Laughing at the Sexual Abuse of Boys?
In recent days, I have twice seen a television trailer for That's My Boy, a new movie featuring the dubious pairing of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, both of Saturday Night Live fame. Embedded in the storyline is the premise that Sandler's character was seduced by his teacher as a young teenager. The result was a pregnancy—followed by high-fives for the 13-year-old father in the courtroom during the teacher's trial—and the birth of their child, played by Samberg. The father, whom Samberg's character calls "basically the worst parent ever," tries to reconnect with his son when he needs money.
I don't anticipate much redeeming value in this movie, and I don't plan to see it. But the trailer caught my attention because of its casual suggestion that the sexual abuse of boys is funny.
Such a depiction of sexual contact between adult women and boys is not unusual. As one recent story points out, myths and stereotypes frequently distort our view of boys who are sexually abused by adult women. Many assume that such contact is every boy's dream, that boys want to be seduced, and that such an experience is somehow a sexual conquest for the victim. Thus, we seem far less troubled when adult women abuse boys than when men abuse girls.
The reality is, all such cases involve the sexual exploitation of children, regardless of gender. Like other sex crimes, sexual abuse is an act of violence and power, not an act of love or even desire. The child experiencing abuse is not a victor; he is a victim.
Both in and outside the church, in recent decades we have become much more open in discussing the prevalence and effects of sexual abuse. But the abuse of boys by adult women remains largely hidden and is often waved away by not only popular culture, but even by those charged with protecting the abused. Research indicates that one in six boys is sexually abused before age 18. Such abuse happens at the hands of both men and women. Experts claim sexual abuse of boys is an underreported crime—and among the factors that discourage reporting are the stereotypes that say abused boys should enjoy sex with older women and should believe they've made a conquest.
As with girls, sexual abuse has a devastating effect on boys. According to the American Psychological Association, both male and female survivors of child sexual abuse often suffer depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Prolific Christian writer Cecil Murphey focused on this topic in his book When a Man You Love Was Abused. Murphey, who was sexually abused by a female relative, has invited other men to share their stories on his blog, Shattering the Silence. A read through these men's posts quickly shatters the myth that sexual abuse of boys is a welcome and confidence-building experience.