Researchers question use of sexual abuse data

Today, researchers Ron Stall and Ron Valdiserri released a statement regarding use of their book, Unequal Opportunities: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States by Focus on the Family writer Jeff Johnston.

The report they question was released recently by Focus and is titled: “Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality: Is there a link?” In that report, Johnston cites statistics from the book, along with quotes from other studies and an interview with Narth past-president Dean Byrd. Here are the relevant portions of the book edited by Stall, Valdiserri and colleague Richard Wolitski (all footnotes in this section are to the Unequal Opportunities book).

Many pro-gay researchers, activists and theorists deny that there could be a connection between child sexual abuse and adult homosexuality. Some possible reasons for denying this link are the stigma that surrounds sexual abuse; the fear of associating homosexuality with “recruitment” or pedophilia; and because so many gays continue to believe that homosexuality is inborn and immutable. In 2008, however, a group of researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a book that documented the high rates of sexual abuse among “men who have sex with men (MSM).”[6]

In a chapter titled, “Childhood Sexual Abuse Experienced by Gay and Bisexual Men: Understanding the Disparities and Interventions to Help Eliminate Them,” from the book Unequal Opportunity, researchers analyze and report on data from 17 different studies from the past 15 years.[7] They find the rates of childhood sexual abuse (which they abbreviate as CSA) for men who have sex with men range from 11.8% to 37.0%, and note that “the best-designed studies tend to converge on CSA prevalence of 15% to 25%.”[8]

While most of those who perpetrate sexual abuse are men, abusers are not necessarily homosexual or gay-identified,[9] and the authors note that “in studies focusing on MSM, the perpetrators are always at least 90% male.”[10] The range of abuse varies in the different studies depending on the definition of abuse and the sample method.[11]

The researchers report that the rates of child sexual abuse for gay- or bisexual-identified men are significantly higher than those found among heterosexually-identified men. They write that the rates for heterosexual men are usually “less than 10%,” and state that in five studies that compared the two groups, the men who have sex with men are “at least three times more likely to report CSA, however defined, than heterosexual men.”[12] This finding is reiterated in their conclusion: “Rates for MSM are 15% to 25% in the best designed studies, which is at least triple the rates reported among heterosexual men.”[13]

Consequences of Sexual abuse

Children are not equipped emotionally, physically, spiritually or psychologically to handle adult sexuality. Individual boys will handle sexual abuse in different ways: what leads to shame and guilt in one child might lead to self-questioning and gender confusion in another or to anger and acting out in a third. Each child is unique, grows up in a unique environment and will respond in an individual way to sexual abuse or early sexual encounters with the same sex.

There are, however, common themes and outcomes that consistently emerge in studies of men who were sexually abused as children. Two common outcomes of sexual abuse – out of the many possible – are that boys may question their identity and be confused about their sexuality.

The followin quotes may have generated the most concern by Stall and Valdiserri:

The authors in Unequal Opportunity are reluctant to say that childhood sexual abuse is one of the factors that leads to or contributes to the development of homosexuality, but they do speculate,

The fact that most childhood abusers of MSM were males suggests either an etiological link between CSA and adult sexual orientation, or the existence of childhood characteristics that are related to adult sexual orientation in men that increase vulnerability, or both.”[23]

And later, they say that these early sexual experiences “can be considered a form of sexual learning, even if that learning is involuntary and the results dysfunctional.”[24] They continue, “Sexual orientation and gender identity can be particularly confusing for men who experienced arousal during the abuse, and MSM who experienced abuse may continue to be aroused by circumstances that mirror the abusive situation.[25]

Drs. Stall and Valdeserri’s statement is as follows:

We want to respond to a recent Focus on the Family characterization of scientific findings reported in our book, Unequal Opportunities: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States (Oxford University Press) that misrepresented findings in the book to suggest that childhood sexual abuse causes male homosexuality. The Focus on the Family description of the findings reported in Unequal Opportunities is inaccurate and, in our opinion, a distortion of the scientific literature.

Most basically, the Focus on the Family characterization of the literature on childhood sexual abuse among gay men represents a misunderstanding of scientific approaches to distinguishing between correlation and causation. The book chapter in question reports that gay men are more likely to report childhood sexual abuse by men than are heterosexual men. This correlation does not mean that the reported abuse caused the adult sexual orientation. If that were the case, then the fact that some heterosexual men report sexual abuse by women means that sexual abuse by women “causes” heterosexuality in men. It is also worth noting that the argument that childhood sexual abuse causes homosexuality in gay men is undermined by the fact that the vast majority of gay men are not sexually abused as children.

One potential partial explanation for this correlation, and one that makes the most sense when you consider people of all orientations, is that some youth, particularly post-pubertal youth (who still cannot legally consent to sexual activity) have sexual experiences with males or females, depending on their pre-existing orientation. Let’s be very clear that this does not mean that these experiences are appropriate or healthy. However, it also does not mean that these experiences

caused the sexual orientation of the youth. The development of a person’s sexual orientation is a complex and multifaceted process. The research into these processes has barely begun, and the development of sexuality is very difficult to study. Mischaracterizations of the scientific literature on the development of sexual orientation is not helpful to science.

Rather than mischaracterize these findings, we would like to point out the harm to health that can be caused by childhood sexual abuse among boys and girls of all sexual orientations. Childhood sexual abuse occurs to far too many young Americans and a large and growing literature supports that this abuse can cause lifelong damage to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of men and women of all sexual orientations. We suggest that Focus on the Family and

other concerned organizations focus on how to work to ensure that all of our children remain safe from unwanted sexual experiences– whether heterosexual or homosexual.

That said, we want to state clearly that the published research does not support the claim that the development of a homosexual orientation is caused by childhood sexual abuse. Furthermore, adult homosexual orientation is no longer considered a pathology or a maladjustment. We urge those who are interested in trying to better understand some of these complex issues from a scientific perspective to read the discussions in our book, as well as the scientific literature on childhood sexual abuse, and not rely on second-hand interpretations.

Ron Stall

Ron Valdiserri

Related post:

A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited

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  • Lynn David

    This statement kept perplexing me….

    The researchers report that the rates of child sexual abuse for gay- or bisexual-identified men are significantly higher than those found among heterosexually-identified men. They write that the rates for heterosexual men are usually “less than 10%,” and state that in five studies that compared the two groups, the men who have sex with men are “at least three times more likely to report CSA, however defined, than heterosexual men.”[12] This finding is reiterated in their conclusion: “Rates for MSM are 15% to 25% in the best designed studies, which is at least triple the rates reported among heterosexual men.”[13]

    If the highest reliable percentage of CSA among MSM is 25% then that is not at least triple what is seen in heterosexual men, that is something just under 10%, but it is at most triple what is seen in heterosexual men.

    .

    It just seems to be one of those fudge-factors FotF always throws into its analyses to back up its poorly conceived points.

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  • Mik

    As an evangelical, I am embarrassed that fellow evangelical leaders and groups (FOF) abuse statistics in this way.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Childhood sexual abuse occurs to far too many young Americans and a large and growing literature supports that this abuse can cause lifelong damage to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of men and women of all sexual orientations. We suggest that Focus on the Family and other concerned organizations focus on how to work to ensure that all of our children remain safe from unwanted sexual experiences– whether heterosexual or homosexual.

    This I agree wholeheartedly with. We are not seeing enough acknowledgment of CSA. I also would like to add that if schools focused more on improper touch and CSA preventive education with younger children than they do on teaching kindergartners why Heather has two mommies and what gay means, our tax dollars would better spent. Sadly, some of the teachers are doing the abusing!

    The mental health costs resulting from CSA also are staggering. Churches likewise could play a key role in helping to educate families. Maybe we would then spend less time picking up the broken pieces later.

    Sigh. Trying to get people to wake up to the realities of CSA is like shouting into the wind. I don’t know why FOTF needs to “prove” that CSA is a cause of SSA. Probably because so many gays need to “prove” that God made them that way. So they have to volley back and forth in a one-upmanship game. It is tiresome.

    Why can’t we just focus on helping those who want and need help? I am SO SICK of politics! There. I feel better now. :)

  • Mary

    Over sexualization of a child is sexual abuse. Too much sex on the phones, in the hallways, in the text books etc…

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Over sexualization of a child is sexual abuse. Too much sex on the phones, in the hallways, in the text books etc…

    Yeah — that, too. Absolutely. From clothing to entertainment. It’s everywhere.

  • Mary

    I’m inclined to think that those who have CSA in their background and also SSA may have a personality similarity that causes the SSA to develop. It’s not the CSA per se – but it sets in motion something that might not have occurred had the CSA never existed in that person’s life.

  • http://pursuegod.wordpress.com Karen K

    What does the higher correlation mean? Granted CSA does not cause homosexuality in a black and white sense. I get that. But how do we interpret the higher correlation? Obviously that means something. Where I think Focus is off is not in mentioning this correlation as meaningful, but in using it to give a blanket causation that is supposed to fit everyone.

    Does the higher correlation then mean that for some men, CSA is a significant contributing factor for ending up in same-sex relationships as an adult? That this environmental factor in a sense “causes” SSA for some? And what would this percentage be? What percentage of gay men experienced CSA? (Is it the same percentage–15-25%?). So, is it possible to say that perhaps 20%-ish gay men had the environmental factor of CSA that led them down that path, that if they hadn’t experienced CSA, they may not have?

    Also, this study suggests that 75-85% of gay men were never sexually abused as children. Am I interpreting that right? Within ex-gay circles, it definitely seems a higher rate of CSA than that. . . . Curious.

  • David Blakeslee

    Regarding CSA,

    All trauma creates an avoidance response; or a compulsive response to try to master the trauma.

    CSA by a Same Sex or Opposite Sex abuse could derail normal development of sexuality by creating avoidance behavior to abort PTSD symptoms or to engage compulsively in sexual behavior to take control of the anxiety aroused by PTSD.

    I think there are a hundred permutations.

    The interesting thing is as children age, CSA that they viewed as neutral or positive at the time, they are more likely to view as destructive and harmful later (see my review on Warren’s site some time ago).

    This goes to minimization that many adults engage in when exploiting adolescents and children whom they assert were “interested or motivated.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    @Karen K:

    We don’t know what the more frequent sexual abuse among SSA men means. There could be a third factor causing both the SSA and the abuse, there could be multiple factors that are relevant or the correlation could be an artifact of sampling. The reports are frequent enough and the clinical evidence compelling enough that I think sexual abuse is a potent contributor to sexuality (self-image, thought life, compulsions to re-experience, compulsion to avoid, etc.). However, the most robust finding, I believe, is a relationship between abuse and behavior, not orientation in the sense of enduring and natural sexual attractions. It is possible that such a course could be altered by sexual imprinting for some men. I know some people, actually mostly women, that I think might offer this as an explanation for their attractions.

    What troubles me about the Focus report is not that the link is implausible for some men. Rather, it is the presentation of the report as though it was a new set of findings that was newsworthy on the causation front. While conservative groups ignore the new Finnish studies demonstrating no differences between gay and straight men in fathering, they promote rehashings of old work which are more in line with their assumptions. If you are going to report causation work as a part of your news to your readers, then report it all. Reporting some of it is clearly an indicator of bias.

  • David Blakeslee
  • Katie Cannon

    Warren,

    While I generally agree with you — assuming I understand what you’re saying — that early sexual abuse is probably less implicated in enduring attractions, as opposed to compulsive behaviors, etc, it seems to me that “enduring attractions” need to be spelled out.

    In my experience with sexually abused men, what endures is a rather fractured set of attractions/emotions. There are men who say they feel they’re gay, but have such strong flashbacks when attempting to engage physically with men, that they prefer women — or wonder if they might prefer women — or say that at least aren’t grossed out by women, even if they don’t feel all that attracted…. etc….

    Then, of course, there are men who feel romantically attracted toward women, but have too many fears to easily engage in sex with women, yet find they can with men, though they say they feel no romantic attraction towards them…. etc….

    Some of these men end up adopting an “enduring” bisexual identity.

    Some end up adopting an “enduring” non-identity, never being able to settle on a good-enough identity to feel they have one. They don’t feel bisexual, they just don’t feel straight enough to be straight nor gay enough to be gay.

    In all this reporting in all these studies, I have to wonder just how these men are being labeled: are they participants in these studies? Do they NOT participate because the recruitment questions are phrased in such a way that they would have to acknowledge an identity?

    Does the guy who Id’s as straight because he’s romantically attracted to women admit that he nevertheless has anonymous sex with men? Many of whom do so primarily out of the desire for anal sex, fear of their penises, etc….

    Etc….

    Anyway, this whole issue of “enduring-ness” vs. other stuff, yet to be defined, seems to me to affect the outcomes of all these studies.

    In short: When you say that sexual abuse probably doesn’t affect an enduring set of attractions, I assume you mean an enduring set of attractions which work together to form a good-enough whole that we call by the names of heterosexuality, homosexuality, or certain forms of bisexuality?

    While I agree to a certain extent, I also suspect that we’re pretty adaptable creatures, and that when we’re at the risk of enduring fractured attractions, we do things to attempt to lead a coherent enough life (and set of attractions) so that we get our needs for basic human contact met, and so I suspect that many (if not most) sexually abused men make those compromises and develop a good enough heterosexual or homosexual identity — while others aren’t so lucky.

    And it’s my experience that those who aren’t so lucky might be in the majority among sexually abused men. And so again, I wonder how they are being dealt with in these studies which seem to assume a coherent enough set of attractions.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • concerned

    Katie,

    Thank you for you observations. I do not agree with Warrens interpretation as I have seen many men who are involved with same-sex behaviour who do acknowlegde that child sexual abuse (often repeated) was a part of their early sexual experience and that it left a lasting mark on their own identity. I think you are right that these situations have been under reported in many studies because these are people who seem to be less forward in admitting their situation. There is also the issue of continually going back and replaying those past experiences with new partners.

