Is sexual abuse less harmful to boys than girls?

Originally posted on July 21, 2013

One of the common reactions to news about sexual violence against boys is that it harms boys less than it harms girls. This is particularly true when the abuser is female. The common opinion is that boys are more resilient because they are male. People also believe that boys always desire sex from women, therefore any sexual activity from women is always acceptable. Should a boy refuse the sex or dislike it, people will assume he is gay. Should a boy abused by men get an erection, ejaculate during sexual abuse, continue to engage in any  activity with the male abuser, people will assume he is gay.

This idea that boys experience less harm leads to situations where abusers,  particularly female abusers, receive less prison time for their actions. Roger Sherman noted this is in an op-ed:

Our societal perception frequently does not recognize this when it comes to women abusing boys. In this regard, a very important discussion was presented in a recent Statesman article between the Ada County prosecutor and the judge in a case regarding the abuse of eight teenage boys by a 35-year-old mother in Kuna.

According to the article, the judge disagreed with the prosecutor, who argued that female perpetrators are “treated more leniently than men and that boys (abused by women) are somehow considered ‘lucky.'” The judge concluded that “there is a difference” between boys abused by women and girls abused by men. “I have a problem articulating what the difference is,” he said.

Unfortunately, this perception that there is a difference can lead to irreparable harm for male victims. According to the authors of an authoritative study reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sexual abuse significantly increases the risk of developing health and social problems – such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and marital strife – in both men and women. A history of suicide attempts was more than twice as likely among both male and female victims as among non-victims.

Courtney Sue Reschke, the woman from the above case, received a 20-year sentence, but will be eligible for parole in three years.

One reason the judge may have concluded that “there is a difference” in this case may be because the boys were teenagers. The judge may have assumed that the boys’ ages meant they wanted the sex and were not harmed by it. Yet as Sherman notes, sexual abuse can lead to a number of issues later in life. Sexual violence by women may heighten this problem. Not only must the survivors cope with the abuse itself, but also with the social backlash against them should they speak out.

Our society, despite the growing changes in attitudes towards male survivors, still treats female-on-male sexual violence as a rite of passage at best and indicative of homosexuality — should the male complain — at worst. Many people still do not see such unwanted sexual activity as rape. Even some rape victim advocates play the “is this really rape” game.

Those attitudes continue to make it difficult for male survivors to come forward, and it does not help that the judicial system appears to give female sex offenders a slap on the wrist compared to male sex offenders. While these cases have garnered more media attention and spawned more discussions about male victimization and female rapists, much to some people’s discontent, there is a long way to go if we still have judges saying there is a difference between raping a boy and raping a girl.

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8 thoughts on “Is sexual abuse less harmful to boys than girls?

  1. I wonder what the judge would say about male teenager suicides and female teenager suicides….given that in the U.S, male adolescents commit suicide at a rate five times greater than that of female adolescents.

    “How sad, those poor girls.” I suppose.

  2. Pingback: Is abuse less harmful to boys than girls? | Viva La Manosphere!

  3. My memories of middle school are a little hazy, but I remember having a nightmare or two of sexual abuse by female teachers (I was never abused in real life). I was crazy with unrequited lust for my female classmates, but not once did I ever want to fuck a teacher. Yuck.

  4. sure hate to break it to you, but you don’t roll back feminist victim narrative by hopping on the bandwagon

    paul elam: “don’t worry, horny teen boy, we’ll protect you from that evil, d-cup, blonde, pedophile!”

    far easier to question why female teachers aren’t burned at the stake for sex with teens, same as men, than it is to question why men are even burned at the stake to begin with, eh?

    hell, no wonder there’s no shortage of women at avfm

    for those too dense for what i’m getting at it’s this:

    when the woman is the victim it is to keep the man from getting sex

    but when the man is the victim….. it is ALSO to keep the MAN from getting sex
    (funny how that works)

    it never ceases to amaze me that the men’s movement is so dominated by this pseudo-puritanical philosophy intended to raise the cost of sex for men ever higher

    especially considering that the cost of sex is, ultimately, what this whole fight with feminists is really all about

