Trauma is commonly portrayed in the literature as an issue particularly affecting women through their experience of sexual abuse. To the extent that men are recognized as trauma victims and survivors, it is typically localized to male experience as soldiers and to the issue of combat shock.1 In the trauma literature, and I believe in the popular conception of the issue of trauma, men appear primarily as perpetrators and women primarily as victims.
Feminist analysis offers a comparable dichotomy, framed in political terms: patriarchy is a system of male domination and the oppression of women. This broad perspective encompasses power relations at many different levels and subsumes a vast range of political, economic, and social issues, of which trauma is only one. It does however offer a focused lens for understanding male sexual violence against girls and women, and male battering, as specific manifestations of patriarchy.2
The uncovering of male violence against girls and women over the last 30 years has been of enormous social and political significance, as has feminist analysis of patriarchy. But I believe that there is a more complex reality to the intersection of trauma and gender - a reality which includes boys and men as trauma victims on a scale which goes far beyond military experience, and a reality which under certain circumstances includes girls and women as perpetrators as well as victims. In political terms, this means that men as well as women are oppressed by patriarchy, and that women as well as men have the capacity to act as oppressors - a capacity which is particularly driven by the experience of trauma. My purpose in this chapter is to flush out this more complex account of how trauma affects both genders. In the process, I will use trauma as a focal point for developing a more textured picture of how sexism operates and how power relations play out in a patriarchal society.
The analysis of trauma and gender which I develop in this chapter has distinct and practical implications for building social change movements. Naming the ways in which men are traumatized by patriarchy creates new possibilities for building a pro-feminist men's movement, and for building awareness that gender equality serves men's interests as well as women's. An understanding that patriarchy creates conditions in which men are both oppressed and oppressors, and in which women under certain circumstances act as oppressors as well as suffering oppression, also creates the basis for a new kind of dialogue between women and men who are committed to gender equality. By this I mean a dialogue in which we maintain full awareness of systemic male dominance, but in which we recognize and explore commonalties of experience and interests between men and women which have typically been overlooked. Finally, an analysis which humanizes the oppressor, and which narrows the gap between victim and perpetrator, lays the groundwork for a process of social change that can yield humane results and can produce a political and social restructuring that humanizes power relations at all levels.
Nevertheless, there are three very significant dangers to the argument that men and women are both oppressed and oppressors. The first is that by focusing on ways in which boys and men are victims, the onslaught of male violence against girls and women will be minimized, or worse that it will be implied that trauma is of true or heightened significance because it affects males. The second and even greater danger is that the identification of men as victims and women as perpetrators could serve as the basis for contentions of "reverse sexism" which would totally distort reality and could only serve the perpetuation of patriarchy. The third danger is that the notion that men as well as women are oppressed by patriarchy could obscure the real nature of sexist power relations, collapsing feminist analysis into the vague and probably useless notion that "we're all oppressed by patriarchy."
Naming these pitfalls is important but is not by itself enough to avoid them. There are specific, key aspects to the analysis I develop in this chapter which I want to emphasize at the outset, because I believe that they are pivotal to an understanding of trauma and gender which holds in view both the reality of male domination and the reality of male victimization:
· Males are oppressed, victimized, and traumatized primarily during childhood. Feminism correctly identifies boyhood as a period of training and socialization into the role of dominant and into predatory behavior. But childhood is also a period of immense vulnerability during which boys are oppressed and traumatized in ways and to an extent that is typically ignored across the spectrum of political and social analysis. While I will argue that some types of traumatization also occur during adulthood for men, childhood is the primary arena in which males are oppressed and traumatized by patriarchy. The victimization of boys stands alongside - and in many ways is critical for understanding - the dominant roles of men.
· Childhood trauma endures into adulthood. Almost 20 years ago I wrote, "A man who oppresses women may well have been oppressed as a child (an instance of ageism) in ways which have blocked his ability to relate emotionally and have set him up to compulsively dominate…But none of this means that as a man he is oppressed by sexism."3 My assumption at the time was that the oppression of boys has nothing to do with sexism, and that childhood experience has nothing to do with adulthood that is of significance for understanding oppression dynamics. I now believe that both of those assumptions are wrong.
One of the important things we can learn from the study of trauma is that childhood traumatic experience can and often does have lifelong effects, and this is as true for men as for women. The reality of embedded male trauma during adulthood as a legacy of childhood experience - typically unarticulated and unrecognized - stands alongside the reality of male domination.
· Subjective experience does not necessarily match objective power relations. I have argued for this point at some length in Chapter Two - and even more specifically for the possibility that trauma survivors can be subjectively powerless but objectively dominant in the present, a combination which I have described as lethal. The juxtaposition of subjective powerlessness and objective dominance is of particular relevance to the situation of men; it is also relevant to women to the extent that they occupy dominant roles, such as the role of parent. The power-under paradigm is a tool for making sense of the dual realities of victim and perpetrator, or oppressed and oppressor, which I believe patriarchy creates for men and, to some degree, also for women - and to do so without obscuring or collapsing our understanding of sexist power relations between men and women.
I will develop an analysis of trauma and gender by systematically considering girls and boys, women and men in turn as victims and as perpetrators. Some of this material is repetitive of ground covered previously (particularly in the section on prevalence of trauma in Chapter One); and all of the essential points dealing with girls and women as victims of male domination reiterate well-established feminist understandings. I include this material in order to place my discussion of boys and men as victims, and of girls and women as perpetrators, into an accurate and balanced context. My aim is to chart how patriarchy in its totality traumatizes both genders, as well as how it spawns perpetrators - and to do so without distorting or skewing the basic reality that men hold far more power than women in society.
Reality is always more complex than an analysis of broad social and political patterns can convey. Assertions that girls are socialized to submission or that boys are socialized to predatory sexual behavior cannot possibly capture all of the individual circumstances of every child, including circumstances (such as anti-sexist families and sub-cultures) which may mitigate these broad social forces. Nor can a discussion of gender as an isolated issue capture what Aurora Levins Morales calls the "interpenetration" of different systems of oppression.4 But broad social forces involving trauma and gender do exist and do have a massive influence on individual lives, and it is these forces which I try to depict.
The world of trauma is populated by perpetrators and victims; the world of patriarchy by oppressors and oppressed. But there is a larger universe of possibilities, including recovery from trauma and the capacity of people to share power and act as equals. When I categorize girls and boys, women and men as victims and perpetrators, my intention is not to reduce all experience to these categories, but rather to try to show how patriarchy shoves people in these directions. The entire point is to develop a map which not only charts the patterns of abuse and victimization created by patriarchy, but which also points toward the paths out of these patterns.
Girls as Victims
An accurate charting of trauma and gender must start with the staggering prevalence of sexual violence against girls. I have previously cited studies finding that between 27% and 38% of women interviewed report having been sexually abused during childhood, with the figure climbing above 50% when broader criteria for sexual abuse are used.5 The experience of violation, profound powerlessness, devaluation and worthlessness related to being used as the means to the perpetrator's pleasure - all directly related to trauma - is thus a cultural norm for girls in the U.S.
It is a norm which also surely affects girls who are not themselves sexually abused, but who witness or hear accounts of sexual violence, or who in any number of other ways may become aware of the banality of predatory male behavior, and who therefore grow up in an atmosphere of insecurity and fear which in itself can be traumatizing. The personal, social and political significance of the enormity of sexual violence against girls cannot be overstated.
Girls also grow up subject to physical violence. The use of corporal punishment by parents on all young children - girls as well as boys - is nearly universal.6 Murray Straus in his analysis of National Family Violence surveys reports that parents are only slightly more likely to hit boys than girls; he notes that "the unexpectedly small size of difference between boys and girls suggests that the principle of hitting children 'when necessary' is so firmly established that it largely overrides the principle of bringing up boys to be real men and girls to be ladies."7 In addition, given the prevalence of battering,8 many girls witness or in other ways become aware of male violence against women, most poignantly when their mothers are battered by their fathers, step-fathers, and boyfriends. I am not aware of any studies which explore the psychological effects on girls of witnessing violence against their mothers and other women, but common sense suggests that this can be seriously traumatizing.
Witnessing the ways in which their mothers and other women are subjected to male brutality and dominance is also part of an overarching social reality which continues to socialize girls to submission. Despite real gains won by the women's movement, girls grow up in a society in which the political and economic elites are still overwhelmingly male; in which vast economic disparities between men and women remain; in which the media and popular culture are saturated with images and depictions of the sexual objectification of women; in which violence against women remains a cultural norm; and in which domestic power relations continue to display myriad acts of male domination to girls in the course of daily family life.
Patriarchy is in the air that girls breathe, creating countless concrete experiences by which they are demeaned and devalued in relation to their capacity to act powerfully in the world. It is true that feminism has to some extent created a social counterforce, present to varying degrees in the lives of girls, which gives them a message of equality and personal power. But for most girls the rhetoric of gender equality is contradicted by the continuing realities of male dominance and of socialization to stereotyped feminine roles.
As Meda Chesney-Lind observes, "gender-specific socialization patterns have not changed very much, and this is especially true for parents' relationships with their daughters."9 The result is a classic set of mixed messages: be equal, but learn to submit; be peaceful, but expect to be the object of violence; be powerful, but expect the most important leadership positions to go to men; prepare for a career, and prepare to be the primary parent; be assertive, but be silent when you are sexually abused by your father or uncle or neighbor. Rachel Simmons notes that "[o]ur culture [is] telling girls to be bold and timid, voracious and slight, sexual and demure";10 Simmons' recent book Odd Girl Out chronicles the ways in which the impact of this mixed message both harms girls and leads them to behave destructively by distorting their expressions of anger and aggression.
