Copyright © 1981 by Andrea Dworkin.
All rights reserved.

(Continued from PREVIOUS PAGE)

The homophobe's citing of actual or potential or projected or feared sexual abuse of boys in particular also functions to sustain male supremacy by obscuring this crucial fact: male sexual aggression is the unifying thematic and behavioral reality of male sexuality; it does not distinguish homosexual men from heterosexual men or heterosexual men from homosexual men. An absence or repudiation of this aggression, which is exceptional and which does exist in an eccentric and minuscule minority composed of both homosexual and heterosexual men, distinguishes some men from most men, or, to be more precise, the needle from the haystack.

Prostitution, especially boy prostitution, and prisons are the primary social institutions through which men express explicit sexual aggression against other males. Sexual abuse of males by men does take place in other areas, though its frequency, if not its effect, is unknown.

While females as a class are always targeted for sexual abuse, boys and men are targeted according to their devalued position in an exclusively male hierarchy. Youth, poverty, and race are the special characteristics that target males as possible victims of other men. Youth functions to target a male because a youth is not yet fully dissociated from women and children. The experiencing of sexual aggression is initiatory; the boy can cross over, soak up the aggression of the aggressor and use it against others. Boys who have had this experience still grow into men who defend the sexual privileges of adult men, no matter what abuses those privileges entail. These males protect themselves against being victimized, and even the memory of victimization, by turning into victimizers. Men who have been molested as children, and who as adults have a clearly defined homosexual orientation, sometimes express confusion as to whether they did or did not like the experience. Part of the reason for this confusion is that they longed for sexual contact with boys or men but were afraid of discovery or harm. Generally, boys and girls who have active sexual longings do not imagine the hit-and-run sexuality of the adult male. They are still tied, to differing extents, to the nonphallic, more diffuse eroticism they experienced with their mothers. They have longings and desires that are not reducible to genital sexual contact. Women who were molested as children also experience confusion as to what they really wanted when the adult male exercised his sexual will on them, but must, as a condition of forced femininity, accept the male as constant aggressor and forced sex as normative. In women, this often results in a passivity bordering on narcolepsy, morbid selfblame, and punishing self-hatred. Men molested as children resolve their confusion through action: in crossing over to the adult side, they remove themselves from the pool of victims. Since as adults they can experience the commission of forcible sex with others as freedom, they can say, as poet Allen Ginsberg did on a Boston television show, that they were molested as children and liked it. This is the public stance of the boy who has become the man, no matter what his private or secret ambivalences might be. Unlike women, men as adults are not likely to be molested again.

Significantly, forcible father-son incest, or sexual abuse of boys by stepfathers or near relatives, seems to be rare within families, while the sexual abuse of girls by fathers, stepfathers, and near relatives is pervasive. It is possible that evidence of extensive sexual abuse of boys within families has simply not yet been uncovered, since child abuse in all of its forms is one of this country's best-kept secrets. But it is more likely that the sexual abuse of boys by close relatives is actually rare because such abuse is potentially dangerous to the adult male and would deeply endanger the power of men as a class. The boy will, at some point, be stronger, more virile, than the father. He will also be less socialized, that is, not yet fully reconciled to the abandonment of all commitment to the humanity of women. A sexually abused boy can become sexual aggressor in turn, attack the father and, on the physical level, win. Adult men tend not to rape their own sons or close male relatives so as not to risk rape from them. While the interests of men sometimes conflict, this is one rift that the male-supremacist system could not survive. One-to-one sexual combat between fathers and sons would rend the fabric of patriarchy. The father's self-interest demands that the boy's burgeoning sexual aggression, developed to begin with in response to the father as a personal or social reality, be channeled against others, not against the patriarch himself. The father creates the monster to control him, not to suffer sexual retribution at his hands.

Poverty is also the mark of a potential male victim. Prison populations are poor and so are prostitute populations. Money is one instrument of male force. Poverty is a humiliating, and therefore a feminizing, experience; the poor male is less powerful than the wealthier male. The one with the money in general controls the sexual experience whatever its nature. In a money society, money is power, and the buying of another male, especially a boy, is forcible sex. Consent, properly understood in a society where men have turned both desire and freedom into dirty jokes, is a reality only between or among peers, and the poor and the rich are never peers. And boys, in particular poor boys, are not and cannot be the peers of adult men.

