Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tragedy at Penn State

There is no doubt the events at Penn State are tragic. They are tragic for the kids who are alleged to have been sexually abused. They are tragic for those who had nothing to do with the events other than to catch sight of them and then do what the law required them to do, or to be told of them and do what the law required them to do. The events are tragic for school officials and their families and for the the student body at Penn State. They are even tragic for the alleged abuser and his family.

No kid should ever be sexually abused, period! Men who abuse boys who are sub teens or teenagers more than likely play mind games with themselves to convince themselves that it's okay. They think, probably correctly, that every teenage boy is interested in sex, so its okay. But they fail to understand the abuse of power that is always a part of any sexual activity between a man and a boy. The man in such a relationship will rationalize it in his mind and may even forget about it if he is not caught. The young man will never forget. It will be a part of  him for his entire life.

I know something about this because I was sexually molested by the father of one of my classmates when I was a teenager. The man owned a business in town and the event took place in the back room of that business when my father sent me there on an errand. It only happened once. I'm sure it could have happened again, but I made sure I was never alone in that place of business again.

I remember the event in vivid detail even now, 50 years later. I went into the shop and told the man what I needed. He said he had it in the back, and asked me to follow him. When we entered the back of the shop I was just behind him. He reached back and cupped his hand over my cock and balls and felt them through my jeans. He asked if I ever played with that thing.

I was shocked and stunned. My mind was racing but I could not think of anything to say except the truth and so I said that I did. He then asked if he could see it. Still somewhat shocked, I said okay. I remember exactly what was going through my mind as I said okay. I had been sexually active with other boys my own age for several years.  In all those years, I had never seen a boy whose equipment was bigger than mine. I had seen one boy whose equipment matched mine for size. I had always wondered what an adult male cock would look like hard since I had never seen one in that state. I thought this was my chance.

He reached over and unzipped my jeans and hauled out my cock, commenting on its size. He began to stroke it. Then he stopped for a moment and took out his own cock and asked me to stroke it. I did and I was actually elated because I was bigger than he was. He stroked me until I had an orgasm. Then he began to stroke his own cock to orgasm while I watched.

With the deed done, he found what I had come to get and gave it to me. I was out the door as fast as I could go. I have to say that the sex was not what bothered me most. All the way home all I could think was that it was a very small town and everyone knew what everyone else was doing. There were few secrets. That scared the shit out of me. I knew for certain if my Dad ever found out what had just happened to me, he would kill the man. Not figuratively, but literally.  In order to try to prevent that, I made a vow to myself to never speak of the event to anyone, and I hoped that he would do the same. I kept that vow and never told a soul until some 35 years later, long after the man was dead.

The physical act didn't bother me much, but it was never forgotten. I stayed away from the man, and I never spoke to him again. And until I went away to college, I worried that my Dad would find out. And I worried about what my Dad would do to him if he did. I worried that my Dad might end up in prison because of me.

It's hard to say how the young men at Penn State might be reacting to their abusive experience. I'm sure the eight of them (the last count I heard) are reacting and have reacted in different ways. Some of them probably have shaken it off and tucked it in the back of their minds. Others have probably been living with the same fear I lived with for years, that someone would find out. Fortunately, for me, that fear was never realized, but for these young men it has not only been realized, it has become a National News Story. Everyone knows! There is little doubt that these young men, once traumatized are about to have that trauma compounded on the National stage.

That makes me very concerned for these guys who are now young men. I know looking back on my own experience that had anyone found out, had it become common knowledge around town, much less common knowledge around the nation, the trauma from that would have been exponentially worse for me than the act itself. I suspect the same is true for some of these young men, and that is a tragedy too. Perhaps a bigger tragedy than what happened to them in those showers.

Frankly, I don't know the answer to this problem. The abuser, if guilty, deserves to be punished. But I hate that eight young men are going to have their worst nightmare replayed in front of the Nation. That is a real tragedy.