I believe that the experience of growing up as a second class citizen in itself can be traumatizing. It is immeasurably more traumatizing in conjunction with the onslaught of sexual and physical violence that girls experience. The sexual objectification of women in popular culture not only socializes girls for adult gender roles but also, in the case of girls who have been sexually abused, mirrors and reinforces their actual traumatic experience. Contrived images of female beauty not only teach girls that their bodies cannot possibly measure up, but also reinforce the worthlessness, self-hatred, and dissociation from one's body which are common symptoms or results of trauma.
The constriction of girls' capacity to express or even consciously experience anger, one of the cornerstones of female socialization,11 reinforces the splitting off of traumatic rage, leading to physical illness, depression, substance abuse, and the type of chronic subjective powerlessness which I have described as power-under in Chapter Two. Societal messages that girls cannot act powerfully in the world reinforce the powerlessness which stands at the core of traumatic experience.
Boys as Victims
Boys are sexually abused in such large numbers that, if the problem were acknowledged and the public health implications were recognized, it could easily be called an epidemic. A national telephone survey of 1,145 men conducted in 1985 found that 16% stated that they had been sexually abused as boys.12 William Holmes and Gail Slap, in a 1998 review of 166 studies conducted between 1985 and 1997, state that "[t]he sexual abuse of boys is common, underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated."13 While there were wide variations in the rates of abuse reported in the studies, presumably resulting from differences in definitions and methodology, the Boston Globe reports that "Holmes said a review of the studies leads him to believe that 10 to 20 percent of all boys are sexually abused in some way."14
There is reason to believe that the actual incidence of sexual abuse of boys may be even higher, given vast societal pressures on boys and men to deny that they are victims,15 and given that sexual touching short of intercourse which would be considered abuse if done to girls often is not identified as sexual abuse when done to boys.16 There is in addition the uncharted terrain of covert sexual abuse, a term which Judith Herman uses regarding father-daughter relationships,17 but which I believe is applicable to emotionally exploitive and sexually charged parental relationships with boys as well.
Regardless of findings in studies and periodic media reports of the sexual abuse of boys, the ideology and core social myths of patriarchy forge widespread denial and resistance to the recognition of boys as victims. Of course there are also social forces which lead to denial - historically massive denial - of girls as victims of sexual abuse; but with the breaking of that silence over the last 30 years, the notion of girls as sexual victims can fit into the popular conception and stereotype of girls and women as passive sexual objects. Not so with boys. The concept of victim casts boys into a starkly feminine role, and the role of sexual victim associates them with both femininity and homosexuality.18 The social forces leading boys not to report sexual abuse are compounded and reinforced by pervasive unwillingness in our society to see it.
The sexual abuse of boys, despite (and in many ways because of) its invisibility, is as damaging as the sexual abuse of girls, with the same range and severity of traumatic symptoms. Neal King describes the effects of boyhood sexual abuse as "paralyzing confusion, lonely rage (often directed at one's self), suffocating shame and deep, unspeakable, private, seemingly unshakable pain…[T]he survivor can feel sentenced to a private nether world of secrecy, isolation, and powerlessness."19 Mike Lew lists over 60 psychological harms experienced by male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including nightmares, flashbacks, fear, shame, anger, guilt, helplessness, sexual dysfunction, self-abuse, frozen emotions, addiction, feelings of unreality, and wanting to die.20
Boys are almost universally the objects of physical violence. As previously noted, more than 90% of all pre-school children are hit by their parents, and for most children corporal punishment continues at least until adolescence.21 While Straus, in his otherwise comprehensive account of corporal punishment in Beating The Devil out of Them, notes that boys are only slightly more likely than girls to be hit, he unfortunately gives no data on the severity of corporal punishment by gender. However, it seems likely that on average boys are beaten more severely than girls. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson observe anecdotally that "[m]any parents acknowledge that they use a more severe disciplinary style with their sons than with their daughters…Harsh discipline is presumed to help make a man out of a boy: he needs tough treatment to whip him into shape."22 It is also common for boys to be subjected to physical violence from older and stronger boys.
In addition to concrete acts of sexual and physical violence, boys are also traumatized by what William Pollack calls the "gender straightjacket" which, from infancy and throughout childhood, teaches them to deny their vulnerability and to mask the full range of emotional experience associated with vulnerability behind the stereotyped persona of the strong, self-sufficient male.23 This is the flip side of the same overarching social reality that socializes girls to submission and sexual objectification; and it is here, perhaps most poignantly, that patriarchy in the same stroke oppresses boys as well as girls. It is a largely unexamined fact of patriarchy, perhaps even more invisible than the sexual abuse of boys, that boys are traumatized by the very process that socializes them to dominance and to predatory behavior.
The expectation of aggressive male strength and aversion to "feminine" emotions is conveyed in the posturing and pronouncements of male leaders, in the images of men in all aspects of popular culture and the media, in the homophobia which continues to pervade our society, in the behavior and demeanor of fathers and other men in boys' lives, and in the explicit and implicit messages boys receive from parents, teachers, and other significant adults. The same message is also assimilated early and fiercely into boys' peer culture, in which boys routinely deride and shame each other for any vulnerable emotional expression which is construed as weak, girl-like, or gay.
This is what Kindlon and Thompson describe as a culture of cruelty: "Among themselves boys engage in continuous psychological warfare. Older boys pick on younger boys - dominating them by virtue of their greater size - and younger boys mimic them, creating an environment that pits the strong against the weak, the popular against the unpopular, the power brokers against the powerless, and the conformity driven 'boy pack' against the boy who fails in any way to conform with pack expectations."24 It is in the air that boys breathe that weakness, fear, hurt, sadness, the urge to cry, and the entire array of dependency needs inherent to childhood are unacceptable - not only to express, but also unacceptable to consciously acknowledge or experience as internal realities.
A vignette in Michael Ryan's memoir Secret Life illustrates both the communication of male bravado and some of its effects on a young boy who is not yet "toughened." He describes the recurring humiliation he suffered when his father would call him over to where he was sitting and then abruptly grab his wrists and start squeezing them. "The idea, he said, was to see how long I could keep standing, to see how tough I was. The first time I lasted about three seconds and it probably would have been less had I not been so surprised I was being hurt. I screeched for him to stop, which he did after I fell at his feet with my face in the rug."25
To the boy this was simply an assault at the hands of someone with overwhelming power. But his father presented it as a "lesson" in how to overcome vulnerability: "I was crying, my face was hot with tears, but he wasn't about to console me. He said I better get much tougher if I wanted to be a man, that as I grew up there was going to be plenty of pain, this was nothing. He told me how supremely important this was, that he wasn't punishing me but teaching me to be strong."26
Socialization to what Pollack calls the "mask of masculinity" traumatizes boys through discrete incidents, such as the one Michael Ryan describes, in which they are overpowered by sadistic adult behavior rationalized as "teaching a lesson," or in which they are publicly shamed and humiliated for failing to adhere to the masculine code. Boys are also cumulatively traumatized by the constriction of their emotional life. Boys inherently posses the capacity for a full range of feelings and have deep emotional needs which are systematically denied and crushed by gender stereotyping in a sexist society. The result is a deep and invisible powerlessness which strips boys of the critical ability to experience and express emotions (other than anger, as I will discuss later in the section on boys as perpetrators) and strips them of the ability to develop mutually empathic relationships.
Pollack repeatedly uses the term trauma to describe the impact on boys of emotional straightjacketing and the "premature separation" which denies their need for emotional dependence and support.27 Pollack emphasizes the degree to which boys experience shame for their perceived weaknesses and unacceptable feelings, in direct proportion to the ridicule, derision and shaming with which they are assaulted if they display vulnerability or emotion, or which they see directed at other boys who manifest vulnerabilities that they must desperately deny in themselves. Since shame is itself a sign of vulnerability, steeped in feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, it must be denied as quickly and thoroughly as possible, or else (or in addition) projected outward onto others perceived as weak, inadequate, and worthless. The masculine code thus creates in boys a vicious circle of powerlessness, denial, shame, and further denial in which emotional life is literally crushed.28
Just as girls develop shame and hatred for their bodies when they cannot measure up to a scripted and bogus feminine ideal, boys develop self-hatred when they inevitably fall short (in their eyes) of the masculine ideal with its equally bogus depiction of strength and its hyper-constriction of emotional life. Pollack catalogs other harms suffered by boys, including disconnection, intense isolation, depression, acting out, and self-alienation. Running through or related to many of these harmful effects is what can aptly be called dissociation, a classic symptom of trauma. Boys graphically dissociate from their feelings and emotional needs. Emotional numbing becomes a critical survival skill in typical male development - one which, like virtually all childhood adaptations to trauma, operates at great cost in the long run.
As with girls, male socialization not only traumatizes boys in its own right, but also severely compounds the effects of sexual and physical abuse. The shaming of male vulnerability leaves boys particularly unequipped to cope with or even acknowledge the powerlessness and extreme vulnerability created by sexual abuse29 and physical brutality, and multiplies the shame which is commonly experienced by trauma survivors. Dissociation and emotional numbing are mutually reinforced by the masculine code and by the trauma caused by sexual and physical assault. Homophobia, which is central to the masculine code, can cause intolerable shame and self-loathing for boys who are sexually assaulted by men.
The constriction of emotional expression, which makes it difficult or impossible for many boys to process even mundane life events in healthy ways, leaves them helpless to respond to physical and emotional violation with anything but denial or displaced traumatic rage. The supreme irony is that the gender straightjacket of scripted masculinity, which above all else prizes strength and demeans vulnerability, renders boys emotionally helpless and magnifies their vulnerability to trauma.
