I think it makes them too uncomfortable and I really believe that a lot of people just don’t care. Most people tend to focus on their own needs and remain clueless about others.

  30. gwallan,

    Thank you for responding and what you wrote. I don’t really write about or theorise about “patriarchy” myself. In my response to Matey I wrote about how I found Hugo’s site. I don’t align myself with everything that he writes about, but I do comment now and then on what interests me and I do speak out when I disagree.

    I do tend to agree with your observations when you write, “…in that it permits people to easily categorise others on simplistic bases without ever having to consider the individual costs.” In my experience people tend to generalize quite a bit. I’m far from perfect, so I probably at times do this myself, although I try not to make judgements and sweeping generalizations. It is wounding when someone has done that to me, so I try not to do that to them.

    I also agree with your observation concerning politics. When I write I usually speak from my own experience, but I am fully aware that others may have a different experience from my own. What I try to do, if I can is relate to what may be common between us rather than what separates us. I can relate to feeling unheard and marganilized. I tend to feel that survivors may feel this more intensly than others do or at least they may express themselves differently. With that said, I know men can be victims too. How could I not. I’ve met them. Anyone who really starts working on recovery recognizes the larger scope of children and sexual abuse. I know it’s not limited just to women and I would never suggest their trauma or pain is experienced more or greater than either. That isn’t healthy and it isn’t helpful–not to or for anyone who cares about children and people, both men and women.

    I’m glad if I can give you a measure of hope…

  31. I was unaware that the term patriarchy is one which pushes the buttons of some people. I will refrain from using the term and use a more accurate one: gender slavery.

    Both terms are loaded terms, which is why gwallan objected to the first. The feminist concept of “patriarchy” is a very ill- and narrowly-defined idea. It excludes a host of situations that effect men and exaggerates a host of situations that effect women. “Gender slavery” implies that males have it easy, that nothing bad ever happens to them, and that no one seeks to control or restrict their behavior. My own family’s situation disproves that, as do countless others. This is not to say that there are not cultures or sub-cultures that place strict rules of behavior on women. To the contrary, it only means that it is unwise and unfair to view only one side’s situation and to preemptively deem that group’s experience “worse” without any real knowledge of what the other group goes through.

    In short, there are just as many boys and men to have their lives restricted and rules forced upon them all for the sake of the family or the community or the religious or the country, etc. Being restricted is not something unique to women and being restrictive is not something unique to men.

    While former slaves and those who continue to live in captivity have the responsibility to behave morally and legally, their own feelings of utter helplessness, of an inability to stop their own exploitation, or their feelings of rage, are likely to make such moral and legal behavior challenging.

    I do not think women are slaves, but beyond that false equivalence, there is no argument for people with bad experiences behaving badly. My experience of generational abuse in no way makes it difficult or challenging to behave morally and legally. Doing so is a choice, and no matter how restricted your life is, you can still choose not to hurt others as you have been hurt. Unless you are being forced to perform those acts, there is no excuse. I say that as someone who reached that conclusion as a child in a situation where I had very few choices. I could have taken out my frustration on my younger brothers and cousins, but I did not. If I could make those decisions as a child, to the point where I did not care if they killed me as long as they did not hurt my brothers and cousins, an adult woman should be capable of doing the same.

  32. @Auntie…

    To expand on Toysoldier’s thoughts I’d recommend Adam Jones’ Gendercide.

    The global and historical picture is not quite as most in the west would understand it.

  33. Hi Karen, Yeah, I was just thinking how angry Hugo’s site is, it seems to foster confrontation, and can ot me in a bad mood. It seems as if people there don’t care if their responses r statements will trigger others, or that they are discussing other people’s realities and not just abstract concepts. I enjoy reading a lot of his pieces, we’re a similar age, I’m a femnist (but I love men – and I very much recognise the pain caused to men in our culture, I see feminism as a wich to change inbalances and damaging pressures), and I’m an acadeic who loves teaching, so the sitte interests me. I agree abouthte porn people, I’ve found some of thm quite agressive in the past, and have complianed to Hugo about that.

    I guess, by wrting anonymously on Hugo’s blog I’m finding a voice as a survivor that I don’t otherwise have – I only tell trusted few about my journey of recovery: Who could cope with all this triggering as part of ther everyday life?

    I like your handle toysoldier, you say a lot with two words.

