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The Effects of Rape & Sexual Abuse on the Male

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By Male Survivors Trust

Slowly but surely, the common myth held that sexual abuse/rape happens to women only is fading, but when a man is sexually assaulted or raped, and grows up believing that myth, he feels even more isolated and alone. This page tackles some of the issues that are rarely talked about, yet have a huge impact on almost all male survivors, and if left unsaid and sorted out, can stop them from recovering fully, leaving a residue of bad feelings and fears behind. Some of the things that can trigger you off and leave you feeling as if you’re back at the point of being abused are as follows.

bryan_tony_boxThe smell of others, especially aftershave or other body smells, can cause you to flashback and trigger bad memories Many male survivors state that when having sex with a partner, that they feel dirty, and unclean once they have reached ejaculation, and this is connected to the sight, feel and sensation of seeing their semen, which reminds them of being abused, and that alone can ruin any sexual relationships they may have.

You may also feel wrong, bad and dirty, so will need to bathe often, usually after having sex with partners, and if masturbating, will only do so as a function, not for pleasure, because the sensation and good feelings have been taken away and you’re left feeling dirty and ‘wrong’ again. There’s also the fact that you can get obsessed with masturbation , not just once a day, but several times a day, which can increase when you feel stressed, lonely, screwed up, etc.

Many male survivors hide behind the fact that they remain non sexual, and in doing so, are not seen as being sexual beings, Others eat, drink, misuse drugs to stop people getting too close to them. By taking on the work that’s needed, you can remove the ghosts of the past and can regain control of your life

Male Survivors share many of the same feelings of female sexual assault survivors. Common feelings such as;

BODY IMAGE* Do you feel at home in your body?* Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually with another?* Do you feel that you are a part of your body or does your body feel like a separate entity?* Have you ever intentionally and physically hurt yourself?* Do you find it difficult to listen to your body?

EMOTIONS * Do you feel out of control of your feelings?* Do you feel you sometimes don’t understand all the feelings you are experiencing?* Are you overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you have?

RELATIONSHIPS * What’s your expectations of your partner in a relationship?* Find it too easy to trust others?* Find it too hard to trust anyone?* Find it difficult in making commitments?* Still feel alone, even though in a relationship?* Is it hard for you to allow others to get close to you?* Are you in a relationship with some-one who reminds you of the abuse, or who is no good for you?

SELF-CONFIDENCE * Do you find it difficult to love yourself?* Do you have a hard time accepting yourself?* Are you ashamed of yourself?* Do you have expectations of yourself that aren’t realistic?

SEXUALITY * Do you enjoy sex, really enjoy it?* Do you find it difficult to express yourself sexually?* Do you find yourself using sex to get close to someone?* End up having sex because it’s expected of you?* Does sex make you feel dirty?* Are you “present” during sex?

MAJOR SEXUAL SYMPTOMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

  1. Difficulties in becoming aroused and feeling sensations
  2. Sex feels like an obligation
  3. Sexual thoughts and images that are disturbing
  4. Inappropriate sexual behaviors or sexual compulsivity
  5. Inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic difficulties
  6. Erection problems or ejaculatory difficulty
  7. Feeling dissociated while having sex
  8. Detachment or emotional distance while having sex
  9. Being afraid of sex or avoiding sex
  10. Guilt, fear, anger, disgust or other negative feelings when being touched

EXISTING EFFECTS ON MALE SURVIVORS.

Listed below are some of the current effects that sexual abuse, and after-effects it has upon a male Survivor.

Nightmares, (Intense, violent, sexual) – A real fear that everyone is a potential attacker. Intense shame. – Intense anger. – Intense guilt. – Fear in expressing anger/difficulties in being angry. A need to be in control. – A need to pretend they are not in control. A fear of being seen/fear of exposure.- Running away from people/situations. A fear of intimacy. – “Avoidism”. – Memories of physical pain. – Intense sexual flashbacks. Intruding thoughts. – Sexual dysfunction. – Asexual feelings. – Feeling unreal. – Self doubt. – Jealousy. – Envy. Sexual acting out. – Fear of men. – Fear of women. – Fear of speaking out. – Inability to relax. Disconnection with feelings. – Feeling alone. – Poor choice of partners. – “Out of body” experiences. Linking abuse to love. – Keeping secrets. – Forgetting childhood experiences. – Detached from reality. Inability to comfort their children. – Feeling inadequate. – Unable to accept compliments. – Low self esteem. Isolation. – Addictions/crime. – No emotions. – Fear of others motives. – Inability to say no. – Fear of rules.