Girls as Perpetrators
It is relatively rare for girls to engage in acts of serious violence. In 1994, 3.4% of all girls' arrests were for serious crimes of violence.30 Crime statistics reflect an enormous disparity in violent behavior between girls and boys. In 1994, the arrest rate per 100,000 for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter was 0.5 for girls, 8.1 for boys; for forcible rape, 0.3 among girls, 12.7 among boys; for aggravated assault, 36.2 among girls, 151.0 among boys; for weapons charges, 11.7 among girls, 128.5 among boys.31 Adolescent violence that reaches the level of legally defined delinquency is overwhelmingly a male phenomenon.
Nevertheless, it is not as rare for girls
in our culture to act as perpetrators as many of us tend to believe. Meda Chesney-Lind observes that "[o]
In her research, Chesney-Lind found that girls' participation in gangs was a strategy for self-protection in the context of their experiences of victimization, including sexual violence. "For girls, fighting and violence is a part of their life in the gang but not something they necessarily seek out. Instead, protection from neighborhood and family violence was a consistent and major theme in the girls' interviews."34 Chesney-Lind points to the complex interplay of victim and perpetrator roles in these girls' lives: "Either girls in gangs are portrayed as victims of injury or they are portrayed as ‘liberated,' degendered gangbangers. The truth is that both perspectives are partially correct and incomplete without the other."35
There are other instances in which girls are violent
outside of gangs and in ways that aren't necessarily reflected in crime
statistics. Veronica Chambers, in her
memoir about growing up in
Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out, a study of girls' aggression, includes a classic example of power-under driving violent behavior. Bonnie (fictitiously named), whose mother had "multiple violent relationships with men, including a husband who beat Bonnie and her sisters," describes herself as fighting repeatedly during adolescence. She says, "I was not the aggressor. I protected myself…" Yet she goes on to report that she and her sisters "knocked the shit out of these girls."37
Bonnie describes one incident in which she beat up her best friend because she had "hooked up" with Bonnie's boyfriend. Simmons quotes Bonnie saying, "I didn't want to…but people had known that I said that [I would kick her ass], and I had a reputation to protect. I was forced to. I had no choice but to put my hands on her."38 Bonnie, like many of the male batterers discussed in Chapter Two, believes that she is a victim acting in self-defense in the very process of attacking others. Her perception that she lacks agency - that she does not want to beat up her friend but has no choice - is a hallmark of traumatic powerlessness.
Another way that some girls act as perpetrators is in their treatment of younger children. There is some evidence of girls committing acts of sexual abuse when they baby-sit;39 and while this appears to be a rare event, it is the nature of sexual abuse that it often goes unreported, making the actual prevalence hard to assess.40 What is probably of more significance is the situation of teen mothers, among whom Murray Straus reports the highest rate of corporal punishment of all mothers of young children.41 There is every reason to believe that other manifestations of parental abuse of power, such as arbitrary use of authority and verbal abuse, are also commonplace among teen mothers.
Finally, Simmons describes a culture of covert aggression among girls from white middle class backgrounds. Simmons writes that these girls "hurt each other in secret. They pass covert looks and notes,…turn their backs, whisper, and smile. These acts, which are intended to escape detection and punishment, are epidemic in middle-class environments where the rules of femininity are most rigid."42 Clique behavior, exclusion and scapegoating are commonly used by girls to bolster their own social standing at the expense of targeted victims. Simmons explicitly identifies girls who engage in this kind of behavior as perpetrators and offers testimony of lasting psychological harm experienced by victims.
Here too, there are intricate connections between oppression, trauma, and abusive behavior. As Simmons notes, the ground rules laid out by patriarchy for girls who identify with feminine stereotypes preclude direct expressions of anger and create expectations for "niceness" and passive behavior which are impossible to meet. Covert aggression serves the dual purpose of maintaining the appearance of conformity with prescribed feminine behavior and at the same time giving some form of expression to inevitable feelings of anger, jealousy and resentment.
At another level, Simmons presents story after story of girls who have been victimized and in turn victimize others. "I always thought there was something wrong with me," Simmons quotes one girl saying. "I was either a dork for being the victim or a mean, horrible bitch for being the bully."43 Another says, "For all the times I'd been excluded and cried, I wanted her to know what it felt like to cry."44 Simmons observes that girls who were perpetrators "framed their behavior in terms of avoiding injury and maximizing security. In other words, they bullied because they felt threatened, because in their minds they had no other choice."45
Though Simmons does not discuss it in these terms, in my view trauma screams out from the pages of Odd Girl Out. Simmons says of the girls she interviewed that "their feelings stew and fester before boiling to the surface and unleashing torrents of rage."46 She attributes this to the lack of opportunity to develop social skills for directly expressing anger and other negative feelings, which is surely one contributing factor. But "torrents of rage" are also indicative of the traumatic experience of girls whom we know to be victims of sexual and physical abuse in epidemic numbers, and who are pervasively traumatized by the systemic effects of patriarchy.
The kind of demonization that takes place when a targeted girl is scapegoated and excluded by other girls is likewise symptomatic of the need of traumatized people to identify proximate villains and to split the world into "us" and "Other." Simmons' pages are filled with stories of girls who are driven by desperation for social approval, terror of their own exclusion, and powerless rage.
While the ways that girls act as perpetrators are important and should be taken seriously, there is little question that there are very significant constraints on girls' violence and other-destructive behavior. These constraints include the socialization of girls to submissiveness, along with the related tendency in traumatized girls to "act in" by expressing rage through self-destructive behavior (such as eating disorders or self-injury) rather than through violent behavior.47 Another related factor is the network of cultural norms, expectations and messages which teach that girls do not express themselves through violence, do not own or use guns, and so on.48
But it is also critical to look at the objective power that girls do and do not hold in order to understand both the limits on their destructive behavior and the ways in which girls do assume perpetrator roles. To the considerable extent that girls do not occupy dominant roles, they are simply not in a position to act as perpetrators, regardless of their socialization and regardless of the values and norms that they identify with. Abuse requires some degree of power over someone else. Without that objective power, girls are precluded from being perpetrators.
On the other hand, to the extent that girls do hold power over others, socialization to submission does not preclude abusive behavior. By and large there are two ways that girls assume positions of dominance: over younger children, particularly when older girls assume socially defined positions of authority as baby-sitters and teen parents; and over other girls who are physically weaker or socially vulnerable through scapegoating and exclusion. In some cases girls enact dominance via physical aggression, in other cases through the power of numbers by acting in cliques, and in other cases through both violence and numbers by acting in gangs.
When girls occupy dominant positions and roles, the combination of objective dominance and subjective powerlessness once again proves lethal. The related themes of traumatic powerlessness and self-protection run through many of the examples of girls acting as perpetrators that I have cited. This is the case from girls in gangs who say that their prime motive is to protect themselves against family and neighborhood violence to girls in cliques who are desperately striving for social acceptance. As with many perpetrators in many contexts, girls are propelled by their own experiences of victimization and traumatic rage to act abusively toward other, less powerful children.
I think it is reasonable to conclude that when a girl holds power over another life, and when her socialization and cultural norms teach her that the exercise of dominance is acceptable and expected (whether through overt or covert aggression), she is no less susceptible than anyone else to the social and psychological forces which lead people to perpetrate abuse.
Boys as Perpetrators
None of the factors constraining abusive behavior in girls applies to boys. Males are socialized to dominant roles and predatory behavior, and it is no surprise that this manifests itself in concretely abusive and predatory behavior well before adulthood. Societal messages at all levels inform boys that male aggression and violence are expected and, at least under certain circumstances, acceptable. It is true that most boys also receive a variety of conflicting messages about violence and at times are punished for aggressive behavior - but the very means of their punishments are often violent and model the types of behavior they are being instructed are wrong. Homophobia teaches boys to fear, hate and attack "feminine" traits in themselves and in other males. Boys are specifically socialized to sexual aggression, objectification of girls and women, and predatory sexual behavior. Boys also learn, via everything from war toys and children's television to street behavior and rampant militarism, that the ownership and use of guns is a male prerogative.
The socialization of boys to aggression and dominant behavior is both paralleled and reinforced by the role of anger as the one acceptable feeling in the masculine emotional code. William Pollack notes that "studies show that…boys are pressured to express the one strong feeling allowed them - anger."49 Pollack observes that boys learn to use anger to "mute…the full range of emotional responsiveness they would otherwise exhibit" and "use their rage to express the full range of their emotional experience."50 Anger, as the one outlet for the pressure cooker of all other unexpressed and unacknowledged feelings, readily becomes linked to aggression and violence, which are already scripted as expected male behavior.
For many boys, it is not simply anger which is channeled into and expressed through dominant behavior, but traumatic rage. The very forces specific to patriarchy that traumatize boys - the shaming of "weakness" and crushing of emotional life - lead them toward aggressive and predatory behavior. The unacceptability of normal feelings which are defined as "weakness" in boys leads them to project and attack signs of perceived weakness in others; domination becomes a defense against intolerable internal vulnerability. As Pollack suggests, "it is through anger…that most boys express their vulnerability and powerlessness."51
Emotional numbing and the loss of capacity for empathic human relations - both specific aspects of traumatic stress for many boys - are core psychological ingredients or preconditions for dehumanizing others. This has been well understood for a long time by the architects of military training (though surely not through the conceptual framework or language of trauma), which routinely uses the brutalization and humiliation of young men as tactics to prepare them psychologically to vilify, brutalize and kill others defined as the enemy without regard to their status as human beings.
The treatment of boys under patriarchy, while usually not as extreme as military training, commonly includes brutality and humiliation of "softness" and vulnerability. This generates traumatic rage, which in turn is channeled into socially scripted expressions of suitably "masculine" anger, aggression, and dominant behavior. Traumatic rage and the masculine script conspire to lead boys to disregard the humanity and core value of others defined as weak and feminine - girls, women, gays - or who are vilified as enemies, particularly via racism.
