A description of issues of hegemonic, heterosexual masculinity compared with issues of gender identity in male survivors of sexual abuse
Seinen, Albert Christopher
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Using the central concept of power, a social-constructionist, pro-feminist view of identity is used to describe hegemonic discourse on heterosexual masculinity in both sexually abused and non-sexually abused men. The methodology used includes a review of the literature, clinical observation, and interviews of two experts on men's issues. Prevalence of male sexual abuse is greater than previously believed suggesting that abuse is an issue of gender identity for men as it has been for women. Gender identity is described as power relations. Issues of power are connected to the nature of one's relational infrastructure. A description of issues of heterosexual masculinity reveals that men are pit against men, gays, women, and minorities, resulting in a constricted expression of self-identity to avoid any appearance of non-masculinity. This creates in men a cycle of fear, shame, and powerlessness in contradiction to the experience of being in positions of privilege. Because men must hide their weakness they experience an imposter complex. Anger and anti-social behaviour can be linked to this. Male survivors of sexual abuse have similar issues of identity where the difference is one of degree, excepting extremely traumatized survivors. Specific nuances of hegemonic sensibilities for male survivors include the myths of contact contamination, male self-reliance, female innocence, and sexual initiation. Also, survivors unconsciously identify as a victim, with the abuser, and/or as a rescuer. Traumatic transference is given as a concept to show how the abuse may define the way the survivor perceives the world. Trauma, trauma reenactment, and dissociation are issues found to be more likely in survivors than in non-sexually abused males. The generalization is made that these issues create a difference between the two groups. However, in comparing these issues it is shown how these issues can also be issues of non-sexually abused males. Comparisons also illustrate the similarities and differences between the two groups. Conclusions suggest that a link between masculinity and abuse can be made on the basis of the underlying current of the lack of power in both groups of men. The nature of this link has to be determined by further research that embraces the diversity of male experience.