Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guest Blogger Dr. Jesse Hellman on The Penn State Matter



The news media has published numerous pieces exploring various aspects of what happened at Penn State. The sports culture, the prestige of the program, the money it brought into the university, the parallels with the Catholic Church, and so on. What kept action from being taken by administrators after an employee allegedly witnessed a violent crime? What kept that employee from stopping a violent act? What kept him from taking further action later?

The media has looked at various aspects of these questions, but two aspects have received little attention: Is there a difference between the way men and women react to these events, and are there factors that actually inhibit men from taking action in these circumstances?

Here is a "thought experiment:"  What would happen if the alleged crime were different-- if, for example,  a man had walked in on someone violently raping a ten year old female child? Would he have reacted the same, observing but not interfering, reporting it up the line, but not taking subsequent action? What would have happened if one of the administrators who learned of this had been a woman? My thesis is that it would have been very different if it had been a little girl, and that women involved as administrators would have been far less likely to ascribe this to "horse play," look the other way, and remain passive after reporting it up the line to superiors.

A man coming across a heterosexual rape, whether of an adult or a child, would know immediately that this is a terrible crime and would have immediately stopped it. It would be clear that the police should be involved. I wonder whether the homosexual act, even with a child, arouses feelings in men that actually inhibit action, that make it easier to turn away and rationalize not taking action. It is something that is harder to confront, to even think about. To the psyche it is perhaps the most forbidden of crimes, worse than incest.

Again, the purpose of this post is to discuss the general principles, not the individual actions at Penn State, of this subject. What are the Psychological Factors that inhibit Action when Evil is
Encountered?

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

can you link to an article that describes what "the penn state matter" is, for those of us who don't live in the are and/or simply aren't up on the news?

Anonymous said...

same anon - I see that there is a link of some sort from "Penn State" but it's a dead link.

jesse said...

Just put into Google "Penn State Child Rape" and you will find it. It has been front page/prime time news.

Dinah said...

Dear Anon....
Are you in a cave?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/sports/ncaafootball/questions-on-sandusky-wrapped-in-2005-gricar-mystery.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2060199/Penn-State-scandal-Joe-Paterno-supporters-wear-white-blue-child-abuse-victims.html

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7207465/penn-state-nittany-lions-sex-abuse-scandal-jerry-sandusky-was-campus-last-week-reports-say

Well, so I'm thinking about this and I don't know that I agree that things would have gone down differently if the victim was a girl. The case has been compared to the Kitty Genovese story, a social psychology classic, and ah we just podcasted about this. In this case, 38 bystanders did nothing while a woman was stabbed and raped over a 30 minute period.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese

Also, I just finished reading In A Garden of Beasts, about the US Ambassador to Berlin in 1933. It's a humble reminder of how powerful the human desire to see no evil can be.

I may want to assume, however, that Jesse is right that things would have gone better if the administrators were women.

jesse said...

Dinah, Kitty Genovese was not raped, but stabbed outside her apartment at 3 AM. . That case is quite different.

Sherri said...

Maybe things would have been different had the victim been a little girl, but the history of college athletics suggests that rape of a young adult woman would likely have been covered up. Here's a link to a USA Today story on a University of Colorado football recruiting and sex scandal from 2004: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2004-02-19-recruting-scandal_x.htm

jesse said...

Dinah is right about Kitty Genovese.

Anonymous said...

Well, given the number of women who stand by their boyfriend or husband and turn their back on their own daughters who have been assaulted by said boyfriend/husband, I am not sure that the theory holds up very well. One might counter that these are women who feel powerless and not administrator types. To that I can only say that I know a few female "administrators" and they did not get to be in their positions because of their "feminine" "caring" natures.If they had caring " "natures" these would be what they would have had to suppress in the race to the top. I don't know that we can prove that organizations run by women are any less concerned about the bottom line, reputation and covering up dirty secrets.