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COMMON REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ABUSE/RAPE

Emotional Shock: Feeling numb. Being able to stay so calm? Unable to cry.

Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really abusive.

Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.

Shame or Guilt: Feeling as if it’s your fault, or you should’ve been able to stop it. If only you had…

Depression: How are you going to get through the day. Feeling so tired! It feels so hopeless.

Powerlessness: Will you ever feel in control again?

Disorientation: You don’t even know what day it is. You keep forgetting things.

Flashbacks: Re-living the assault! Keep seeing and feeling like it’s happening again.

Fear: Scared of everything. Can’t sleep, Having nightmares. Afraid to go out. Afraid to be alone.

Anxiety: Panic attacks. Can’t breathe! Can’t stop shaking. Feeling overwhelmed.

Anger: Feel like hurting the person who attacked you!

Physical Stress: Stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. Feeling jittery and don’t feel like eating.

UNIQUE ISSUES FACED BY MALE SURVIVORS
There is great denial of the fact that men are sexually abused. Other than in prisons, most of us don’t ever hear about the topic of male sexual abuse. The need to deny is often deeply rooted in the mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimized, that they should be able to fight off any attacker if they are truly a “real man.” Another related ‘belief’ is that men can’t be forced into sex. These mistaken beliefs allow many men to feel safe and invulnerable, and to think of sexual abuse as something that only happens to women. Unfortunately, these beliefs also increase the pain that is felt by a male survivor of sexual abuse. These ‘beliefs’ leave the male survivor feeling isolated and ashamed. Below are some of the unique problems and concerns that male survivors do experience: For most men the idea of being a victim is extremely hard to handle. Boys are raised to believe that they should be able to defend themselves against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. How many movies or TV shows depict the hero prepared to fight a group of huge guys over an insult or name-calling? Surely then, men are supposed to fight to the death over something like unwanted sexual advances…right?

These beliefs about “manliness” and “masculinity” are deeply ingrained in many men and lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual abuse. Some male survivors even question whether they deserved to be sexually abused because, as they think that they failed to defend themselves. Male survivors see their assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves for not “fighting back.” These feelings are normal but the thoughts attached to them are not true. Remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive–there’s nothing un-masculine about that.” As a result of guilt, shame or anger some men may punish themselves by exhibiting self-destructive behaviour after being sexually abused. For some men, this means increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it means increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers. Some men pull back from relationships and wind up feeling more and more isolated. Male survivors may also develop sexual difficulties after being sexually abused. It may be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the abuse, or just plain bad feelings. It can take time, so don’t pressure yourself to be sexual before you’re ready.

For heterosexual men, sexual abuse almost always causes some confusion or questioning about their sexuality. Since many believe that only gay men are sexually abused, a heterosexual survivor may believe that he must be gay or that he will become gay. Furthermore, abusers often accuse their victims of enjoying the sexual abuse, leading some survivors to question their own experiences. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with sexual orientation, past, present or future. People do not “become gay” as a result of being sexually abused. However, there are certain issues that are different for men:

Concerns about sexuality and/or masculinity

Medical procedures

Reporting crime to law enforcement agencies

Telling others

FINDING RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

No matter what is said or done, no one “asks for” or deserves to be assaulted. Sexual abuse/rape is nothing to do with someone’s present or future sexual orientation. Sexual abuse comes from violence and power, nothing less. Unfortunately, the health profession are reluctant to recognise that men can be sexually assaulted. This also includes the Police Forces, though that is slowly improving at last This attitude, combined with ignorance affects the way they treat men who have been raped/sexually abused, often using a stereotyped view of masculinity, rather than focus on the physical assault, the crime becomes the focus of the medical exam or police investigation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Recognize that men and boys can and are sexually assaulted.