    There seems to be a lot of denial of the impact of early sexual abuse on ones developing sexual identity and yet many people that I have spoken with do admit that it played a major role in the way they came to see themselves. The only way we can get this information is for researchers to breakdown their own judgements and biases towards such people and stop looking at this as a perversion, but rather seeing it as a maladaption to a situation that they may or may not have had any control over.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    @concerned said:

    I do not agree with Warrens interpretation as I have seen many men who are involved with same-sex behaviour who do acknowlegde that child sexual abuse (often repeated) was a part of their early sexual experience and that it left a lasting mark on their own identity.

    Where have I denied this? Even in the post I acknowledged this. Sexual abuse can lead to some inner state which make same-sex behavior seem necessary. I agree with Katie right down the line on definitions of attraction and how the lack of good sampling can lead to muddy findings. Where we might quarrel a bit is over the frequency. People who work with sexually abused people say often or many. When you look at surveys, a better description seems to be some or a minority. We are discussion frequency and prevalence not the existence of the phenomenon altogether.

    My problem with NARTH and conservative groups is the generalization from “some” to “all” or “most.”

  • http://trinidadsdagay.blogspot.com Trinidad. Adventist.Gay?!

    I also wonder if boys who may later turn out to be gay are in some way seen as easier targets for abuse because they are likely to have gender non-conformity issues that make them outcasts. I am assuming as well that abusers look for awkward and maladjusted children to target since they are easier to manipulate.

    In other words, a quiet, effeminate boy (who may or may not be from a broken home and have supervision issues) might be seen by a potential abuser as an easier target than a loud, confident one.

    If the child is near puberty and also has already had same-sex thoughts then the abuser might want to play on the child’s confusion in this regard too.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    This may sound like an off-the-well question, but could you tell me (Warren or anyone) if any data exists to support such a hypothesis?

    Is is possible that boys who experience male sexual abuse could be more influenced in the direction of later SSAs because of the arousal and pleasure the abuse may have caused them, despite the confusion? I don’t think you will find women saying they experienced pleasure from early sexual abuse, most of which would have been perpetrated by a male also. I can envision some men desiring the feelings of pleasure and feeling wanted, even by another male, while most women would feel violated and even hurt. Leaving actual rape aside for the moment, we are more likely to experience physical pain from early sexual abuse.

    Thoughts?

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    Women do report pleasure and confusion from sexual abuse. You may want to add more to your reading list or double check your resources.

  • concerned

    Warren,

    Sorry if I did not interpret your comments correctly. What I am saying is that I think it is much more of a factor than what is being reported. This is not coming from NARTH information, but rather some of the work being done on sex addiction issues.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Women do report pleasure and confusion from sexual abuse. You may want to add more to your reading list or double check your resources.

    I haven’t looked for any resources yet, Mary, but I find that highly questionable. I only have anecdotal information at this point. I also am using my common sense to deduce that the ways in which sexual abuse is generally perpetrated on girls by men is not of the pleasurable sort.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    David Blakeslee ~ Jun 16, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Annecdotal confirmation:

    of what, exactly?

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    You might want to research that a little bit. Your own experience or “common sense” may be a hinderance to helping women with SSA. Or helping others understand the dynamics of sexual development in some women with SSA. It would seem counterintuitive but all indications show it is right there.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Mary, I am looking but not finding much, except information that seems to confirm my thinking. Can you please provide me with a source that confirms your doubts? I’m open to anything. I am just scratching the surface, but I really would like an answer if there is one.

    By the way, my experience has proved very helpful to the women in my group so far. That’s the feedback they are giving me. Not sure what you meant by “It would seem counterintuitive but all indications show it is right there.”

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Mary – I would like to see some data on the point of pleasure from abuse. I am not disputing that there are some such anecdotes but it would help the conversation along if you could provide some data.

  • Mary

    Okay. I have an appt right now. So give me some time to gather info and relay it to you. It is usually hidden in the text and scant mention. Nonetheless, I think if more women were allowed to dicuss the full experience of CSA without the taboo of “it felt good” sometimes…

    Anyhow, I will find it for you guys.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I did find this interesting book: The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease by Robert C. Scaer, M.D. (2007). He deals with things like PTSD and RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) in the wake of childhood sexual abuse.

    I have seen some of this stuff playing out in real women I know. One young lady, for example, cannot use a tampon (sorry, don’t get grossed out, guys). She recalls tightening her sphincter muscles to try to keep her abuser from digitally penetrating her as a child. Now, she can’t relax them easily. She is very concerned about sex and is engaged to be married next year.

    I know another women I worked with as a friend/counselor for several years. She had debilitating fibromyalgia, along with anxiety and depression. Her severe anxiety had a sudden and inexplicable onset in young adulthood. Scaer says in his book that it is possible many fibromyalgia sufferers are, in fact, childhood sexual abuse survivors who have never dealt with the trauma. i always suspected that. It’s not conclusive, of course. What is certain is that when you speak of/to female childhood sexual abuse survivors, you hear two words over and over: trauma and pain. And I can offer myself, as well, as an example.

    So, my original question still stands. I see a possible difference in the results from the mechanics of male and female early sexual abuse. Something else to think about: if little boys often become aroused during bath time, would it stand to reason they may find some forms of molestation to be pleasurable to some degree, and might this predispose them in some way to later SSAs?

  • Katie Cannon

    Warren,

    I can not “prove” that sexual abuse more often than not leads to sexual identity confusion (for lack of a better word). Then again, I don’t think any one can “prove” that it does not.

    A really good resource, which isn’t a study, is malesurvivor.org. It would take you or any of this blog’s participants about 10 minutes to see that, at least among the participants of that online support group, that NOT having doubts (at least) about one’s sexuality is indeed a minority experience. There are a few other online support groups for men as well, you can get the names of them from malesurvivor.org. A cursery experience with them will also see that the majority of men have at least some level of sexual identity issues, and many have gender identity issues as well.

    While I disagree with those who feel that gender identity is the core of the onion when it comes to broader sexual identity, it nevertheless seems to play it’s part.

    Many of the men do not have core gender identity confusion: They know they are in fact male. The simply wish they weren’t, though they also don’t wish to be female. Again, it seems to me the issue is one of taking up an identity to begin with, the reluctance, or incompacity on the part of many men.

    While not having a secure identity seems scary to those of us who have one, more or less, there’s positive things to be gained by not adopting a stable identity as well.

    It seems to me, that at least in the case of my fiance, that 1) the abuse robbed him of an easier path in developing a stable identity and 2) that not doing so benefitted him in that if you’re not fully committed to either a heterosexual or homosexual identity, then you get to avoid the risks of true intimacy.

    What bothers me about the general debate surrounding sexual identity is that it seems we’ve divorced it too far away from our fundamental need for attachments, and how our sexuality seems to be intimately tied to our attachment system as a whole.

    Instead, there seems to be an assumption that our sexual instincts are more fundamental than our attachment instincts.

    But it seems to me that we humans will attach to most anything when deprived of positive attachments: We’ll attach to shoes, rubber, masks, bras, body parts, etc….

    And these attachments can be quite enduring.

    I doubt anyone was born with a biological predisposition to attach to a rubber suit, yet some do so with as much enduring passion as the most passionate heterosexual or homosexual lover.

    Anyway, just seems to me that when we open the discussion up to issues of “enduring-ness”, we open the discussion up to enduring attachment patterns, how our attachment systems work, what we attach to — be it the same sex, opposite sex, or shoes.

    But it seems to me that most people studying sexual orientation keep falling back into a more simplistic view of sexuality as something either more basic, or separable from, our attachment systems as a whole.

    Sorry for being so long-winded.

    But again, go check out malesurvivor.org. Sometimes just hanging out is better than all these studies that all have something to “prove”.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    As far as the issue of “pleasure” — again, it seems to me that there’s enough online support groups now for both sexual abused men and women who maintain public forums, so that anyone can read what they write, that anyone can avail themselves of these resources.

    Why rely on someone else’s “study”?

    The issue of pleasure is a biggy for the guys, and most talk about it, so there’s lots to read on the subject.

    It seems to me that boys and girls differ in how they interpret the physical pleasure, not whether they experience it (and of course I’m talking about relatively non-violent sexual abuse). Boys report having “like it” more than girls do. But it seems to me that this is because girls are more adapt at separating the physical pleasure from the overall scenerio. Bad scene = bad. Whereas the boys are more likely to focus on what happened to them physically, ie, that they got an erection, etc…. so they “must have liked it” more generally.

    But in my experience, in the absence of overt physical abuse, both boys and girls will often report pleasurable genital sensations.

    But it seems to mess with boy’s heads even more than with girls, and many of the boys begin to assume they must be gay because they experienced an erection during their sexual abuse.

    Again…. no studies at my finder tips. Just reading what those involved say in public forums, which happen to include hundreds of people.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    P.S.

    My fiance was abused by his mother — not a man.

    He’s 55 years old, never told anyone until he was 52 years old, is romantically attracted to women, scared as hell about sex with women, and has a history of anonymous sex with men.

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    As far as the issue of “pleasure” — again, it seems to me that there’s enough online support groups now for both sexual abused men and women who maintain public forums, so that anyone can read what they write, that anyone can avail themselves of these resources.

    Why rely on someone else’s “study”?

    Well, that’s a fresh perspective for this forum, where we are asked for “scientific” studies to back up our assertions. Thanks, Katie.

    I believe we have much to learn from the personal stories of survivors. Their narratives are much more interesting and informative than the cold, calculated synthesis of their experiences via some survey or comparative analysis.

    This may say a lot:

    But it seems to mess with boy’s heads even more than with girls, and many of the boys begin to assume they must be gay because they experienced an erection during their sexual abuse.

  • Katie Cannon

    Thanks Debbie,

    Personally, I think people are pretty terrified that our most prized possession — our sexuality — might have been otherwise.

    I’m in the arts, so sort of have a lot of gay and lesbian friends, and used to think that bio-chemical stuff played a larger role than I think it does now. In large part because of my experiences with sexually abused men.

    While I mostly talk about men who one could say has not established an identity, as opposed to those who have, it seems to me that if sexual abuse can lead to the inability to establish an identity, it can also impact our establishment of an identity. After all, the issue is whether sexual abuse affects sexual identity formation, period. And it seems evident to me that it does.

    It’s also annoying that the words of the men who were sexually abused are not being taken into account like one would hope — or at least to the extent I hope.

    My fiance, Rob, has spent his entire life struggling with his sexual identity — that would be for 50 plus years.

    That’s a very long time to be unable to live a relatively coherent emotional life.

    Sure, he might have been born with a bio-chemical predisposition to bisexuality, or maybe he’s just a really confused bio-chemically gay man who just won’t come out of the closet.

    And this is what I would have thought before I immersed myself into the personal narratives of other men who have been sexually abused. Believe me, as a woman I really don’t like that Rob has a history of sex with men. And if I hadn’t come across these support groups for sexually abused men, I would have walked away from this relationship.

    But what I found is that it’s almost as simple as input – output. Sexually abuse a boy, and you get Rob — with relatively few exceptions.

    As far as studies — why doesn’t someone come up with the studies that BEGIN with a sexually abused population? They’re out there, I’ve read them, but don’t have the time to dig them out. Also, I find going straight to the horse’s mouth more convincing.

    Malesurvivor.org

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    You can find abused straight AND gay men. If sexual abuse can cause otherwise straight men to have sex with men, then it only stands to reason it can cause otherwise gay men to have sex with women – anonymous or otherwise.

    I agree that:

    It’s also annoying that the words of the men who were sexually abused are not being taken into account like one would hope — or at least to the extent I hope.

    I wish you luck with Rob!

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    Sometimes just hanging out is better than all these studies that all have something to “prove”.

    I agree that hanging out with such groups can help engender a great deal of empathy, but it can also give you a very skewed view of what is really going with such groups and others like them.

  • Mary
  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    Yes, you can find sexually abused straight and gay men. I don’t think being sexually abused has the same outcome for all people. What you seem to get more often than either straight or gay men, however, are men who have a very difficult time establishing a coherent sexual identity.

    And yes, it does seem that at least some otherwise gay men do have sex with women, mostly because at least women don’t trigger flashbacks for the otherwise gay men who were sexually abused by men.

    And yes, while hanging with such groups can cause a skewed perspective, hanging out with only studies can too. Then again, I doubt any of us can gain a perfectly clear perspective, ie, on without prejudice due to our experiences.

    Anyway, I’m not really sure what point you are trying to make? That sexual abuse never “causes” homosexual behavior? Or that it never “causes” homosexual identity formation? Or both? Or that it might have some influence, but not much?

    Katie

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    My personal “belief” is that it might have some influence. I have no idea how much influence though :)

  • Evan

    @concerned

    I think Warren is concerned with how the thesis that sexual abuse might disrupt sexual identity formation could be used by some political camps, including the Narth you mentioned.

  • Katie Cannon

    While I think such worries are warranted, and I’m no supporter of groups like Narth, not addressing this issue is also harmful.

    Gay therapist, Joe Kort, seems to be doing a pretty good job of walking the line between gay positive therapy and recognizing that sexually abused men can, and often do, have sex with men without demanding that they therefor should adopt a gay identity (or even a bisexual identity).

    While I think a whole lot of people, when pushed, are willing to recognize a difference between behavior and identity, I’m not sure most of these studies are thoughtfully dealing with this issue, and so have no idea how these men are being placed — are they straight or gay according to these studies?

    Also, once we grant that there’s a difference between behavior and identity, we’re not far off from granting impact on identity formation simply because it’s pretty darn difficult for a man who id’s as straight publicly to not have private doubts about his straitness when he’s engaging in sex with men.

    Their identities are impacted by their behavior, just as a person who id’s as a lawyer but sells life insurance has a difficult time maintaining a coherent id as a lawyer.

    Rob, for instance, reaches most readily for a straight identity, but when asked why he had sex with men, he’ll say because he could never decide whether or not he was gay….