Now Jesse, I do not quite follow : "To the psyche it is perhaps the most forbidden of crimes, worse than incest." If "it" is the "homosexual act" I fail to see how in these times of Gay Pride parades, gay marriages announced in the New York Times and programs to encourage acceptance of diversity on campuses and in the workplace etc, the homosexual act is to the psyche "worse than incest". In any case, child rape is child rape whether the victim is a boy or a girl. Anyone coming across any rape, adult or child, who does not know immediately that it is a terrible crime needs to have their head examined. People do know it is a terrible crime. And people, both men and women very often fail to take appropriate action. You may or may not know that in some Orthodox Jewish communities child rape is not reported because according to their way of thinking it is better to let the rapist free to rape again than to ruin the child's chances of growing up to make a good marriage match. Somehow the shame is carried by the victim and the perp gets away with it. Involved in this cover up would be fathers, mothers and rabbis. I will not speak of the Church since enough has been said about the silence there.
Everyone talks a lot on this blog about stigma and mental illness. Somewhere, maybe not here, I have seen it written that mental illness is the new gay. People getting outed or coming out of the closet on their own. Mental illness is not the last outpost. Rape is. Incest is. People walk around telling the world they are bipolar of they are alcoholic and so on. WHO ever stands up and speaks for the victims of rape? Silence.It is not a man problem.It is a society problem. Like my mother told me: better you shouldn't talk about it. One thing I will say for Joe Paterno is at least he told somebody. At least he did that. That is a lot more than we can say about all the other people who pay dumb every single day , from every walk of life, in every corner of society.
That is why I am Anonymous.

Dinah, I am not the Anon who asked for the info but you ought to consider that people in other countries do not always have your news on their front page. They have their own problems that you may never have heard of.

Jane said...

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/28/INF21F2Q9H.DTL

If you read the above article, it gives an example of men allowing homosexual rape in Afghanistan. Shudder.

I think there is something in our own culture that would make our view of raping a boy different. I remember watching an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. He talked about some teenage boy who had sex with his smoking hot, 20 something, blonde teacher. And he said that when a male teacher has sex with a teenage girl it is a crime. But when a teenage boy has sex with his hot, female teacher it is only a crime that no one got it on video tape.

South Park had an episode about it and they said the same thing. The South Park boys go to the police to tell them that a kid in their class is having sex with their teacher. The cops freak out that a girl is being raped by a male teacher. But then the boys clarify that it is a male student having underage sex with his female teacher. The cops pause and say, "That's kinda hot."

With homosexual rape, author Augusten Burroughs (who is gay) gives a really graphic account of being raped at the age of 13 by his adult boyfriend in Running With Scissors. Everyone in the house, including the psychiatrist (he was adopted by his mother's psychiatrist), knew he was having sexual relations with an adult man. No one did anything. And now that he is older, he can't believe the adults in his life let it go on like they did. I wonder if Augusten had been a 13 year old girl...

I think guys may just have it worse in general. Whether it is homosexual sex or heterosexual sex, they probably do get less protection than women. It wouldn't surprise me if the reason no one reported Sandusky is because they thought the 10 year old boy might have been gay and asking for it.

Check out that movie Doubt. Does it change your perception at all when the mom reveals to Meryl Streep that her son, the boy being sexually abused, is a homosexual? In the movie, it doesn't change a thing for Meryl Streep. A priest is molesting a boy. However, it does change how the mother of the boy views the situation. I love Meryl's line when the mother says the priest can have the boy. "What kind of mother are you?"

Anonymous said...

Is this really a gender issue, or is it a power issue? Yes, there is a different set of issues that are raised within a person when it is revealed that the abuse occurred within a same sex situation; but turning away from someone being abused isn't about their gender, it's about their morals and beliefs.

I'm also not sure if anyone can quantify, or describe what is a "worst" abuse. There are all sorts of factors which come into play - such as trust, support systems around the victim, etc. Such comparisons are rarely fair on anyone involved - particularly the victim of the abuse.

Anonymous said...

@ the anon who left the long comment:

Women whose daughters have been allegedly raped by the mother's boyfriend or husband have additional complications clouding their judgment. I'd imagine that it would be very difficult to admit to yourself that the man you said "I do" to, the man who has been your faithful companion for years, is an incestuous pedophile. I really don't think that this example can be used to support an argument against action being taken by a female administrator.

Also, I don't think that Dinah meant to be harsh to the first anon. I read her comment in a kind, joking tone of voice. And she did leave plenty of links for the anon.