Be aware of the biases and myths concerning sexual abuse.

Recognize that stereotypes create narrow definitions of masculinity, and make it even harder for male survivors to disclose their rape/abuse.

As individuals and as a community, that we work harder to combat and challenge those attitudes.

It is important that male rape survivors have support, and are allowed to make their own decisions about what course of action to take. All too often, they feel forced to make statements or act against their abusers, without having had the time and space to think it through. I never advocate they prosecute their abusers, I suggest they perhaps begin their personal journey to recover from the traumas they are left with.

NOTHING JUSTIFIES SEXUAL ABUSE!

It doesn’t have to be this way though, you can overcome the issues listed and can recover. Just in case you need a reminder;

Men of all ages, and backgrounds are subjected to sexual assaults and rape.

Offenders are heterosexual in 98% of the cases.

Both heterosexual and homosexual men get raped.

Rape occurs in all parts of society.

Men are less likely to report being raped.

A PERSONAL VIEW.

The belief that the male population is the stronger sex, especially when it comes to sex, is deeply ingrained, believed, and supported within our culture, but not all men and boys are physically or emotionally strong, which explains why there are male “victims” of sexual abuse/rape. Male child sexual abuse is perpetrated by both men and women, of any sexual persuasion, with no regard towards the “victims” sexuality or safety. It holds scant regard for who we are, and is about gaining power and control over the “victim”. As children, we are placed in the care of our parents/guardians, family, family friends, schools, and more often than not, sometimes strangers. The ‘Danger Stranger’ campaign focused on the danger of strangers, with the intent of scaring children into not trusting strangers, but plainly ignored the fact that parents, siblings, family members, and those other “nice people” especially those people known as the “Pillars of Society”, are much more likely to sexual abuse children. As a result of our sexual abuse, we grow up with many mistaken beliefs, and many Survivors have fallen into a myriad of roles that include alcoholism, crime, depression, self harming, people pleasing, hardworking, etc. But, far from being powerless, we have drawn upon considerable reserves of inner strength to deal with, adjust and cope with the invasion of our bodies and minds.

Our previous actions in dealing with life may not have been what we wanted to do, and may have caused more pain on the way, but surely we have arrived at a time when we all need to face our past, forgive OUR actions, and move away from the guilt, shame and fear that has haunted us for so long. This possibly took many forms, but is something that we all need to forgive ourselves for, as long we don’t intend to ‘return there’. Some thoughts to have plagued male survivors have been “Perhaps I was to blame” “I should have told someone” “I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time” “I deserved it” “Maybe I gave out the wrong signals” “Maybe I’m gay”………,What we don’t want to hear is pity, or told “how awful” “so sad”, “poor little boy” as that concept is dis-empowering and perpetuates pity for the ‘victim’ and we are then seen as “not quite right”.

We are OK, we are capable of living our lives, and we are more than capable of overcoming the traumas that our abuser(s) left behind. I subscribe to the belief that in order to heal fully you have to face your abusive past, however difficult that may be, but in doing so, you can move on emotionally, forgive your actions, find inner peace, and be the person you want to be, not who ‘they’ wanted you to be. Please break the silence and demand the right to be recognized! If you want to join, we will support you in your struggle, be ‘here’ for you when you need us, and help you understand who you are, and what you want to be. The next step is from victim, to SURVIVOR, which is possible. It’s not easy, and involves you telling someone else all those deep hidden secrets, but once started, DON’T STOP!

Complete Article HERE!

