Here is the reality of child sexual abuse as described by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:
Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult. The problem should be identified, the abuse stopped, and the child should receive professional help. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child.
Child sexual abuse can take place within the family, by a parent, step-parent, sibling or other relative; or outside the home, for example, by a friend, neighbor, child care person, teacher, or stranger. When sexual abuse has occurred, a child can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts and behaviors.
No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two or three year old, who cannot know the sexual activity is wrong, will develop problems resulting from the inability to cope with the overstimulation.
The child of five or older who knows and cares for the abuser becomes trapped between affection or loyalty for the person, and the sense that the sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love. When sexual abuse occurs within the family, the child may fear the anger, jealousy or shame of other family members, or be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told.
A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.
Some children who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to others except on sexual terms. Some sexually abused children become child abusers or prostitutes, or have other serious problems when they reach adulthood…
Child sexual abusers can make the child extremely fearful of telling, and only when a special effort has helped the child to feel safe, can the child talk freely…
Parents can prevent or lessen the chance of sexual abuse by:
* Telling children that if someone tries to touch your body and do things that make you feel funny, say NO to that person and tell me right away
* Teaching children that respect does not mean blind obedience to adults and to authority, for example, don’t tell children to, Always do everything the teacher or baby-sitter tells you to do…
Sexually abused children and their families need immediate professional evaluation and treatment. Child and adolescent psychiatrists can help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with feelings of guilt about the abuse, and begin the process of overcoming the trauma. Such treatment can help reduce the risk that the child will develop serious problems as an adult.
The National Center for PTSD says that,
Researchers estimate that, in our country, about 10% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused…
Some children may show symptoms of PTSD, including agitated behavior, frightening dreams, and repetitive play in which aspects of the abuse are expressed.
Because of their sexual abuse, children may show sexual behavior or seductiveness that is inappropriate for their age.
As a result of abuse, children, especially boys, tend to “act out” with behavior problems, such as cruelty to others and running away.
Other children “act in” by becoming depressed or by withdrawing from friends or family.
Sometimes children may try to injure themselves or attempt suicide.
You’re unlikely to find the observations above in the incest stories sold by porn shops. These stories, analyzed below by Jeffrey Masson, generally portray children as happy, willing accomplices, and suggest that the primary harms from sex with children stem from society’s disapproval. The following is from “Incest Pornography and the Problem of Fantasy”, published in Men Confront Pornography (1990, p.142-152).
In any store that sells pornography, a section is reserved for short paperback books on themes of incest. There are literally hundreds of such books. I bought and read five of them. They are:
…Alice Briggs. Daddy’s Little Mouth Girl…fourth printing…
…David Crane. Hot Dogs for Daughter…
…L. Kullinger. Incest: The Secret Passion…fourth printing…
…Cynthia Marshall. Sex as a Family Affair…fourth printing…
…Lydia Wilkinson. Slaves to Incest…second printing…
There can be no question about the purpose of these books: sexual arousal… There can be little doubt that these books, most of which are presented as “real”, are entirely invented. They are not, as they claim, taken from psychiatric testimony or from a tape recorder…
Thus Cynthia Marshall (should she exist) said in Sex as a Family Affair: “This study is a compilation of five case histories taken verbatim from people who had incestuous relationships…”
At one point (page 43) she writes, “Wandella was the aggressor, the seducer. She waited until her father was somewhat over his initial grief [at the death of his wife] and then she set her incestuous plan in action, gaining the results she had hoped for. Her father was no match for Wandella, especially since he was in a bereaved and weakened emotional condition.”
What is this, if not the age-old “fantasy” that the child seduces the adult, and where else does this derive except from the imagination of the adult who is burdened with a guilt he will not accept? Of course I am using the words “fantasy” and “imagination” as synonyms of “lies”, which is what they are. The entire narrative is “positive”, that is, Wandella expresses nothing but pleasure and happiness…
But the author ends on a darker note, presumably to show the hypocrisy of society:
Wandella’s case was not that unique, but…she and Leroy were separated by law… Since they lived in a state where incest was a felony, Leroy was sent to prison, where he died only a few years later. Wandella is still under psychiatric care.