I really don't know whether things would have been different with a female victim or a female administrator. I don't think that it could ever be so simple. Not all men are the same, and not all women are the same. The differences within a gender far exceed the differences between genders, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

@last Anon. Yes it is difficult for these women to admit such things. So difficult that even alleged cases that turn out to be based in fact, these women are able to turn their backs on their own children and stand by the man who has been their faithful (?) companion.
People tend to decide what they think is best either for themselves or the greater good. Very often this means throwing a boy or girl under the bus when it comes to cases of rape.

rob lindeman said...

Having lived through the Kitty Genovese horror show, I can say with some confidence that we were all a lot more likely to report crimes after the Genovese murder than before. We can only hope that the Sandusky crimes will have a similar effect.

Whether this smacks some sense into the heads of those for whom college ball is uber alles is another matter...

wv = laboard; the left side of a sailing vessel, but only in New England

Dr. Psychobabble said...

Diffusion of responsibility is always a likely culprit....

Anonymous said...

Race and socioeconomic factors play into this scenario. The rape victims were poor black children The rapist is a rich and powerful white adult male. How would it have played out if he preyed on the sons of the rich and powerful?

jesse said...

Jane has explained my point better than I had.

Octopus said...

In her crusade against cruel childrearing practices, Alice Miller reminded us that it takes time for scientific and social knowledge to gain acceptance, more time to reach those with less schooling or less access to information, and even more time to reach those whose own repressed experiences prevent them from accepting uncomfortable truths.

Whatever cause we attribute in the Penn State matter, speculation is less important than the fact that public awareness has been raised.

Anonymous said...

You are trying to parse the rape of a pre-teen girl vs a pre-teen boy? You wonder if it would be different if it were reported to a woman vs a man? Are you insane? If you, for one second, think gender difference can account for describing the rape of a pre-teen--regardless of sex--as "horseplay" instead of "rape" then you have lost your bearings.

This post is not only a salacious "thought experiment" of a real tragedy, but also bigotry. It should be deleted.

There is an argument for keeping docs in their bubbles and an argument against it. This adds to the argument against it.

jesse said...

To the Last Anon, please read Jane's comment above.

Carrie said...

I've got nothing to add - Jane's comment was very good. I can't look at this from any way but inside the Penn State community, so it's hard to entertain a thought experiment, though - by definition, generally thought experiments take you into the world of complete abstraction and away from any connection to even the topic at core...at least in the land of bioethics. I keep reading the title of this post as The Penn State Mater - my alma mater. :(

My best friend wrote the following on the subject: http://www.csnchicago.com/ncaa/news/Cooper-This-is-not-my-fathers-Penn-State?blockID=590934&feedID=630

And I know I'm not contributing to the non-Penn State analysis of the topic. I work with children as a profession - I can't think that the men I know who also work with children would have turned away, but I know what sports cultures do. Even the mighty have fallen here...

"For the glory..." "May no act of ours bring shame, To one heart that loves thy name. May our lives but swell thy fame, Dear old State, Dear old State..."

Anonymous said...

@Jesse - thanks.
@Dinah - apparently, I am in a cave. Or perhaps my profession doesn't leave time to read the paper every day. Why am I explaining myself to you? Was the commentary really necessary?

Anonymous said...

Poor reasoning, poor argument, poor form.

Dinah said...

Interesting article in the NYTimes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/opinion/brooks-lets-all-feel-superior.html

Anonymous said...

@Dinah. Thank you for the link to something intelligently written. it almost makes up for this post.

jesse said...

@Jane: I wonder if you would consider expanding the post you wrote here into an article to be submitted to newspapers or magazines. It is much easier to address the areas of group pressure, corporate profits, or job protection than those of homophobic attitudes. That prejudice against gays may have played some role in the willingness to look the other way is a powerful thesis, and it is hard to ignore that what we have seen at Penn State as well as in the Church involve men turning aside when confronted with evidence of men sexually abusing male children.

It is interesting that so much has been written and yet I know of no one who has tried to examine these events in this light. So please publish. And remember you all read this first on Shrink Rap!

@Apoplectic Anon: If you could clearly explain what it is you find so horrifically objectionable in this blog I would be glad to try to address it.

Anonymous said...

