Those parents who did resist the heter- onormativity and sexist aspects of gender reaffirmation generally had more flexible ideas about sexuality and gender. This supports other studies suggesting that people with nontradi- tional ideas about gender are less likely to have negative attitudes about homosexuality, while those who fear homosexuality are more likely to have conservative gender expecta- tions Lehne ; Minnigerode Men and Masculinity All of the other parents believed that their son required extra intervention on the part of the father or stepfather since a man had sexually abused him.
How do we explain this to them? I got a lot of correction to make up for. When asked how they would feel if it had been a daughter who was sexually abused, all the fathers said they would also want to spend more time with daughters. Spending more time with their sexually abused child may be a generic response to trauma. How fathers spent their time with their child, however, is a gendered process. For instance, most agreed that the sex- ual abuse of a son is more devastating because it threatens traditional sexual scripts that con- stitute heteronormative gender relations which will be explained in more detail below.
Fear of homosexuality seemed to eclipse other issues associated with CSA for all fathers, except Philip who I discussed in the previous section. Three of the strategies for gender reaffirmation included athleticism, emotional detachment, and the promotion of heterosexuality. These forms of gender reaffirmation are in alignment with what other theorists have identified as being crucial to the maintenance of masculinity in both adulthood Bird and childhood McGuffey and Rich Even so, these two fathers used several interviews, over several years, to talk about sport as a way to encourage hegemonic forms of masculinity.
All other fathers continually justified their enthusiasm for sport because it helped encourage boys to compete against other boys. As a result of these boys being dominated by their abusers, most fathers felt that their son needed to learn to dominate. Although sport participation may be normal for boys of this age, parents articulated that it was specifically used as a remedy for same-sex CSA.
According to many parents, boys needed to assert aggression over other males so that their sons did not lose their rights to masculinity. Although fathers often said that they should be spending more time with their sons, very few acted on this belief. Moreover, most fathers could have taken advantage of job leaves, but only six fathers did one white, one Puerto Rican, and four black , and three did so because they were, more or less, forced by family members to do so. This sexual abuse issue has him feeling powerless. Unfortunately that means learning how to protect yourself, sometimes even being aggressive and outright mean.
Our sons, too, can wield power over others. We hope to teach them this through competition. This [child sexual abuse] will not stop them from growing up into men. Fathers, in particular, viewed sports as activities that would protect their sons from homosexuality and feminization. Lewis WMM stated: Signing [my son] up for baseball was definitely a good idea. Being around other normal boys—you know, boys that have not been molested and are, therefore, not going to be influenced by this gay thing—will lead him in the right direction.
Steven WMM , who signed his son up for football after the abuse, further illustrated this point: Sports are good, because it stops boys from being too soft. That may be good for some kids, but boys who have been damaged in this way need an extra dose of testosterone [he laughs]. Nothing like a good pounding to turn a boy into a man. I learned what it meant to be masculine. Sports are a way they can come back to manhood. Being an athlete gets you lots of female attention. It is this link that encouraged parents to involve their sexually abused sons in sports.
Organized sport is a mechanism to encourage and sustain heterosexuality and to reestablish hegemonic norms of masculinity Messner , , ; McGuffey and Rich Approximately half of the parents interviewed reported that their son was active in a sport before the abuse. Post-abuse athletic involvement increased to three-fourths. He Feels Too Much. Now, boys are too nice and passive.
He feels too much. Fathers emphasized that emotional detachment was necessary for their sons to associate with other boys. While athleticism was viewed as a way to help their sons manage the recovery process by inspiring competition, emotional detachment was seen as a way to help integrate their sons into masculine realms. I need to help him downplay his sensitive side and up-play his aggressive, man side. I had to get Chris away from that. Chris was being too wimpy and was turning his brother into a wuss, too. Now, when Rubin wants to get all girly with Chris I send Rubin to his mother.
But Chris is eleven. He needs to learn to be tougher and teach his little brother to be a man and stop being scared all the time. Masculinity is equated with emotional detachment and is the opposite of anything asso- ciated with femininity, including sexual exploitation. The reticence surrounding emotions associated with femininity is more than just constructing individual masculinities in these sexually abused boys. Nothing over the top or anything, but I want to encourage him to take notice of women. I want to steer him, you know, towards 7.