  34. You are aware, Matey, of Hugo’s unwavering opinion that men and boys should only be helped due to their being privledged?

    It’s like he can’t see beyond that, or doesn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to be around someone like that. Not even a person who supposedly “Cares”.

  35. To declare one person entirely innocent and another person entirely guilty based on age or gender is for moralizing and condemning. The original blog was not a prosecution nor a defense. It simply asks us to challenge our assumptions. There are no easy answers.

  36. Eagle,

    I’m aware of what appears to be a bias, which is not limited to his blog by any means. I’m making a general observation, not defending him. I am also aware of the use of the word privilege and not just by him, but also by his commentators, especially when it comes to gender-based discussions and race. In fact, crying privilege appears to be gaining in popularity. It must be effective otherwise I doubt it would be used to the extent that it is.

    I’m also aware that his site seems to foster confrontation and elicits responses that sound very angry, cynical, contentious and unhappy. They appear to like to argue and to be right at all costs, never examining their own motives. I expect human aggression. I’m just dismayed at the amount of undisciplined aggression I see demonstrated, which is not about fighting fairly, but mostly about winning and securing or holding onto power. That is what I see and it is destructive. There’s no room for another person’s point of view, especially if it is different or dissenting from the dominant viewpoint.

    The point I was trying to make is that I do believe some of these subjects need to be discussed, but when people become so polarized I wonder at how useful it is. Then the blog just becomes a forum for one person’s views and people who feel similar, but it doesn’t encourage any useful exchange of information or discussion, which could be useful. It’s just a mirror of what I observe everyday in modern cultural norms. I would prefer to engage in a dynamic that promotes greater understanding, instead of something that promotes either/or and black and white thinking. Then again, I’m willing to consider some viewpoints that are outside of my experience and probably can tolerate ambiguity better than other people.

    “It’s like he can’t see beyond that, or doesn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to be around someone like that. Not even a person who supposedly “Cares”.

    I agree. It’s not healthy or productive. And if you are not in a position to make a choice to get away from someone like this, then it would be wise to limit your exposure as much as possible. We can make those choices on the Internet. In real life it’s a more difficult call.

  37. Except, Schwyzer does not apply his logic to every situation nor does he challenge his assumptions about every situation. His comment was gender-specific, applying only to situations in which women molest prepubescent boys. Schwyzer has never and likely would never apply the same logic to men molesting prepubescent girls.

  38. All right, here’s what I think of priveledge and male priveledge in general.

    I believe men are privledged in certain areas. But so are women. It’s not black and white. With gender debate, it’s always focussed on how men have it easy and they are the only life forms on this planet with an advantage. Without even bothering to look at the other side of it where men can, and do, lose out on other aspects of life.

    The problem is people, like Hugo for an obvious example, want to make gender debate about the advantages and privledges that men have. Not just some men, ALL men. Right down to the very bottom of the totem pole. They equate the upper echalons with the thought processes of the lower exchalons and belive that it doesn’t matter what your station in life. You are priveledged because of what’s between your legs. End of discussion.

    You can see why this form of debate, the very popular form, is so insulting to men who have lost out on life and gone through some pretty negative experiences. To hear this kind of generalisation makes it difficult for them to have a say in the gender debate.

    There was one feminist on Feministe or some discussion site that said priveledge is not a coat you can take off. It doesn’t go away, even if you are raped. This was a discussion forum on male victims of sexual abuse.

    :()

    Think about it.

    Now you see why talk about priveledge is polarised. Because one side wants to dominate and make it all about how the other side has advantages and their disadvantages can’t compare to what the first side goes through in daily life.

    If we’re going to have to challenge our assumptions, maybe the other side should challenge their “Generalisations”. Then we’ll talk. Otherwise, if you’re going to keep looking at me as part of the upper echalons no matter what I say or do contrary to what you’re accusing me of, then forget it.

  39. So then why does Hugo go for easy anwers with his simple-minded White Knighting and totalizing generalizations?

  40. Was that the thread “Can a Woman Rape a Man”? It was eye-opening to me how many feminists went down the throats of female rape apologists. They repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of that position.

    One WOC feminist drew a parallel with a white kid jumped by a group of black kids – yes he was injured, but it was not on par with injuries a black kid would suffer, because he held societal privelege. She was shouted down immediately. Nobody pointed out, but could have, how much that aligns with Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice” position on rape of white women as a form of historical justice. But as it was plenty of feminists just cut to the chase and fisked the really offensive comments by flipping the genders.