I am apoplectic about provocateurs being provocateurs for the sake of being provocateurs. We've done silence in the face of evil so many times in so many other infamous examples that Penn State is just a university in Pennsylvania. Bourgeois German silence to the Holocaust as it was happening, anyone? There are much more recent examples. To throw gender into the equation is a red herring. You equate the feminization of power to a greater accountability? Bullshit. Rape is rape and it is wrong. If you proceed from your argument or question, people get let off the hook. And they shouldn't be. Or bad prescriptions to the problem are institutionalized. Just asking the question is in poor taste. The correct response to this is outrage. Not "oh, this is interesting...let's all have a "thought experiment"...what if..."

Jane said...

@Apoplectic Anon: I think if Jesse had asked the abuse victims to try an objective thought experiment with him, then it would have been really insensitive. But it's a psychiatry blog, so I feel like it's different.

@Jesse: Clink might be a better choice to talk about this kind of thing. She's probably met a few sex offenders in her time that have molested boys and knows the circumstances better when homosexuality is part of a rape case. Heck, she works in a prison. She might be able to tell us if the homosexual rape that happens all the time between male prisoners is treated differently than heterosexual rape.

Anonymous said...

Rape is rape. It is not about sex and it is not about gender.It is about power. If the rape of a boy by a man is something we turn away from because it is too much for our psyche to bear but at the same time the rape of a female is more likely to be met with some sort of action, presumably because... uh, our collective psyche can bear it, we have made a statement that it is expected and expectable and, in a perverse sense of the word, "normal" that a female would be raped. So I am not certain that men have it worse because the corollary is that women have it easier. To anyone who thinks that someone would ignore the rape of a boy because they thought he might be gay, it is worth noting the number of rapes perpetrated on females because of so called seductive behavior or provocative dress. It is also worth noting that in many cases, men are not raped by homosexual men. Abner Louima was sodomized by a New York Police officer with a plunger handle. Was this about sex or power?

jesse said...

@Anon, I agree with you in many ways. When we psychiatrists/psychologists try to understand behavior we are not saying that one is let off the hook for his decisions because of those factors. In the Holocaust, for instance, none would say that recognizing that antisemitism was a factor lets those who perpetrated those horrors off the hook.

To put the problems that occurred in Pennsylvania in the context of "power" actually dismisses the multiple other factors. Power is just one factor.

Multiple internal forces in the mind shape our actions (this is the psychological principle of multiple determination). As psychologists we work to understand them; as members of a civilized society we recognize that one must take full responsibility for our decisions and actions..

All have been justly horrified by not only what happened to these boys but by the failure of effective action to be taken promptly.

I thank you for explaining your point and hope I have addressed it adequately.

Anonymous said...

Jesse, I do not know which to which Anon your are referring. It doesn't really matter. It is all about power and power does not have one definition or meaning. If one takes into the account the various aspects of power, and it is much more than brute force and overt control, it is quite possible to marry the notion that every aspect of the case at Penn has to do with power with your concept of multiple determination.
See: http://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/organisation-management/5a-understanding-itd/power-authority-role-conflict

jesse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jesse said...

"It is all about power and power does not have one definition or meaning. If one takes into the account the various aspects of power, and it is much more than brute force and overt control, it is quite possible to marry the notion that every aspect of the case at Penn has to do with power with your concept of multiple determination."

The article you cited describes a concept that is useful but not meant as a complete psychology. The principle of multiple determination is not mine; it was described by Robert Waelder in 1936.

In these cases (such as the ones of which we have been reading at Penn State) one might question whether sexual pleasure was obtained by a perpetrator committing acts with a child of the same sex. That alleged action is properly considered an assault, whatever its meanings or intent. If sexual pleasure was obtained one considers it a perversion. If the child is of the same sex it is homosexual rather than heterosexual.

On the evening news tonight the graduate assistant was quoted as saying that he had "stopped" the act and reported it to the campus police. So, again, ask (hypothetical, we really don't know) what led him to "stop" it and apparently take no further action beyond reporting it: comforting the victim, making sure his parents were called, getting medical help, and so on. Then re-read Jane's post and see if what she is describing should at least be considered in trying to come to grips with the horror of what happened.

