Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men, written by psychoanalyst Richard B. Gartner, PhD is a fascinating look into the therapy process of men who were sexually abused as boys.
In chapter two, Encoding Sexual Abuse of Boys, sexual seduction by older women is explored, asking the question, “Are boys in charge of sex with women?” As example, a scene is described in which a teenager is seduced by his babysitter, a woman in her twenties.
Gartner writes, “Imagine for a moment that the sexes are reversed…For most of us, the joke is suddenly no longer funny. We understand that young girls should not be in bed with their babysitters, and we would consider the man the predator and the girl the victim…This imaginary reversal of the sexes highlights our double standard about sexual abuse.”
The next chapter asks Can Women Rape Boys?
In addition to Gartner’s book on sexual psychology, I researched California Penal Code from the late 1970s and realized what I experienced was considered felony statutory sexual seduction of a minor. If you are under eighteen and the perpetrator twenty-one or older the violation is elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony.
In other words, a teenage boy could not consent to sex with a woman in her twenties; as was my case. The penalty being up to four years in state prison and having to register as a sex offender once released.
“She was playing adult games with my teenage life. My parents and anyone who knew did nothing. A police officer talked with me about it, but without charges filed by my parents there wasn’t much he could do.”
(from the forthcoming memoir Small Town Seduction)
There are two well known stories of older women having sexual relationships with teenage boys: Pamela Smart and Mary Kay Letourneau.
Spin magazine shocked readers with an expose on Letourneau, in Statutory Rape: A Love Story, asking “How can we reconcile the soft-spoken church-going mother with a woman capable of wanting, pursuing and having sex with a teenager?”
Last year, Pamela Smart, in a jailhouse interview broadcast on cable television, still acted as if having sex with a teenager was no-big-deal; despite the fact she altered three boy’s lives.
More-recently, actor Jimmy Bennett claimed actress Asia Argento (who played his mother in a movie) assaulted him in a hotel room when he was seventeen. Bennett stated publicly that he “was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative. At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
We’ve all read headlines exposing female teachers and older women caught seducing teenage boys. It’s in the public conscience now.
My experience did not involve murder or a teacher, but I was a teenager and she a much-older married woman. Despite our age difference, her husband, or two young daughters, and knowing I was gay, she decided we would be married and it would change my sexual preference.
This all began in a Pentecostal church. In fact, her husband was my Sunday school teacher and youth pastor. I’d been to their home, where he counseled me.
That Spin article also states, “A 1997 study indicates that a victim – a boy who believes he consented – is likely to have a long-term positive assessment of the sexual relationship.” This was not the case with me because I had already identified as gay.
In a YouTube video for Vera Institute of Justice, “one of the world’s most-prominent and respected psychoanalytic training centers,” Richard Gartner discusses similarities (or traits) found among men sexually abused as boys.
These include anxiety and depression along with trust issues, have a tendency to stay away from children, develop a tough exterior persona (to mask victimization); and how those able to seek treatment are more successful at overcoming sexual abuse.
To watch Understanding the Aftereffects of Boyhood Sexual Abuse click here.