August 10, 2015

Does Being Abused Impact a Man's Sexual Orientation?

Today, we continue our series from David Pittman of Together We Heal!


As 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.

As 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.

So 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.

After 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.

So 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.

Unlike 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.
When 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.

Many 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. 

In 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 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 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:

“Such 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.”

I 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 self.

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.
This 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. 

It 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!

Learn more about Together We Heal.

David 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 abuse.
As 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."

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