A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the sexual intimacy issues that occur for male survivors. I began discussing the issues that occur with young children who have been sexually abused, but I did not go into the intimacy issues that occur when the abuse occurs later in a young man’s life. Again, I want to emphasize that this is not necessarily symptomatic of every male survivor, but it might shed some light on intimacy issues for people who are close to survivors.
As a boy matures into manhood, the physical changes of their bodies and the sexual feelings that accompany those changes can be confusing, embarrassing, and shameful, even under the best of circumstances. When a young man is sexually abused during this time, these feelings are compounded and magnified. Without the capacity to process the adult sexual act, the young man reverts to filling in the blanks on his own. Many times, a young man will blame himself and wonder what he did to “ask for” the abuse he received. A young man will definitely question his masculinity and sexuality, comparing themselves to some very unrealistic expectations and social norms.
In order to deal with these strong, negative emotions, a survivor most of the time turns to some very unhealthy means to hideaway from their problems. Physical harm in a variety of ways is almost always a part of the unhealthy coping mechanisms, which can include cutting, suicide attempts, and other physical forms of harm. Substance abuse is a easily accessible way to temporarily cloud and drown the negativity. Additionally, having sex with multiple partners becomes a viable way in which to gain those manly characteristics that were taken away from the survivor.
All of these factors play a role in the ability for a survivor to become sexually intimate. Sex can become just an act, rather than a way to connect with another and express love. Additionally, some men chose a life of celibacy rather than work through the issues that have emotionally crippled them. I also believe that these variants in sexual behavior can occur at any point during the healing process of a survivor. A man who at one time had a very healthy sex life with their partner can one day find themselves dealing with a myriad of sexual issues, causing them to become hypersexual or asexual. It is important for both partners to communicate, to accept, and to work through the issues mutually and cooperatively.