In today’s world, with different stratifications for each and everyone, there will always be someone having the greater power over the other. Misuse of the said power often leads to the weaker one being manipulated and coerced by the stronger one into doing things the former would not want to do. This often leads to abuse of the weaker group. Abuse comes in different forms. It may be physical, verbal, emotional and sexual among different other forms. It also has been said that one form of abuse often leads to another.
The focus of this paper is on sexual abuse particularly for males. In a world where patriarchy is prevalent, male sexual abuse seems to be preposterous if not impossible. Males had always been seen as the stronger one, the one in power. Females had always been the underdog, the one who is abused. This is the reason why a male victim sounds or seems absurd. Especially when the issue at hand is sexual abuse. A good example will be on rape which is usually associated with sexual abuse.
Reported cases on rape always had female victims. Even the law against rape did not recognize for the longest time that there might be male rape victims. For most people, male are the perpetrators and females are the victims. But as what would be seen in the following paragraphs, there is such a thing as male sexual abuse—that this has occurred during previous times and that this has been more disturbing for the male victims as we locate them in the larger society we are living in.
More often than not, male sexual abuse is common (although most have been unreported) among male children. Of course, there might be cases on adult male sexual abuse but previous researches, as well as this paper, will have to focus more with the male child sexual abuse. As defined by Richard Gartner in his book, Betrayed as Boys (2001), sexual abuse is consisting of sexual behavior by which the abuser takes advantage…of a dependent or vulnerable victim in order to satisfy the former’s needs (Gartner, 2001:15).
When someone close to the victim is involved as the perpetrator of this abuse, the abuse leaves a feeling of sexual betrayal which was said to be “…a violation of implicit or explicit trust (Gartner, 2001:14). This betrayal, as what we will see on the latter part of the paper is something that the child carries all his life. Thus, sexual abuse, especially for children experiencing it, will always leave a negative imprint not only on the mind of the child but his whole being.
As mentioned in his book, Gartner observes that the usual reaction for a sexual abuse involving a child is that it appears to be consensual although this is impossible since “.. children do not have the capacity to give informed consent…not developmentally capable of considering or comprehending the emotional implications of sexual behavior with an adult…” (Gartner, 2001:15). With this, it is important to note that sexual abuse is true on sexual acts between children and people if the people or perpetrator involved have power over the child victim.
This is not to say that we are undermining the thinking or rational capabilities of the child. It is just that in this world governed by social stratifications and the powerful over the powerless, it could be said that with sexual act being committed by adult perpetrator to children, it is definitely the children who is defenseless and has no choice over his fate on the act. Therefore, the argument that it may have been consensual is near impossibility. Male child sexual abuse has often been believed to exist only with the present time. But as what we could see throughout history, it has occurred during the Classical times.
As explained by Louis Crompton in his book, Homosexuality and Civilization, there were abundant accounts of homosexual love (Crompton, 2006:1-2). The belief was that this homosexual love particularly focusing on males were only evident on the small elite but as was pointed out, “…it was pervasive throughout all levels of Greek society and held a honored place in Greek culture for more than a thousand years, that is, from before 600 BCE to about 400 CE…” (Crompton, 2006:2). This honorific state for homosexual love is something that lead to it being quite the norm in the Classical Greek society.
The fact that it has stayed within the society in a longer period as indicated earlier would tell us that, society never put a stop on it. Because if this was indeed something that violates any Greek law or norms, it would not have occurred and pass through generations and that there will be reported cases of it being reprimanded. But homosexual love was indeed, if not glorified, tolerated and accepted by the Greeks. Homosexual love, we could say, is just the tip of the iceberg, of our topic. Love between males occur but “love” between an adult and younger man is a different one.
Usually, in Classical Greece, the common term used for this is pederasty. Pederasty or paiderastia in Greek term is “…a relation between an older male and someone younger, usually youth between the ages of fourteen and twenty…” (Crompton, 2006:3-4). The two people in the relationship is the older male who is the lover and is called erastes while the younger one who is the beloved or eromenos (Crompton, 2006; Bloch:2001). This relationship has been evident on works of art such as drawings on vases and ceramics as well as in Greek literary works.