    In the current political climate, there’s huge pressure for someone like Rob to id as gay, which is one of the reasons he never talked to anyone about what was going on with him. He knew that most people would assume that he just needs to come out of the gay closet and lead a gay life — because obviously he was just born gay…. end of story.

    Deprive a Monkey of secure attachments, and it’s sexual development is impacted. Why would this be different for humans?

    Just think the best way to go, politically, is to let individuals decide who they are and what they want.

    Katie

  • Katie

    I’ve been thinking about the proposition put forward by someone that hanging with sexually abused men can lead to a skewed perspective about what’s really going on….

    In my case, hanging with my own relatively secure heterosexuality has given me a skewed perspective, it seems to me. I’m lucky that I have lived most of my life with a fairly uncomplicated, taken for granted, set of attractions, hopes, fantasies, goals, etc….

    Hangin with those who don’t have this type of security or taken for grantedness has shown me that sexuality is acutely complicated, and has re-inforced my hunch that we really don’t yet know what we actually mean by “sexual orientation”.

    Is a man who is attracted only to pre-op transexuals gay? Especially if he is able to maintain a fantasy that his object of desire really IS a female with a penis? If, that is, his experience of his object of desire is such? Even if other people would experience the same object of desire as a simply a pre-op transextual? As a male with boobs?

    Which brings me back to one of the things I’ve thought a lot about: Most of these studies treat sexuality as either separable from, or more basic than, all sorts of very basic human “instincts” — or bio-chemical predispositions. Like the bio-chemical predisposition to create fantasy.

    Is an attraction to pre-op transexuals bio-chemically determined?

    Or is it more akin to the widespread Myth of the Phallic Woman, like the Myth of Medusa, etc….

    Or have such myths — found in most cultures — been largely determined by those who were born to a bio-chemical predisposition to be attracted to pre-op transexuals?

    I don’t know, just seems to me that, while there seems to be bio-chemical underpinnings when it comes to sexual orientation, there’s also bio-chemical underpinnings to create fantasy, and I’m not at all sure that the former is more basic or more fundamental or more powerful than the latter.

    But when you’re a person who has no occasion to overly question one’s sexuality, it can sure feel like we were merely born into our fantasies.

    Being in the situation I’m in, I’ve been involved with groups for sexually abused adults as well as groups for “mixed orientation couples”. When people quip: Who would choose to be gay? I can point to those who certainly seem to choose to id as gay despite the fact they feel no desire for a long-term relationship with a man, are not turned on by the male body as a whole, prefer females both emotionally and as the “beautiful object of desire” — but really have a thing for penises. When pressed, rather than questioning the meaning of their penis fascination, they prefer to simply id as gay and leave it at that.

    There’s comfort in such a stance: 1) There’s no need to challenge one’s self, 2) there’s reasons to marry a woman, while at the same time 3) never being fully available to her because, heck, “I’m gay”.

    (Again, in these studies, how is this guy being handled? He id’s as gay, but gets grossed out by the idea of kissing a man, or living with one, but would indeed engage in playing with a penis)

    Don’t know, it’s just all so complicated…. I think we just have a bio-chemical predisposition for greater simplicity, greater certainty, and the camps on either side of this debate seems to me to come up with their own solutions in this search for certainty.

    Katie

  • Mary

    Debbie and Warren,

    I have provided links that discuss the guilt and pleasure felt by some who are molested as children.

    BTW, Debbie, it can also be noted that men and women who are raped sometimes feels a great amount of guilt because they experienced an orgasm during the rape. It does not mean they asked for it, enjoyed the event, or want to re-experience the event again.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I have provided links that discuss the guilt and pleasure felt by some who are molested as children.

    Thanks, Mary. I intend to take a look at them.

  • Katie Cannon

    Warren,

    I don’t know if you actually read every post here — if you do, my hat’s off to you!!!!

    But if you DO read this….

    I just re-read one of your responses regarding frequency, where you say that among those who work with sexually abused men, the frequency rates of sexual “confusion” (let’s leave it at that for now) is high, but the surveys show otherwise.

    What surveys? Surveys of gay men? vs. straight men?

    Again, we would need surveys of men who were in fact sexually abused. And it’s my experience that those surveys show a high rate of homosexual behavior (as opposed to gay identity) — or sexual “confusion” — or people second-guessing whatever identity they publicly adopt, etc…. whatever you want to call it.

    If I ever learn how to paste a link, I’ll spend the time to dig up the surveys that begin with sexually abused men — as opposed to beginning with stated sexual identity.

    But since we’re relying on surveys — a great survey that anyone can participate in and/or witness is malesurvivor.org.

    We can all be survey-takers. I imagine that most who participate here has skills enough to compete with more professional survey takers.

    And again, if a stranger walked up to Rob and asked him to participate in a survey, and simply asked how he id’d he’d say straight. And depending on the day and his mood, he may or may not answer truthfully when it came to being asked if he has ever had sex with men…. too much shame, deep, deep, shame. Today he might reveal his past. Three years ago? No way, he’d have died first.

    He honestly seems able to live most his life completely out of touch with the fact he’s had sex with men. I don’t think he thinks about it 98% of the time, even as he obsesses about it. And when I say he doesn’t think about it, I mean it doesn’t exist for him. THAT Rob is almost completely the “Not Me”.

    Guess there are multiple selves — and then there are multiple selves.

    And just because people seem interested in this issue: My leap of faith that Rob is capable of heterosexual comittment comes from things like his casual interest in the small of my back, or my hip bone. The little, subtle things. Not the humpy bumpy itself, gay men can humpy bumpy with a woman when the lights are out.

    There’s something about those casual caresses and comments which seems to me to speak more deeply than sexual attraction per se: Speaks more to attachments, and how sex can or can not solidify those attachments.

    Don’t know Warren, just think there’s a lot more Robs out there than we’re willing to admit, because among other things, we’d have to admit that men can be victims, and I don’t think we’re quite there yet, that even males can be profoundly affected by trauma.

    I understand this: Recognizing the affects of trauma is traumatizing.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    On the issue of adult rape as opposed to childhood sexual abuse:

    There are men who begin to question their sexual identity when raped by a man as an adult. How common is this experience? I have no idea.

    But if you want to read some first hand reports, they’re out there.

    Some begin to compulsively have sex with men, though previous to this experience, they did not experience any homosexual desire.

    If trauma can have this impact on an adult, one would imagine it would on children as well.

    K.

  • Mary

    Katie,

    I totally get what you are saying about realizing human trauma being traumatizing. If we could get to a place where we could all be absolutely totallly gut and agonizingly honest, we would all move much faster through the pain.

  • Lynn David

    Katie Cannon….. Is a man who is attracted only to pre-op transexuals gay? Especially if he is able to maintain a fantasy that his object of desire really IS a female with a penis? …..

    Generally, they are bisexual….

    …how is this guy being handled? He id’s as gay, but gets grossed out by the idea of kissing a man, or living with one, but would indeed engage in playing with a penis…

    It seems that you are getting more into the realm of paraphilias (sexual fetishes) with some of this – it is not a sexual orientation.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Generally, orientation is defined more by attraction than by behavior.

  • Katie Cannon

    Lynn David,

    You say generally they are bisexual. Ok, but in what way are they bisexual? What causes the bisexuality? An inborn bio-chemical predisposition, or a more psychodynamic thing?

    While I would agree that I’m getting more in the realm of the so-called paraphillias, or fetishes, are we all not influenced by fetishistic leanings? Isn’t fetishism part of all our sexualities?

    I think what we usually mean by saying someone has a fetish and another person has an orientation is that the former lacks secure patterns of attachments to others, while the latter weds his/her fetishism to secure patterns of attachments to others as important subjects in their own right. Not that the latter lacks fetishistic fantasies, beliefs and arousal patterns.

    It’s interesting to me that we only admit under the umbrella of “orientation” attractions to either adult men or women, and throw all else out as a paraphilia, without also recognizing that attractions to adult men and women also has it’s own element of fetishism.

    But I doubt we can understand “sexual orientation” without understanding even the very strict fetishes, such as those aimed at non-human subjects. Also, it seems to me that the strict fetishes throw light on the fact that humans can attach to most anything…. And that attachments to humans bares a similarity to attachments to non-humans, and so the discussion of “orientation” needs to include these attachments, even if such inclusion threatens the notion that such attachments might also be largely psycho-dynamically created, just as it seems the paraphillias are: If we grant the notion that trauma can turn a child away from human relatedness on a sexual level to exclusive sexualized interest in shoes, it becomes much less mysterious, it seems to me, to imagine that trauma can turn a boy away from women and towards men — or vice versa.

    Just don’t think sexualized interest in adult humans is so very different than attachments to shoes — at least in some respects. At least not of the sort that creates a bio-chemical chasm, where one is bio-chemically safe — the other is psycho-dynamic madness.

    Timothy Kinkaid,

    I”m not at all sure that orientation is defined more by attractions than by behavior. In my experience, we pretty much define a man’s sexuality by who he has sex with.

    Then again, there’s not much behaviors that aren’t driven by attractions. There’s just attractions that play different roles, some of which we consider more important to our well being. Rob is certainly attracted to men, he’s just not attracted to men in the same WAY he’s attracted to women, his attractions to men isn’t what secure attachments are made of. Well, neither have been his attractions to women, but at least there’s more promise there.

    Ted Bundy was “attracted” to women, but I think we could make an argument that he lacked a heterosexual sexual orientation, but suffered from fetishes. I don’t think it ‘s JUST attractions we’re talking about in our discussion of “orientation”. It seems to me that our discussions of orientation always imply a theory of what it is to be human as well as how we humans ideally attach to one another.

    Anyway, most people seem to believe that a straight man, by very definition, doesn’t have sex with men.

    And they’re probably right, in that I doubt Rob has had a fully developed sexual orientation of any stripe.

    And I doubt Ted Bundy did either. Cuz I don’t think we get a fully developed orientation in the absence of being able to securely attach to others as subjects in their own right.

    When we try to distinguish orientations from fetishes (or behaviors without implicating orientations), then I don’t think there’s any way around discussing the concept of development — or lack thereof. And once we do, then it seems to me it becomes more and more difficult to hold out the notion that attractions to adult men or women is impervious to environmental influences, or psycho-dynamically created stuff — but all else is. The former is the natural unfolding of bio-chemical determinants — all else is crazy stuff…. Or “Them”, “Not Me”.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    I can’t speak too much on the subject of men who have been abused. I have several close gay and straight friends – none of whom have ever been abused – to my knowledge, but I’m very close to these people and am fairly certain they would have shared such a thing with me. The things they share in common though speak more to what Tim was trying to say – I think. Their experiences of becoming sexually aware are similar. In listening to their stories they, both heterosexuals and homosexuals, talk about being attracted to people (opposite sex or same sex respectively) at a young age, fantasizing about these people, seeking out scantily clad pictures of the objects of their affection, and having a desire to court these people – in general what we would probably see as normal, healthy, sexual types of expressions for adolescents.

    It doesn’t seem like the abused men you talk about who exhibit homosexual behaviors are being honest about their orientation – to themselves or others.

    When I hear the terms orientation and behavior I seem some overlap but I see distinct differences.

    This definition of sexual orientation I pulled from Wikipedia:

    Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both genders, neither gender, or another gender. According to the American Psychological Association sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of “personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.”[1] Sexual orientation is usually classified according to the sex or gender of the people who are found sexually attractive. Though people may use other labels, or none at all[2], sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. These orientations exist along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexual to exclusive homosexual, including various forms of bisexuality in-between.

    It just doesn’t sound like what these abused men were experiencing was an orientation as much as it was behavior. It seems that it would be easy to THINK you are attracted to a certain gender, especially if you are constantly engaging in such behavior for whatever reason, without those attractions being genuine or without the behaviors stemming from what would be considered a real and authentic orientation. That goes for homosexual AND heterosexual behavior

    I hope all of that made some sense

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    You’ve probably already read this, but I culled it from the web site you posted MaleSurvivor.org. It is from their lists of Myths surrounding abuse:

    Myth #5 – Boys abused by males are or will become homosexual.

    While there are different theories about how the sexual orientation develops, experts in the human sexuality field do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual orientation. It is unlikely that someone can make another person a homosexual or heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual. Whether perpetrated by older males or females, boys’ or girls’ premature sexual experiences are damaging in many ways, including confusion about one’s sexual identity and orientation.

    Many boys who have been abused by males erroneously believe that something about them sexually attracts males, and that this may mean they are homosexual or effeminate. Again, not true. Pedophiles who are attracted to boys will admit that the lack of body hair and adult sexual features turns them on. The pedophile’s inability to develop and maintain a healthy adult sexual relationship is the problem – not the physical features of a sexually immature boy.

  • Lynn David

    Katie Cannon…. You say generally they are bisexual. Ok, but in what way are they bisexual? What causes the bisexuality? An inborn bio-chemical predisposition, or a more psychodynamic thing?

    Gee, Katie, if I knew that you all would be paying me for the answers.

  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    I don’t mean to be argumentative with you, because I think we might be saying the same — or at least similar things — but the definition from Wiki highlights the problem: That “and/or” thing is problematic, because it means that a person can NOT be emotionally and/or romantically attracted to a sex, but only sexually attracted, and still be said to have an “orientation”. What would only being sexually attracted to a sex be? If you allow “sexual attraction” to be divorsed from “emotional attraction”, then we get into the territory, it seems to me, of behavior…. driven by what? Certainly by emotions, though maybe not the sort of emotions we would recommend people to go out of their way to nurture.

    At any rate, it doesn’t seem to me we ever get away from emotions, so I doubt there’s behaviors performed without an emotional “reason”, or experience.

    Why does this seem to matter, at least to me? Among other things, attempting to magically get rid of the issue of emotions seems to me to lead to “othering” certain behaviors, or certain people who engage in them, because we can say that Our sex is “full”, while another person’s “lacks” — or that Our sex is emotionally sound, while another person’s is devoid of emotion. Or our sex is without a perverse element, while another’s is perverse — or our sex is light, another’s an expression of the shadow….. etc….

    That’s one problem.