Again, I think Jane made my point much better than I had. And to the Anons who have been commenting in outrage, I believe we all feel it as you do.

Anon 3 said...

Honestly, I think that it would have been much more poorly handled if girls were involved. Girls and women are valued in our society much less than boys and men.

A girl, particularly a tween, could be said to look older than she was or to have been provocative etc.

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear: you haven't addressed my point, you've argued for the validity and appropriateness of your post. That aside: if you think antisemitism was the cause for most Germans not to speak out, you're dead wrong. This is all pretty clear and well accepted and in the literature, as you would say.

Further, I don't really care what psychologists or psychiatrists do or don't do or pretend to do or pretend not to do. I'm talking about YOUR post. Adjudicate this as you'd like: there should have been a female admin who was told, it would have been clearer if a pre-teen girl was raped...whatever you want to speculate on and concoct.

Silence is enforced by power and politics and trailing that is money on a certain level. Race or gender or religion has virtually nothing to do with it. I agree with you that silence and complicity is nuanced, but it is always traced back to power and politics, misplaced loyalty, and money. To speculate that it is a gender issue is silly. And really, for you, as a professional, to speculate at all, at this point in the investigation, is foolhardy. As a member of a civil society and a professional, surely you understand that.

On some level I know you're just a guy trying to blog about what's on his mind and maybe prompt a few responses in tangent to a current event. My motivation for being the apoplectic anon is to say that you have to think harder and be better. Your post was awful.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was awful, in a sloppy thinking sort of way. And no, I don't agree with jane. I don't agree with you. i don't think that your credentials, whatever they are, give you the moral authority, aka power to tell everyone else what this case is about or even to argue that it is substantially different from any other case of people failing to respond to terrible things. At the same time, gender, race, all those things cannot be understood without looking at power. I know you did not come up with multiple determination. Your assertion that if sexual pleasure was attained, it is a perversion while true in some sense, overlooks the fact that in many cases, rape victims find that they also may experience sexual pleasure though that is not often talked about because it does not mitigate the fact that they suffered an assault on their body mind and spirit.That is because the body responds in a way that is disconnected from the horror sometimes. This does not make them perverted. I am not going to differentiate between rapists based on whether they felt sexual pleasure from the act or whether they just got off on the power trip. I take it you do not have much experience in this area.

Jane said...

...why is there no way that gender could play a role at all in the reporting of this? That was the point of the South Park episode I mentioned (Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy). The cops think the boy is the luckiest kid in America. If you are a male student and the victim of statutory rape by a female teacher, there are plenty of people who would think that's actually pretty hot. If the reverse situation were to happen, it would be different. A man who climbs on top of a willing teen girl is committing statutory rape and is a monster. He took advantage of a sensitive young female who just wanted to be loved. But if a hot woman straddles a willing teen boy then all that means is that he is a stud who just scored with a hot, young, super-slut, blond. How does that Christina Aguillera video go? "If you look back in history. It's a common double standard of society. The guy gets all the glory the more he can score! While a girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore. I don't understand why it's okay. The guy can get away with it, but the girl gets named."

Look at my Afghanistan article. Men are openly raping young boys. Which is shocking, because they bend over backwards to make sure the women can only be raped by their husbands. Women have to cover up, never be alone with a man unless he is a family member, etc. All kinds of restrictions are imposed on women and girls in the name of protection, so that they do not become victims of sexual assault. But where are the protections for Afghan boys? Why is no one flipping out, ordering the boys into burkas, and secluding them. Or how about stoning their molesters? Homosexual sex is usually considered a gigantic sin in Islam, complete with a death sentence. I would think they would want to protect the boys just as much as the girls from sexual assault.

Anonymous said...

Except that women do get raped in Afghanistan and not only by their husbands. When a boy is raped there, he is allowed to live to be raped again another day. The woman would be stoned to death.

Jane said...