So I, you know, get him to look at girls. I hate to admit it, but I even left a Playboy magazine out for him to accidentally find. Elijah BMM was even more explicit: My son likes girls, and I keep an eye out to make sure it stays that way. I ask if his girlfriend is the prettiest girl in school because he needs to know he can compete with other boys for girls.
The promotion of heterosexuality was in conjunction with the condemnation of any same-sex affection. Men should only be touching girls. In this way, heterosexuality is deployed to foster masculinity. This highlights masculinity as a process of accomplishment and a resource that must be won and secured Connell , As a whole, though, mothers were less explicit in their homosexual anxieties and talked about it less frequently as compared to fathers. Most single mothers outsourced gender reaffirmation to men. Therefore, they talked much less about it. Nevertheless, their gender recovery work and investment in heterosexuality is evident.
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Most married mothers, like Heather WMW , felt that: these sexually molested boys need more time with their fathers to help them with this sex thing. A boy needs a father to teach him how to be a man. But, as mothers, we have to do our part in saving masculinity.
So I try to provide them the space and time to do, you know, guy things. So I try to adjust my time so that they can be alone. Not that Paul did very much anyway. But our son needs all the extra time with his father that he can get. When [our son] starts doing things that are a result of the sexual abuse, like being too effeminate with his mannerisms or anything like that, I tell Paul so he can deal with it.
When it comes to manhood and the like I leave it to his dad. His father can teach him that these effeminate behaviors are not appropriate for boys. This reifies ste- reotypes that construct and maintain heteronormative gender relations. A num- ber of single mothers relied on other men to actualize the gender reaffirmation strategies in which married couples participated.
While single mothers spoke of their fathers i. Because of the abuse I feel that [my son] needs my brother. I depend on my brother to show him the way. I also get my boy- friend to take [my son] out to play sports, go fishing, fix cars, do electrical work, or whatever else boys do. As a woman I can only do so much. Bridgett WSW , for instance, was not dating anyone at the time of the study, her parents and siblings lived in another state, and she was fairly new to the city. Prior to discovering that their sons had been or were being sexually abused, all the mothers in the sample were employed in the labor market.
Twenty-seven of the thirty-six mothers were full-time employees and nine mothers worked part time.
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Five of the nine part-time employees worked shorter hours and one quit altogether. The FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Rather than continuing to utilize her employee discount at the childcare pro- gram at the college, Bridgett enrolled her son in another program that was inconveniently located and cost significantly more.
You know how colleges try to be, like, way too liberal and they just let too many things fly by without questioning. He needs positive examples of boys, and men, too. Bridgett also registered her son for Boy Scouts and baseball, other expenses and time- consuming activities she did not have previously.go to site
“Boys don’t cry” stereotypes harm masculinity
So I think [Scouts and baseball] will, will help, you know what I mean? They will help him grow and learn how to be a boy again. And not like, you know, that kind of boy, a wimp or a, uhm, you know, a pussy-boy [she starts to laugh]. As women, mothers feel less capable of providing the tools for this development. Whereas married mothers tend to rely primarily on husbands, single mothers articulated a much wider network of men who participated in gen- der reaffirmation.
Black and Puerto Rican parents, though, make use of an additional discursive resource that is not available to white parents. Black and Puerto Rican parents utilize racial rhetoric as a supplementary justification for pushing their sons into the same stereotypical, hegemonic masculine activities as the white parents. For these parents, race is used as the conceptual glue that binds masculinity and heterosexuality Col- lins , reifies racial authenticity Thomas , and champions cultural superiority over the dominant group see Espiritu and Wilkins In sum, the participants of color use racial ideologies to mediate their interpretations of trauma through their self-defined customs and 9.
Furthermore, gender reaffirmation by fam- ilies of color reveals the intersections of sexuality and race in the construction of masculinities. He explained: This [CSA] is something that happens in white families, not black. Elijah BMM endorses the same view.
For instance, a black in-law abused his son. He stated: [The perpetrator] must have learned that sexual abuse disorder from them [i. He was perfectly normal before he went off to [an elite university in the Northeast].