    The other problem is that, again, I doubt many people engage in behaviors while experiencing no emotions, or emotional attractions, towards that behavior. Divorcing emotions from behaviors lets us turn away from a thoughtful exploration of just what sorts of emotions we all experience, especially in the denial of what I’ll call our more perverse emotions, which we all have — or at least anyone I’ve ever met does.

    And this matters because it seems imperative to me that people be given the choice to claim that their attractions are positive or negative — of the sort that they should nurture or of the sort that they need to accept as part of their humanity, but can choose to not overtly nurture.

    It seems to me that the fear among those who are more liberal when it comes to homosexuality often make the move of protecting homosexuality from the label “perverse”, but are rather driven to allow it into the realm of the “non-perverse” which heterosexuality has enjoyed. I’m all for that.

    I’m not for pretending that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are completely free of the perverse, or the darker side, or the shadow, or fetishism, or paraphilias — or whatever else you want to call it.

    Our curiosity that makes us slow down and witness a car wreck, our propensity to go to horror movies, etc….

    As far as early attractions: Rob was early on attracted to males. As a young boy he would fantasize that old men were holding him down and pinching him. He would pinch himself so hard he’d have brooses (sp?) over his body. It was a turn on.

    It’s not the lack of emotions, or the lack of fantasy, or the lack of attractions, that distinguishes Rob from the more fully gay man. It’s the lack of life-affirming, positive, loving, nurturing, attractions. And maybe it’s the lack of genitally involved attractions, at least to some extent. Though there seems to be at least some pretty well-adjusted gay men who also avoid direct genital stimulation — at least when it comes to their own penises.

    Lots of more fully gay men are also driven by masochistic impulses. That’s not the problem. The problem is the lack of other emotional resources as well.

    Why does this matter? Because it hits at the core of what we mean or don’t mean when we use the phrase “sexual orientation”. Which far too often assumes that there is “A Heterosexuality” or “A Homosexuality” — rather than heterosexualities and homosexualities. And they probably don’t all have the same etiology.

    I’m not saying I’m right about this, but then we don’t know who is “right”. What we really do is believe what we believe because it works for us.

    What works for me is to see Rob as a guy with a partially developed homosexuality, a partially developed heterosexuality, and as a resilient person capable, even at the age of 55, to develop further, in whatever way ends up feeling the best to him.

    And just as further note: Rob, and lots of guys more or less like him, mostly rely on homosexual fantasy while masturbating. I don’t think Rob has any masturbatory heterosexual fantasies. His heterosexuality is expressed more through day dreams, day dreams of holding hands, going to a movie, snuggling, falling in love, etc…. Sex? I’m pretty sure all sado-masochistic, homosexually oriented.

    Abuse a kid, and maybe he gets the message he can’t dream his dreams…. And so maybe the ability to dream is also intimately tied up with our sexual orientation.

    Katie

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Katie et al – In a rush but here is an article that addresses some of the issues relating to romantic and sexual attraction.

  • Katie

    Warren,

    Thanks for the link. I really need to learn how to do that :)

    But don’t you think that most of us mean by “orientation” a working together of these two systems — a good-enough working together?

    As far as viewing them as two distinct systems….. ok….. as long as that doesn’t imply that one doesn’t impact the other in some way or the other.

    And isn’t the author also saying that oxytocin might be the bridge between the two?

    I believe there’s preliminary studies that indicate that human males actually experience greater oxcytocin release when kissing than women do.

    When I read that I thougt it interesting because so many men who have sex with men are grossed out by the idea of kissing a man — an aversion to those attachment chemicals when it comes to men and sex?

    I really like the article questioning the assumption that sexual attraction is more fundamental than affectional attachments. That’s a step forward, it seems to me.

    Gee, I hope Rob doesn’t stay so fractured. And my assumption is that, even if these two systems have different evolutionary origins, we’re stuck with them now, and that, while we might speak about them separately, and learn things in the process, ultimately they interact with eachother, because it seems that an interactionist approach explains all sorts of data about the brain the best. I would imagine these two systems are no different.

    What I’m confused about in this article is whether she is or isn’t saying that oxcytocin might be a bridge between the two systems?

    Thanks again,

    Katie

  • concerned

    Katie,

    You may not be completely right in what you are suggesting here, but I think you are much closer than those that want to continue to say that if you have any attraction to members of the same-sex then you have to call yourself gay. That to me is simply a justification of a self labelling that may not be at all accurate for someone else. I can tell you that what you are describing here fits my own experience much more accurately than anything that had been presented in the past.

    I do believe we come to a better understanding of things when we are open to the experiences of everyone who deals with same-sex attraction rather than declaring that their is only one way to look at this and it is my way and then begin to establish hate laws to protect that over anything else. That to me is political correctness gone array.

    I will have to read the article Warren directed you to. It sounds like something I have been feeling for some time now. The oxytocin issue is interesting to say the least.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    @Katie: I think the role of Oxytocin is still a matter of theory. What she believes is that attachment may be a path to sexuality and vice versa but that they are also separate systems. For most people, the systems run the same direction, however for some people, they do not. Orientation among sex researchers most often means sexual desire independent of the romantic orientation. However, for lay folk, the assumption is that romance and sexual desire are consistent. This is not always true, hence the often confusing conversations about bisexuality and ex-this and ex-that.

  • Katie Cannon

    Thanks for the response Warren.

    But don’t you think it also leads to the often confusing conversation of enduring this or enduring that as well?

    If most sex researchers really hold this view, then I would assume most would consider Rob gay. But at least many would consider him to have fetishes….

    I’m pretty sure Bailey would, for example.

    But…. taking the prevailing view of sex researchers, there’s still the question of just what sex itself is: Whatever gets a man hard?

    Rob would be a tough one there, because he didn’t often get an erection when having sex with men. With women, he’d get an erection, but not be able to maintain it. Today, at least with me, he can both get and maintain an erection, but can’t orgasm very easily unless under his own stimulation.

    From what I understand, there’s a fair number of gay identified men — men for whom women don’t seem to be an option in any way — who also do not get erections when having sex.

    It’s easy for me to view Rob’s “sexual” practices with men as in some ways not really sex at all because of the lack of genital focus.

    But then I think of the gay men who are capable of more or less whole object relatedness, who also find sexualized pleasure through means other than their penises….

    So then I’m brought back to the notion of whole object relatedness itself. And it seems to me that, even while many sex researchers want to divorce sexual attractions from “romantic attractions” or “affectional attractions” — they still want to maintain a distinction between whole object relatedness and the fetishes.

    But it seems to me to do so, one has to once again reach for more than purely sexual attractions divorced from fuller attachments.

    And that’s where I see the whole conversation getting confused — not just in discussions of categorical “change” or ex this or that — but among sex researchers who attempt, but seem to fail, to keep sexual attractions separate from other human considerations — most specifically, in a person’s ability to relate to others as whole objects (or subjects).

    Rob, like a lot of “bisexual” men, seems to me to mostly have an attachment disorder.

    In my experience with “mixed orientation couples”, it often seems gay men are more capable of rewarding monogamy with a woman than the self-identified “bisexual” man. And it seem to me that one of the reasons is that the gay man who has had relatively rewarding attachments to men is capable of such attachments, period, and so finds he can contain his homosexuality within a loving heterosexual relationship.

    A lot of the “bisexual” men just don’t seem fully capable of whole object attachments, period. And not surprisingly, many display what I’ll call emotional/sexual splitting — like Rob.

    So I don’t think the issue is really one of whether a gay man can find himself attached to a woman, and vice versa — but whether a man can find himself attached to anyone.

    And again, it seems to me that without the fundamental potential for attachment, you don’t get a sexual orientation — you get fetishes, partialisms, profound objectification, autistic withdrawal, etc….

    And again, for those sex researchers who want to maintain the recognition of fetishes…. then they have to explain how sexual orientation is defined independent of our attachment systems…. while at the same time recognizing that the fetishes is what you get when you live this out in real life.

    It’s sort of confusing.

    I find it confusing that sex researchers define sexual orientation independently of the attachment system as a whole, while at the same time they want to distinguish orientation from fetishes, when fetishes just seem sexualized attractions without the potential for secure attachments to others.

    So it seems to me, that they too imply that the two systems working together is what we call orientation — and not just the lay folk — even if they attempt not to. It seems to me they fail, and that the notion of attachment keeps creeping in, like it or not.

    (And for those bisexuals out there who might take offense at this — I’m perfectly certain that lots of bisexuals are perfectly capable of whole object relatedness. And NO….. not every heterosexual is either…. Ted Bundy etc….)

    Sorry I’m not more succinct….

    Katie

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Katie

    I”m not at all sure that orientation is defined more by attractions than by behavior. In my experience, we pretty much define a man’s sexuality by who he has sex with.

    No. I’m sorry.

    With all due respect, we don’t get to create your own definitions of words in common usage. We can’t decide that ‘bananas’ are pretty much any fruit or that ‘cattle’ include bluejays.

    And we can’t decide that a David Cassidy’s engagement in autoerotic asphyxiation meant that he wasn’t heterosexual but had an entirely different orientation.

    It’s interesting to me that we only admit under the umbrella of “orientation” attractions to either adult men or women, and throw all else out as a paraphilia, without also recognizing that attractions to adult men and women also has it’s own element of fetishism

    It helps if you think about the meaning of the word “orientation”. It means the direction towards which something is pointed, as on a compass.

    We still use this word in conversation. For example, “the hotel was oriented such that the rooms overlooked the ocean.”

    In the case of sexual orientation, it is the sex of the persons to which one is attracted in a manner similar to a compass. One might say that individuals are oriented so as to face towards a specific sex. Although sexual orientation generally is described in terms of three orientations, there are actually four: heterosexual, homosexual, bixsexual, and asexual.

    A fetish involving, say, shoes or the color purple, are not on the compass. One may be homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or asexual and still have a shoe fetish or a taste for autoerotic asphixiation.

    Though arguing for strict alliance between attraction and orientation may be a bit unnuanced, conflating behavior with orientation is a very simplistic approach.

    Yes, it is probably true that the vast majority of people seek out sexual partners that are in alignment with their sexual, emotional, spiritual and romantic attractions. Most of the time behavior reveals orientation.

    But this is not always the case. As political scandal after religious scandal has shown us, one may be exclusively heterosexual in behavior for year after year and yet be either bisexual or homosexual in orientation.

    Warren deals regularly with individuals whose base orientation – ie romantic and sexual attraction – is homosexual but who are able to develop a relationship in which they express heterosexual behavior.

    And, incidentally, you are quite incorrect about straight men having sex with men. It occurs in all sorts of scenarios, usually involving convenience, the most public of which is prison. It doesn’t mean that their orientation is homosexual.

    When I read that I thougt it interesting because so many men who have sex with men are grossed out by the idea of kissing a man — an aversion to those attachment chemicals when it comes to men and sex?

    Perhaps we are discussing an entirely different subset of men who have sex with men. When speaking of gay men, all the ones I know enjoy kissing.

    When speaking of the 70′s cliche of “it’s not gay if you don’t kiss”, then I suppose so. It may well be that those who fear their own attractions – or the social consequences thereof – may well not want to experience emotional connection.

    I guess that there still are some deeply closeted men who are grossed out by the idea of kissing men. I doubt that Larry Craig or Ted Haggard were much into kissing.

    But in the 21st century, I certainly think they are the rarity rather than the “so many”.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    And just as further note: Rob, and lots of guys more or less like him, mostly rely on homosexual fantasy while masturbating. I don’t think Rob has any masturbatory heterosexual fantasies. His heterosexuality is expressed more through day dreams, day dreams of holding hands, going to a movie, snuggling, falling in love, etc…. Sex? I’m pretty sure all sado-masochistic, homosexually oriented.

    I hope I don’t offend you, but it sounds to me more as though Rob is more attracted to the idea of heterosexual romance than is actually is heterosexually romantically attracted.

    Obviously, I don’t know Rob or the situation. So my observation holds no real weight.

    But please be very careful as you proceed.

    I was an online correspondent with a lovely woman (both inside and out) who was married to an ex-gay man. She was convinced of his happiness and I was very happy for both of them. But, unfortunately, it soon unraveled.

    He wanted very much to be attracted to her and he did indeed love her and did function sexually… but ultimately his attractions overweighed his desire to be heterosexual. He’s currently in a relationship with another man. And while she still has a good relationship with her ex-husband, it was very painful for them both.

    I’m not saying your story will be the same… just please be careful It’s very possible that developing a happy romantic relationship with Rob will give him confidence in his ability to love… and then find him seeking to apply that ability in the same area that his sexual drive takes him.

    However it works out, I wish you much strength.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    From what I understand, there’s a fair number of gay identified men — men for whom women don’t seem to be an option in any way — who also do not get erections when having sex.

    What would that number be?

    I declare, Katie, you most definitely run in a crowd that is foreign to me. I’m not familiar with this phenominon.

    I know some men do not always maintain erections (especially as age increases), but I’m not aware that there are a “fair number” of gay men who do not get erections when having sex.

    Do you have a source for that claim?

    …even while many sex researchers want to divorce sexual attractions from “romantic attractions” or “affectional attractions”…

    Other than the ever-interesting Lisa Diamond, who does this?

  • Katie Cannon

    Timothy,

    I don’t think I can address all you’ve written, but here’s a little:

    And mostly because I don’t think we can understand sexuality without specifics….

    You say shoes are off the compass. When speaking of “orientation” I’d agree, but not when speaking of sexual attractions, simply because we mean by “orientation” an orientation, or pointing to, an adult male or female (or, if you want to include asexuality? — a non-pointing? as long as it’s a non-pointing that if it could be pointed, it would be pointed to an adult male or female???)… lol.

    I don’t know Tim, it seems to me that asexuality, when it’s not permanent, ends up revealing itself once it points…. and sometimes it points to men, sometimes to women, and sometimes to shoes.

    So why are shoes off the compass? Simply because we’ve decided it that way. No?