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IM Distress Signals

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When I first began writing this advice column, back in the Paleolithic era, most correspondence came via snail mail. Those were the days, huh? Email replaced letters as the dominant means of communication about 8 years ago, and so it remains today. Lately, there’s been yet another innovation — the Instant Messenger. Never fear, Dr Dick stands at the ready to console and advise even at cyber speed.
Instant messenger technology allows me to do something I’ve never been able to do before, save the whole shebang as a single document. This, dear readers, will provide you, as you will see below, an intimate vantage point to a crisis as it is being reveled.
What follows is an abridged version of an exchange I recently had with a good friend. This is someone I deeply respect and admire. However, my friend has been through a terrible lot this past year and the signs of stress are beginning to show. His judgment, generally razor sharp, is now clouded and he is consumed with self-doubt.

William: Hey Dick, I have a question. Do you know the current social standards surrounding marijuana use?

DD: Are there current standards? I didn’t get the memo.

William: Smart ass!
Let me put it a different way, is daily, long-term use of pot a sign of an addiction?

DD: Probably. Certainly designates one as a heavy user.
There is a simple test. Can/will the user go 48hrs without?

William: Here’s the deal, a guy I hang with smokes every time we get together. He says it relaxes him after a hard day. I told him I thought that was a rationalization. I don’t drink daily; so I have to deal with life as it presents itself, rough edges and all.

DD: I guess you told him, huh?

William: I know I can’t drink every day without it becoming a problem for me, but am wondering if pot smokers think daily usage is different than what I think about daily drinking?

DD: See my comments above.

William: My friend’s paternal grandfather was an alcoholic; his dad neverglory_hole_d29.jpg drank. My friend admits to doing 200 hits of acid in high school and crystal when first arriving in town 10 years ago. He claims he hasn’t done either for 7 years.
Trouble is my Dad was an angry alcoholic so this guy’s marijuana use triggers feelings of abandonment and flashbacks of abuse in me.

DD: Right about now you should be hearing yourself say out loud: “Whoops, where did I put my car keys? Gotta run! Call me when you get home from Betty Ford”

William: I confronted my friend about his pot consumption and he got all defensive. He countered with, “what am I supposed to do, not smoke while you’re around? He was already high when we had this exchange. He said I should have warned him about not smoking before he rolled the joint he just smoked.

DD: Wait a minute; he’s saying his drug “(ab)use” is now your issue? Why does this stink to high-heaven?
Here’s a tip; don’t be surprised when you confront a pot-head, while he’s ripped, about his habit and he gets, as you say, “all defensive”.
William, I’m pretty confident that was not a teachable moment, don’t you agree?

William: The problem is he’s generally stoned by the time we get together, so there’s no real good time to talk to him.
I even entertained the idea of smoking with him to get in the same mind set. Instead, I drank a half a bottle of wine. I realized later that both options were self-defeating.

DD: At least you’re clear on that. In this instance, sinking to the lowest common denominator is not a good idea.

William: Bottom line is I feel he needs to smoke to be around me.

DD: I suggest that he needs to smoke around everyone and everything, not just you.

William: I am thinking this is an indicator of his low-self esteem.

DD: You betcha! Aren’t all addictions?

William: Maybe I am projecting.

DD: What if you are? It doesn’t diminish the fact you called it right.

William: I also questioned what type of relationship we are forming if all our time together happens while he’s in an altered state.

DD: That’s easy, a codependent one!

William: I’ve been thinking, maybe he needs to smoke to have sex. Maybe that’s the only way he can cope with his guilt or shame. When he smokes he likes to top me. But when I top him, he’s a very passive. I told him what I like sexually, so he knows. But he doesn’t even try to please me. He doesn’t play with my nips when I top, which is the only way I can cum. When I bottom it’s simply out of desire for intimacy, it doesn’t do anything for me sexually.

DD: YIKES! Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Like my momma always used to say, “if it has four wheels or a dick you know you’re gonna have trouble with it.”

William: For example, when I realized I wasn’t going to get what I wantedmale_art2.jpg sexually the other night, I shut down. I got him off and he fell asleep.
He knows me well enough to know when I’m pissed. So the next time we were together, he asked if he had done something wrong. He’s a fuckin’ genius! He asked if he had been too passive as a bottom. Unfortunately, he was pretty stoned at this point, so I thought any further discussion would be fruitless.

DD: Again, YIKES! Any more red flags and this would be a Chinese New Year Parade, for christ sake!