@ last anon: It's a little more complicated than that. A professor of mine once brought up the case of a woman stoned to death in Afghanistan because she was raped. And he asked aloud how they could do that to her. A student from Afghanistan answered his question. She said she did not support this, but the women are not stoned for having been raped. They are stoned for putting themselves in a situation where something like that could happen. When a woman in Afghanistan is raped, they look at how it happened. That woman went out by herself and found herself alone with a man. That also brings us back to Quran: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because of what Allah has preferred one with over the other and because of what they spend to support them from their wealth.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 34] She put the men in her life in a position where they weren't able to protect her, which the Quran obligates them to do. The men were dishonored, so they stoned her to death as punishment.

by the way, i find that a terrible interpretation of the faith and I think Sheikh Hamza Yusuf gives a much better interpretation of that verse and how men and women relate to each other. Around 7:50 he starts talking about it http://www.halaltube.com/hamza-yusuf-removing-the-silence-on-domestic-violence

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am aware of the finer points of stoning. Since you are so interested in explaining how the stoning bit came about you probably already know that the practice among Pashtun men of "having a boy" is also not as simple as it sounds. The boys expect that they will also grow up and have boys of their own to rape. There are a number of reasons that this takes place and none of them sound the least bit reasonable to our minds but then again we are judging another culture. I find it abhorrent, as I do the stoning of women which as you said, happens in a "context".
The answer your Afghani classmate gave is strikingly similar to the Old Testament portion relating to how one determines whether a girl/woman was raped or consented to sex, in which case, the damages owed to her father would be considerably less. If her screams could be heard, she was raped, if not, then not. I guess it made sense to someone at some time, but not to me now.I could go on but choose not to.

Jane said...

I didn't say it happens within a "context". My point is they don't get stoned for being raped...they get stoned for the reason why they were raped. I'm relating it back to how gender accounts for different reactions to rape. Men are not the "protectors and maintainers" of boys or other men. They are, however, of women. So they react differently to the rape of a boy than the rape of girls and women.

Anonymous said...

The way in which women in Afghanistan have been "protected" has had a direct impact on the treatment of young boys in a sub section of that culture.

We do not live in Afghanistan. It is not considered a status symbol to have a young boy as your sex slave in America. It certainly does not explain the "Penn State Matter".

Jane said...

We do not live in Afghanistan. It is not considered a status symbol to have a young boy as your sex slave in America. It certainly does not explain the "Penn State Matter".

It's totally a status symbol in America. What if a 12 year old kills another kid and is then sent to adult prison? Another prisoner then makes him their bitch. Within the American prison system, turning another inmate into a bitch is sign of your power. It's not impossible for kids to end up in adult prison where rape is the norm.

Gender can play a role in how people deal with a rape case. But now Mike McQueary is saying he did stop it, reported it to the police, etc. So who knows. We will need more details...but then why did the police do nothing? If Sandusky was acting creepy in the shower with a girl, would that have elicited a bigger response from the police? Was it just the fact that it was gay sex that made them hold off and think...Uh oh! Gay sex. Can't handle it...Well maybe it was just horse play!

Anonymous said...

We do not live in Afghanistan. It is not considered a status symbol to have a young boy as your sex slave in America. It certainly does not explain the "Penn State Matter.
Prison is a sub culture not a microcosm of American life and mores.

Jane said...

I think the sex slave thing is just as isolated as the prison rape thing. Like only the most powerful, rich, and perverted of Afghans can get away with keeping a boy as a sex slave. It's not something for the lower classes to afford. You're average Afghan doesn't want a boy sex slave or is able to keep one.

Dude...I'm saying that gender affects how people look at things. It is universal. You can look at any culture and you will see this. Men and women are different and they view each other differently. This includes how they view sexual relations. It's not isolated to any one culture. You insist there is no way gender played a role. I'm disagreeing. I think we can just look around the world, and here at home, and see that gender affects perception. Like Sandusky getting caught showering with a girl probably would have looked far more predatory than him showering with a boy. If he had showered with a girl, I don't even think there would have been any hesitation in firing him and having him arrested.

...Isn't it even like an unwritten rule that you don't touch or really look at the other people in the shower room? Why was he touching the boy and getting that close to him in the shower? He also mentioned towel whipping...that's just creepy. I could see a boy doing that to another boy. But that is wrong on so many levels when it's a full grown man. A full grown man wanted a whip a boy's butt with a towel and touch his leg in the shower. What the hell?

Anonymous said...

Dude?

jesse said...

Thinking on many of the comments here I thought I’d sum up what I could. My original post was intentionally vague because of the nature of unproven events, and I took for granted that everyone was familiar with the allegations. But that might have been a misjudgment on my part.

