Resources, personal stories, communication techniques, and strategies for survivors of sexual abuse who are ready to break free from the past and return to their genuine self.
August 10, 2015
Does Being Abused Impact a Man's Sexual Orientation?
Today, we continue our series from David Pittman of Together We Heal! --
a writer, sometimes I struggle ad nauseum over ways to adequately
express my thoughts and feelings. So when I finally think of a way to
get my point across, I have to jot it down, no matter where I am or
what time it is. As I type this, it's a little after 2 am.
Thankfully, I have an amazingly patient wife who understands my writing
process and at what odd hours it may choose to show itself.
I was listening to one of the late-night talk shows, a lesbian author
was droning on and on about all things lesbian. So I asked myself, “Why
does it seem like when someone who is gay comes 'out', all it seems like
they talk about is being gay, or being lesbian, or gay this or gay
that, on and on until my head feels like it's going to explode with
rainbow chiffon?!” And truthfully I was about to change the channel when
it dawned on me how I was being a bit judgmental.
…ok, over-the-top, pompous-ass, judgmental. Totally owning my own shortcomings here.
I paused for a moment to think deeper, why indeed does this observation
appear to have some merit? After I came down from my pearly loft, I
began to apply my own experiences in order to walk a mile in her shoes.
much consideration and empathetic thinking, I realized that this
person, much like myself, had her deepest emotions and feelings
suppressed, smashed down and stomped on for the majority of her life.
I'm guessing she had kept her true self bottled up for decades. So when
FINALLY she was able to speak her truth, to be herself, it was like
lifting the cover off Old Faithful after having been sealed for 100
years…it's going to EXPLODE with anything and everything that has been
held down all this time.
I bring this up now
because I feel like at times, that childhood sexual abuse is all I talk
about. Maybe that's what others think also. And maybe some of those
around me, like I was about to do to this girl on TV, would like to
change MY channel.
But here's the thing, what I
have in common with this young lady, is the knowledge that too many
others out there are still struggling in silence and just need a little
nudge by someone like us. Someone who is willing to talk about what
we've been through, what we struggle with and how we might give them the
opportunity to have their own freedom, healing and hope.
with that being said, if you have a problem with me talking “too much”
about childhood sexual abuse…guess what? The problem is yours, not ours.
As victims of sexual abuse, we didn't have anyone talking about this
when we were kids. If we had, maybe our lives might not have been as
screwed-up. And maybe if this young lady speaking helps another young
lesbian to find her voice, then good on her. And good on us for letting
others know they are not alone.
There's a reason I began with this anecdote and unusually long preface and it will be revealed as we move forward.
Which brings us finally to a topic that I don't feel or think is covered often enough, ESPECIALLY with male survivors … sexuality.
life when myself and many fellow male survivors grew up, seeing a TV
show today featuring homosexual and lesbian lead actors is not only no
longer taboo, it's become quite the "norm". Back in the 60's, 70's and
even into the 80’s, the topic of homosexuality was simply not up for
discussion. And IF anything was said about it, it happened behind closed
doors, with hushed voices and usually derogatory language.
The reason I bring this up is how social mores relate to one of the main struggles of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
a young boy has been sexually abused by a man, and the biological
reaction of an erection and/or ejaculation occurs, it causes the boy an
untold amount of inner turmoil, confusion and shame. We don't understand
why this crime perpetrated against us has resulted in what "feels like"
a pleasurable moment. Unfortunately at this young age most, if not all
of us, haven't been educated as to the "why" behind an
erection/ejaculation, and are left only with our childlike minds to
decipher a reason.
Tragically, we are so ashamed,
feel such guilt and are utterly humiliated by the crime it causes us to
feel as if we aren't a “real man”. Because our masculinity has been
robbed of us, many figure either they must be gay or we decide there's
something wrong with us that made us react physically in this way to the
abuse. Oftentimes, as it did with myself, it goes on to cause
difficulty in relationships because our first sexual experience was one
of coercion and rape rather than love.
boys and men believe a myth caused by this confusion. The myth says to
you, “If a boy experiences sexual arousal during abuse, then he wanted
or enjoyed it.” If you recall what I wrote earlier, I said we weren't
given the proper education behind the the “why” arousal occurred. So
here it is.
It is vital to understand that
males can respond to sexual stimulation with an erection and/or an
orgasm – even in sexual situations that are traumatic or painful. This
is how the male body and brain operates. Those who sexually abuse little
boys know this. They often attempt to maintain secrecy, and to keep the
abuse going by telling the child that his sexual response shows he was a
willing participant and complicit in the abuse. “You wanted it, you
liked it”, we are often told.
But this simply
IS NOT TRUE! We were not seeking to be sexually abused or exploited. The
reality is it is about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation. It's
about a boy who was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the
boy's needs for attention and affection to use him sexually.
my case, I was so confused, I thought the only way I could "prove" my
manhood was to have sex with as many women as possible. The result was I
ended up emotionally hurting girls who cared for or even loved me and
it only covered up my own pain momentarily. Pain that would always come
back only for me to find other ways to try and make it go away.
I found an insightful quote from the 1in6.org
website, as well as some good info on what I wanted to write about
today so if you see a little (1in6), you'll know that's where I got it. I
urge you to check out their site. I have worked with David Lisak at
1in6, and I know what great work they are doing. So please check them
out! Anyways, here's the quote:
“One of the
greatest tragedies of childhood sexual abuse is how it robs a person’s
natural right to discover his own sexuality in his own time.”
And this is the challenge young boys face, no matter whether they are gay, straight or bi-sexual.
For young gay boys/men, they question if their attraction to men was caused by their childhood experiences.
For young straight boys, doubt and confusion creeps in causing them to question their sexuality. On the 1in6.org
site, I found some questions young boys ask themselves. And I know how
true to life they are, because I asked myself some of these same
questions after my abuse occurred:
1)Did it happen because I'm gay?
2)Am I gay because it happened?
3)If anyone finds out will they think I'm gay?
4)Can I ever be a real man if I was sexual with another man?
Because these questions are too important to mess up the answer to, I want to quote the 1in6 website with their response:
concerns and worries about ones masculinity and sexuality are common
and totally normal. It's absolutely possible to sort them out, and to
become completely comfortable with who you are as a man and a sexual
being. Many other guys like you already have.”
know this to be true because I have come to this place of being
comfortable with who I am, and I know so many other male survivors who
have as well. That's why we write and speak out, so as to be an
encouragement for you to find and be comfortable with your true sexual
And right here, right now, if you've
never heard or read these words, let's dispel one of the most
destructive myths we face as male survivors with THE TRUTH:
No matter if you're gay, straight or bisexual, your sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse.
is the message I wanted to get across to any and all male survivors
reading today. And to any of their loved ones who see you struggling
with this. We are not one way or another because of what happened to us.
It might take some time for you to finally figure it out, but I promise
you if work with those who truly love you, the truth about who you are
will be revealed and you can have a healthy, sexual relationship. Just
be patient, don't try to rush things or attempt to “prove” who you are
like I did. Allow your true self to come to you in your own time.
won't always be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. And after what
we've all been through, we deserve a life that is fulfilling in ALL
ways: emotionally, spiritually, physically and yes, sexually!
spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This
led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had
been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of
Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and
guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual
the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public
through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness
and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists,
counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to
heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group
Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
TWH follows the saying, "one person might not be able to change the world, but you can change the world of one person."