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.
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.