Unlike girls, boys do pervasively occupy and identify with socially-defined dominant roles from early ages. As males in relation to girls, as older kids in relation to siblings and other younger children, as straight-identified in relation to gays, and as males relating competitively to other males, boys emerge into any number of socially constructed roles from which to exercise power over others perceived or defined as weak and vulnerable.
The social construction of dominance is of considerable importance for understanding these male roles. While there are many instances in which boys are able to dominate because they are physically stronger, there are many others in which physical strength is not the basis for the power imbalance, such as sexual behavior between boys and girls where the boy may not be physically dominant, or may be physically less powerful, but there is an assumption of scripted sex roles which puts the boy in a dominant position. The socialization to dominance thus blends seamlessly into the social reality of dominant roles for boys. In turn, and critically, it is the existence of dominant roles which enables boys to channel traumatic rage and the other traumatizing effects of their socialization into dominating and abusive behavior.
The result of all this is a long list of ways in which boys act as perpetrators, ranging from date rape, sexual harassment, and gay bashing to hazings, street violence, and in extreme cases the mass shootings which have occupied so much media attention - and which, as Gloria Steinem points out, are exclusively male phenomena.52
A vignette from Neal King's Speaking Our Truth captures the viciousness that many boys begin to display (in many forms) from relatively early ages. A male sexual abuse survivor recounts an "internecine gang war" in which "my cousins are asserting their power over me." When he tries to cross the side yard of the building in which they all live, he is confronted by three of his cousins, who block his path. "At the end of this confrontation Jimmy [the oldest cousin] will take me out behind the neighbor's garage and force me to suck his cock. I am electrified with terror throughout this episode, one which will be repeated with many variations, over and over…"53
The expression and assertion of power over others becomes critical to the self-esteem and masculine identity of most boys. In the above example it is expressed through sexual assault; in other extreme cases it is expressed through shooting and other life-threatening violence. But the most extreme instances of sexual and physical violence, which themselves are far from rare, stand at one end of a continuum of behavior in which others are used as means to the boy's ends.
Daily life is saturated with more mundane instances of boys exhibiting aggressive and intimidating behavior. This includes sexual behavior which may not be defined as rape or assault, but which is coercive or at best inattentive to the other's wishes and needs; social behavior organized around jockeying for power and prestige; and countless interactions in which put-down, ridicule, and other ways of diminishing the other serve as the basis for the boy's sense of worth and value.54 Kindlon and Thompson observe that "[a] boy lives in a narrowly defined world of developing masculinity in which everything he does or thinks is judged on the basis of the strength or weakness it represents: you are either strong and worthwhile, or weak and worthless."55 It remains a societal norm for boys to behave in ways which do not regard others as anything close to fully human, and which to many different degrees are abusive.
What emerges appears to be a dual reality for boys as both victims and perpetrators - oppressed and oppressors - from relatively early in childhood. On the one hand boys are the victims of patriarchy. They are subjected to domination and brutality in the form of physical violence and, far more commonly than we recognize, sexual abuse. Through the mechanisms of gender straightjacketing and scripted masculinity, their emotional life is decimated and they are stripped of their capacity for emotional connection. In all of these ways boys are traumatized by power relations that are specific to patriarchy.
On the other hand, boys learn to identify with the aggressor and, long before adulthood, they assume dominant roles and act as perpetrators through the scripted, predatory male behavior to which they are socialized. Powerless before the specific adults and older boys who wield power in their lives, and powerless before the systemic sexism which imposes the masculine code upon them, they in turn wield power over anyone who is weaker and more vulnerable.
But in my view these two faces of male development - boy as victim and boy as perpetrator - are interrelated pieces of a single reality: the traumatization of boys is an integral part of their socialization to dominance. It is impossible to understand the dominant behavior of boys without also understanding how fragile boys are psychologically, and the extent to which aggression serves to mask intolerable feelings, to deny and project vulnerability, and to express powerless rage. What looks from the outside like hyper-powerful behavior is internally a desperate effort to maintain equilibrium and precarious self-esteem which is built on a house of cards.
William Pollack notes the intense loneliness and alienation of boys whose true feelings and internal experience must at all costs be shielded from exposure to anyone.56 What must be shielded is the fractured true self57 of a little boy, wounded beyond recognition by baffling and overpowering social forces which do not allow him to cry or give any other authentic expression to his pain, but which permit and often encourage him to channel his rage into destructive and dehumanizing behavior.
It is the availability of dominant roles and the objective capacity to exercise power over others which enables boys to act as perpetrators, and the social scripting of masculinity which molds distinct types of aggressive and predatory behavior. But it is the internal reality of unarticulated and unresolved trauma which is the driving force that compels boys to act as perpetrators, and which so distorts their emotional life that they seek to meet their needs at the expense and through the abuse of others.
Women as Victims
Women are susceptible to the role of victim by history and by their current circumstances. Women who have histories of childhood trauma are vulnerable to the lifelong effects of that experience, which can include physical illness, depression, substance abuse, self-injury, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, other types of mental illness, traumatic rage, and chronic subjective powerlessness. For women who suffer these long term effects, I think it is accurate and valid to say that they are on-going victims of the trauma that they suffered as children.
As adults, women continue to be the objects of male violence and to be affected by cultural, institutional, and structural sexism. Rape, sexual harassment, and battering remain common events; the banality of violence against women creates a threatening social environment for all women, whether or not they are directly affected. The objectification of women in popular culture goes on unabated. Men's participation in child rearing and domestic tasks remains minimal. Male domination is a continuing reality at every level of social, economic, and political life.
The gains of the women's movement have been in the arena of awareness and in the forging of new opportunities and new privileges for some women (particularly white middle- to upper class women), but they have not made much of a dent in the old threats from male behavior or in the stranglehold of patriarchy as a social system. Women are still at risk, on a daily basis, of being the victims of discrete acts of male violence or domination, and are still exposed to the systemic insults of second class citizenship imposed by patriarchy.
The historical and present-time aspects of victimization of women merge into a single, textured reality. There is a continuity and consonance of childhood and adult experience - a chronicity of being devalued and overpowered. For a woman who was sexually assaulted as a child by her father or uncle or neighbor, the catcalls of a man on the street are not a new or isolated event; they recapitulate and expand a lifelong experience of being treated as the vehicle for male gratification, and they are one of many factors which can make the historical trauma a living reality in the present. For a woman who was not assaulted as a child and is raped or battered as an adult, there has been a lifetime of preparation for this event; there have been years of exposure to the objectification of women and to violence against women as cultural norms which have already left some kind of mark - a mark which is now gouged into an open wound.
In the face of the massive social forces
that place women in victim roles, feminism is a counterforce which creates
possibilities for recovery, resistance, self-protection, and safety. At the individual level, this is the agenda
of feminist therapy, survivors' support groups, and battered women's shelters. At the cultural level, feminism has
influenced the way a segment of the
It is therefore important to say explicitly that women are not automatically or universally victims, and that victimhood does not have to be a life sentence. In any case victimhood, whether transcended or not, does not describe a whole person, but only one aspect of an always larger and more complex personal reality. It is possible and common for the same person to be both victim and perpetrator, as I argue repeatedly in this chapter and throughout this book. It is also possible to maintain pockets of psychological victimhood and to function in many aspects of one's life as an equal. There is a dual reality of oppression and resistance, both sides of which need to be named.
Men As Victims
The legacies of childhood trauma persist into adulthood for men no less than for women. While there are sources of trauma in men's lives - such as racism and class oppression - that are not gender-specific, on a broad scale it is the enduring effects of childhood experience which in my view make men victims of patriarchy.
The crushing of emotional life that takes place for boys has lasting effects. As adults, men do not somehow jettison their childhood socialization and gain access to a full range of emotional experience. All of the aspects of childhood that make boys victims of the male code - the constriction of emotional life, shaming and humiliation for any signs of weakness or vulnerability, alienation from and hiding of the true self, emotional disconnection and deep loneliness, and powerless rage - persist into adulthood on their own momentum. Nothing happens when a boy turns 18 or 21 or any age associated with maturity to reverse any of these aspects of male socialization.
To the contrary, the masculine code remains in full force. The same societal messages and expectations - from popular culture, from economic and political life, from other men, and from one's own internalized reality and identifications - reinforce for men all of the boyhood lessons about weakness and strength, about acceptable expressions of emotions, and about definitions of self-worth organized around scripted masculinity.
It is true that men have options, which most boys do not have, to step outside of the male code; and there are subcultures in which men, influenced by feminism and by gay liberation, have done so. But no man can opt out of his own history. Even men who consciously reject scripted male roles have to struggle with the emotional and psychological wounds that we carry from childhood - wounds inflicted by a social system that taught us not to cry, not to show any feeling but anger, not to connect, not to experience compassion for others, and not to acknowledge or embrace our own deepest selves.
For men who do not think critically about scripted male roles, there is simply a continuity and deepening of destructive experience from childhood into adulthood. This means a deepening of every contour of unnamed and unarticulated childhood traumas. It particularly means a deepening of the intolerable dichotomy between forbidden internal weaknesses and impossible expectations for strength and masculine performance.