William: If I dump him, am I throwing the baby out with the bath water?

DD: Darlin’, there is no baby in the bath water! There’s just a fucked up stoner dude who is taking you for a ride. He’s welcome to live his life as he so chooses. You, on the other hand, need to find someone a less fucked up.

William: I like him, he is smart, affectionate and we have the same analytical way of thinking.

DD: When he’s not stoned, ya mean.
Here’s a suggestion, why not keep him as a friend. Have dinner together occasionally, enjoy his sparkling conversation and then, quick as you can, get back in your car and go home.

William: He takes care of my physical needs, except sexually. There is, after all, more to a relationship than sex.

DD: EXCEPT SEXUALLY????? That’s like saying he takes care of your nutrition needs, except for the protein and carbohydrates. Sheesh!
You’re right, there is more to a healthy relationship than sex. But given that you are an intensely sexual man, why would you start a relationship with a deficit like this?

William: This is triggering my deep-seeded feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, which I fully accept as my own shit. I want to please him, so I did not ask him to stop smoking around me. But I did tell him how “not present” he is to me when he smokes prior to sex.

DD: I am so amazed that you are bottoming for this dude. What’s up with that? You hate being a bottom. Listen darlin’, you are way too needy at this point to be looking to someone like this to even begin to meet your needs.

William: He said that he did not think his personality changed when he smokes. But yet he thinks people liked him better when he’s got a buzz on.

DD: Where did you find this guy? Does he live under a bridge?

William: Is this a glitch in a new relationship? Do you think I should hang in there during this adjustment period?

DD: This is scariest thing you’ve said up to this point.
GLITCH??? Are you serious? Does a stripped down, burnt out skeleton of a car on the what_a_ride.jpgside of the road, suggest to you that the owner is having a problem with his windshield wipers? Good lord, man, what can you be thinking?
What follows comes from the deepest recesses of my heart, William. I put this out there because you are my friend. The fellow you describe would be a handful for you if you were at your peak of your emotional and psychological powers. But even then, I’d suggest you avoid him like the plague.
But now, dear William, you are in crisis. You’ve had a terrible lot happen to you this past year. You are hanging on by a thread. I support and encourage all your efforts to find your balance in your life once again, because you are a good and resilient person.
I empathize with your desire to connect with someone who will love you, stand by you and care for you during this difficult time. This is decidedly not the time to be taking on dead weight.
Look to yourself, care for yourself, nurture yourself, love yourself, heal yourself. Come back to us refreshed and whole. Then, and only then, will you be able to take on a complete wreck of a project like this dude.
Count on me to walk through this with you. Thanks for letting me be part of your life. Remember, I’m only as far away as your Instant Messenger.

Over and Out!

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All forms of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm

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“Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

The researchers posed questions about sexual experienced in the previous year and received responses from almost 3,000 high school students in two separate studies. The responses paint a clear picture.

Worst for girls. This is not exclusively something boys do against girls. It’s just as common for boys to harass boys in these ways.

Girls and boys are equally exposed to unpleasant or offensive non-physical sexual harassment. About 62 per cent of both sexes report that they have experienced this in the past year.

“Teens who are harassed the most also struggle more in general. But girls generally struggle considerably more than boys, no matter the degree to which they’re being harassed in this way,” Kennair notes.

“Girls are also more negatively affected by sexual harassment than boys are,” adds Bendixen.

Being a girl is unquestionably the most important risk factor when teens report that they struggle with anxiety, depression, or .

However, non-physical sexual harassment is the second most important factor, and is more strongly associated with adolescents’ psychological well-being than being subjected to sexual coercion in the past year or sexual assault prior to that.

Level of severity

Bendixen and Kennair believe it’s critical to distinguish between different forms of harassment.

They divided the types of harassment into two main groups: non-physical harassment and physically coercive sexual behaviour, such as unwanted kissing, groping, intimate touch, and intercourse. Physical sexual coercion is often characterized as sexual abuse in the literature.