On the general Greek society, relationship is often viewed as that of a mentor and a student.. Thus, there would always be a sense of familiarity between the erastes and eromenos. This knowledge of the person whom we view as the perpetrator of the abuse is something that is not always true with the sexual abuse cases of today. At present time, persons outside the family or even strangers commits the act of sexual abuse. On the other hand, perpetrators of the crime nowadays also are those whom the victim knows of. This is the reason why there’s an issue of sexual betrayal.
Meanwhile, going back to the relationship being shared, it would always start with the purpose of mentoring the child. As we know, Greek society values only the men in the society. Women are not seen as equal of men. Thus, mentoring is done within males only. Thus, the relationship of the erastes and the eromenos might have been, at first, on the intellectual and philosophical sphere but then after sometime, it is through the initiation of the adult male to show his affection on the younger boy. Thus, it could be inferred that the affection was not forced unto him.
What was distinct with the Classical Greek is that some texts says that the eromenos would always have a choice to go with his lover or not. With this matter upon consideration, how do we know that the sexual act committed is abusive to the boy or not? It has not always been of pure affection from the erastes but there will always be an abuse on the part of the eromenos. As clearly stated by Bloch (2001:183), what “…happens between an adult and younger man is not always in an honorific state…”. The main claim of the Greek society is that love only if the boy is at prebuscent age on which he is somewhat old enough to think for himself.
As pointed out, “…the boy was loved from pubescence, at age 14, to the beard, appearing …or somewhere around 21… never …of children of tender age, but always of boys who are sexually matured…who have reached the age of puberty…” (Janssen, 2004:46). But as pointed out by both Bloch (2001) and Janssen (2004), this was not always the case. There were boys as young as 7 years old being “courted” already. Or as more aptly put, “… [buggery of boys in Greece / Rome] occurred only at “adolescence” is quite mistaken.
It began around age seven, continued for several years and ended by puberty, when the boy’s facial and pubic hairs began to appear…” (Janssen, 2004:49). It was often noted that attractiveness of eromenos would always depend on their sexual immaturity and that they do not show signs of adulthood. This could be a reason why there is really a possibility of choosing a beloved at an early age and not the “legal” age of 12-16.
Another thing that could be the basis of the abuse is the claim indicated by Bloch (2001:184) on which, “…Many a boy may have been given by his father to whatever man could benefit the father as well as the boy… and that “…pederasty functioned to support the family and the continued primacy of masculine values and ethics…” (Janssen, 2004:49) leaving the young child defenseless of the situation.
So it could be said that even if the eromenos is at an age when he could think of himself, he is still powerless in terms of how the family decides on his fate. It might have been the case that putting him in the “care” of this particular mentor would have been of great help to his whole family. Or that it would be beneficial to be the “beloved” of this certain person.
This is the time that we could see how abusive the relationship is as the young boy is caged within his circumstances and that there won’t be any way to avoid the said abuse. Also, as general life was shown in art and literary works, so is the sexual abuse brought about by pederasty and the “mentorship” or “courtship” that happened between the young boy and the adult man. There were a few examples for the matter at hand because we have to keep in mind that most of the works especially the literature are coming from the adult man or the erastes themselves (Bloch, 2001).
With this said, it should be indicated that unlike the present times, there were no exact reports, even literary works written to have conveyed any message of sexual abuse. This could be with the fact that the mentors or adult themselves had the control of the written works and that there was no opportunity for the young man to take into written account is abuse. Also, once he grow up, since this type of “relationship” is far-deep inculcated in the society, that if they had the opportunity to write, it will be less likely, if not, on a negative note because this is something that was tolerated within the larger Greek society.
Nevertheless, there are still a few recount from the vases and ceramics such as stated by Crompton (2006:15) which are, “…Tomb of the Diver… engaged in a lively flirtation: a handsome bearded young man smile, fascinated, into the eyes of the youth who lies beside him, pulling him closer for a kiss, which the young man resists…” and “…On another vase, a boy raises his head to receive a kiss from a handsomely coifed youth, …Occasionally, the boy. extends his arm to discourage the advance.
