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An Act of Power?

When I read anything about rape these days, it all seems to say, “Rape is an act of power. Dominion over another.” Maybe that’s right, but I don’t agree that we boys were chosen so that a bigger person could have control over us.

For me, the perpetrators were blinded by their own needs. I call it an addiction, even though many would disagree. I see our exploitation as a result of a compulsive, overpowering urge.

A few perpetrators have said, “I couldn’t help it. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.” That sounds like an addiction to me.

For me, such admissions don’t fit with domination or control. It says to me that the victimizers were their own victims. Out of their own overwhelming lustful need, they seduced us boys.

I’m not excusing them; I’m trying to understand why they do such evil things. For me, that’s the only satisfactory solution. When they’re engaged in the sexual act, it has one purpose: to provide them with sexual gratification. And it works. They are satisfied—for the moment. And then the urges and the compulsion returned—following the pattern of an addiction.

I understand compulsion because I was a smoker for six years. Once I got hooked, I couldn’t stop. At times I was tormented and had to force myself not to think about cigarettes. Once I had that white stick in my mouth I was satisfied, although I detested the fact that I was addicted and realized that tobacco controlled my life patterns until I broke free.

During the past two decades, I’ve spoken with perhaps a dozen former perpetrators. None of them have ever spoken about power unless it was to say they felt powerless to stop.

The practical side of this is that it enables me to feel compassion for those who victimize. I remind myself that they didn’t seduce us to rack up trophies of conquest.

“I hated myself,” one former teacher told me. “I couldn’t stop even though I knew it was wrong—and I didn’t quit until a parent reported me.” He spent two years in prison and is today registered as a sexual offender.

Power? Really?

6 comments:

Andrew Schmutzer said...

I agree, and it's nice to hear a more nuanced answer. Over the years, I've thought much about this issue, and why so many reductionistically repeat "patriarchy" and "power." After writing and teaching on this, I think a far better answer is that the causes of abuse are multi-factorial (i.e., trauma history, beliefs, culture, etc.).

The reality is, an abuser can act out from many causal layers. Feminists predominantly like "patriarchy" and "power" answers because their own worldview is one of power, gender, and status. Such answers not only skew the complexity of abused boys (1 in 6 and falling), they forgets that the word VICTIM doesn't have a gender. Recent studies on Complex Trauma are far more complex, rightly so.

Cecil Murphey said...

Andrew you and I have never met, but I've admired and respected your many comments on this blog. Thank you for saying it so well.

Cec

Mark Cooper said...

Challenging thoughts and good insight.
Could it not be said that rape is a misuse of a WEAK man's (or woman's) power?

A person weak in their character, weak in their self-image, is easily addicted to doing whatever it takes to make them feel better about themselves. Tragically for some, this leads to rape.

Cecil Murphey said...

Like Andrew said, there are many factors involved. You've fairly well stated one of them.

Roger Mann said...

I too like what Andrew said. I have always felt that my dad's actions were out of love, or affection. When I realized it was just because I was more available that other boys to him I was furious. Looking back over the long years I realize he was probably abused as a boy also and struggled and lost with that desire many times over his life. I think it was an conditioned addiction as was mine.

Still, I believe it all comes down to choice; give in or get help.

Was it about power, perhaps, I was someone who would not resist or tell and therefore safe. Because of his position he could coerce others and probably did but I think it still was a lust issue out of childhood conditioning. He chose to indulge his perversion rather than seek help as far as I know. It can certainly be a strong compulsion what with all the feelings and chemistry involved but as I see it, still comes down to choosing right or wrong. As a Christian he should have had the power to say no and make it stick. If he were not a Christian he would probably not have had the power to choose.

Just my thoughts

Cecil "Cec" Murphey said...

I received this email from Dann:

Couldn't agree more. As I am both a survivor and counselor the addiction model is truly the most logical way to explain being a perpetrator. Also, survivors often become addicted to sex, lust, money, greed, drugs, alcohol-you name it. If we never perpetrate ourselves there are often other addictions that have compulsive control of our lives.

Sad reality!