Abuse Often Leads to Hyper-masculinization or Hyper-feminization
By Adeeba Folami
In November, actor and film director Tyler Perry publicly announced that he was sexually abused prior to the age of 10 by a grown woman and three adult males, in separate acts of violation which caused him to act out in destructive ways and even attempt suicide. In another high profile story, popular Georgia Bishop Eddie Long, head of an Atlanta-area mega-church with an international TV broadcast ministry, was accused by four former church members of coercing them into sexual encounters after receiving cash, jewelry, trips and cars from Bishop Long when they were 17 to 18 years of age.
Not all acts or allegations of sexual abuse receive such nationwide attention, however, and in reality, the daily abuse reports in cities across the country are little heard about but involve abuse on boys, and girls, from priests, coaches, teachers, pastors, deputies, day care workers, male - and yes, female - relatives (parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers). It is more common to hear the stories involving abuse of girls and women but, according to Ali Jackson, a Denver teacher, artist, researcher and film maker, one of every four Black males is also amongst the ranks of those who have experienced some form of sexual violation. Unlike women, there is a smaller window of time in which males become victims as they are not such easy targets after age 12 when they begin to physically increase in stature and become less willing to subject themselves to certain acts.
Film Maker Ali Jackson by photo by Lens of Ansar
For nearly a decade, Mr. Jackson has
immersed himself into researching a topic that few before him have
found relevant or worthy of attention. It comes close to home for him
because he is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and even
though he has encountered opposition from some who believe this
subject is taboo and should not be addressed or brought to light, his
own experience only strengthens his resolve to continue shining a
spotlight on what he calls a "sickness" of society. He boldly
acknowledges his own sexual abuse when 11, by an 18 year old female
in an encounter arranged for him as a birthday present by his adult
male relatives who, afterward, gave him "high fives" and took him
out to eat in celebration of his "badge of honor." The
experience left him confused and also with a "residue" in
him that caused him to crave sex and female touch more than the
In 2003, he released his first documentary, "Path Altered," which detailed long term effects of sexual abuse in society as a whole. He found, however, that many of his findings related to boys and this led him into an intensive study and fact finding mission to determine how often boys experience sexual abuse. He began a second documentary entitled "Black Boys Don't Cry," to delve into issues connecting abuse to long held stereotypes about Black males.
"In us, sexuality is celebrated through our masculinity and our sexual prowess," he said in a November interview in front of his 11th grade Art class at a Denver Charter School. "One of the negative stereotypes is the word "buck" and one of the qualities of a buck is that he had to be sexually dominant and almost even sexually deviant and I wanted to address that issue."
Modern day "bucks," or hyper-aggressive Black men would include many of the basketball and football players exalted and adored by sports fans or certain male hip hop artists who represent a "gangsta" image. Men, he explained, who are "put into the limelight of celebrity" today whereas decades ago they would have been villainized and viewed as threats to society or less than human beings.
Mr. Jackson has consulted with, interviewed and learned from sociologists, psychologists, therapists and law enforcement personnel who specialize in sexual abuse cases and he discovered that it is common, in abuse of Black boys, that the perpetrator turns out to be a female. Because of this, he said, society views the act as more acceptable than when a male abuses a female. "You're really awarded for having sex before you're able to mentally comprehend the actual act that was put on you," he said.
Increasing trend of Black men becoming effeminate
The same acceptance is not in place when a boy's abuser is another male. Mr. Jackson has found that, although confusion results from both types of abuse, it can be magnified with a male perpetrator or even when a female abuser resorts to anal penetration. A boy may begin to question his sexuality and whether he is "gay or straight." He went on to say that although the stereotype of Black males in this society remains one of the hyper-masculine being who is most often portrayed as a criminal, thug or threat, "we're now seeing a surgence of African American males who are very hyper-feminized." He quickly added that this is not true in all cases of abuse but the trend is growing -" in the society -" and is clearly evident in places like Atlanta, Georgia, home of Morehouse College, a historically Black male university. In October, per a CNN report, the college's administration issued a ban on the male students "wearing women's clothes, makeup, high heels and purses," to put an end to what the school now considers "inappropriate attire."
Atlanta has become one of the meccas
for gay men and Mr. Jackson describes it as the place where "this
whole mess about the down low brother came out of." It is also near
the location of Bishop Long's church and even though, in recent weeks,
the Christian minister has publicly declared his innocence of any wrong
doing and authorities will not investigate because Georgia's age of
consent is 16 and
the pastor's accusers were over that age at the time of the alleged
incidents, Mr. Jackson sees some reason to place validity in the
young men's claims. "There's a large part of me that believes in
[the allegations] based on patterns, based on grooming," he said,
referring to all the time, money and gifts the men claim to have
received from the church leader.
Such grooming often accompanies acts of abuse perpetrated by males. "So we're not talking about a very violent act. We're talking about [the abuser] takes his time. You're getting compliments, getting your back rubbed. This is a grooming process that is a gradual thing from trust and then to violation," Mr. Jackson explained.
Another reason Black men leave their families?
With 25% of Black men carrying the scar of childhood sexual abuse, and only 1% of them ever disclosing or acknowledging to others that they have been abused, Mr. Jackson notes that "we're talking about a high number of African American males who are walking around with an illness," some of them having become perpetrators and, as adults, now replaying the abuse they received as a child onto innocent and helpless adolescents.