    And why have we decided it that way? What, that is, do we hope to gain by excluding attractions to shoes? I assume you would also exclude attractions to children and animals? Why?

    What does attractions to adult men and women (and no sexual feelings in the case of asexuality) have in common? What does all the rest have in common? Such that the former is “on the compass” and the latter “off the compass”?

    The well adjusted gay men I know aren’t gay because they like to be fisted. They’re gay because they’re attracted to men as a whole, even if they also like to be fisted.

    When I say that Rob’s masturbatory fantasies are probably pretty exclusively sado-masochistically and homosexually oriented, I meant that I assume that in the privacy of his masturbation that that’s what permits him to experience an orgasm. But I doubt his reliance upon this is very different than a man who relies on shoes for the same purpose.

    Why? Oh, long story. But in part because while other boys were sneaking peeks at either boys or girls, Rob was hiding the Sears Catalog under his bed sneaking peeks at the enema bottles. Enemas morphed into objects, objects morphed into ever larger objects, which morphed into fists…..

    I don’t care how heterosexual you are, if you’re a nice Catholic boy, you’re not going to tell your nice girlfriend that you have a near exclusive interest in all things up your butt. It’s just not going to happen.

    Is this a form of homosexuality? I think it is. I think the archaic notion of defensive homosexuality exists, and isn’t archaic at all. The only thing archaic about it is assuming that ALL forms of homosexuality is defensive in nature.

    And it’s certainly a far cry from the boy who longs for loving connections with a man from a young age.

    Right now Rob’s pretty turned on by the fruit and vegetable isle, and my feet. We used to think that fetishes were stable and life-long. Now it seems that fetishes indeed morph for many people, the trickier part is getting the fetishist off fetishes and onto humans, but the fetish object often changes.

    Anyway…. why is X on the compass and Y off the compass when it comes to the umbrella of “orientation”?

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Hi Tim,

    Darn, you were typing, I was typing…. to answer your question about who I hang out with…. well…. there’s Rob :)

    He’s pretty darn weird. So… in order to understand him, and in order for him to understand himself, we’ve sought out others with similar experiences: others who have also been sexually abused.

    Really Tim, at least in the handful of groups we’ve attended, Rob fits right in. Which has been wonderful for him, cuz compared to you and me, he’s a freak. But really he’s no freak, he’s just your average joe dealing with the common outcome of boyhood sexual abuse.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    So why are shoes off the compass? Simply because we’ve decided it that way. No?

    And why have we decided it that way? What, that is, do we hope to gain by excluding attractions to shoes? I assume you would also exclude attractions to children and animals? Why?

    Yes, shoes and animals and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are all off the compass.

    Why? Because that’s not what the compass tells us.

    A boy scout’s compass tells him which way is north or south, not which way is blue or Christmas.

    So too, the compass called “sexual orientation” tells us the sex towards which one is attracted, not to the methodology of getting off. That’s what it’s for – that’s what the term describes.

    If one wants to discuss whether a heterosexual likes shoes or wallowing in pudding then one uses other language, like fetish or paraphilia. If one wants to know why a homosexual wants to dress up like the Easter Bunny, then one uses the same teminology.

    We also don’t have separate orientations for attraction to specific races. Or specific heights. Or swarthy or fair people. Those are all components of attraction, but they aren’t on the sexual orientation compass.

    We use words because they allow us to communicate meaning. And we use homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual and asexual because they communicate something specific about those we are talking about.

    If literally everything that could possibly include some tiny measure of attraction were its own orientation, then the word would stop having any meaning at all.

    And we don’t need “orientation” to mean the combination of all possible attractions. We already have a word for that. And that word is… “attraction”.

    Yes, just like the word “bird” can have some meaning that might include some birds that are not exactly like the rest (ie the penguin, the emu), we don’t stop using bird when we see a bluejay nor do we wonder why rootbeer isn’t also a bird.

    Sure some folks are a bit hard to fit into any orientation, but nearly all people are attracted to either men, women, both or neither.

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    We may indeed be saying the same thing :)

    As far as early attractions: Rob was early on attracted to males. As a young boy he would fantasize that old men were holding him down and pinching him. He would pinch himself so hard he’d have brooses (sp?) over his body. It was a turn on.

    I do not doubt this, but these sort of behaviors don’t get at what I think a true orientation is. It also sounds like a fetish although I’d have to revisit the definition of that word before I could be certain.

    When I read that I thougt it interesting because so many men who have sex with men are grossed out by the idea of kissing a man — an aversion to those attachment chemicals when it comes to men and sex?

    I’m not sure what subset of men you are talking about either Katie. All of the gay men I know, and I know many, are very comfortable with and fond of kissing men. Most of us have had several discussions about how kissing is one of our favorite parts of physical intimacy.

    Perhaps you are talking about groups other than gay men in that quote, but it would be helpful if you clarified what sort of men you are talking about.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Why? Oh, long story. But in part because while other boys were sneaking peeks at either boys or girls, Rob was hiding the Sears Catalog under his bed sneaking peeks at the enema bottles. Enemas morphed into objects, objects morphed into ever larger objects, which morphed into fists…..

    I don’t care how heterosexual you are, if you’re a nice Catholic boy, you’re not going to tell your nice girlfriend that you have a near exclusive interest in all things up your butt. It’s just not going to happen.

    Is this a form of homosexuality?

    No. It’s an expression of sexuality.

    Whether it is a homosexual or heterosexual desire depends on who you fantacize is putting something up your butt. (google “pegging”)

  • Katie Cannon

    Timothy,

    Pegging is not the same as what Rob is into. Pegging is those nice toys — then there’s the not so nice toys….

    And Rob’s 55 years old, his experience didn’t include the open possibility of pegging, the word wasn’t even around.

    There are few men who’s PRIMARY interest in getting anal stimulation (as opposed to an aside, or a preference as opposed to an exclusive interest) who don’t, on some level, question their manliness, which often leads to therefore questioning their sexual identity. Ok, I should avoid words like “few”, etc…. because then we get into discussions of stats. And I, nor anyone else, has any idea what the stats are. So let’s just say that it’s not unheard of for things to play out like this.

    There are people who’s primary interest is in all things having to do with whips, who holds the whip is of little consequence, the whip is what matters. Yes, while they might have a preference for a female hand or a male hand, they’ll switch as long as there’s a whip.

    I’ve known men who go to public parks where homosexual men get quickies ONLY to enact choking scenerios. No erections, no orgasms, just getting choked. Why is this on the compass? But shoes are off the compass?

    You wrote that straight men can have sex with men — like in prison. So are you defining orientation, not by one’s sexual partner, but by one’s fantasies?

    (And as an aside, many heterosexual men who have sex with men in prison are very aware of, and stay in touch with, the fact that they’re having sex with a man. They don’t utterly withdraw into fantasies of him being a female at the absolute exclusion of staying in touch with reality).

    But what if the fantasy is such that humans are viewed as objects in the same way shoes are? Is that still an “orientation” — still on the compass? Why?

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    Being in the situation I’m in, I’ve been involved with groups for sexually abused adults as well as groups for “mixed orientation couples”. When people quip: Who would choose to be gay? I can point to those who certainly seem to choose to id as gay despite the fact they feel no desire for a long-term relationship with a man, are not turned on by the male body as a whole, prefer females both emotionally and as the “beautiful object of desire” — but really have a thing for penises. When pressed, rather than questioning the meaning of their penis fascination, they prefer to simply id as gay and leave it at that.

    I’m certain there are those who choose to id as gay despite all of the items you listed – but in those items is the rub, as Eddy would say. Of the roughly 7-9 million gay men in this country, how many fit that bill? None that I know.

    I think we might agree on this point – Identifying as gay, or straight for that matter, doesn’t mean you are in fact gay or straight. If a self-identified gay man says he is not turned on by the male body, that he prefers females emotionally and as the object of his desire, but still have a thing for penises, I’d probably tell him he has a fetish of some kind.

    I think you may have stumbled onto a layman’s definition of orientation somewhere in that list of feelings experienced by men who identify as gay but don’t seem to be gay by anyone’s definition.

  • Katie Cannon

    Hey Timothy,

    Just read more of what you wrote…. about why some things are off the compass, and others are one….

    I would agree with you :)

    The term “sexual orientation” does indeed seem to me to imply the ability to attach to either adult males, females, or both — and that it’s more than mere sexual attraction or sexual preference divorced from this ability.

    While I think it makes sense to say that Carradine, to the extent he was able to attach to others, he was heterosexual. But from the reports of his wives, he preferred private masturbation.

    But it also seems to me that there are those for whom their orientation, to the extent they have one, is less clear. Among those people are men who have sex with men but do so in a way that doesn’t seem too far off from private masturbation. I don’t think, for instance, that the man behind the fist matters at all to Rob. It seems to matter that the person be male rather than female, but it seems to me that this is so more like it matters for the shoe fetishist to have shoes rather than aprons, in that the shoes or apron are a mere blank screen for one’s own personal fantasies — they have no personality to deal with, they don’t matter in their own right.

    And it seems to me that this gets at something very important when we employ the words “sexual orientation”, which it seems you would agree with.

    The problem comes in when the sex researchers want to reduce orientation to sexual attraction only.

    And as Warren stated, it seems to me that many try to make this move.

    I don’t think they succeed, and I think they often get confused and confusing once they allow in the concept of fetishes, which, again, many (if not most) do.

    And because this blog often addresses sexual identity formation, this stuff matters.

    For instance, getting back to Rob, it seems to me that for a man to develop a secure identity as heterosexual, he has to have a good-enough sense of himself as genitally competent. Feeling like your penis is worthless, broken, dysfunctional, unattractive, and an impossible source of either getting or receiving pleasure, probably has a good chance of undermining the development of a secure heterosexual identity.

    Rob, for instance, once went to a sleep-over and the boys played I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…. when Rob’s turn came, he showed them his butt.

    I would imagine, and most can imagine if they try, that boys probably need a higher genital competency than this to feel masculine enough to be heterosexual, and perhaps even masculine enough to be a male-identified homosexual (as opposed to being significantly cross-gendered identified).

    Which brings up the whole issue of fantasy: Is a guy who fantasizes he’s a woman when having sex with a man gay? Afterall, his fantasy is heterosexual.

    So that simple pointing thing may not be so simple either. Sure he’s pointing to men, but only as he’s fantasizing he’s a she….

    I don’t know. Just think we have work to do when it comes to this whole idea that there’s only 3 or 4 orientations, and that all gay men are pretty much alike, all hetero are, etc….

    And I think that this lumping confuses all these studies and surveys — not that they say nothing at all that’s interesting, but that they can’t take the place of the long and time-consuming task of gathering stories, and not ignoring them because they’re, of necessity, “antedotal”. (sp? sorry, my spelling sucks).

    Katie

  • Mary

    I take it Debbie, you have read at least scanned through those?

  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    I’m not advocating throwing out everything we can say about average experience. Studying average experience is pretty important.

    But we won’t fully understand the average way memory works if we don’t also understand the way it works in un-average brains, like the savant’s brain.

    I don’t know the numbers of those who id as gay due to inner experiences different from the, perhaps, more typical gay man. I really don’t think anyone does.

    But let’s say something like this says something about 1 in 1,000,000 of gay id’d men.

    I think the issue is whether things other than bio-chemical predispositions attribute to sexual identity formation for some people?

    It used to be assumed that savantism was much more rare than it’s assumed to be today. Today, we see savants much more readily.

    I would imagine that 10 years from now we’ll see sexual fluidity much more readily as well, especially when it comes to males. Afterall, it’s been a new thing to see it in women in the manner we see it today.

    And probably, for some, such fluidity will be more of an expression of adaptive flexibility, for others, more a matter of insecure self concept — in a way that’s a matter of degree, not of kind.

    As things like the rise of the Bromance flick, etc…. take place, will there continue to be the assumption that there’s a bio-chemical chasm between male homoeroticism and homosexuality — but not in females?

    Sure, only time will tell. But it’s silly to say from our vantage point right now that this is the case.

    It just seems to me that sexual fluidity exists more than some want to admit — whether it’s a positive thing or not.

    My assumption is that for those males who claim sexual fluidity, many are being thrown out of consideration due to fetishes — thus they don’t have sexual orientation fluidity, they have fetishes.

    While I personally share the values of those who want to make a distinction between orientation and fetishes, just because I might agree with these values, doesn’t mean that setting things up in this way isn’t value-laden. Because it is.

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    This one made me chuckle, Timothy:

    With all due respect, we don’t get to create your own definitions of words in common usage.

    Unless the word is “gay,” a perfectly good word in the English language once upon a time. I’m sure we can find others that have been likewise appropriated.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Mary, I did read the information at those links you posted. They didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know (sexual abuse may sometimes be pleasurable and victims will feel guilty about that). Moreover, they didn’t answer the question I raised as there was no differentiation between male and female abuse survivors and no comparison of the degrees to which boys and girls may experience pleasure from such abuse. Much of the guilt mentioned was referring to the child’s sense of being responsible for the abuse. I know that one firsthand. The one reference that discussed incestuous abuse claimed that abuse from a family friend or frequent visitor is also incest. That’s a stretch.

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    But let’s say something like this says something about 1 in 1,000,000 of gay id’d men.

    I think the issue is whether things other than bio-chemical predispositions attribute to sexual identity formation for some people?

    I think that’s probably true Katie – but it stands to reason it would be true for both heterosexuals AND homosexuals.

    When we talk about sexual fluidity I think we are really talking about bisexuals. Or am I wrong?

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    It was my recollection that you thought it was highly unlikely that CSA could be pleasurable for girls (as you noted in the description of sexual abuse) So I provided you with info that supported the idea. Now you are saying you knew that already?

    C’mon! You even tried to debate with me that you could not find such evidence online.

    As to the definition of incest – that was not on the table and I don’t know why you now shift your argument. Probably because it is true that girls do sometimes experience pleasure during the abuse and you just did not want to admit it.