But you know we started noticing differences early on. You know, he started acting white. I know he picked up that perversion from hanging out with them all the time. He lives and breathes with and for white people. Identified as a white sexual perversion, black and Puerto Rican parents interpreted CSA as especially damaging to their sons. Marianna PMW verbalized how the sexual transgression of CSA challenges not only sexual development, but gender and race as well: Sexually abusing children in our communities is just unheard of, especially boys.
I feel like we have to work a little bit harder than the other parents [i. The blacks and Puerto Ricans felt that they had extra work to do as compared to white par- ents. This working harder included taking extra time to increase the racial proximity and cul- tural interactions of their sons. Like other participants of color, Marianna and her husband try to help their son develop and maintain same-race friends and attend cultural events that aid in ethno-racial cultural maintenance which will be explained more below. If the sexual abuse resulted in a homosexual orientation, the parents feared that this would further stigmatize their child and themselves as parents.
Unlike studies of white children where parents perceive that it is more challenging to raise girls, black and Puerto Rican parents often perceive that it is more difficult to raise boys Hill This is largely due to media depictions and stereotypes of black and Puerto Rican men as criminals. It is feared that these portrayals will increase the likelihood of misfortune for black and Puerto Rican boys. The black and Puerto Rican parents in this study also articulated this perception.
Being a Puerto Rican boy is not easier, but they face more life threatening [challenges] from white society than Puerto Rican girls. So being Puerto Rican, a boy, and gay would be too hard. Berna BMW agreed: We [i. Whether you are talking about racial gaps in income, home ownership, and racism on the job, and so on, we parents have enough to worry about every time our child walks out the door.
We are just at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. So now you tell us that our son could be gay? It makes his future seem darker, bleaker. As a good parent I am obliged to make sure he has the best chance possible. They live in black parts of town. He needs other black boys to help straighten him out, so [my wife] and I make sure he hangs around other black boys as much as possible.
He and his wife also live in a primarily white community. Hanging around other black kids, other black boys in particular, will show him that he can mature naturally without the stain of homosexuality on him. As such, Kenneth takes his son to visit relatives on weekends so that his son can play with his cousins and the other black children who live near them. This neighborhood is also adjacent to the working class black community in which Monica was raised.
They said they originally moved because they did not want others in the neighborhood to know about the abuse. They admit, however, that their rela- tives encouraged them to move near them so that they could help them more easily. According to Monica and Brian, an added bonus is that their son gets to play with other black children.
These accounts also highlight variations in masculinities. In addition, it is important to note that although the parents are using the language of race in their accounts, they are also in practice encouraging a race and class form of gendered sexuality. Research suggests that when people talk about African Americans and Puerto Ricans they are often envisioning those who are working class or poor, especially in regards to gender and sexuality Collins ; Roberts ; Wilkins From this per- spective, it is not because these parents are necessarily consciously thinking about a poor or working-classed form of racial and gendered sexuality.
Rather, what the parents know to be racially authentic is class coded because of the way social class has shaped the particular net- works in which the black and Puerto Rican parents are embedded. This research contributes to the literature that suggests that variations in racialized mas- culinities are not simply cultural artifacts. Instead, the social location of racial minorities in a racially stratified society intersects with culture and both simultaneously influence the per- formance of masculinities Baca Zinn , ; Chen However, insofar as the fami- lies of color invoke the special problems of blackness or Puerto Ricanness as justification for gender reaffirmation, they are primarily seizing on a discursive strategy for explaining a set of actions in which the white families also partake.
However, I show this is not the case. Extrafamilial child sexual abuse is a particularly clear, yet unfortunate, heuristic for under- standing this process. The social construction of boys and men is most evident when there is a threat to the privileges of hegemonic masculinity Chen ; Messner This article extends this theoretical concept from how social actors attempt to reaffirm traditional ideals of gender for themselves to how they endeavor to reaffirm gender for others after trauma.
Parents relied on athleticism, emotional detachment, and the promotion of heterosexuality to aid in reaffirmation. These tenets have consistently been associated with hegemonic mascu- linity. Focusing on these structural identifiers of hegemonic masculinity allowed these men and women to feel secure in their parenting.