Men, who as boys have been acted upon to the core of their beings, who have had their emotional capacities devastated by forces beyond their control, who have had their true selves shamed and rendered helpless by the very code that teaches them that shame and helplessness are forbidden - the same men are expected and expect themselves to be actors in the world, to be in charge, to be tough and impenetrable. The only way to try to meet these impossible expectations is to bury the true self even further, to evade and deny all feelings associated with weakness and vulnerability, to attack what is construed as weakness in others - and thus to re-enact and reinforce the historical traumas. Men who do so remain the victims of their childhoods, and victims of patriarchy. They are quite literally at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
For men who were sexually abused as boys - perhaps as much as 20% of the adult male population - the enduring effects of childhood trauma are predictably exacerbated. Other particulars of some men's histories - severe beatings, sibling abuse, extreme emotional cruelty, covert incest, gay bashing, and so on - each add their own layer of unresolved wounding to the traumas imposed almost universally by the male code. Men who are in the military, in prison, are gay-bashed, or are subjected to other aspects of male-on-male violence, are also traumatized in the present by various tendrils of patriarchy.
Superman as a Story of Unresolved Childhood Trauma
Superman is an enduring icon of popular
culture, and the character stands as an idealized representation of the
masculine code. He has superpowers,
superhuman strength, is incorruptible and impenetrable (bullets bounce off his
body), and uses his manly power for the common good: the Man of Steel who stands for truth,
justice and the
The story line plays on themes of weakness and strength, vulnerability and invulnerability in ways clearly designed to capture the imagination of boys yearning to achieve the masculine script. Superman's secret identity as a wimpy reporter inverts the reality of male experience so as to offer the ideal solution to the problem of hidden, intolerable weakness and vulnerability: weakness is the facade in the persona of Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter; massive, unconquerable strength is the internal reality, the Superman insignia beneath the reporter's drab clothes. Little wonder that successive generations of boys have grown up identifying with this fantasy figure.
It is therefore interesting - and I believe of some cultural significance - that embedded in the Superman script there is also an uncanny depiction of childhood trauma. Superman was born on Krypton, a distant planet literally about to explode. Only his parents, insightful scientists, were able to face the reality of the impending apocalypse. Determined that their child (still a baby) will survive, they build a rocket ship, aim it (somehow) toward the distant planet Earth, and as the rumblings signaling the death of Krypton begin, they launch the rocket with the baby bundled safely inside.
Krypton explodes, shattering into zillions of tiny fragments, as the rocket hurls through space and brings the baby as planned to Earth, where it lands in a remote field and is stumbled upon by the Kents, who find the baby and take him in to raise as their foster son. Because of differences between the two planets and the characteristics of their inhabitants, the child, who would have been normal on Krypton, has superpowers on earth - normal flesh on Krypton becomes steel on Earth, and so on - and grows to become Superboy and then Superman.
This twist of the plot is needed to explain the hero's superpowers - but it is also a story of childhood annihilation. The baby's world literally explodes. His loss is total, a loss of parents, family, place, culture, identity, and any semblance of rootedness. His loss is also absolute, with no possibility of return to a place of origin which no longer exists. Beneath the superhuman strength which the Earth grants him, there is a hole in the center of his life, a history of unspeakable loss and total devastation. Beneath the "internal" reality of invulnerability, there is an even deeper internal reality of primal trauma and terror.
Not only trauma, but unresolved trauma. Superman lives a life of supreme isolation. The splitting off of a secret identity means that he lives a divided, fragmented life, cutting him off from intimacy and any kind of meaningful human connection. He compulsively guards his true identity, fears exposure, and retreats for solace to his Fortress of Solitude somewhere near the North Pole.59 These are scripted male defenses against suffering and loss.
But there is another twist to the plot, a force against which Superman's defenses are useless. Of the zillions of fragments of the planet Krypton, a small number manage to make their way to Earth and land as meteorites. These rocks, called Kryptonite, are harmless to Earthlings, but to Superman they are lethal. When exposed to even the tiniest sliver of Kryptonite (which happens every so often when a piece falls into a villain's hands), the hero's superpowers completely unravel; he becomes weak, disoriented, and - at least momentarily - helpless; he is overpowered, at risk of being killed by this toxic fragment of his history. It is the chink in the armor, the moment of poignant vulnerability for the Man of Steel.
With extraordinary precision, the Kryptonite twist in the script portrays the drama of unresolved childhood trauma. The annihilation of Superman's early childhood, represented and embodied in a piece of rock, is unbearable. He can't afford to touch it, look at it, approach it, or face it in any way. If it is forced upon him it strips him of all powers, all strength, all of his idealized masculinity; the man of supreme invulnerability is revealed as supremely vulnerable at his core. A fragment of his place of origin brings the devastation of his childhood into the present, threatening to devastate him with his history of intolerable pain and loss. Kryptonite reveals Superman's childhood trauma, which has never gone away but has only been split off, and makes it a living reality in the moment. Superman, a survivor of childhood trauma, has been triggered, rendered powerless in the blink of an eye by the unbearable truth of his childhood.
This reading of the Superman script was surely not the conscious intention of the writers who developed the story line. I presume that the intention behind the Kryptonite twist was to add dramatic tension to the plot (and of course Superman always somehow manages to get away from the Kryptonite and to prevail against the crooks). But whatever the intention of its creators, the trauma subtext is there, only a fraction of an inch below the surface.
I'm sure that too much could be made of this, and it is not my purpose to veer off into notions of a collective unconscious. What I think is important about the trauma theme in Superman is simply that it is so transparently there. It reflects and echoes the transparency of male vulnerability and the legacies of boyhood trauma, fractions of inches below the masculine surface of strength and dominance, which are visible everywhere in the real lives of men if you have the eyes to see them. Which happens if you have the language, conceptual framework, emotional capacity and compassion to recognize the suffering of men. Male trauma is not a hidden reality in the sense that it is subtle or difficult to understand; it is hidden because powerful political, social, cultural and psychological forces conspire to deny and obscure something which is actually quite obvious.
As a little boy, Superman was my favorite TV show, and while I understood the irony when I heard that George Reeves, the actor who played Superman, in real life committed suicide, I certainly didn't make any connections about male vulnerability. I read Superboy and Superman comics avidly and uncritically until I reached adolescence. As an adult I watched boys I worked with play at being Superman, and I simply saw it as a normal part of boyhood that I could identify with. As a pro-feminist man, for many years I could have ticked off an analysis of Superman as an emblem of sexism. It was only in the course of writing this book that the "obvious" subtext of childhood trauma in the Superman story came into focus for me. I think there is something instructive and hopeful in this: that the language and politics of trauma create a lens through which realities of male experience, at once obvious and hidden, become visible.
Trauma as a Path to a New Men's Politics
For most men there is not yet a social or political context which would allow or support the naming of the traumas in their lives, or which could nourish recovery and resistance. Aurora Levins Morales writes, "Only when there is adequate political support can we create a context in which we are able to hold the reality of oppression and a sense of our own power to oppose it. When that support doesn't exist, we avoid whatever events - in our own lives, in the lives of others or in our history - would lead us to intolerable truths."60
To the extent that feminism has touched men's lives in useful ways - and there are many men for whom this has not been the case - it has by and large moved men to think of ourselves as pro-feminist allies and rejecters of male privilege, but not to think of ourselves as having been deeply wounded by patriarchy. The concept of men as victims is taboo among men and women: for women, understandably, because men are the aggressors; for men, understandably, because the acknowledgment and display of vulnerability is above all else forbidden by the male code.
We are just beginning to see the breaking of that taboo in the emergence of literature by and about male survivors of sexual abuse,61 and literature portraying boys as psychological victims of the male code.62 The more we are able to talk publicly about trauma as a men's issue, the more it becomes possible that we could see the emergence of a radical men's movement rooted in both self-interest and principled opposition to male privilege. Such a movement could support the flourishing of men's consciousness raising groups and male survivors' groups. It could support the development of the functional and political equivalent of feminist therapy for men - one that would address the ways men are wounded by patriarchy and proclaim values of social equality. A men's movement which would name patriarchy as a force that traumatizes boys and men, and in the same breath fully recognize the privilege granted to men by patriarchy and the roles played by men as perpetrators and oppressors, could for both reasons nurture a culture and a politics of men's resistance to patriarchy.
Women as Perpetrators
Patriarchy assigns child rearing to women, and not much has changed in this regard in the last 30 years. The primary roles of parent and teacher are still overwhelmingly assumed by women, and these are roles which in our culture contain very significant elements of dominance. Levins Morales describes children as a "constituency of the oppressed";63 if children are an oppressed group, then their caretakers (women and men) form a constituency of oppressors. (I say this as a parent, and in the same spirit in which I recognize myself to be a member of other oppressor constituencies based on my race, gender, sexual orientation, and class background.) With dominance comes the capacity to perpetrate abuse, though it does not automatically mean that parents use their power abusively.
Up to a certain point in a child's development, adult power over the child is inherent in differences in size, strength, and physical and psychological capacities. But to a much greater extent, adult dominance is a function of the social construction of childhood and cultural norms for power relations between adults and kids. In a society organized around values and principles of inequality, those values are inevitably expressed and reflected in how we treat our children.64 Society assigns women (and men in different ways) the task of dominating children, no matter how much this is couched in the rhetoric of love and nurture.65 This is the case despite the genuine love and good intentions that I believe virtually all mothers feel toward their children, and despite the subjective powerlessness that parents may experience in the very moment of abuse.
The clearest and most pervasive way that women act as perpetrators is by hitting their children. Murray Straus, in his review of a multitude of data on parental attitudes and behavior, reports that "[s]tudy after study shows that almost all Americans approve hitting children…[T]he General Social Survey of 1,470 adults found that 84 percent agree that 'It is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good hard spanking.'"66 Though not broken down by gender, the 84% total necessarily includes a large majority of women.