What had struck me in the press commentary was how little attention was being paid to the sex of the persons involved in these alleged acts and what effect sex had on the people who responded or had some role in this. Does anyone doubt but that if a male employee in a university in the United States had come upon a 10 year old girl being raped in a shower by a 55 year old man he would have done far more than “stopping” it and reporting it to his supervisor?

So it is clear that the fact that these incidents involved boys indicates that sex plays a role in the reaction. I think Jane is correct in surmising an aversion to interfering with the homosexual act, because the boy may be perceived as himself homosexual as well as for other reasons. I am not saying that this should be, but that it is.

There is by now a long list of serial abuse cases involving men with boys as well as girls. Often the men were serial predators. It is quite rare that woman have been aggressively predatory in this way, although I have heard of cases. But the coverups, the looking aside, the characterization of “horseplay,” have been in the instances where men have abused boys. In these cases the people who looked aside or did not follow through were men.

So I think it is safe to say sex plays a role. Culture can be a factor but it does not explain what happened. Psychiatrists and psychologists work with people from many different cultures; the underlying issues are vastly more alike than different. And “power” does not explain these acts or the reactions to them.

Perhaps these posts have explored this as much as possible here. I would hope the tone could stay civil, as in the living room. We have not enabled moderation or deleted posts so far. Some of the Anon posts have been far over the line, others quite thoughtful and contributory. So, please, remember you are in our living room.

Jane said...

"Dude?"

OMG! You nearly made my heart stop Anon! I actually went on Wikipedia to make sure I can still say that without looking dated. It claims people are still saying Dude. You seriously made me feel like I went online and just said, "Like oh my God! Jesse meister posted this totally tubular post. Shrink Rap is so radical. I wonder if my dudettes think its rufus. Bangarang Shrink Rap!

Anonymous said...

Jane, my good man, it's been a jolly good ride, this has.

jesse said...

An Op-Ed piece by Daniel Mendelsohn, an author and critic who teaches at Bard College, was published today in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times. His arguments are precisely what I had offered here, down to the lack of discussion in the media, the thought experiment, the attitudes about homosexuality, the otherwise incompehensible inaction by the assistant coach, and more. I am not suggesting he reads Shrink rap, but that this line of inquiry is valid. What does not get discussed often gives clues to the underlying issues, as much in the outside world as in psychotherapy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/secret-dread-at-penn-state.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=mendelsohn&st=cse

Anonymous said...

Daniel Mendelsohn did make the same points as Jesse! You saw it here on Shrink Rap first...no surprise.

I think one of the gender issues that "gets in the way" and that strays from Jesse's point of total denial, but may feed in to it in terms of gender is the ambiguity of the shower situation. If you hear a man you like and respect and certainly don't see as a monster did something to a boy in a shower, your defense mechanisms might turn in to "horseplay" because you don't want to believe it. You might think you misunderstood, or will ruin someone's life over a misinterpretation, and that it just couldn't be. While it doesn't sound like the grad student who saw it questioned the ambiguity of the situation, it sounds like those above him may have? Men shower together, especially in gyms, but if the situation included a little girl, there would be no room for denial, defense mechanisms, confusion, because there is no reason ever why a grown man would be naked in a shower with a little girl.

Mr. Sandusky's TV interview did not help him, he spent a lot of energy trying to normalize his story.

jesse said...

@Anon, I agree with your points. To clarify my observation, though, I think that there are many factors that feed into the resultant of what we do. All of your points speak to those factors. At any given instant one factor may be paramount, but later others serve to reinforce the original action and/or supply rationalizations for them. I think in this instance we see multiple factors at play.

Jane said...

Maybe this is more a guy topic than a girl topic. Do guys really horse around in the shower room? A guy once told me that guys don't even like using the urinal next to another guy in public restrooms. Like if you walk into a guys bathroom they like to move down a bit cuz they don't like peeing next to each other. Is it even conceivable that they would be horsing around in the shower? I would think they would want space.

Anonymous said...

Jane,

I have sons and I have heard stories about the horsing around in the shower room. Sometimes it is one big communal shower with lots of antics that as woman I could not believe actually took place.