Other boys respond eagerly:some leap up to kiss taller man…” . From these examples, it could be seen that there are occasional acceptance of what was being done. But major theme is that there is restraint from the younger men and that he refuses such advances from the older men. This is why it is considered as abusive as there is refusal and restraint from the eromenos. It is important to note however that sexual abuse during this time is not as petty as the examples on these work of art.
As implicated by Bloch (2001:183), “…pederasty posed a serious problem for boys, that it did not simply involve pleasant physical and emotional contact with men, but also deeply traumatic experiences…”. And as explained further by Janssen (2004), the fact on having slow puberty or what we often refer to in the present times as late-blooming is a sign of the traumatic experience the young boy might have had. The trauma experience or the psychological retardation is something that had been an effect of severe abuse.
It is also important to note that there is again an issue of power relations during this time of pederasty in Classical Greece. Greeks saw this as vital to their society as they had been patriarchal and that there was what some scholars have bluntly referred to as fear of woman or “…It may be reasoned that “this [universal] sexual abuse of boys and young men by older men (who had themselves been abused) reflected a desired gender reversal designed to subsume women’s feared powers and increase male control…” (Janssen, 2004:48).
As with the case of the relationship shared by the erastes and the eromenos, it was pointed out by Bloch (2001:184), that “…Greek sexuality was based upon a fundamental distinction between an “active” dominant partner and a “passive” submissive one…never conceived of sex as a mutually satisfying experience shared by equal partners…”. Thus, it could be said that the passive partner who is the child is abused in terms of the power relationship being used against him in the situation.
This follows what was earlier discussed in terms of having the issue of power relations when it comes to sexual abuse. This had been true even with the claim of courtship and choice available for younger boys during the classical times. Qualification of the eromenos is the same as what pedophiles are looking for as their victims (Gartner, 2001:99). Victims of pedophile might be a female or a male.
On the other hand, a focus on the boys as victims wherein pedophile could be seen as, “…Pedophiles preying on boy victims often report that they are uninterested in or repulsed by adult homosexual relationships and are attracted to young boys’ feminine characteristics and absence of such secondary sexual characteristics as body hair…” (Gartner, 2001:99). As said, this is similar with that of the qualifications of the Greek albeit pedophilia is something considered as a psychological illness. On the other hand, Spiegel (2003:29) gives us a background view on who are these pedophiles in general.
He described that pedophiles who prefer male children are, “…display significantly weaker ego structures…aligning with the boy at his developmental level…thus, ultimately personifying the role of the child…”. This background of Spiegel is compared with those committing incest as they are more likely to make the child in an adult state rather than getting themselves to be younger and in line with the child as compared with the pedophile. With this, it could be further analyzed that there is something with the psychological make-up of the pedophiles and how they are gaining sexual gains from the younger child.
As again pointed out by Gartner (2001:99), this is an issue of power relations as, “… [pedophilia]… not primarily expressions of sexual desire but rather are abuses of power and expressions of aggression…”. They also are keen on choosing whoever is available or vulnerable to them (Gartner, 2001:99). He even compared its similarity with the Classical Greece in that, “…congruent with the classical Greek concept of sexuality…in which sexual penetration was a means of further establishing the dominance of the penetrator over the person being penetrated…” (Gartner, 2001:99).
These things said, we are back to the main idea that sexual abuse is a power-related issue and the mere fact that the pedophile chooses over the seemingly vulnerable younger kids shows that this is indeed an abuse of power of sexual perpetrator. It is still evident in today’s society that there are still cases of male sexual abuse and it has been rampant although unreported.
In a literature review of Holmes and Slap (1998:1855), it was said that boys are “…less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of the fear of retribution, the social stigma against homosexual behavior, the desire to appear self-reliant, and the concern about loss of independence following disclosure…”. They are still confined with this issue at hand. In their report, certain characteristics of victims were mentioned such that, “Boys who were nonwhite, lived only with their mothers, or lived with no parents were at increased risk for sexual abuse…” (Holmes et al, 1998:1856).