Three decades of national surveys have found that parents report the actual practice of hitting toddlers to be "just about universal,"67 with corporal punishment common for all ages of children. The virtually universal practice of corporal punishment again means that it is mothers as well as fathers who hit their children on a routine basis. In fact, Straus found that slightly more mothers than fathers hit their children, though he hastens to add that "if fathers had as much responsibility as mothers for the care of children, the rate of hitting by fathers would be vastly higher."68 The point is not that mothers as a group are more abusive than fathers, but that most mothers take for granted their prerogative to physically attack their children in the name of proper child rearing.
Not only do almost all mothers hit their children; most mothers also hit their young children frequently. Straus reports that in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, for which researchers interviewed mothers in their homes, "more than 7% of the mothers of children under six hit their child right in front of the interviewer." In addition, when asked if they had spanked their children during the last week, "[t]wo-thirds of mothers of children under age six said they had found it necessary that week, and they did so an average of three times. If that week is typical, it means that these children were hit an average of more than 150 times during the year…"69 This is a staggering volume of violence against children, perpetrated by women.
There are many other aspects of what Alice Miller calls "the power game of child-rearing"70 - verbal abuse, derogation, humiliation, arbitrary use of authority, and so on - for which no statistics are available as far as I am aware. But common sense and even the most casual observation suggests that these, like corporal punishment, are virtually universal parenting practices in our culture. There is almost no social or cultural context which equips parents to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate authority. Levins Morales notes that children experience "systematic subjugation, humiliation and control - even those who were not treated with cruelty as children, who had loving parents with good parenting skills, still experienced arbitrary decisions, disrespect, patronization, ridicule, control over our eating, involuntary confinement."71 As primary parents, it is women who routinely exercise arbitrary authority over children as a cultural norm.
The incidence of women sexually abusing children stands at the other end of the spectrum in terms of cultural norms, and probably in terms of prevalence. But we know that it does occur, both from the testimony of survivors72 and from somewhat ambiguous survey data.
In 1984 David Finkelhor and Diana Russell estimated that 20% of the sexual abuse of boys and 5% of the sexual abuse of girls was committed by women.73 Holmes and Slap, in their survey of 166 studies of the sexual abuse of boys from 1985—1997, found that "[l]arge -sample studies reported that 53% to 94% of perpetrators were men"74 - meaning that 6% to 47% of the perpetrators were women or teenaged girls. This is an enormous range, suggesting that our knowledge base regarding women as sexual perpetrators is tenuous at best. On the other hand, given the enormous prevalence of child sexual abuse, if even a small percentage of perpetrators are women, this is still a significant number.75 It is also reasonably likely that sexual abuse by women is under-reported, given gender-scripted assumptions of women as sexual objects. As Michelle Elliott argues, "Previous statistics indicated that child sexual abuse was rare, even by males. That has since been shown to be untrue. Statistics are based on what we are told and may give a false picture if some victims are not talking."76
We know even less about the prevalence of covert sexual abuse by women. Covert sexual abuse is a concept which Judith Herman developed to describe adult behavior toward children which is sexually charged and emotionally invasive and exploitive, but which does not involve overt sexual contact.77 Herman identifies this as a type of father-daughter incest, but I believe that the term can apply equally to the behavior of mothers. I speak from my own experience, since this was my own deep experience of how my mother treated me. The core of my experience was that my mother looked to me to meet her needs at the level of a lover relationship, and in disregard of my needs and of who I was as a separate person. I can at the very least testify as a survivor that this type of abuse, with a woman as perpetrator, does exist.
We have no way of knowing how commonly mothers look to their children to meet the mother's primary emotional needs at the child's expense, because (as far as I am aware) there are no studies which have posed this question. But there is reason to believe that it is not unusual.78 There is a strong cultural norm and context for women to emphasize emotional connection, and in an egalitarian society, this would take an egalitarian form with children. But in a society organized around inequality, and acting from a position of dominance, it is all too possible for mothers to seek connection with their children in ways which deeply disregard the child as a separate person with legitimate and basic needs for autonomy, self-expression, and a wide range of feelings which do not center on gratifying the parent.
If a mother does not tolerate and affirm her child's need to cry, to freely explore the environment, to make messes and cause disorder, to express curiosity, to direct anger and frustration at her, to display other feelings which are distressing or disruptive - because these and other expressions of the child's own self do not gratify the mother's emotional needs - then the relationship becomes abusive. The abuse is compounded if the child's behavior is shaped around actions and expressions and types of self-control (such as early toilet training) whose purpose is to gratify the mother's needs.
There are numerous other social realities which lead mothers in a direction which spans from emotional abuse to covert sexual abuse. The social isolation of the nuclear family (whether with one or two parents) sets mothers up to look within their families to meet their deepest emotional needs, and it removes parents from the regulation and support created when children are raised in community. When a mother's needs are not addressed by her partner, and when she herself is the object of domination and violence from her partner, she can all too easily turn to her children to meet her primary needs. There are in addition the deprivations and overloads of parenting, particularly the parenting of infants and young children, which typically leave parents - meaning primarily mothers - depleted and in drastic need of solace, soothing, and emotional caretaking.
The dynamic of power-under plays a central role in the vulnerability of mothers to becoming perpetrators with their children. I believe it is overwhelmingly the case that when women act abusively, it is from a position of subjective powerlessness. As a matter of socialization, and from lifelong concrete experiences as the objects of domination and sexual and physical violence, powerlessness remains a core psychological and social reality for most women.
This is compounded by the fact that parenting is rife with the potential for making the active caretaker feel powerless - particularly in the beginning stages when the tenor and content of the parent-child relationship take hold. Sleep deprivation, task overload, illness, a baby who won't stop crying or won't go to sleep - all standard events during infancy - can leave mothers feeling drastically out of control, acted upon, and unable to attend to their own basic needs for sleep, relaxation, pleasure, and love. Social isolation, a partner who is literally or emotionally not present (or who if present is demanding and abusive), and the lack of any meaningful recognition or valuing by society - also standard events for mothers - deepen the experience of powerlessness even further.
As kids gets older, power struggles become explicit when children test the extent of their autonomy and capacity to explore the world, and parents inevitably have to set limits. Many parents have a hard time setting limits in a way that is both caring and effective. Limit setting is an intrinsically difficult task. It is made immeasurably more difficult by the fact that for most adults, their primary exposure to parental limit setting - their own upbringing - was both harsh and ineffective; and most parents have had little or no opportunity to learn more effective alternatives.
The result can be both parent and child feeling out of control: the parent because the child tantrums, disobeys, tests annoyingly, and in countless ways fails to conform to expectations of a "good," compliant child; the child because s/he is not able to explore, self-direct, and develop a sense of efficacy within a framework of safety and affirmation. "Parent" once again overwhelmingly means mother as the primary caretaker; and when the mother is already operating from a core psychological position of powerlessness, she is immeasurably more vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed and feeling profoundly helpless and out of control with her child.
In jarring contrast to the subjective powerlessness which women are so likely to experience, the objective position of mothers in relation to infants and young children is one of overwhelming, dominating power. It is true that a mother may not be able to make her baby go to sleep or stop crying, or to make a feisty toddler reflexively obey her commands. But she is in a position to inflict whatever harm on the child she chooses. Young children are utterly dependent on their caretaking parent for all basic needs and for their physical and psychological survival. Psychologically mothers are in a position to have an enormous impact on the child by giving or withholding love, affection, approval, affirmation, and so on.79 Particularly within the context and cultural tradition of the isolated nuclear family, the power imbalance between parent and child could hardly be more pronounced.
The result is mothers who hit and in other ways lash out at their children physically; mothers who seek any available means to control their children; mothers who, in the name of love, seek nurture from their children in ways which are exploitive and violating; and, at the far end of the continuum, mothers who overtly sexually abuse their children. All of this is done unwittingly, from the position of an adult who has been victimized, acted upon, and is struggling desperately for her own psychological survival and equilibrium - from a state of traumatic stress. Many mothers poignantly enact the dual roles of victim and perpetrator. In a society whose values overdetermine the domination and abuse of children, power-under surely is not the only reason that women act as perpetrators, but I believe it is one of the most important ones.
Men as Perpetrators
While the arena in which women act as perpetrators is largely confined to child rearing, the arena in which men act as perpetrators is as broad as society itself. This includes epidemic levels of physical and sexual violence against women and children; other predatory and dominating behavior directed against women and children; male-on-male violence; and a host of mundane behaviors organized around the assertion of male privilege and power.
FBI crime statistics reflect the fact that violent behavior is an overwhelmingly male phenomenon in our society. In 1994, men accounted for 89% of arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter; 99% of arrests for forcible rape; 91% of arrests for sex offenses other than forcible rape and prostitution; 84% of arrests for aggravated assault; 92% of weapons charges; and 86% of arrests in an aggregate category of "violent crime."80 It is true that arrest statistics do not necessarily reflect the actual rates of violent behavior - because innocent people are sometimes arrested and particularly because of discriminatory police practices in the arrests of African American men. But distortions in the FBI statistics are much more likely to be in the direction of race and class than gender; and even if the statistics overstated male violence by as much as 5 to 10%, which seems improbable, this would be more than offset by the vast amount of male predatory and violent behavior - particularly sexual behavior and domestic violence - which never results in arrests.
Men - overwhelmingly white men - are also the architects and overseers of every type of structural and institutional oppression in our society. As politicians, diplomats, military brass, owners, executives, and holders of vast wealth, white men continue to constitute the power elite of our society. It is the men at the top who call the shots that name racism a thing of the past and decimate affirmative action, that slash welfare and subsidize corporate greed, that set policies which exponentially shift wealth to the top, that exploit resources and people around the globe, that destroy the environment, that build and market weapons of every sort, that tout "military might" and bomb convenient targets at will - and so on and so on. Each item in that long list, which could be much longer, sets in motion cascades of concrete activities by which individual human beings are devalued, exploited, violated, abused, and killed. The powerful men who call these shots, from Henry Kissinger to George W. Bush, are perpetrators writ large.