For the black and Puerto Rican parents, racial marginalization influenced their appraisals of trauma and their process of reaffirmation. According to these parents, this necessitates a racially specific form of gender reaffirmation. Research consistently shows that when the CSA victim is a boy, parents often believe that same-sex CSA can lead to homosexuality.
Viewing sexuality, gender, and, for black and Puerto Rican parents, race, as inextricably linked, many mothers and fathers in this study felt they had to vigorously reconstruct sexualized and racialized identities for their sexually abused sons through gender reaffirmation. As Amy Wilkins makes clear, active desta- bilization of one identity category necessarily puts others at stake. Although the parents explicitly acknowledge sexuality as their target of concern, they attempt to manipulate other forms of social differentiation e. This underscores both the significance of sexuality and race in the pro- duction of gender reaffirmation and the importance of sexuality in the social construction of gender and race.
By participating in gender reaffirmation processes, most parents perpetuate hegemonic gender relations. In this way, gender reaffirmation reproduces the very structures that con- strain men and women. The agentic quality of this duality of structure and agency, however, leaves room for innovation and change despite the persistence of normative social relations, as evidenced by the few progressive parents in the study. In the CSA liter- ature, hypermasculinzation is a psychological concept that stresses internal, psychosomatic impulses that drive individual boys and men into exaggerated, stereotypical male activities after same-sex CSA Dhaliwal et al.
My findings are consistent with psychological studies that routinely observe hypermasculinization in male CSA victims. The hypermasculine behaviors reported in these psychological studies include disruptive behaviors, emotional detachment, violence, and homophobic behaviors. Recognizing the stigma associated with same-sex acts, this literature suggests that sexually abused boys attempt to disassociate themselves from any- thing that symbolizes femininity or homosexuality. In doing so, these boys internalize hyper- masculine representations and act out these images in their lives. This explanatory model goes on to say that this cognitively protects the child from further self-ridicule.
Social factors may be as, or even more, significant than internal psychic processes. My findings sug- gest that sexually abused boys do not turn to hypermasculinity on their own, the result of a more or less natural psychological response to a perceived threat to their gender and sexual identities. My find- ings highlight the social process of conferring hegemonic masculinity onto boys rather than the more individualistic interpretation of hypermasculinization as articulated in most of the CSA literature.
Sports, the objectification of girls and women, emotional detachment, and homophobia are common features in the lives of most boys regardless of their sexual abuse status. That gender reaffirmation appears across household composition, across gender, across race, and in a study with participant demographics typically associated with gender liberalism suggests the power of gender reaffirmation as a theoretical concept. Future research should develop controls to test these ideas experimentally. Last, my findings support other trauma research that suggests conservatism is a common consequence of tragedy.
Trauma theorists generally root this cognitive conservatism in the need for psychological stability and coherence after tragic events Janoff-Bulman My research highlights the social dimensions of conservatism and illuminates how individuals draw upon macro understandings of the social world to contour social psychological interpre- tations.
My research demon- strates how people can use the social organization of sexuality, gender, and race to render sit- uations intelligible so that they can act in a way that they perceive as reasonable. Relying solely, or even primarily, on intrapsychic frameworks for understanding victim reactions may not do justice to the complexity of trauma and may hinder recovery if therapeutic strategies fail to see how the social environment contours interpretations and behavior. The value of studying trauma in this way is that it sets the stage for analyses of critical situations under a variety of trauma conditions, leading to more critical social psychological understandings of the situational factors and experiences of trauma.
References Abney, Veronica and Ronnie Priest. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press. Almaguer, Tomas. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Arey, Doug. Baca Zinn, Maxine. Bird, Sharon R. Chen, Anthony. Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics. New York: Routledge. Comas-Diaz, Lillian. Connell, R. Crenshaw, Kimberle.
Davis, James. New York: Rout- ledge Falmer. Deblinger, Esther and Anne Hope Heflin. Halving It All. Dhaliwal, Gurmeet K. Antonowicz, and Robert R. Edin, Katherine. Espiritu, Yen Le. Finkelhor, David. New York: The Free Press. Gagnon, John H. Sexual Conduct. Chicago: Aldine. Garfinkel, Harold. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Giddens, Anthony. Social Theory and Modern Society. Glaser, Barney.
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