Racism also targets males as likely victims of sexual abuse. Prison populations in the United States are disproportionately made up of black males. The indifference of society at large to the sexual abuse of men in prisons is directly attributable to the fact that prisons are populated by the poor and by blacks. When society is confronted with the enormity of the rape problem in male prisons, suddenly the outrage occasioned by male sexual abuse in any other sphere does not exist; rape of the sacred male when he is in prison is easy to ignore or to forget. Those who do care about forcible violation of males in prison tend to offer the logical solution: since forcible violation of females is normal, introduce females into the prison population; then the prisoners can have socially sanctioned sex.

No one really knows the extent of male sexual abuse of other males. Largely in response to the prejudice against male homosexuals that is endemic in the United States and the discriminatory attribution of sexual crimes to homosexual men, the reality of such abuse is often denied even by those who have experienced it. But sexual abuse of boys does exist--contained, controlled, discouraged by enforced heterosexuality which has as one of its main purposes the protection of males as a whole from the rampant sexual aggression characteristic of men as a class: the abuse of boys is considered an atrocious crime primarily because the lives of boys are valued far above the lives of girls; males are more vulnerable to sexual abuse the lower they are in the male hierarchy; the labeling of male homosexuals as child molesters particularly functions to hide the fact that women and girls are the population most often and most consistently victimized and violated by men. As long as male sexuality is expressed as force or violence, men as a class will continue to enforce the taboo against male homosexuality to protect themselves from having that force or violence directed against them. Women will be their surrogates, and every institution in the society will continue to demand that men do to women what men would find insufferable if done to themselves. T. E. Lawrence, the fabled Lawrence of Arabia, beaten and raped as an adult, expressed in a letter to Charlotte Shaw the desperation that such violation by rape is to one not raised to endure it, that is, to a man:

You instance my night at Deraa. Well, I'm always afraid of being hurt; and to me, while I live, the force of that night will lie in the agony which broke me, and made me surrender. . . .

About that night. I shouldn't tell you, because decent men don't talk about such things. I wanted to put it plain in the book [Seven Pillars of Wisdom], wrestled for days with my self-respect . . . which wouldn't, hasn't let me. For fear of being hurt, or rather to earn five minutes respite from a pain which drove me mad, I gave away the only possession we are born into the world with--our bodily integrity. It's an unforgiveable matter, an irrecoverable position: and it's that which has made me foreswear decent living, and the exercise of my not-contemptible wits and talents 11

T. E. Lawrence attempted to exorcise this experience by repeating it: by having himself flagellated by a younger man whom he paid, he himself controlling his own humiliation and physical torment. This only emphasizes the riveting trauma of losing "the only possession we are born into the world with--our bodily integrity"; and the male option of finding the means to control sexual reality, however devastating that reality has been.

It must also be noted that glorious ancient Greece, so often cited as the ideal male homosexual society, that is, a society in which sex among men and boys was entirely acceptable, operated in accordance with these same principles: male sexual aggression against boys and among men was highly regulated by custom and in practice; sexual relations between men and boys expressed a rigid hierarchy of male power; the youth used was feminized vis-a-vis older men; sex was not consensual, that is, among peers (in fact, on Crete and in other parts of Greece, boys were kidnapped into sexual apprenticeship); the boy became the man, changed status, his reward at the end of an apprenticeship; populations of women and slaves, neither of which had any rights of citizenship, absorbed the brunt of male sexual aggression. Male homosexuality in male-supremacist societies has always been contained and controlled by men as a class, though the strategies of containment have differed, to protect men from rape by other men, to order male sexuality so that it is, with reference to males, predictable and safe. Females and devalued males who participate in the low status of women are logically the preferred victims, since male sexuality as it exists in male-supremacist contexts requires victims, not fully present equals, in order to realize itself. The devalued males can often change status, escape; women and girls cannot. And the devalued male who cannot change his devalued status can always find solace in his own rights of tyranny and privilege, however circumscribed, over women and girls in his own family, class, race, or group.

It is unlikely that male-male sexuality will be or can be tolerated by men as a class until the very nature of masculinity is changed, that is, until rape is no longer the defining paradigm of sexuality. Those gay men of our own time who offer ancient Greece as a utopian model are only confirming that, for them, the continued scapegoating of women and the sexual exploitation of less powerful males would be an insignificant price to pay for a comfortable solution to their own social and sexual dilemma. As adult men, they would have freedom as they understand it, the freedom of the sexual predator; women, girls, and devalued males would continue to be the prey. This moral bankruptcy is not in any sense unique to homosexual men; rather, it is part of what they have in common with all men. [. . .]

Excerpt from "Men and Boys," Chapter Two of Pornography: Men Possessing Women, copyright © 1981 by Andrea Dworkin. All rights reserved.