All of these realities about men as perpetrators are well known. It is particularly important to state them here in order to place the preceding discussion of women as perpetrators into perspective. The extent to which women act as perpetrators constitutes a small fraction of the full volume of abuse, aggression, and destructive activity in a society built on values of domination and which assigns dominant roles and privilege in vastly disproportionate numbers to white men. The ways in which women do act as perpetrators remain significant, both because each individual act of abuse is of essential and lifelong importance to its victim, and because the oppression of children plays a critical role in sustaining and re-creating all types of oppression.81 But identifying women as perpetrators can only be useful if this is placed into the much larger context of a total gender system in which domination is primarily a male prerogative.
Of course, there are also enormous gradations in privilege and power among men, particularly based on race and class. The white male power elite in most respects lives in a different world from all other men; the power position of white professional-managerial men differs in many significant ways from that of African-American men and white working class men; and so on. But there is a common denominator, rooted in the historical practices of patriarchy which named women and children chattel and granted men ownership rights over them82 - a common denominator which cuts across class and race, and which links Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, and millions of ordinary men who commit sexual and physical violence against women and children.
In the face of the overwhelming realities of male dominance - which mean staggering levels of battering and brutality and rape and sexual assault committed by men - the notion that men are victims as well as perpetrators seems intuitively wrong and counter-productive. How could such overwhelming power be rooted in anything other then dominance? How could it be understood as anything other than unbridled power-over? And how could it possibly further sexual equality to portray men as victims, if doing so shifts attention away from the brutal realities of male domination?
In order to hold together the intolerable reality of men acting as perpetrators and the hidden reality of men as victims, we need what Aurora Levins Morales calls double vision83 - the capacity to identify and make sense of complexity and contradiction. In this case it is the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship between power and powerlessness that we need to hold in view. If it were true that we could recognize men as victims of patriarchy only by losing sight of men as oppressors, then it would not be worth the cost. But I believe that it is entirely possible to use a lens which expands the picture to hold both truths in full view - the truth that staggering numbers of men act as brutal perpetrators, and the truth that staggering numbers of men are traumatized by patriarchy.
This is particularly important because there is actually one integrated truth, in which the seeming contradiction between men as perpetrators and men as victims resolves into a single, complex, textured reality. Understanding the ways in which men are victims can deepen and amplify our understanding of the ways in which men act as perpetrators. "Victim" and "perpetrator" do not represent separate and unconnected pieces of male experience: the socialization to dominance requires the crushing of men's emotional capacities; and the experience of powerlessness and trauma, together with societal values and structures which place men in dominant positions, has a direct bearing on male violence, brutality, and predatory behavior. I have already argued that the powerlessness and traumatization experienced by boys are part and parcel of their dominant behavior. This is no less true for men.
In order to view men through the single dimension of power-over, we have to find a way to factor out the truth that all men were once children, that as children they were helpless and vulnerable and acted upon, that some were sexually abused and nearly all were physically abused, that their capacities for empathy and human connection were systematically uprooted, that they were ridiculed and shamed for any display of vulnerability and any non-aggressive emotional expression. In order to factor out this truth, either we need to leave it out of the story, and describe boyhood as a simple path to power; or else we need to believe that childhood experience has nothing to do with adult experience, and that the traumas suffered by boys somehow stop at the door when they reach a certain age or a certain social standing. Either version achieves a simple understanding of male dominance by distorting reality and by mistaking a part - men as the holders of privilege and power, as perpetrators and oppressors - for the whole.
If instead we are willing to ask why and how men become perpetrators and oppressors, we are led back to the fuller reality which includes their childhoods, the ways in which they were abused and oppressed, and the deep and enduring traumas they have experienced. This is the type of question which Alice Miller asks in her extraordinary essay on Hitler's childhood,84 and which Aurora Levins Morales asks in her extraordinary essay on torturers.85 Both essays trace the roots of the most extreme acts of dehumanization to the deep suffering of perpetrators.
The point of recognizing the victimization of perpetrators is not to excuse, forgive, or in any way diminish the destructiveness of their actions, but rather to develop an accurate understanding of how oppression works and how it is sustained and re-created. If it is true, as Levins Morales states, that "[t]orturers are made, not born,"86 then it is of the utmost importance to identify how they are made. We are surely in a better position to try to transform the systematic abuse of power if we have a fuller understanding of how it works.
As long as the recognition of men as victims is part of a larger description of patriarchy - one that includes the full reality of men as perpetrators and of sexist power relations - it is an idea which subverts patriarchy and promotes gender equality. The notion that men are profoundly vulnerable, that they have deep emotional needs and are susceptible to lifelong damage when those needs are trampled, flatly contradicts the scripted male code. If men begin to become conscious of the ways that sexism has traumatized and oppressed us, and if we start to seriously believe that we benefit from the expression of a full range of emotions and from the capacity for empathy and for emotional connection, we could begin to dismantle some of the lynch pins of male domination.
It is also true that the notion of men as victims, used uncritically and divorced from a larger understanding of patriarchy, can be seriously counterproductive.87 When men portray themselves as victimized by women who take out restraining orders against them, or believe that they are victims of "reverse discrimination" because women take jobs previously reserved for men, or feel globally threatened by feminism, they obviously are attempting to assert (or in their eyes re-assert) male privilege and dominance.
Men's contentions of victim status can all too easily blur into misogyny, with women's claims of any type of power perceived as threatening and oppressive. The extreme examples of this are the male batters whom Neil Jacobson and John Gottman describe as "pit bulls"88 - men who feel victimized by women in the very process of physically attacking them. I think that there are many other men who are not batterers but who experience women's power as threatening and who, to the extent that they feel victimized by women, use this as a rationalization for various types of counter-attacks.
Underneath this distorted sense of victimization sit the real traumas of men's childhoods, typically unarticulated, unacknowledged, and festering. In that state, male trauma becomes a bottomless source of rage, with women and children the all-too-available targets. Misogyny sets women up as proximate villains for many men; patriarchy creates dominant roles from which men act out their rage against women and children. In some cases men consciously assert power-over when they act as perpetrators (Jacobson and Gottman's "cobras" who, it is worth remembering, were the men with the most deeply traumatic childhoods in their study89); in many other cases they identify as victims and act out of subjective powerlessness; and my guess is that large numbers of men vacillate between the two.
We need to identify the links between the real ways that men have been victimized and crushed during childhood and the epidemic levels at which men act as perpetrators during adult life. We need to make these connections as vivid and accessible as possible, and try to engage men in dialogue about their inner lives and subjective realities. Above all, we need to develop a political understanding that when men act as perpetrators, it is part and parcel of our own oppression and traumatization, and that patriarchy as a system in the same breath gives men inordinate privilege and traumatizes men through its relentless effects on our emotional lives. This is an understanding which charts a path toward gender equality for men based not only on response to women's demands or on conscience and principle - though all of those factors remain important - but also based on a deep sense of self-interest.
Implications for Building Social Change Movements
In this chapter I have developed an analysis of trauma and gender which describes ways in which women and men are both victims and perpetrators, in the context of a total system which continues to place men in dominant roles. This multidimensional analysis of patriarchy has a number of specific implications for building social change movements:
We should build a men's movement rooted in
understandings of men as both oppressed and oppressors under patriarchy. There have
been many obstacles to the emergence of a robust pro-feminist men's movement in
An analysis of how boys and men are traumatized by patriarchy could begin to fill this gap. There are enormous opportunities for consciousness raising among men regarding our childhood mistreatment, the trampling of our emotional lives, our experience of shame and isolation, and the entire range of suffering which the male code imposes on boys and men. The links between male privilege and male suffering can serve as an important organizing tool for dialogues among men about how acting as dominants and as perpetrators comes at our expense as well as at the expense of women.
· We should name and oppose child abuse by women as part of the struggle against patriarchy. While child abuse is an issue of public concern, it typically resides in the domain of human service professionals and is raised in a depoliticized context. To the extent that child abuse had been politicized as a feminist issue, it has been confined to the sexual abuse of girls by men. In fact, women are set up by patriarchy to act as perpetrators in the one arena in which they systematically hold power-over, as the caretakers of children. We need to look honestly at the reality that the overwhelming majority of mothers physically attack and in other ways abuse their kids, and we need to address this as a significant political issue in its own right and as one of the mechanisms by which patriarchy is sustained. As with men, we need to find ways to straightforwardly oppose the abuse of power by women while maintaining compassion for women who act as perpetrators. In turn, we need to articulate the links between women's subjective powerlessness and their susceptibility to acting abusively when they (particularly as mothers) are in positions of dominance.
· We need a new kind of dialogue between progressive men and women who are committed to achieving gender equality. I struggled long and hard with the preceding paragraph, trying to figure out how to articulate what I believe to be an important issue without seeming to dictate to women. As a man, I have no business telling the women's movement to add child abuse by mothers to the feminist agenda. But as a former child and as a trauma survivor who was abused by my mother, it ought to be possible for me to enter into dialogue with women about this issue. I think that dialogue is the key.
If we can develop shared understandings of the ways in which men as well as women are traumatized and oppressed by patriarchy, and ways in which women as well as men act as perpetrators, it should become possible for men and women who are committed to gender equality to openly explore issues and strategies together as allies and as equals. This needs to be done with full sensitivity to men's positions as dominants and with vigilance about breaking patterns of male domination - and at the same time with room for women and men to speak openly about the truth of our experience, and about the political implications we draw from our experience. In the very process of creating this kind of dialogue, we are building part of the framework for equal power relations between men and women.