  • Katie Cannon

    Debbie,

    While I may or may not disagree with widening the use of the word “incest” to include close family friends, the purpose tends to be to highlight the betrayal of intimate bonds, which seems to have it’s own unique effects, even if the betrayal isn’t sexual in nature.

    My personal preference would be to choose a few more words like: “The intimate betrayal of family and close family friends”. But we get lazy sometimes.

    I also think that a few more words would be helpful in the discussion of “pleasure”. Rather than the one word “pleasure”, it would probably be helpful to say either “genital pleasure” and/or “emotional pleasure”, because we can have one without the other, and only using “pleasure” confuses the two.

    Katie

  • Mary

    DEbbie,

    Women do report pleasure and confusion from sexual abuse. You may want to add more to your reading list or double check your resources. - Mary

    I haven’t looked for any resources yet, Mary, but I find that highly questionable. I only have anecdotal information at this point. I also am using my common sense to deduce that the ways in which sexual abuse is generally perpetrated on girls by men is not of the pleasurable sort. - Debbie

    Enough said.

    Regardless of what you say you know or knew…..

    I am happy to reveal some light into the subject so that when you interact with women who carry shame from having felt pleasure from the abuse that you have knowledge about such issues.

  • Mary

    Katie,

    I agree that the word pleasure needs to be expounded on. But essentially, I was writing and thinking of genital pleasure. It has a whole new dimension to the CSA experienced because a young boy or girl will feel very confused about the whole circumstance. Also, there is some emotional pleasure that comes from the abuse (it is sort of like being between a rock and a hard place) A victim chooses the least painful and finds “sweetness from the most bitter foods” Proverbs 27:7

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Mary, I do know that such guilty pleasure exists for some female sexual abuse victims. You appear to be implying that I believe otherwise, but I have not said that. I only questioned whether it might happen more in males, and asked if anyone knew the answer. Part B of my question was whether or not the pleasure phenomenon might influence a significant number of male survivors to identify later as homosexual. So far, no answers have been forthcoming.

    You say something very important here, though:

    Also, there is some emotional pleasure that comes from the abuse (it is sort of like being between a rock and a hard place) A victim chooses the least painful and finds “sweetness from the most bitter foods” Proverbs 27:7

    What I think you refer to is the feeling of being wanted or “loved” when any kind of affirmation may be hard to come by. The verse you cite illustrates that so well. I guess we can call that pleasure, but I believe a better term is emotional affirmation, if an unhealthy sort. The word pleasure in the sexual context has a physical connotation to most people, I believe.

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    That is what you said. IN black and white.

  • Mary

    Debbie?

    Do you belong to the school of thought that if the victim had genital pleasure or physical pleasure and also recieved some emotional compensation that no abuse took place?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I am happy to review what I said in black and white, Mary.

    I also am using my common sense to deduce that the ways in which sexual abuse is generally perpetrated on girls by men is not of the pleasurable sort.

    I presume this is what you are objecting to or what causes you to infer that I do not think girls experience any pleasure from sexual abuse. I said “generally perpetrated.” Generally means there can be exceptions. Now, I am certainly open to being convinced that pleasure is a common phenomenon in female victims of sexual abuse. But I think you’ve a long way to go in producing evidence.

    Do you belong to the school of thought that if the victim had genital pleasure or physical pleasure and also recieved some emotional compensation that no abuse took place?

    Why ever would you ask such a question? The answer should be obvious. It is abuse, period. To me, one of the more heinous aspects of childhood sexual abuse is the confusion that comes when perpetrators convince their victims that they are “loving” them in the abuse.

    I am still looking for an answer to my original question, but suspecting none can be found because I don’t think it’s been looked for yet..

  • Katie Cannon

    Debbie,

    I’m not sure what your original question is — whether experiencing pleasure can lead a boy to develop a gay id?

    If so, then I think there’s been lots of people looking into this — and lots of different answers.

    I’m not sure there’s been a GOOD study on this. But I doubt we presently have the climate in which a good study could take place.

    But if you want food for thought — again, there’s sources out there — malesurvivor.org being one of them, where men talk a whole lot about this issue.

    While someone posted malesurvivor’s disclaimer stating that it’s generally believed that sexual abuse and it’s sequela doesn’t lead to being gay, but might lead one to erroneously believe so (lead to sexual identity confusion), there’s debate about this among the men who participate — ranging from those who believe that any man who has sex with a man outside of prison must, therefor have been born gay, to those who believe that sexual abuse can lead to confusion, but not orientation, to those who believe it can lead to orientation…..

    Personally, I think they all have something to say, and are all right, depending upon our definitions….

    So, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.

    Just as I’m not sure what you’re looking for when it comes to reports of pleasure? A good study?

    Or open discussion with those who have experienced sexual abuse?

    I doubt there’s a perfect answer — or a perfect way to arrive at answers when it comes to such emotionally provocative subjects.

    My impression is that pleasure — at least in a deeply ambivalent form — is fairly common. The stats? Not unheard of, and often brought up.

    I think that’s as good as it gets when it comes to stats.

    I’ve been thinking about Warren saying he disagrees with my assessment about prevalence when it comes to the sexual fallout for men. And then I read some of what he says about the various stats given, and it occured to me that, while I might use the word “common”, he might use the word “rare” — even if we were to agree upon the exact stats.

    My son has an abnormal EEG, his neurologist thinks I should treat this with meds. His developmental pediatrician doesn’t think so, in part because his take on abnormal EGG’s is that they’re common enough to be considered normative for some people — about 10% of the population….. so even numbers are in the eye of the beholder.

    Anyway, again, I’m not sure if sexual abuse – sequela – gay id. – was your original question….. and if it was, I’m not sure what you’re looking for, except the ability to form your own belief.

    There’s studies out there, and then there’s personal stories and personal debates, which I think is a study in and of itself. I prefer the latter study when it comes to this issue.

    By the way, malesurvivor.org is public postings, so anyone can read. While I don’t know the names of them, there are also some support groups for women who maintain public postings. I think you can find them if you google enough.

    As far as sexual abuse – gay id….. my personal belief is that it happens, and when it does and the guy finds some peace, it speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit.

    How often does it happen? Come on, no one knows, and it might even be plain impossible to know — not just today, but tomorrow too.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Anyway, again, I’m not sure if sexual abuse – sequela – gay id. – was your original question….. and if it was, I’m not sure what you’re looking for, except the ability to form your own belief.

    That’s an old question, Katie. Mine was — I’ll restate it again — is there a greater tendency for boys to experience pleasure during (male) sexual abuse because arousal tends to come easier for them, and if so, might the pleasure phenomenon have a role to play in later identification as homosexual (i.e., I kind of liked this so I must be gay)? I asked if there were any evidence to support such a hypothesis.

    If a girl experiences pleasure when being sexually abused by a male, it does not follow that she would identify as lesbian later. It seems to me if a girl is going to internalize her abuse experience in ways other than “I liked that” she would be more likely to develop a distrust or fear of men and avoid intimacy with them later, perhaps seeking intimacy with a woman. So her process may be different than it is for her male counterpart.

    I am talking about two inherently different processes or reactions to abuse and the effects on boys vs. girls. Is this making sense yet? Because if it isn’t, I’ll just withdraw the question.

    As you say, Katie, it may just be impossible to know. Stats don’t tell the whole story.

  • Katie Cannon

    Hey Debbie,

    This is just what it seems to me for some guys:

    I liked it, if I like it, then maybe I’m gay? The answer varies, but that question hangs in the air for lots of the guys (on the support group it seems to me to be the majority). Some of the guys never entertain the notion, some don’t let the notion undermine their more spontaneous reactions to girls, some just don’t dwell on it, some obsess endlessly about it and everytime they “think” they’re spontaneously attracted to a girl, they begin questioning if they’re gay….. etc….. and, I would imagine, some come up with affirmative response to the question. Just because if you read what the guys who obsess have to say, you see/hear just how painful and exhausting the questioning is. It’s not just questioning…. it’s obsessing, often of an all-consuming nature.

    It’s painful to read, so I’d imagine it’s even more painful to be that person.

    Also, it keeps them away from being able to establish any sort of relationship, and I happen to believe that humans are strongly driven to make human contact.

    So we do what we can to do so.

    Anyway, that’s what I believe.

    As far as the issue of pleasure, not sure it’s “easier” for males to experience pleasure…. so don’t know about that one.

    Though I’d imagine having an outie rather than an innie makes a difference, the former being a more public announcement.

    And being more public, probably feels more defeating, etc….

    And it also seems to me that men look back on their experience with a greater degree of Interpreting their experience as pleasurable — but this might be also a matter of the fact that men are supposed to be in charge of their sexual pleasure, and never a victim of someone else’s pleasure.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Debbie,

    P.S.

    Another sort of interesting source in regard to being able to read what males have to say about their sexuality is a blog — I think it’s a blog — run by a gay guy called “I’m Gay, You’re Not”.

    It’s made up of mostly young men who have OCD, and among their obsessions is the question of whether or not they’re gay.

    The gay guy who runs the blog attempts to help them guide their questions in what he hopes is more meaningful ways.

    For instance, according to the gay guy, lots of these guys aren’t gay because, while they often are compelled to view gay porn, they don’t feel attracted to it in a positive way. It’s more of a constant checking to see IF they MIGHT be attracted to it.

    So there’s a difference, it seems to me, between attractions and compulsions, but I’m not at all sure the typical sex researcher who researches sexual orientation is controlling for this difference.

    Anyway — sort of a funny/sad blog, which would probably hold your interest for about 10 minutes, but it might be an interesting 10 minutes.

    On the sexual abuse group, something like this seems to be going on. As well as other stuff. That is, obsessions and compulsions as opposed to attractions as probably you and I experience them.

    Rob says it feels more like a compulsion to check out a car wreck all the time. Plus other stuff is going on with him, like the search for acceptance, etc…. relief from profound isolation….. blah, blah, and probably a degree of needing homoerotic approval, looking for a father figure (he’s exclusively attracted to older men — and he’s 55), need for guidance, need for punishment….. Returning to the scene of the crime in an attempt to triumph over old adversity, on and on…. Simple sexual relief….

    Take care,

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Interesting stuff, Katie. You are invested in this in a deeply person way, for obvious reasons. I am invested in a different way. I work with women, although I have worked with male sexual abuse survivors, too. Rob must feel awfully blessed to have you in his life. Best of everything to you both.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie Thurman ~ Jun 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

    This one made me chuckle, Timothy:

    With all due respect, we don’t get to create your own definitions of words in common usage.

    Unless the word is “gay,” a perfectly good word in the English language once upon a time. I’m sure we can find others that have been likewise appropriated.

    It still is a perfectly good word. But like “web” and “mouse” and “awesome” and “fantastic” it has a meaning that it did not have in the past.

    But I think you don’t know the history of the word “gay”. While it does mean “merry”, it was also often associated with those folk who were a bit outside of mainstream propriety. While “gay” folk were pretty and festive, they were also insubstantial.

    The word has been associated with brothels and loose women and it may be from male prostitution that it first came to be associated with homosexuality. As it has been – in some slang – since the 19th Century.

    Over time it came to be a bit of a code word for homosexual men and then eventually it beat out homophile and urning and, I’m sure, some other options to become the common word used. Since at least the early 70s, gay has meant “homosexual man or woman”, especially those who identified their sexuality as such.

    Gay folk prefer it to the more clinical sounding “homosexual” primarily because they think that being gay is more than engaging in sex. It also involves love, family, culture, and community and you can be gay even if you never ever once have a sexual experience.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Mine was — I’ll restate it again — is there a greater tendency for boys to experience pleasure during (male) sexual abuse because arousal tends to come easier for them, and if so, might the pleasure phenomenon have a role to play in later identification as homosexual (i.e., I kind of liked this so I must be gay)? I asked if there were any evidence to support such a hypothesis.

    I can’t speak definitively, but I do not think that there is a study that supports your hypothesis.

    I do know that some ex-gay ministries claim this and I think that if such a study existed that gave even the vaguest of support for this claim they would use it prominently. Currently they are going with Melissa Fryrear’s statement “I”ve never met a gay man or woman that wasn’t sexually abused as a child”. (It’s actually a lie – she’s met many).

  • Katie Cannon

    Hey Timothy,

    I’m not sure I understand your comments regarding “my” definition of gay, so didn’t address it.

    But I’d agree with your description of gay :)

    But don’t you think people, of all stripes — lay and professorial — sort veer between this broader notion of orientation and a reductionistic one in which who you have sex with (outside of prison) determines your orientation?

    Of course, lots of people would say the same thing about fantasy, or any other thing that might indicate that (especially) a man might have some homoerotic/sexual interest of some sort or another?

    I find that, at least in my generation, boys are heavily policed for any sign of anything other than perfect heterosexuality/hetero-eroticsim, and that few straight men readily admit that the reason they demand big penises in straight porn is because they actually look at them, cuz, well, that’s gay…..

    Debbie,

    About the different pushes and pulls girls as opposed to boys might experience, sure, I’d agree.

    I suspect, however, things are more complicated than that, and solidifying an identity is complicated.

    Like I could see that the mere fact that Rob was sexually abused by his mom might not have been enough to push him away from women.

    But throw in his beliefs about his penis, the way in which he eroticised his body, etc….. and it becomes a much more likely story to me — or at least I think so.

    Anyway, I’ve never believed I was simply born straight, period. And I’m still neurotic, so heterosexuality is certainly no cure of the neurotic :)

    And yeah, Rob seems pretty happy to have me. He’s pretty ok too.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Katie

    So there’s a difference, it seems to me, between attractions and compulsions, but I’m not at all sure the typical sex researcher who researches sexual orientation is controlling for this difference.

    I think that you’ll agree that those persons who suffer HOCD are extremely rare. As are heterosexual men with a fisting obsession.

    The likelihood of one of these persons being included in a study on sexual orientation is very slim. And even if they were, if the sample size is adequate, they’ll not materially skew the results.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Katie,

    I’m not sure I understand your comments regarding “my” definition of gay, so didn’t address it.