  5. I don’t know where you’re coming from with this, but here’s what comes to mind…

    evilwhitemalempire on July 22, 2013 at 3:43 am said: sure hate to break it to you, but you don’t roll back feminist victim narrative by hopping on the bandwagon

    I have a hard time supporting the simple common cry of “feminists have gone way too far criminalizing sex” .vs. “we have an epidemic of rape and child sexual abuse”. You guys never spell it all out that I can see, because there is an enormous amount to consider. Show me how it’s all gonna work, that you know something about recovery from abuse, sex offender issues and more everyday human situations. You’d be a lot more credible.

    For one, there are appropriate sex offenses, treatment and punishment questions, but I think we need much more a “treat and release with monitoring” approach for most offenses and a simple treatment response for many which are inappropriately handled by the legal system as offenses.

    paul elam: “don’t worry, horny teen boy, we’ll protect you from that evil, d-cup, blonde, pedophile!”

    I can’t find where he said that, and I know Paul doesn’t think that deserves a “wink, wink” approach. Guys do have higher rates of suicide and a lot of problems from early sexual experiences with adults (including females) so I have to say it’s a serious problem. I’ve heard a lot of them talk about it in detail. Have you? What about the posts there of men talking about it? That said, I do think a criminal/legal response is over used and not working.

    far easier to question why female teachers aren’t burned at the stake for sex with teens, same as men, than it is to question why men are even burned at the stake to begin with, eh?

    The devil is in the details as they say, and you provide none.

    From the linked article: “Prosecutors say Reschke was drinking heavily at the time of the incident and that all six of the lewd conduct charges involve sex with one 15-year-old boy.

    In arguing for a lesser sentence, defense attorney Jonathan Loschi told the judge Reschke would benefit more from sex offender treatment than a long incarceration.”

    Good treatment is often not available in prisons. So improve that, and reduce male sentences to parity.

  6. So long as Feminists claim that men and women are equal, and should be treated equally, there should be equal punishments for similar crimes. Period.

  7. Related:

    Given the evidence of numerous adverse clinical outcomes following sexual abuse, the positive and neutral perceptions of many male sexual abuse victims are perplexing. Hunter et al reported that males who were older when victimized were less likely to blame the perpetrator (P<.01), and males involved in more coercive experiences were more likely to blame themselves (P<.01). Perhaps abused males perceive that they have failed to meet a social expectation of self-protection. Rather than accept the failing, they may minimize the event itself. The experience of physical pleasure, as well, may complicate reactions after abuse.

    http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=188232

  8. “The judge concluded that “there is a difference” between boys abused by women and girls abused by men. “I have a problem articulating what the difference is,” he said.”

    I have a feeling that the supposed difficult to articulate difference is the mythological “purity” of female virginity, which occurs on two levels. First, many cultures still see the female sex as inherently “kinder”, “spiritually pure” or more “innocent/childlike” than their brothers. Secondly, there remains the myths surrounding the hymen, which not only doesn’t typically cause blood and/or pain, but is generally worn away almost completely by age 15 or so due to normal childhood activities like gymnastics, sports, biking, dance, or horseback riding.

    When I shared my virginity at age 22, I was expecting lots of blood and horrible pain…it’s what I was constantly informed would happen. Imagine my joyful surprise when it only felt like light stretching, and wasn’t even sore the next hour! Hell, I even orgasmed which girls are told won’t occur till the 3rd or 4th time. I’m throughly convinced that these stories are told in a desperate and pathetic attempt to preserve the strange “sanctity” of the female virgin, where none exists.

    If males also had some form of virginal “indicator”, these cases would most likely be taken more seriously. As it is, some don’t even consider boys/men to even *have* virginity in the way women do, which is patently absurd.

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