I went on my lunch break at work yesterday, and it was a very typical day. I pulled out my phone and I started browsing Facebook to kill a few minutes while my food heated up in the microwave. If you have any access to social media at all, it’s extremely possible that you saw the same story I did: a former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader has been arrested for raping a 15 year old boy she met on Instagram. Article after article after article filled my newsfeed. It’s sad to say that we have all seen these stories, and even more disheartening to know that we are going to continue seeing them.
But honestly, I am not here to talk about the case itself. I am truly sad for the family and for the boy. But I am also furious. The comments on the story were some of the most vile, ignorant, and downright incorrect statements I’ve ever read.
Now I am not one to get terribly bent out of shape over Facebook comments. Anytime a news story is posted on social media, you’re going to have a few comments that are pure allegorical bile. I suppose that’s the nature of free speech in conjunction with social media and internet philosophers. But I was legitimately angry over this. Not only were most of the comments insinuating that a male can’t be raped by a female, they were congratulatory. Instead of the normal situation where only a few of the comments are offensive and out of line, the roles were reversed. This time, only a sliver of the comments were reasonable. A few candles in an otherwise dark, endless room with the doors closed and the windows blackened. I simply couldn’t understand the attitudes of this. I mean, certainly there are differences between the genders, and I understand that. But a 47 year old woman and a 15 year old boy is a pretty cut and dry definition of statutory rape.
Merriam-Webster defines statutory rape as “the crime of having sex with someone who is younger than an age that is specified by law”. As you can clearly see, there is no gender specification in the definition. This offense took place in Delaware, and according to Delaware’s state website, rape is defined when someone “intentionally engages in sexual intercourse with another person, and the victim has not reached his or her sixteenth birthday and the person is at least 10 years older than the victim, or the victim has not yet reached his or her fourteenth birthday and the person has reached his or her nineteenth birthday.” As you can see, the state’s criminal code is sure to include “his or her” in their language. In this particular case, the victim had not yet reached his sixteenth birthday and the person being charged was at least ten years older than him. In fact, she is 32 years older than he is.
But again, this blog isn’t about the case or showing why it is rape. It’s clear that it is, and I trust the legal system to do it’s job. What I am so put off by is the attitude that it somehow isn’t rape if the victim is a male and the perpetrator is a female. Especially an attractive, professional cheerleading female.
There have been studies in this area. Pediatrics, the office journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, posted a study done in 2006 which reported that 61.7 percent of 9th and 10th graders report feeling some sort of negative consequence from engaging in sexual behavior. The tables break down what the various consequences are.
Another study, conducted by the criminal justice department at the University of Massachusetts cites a study that says adolescent men who have “consensual” relationships with adults are more likely to report emotional problems later in life. And these are only two. If you care to research, you can find more.
Earlier this year, a Virginia ex-school employee named Patience Perez was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a fifteen year old male student. “This has basically ruined me,” he told WTKR. “This has not physically hurt me, but mentally it’s hurt me a lot.” The boy’s mother has a petition going at change.org, if you care to take a look at that. She is asking that the Commonwealth of Virginia change the way it prosecutes adult female predators pursuing impressionable young boys.
Since the time we started AVFTI, I have heard lots and lots of stories. Many of them have been told to me in person by people with whom I have been friends for a long time. One of these stories was by a friend who had previously told me that he lost his virginity at 14 to a woman more than double his age, and that it was still something he struggled with. I asked him if he would mind discussing that a bit, and he agreed. He did request to have his name changed, so I am going to call him Jacob. Just a touch of context for a few things mentioned in this interview: he is around my age (I’m 30) and we met during the years when I played in bands. Our bands played together over the years, and we got to know each other a bit. I don’t say this to give hints…it wouldn’t work anyway. I’ve played with tons and tons of bands. Just to give a frame of reference of where I am coming from in this discussion.
Rather than post an audio clip, I transcribed the whole thing. Not only did I not want to have his voice recorded on here when he asked to be anonymous, but we are also friends. Friends tend to get sidetracked from time to time in discussion. Writing out our entire hour long conversation took some time. But I think it’s important. It’s important to realize what we are up against. These are real problems, folks. And the attitude that women can’t rape boys is preposterous at best, and extremely damaging – both individually and at a societal level – at worst.
So here it is…my discussion with Jacob.
Me: Can you please explain, in as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable, what you went through to make you a relevant source when it comes to matters such as this?
Jacob: Yeah. I was 14 and my parents had recently gotten divorced. My mother had cheated on my dad and it was a pretty cut and dry situation there. He didn’t want to deal with it, and it hurt him. He tried to make it work, and she tried to make it as impossible as she could. It was very difficult, and it hurt me to see my dad hurt. I grew up in a non-nurturing home, but I’ve always wanted that love and nurture from my father, so seeing him struggle like that was killer for me. In the coming month after that, my dad leaned on me a lot for support. I was not used to it, but it made me love him very, very much. That created a lot of anger and hostility toward my mother. We had a neighbor who my mother was pretty good friends with and she was in her mid to upper 30s at that time. I kind of helped out with some stuff. Her one son didn’t live with her, and she was divorced. I never knew the details of her life because I never understood to ask those questions at that point in time. I guess at that time, me being 14, there was something appealing about me to her. She always asked me to come help out, and I was home alone a lot because my dad worked very long hours. So it was just me there. I thought it was great because she showed me the affection and care that my mother never took the time to show me. So I was just with her a lot. She came over. She would make me lunch sometimes during the summer, or I would mow her lawn. She would do this thing where she would actually sunbathe in the nude, and being 14 years old, this woman was attractive to me. Because she was sunbathing in the nude. So it was easy for me to find her appealing. And one day I was mowing her lawn, and she invited me in, and that was simply it. We had sex. And that was the first time I’d ever had sex in my life. I wasn’t nervous or scared. I was comforted by her, and she made me feel safe.
Me: Yeah. That’s one of the things that I find so damaging about these kinds of situations. When we first started AVFTI, I did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. My topic was “I’m a male sexual abuse victim, and I’m starting this non-profit.” For me, I was trying to get used to answering questions. I had talked to my friends, girlfriends…whoever. My friends all knew my story. But I knew that if we were going to be doing this organization that was being led by my story, I needed to be able to answer questions from strangers. And answer questions that I hadn’t thought of. I needed to be able to think on my feet, and what better way to do that than to be able to think about your answers and type them out. And it actually got a decent response, but one person asked “did it feel good?” And my friend thought that they were being facetious. And to me, it didn’t matter if they were being facetious. I mean, sex is designed to feel good. So as an adult, I am not attracted to guys, so I wouldn’t choose a guy to have a sexual encounter with. And I most certainly wouldn’t choose my dad. But…it felt good. And aside from all other issues that come along with it, that in and of itself is a duality that a kid shouldn’t have to sort out. I think that’s what bothers me so much about the responses to this Baltimore cheerleader case. He’s a 15 year old kid going through puberty…every female is potentially attractive to him and he’s not a point where he can make decisions like that. Which actually brings me to my next question. Putting aside the fact that minors cannot legally give consent to sexual activity, would you say that the sexual encounter between you and your neighbor was consensual?
Me: So you weren’t forced into it. At the time, you made a decision.
Jacob: Physically forced, no. Absolutely not. I was gently led.
Me: Yeah. They call that grooming. So, did it happen more than once?
Me: It did. I think that’s important to mention because in this case it’s a cheerleader he met online. A random woman. But a lot of times, we are seeing teacher to student. And you see ongoing relationships. So I only ask that to further draw the parallel between your own story, which I’m very grateful you’re sharing, and what we’re seeing in the news which the public seems to have such negative comments about.
Jacob: Yeah. I think one of the comments that irked me was “Rape? More like a dream come true.”
Me: Yeah. There was that along with “Where was she when I was 15?” and “I’d let her rape me”. Like, I’m not a violent guy. I haven’t been in one actual fist fight since I’ve been an adult, but I just wanted to find these people and grab them by the collar and shake them and say “Do you fucking understand what you’re saying?!”
Jacob: One of the comments I saw was where this guy went on a super long tangent about how it was wrong because it was gross. Because she was old. That’s one that bothered me.
Me: Yeah. And this was one local news story. This was surely covered nationwide, and every single post is going to have tons of those vile responses. People just don’t get it. And that’s the thing; people just don’t realize that it messes with people. Even if it’s a male. And even if he’s having sex with an attractive cheerleader. There are studies to back this up. And speaking of the comments coming out about this story, when you were younger, did anyone else know that that happened to you?
Me: So there wouldn’t have been anyone to give reactions. What about now?
Jacob: Now I am very open about it.
Me: Have you ever experienced someone giving reactions similar to those given in the Facebook comments?
Jacob: Yes. Some of my closest friends did.
Me: Did it aggravate you at the time? Or did you just kind of let it go?
Jacob: It aggravated me, but I went along with it I guess. This is back when I was around 19 or 20 when I first started getting comfortable with the idea of talking about it. It’s when I first told my therapist about it. And that made me feel more comfortable with it. And being in my band also helped me to talk about it because one of the members was very pressing. He has that ability. My friends cared a lot. My older friends, the ones that we know and are close to, were very supportive at that time. But then I would tell my younger friends. For instance, some of those younger bands we played with. And they would react like “oh my God that’s awesome!”. And it was more like at that time, that was when I believed in God and I was more so sharing as part of a story to work through and talk about the importance of ‘saving it’ or not being sexually promiscuous.
Me: So do you feel you have experienced problems in romantic relationships you’ve had as an adult that you feel are directly or indirectly caused by these experiences?
Jacob: Every single one. It’s interesting. It’s a long winded answer, so I’ll try to make it as brief as I can. Earlier, back when I was in my early 20s, i didn’t know how to take it. I didn’t really evaluate myself much. What had happened was I had essentially fallen in love with this woman, and that she was going to be with me. And we were in love with each other. This was the mentality that I had. She up and left out of nowhere, and that destroyed me. I had not had that nurturing relationship with my parents at all so when I had her there, that was the most comfortable thing in the world for me. It was somebody to lean on. So in my earlier relationships, what happened a lot was I would first lean on my girlfriends too much. I would rely on them too much for emotional support. Or any kind of support. I never really needed the emotional support, I would just expect it to be accessible. And if it wasn’t I would get frustrated. That was a lot of the emotional aspect of it. Sexually was a completely different story. I was unbelievably sexually insecure. I was terrified to have sex. There was a period of time there where I just didn’t. At all. I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t so much physically insecure. It was in the “I don’t want to feel that emotional attachment again through sex”. So eventually, what it developed into when it came to sexual and romantic relationships was I didn’t want to sleep with anybody that I actually cared about. It was flipped around for me. And it wasn’t in the joking male way of “oh I don’t want to get her all clingy on me man”. It was more like when I developed a respect for women, I shut off. I am completely emotionally detached from sex now. And some people have to cut themselves off emotionally to have sex. But for me, I have to force it to happen. I have to force myself to want to be emotionally invested in sex. That’s taxing, especially for women that I date. I had a very serious relationship with somebody for almost two years, and it got to the point where I just didn’t want to have sex anymore. And that bothered her so much because she wanted to feel that closeness to me. And every single time, it just didn’t do anything for her. And the more and more upset she got, the further and further I pushed her away and it ultimately ruined our relationship and it shut me off cold. I couldn’t do things like that. It’s been a long road of rocky things. Lashing out at women. Hating women. Wanting to just sleep with them for control. And that’s probably my biggest problem. Sex was for control. It was for me to say “I am the one who wants to have sex with you, and you are the one who is lucky to be having sex with me.” And that was painful to come to that realization and stop doing that. To stop lying to women. To stop emotionally abusing them just for the sake of getting in their pants. To summarize how it impacted my relationships: complete absence of emotion. Complete sexual insecurity which distanced me because eventually sometimes people start to wonder why. “Why don’t you want to have sex with me? Why are you so distant from me?” And you don’t want to answer. You don’t want to tell them “well it’s because the first time I had sex, I fell head over heels for a woman who was twice my age.” It’s not a comfortable conversation to have with someone.