Studies usually lump these two forms of unwanted behaviour together into the same measure. This means that a derogatory comment is included in the same category as rape.

“As far as we know, this is the first study that has distinguished between these two forms and specifically looked at the effects of non-physical sexual harassment,” says Bendixen.

Comments that for some individuals may seem innocent enough can cause significant problems for others.

Many factors accounted for

Not everyone interprets slang or slurs the same way. If someone calls you a “whore” or “gay,” you may not find it offensive. For this reason, the researchers let the adolescents decide whether they perceived a given action as offensive or not, and had them only report what they did find offensive.

The article presents data from two studies. The first study from 2007 included 1384 . The second study included 1485 students and was conducted in 2013-2014. Both studies were carried out in Sør-Trøndelag county and are comparable with regard to demographic conditions.

The results of the first study were reproduced in the second. The findings from the two studies matched each other closely.

The researchers also took into account a number of other potentially influential factors, such as having parents who had separated or were unemployed, educational programme (vocational or general studies), sexual minority status, , and whether they had experienced physical coercion in the past year or any sexual assaults previous to that.

“We’ve found that sexual minorities generally reported more psychological distress,” says Bendixen. The same applied to with parents who are unemployed. On the other hand, students with immigrant status did not report more psychological issues. Bendixen also notes that sexual minorities did not seem to be more negatively affected by sexual harassment than their heterosexual peers.

However, the researchers did find a clear negative effect of non-physical sexual harassment, over and beyond that of the risk factors above.

Uncertain as to what is an effective intervention

So what can be done to reduce behaviours that may cause such serious problems for so many?

Kennair concedes that he doesn’t know what can help.

“This has been studied for years and in numerous countries, but no studies have yet revealed any lasting effects of measures aimed at combating sexual harassment,” Bendixen says. “We know that attitude campaigns can change people’s attitudes to harassment, but it doesn’t result in any reduction in harassment behaviour.”

Bendixen and Kennair want to look into this in an upcoming study. Their goal is to develop practices that reduce all forms of and thereby improve young people’s psychological well-being.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why having the sex talk early and often with your kids is good for them

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By and

Parents may be uncomfortable initiating “the sex talk,” but whether they want to or not, parents teach their kids about sex and sexuality. Kids learn early what a sexual relationship looks like.

Broaching the topic of sex can be awkward. Parents may not know how to approach the topic in an age-appropriate way, they may be uncomfortable with their own sexuality or they may fear “planting information” in childrens’ minds.

Parental influence is essential to sexual understanding, yet parents’ approaches, attitudes and beliefs in teaching their children are still tentative. The way a parent touches a child, the language a parent uses to talk about sexuality, the way parents express their own sexuality and the way parents handle children’s questions all influence a child’s sexual development.

We are researchers of intimate relationship education. We recently learned through surveying college students that very few learned about sex from their parents, but those who did reported a more positive learning experience than from any other source, such as peers, the media and religious education.

The facts of modern life

Children are exposed to advertising when they’re as young as six months old – even babies recognize business logos. Researcher and media activist Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising, has said that “Nowhere is sex more trivialized than in pornography, media and advertising.” Distorted images leave youth with unrealistic expectations about normal relationships.

Long before the social media age, a 2000 study found that teenagers see 143 incidents of sexual behavior on network television at prime time each week; few represented safe and healthy sexual relationships. The media tend to glamorize, degrade and exploit sexuality and intimate relationships. Media also model promiscuity and objectification of women and characterize aggressive behaviors as normal in intimate relationships. Violence and abuse are the chilling but logical result of female objectification.

While there is no consensus as to a critical level of communication, we do know that some accurate, reliable information about sex reduces risky behaviors. If parents are uncomfortable dealing with sexual issues, those messages are passed to their children. Parents who can talk with their children about sex can positively influence their children’s sexual behaviors.

Can’t someone else do this for me?

Sex education in schools may provide children with information about sex, but parents’ opinions are sometimes at odds with what teachers present; some advocate for abstinence-only education, while others might prefer comprehensive sex education. The National Education Association developed the National Sexual Health Standards for sex education in schools, including age-appropriate suggestions for curricula.