    It’s ok, I was responding to Debbie.

    But don’t you think people, of all stripes — lay and professorial — sort veer between this broader notion of orientation and a reductionistic one in which who you have sex with (outside of prison) determines your orientation?

    Well that’s probably because in most situations these are the same.

    But I think that is where the meanings of the words “gay” and “homosexual” diverge. For example, Ted Haggard is probably either homosexual or bisexual in orientation. But he’s not “gay” as most folks use the word.

    and that few straight men readily admit that the reason they demand big penises in straight porn is because they actually look at them, cuz, well, that’s gay…..

    Well, kinda. I think that it’s probably more because a larger penis is more of a penetration or perhaps violation (though that’s not quite the right word).

    But it is well known that for a long time straight porn did not use attractive men for exactly that reason, so that men didn’t have to worry about being attracted. As women became a part of the porn market, that changed. I think.

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    I’d like to hear how a boy who was sodomized would answer your questions and

    there are plenty enough women out there who experienced pleasure (enough so that you find in on any sexual abuse website) To what ratio it happens?? No one exactly knows. As Katie said and as you demonstrate – we do not live in an environment that is ready to discuss the issue.

    I think your notion that boys are more easily aroused is biased and very misguided and can cause harm to those with whom you interact.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I do know that some ex-gay ministries claim this and I think that if such a study existed that gave even the vaguest of support for this claim they would use it prominently. Currently they are going with Melissa Fryrear’s statement “I”ve never met a gay man or woman that wasn’t sexually abused as a child”. (It’s actually a lie – she’s met many).

    I haven’t heard of any ex-gay ministry making that claim, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Did Melissa really say that?

    Speaking of “gay”:

    Gay folk prefer it to the more clinical sounding “homosexual” primarily because they think that being gay is more than engaging in sex. It also involves love, family, culture, and community and you can be gay even if you never ever once have a sexual experience.

    Yeah, it’s all that, and even a political identity for some. I was aware of some of the earlier associations of the word gay, but it did not become the term célèbre it is today until sometime in the ’70s, as you say.

  • Mary

    In addition Debbie.

    To back up your own claims of generality and CSA – you cannot back up your own statment.

    My only purpose in contesting you was to make you aware that the pleasure issue happens enough that it is always mentioned in any book or website I have seen on CSA. You may have overlooked those parts. Perpetrators have used this as “evidence” that the abuse or sexual relationship was mutual. And that happens ALOT.

    Of course there are cases where CSA is violent and physically painful. I imagine a little boy who is raped by his father and his father’s friends or an older cousin would experience such pain – even though while at the same time expereincing an erection.

    I find your remark about girls and boys and generalties offensive, ignorant, and overall just plain arrogant. Thankfully, there are others with more experience who know better.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie,

    I think she has said it on every single instance that she’s made a presentation. It is a very big part of her explanation about homosexuality. Here are her exact words from a Love Won Out conference:

    “I can draw anecdotally from having been a part of an Exodus member ministry for almost a decade, and in those years having met hundreds of women with this struggle, I never met one woman who had not been sexually violated or sexually threatened in her life. I never met one woman. And I never met one man either, that had not been sexually violated or sexually seduced in his life.”

    Of course, she’s actually met many. Including some who become more than a little annoyed.

  • Mary

    If a girl experiences pleasure when being sexually abused by a male, it does not follow that she would identify as lesbian later.

    That’s a pretty bold statement. Do you have proof to back this up. I can totally see this happening. She may feel disgust at her own body or not want to re-experience sex with a man again because she feels her body betrayed her. She may feel more secure with women or feel that an area lacking abuse that is “innocent” is only with women. I can see so many scenarios where you are completely and without evidence on this statement. Clearly a bias.

  • Mary

    If a girl experiences pleasure when being sexually abused by a male, it does not follow that she would identify as lesbian later.

    Debbie? Are you saying that all a lesbian needs is an orgasm with a man to not be a lesbian? Is it really that simple for you?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Mary, please read that sentence in its context. I’ve said all I wish to say on the subject.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I think she has said it on every single instance that she’s made a presentation.

    Yeah, I read that on Box Turtle Bulletin. Don’t know why she would insist on claiming that. I hope she no longer does, but it’s been several years since I’ve talked with her.

  • Katie Cannon

    Debbie,

    Again, the issue of pleasure is a central topic in any support group for sexually abused adults I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across several. It’s central.

    Being that you work with this population, it would probably be worth your time to read up on this a bit.

    And because you brought up the issue of broadening the use of the word “incest” to include trusted friends, this issue dovetails with the pleasure issue.

    If a stranger rapes you, it’s much easier to say — “Wow, that was bad”.

    And being able to name the bad fucks with your head a lot less than not being able to.

    Seductive molestation is more likely to occur among family members and trusted friends, so then everything gets turned on it’s head — the good is bad, and the bad is good, or as Mary so eloquently put it, children will wring something good out of the most bitter fruit.

    Anyway, pleasure — important issue….

    Take care,

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Timothy,

    I don’t understand stats enough to know when a certain percentage becomes felt and when it doesn’t.

    But it seems we can at least wonder whether, if you take all the minority experiences out there, add them up…. what influence would they have?

    HOCD, fetishes, social anxiety, laziness, attachment disorders, curiosity, being experimental, Autism, sexual addictions, etc…. all reasons that a predominantly straight man might have for having sex with a man at least once. And any of them, when taken to the extreme, or if you pour alcohol on top, more than once.

    I don’t know?

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    Bisexual in what way?

    Simply having sex with both sexes?

    Katie

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    Perhaps. Maybe I could answer that question better if I understood what was meant by sexual fluidity? If that means simply being able to have sex with both sexes, or perhaps even being able to handle a romantic relationship with both sexes, then I don’t understand why the term bisexual wouldn’t be synonymous with fluidity couldn’t be used interchangeably with fluidity.

  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    In my experience, that type of bisexuality is rare — even among women, though many would say otherwise.

    While it seems to me the case that more women than men experience that type of bisexuality, there are also many “bisexual” women who seem to be bisexual in more typically “male” ways. And there are very few “bisexual” men who move from loving relationships with women — to men — to women….

    In my experience, “bisexuality” is often better called by another name: Maybe “trisexualtiy”, because many (don’t know that stats) “need” threesomes, or triangular relationships, more than that they happen to experience both men and women as cute.

    On the various groups I’ve been on for either “mixed orientation couples” or “bisexual” support groups, this is more the norm than sexual fluidity defined as the ability to bond sexually with either males or females within the bounds of a diadic relationship.

    Men tend to focus on body parts: Breasts vs. penises. Many of the women focus on “hard” and “soft” bodily attributes. And both experience men and women as “Completely Different” in their essence, such that both are “needed” in different ways, and if one is absent, then the “bisexual” feels “incomplete”. And having sex with only one of the sexes is considered a form of abstenance. Many express inner feelings of having “two compartments” — one that belongs to women, one that belongs to men. It’s not that EITHER men and women can fill the bill — it’s that NEITHER can.

    The type of bisexuality which you mean seems rare, though perhaps more common in women than men. And I would imagine that serial bisexuality is less relationally problematic, so that fewer people who experience fluidity show up in support groups for either mixed orientation couples or bisexuals.

    Still, I have little doubt that the assumption that women are more fluid than men is skewing just how both men and women experience their “bisexuality”. Tied to this, is the assumption that only men have fetishes, or create part objects.

    I’ve had long discussions with several psychologists about the whole issue of whether women have fetishes. No conclussion :)

    But, it seems to me that women do, though it might look a bit different than men. The image I get is that men create fetishes in a “slice and dice” way, while women do so in a way that looks more like those see-through books on the human body — where you lift off layers to reveal less and less of the total body.

    While men might create part-objects in a way that women don’t, they can still be pretty darn concrete — like the focus on the “hard” and “soft”, focus on difference at the expense of commonality and over-lap, etc…

    Anyway, sure there’s the type of bisexuality of which you speak.

    But I’m not sure how common it is, if it’s really more common in women than men, etc….

    And a lot of what’s being brought into the realm of bisexuality probably should be called by other things.

    Maybe there’s bisexuality and bisexual splitting — and because both involve having sex with both sexes, they look a lot alike on the surface.

    Katie

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie,

    Yeah, I wish Melissa would drop that claim. It’s very cruel to the parents sitting there thinking that their kid must have been molested and wondering who it was and why they didn’t know. But the last I heard it was still part of her presentation.

    On a side note, you inspired me to order After the Ball from a used book store. It’s been well over a decade since I read the book and have no idea where my copy went to but I found one online – five bucks for the original hardback – what a bargain.

    So far I’ve only read through the introduction and found myself surprised at how much has changed.

    Some of it was spot on. It was very difficult in the late 80′s with preachers calling AIDS a sign or God’s judgment and politicians running campaigns to legalize and encourage discrimination. I remember that I left a job in the aerospace industry in 1989 because I couldn’t advance without a security clearance.

    Other bits were terribly outdated. For example, it seems that Marshall and Kirk really did believe the 10% figure. I don’t recall when we realized that Kinsey’s estimate was probably exagerated, but I guess the community was still using 10% in the late 80′s.

    I’m sure that I’ll find the rest of the book a trip to another time.

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    Still, I have little doubt that the assumption that women are more fluid than men is skewing just how both men and women experience their “bisexuality”. Tied to this, is the assumption that only men have fetishes, or create part objects.

    I would probably agree with you :)

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Katie,

    HOCD, fetishes, social anxiety, laziness, attachment disorders, curiosity, being experimental, Autism, sexual addictions, etc…. all reasons that a predominantly straight man might have for having sex with a man at least once. And any of them, when taken to the extreme, or if you pour alcohol on top, more than once.

    That may well be why sex researchers don’t define “homosexual” as having had sex with a man. Orientation, as we discussed, is more closely tied to attraction. I think researchers on orientation issues try to eliminate predominantly straight men from thier “gay” sample.

    Epidemiologists and health researchers tend to steer away from orientation (and the related identity issues) and go with “men who have sex with men”. This recognizes that not all sexual behavior is strictly tied to orientation and for their purposes is preferable. They don’t care what your orientation is, they care about what parts you’re putting where.

    So research from a sexually transmitted disease point of view would include all of those reasons you listed while research from the point of view of orientation would not.

  • Katie Cannon

    What’s the general thinking now – if not 10% ?

    K.

  • Katie Cannon

    Timothy,

    So you think these studies are doing a good job of controlling for such factors?

    I haven’t read nearly the number of studies you have, but the ones I have read, it wasn’t at all clear to me that they are.

    K.

  • Mary

    Oh Debbie,

    You walk a fine line by saying the things you do. You words have been used as amunition by many a man to molest his daughter or other female children. Or in the words of Carter Heyward “Is that we all know that what a lesbian needs is a good fuck.”

    I would take Katie’s advice and read a little more on the subject before making some of the outrageous and harmful statments you make.

  • Mary

    And I did take it in the whole context you wrote it.

  • Jayhuck

    Katie,

    What’s the general thinking now – if not 10% ?

    My understanding is that the number is somewhere between 4-7%.

  • Eddy

    Mary–

    I haven’t been part of this conversation so forgive me if I’m out of line here. It appears to me that you didn’t take Debbie’s statement in context. “It does not follow” is an idiom…it speaks to an automatic cause and effect. A woman who experiences sexual arousal while being sexually abused by a male does not automatically become a lesbian. She certainly might but ‘it does not follow’ that she will. If the woman was sexually abused and also experienced no arousal, it would more likely follow that she would become a lesbian.(‘All men are worthless and selfish pigs.’) The woman who experiences arousal might better be able to determine that heterosexual sexual abuse is bad but heterosexual sex can be good. (‘Some men are pigs but not all.’)

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Mary – Please watch your tone. Also, to all commenters, profanity is not necessary to make the points.

    This can be a good discussion to learn from a variety of experiences if the tone remains respectful.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I’m sure that I’ll find the rest of the book a trip to another time.

    You will, no doubt, Timothy. But I’m betting you’ll also silently cheer the times they projected correctly.

    As for the errant 10 percent figure, Frank Kameny (remember him from the old homophile movement?) claims to have made it up, based on Kinsey’s work. That’s what he told The Blade a few years ago, anyway. Lawrence v. Texas attorneys held the figure was between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, or something like that.

    Also interesting in is a Time magazine review of “After the Ball’ back in 1989 that said many gays were not taking it seriously because they eschewed the blending in as normal recommendation and wanted to be accepted for their differences instead. It’s here, if you’re interested:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,958116-2,00.html

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Again, the issue of pleasure is a central topic in any support group for sexually abused adults I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across several. It’s central.

    Being that you work with this population, it would probably be worth your time to read up on this a bit.

    It’s interesting that I dealt more with sexual abuse when I was working with people suffering from depression and anxiety than I do now in working with SSA women. In my current group, which is still fairly small, only one other woman and I (2 out of’ 5) are survivors of CSA. She was forcefully molested by a group of older boys as a child — definitely not pleasurable — and I was molested by an older male cousin.

    This woman in my group dreams about having sex with men and would like to marry one day, but has had deep emotional and physical attachments with women only. My experience definitely messed with my head. Mary, listen to this: I wouldn’t call it pleasurable — he hurt me physically at one point — but I’d had a childish crush on him, and he seduced me through my curiosity. I truly did feel guilt over what I saw as my role in it. And I was awakened sexually at far too early an age.

    This discussion has been most interesting, and I think it will help with some of the group issues I will deal with in the future. Thanks, Katie.

  • Katie Cannon

    Hey Debbie,

    It might be of interest to you —

    Rob’s experience is that he immediately began what some call “acting out”. His recollection (for what it’s worth) is that the first time his mother did anything to him was when he was about 6 years old. The next day he got a neighbor girl to do the same thing.

    In Rob’s house, it was assumed that homosexuality was a sin, but much more was said about how sinful sex between men and women was a sin.

    His father used to announce that it was time to “beat that dirty horse” — and off to the bedroom his parents would go.