Now, I am in a relationship with someone who is my best friend. Someone I was close with for a long period of time. And I had shared that with her not thinking that I would ever be with her because she was unavailable. And she has to force me to stay with her emotionally sometimes. But she does it. And there’s hopefulness there, absolutely. But it impacted not just my romantic relationships but also my other relationships.
Me: That actually led to my next question. Do you see residual effects in your friendships?
Jacob: Yeah. Trust. Trust is the biggest thing. Telling the truth. That’s very hard. About anything. It came to such a huge control issue. Everything was about control for me. And I still fight that daily. My therapist was kind enough to get opinions from other psychotherapists as well and have me diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder as a result. Not just of that, but other things as well, but it’s one of the primary parts. I shut down for 10+ years. And when you do that, you forget how. And I found myself lying all the time. To my friends. For no reason…just for the sake of being able to say “I’m getting away with this right now.” And it was immature, but it made me feel like I had power. And when I got caught, and I would get caught – you can’t lie forever, I’d be like “oh..that’s embarrassing.” Because I got caught. Not because I lied. Those things would happen, and I couldn’t trust people because I couldn’t trust myself. I couldn’t trust my guy friends because I thought they were going to try and steal away any girlfriend I had. And I always thought that my girlfriends were attracted to the guys that I was friends with. And would cheat on me with them. I would get jealous of friendships. I wouldn’t care to spend time with my friends, but I would get upset over the fact that they would want to be spending time with anybody but me. And it’s tiny things like that that lead me back to not having friends growing up. I was awkward. I was socially inept. I didn’t have my parents showing me what to do. And then this woman, out of nowhere, shows me all kinds of attention. Thinks I’m charming and funny and attractive and just interesting. So interesting. She said I had a brilliant mind and was so intelligent and God, just, stroked my ego. And it felt good. And I certainly developed an ego – a very, very heavy one. Especially after having sex with her.
Me: You know, it’s interesting that you say that. One of the comments that I read that hit me the most was “Poor kid will have unshakeable self confidence for the rest of his life.” Unshakeable self confidence. It sounds to me, and I don’t want to speak for you, but it sounds to me like you aren’t describing self-confidence, but you were describing an inflated ego.
Jacob: The appearance of an inflated ego. I mean, he’s absolutely right. I was given unshakeable self confidence on the outside. And then I started having meaningful relationships with people, and I realized “oh wait. This isn’t real at all. This is a fake thing. This is something that I relied on somebody else in order to have.” The whole confidence thing was big on how it impacted the relationships. I would get to a point where maybe I did feel comfortable being intimate with someone. I was so resistant to it and thought that sex was just a barbaric thing. Not something that I wanted to avoid because it was barbaric, but that’s just how I viewed it. It was nothing emotional to me. And it was never anything important to me. People always said “it’s a big step” and I was just like “…really?” And I’ve seen that in a lot of people who have been through situations like ours.