· Treating oppressors as fully human helps to build more effective social change movements. There is an exceedingly understandable tendency among trauma victims, and generally among women and men who oppose patriarchy, to view perpetrators and all men who identify with dominant roles as Others - as enemies who have nothing in common with "us." But that kind of view of an "enemy," no matter how understandable, limits the capacity of any social change movement to ultimately succeed in creating conditions of equality. Defining the enemy/Other as less than human, or failing to open ourselves to the full human experience of perpetrators and oppressors, sets the stage for new cycles of dehumanization and oppression when movements "succeed" in the sense of achieving political and social power. As Levins Morales writes,
Either we are committed to making a world in which all people are of value, everyone redeemable, or we surrender to the idea that some of us are truly better and more deserving of life than others, and once we open the door to that possibility, we cannot control it…If we agree to accept limits on who is included in humanity, then we will become more and more like those we oppose. Do we really need to name the list of atrocities committed by people who claimed to act in the name of human liberation?90
By humanizing oppressors - both men and women whose abusive behavior has roots in their own traumatic experiences - we lay the groundwork for social change which can succeed not only in the sense of a shift in power from one group to another, but also in the sense of humanizing the ways in which power is organized and people actually treat each other. By narrowing the gap between victim and perpetrator, between "us" and "them," we enhance our ability to expand the sphere of political and social relations in which there are neither perpetrators nor victims.
Notes to Chapter Three
1. For example, see Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
2. See for example Judith Herman, Father-Daughter Incest (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Louise Armstrong, Rocking The Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1994); Diana Russell, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (New York: Basic Books, 1986); and Neil Jacobson and John Gottman, When Men Batter Women (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998).
3. Steven Wineman, The Politics of Human Services (Boston: South End Press, 1984), p. 186.
4. Aurora Levins Morales, Medicine Stories: History, Culture, and the Politics of Integrity (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1998), p. 122.
5. See Chapter One, "The Prevalence of Trauma." The studies cited are Russell, The Secret Trauma, and David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, I. A. Lewis, and Christine Smith, "Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors," Child Abuse & Neglect 14: 19-28 (1990).
See Barbara Meltz, "Spanking's Punishing
7. Straus, p. 31.
8. See Jacobson and Gottman, When Men Batter Women.
9. Meda Chesney-Lind, The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997), p. 24.
Simmons, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (
11. See Simmons, Odd Girl Out.
12. Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, and Smith, "Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors."
Holmes and Gail Slap, "Sexual Abuse of Boys:
Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae,
and Management," Journal of the American
Webber, "Sexual Abuse of Boys Estimated at One in Five,"
Shea, "Fewer Males Will Report Sexual
16. See Holmes and Slap, "Sexual Abuse of Boys: Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae, and Management."
17. Judith Herman, Father-Daughter Incest (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). I discuss covert sexual abuse in Chapter One under "The Prevalence of Trauma."
18. Shea, "Fewer Males Will Report Sexual Abuse."
19. King, Speaking Our Truth, pp. 5-6.
20. Lew, Victims No Longer, pp. 14-15.
21. See Meltz, "Spanking's Punishing Lessons," and Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them.
22. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), p. 53. Kindlon and Thompson also cite research reported by J. Gregory, "Three Strikes and They're Out: African-American Boys and American Schools Response to Misbehavior," International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 7: 25-34 (1997) finding that boys are much more likely than girls to be hit in school, with African-American boys the most likely to be hit.
23. William Pollack, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood (New York: Random House, 1998). See also Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain, whose analysis of the emotional damage done to boys by the masculine code is almost identical to Pollack's.
24. Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain, p. 73.
25. Michael Ryan, Secret Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995), p. 34.
26. Ryan, Secret Life, p. 34.
27. Pollack, Real Boys.
28. See also Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain.
29. Andrew Young, a therapist interviewed by Lois Shea, "said that because boys are socialized to be tough and strong, they often feel great shame at not being able to fend off their attackers. 'When a 5-year-old is victimized and he didn't protect himself, he's feeling, "Gee, I'm not a man,"' Young said." Shea, "Fewer Males Will Report Sexual Abuse."
30. Chesney-Lind, The Female Offender, p. 39. Chesney-Lind suggests that even this figure may be inflated by trends to re-label "incorrigible" behavior by teenage girls toward parents as "assaults," for example in cases of "police officers advising parents to block the doorways when their children threaten to run away, and then charging the youth with 'assault' when they shove past their parents." (p. 39)
31. Chesney-Lind, pp. 40-41, citing FBI crime statistics for 1994.
32. Chesney-Lind, p. 10.
33. Chesney-Lind, p. 57.
34. Chesney-Lind, p. 54.
35. Chesney-Lind, p.56.
36. Veronica Chambers, Mama's Girl (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), p. 78.
Simmons, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of
Aggression in Girls (
38. Simmons, Odd Girl Out, 182.
39. Holmes and Slap in their survey of research on the sexual abuse of boys state, "Large-sample studies reported that 53% to 94% of perpetrators were men, with up to half of female perpetrators being adolescent aged babysitters." Holmes and Slap, "Sexual Abuse of Boys," p. 1857.
Kathryn Jennings, "Female Child Molesters:
A Review of the Literature," in Michelle Elliott, ed., Female Sexual Abuse of Children (New
York: The Guilford Press, 1994), who
notes that girls under 16 "also commit sexual offenses against children
for which they remain undetected. Their
behavior usually occurs while they are trusted to look after a
41. Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them, Chapter 4, chart 4-3.
42. Simmons, Odd Girl Out, p. 22.
43. Simmons, p. 138.
44. Simmons, p. 139.
45. Simmons, p. 139.
46. Simmons, p. 88.
47. See Dusty Miller, Women Who Hurt Themselves (New York: Basic Books, 1994).
48. See for example Gloria Steinem, "Supremacy Crimes," Ms., 9(5): 44-47 (1999).
49. Pollack, Real Boys, p. 44 (emphasis Pollack's). See also Kindlon and Thompson, Chapter 11, "Anger and Violence."
50. Pollack, p. 44.
51. Pollack, p. 44.
52. Steinem, "Supremacy Crimes."
53. King, Speaking Our Truth, p. 65. This vignette is one of many testimonies in King's book contributed by male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
54. See Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain, Chapter 10.
55. Kindlon and Thompson, p. 79.
56. Pollack, Real Boys.
57. Regarding the concept of a hidden true self, c.f. Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self (New York: Basic Books, 1990) and R.D. Laing, The Divided Self (New York: Pantheon Books, 1960). This concept is also consistent with Pollack's description of male childhood experience in Real Boys.
58. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 118.
59. Kindlon and Thompson draw a connection between this aspect of the Superman story and the intense isolation that is part of male socialization. See Raising Cain, Chapter 7, "Inside the Fortress of Solitude."
60. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, pp. 45-46.
61. See for example Richard Hoffman, Half the House (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995); Lew, Victims No Longer; Ryan, Secret Life; and King, Speaking Our Truth.
62. See Pollack, Real Boys, and Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain. Neither of these books explicitly addresses patriarchy as an issue or draws out the political implications of the psychological effects of the masculine code on boys' development; but, to me at least, radical implications are jumping off of the pages.
63. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 51.
64. See David Gil, "Holistic Perspective on Child Abuse and its Prevention," in The Challenge of Social Equality (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1976).
65. C.F. Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and The Roots of Violence (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984).
Beating the Devil out of Them, p. 20; Straus also cites Betsy Lehman,
"Spanking Teaches the Wrong Lesson,"
p. 23. See also Barbara Meltz, "Spanking's Punishing Lessons,"
68. Straus, pp. 54-55.
69. Straus, p. 25.
70. Miller, For Your Own Good, p. 76.
71. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 51.
72. See King, Speaking Our Truth, and Elliott, ed., Female Sexual Abuse of Children.
73. David Finkelhor and Diana Russell, "Women as Perpetrators," in Finkelhor, ed., Child Sexual Abuse: New Theory and Practice (New York: Free Press, 1984), cited in Michelle Elliott, "What Survivors Tell Us - An Overview," in Elliott, ed., Female Sexual Abuse of Children.
74. Holmes and Slap, "Sexual Abuse of Boys," p. 1857.
75. See Kathryn Jennings, "Female Child Molesters: A review of the Literature," in Elliott, ed., Female Sexual Abuse of Children.
76. Eliot, What Survivors Tell Us - An Overview," in Elliott, ed., Female Sexual Abuse of Children, p. 8.
77. See Herman, Father-Daughter Incest.
78. Alice Miller describes this type of mother-child relationship in The Drama of the Gifted Child (New York: Basic Books, 1990).
79. See Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child and Thou Shalt Not Be Aware (New York: Penguin Books U.S.A., 1986).
80. Chesney-Lind, The Female Offender, p. 102, citing FBI crime statistics for 1994.
81. See Levins Morales, "The Politics of Childhood" in Medicine Stories.
82. See Armstrong, Rocking The Cradle of Sexual Politics.
83. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 79, in her essay "What Race Isn't."
84. Miller, "Adolf Hitler's Childhood: From Hidden to Manifest Horror," in For Your Own Good pp. 142-197.
85. Levins Morales, "Torturers," in Medicine Stories, pp. 111-114.
86. Levins Morales, p. 111.
87. See Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993) for an example of an analysis of men as victims which, to say the least, is seriously counterproductive; see my discussion of Farrell's book in the section on "Examples of Power-Under" in Chapter Two
88. Jacobson and Gottman, When Men Batter Women; see my discussion of this material in Chapter Two, "Examples of Power-Under."
89. See Chapter Two, "Trauma and Conscious Domination."
90. Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 113.