Children often receive contradictory information between their secular and religious educations, leaving them to question what to believe about sex and sometimes confusing them more. Open and honest communication about sex in families can help kids make sense of the mixed messages.

Parents remain the primary influences on sexual development in childhood, with siblings and sex education as close followers. During late childhood, a more powerful force – peer relationships – takes over parental influences that are vague or too late in delivery.

Even if parents don’t feel competent in their delivery of sexual information, children receive and incorporate parental guidance with greater confidence than that from any other source.

Engaging in difficult conversations establishes trust and primes children to approach parents with future life challenges. Information about sex is best received from parents regardless of the possibly inadequate delivery. Parents are strong rivals of other information sources. Teaching about sex early and often contributes to a healthy sexual self-esteem. Parents may instill a realistic understanding of healthy intimate relationships.

Getting started

So how do you do it? There is no perfect way to start the conversation, but we suggest a few ways here that may inspire parents to initiate conversations about sex, and through trial and error, develop creative ways of continuing the conversations, early and often.

  1. Several age-appropriate books are available that teach about reproduction in all life forms – “It’s Not the Stork,” “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex” and “Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Body Parts”.
  2. Watch TV with children. Movies can provide opportunities to ask questions and spark conversation with kids about healthy relationships and sexuality in the context of relatable characters.
  3. Demonstrate openness and honesty about values and encourage curiosity.
  4. Allow conversation to emerge around sexuality at home – other people having children, animals reproducing or anatomically correct names for body parts.
  5. Access sex education materials such as the National Sexual Health Standards.

The goal is to support children in developing healthy intimate relationships. Seek support in dealing with concerns about sex and sexuality. Break the cycle of silence that is commonplace in many homes around sex and sexuality. Parents are in a position to advocate for sexual health by communicating about sex with their children, early and often.

Complete Article HERE!

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Adolescents with autism need access to better sex education

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by

Intimacy is part of being human. There are well-documented benefits to positive relationships, from emotional security to good mental health1. Those who want relationships and can’t develop them face low self-esteem, depression, loneliness and isolation from the wider society2.

For adolescents, learning how to navigate sex and sexuality can be a minefield. How do you figure out the nuances of sexuality without experience? How do you approach a potential partner? And once you do, how do you communicate with him or her?

This path is especially fraught for adolescents with autism. For example, people with autism tend to report higher levels of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation than their neurotypical peers3. And yet there is a gap between what these young people need and what schools provide. According to a 2012 study, adolescents with autism know less about sex than do their peers and have less access to sex education4.

My team of researchers and I are documenting the experiences of adolescents with autism in relation to sex, sexuality and their schools’ sex education requirements. Our research suggests schools should provide sex education tailored to the needs of young people with autism.

These classes should include both the standard fare — from human development to safe sex — and additional instruction on topics such as how teens can express themselves to their potential partners and how to decode innuendos and other language used to describe sex. This education is vital to ensure that these adolescents can approach relationships in a way that is safe, confident and healthy.

Role play:

One common misconception about individuals with autism is that they prefer to be alone. My research suggests this simply isn’t true.

In an ongoing study, for example, my team conducted interviews related to sex and relationships with 40 adults with autism. Only three expressed ambivalence about relationships, mostly due to worries about coping with the needs of another person. Nearly half of the respondents had not yet had a relationship but expressed a strong desire for one.

Despite the desire to form relationships, this group expressed limited knowledge about how they would meet someone or show their interest. They found the idea of going out to a pub or club frightening, and socializing with groups of people provoked high anxiety. Some of them expressed a disdain for small talk, and others admitted they had little idea of how to engage in general conversation. They also found the use of dating apps unappealing and said they thought there was an inherent danger in meeting strangers.

Sex education could help these individuals feel confident in approaching others using role-play. For example, they could use techniques created by the late Augusto Boal, a Brazilian theater director who created plays in which audiences could participate.