To me, the other tragedy is that at least two people who were made aware or became aware of the alleged abuse actually did what they were required to do under the law, but now with perfect 20/20 hindsight and with the mobs inflamed, these two people are being abused themselves by the press and by public opinion. It simply is another tragedy. The abuser and anyone who covered it up should be punished, but those who did their duty under the law should not be second guessed by an angry mob and the press which will play the story for all its worth and more with no thought to whom they may hurt.

The other thing that bothers me is that this tragedy will be used to further the bashing of gay and bisexual men though the man who committed the abuse was apparently a man living a straight live which is usually the case with abusers of boys. The event will also be used to further feed the unhealthy view of sexuality that is already rampant in the United States.

This picture was painted by Thomas Eakins around 1883. It is a well known painting of boys swimming in the "old swimming hole." The picture is a picture of boys being boys. Fast forward to the 1960's and it could have been a picture of me and my friends skinny dipping in my grandfather's pond.

It is a picture of an innocent age, an age that no longer exists. Today these young men as well as me and my friends skinny dipping in my grandfather's pond would be arrested for doing such a thing.

The reality is we have simply lost our way. We have criminalized boys being boys. In a very real way society itself is abusing boys by making them think that nudity itself is a bad thing. We have made them ashamed of their own bodies. The unhealthy picture we paint for our children sets them up for abuse. They don't feel they can talk to anyone about it if the get the feeling that someone is beginning to go to far with them.

Thomas Eakins painting is a well known classic, but if he were alive today and painted such a picture, he would likely be arrested and he would be branded a pervert. None of this is meant to imply in anyway that adult abusers of young men are not responsible for their actions and should not be punished. They should be punished! The young men whom they have abused will never be the same. Their lives and the way they see themselves is altered permanently. But society should not add to that tragedy by making young men ashamed of their bodies. We should not try to protect them from anything remotely sexual. Instead we should teach them carefully that there are abusers out there and assure them they can always talk to us if they are concerned that some adult seems to be getting too familiar with them.

That we have reached such a point in this country that young men are ashamed to talk to anyone and feel they must bear the burden of abuse alone is a tragedy. That we have made so many young men ashamed of their own bodies is also a tragedy.

Jack Scott


  1. Wow. Jack, you hit every nail on the head. I'm sorry and horrified to hear about what happened to you. As I watch the news on Penn State, I find myself wanting to hide somewhere and pretend it never happened. I'm angry at those who never said anything. At the same time I agree that boys are taught that their bodies are bad. It's all interrelated in the shame that is put on young men who did nothing but exist.

  2. Jack
    Thanks for this thoughtful post, and for sharing with us that troubling experience of your own along with such strong empathy for the affected young man.

    Your points about how this is playing out in a society that as a whole still has negative attitudes about sexuality between two men, or two women, are also spot on. It reminds me of some of the issues raised in the gay community in the 80's as a fringe group called the Man-Boy Society began boldly. Advocating for, and spreading pamphlets around about, the legitimacy of sexual relationships between boys and adult men. This really caused a lot of alarm in the fledgling gay community as there is such a stereotype of gay men as predators on innocent boys and groups advocating for such man-boy relationships were bringing hostile reaction on all gays at the time.

    This issue of the power relationships and mental manipulations involved in sexual contact between boys, and men, even if both parties are "willing" is so loaded. It is a legitimate social taboo in many societies...even those that as a whole tolerate or sanction more mature late adolescents having sex with older man, as in Athenian society. That Athenian model was acknowledged and accepted by all, was part of a ritualistic induction into manhood, and did not single out in secret sordid ways one young man differently than others.

    What we have also see in this tragedy is the way that sexual repression produces predators, so in some ways Coach Syracuse's tragic compulsive and self destructive way of finding sexual outlets became focused on young men with whom he should have had no physical contact. He and lots of other men have found there erotic exotic drive perversely aimed at the forbidden zone of boyhood after they had grown into adult men. In a different kind of world, he might have discovered and resolved his real sexual nature and need for men in a much healthier way.