People do go through phases where they aren’t sexually interested. And it has nothing to do with you or their attraction or feelings for you or anything like that. They just don’t want to have sex. And after you give in, and say “okay, this is emotional” and you start to feel that connection, and you just crash into that person, and you become that true soul-sucking connection that is what sex is at it’s finest, most intimate point, and then YOU don’t feel, in your mind, that they are sexually accessible, it drives you insane. Because you start to wonder “oh fuck. What’s wrong with me? What am I doing? Is she not attracted to me anymore? Is she just not interested in having sex with me? Is she cheating on me? Is there somebody else? Is she going to break up with me?” You start to go crazy and these wild thoughts cross your mind that are completely unrealistic. Because what’s really going on in there is “I’m just not in the mood to have sex lately, but I love you to death. I would do anything for you still and none of my feelings have changed. Just not in the mood, and haven’t been lately. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
I become desperate for it. I become absolutely desperate for that connection with that person that I love and trust. And I become so fearful of her leaving me. Irrationally. Because it’s happened.
Me: Yeah. I totally understand. I have just two more questions, and one is kind of based on the topic we’ve been talking about. The residual effects. Besides your romantic relationships and besides your friendships, do you see any effects anywhere else in your life? Just in your day to day life.
Jacob: Well, my biggest thing is that I don’t like to feel like I am creating an excuse for what I feel to be not-acceptable behavior. I’m not going sit here and justify my reasoning with it. It hurts a lot to think about. Sometimes I pine a lot over it, and I don’t mean to. Sometimes it just makes me angry. Sometimes I will talk myself through thoughts. That’s what you have to do. That’s what any adult should do when they feel irrational. I try to talk myself through it, and it just reverts. And I’ve got to counteract illogical thoughts with logical thoughts. But then it’s like “is this thought illogical right now? Because this is where it’s leading me to.” Residual effects can be just general fear and paranoia of abandonment. That’s a huge thing. And feeling like relationships are generally taxing for me. They can feel stressful. The desire to ever want to fall in love with someone is frightening because of the sexual insecurities that come along with it. And sex isn’t everything, but it’s intimacy in general. Nurturing is scary. I’m prone to feel interesting extremes in terms of being alone. Physically by myself. Sometimes when I am up here alone in my room, I’d rather be nowhere else and with nobody else but myself. I love that feeling. It is the greatest feeling in the world. I want to be by myself. People know that about me. They can’t get ahold of me if I don’t respond. Sorry, I am having me time. But I am also prone to have absolute crushing loneliness for no reason. And it’s never anything in between. It’s either utter satisfaction with being alone or absolute devastatingly, depressingly lonely.
It was like my first nurturing experience from a parental standpoint, from a child standpoint, from a relationship standpoint, friendship standpoint….it was the most deeply connected nurture that I could ever have from every way you look at it. And it was essentially a game. It’s led me to not care a lot. It impacted me in ways of having personality problems where I have to talk myself out of messing with people I don’t know or playing with their heads. It’s that control issue I have. I find myself at work having such extreme patience. And I enjoy my job a lot. But there’s other times when I just absolutely want to fuck somebody over. “That person did something I didn’t like. It wasn’t wrong, I just didn’t like it.” I’ve found myself having great joy out of causing someone to lose their jobs before. That’s not a cool feeling to have, to look back on it and be like “I did that….ew…I did that”
The other big thing is guilt. I don’t ever feel it. I feel personal embarrassment for things when I fail, when I know I’m doing something wrong. I feel embarrassment, but I never feel guilt. The reason for that, and how it relates to this, is because if she didn’t feel guilt, why the fuck would I ever feel guilt? And I’ve never felt comfortable talking with people about it, and I just blame so much of it on her. And I don’t want to, but I do. And not everything comes back to that. There are a lot of other underlying issues. But that is probably a huge chunk of it. It impacted my relationship with myself in a grave and frightening way.
Me: I understand that too. So my last question is because AVFTI’s mission is to bring hope and lightness into dark places. We are moving forward with what we are calling the Overcome Series, where we have people tell a short version of their story, but then focus on how they overcome. What helps you get through it? Is it art? Music? Writing? For me, it’s always been writing music, but it’s also helping people through the same thing. That’s how I overcome. It could be sports. Whatever it is. Doesn’t always have to be something creative. But people get through things, and I think that’s the most important part. It’s important to understand each other. It’s important to relate to each other at our low levels. But it’s also important to share with one another how we overcome. So that’s my question for you. I am not saying that your problems from this are gone, because I know mine certainly aren’t. I have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. But I know how to do it. I know how to keep going. I know things that make me feel better. I know how to overcome. So, what are your ways of overcoming and working towards restoration, whatever that means for you?