In the context of sex education, an actor would play the part of the individual with autism and re-create one of that person’s real-life experiences, such as trying to talk to someone new in a bar. The individual with autism would then give the actor new directions — such as “What if I offer to buy her a drink?” — allowing the person with autism to try out many approaches, and witness potential consequences, in a safe environment.

Advice network:

Although instructors may help with some aspects of communication, it’s profoundly difficult to teach someone how to read the intentions and desires of others. Most teenagers rely on peers to work through some of these social complexities.

Teens get feedback from their peers on how to interact, meet new people and gauge the appropriateness of a relationship. Teens with autism struggle with close relationships, but sex education classes could facilitate that learning.

Our research suggests that they desire this guidance. For example, one individual in our study commented that schools should provide students with the “skills on how to find the right sort of partner.” To accomplish this goal, a school could provide an advice network, including regular group meetings in which young people with autism share and reflect upon their experiences. Social networking could extend this support.

For most adolescents, peers also fill in gaps such as helping to define sexual slang. In our study, another participant commented that hearing “dirty talk” from other students made her feel left behind. She was also unsure how to decode the words she heard, and said her school should explain what people might say in a sexual context and what these terms mean. With this context, she could decide to get involved or not.

Moderated discussions in a peer network could help address such slang and provide a safe space for students to ask questions about unfamiliar words.

Different sexualities:

To be effective, sex education in schools must take into consideration that some individuals with autism do not conform to traditional sex roles. When we interviewed 40 young adults with autism as part of an ongoing study, we found that 20 percent identified as gay or bisexual — more than is reported in national surveys of the general population. Gender fluidity may also be more common in individuals with autism: In a study we conducted this year (but is not yet published), we found an unusually high incidence of autism and autism traits in individuals who identify as transsexual or non-binary.

Despite these high numbers, some people with autism find it hard to accept different sexualities. As one male participant explained: “I have a rigid way of seeing the world, and this prevented me from accepting my sexuality. I sort of denied it to myself because I have very concrete black-and-white thinking and it didn’t quite fit in.” This early inability to accept his sexuality and identify as a gay man led to severe depression and admittance to a psychiatric ward.

In some ways, people with autism may even fall outside the ever-expanding range of sexual identities we see today, such as gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual and asexual. For example, one of our participants explained that her wonderful relationship with another girl with autism often involved sitting together for up to 10 hours reading in silence, or spending hours discussing Greek history.

Autism represents a profoundly different way of seeing and being in the world, and individuals with autism often expend great mental and physical effort just trying to appear ‘normal.’ Sex education in school needs to move away from suggesting that people with autism should fit in, and instead explore alternatives to traditional types of romantic relationships.

Awareness gaps:

Our work also suggests that individuals with autism aren’t always aware that they are sexual beings. This lack of self-awareness manifests both in the sexual cues they give off and how they may be perceived by others.

For example, two participants in our study reported behavior that could be perceived as stalking, such as continually following strangers, although they didn’t indicate that they understood how this could seem threatening. One described it this way: “I literally just saw him on the street. And then pretty much just stalked him.”

Not having a sense of one’s own sexuality can be harmful in other ways. For example, individuals with autism are three times as likely to experience sexual exploitation as their peers5. In our study, participants spoke of times when they had been extremely vulnerable and open to abuse. One woman reported that others had gotten her drunk and encouraged her to have sex with girls even though she doesn’t identify as gay. In the interview, she did not appear to be aware that these incidents could be perceived as someone taking advantage of her.

Sex educators need to understand these gaps in awareness to build confidence in young people with autism and to protect them from harm and from unintentionally harming others. For example, young people with autism need to be aware of the law on issues such as stalking, which they themselves may not see as a problem. Their education needs to include lessons on the language of sex and draw distinctions between playful and threatening behavior. It also needs to address issues of abuse and signs that a relationship or encounter is abusive.

Research such as ours can offer insight into this area and provide the tools for effective sex education for people with autism. With the right support, adolescents with autism can feel more comfortable building relationships and exploring their sexuality. This support will help them develop healthy relationships and experience their benefits to well-being, self-esteem and happiness.

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