    His mother repeatedly questioned Rob and his brother about whether they were “doing things to each other”. The main memories Rob has is of the times his mother involved Rob and his sister at the same time. Not surprisingly, Rob and his sister hated each other, though played sexualized peeka-boo games.

    It seems to me that when people begin talking about how sexual abuse does or doesn’t affect sexual development, they focus too much on the actual sexual abuse. But in families where there’s incest, so much more is going on as well.

    Weird, distorted, sexual vibes 24/7.

    I don’t know. Just seems to me that children need an environment in which their own personal idiom has at least a crack or two in which to take hold. I don’t think Rob, and lots of others, had the chance to establish a personal idiom — too much intrusion and control from all sides — in a way that permeated the air, rather than specific, time-bound, acts.

    Take care,

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    It seems to me that when people begin talking about how sexual abuse does or doesn’t affect sexual development, they focus too much on the actual sexual abuse. But in families where there’s incest, so much more is going on as well.

    Oh, absolutely. The sordid secrets family members feel compelled to keep do a lot of damage in their own right. And trust is nowhere to be found, as well as healthy boundaries. The stories are heart-wrenching. A very serious impact is the development of dissociative identity disorders.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I meant to add, Katie, that acting out sexually was also a part of my childhood journey.

  • Katie

    This probably isn’t the place for it, but I was scanning old threads (if that’s what they’re called in a blog), and came across stuff about how brain scans show that men gay men’s brains are more different than straight men’s brains — but not so in women.

    I think I read recently that scientists now know that both white and grey matter has it’s communication system, and that what was once considered scaffolding is more than that? Has anyone else read this?

    Rob’s experience is that when he’s feeling competent, good, etc…. he feels heterosexual, including spontaneous erections when fantasizing about women.

    But when he doesn’t feel so positive, then he begins to feel anxiety, and part of the way the anxiety expresses itself is through anal sensations. When this happens, he obsesses about sex with men.

    If he spontaneously eroticises his penis, then his thoughts and fantasies are about women. When it comes to actually having sex though, he’s historically frozen inwardly.

    Like many sexually abused men, he feels his penis is numb, or goes numb. He’s actually sometimes convinced that he broke it when he was young, like you can break a leg.

    And he’s no dummy. It’s funny how even smart people can be convinced that fears are true, even when they’re stupid.

    Anyway, I’d imagine his brain scans would look different than your typical hetero male, though in what way I have no idea.

    And while I think the penile bloodflow studies wouldn’t capture Rob if done only once — if given a chance, I’d still hook him up :) If for no other reason than to have something else to obsess about.

    Katie

  • Katie

    Hey Debbie,

    Have you been able to feel how the acting out feels different than other stuff?

    I mean, can you clearly distinguish acting out impulses with ones that have more to do with the here and now?

    Katie

  • Evan

    @Katie

    The scaffolding is made of glial cells/glia, they support neurons. What’s the connection with sexual abuse?

    Beth Steven from NIH did a study in 2003 on CNS development and plasticity, where she talks about glia-neurons and glia-glia communication.

    ==========

    The studies that used brainscans showed some differences between lesbian and straight women too, besides those found in men. The Savic study is a landmark in the field, in my opinion, you should check it out. There is another one published by PloSONE, in which another team found lesbian women had less grey matter than straight women in a zone from the medial temporal lobe involved in visual memory (the perirhinal cortex). Ivanka Savic found straight male-typical connectivity in lesbians’ brains in the amygdala and a similar asymmetry in some hemispheric areas (not all). So there really are cross-sex shifts in both sexes of the same orientation. We’ll see how inborn or nurtured they are at some point. Or if they mean people on extreme sides are unable of feelings for the opposite-sex.

    It’s interesting what you wrote about Rob’s case. Anxiety could have the effect that you mentioned. I wrote a message on one of THrockmorton’s topics where I speculated that hyperreactivity in a component of the stress system may be responsible with anal sensitivity in men. It’s been already proven in rats, with corticosterone-induced anxiety. Last time I’ve heard there was a team from the USA who studied this on veterans with or w/o PTSD. So it might be a valid connection, that stress could contribute to atypical function in a man’s sexual organs too (the fixation on the prostate that you mentioned). Or it could be a normal variation that goes largely unrecognised, because of cultural pressures. Anyway, your approach shows how necessary some qualitative studies are to bring some less known facts to the surface.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie

    I’m sure that I’ll find the rest of the book a trip to another time.

    You will, no doubt, Timothy. But I’m betting you’ll also silently cheer the times they projected correctly.

    I will be greatful for the positive changes that have occurred since that time.

    As for the errant 10 percent figure, Frank Kameny (remember him from the old homophile movement?) claims to have made it up, based on Kinsey’s work. That’s what he told The Blade a few years ago, anyway. Lawrence v. Texas attorneys held the figure was between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, or something like that.

    Kameny was quite the pioneer. He was at the President’s signing of itsy-bitsy changes in federal benefits (mostly relocation costs) as a symbol of change from the days in which he was fired from his mapping job.

    Also interesting in is a Time magazine review of “After the Ball’ back in 1989 that said many gays were not taking it seriously because they eschewed the blending in as normal recommendation and wanted to be accepted for their differences instead. It’s here, if you’re interested:

    Yep. Attitudes certainly were different then. At that time radicals, having given up hope for assimilation, were taking pride in difference. I think it shows maturity that over time the organizations and leaders who found support from gays were those who sought inclusion and assimilation based on rights and equality.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Lawrence v. Texas attorneys held the figure was between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, or something like that.

    That would be an underestimate, I believe. The CDC survey shows that whether you define orientation by desire, by identity, or by behavior, at least 4% of men and women are gay or bisexual.

    Studies range from as low as 1 or 2 percent to as high as 17 percent, but most fluctuate right in that 4-7% range that Jayhuck mentioned.

  • Mary

    Debbie,

    I do not doubt nor find it “highly questionable” that you and other girls who were molested felt physical and emotional pain. The stories, while they are difficult to hear or read, come in all forms. Children endure a lot and the stories of CSA should be taken seriously and never dismissed. They are very personal stories of individuals who found ways of learning to cope with bad circumstances.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Have you been able to feel how the acting out feels different than other stuff?

    I mean, can you clearly distinguish acting out impulses with ones that have more to do with the here and now?

    To be clear, that was a very long time ago, in my childhood. So, the “here and now” was the “there and then.” It occurred mostly with my brothers, one in particular. I am not aware of any such impulses in my life today. There may have been some acting out impulses in my earlier adult life.

  • Katie Cannon

    Evan,

    Thanks for the response.

    I wasn’t attempting a connection with child sex abuse — sorry, my thoughts wander sometimes.

    Except to this extent: It seems that trauma also has an impact on the brain that can be researched through scans, and I was wondering if the areas of the brain affected by trauma has any overlap in with the brain areas you mentioned?

    Anyway, is glia to glia communication as well understood as the other? Is it picked up through scans or EEG’s? etc.?

    That’s interesting what you said about anxiety and anal sensations. I’ve always just assumed that it was bodily traumatic memories — which it probably is as well.

    Or at least gets hooked up to those memories. He finds the sensations extraordinarily pronounced, more pronounced than I would imagine the sphincter muscles are actually capable of producing. I asked him once what happens if he just goes with it and observes what happens over time. The thought had never even occurred to him, those addictive reactions have been immediate, without ever stepping back and observing. He experiences it as having a strong vacuum deep inside his bowels, so not sure it’s all that connected to the prostrate.

    It’s been hugely beneficial for him to talk about this stuff after so many years. An interesting side-effect has been that, whereas he’s picked the skin on his arms for years, he spontaneously stopped when all this came out 3 1/2 years ago. By “came out” I mean that he began talking — not that he recovered memories. The memories, in his case, have always been there, just never talked about.

    Off to check out the link.

    Thanks for the info.

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Mary and Debbie,

    Do both of you feel that your sexual abuse histories are implicated in your SSA?

    Katie

  • Katie Cannon

    Debbie,

    Ah, I haven’t communicated with a woman who still feels like she acts out. I’m sure there are women who continue well into their adult-hood, just haven’t communicated with any.

    Men…. different story.

    Katie

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Do both of you feel that your sexual abuse histories are implicated in your SSA?

    I do. I just don’t know to what extent. Other factors had a bearing, too.

  • Mary

    Katie,

    Mine is a series of events and circumstances. The CSA has made healing from SSA difficult – it has been an impediment. While I am not attracted to women per se anymore, and I have ample opportunity to date men, I find myself seeing men through the childs lense. I would attribute other factors in my FOO also to the SSA as well as biological attributes in my temperment.

  • Katie Cannon

    Mary,

    FOO ? Sorry, don’t know all the shorthands…

    Rob also has a tendency to see women through a child’s lense — the “She who must be Obeyed”….

    Same with men. I found his profiles on the hookup sites. So very peculiar, a naive child with freckles asking for pretty outrageous sexual acts.

    He’s a very successful attorney, but even at 55 tends to collect mentors and other father figures.

    He’s a cutey though. It’s funny I can write and talk about all this stuff about him while at the same time having just a warm feeling in my heart about him. I’ve gotten over the shock and pain, and now see most of the stuff that goes on with him as sort of goofy.

    I still have my moments of worrying I’m marrying a gay man who will eventually leave the closet, or that he’ll begin having sex with men again, gay or not, but mostly I trust my instincts.

    On the male support groups, what seems the most helpful tactic some are able to take is to not worry about their sexual orientation, but to nurture the ability to relate intimately with others — the rest seems to fall into place more or less.

    My father was physically abusive. I clearly remember times in my life where I asked myself if men was really what I wanted. At those times, women felt more open to me as a possibility. But then it feels like I just sort of made up my mind, and foreclosed lesbian possibilities, so that today the idea is pretty icky. Though I do still envy aspects of lesbianism, like the break from all things phallic.

    Of course with Rob, I wouldn’t mind a little more phallic focus :)

    Back to the lense of the child: More than anything, I think I was angry at Rob when I first found out about the sex with men because I put my hopes in him as the good father I never had. I wanted to break his neck for not being that.

    I’ve slowly allowed him to father me again, little by little.

    BTW, his sex with men was before I met him, but while he was married to his ex. Once he got into AA, it pretty much stopped, except for twice without alcohol. He quit drinking 5 years before I met him.

    Still, I was furious with him for not being more perfect.

    Take care,

    Katie

    Katie

  • Evan

    Katie

    Yes, they can be shaped by trauma. The amygdala regions can be shaped by many factors and trauma is one of them. Last year I saw a large database that some people from the Harvard keep with these size differences in the Amy based on sex, age and other variables like health status (If I remember well..). They show very clear differences due to each of these factors, which proves that it’s not a static structure and it can be impacted by a combination of factors, even during one’s lifetime. Women and men use it differently to encode emotional memory and to experience it (women on the left, men on the right). Bilateral lesions are known to lead to abnormal, indiscriminate sexual behaviour. Obviously, they play a mediating role in sexual arousal sparked by what people see. A study done in the Reber lab by a team headed by MJ Bailey found that gay men have a stronger reaction in those areas than straight men when viewing the sexual images they like. So it seems that all these findings are starting to converge on at least one area of interest. I think it all started to emerge more clearly from Stephen Hamann’s research in the area of sex differences in emotional cognition (men and women come from different planets, in terms of emotional living, according to him).

    On asymmetry, which is not directly involved in sex stuff, you might be interested in this comment I wrote on another topic.

    No idea how well understood is glia-glia communication. I mostly studied brain research inasmuch as it had a practical conclusion, didn’t go to cell or molecular level, though there is some practical stuff out of that area too (for people who take medications or drugs). It pays to be superficial out of profundity.

  • Jayhuck

    Evan,

    Forgive me for picking just this one sentence out of an earlier post, but you said:

    I speculated that hyperreactivity in a component of the stress system may be responsible with anal sensitivity in men.

    I’m curious what you mean by “anal sensitivity” and what, if anything, it has to do with gay men.

  • Jayhuck

    My bad Evan – you spoke of anal sensitivity in men – you didn’t say “gay” men. I still wonder though if that was implied.

  • Katie Cannon

    Evan,

    Do you know if bilateral lesians are associated with trauma?

    Rob has two siblings with sever Autism — no language development at all. Of course, while they’d probably still be Autistic to a degree, growing up with his parents didn’t help matters a lot.

    But I’ve wondered if Rob might not also be somewhat affected by Autism.

    K.

  • Katie Cannon

    Jayhuck,

    It does seem to me that among men who have sex with men (so not necessarily gay) that there’s an imbalance between those who either are the doer or will go either way, and the guys who definitely want only to be the done.

    I’m going on things like the AOL hookup sites, Craigslist, etc…. so a promiscuous, and probably not completely gay group.

    And on the support sites for bisexual men, it’s a huge surprise to learn a man wants to be the doer when he’s with men.

    Rob has said that one of the things about sex with men is that he “doesn’t have to do anything” — I’m pretty sure he means sexually, but also socially, just punch a key, and free sex. No dating, no talking, no doing.

    My gay friends, on the other hand, seem to like to date :)

    K.

  • Mary

    Katie,

    FOO = Family Of Origin.

  • Evan

    @Katie

    Do you know if bilateral lesians are associated with trauma?

    None that I’ve heard of. It’s usually about serious injury, disease – sclerosis, tumors, Alzheimer’s, stroke, etc. Some causes are unknown.

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  • http://trinidadsdagay.blogspot.com T.A.G?!

    Also you might want to ask:

    How is it that child sexual abuse perpetrated by a male on a girl can maker her turn out to be a lesbian (that is try to avoid intimacy with men) but cause a boy to turn out gay?

    Wouldn’t he reasonably try to avoid men also?

    Because many who hold this view also hold that a mother who is too intimate with her son can drive him into the arms of men (I have heard the term “emotional incest”).

    As an aside, we have not figured out yet what to do with lesbians. They don’t show nearly the same patterns as men with SSA do (fraternal birth order etc.).


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