    And then they turned on the blogger and slashed at her for allowing so much triggering crap on her blog. One actually said she was horrified at the harm the thread would inflict on a male rape survivor.

    I was very favorably impressed.

  41. I got the impression from one of the comments that the post was going to be brought to the attention of some profesional body, and in a very adversarial way.

  42. I think it was that thread. Then again, it could’ve been another thread. I occassionally lurk to test my resolve, see how long I can withstand such ignorance before seething with boiling rage. But I’ve done this less and less as it isn’t worth it.

    At least people were turning on the commentators and eventually on the blog writer. Shows there’s some hope, albeit barely as anyone who remarks “Oh my goddess!” without a hint of irony can soil it.

  43. “There was one feminist on Feministe or some discussion site that said priveledge is not a coat you can take off. It doesn’t go away, even if you are raped. This was a discussion forum on male victims of sexual abuse.”

    Ugh! I don’t visit that site and I do not agree with that comment. I’ve visited the site maybe once, but didn’t like the comments and what was expressed and how it was stated conflicted with my beliefs, experiences and how I feel. I basically agree with what you’ve stated here. In my experience people given to making sweeping generalizations are not interested in discussion. It’s just a forum for their opinions and nothing else matters. I don’t generally waste my time and energy on them.

    However, Toysoldier wrote on Hugo’s site and what he wrote made me visit here several times to investigate further. I was open to it. I realize other people wouldn’t be and especially the types of people you describe who write on those sites. Still it’s good to have someone not let particular comments stand as they are and to challenge what they may write, especially their assumptions and generalizations.

  44. Feministe is, like Feminism101.com, just another site that adheres to the old adage of “Women suffer more, men don’t suffer compared to women.” Along with other tropes like “All men are privledged, even male victims”.

    I don’t bother with that site because it’s not going to change. They don’t want to change. It’s not their goal. Digusting though, as they claim to be open minded but the minute you present a contrarian opinion, you’re shouted down, called names, told to “Check your privledge”, and banned should the moderators feel like it.

    That’s okay. As male victimisation is recognized more, they’re going to encounter more challenges to their views. More numerous than they could imagine. And, if they continue with their usual dismissals, it’s only going to make them even more of a relic than they already are becoming.

    One of my dreams is for men to finally have a natural voice in the gender debate without having to be called “Priveledged” and feminists playing oppression olympics with them. Not all do, but the extreme ones are still allowed a soapbox. I certainly wish, also, that feminism would ditch the “Feminism is not a monolith” so that they could clear away these extremists once and for all. Take away their chance to have a voice, marginalise their views. Above all, take back the movement to what it used to stand for. Away with the Andrea Dworkins and the Maralyn Frenchs. Welcome the eglitarian point of view or at least push it to the forefront again.

    What do I know. I’m a man and don’t support ALL of feminism. 🙂

  45. Over my way a national network of male survivors and their helpers is gradually coming together as a formal advocacy and activist group. Whilst it’s still in it’s infancy it will eventually provide the ability for co-ordinated responses to precisely this sort of situation.

    One of my goals is to ensure that individual nay-sayers such as Schwyzer get the message that their “help” is no longer required nor welcome. If they need to be carpet bombed into submission then so be it.

    I wonder how Hugo would react to numerous responses from sexual assault counselors and psychologists as well as survivors with all of them telling him how just absurdly wrong he is?

    Oh, that’s right. It will be the women are perps and men and boys the real victims of sexual violence crowd coming out of the woodwork. Never mind that Hugo is the carpenter.

  46. gwallan,

    Is there any info you could send me about this group/project? If there’s any way I could get involved or help, I’d like to. My address is johndrewmarkley AT gmail.com.

  47. @John…

    I’ve made a note of your email address. As soon as I have something to report I’ll be in touch. I’d still expect it to take a couple of months.

    Mike Lew(Victims No Longer) travels to Aus and NZ each year to work with survivors and counselors. We’ve had a loose email network which developed out of this event last year which needs to be strengthened into something more formal. There’s an annual retreat this weekend which will hopefully start to bring this together.

    BTW there’s also been a documentary produced through this group that is almost ready to go. Hopefully it will be screened on SBS some time later this year.

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