Jacob: Not being afraid to talk about it is huge. And that doesn’t mean talk to everybody. What helped me was to talk to somebody who was completely objective and they didn’t know anything about the situation. And quite honestly he was obligated to do so by his education and the fact that I was paying him. That helped me. As I learned more, the reason it helped me to talk about it wasn’t so I could get it off my chest. It was to learn what it was doing to me. When I learned what it was doing to me, it wasn’t about justifying my behavior. It was about learning the root cause of my behavior. Once I learned more about the root cause of my behavior, I am able to not just correct it, but to combat it and develop it better. That’s the biggest thing that I would tell anybody is just to talk about it. It destroys people. I know so many people who have been impacted by this sort of thing. And the next thing is to not be angry about it, which is easier said than done. For anybody. Forgiving that person’s huge.
Me: We went to this seminar that a group called Connections put on. We work with them very closely. One of their therapists, Rebecca Borne, is extremely intelligent. In this seminar, she said something that blew my mind. She basically redefined what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t saying what the person did was okay. Forgiveness letting go the hope that things could have been different. So it’s not saying that what someone did is okay. It’s saying that what they did happened, and I can’t change it. But I can change who I am going forward. I think that definition changes the way I look at a lot. I really like to think about forgiveness as something we can’t change now. It happened. It is there. We can only change the future. And when she said that, it just blew my mind. It’s such a healthier way of looking at that word “forgive”. It’s real easy for me to hold resentment, but that’s not healthy. So I have to remind myself that I can’t change things. And that’s how I forgive. And we recommend all the time that people seek out counseling, so I definitely agree with you there.
Jacob: Yeah. It’s difficult to want to. Many people wouldd just rather pretend nothing happened. But just to expand a bit, on those cliches. And as real as they are, they are cliches. “Forgive the person that’s harmed you. Let it go. Go seek help. Don’t be afraid.” I don’t like calling them cliches, but it’s just the best I can come up with. They’re what anybody will tell you. For me specifically, I always found comfort in writing music. I do. It’s fun. It’s easy for me. It comes naturally and it’s soothing. But as I’ve gotten a little older, it wasn’t until lately that I realized there is a true, true solace and comfort in the two young girls that I spend my time with now. My girlfriend’s children are….acting as a father figure was never something I saw myself doing. And I immediately after small conversations bonding and supporting and seeing them love you back is the most rewarding feeling. And having them respect you and want to be with you. Calling you to come hang out.
“Can we go get grilled cheese donuts?”
“Yes! We can go get grilled cheese donuts. On my God. Thank you for calling me. Let’s go get grilled cheese donuts. Your mom’s gonna kill me.”
It allows me to have a desire to protect their innocence, however recognize that it’s not a control and force thing, but rather an influence thing. Teaching them. So what I want for them is to not be in a position where I was. If I was as secure as these young girls are now, I would have been like “I’m sorry…no. I don’t want to do that. I’m going to wait for the right person.” If I had known. Loving others, influencing others, and showing these two girls everything that I have that is respectful, loving, and adoring to them. And then watching the over the years grow into something great and something that respects themselves. To be able to say no. Forcefully. And to be able to avoid situations where they have to say no. And to influence men to not want to overpower. To influence women to not want to have those kinds of relationships. Everything. To just be self respecting, loving, and secure. That’s the biggest thing. Investing in those that can be protected still and those that can grow. That’s what’s changed my entire life. I have not felt more comfort and satisfaction with my life since when I met those two girls.
I want to thank Jacob so much for talking to me. I know this blog is long. But please, encourage people to read it and actually think about it. We have to fight this, and although it’s bleak, there is hope. There is always hope.