    I am not supporting what Syracuse did at all, but I am trying to understand him as a flawed tragic figure who was of a generation and culture that did make him what he was. And we know sadly, the sexual abuse of young people is still a huge issue in the modern world, hetero or homo.

    As I was writing this comment a newscaster revealed a startling statistic. One in 4 girls and one in 6 boys have experienced some form of sexual abuse in America at some point!

    The trafficking in young girls and sex excursions of american and european men to permissive societies for sex with young boys and girls is a huge industry.

    For every uncovered Sandusky there are tens of thousands of other men who cannot control the terrible urges that they have and the elaborate plans they make and justify in pursuit of a kind of youth-robbing sex.

    They are damaged men who cannot seem to form adult consenting sexual relationships and intimate bonds, and this is a social tragedy, not just a Penn State or coach Syracuse tragedy

  3. Hi Jack, I appreciate your eloquent take on the Penn State issue and your forthright revelation of your own experience. Thank you for putting this blog up and directing me to your writing from the Enhanced Masculinity blog.I hope our interaction is mutually beneficial.

  4. Jack,
    This is a short addendum to me earlier comments to let you and readers know you inspired me to expand on the comments I left on your terrific post and created my own longer post on the topic on my blog. And also, wanted to correct my comments - somehow I typed coach Sandusky's name as Syracuse when I left my comment - transposing one industrial northeastern city for another...sorry for any confusion.

    Thanks again for all you do in your writing.

  5. There's a definite line that was crossed and the coach has no excuse for his actions. We've all been taught right from wrong and Sandusky knew better. As far as the 8 victims are concerned, I agree that it's tragic that they would have to relive and experience all the aftermath that's awaiting them. Public humiliation is so uncalled for in cases like this, and I wonder why these people are not afforded the protection of remaining anonymous.

    I don't know why people are so surprised when incidents like this become public. People seem to put this incident above what the Catholic Church has endured, and that in itself is what disgusts me. People seem to feel that certainly this could never happen within the "straight, wholesome" atmosphere of a college sports team or it's participants. Perhaps this event will kill that element of surprise.

    My very first gym teacher committed suicide. No one ever knew why, but my suspicions haunt me to this day. It was so long ago, I'm sure no one ever thinks about it anymore. As far as I know, he was never suspect of malice behaviors. It's obvious he had personal demons he couldn't conquer, and it's quite possible that his problems had nothing to do with this issue. Or did it? We'll never know, but if it turned out to be true with some middle aged adult stepping up to reveal this information, it wouldn't surprise me. Why do people feel that certain institutions or individuals are exempt? Beyond that, why do people feel this is something new? If this isn't a wake up call, I don't know what is.

    Curiosity and sexuality go hand in hand with childhood. Kids will always be curious, wanting to explore each other's bodies and abilities. THAT SHOULDN'T BE CONFUSED WITH MOLESTATION FROM AN ADULT. We've all played house and doctor, and somehow-- we all got over it and moved on from that naive, exploratory time. [The "phase" as so many people like to think of it as.] Why parents become so unnerved when they discover such goings on with their kids is beyond me. It's simply childhood curiosity.

    Yet those very same parents think nothing of leaving their kids in the custody of some other institution, whatever it may be. They think nothing of locker room situations, the drama club, music lessons, summer camps or private boarding schools. The list is endless, and it begins to make you realize the growing want for home schooling. However, I don't think home schooling is an answer. To isolate a child and expect them to function socially later in life doesn't seem to be logical.

    So what is the answer? Perhaps LOSE THE GUILT is the first step. No child should feel guilty about talking about these things. KNOW HOW TO RESPOND is the second step. Parents and kids need to know how to respond effectively, AS WELL AS ANY WITNESSES THAT MAY COME UPON A SITUATION. This didn't happen with those eight victims, or the witnesses; at least not effectively. Sadly, this was all about saving an institution's reputation.


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott