Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Misunderstanding and Blaming

In a move that is simply stunning in its profound stupidity, Pat Robertson yesterday, said this*:



Roberts, here does a few things that I am somewhat unable to rank in terms of their awfulness:

1. He confuses being gay with sexual abuse victim. While, sadly, these two identities do overlap sometimes, it is not a 1 for 1 relationship or anything even remotely close to the level he suggests. More importantly, this is the argument that does so much harm to so many males trying to live with having survived sexual assault--the tendency to believe that abuse leads to a shift in sexual orientation. As one author points out, the questions are endless for the male survivor from those who find out, but they can all be summed up in one: did you like it?

1a. The only shift that we can predict in sexuality when a male survives sexual assault at a young age (and still not with anything even approaching 100% certainty) is that they are at risk of continuing that cycle of abuse. At risk does not mean they will automatically become an abuser, either, though. As I wrote in the novel (because so many therapists of various types have pointed out), what you are looking at when you see a male abuser of children is a boy who desperately needed someone to help when he was younger.

2. Even if someone does buy into the idea that being a homosexual is an abomination (and you better bet that I don't), then this amounts to that classic straight white male concept of blaming the victim for their abuse. If being gay is caused by the abuse, and all you have to do to not be gay (according to so many conservative thinkers) is accept Jesus into your heart, then you must not be working hard enough to get rid of your gay...and following Robertson, that must mean you wanted and/or liked your abuse. What a stunningly horrible thing for anyone to even imply.

3. In a somewhat tangential comment, that would mean that there is at least one sexual predator for every male homosexual in the country. In fact, we know that the sexual predator model looks more like multiple intersecting cones of contact (one predator affecting one or more children who then sometimes becomes predators who affect one or more children if they can't get help to end the cycle, etc.)

3a. This would also mean, if his thinking was right, that no one had ever been abused by any Christian. We know for a fact that abuse cases have occurred in every organized religion across the globe, Christian or non, though. That children are just as at risk at a camp or school run by Christians as they are at any other.

4. In response: so female homosexuals just don't exist, Pat? Lesbians are fictive?

and finally 5. In the classic move of double othering, Robertson implies that gay male equals pedophile. He implies that a man's assault of a child is somehow a sexual contact to that abuser as well as abusee, instead of an act of violence. These two things are not even close to related, but there he goes.

In fact, the only thing that Robertson does right, here, is the admonition to love the child in question. After all, he could have gone the other way and advocated to kick the child out of the home, as seems to be the standard response (some have suggested up to a third of the homeless male youth in any large city are gay children and adolescents who were made homeless because of religious intolerance in their former homes). Of course, his idea is to love the child conditionally (contingent on him working against his homosexuality), but still he advocates love. That's at least something. My sincere hope is that the mother who wrote in at some point stops asking someone else how she is supposed to love her family and, instead, just starts doing so.

It isn't easy to read, but here is the set of myths that the people at the MaleSurvivor website feel they have to demystify for their readers. Just look at how many things the culture tells male survivors every day, day in day out.

There are all kinds of things I want to say about Robertson, conservative religious thinking and a culture absolutely obsessed with finding ways to hate gay men (not to mention asking their religious and political leaders to absolve them of the guilt for doing so, as this particular mother does between the lines in her letter) that are "ok", but unlike Robertson I'm going to take a moment to think before I go off half-cocked in a knee jerk reaction. Instead I'm simply going to say this: this is the kind of thinking that is floating around out there. If you find it as abhorrent as I do, please find some way, whatever way you can, to do something about it.

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*= I'm using a link from Mediamatters.org, here, but please don't think of that as an approval of that organization, or of conservative thinking on media--the link was merely convenient this morning as I built this post, so I embedded it.