This was further supported by Spiegel by saying that, …boys who experience childhood sexual abuse are more likely than nonabused boys to reside in a single-parent household or a reconstructed household with parents who are separated or divorced…there are more absent biological mothers, more absent biological fathers, larger families of origin, more frequent relocations, and more children in foster care…” (Spiegel, 2003:16-18). Thus, with these simple characteristics, it is often noted that male sexual abuse victims are often came from the inferior and deviant institutions such as one-parent family (as compared with the “normal” family).
They are also from what is considered as inferior groups such as the poor and from the inferior or seen to be inferior races. Focusing on nonwhite males being abused, this further supports the idea that race could somewhat be of correlation to the incidence of abuse. It was further said that, “…nonwhite males were more likely to be abused than white males…One study suggested that black males were less likely to be abused by females than white males…” (Holmes et al, 1998:1858). We could infer from these observations that indeed, race could be a factor for the choosing the victim.
And perpetrator, if not of the same race, could be more likely of what the society perceives as the “greater” or “higher” race which are the whites. They are seen to be of power than the nonwhites or the blacks that they could easily go on abusing those “under” them. Another issue that might be connected with this is that perception on race would also be related with the socio-economic classes particularly the quality of living. On the one hand, there might be or there will always be exception to the rules. But in general, whites are often perceived to be economically stable than the blacks or nonwhites.
Thus, in the greater scheme of things, not only do they have the power, but they are also in a better position in the society economically as compared to the nonwhites. With this loss for the nonwhites even if this is just mere perception or prejudice, they are often placed lower than the whites and thus, vulnerable or more available for sexual abuse. This claim supports and at the same time, supported by what Holmes et al (1998:1859) commented as an association between socioeconomic status and male sexual abuse…that sexual intercourse prior to age 10 years was associated with low socioeconomic status…”.
Other issues involving ethnicity and race is with regards to Hispanics. It was said that, “…non-Hispanics had a higher sexual abuse rate than Hispanics…” (Holmes et al, 1998:1857). On the other hand, this issue will still be the same for the Hispanics with regards to increase of the age of the male victim on which, “…weapons were used in 10%of the abuse events of black and Hispanic adolescent boys. Threats of physical force or harm increased with victim age and male perpetration…” (Holmes et al, 1998:1859).
It could be inferred that as there might have been chances for adolescent boys to fight back as compared with the male kids, it is important to note that certain stereotypes of not being afraid to fight back (especially for the Blacks) of certain groups are working on the mechanisms being done by the perpetrator. As we have seen with the previous paragraphs, there had been an issue of power relations with regards to sexual abuse. Not only the presence of physical and sexual abuse were there, there was also the abuse of power from the perpetrator.
Different types and kinds of perpetrators of male sexual abuse have been present as of the current time. There were several news of priests molesting altar boys and even female perpetrators. On a more general note, it was said in the study that there are variations within the male sexual abuse—on both victims and perpetrators. It was noted that there are more male perpetrators for the younger victims and increase on both male and female perpetrators seen with male adolescents (Holmes et al, 1998:1860). It was also noted that there are those abused by family members, others extrafamilial, even strangers.
These are the certain patterns for the perpetrators of the sexual abuse. On the following paragraph, the focus will be on the female perpetrator. Since the experience of the sexual abuse was during their childhood, over time, the male victim, “revise their perceptions as they age such that abusive sexual experiences with females become defined, retrospectively, as normative rather than abusive…” (Holmes et al, 1998:1857). It seems that this type of act seems tolerable if done with females and would even be considered a rite of passage rather than abuse.
Female perpetrators are described as “younger than their male counterpart…more likely to offend against younger counterpart…” (Spiegel, 2003:16). Holmes et al (1998) also pointed out that the strategy of females on luring their victim is that, “…used persuasion rather than actual or threatened force in 91% of cases, and 26% promised special favors to boys for participation…”. Also, not all who experienced abuse from female perpetrators had not viewed the incidence as an abuse but of something positive.
This must be due to the patriarchal society we are in on which males get to view themselves as having the power over females and that there is nothing negative with what happened, even abuse was not a word they could associate with the incidence. In this case, this was only true with regards to reaching an older age although things were surely different when males of younger age were abused by female penetrators as this might have involved some betrayal that would be more traumatic for the victim.