Clearly the author “belives” (I use the word in quotation marks, since it is not clear that these “authors” believe anything at all) that what is harmful in incest is the response of society, as if to say that had Wandella and Leroy lived somewhere where it was acceptable, they would have lived happily into old age…
For books that purport to be from different, real people, the language is identical, the plots are similar, the positions, the point of view, and so forth are all the same. That is because there is, of course, nothing real about any of these books in terms of the material they write about. To read any genuine book about incest (for example, Florence Rush’s The Best Kept Secret or Diana Russell’s The Secret Trauma) or accounts of genuine survivors (for example, Louise Armstrong’s Kiss Daddy Goodnight) is to enter a totally different world, where the sorrow, the sense of betrayal, the pain and confusion are palpable…
Let me quote from a letter I received from a victim of incest:
I have been preoccupied with understanding the act of sexual assault on children for thirty-five years, since the moment I was myself assaulted. I liken this experience to being dropped (at five years old) from an airplane over the middle of the Pacific; whereupon I spent thirty years of my life swimming from one piece of debris to another, alone and vulnerable to attack. All the while I kept myself alive mentally by sheer determination to discover how this could have happened… I recall my attacks vividly. My father had divorced and remarried, taking custody of me. My new stepmother’s father came to visit and proceeded to attack me, twice. He would wait until I was asleep and then I would be awakened by a hand clamped over my mouth…and then he proceeded. The violation was as if an atomic bomb had gone off in my head. All I could think about was trying to ascertain whether or not I was dead or alive. I was actually fighting death face to face. I have no trouble understanding how some children actually die during such an attack.
Compare this account with the lies told in incest pornography. The contrast is both startling and chilling… The novelized accounts of incest are fantasy, but the promotion of lies about women and incest, the propaganda, is no fantasy, but a form of action that serves to justify incest and insensitivity to survivors of incest. And, of course, incest itself is not fantasy. All the fallacies held by the public at large about incest are given legitimacy by these accounts:
- Incest is harmless.
- Incest is instigated by daughters, fathers simply respond; that is, daughters seduce their fathers.
- Daughters who are willing victims are insane.
- Coercion plays no role in incest.
- Any physical harm is so temporary that it is like a fantasy.
- Fathers have incest with their daughters out of love.
- Incest is a natural act.
These fallacies/fantasies (lies) have a distinguished lineage. For when Freud decided that the accounts of incest (which he first believed) were in fact nothing but the overheated fantasies of adolescent girls, he shifted the onus of responsibility from adults to children. Incest then became a question of wishes, fantasies, and impulses on the part of children toward their parent, not acts engaged in by adults.
Capital Video includes stories of incest among its porn offerings. Examples (PDF, explicit text).
——————– (added 2/15/07)
See also CNN: “Study finds out why it’s gross to kiss your sister”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Researchers who wanted to find out why it is not only taboo to kiss your sister, but also disgusting, said Wednesday that they have discovered why in a discovery that challenges some basic tenets of Freudian theory.
The instinct evolved naturally and cannot be taught, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides of the University of California Santa Barbara wrote in their report in the journal Nature…
“We went in search of a kin-detection system because some of the most important theories in evolutionary biology said such a thing should exist,” Cosmides said in a telephone interview…
What determined incest disgust and altruism was the same–how much time an older sibling spent watching his or her mother care for a younger one, or how much time the two spent together in the same household.
“If you co-resided with them for a long time as a child, you’d treat them as you’d treat any full sibling. This seems to operate non-consciously,” Cosmides said.
Especially strong was the effect of watching one’s mother care for a younger child. “They would be very altrustic towards that baby and they’d be grossed out at the idea of sex with that baby as an adult,” Cosmides said.
Women are especially sensitive to this, added Cosmides, a cognitive psychologist. “One whiff of possible siblinghood and that’s it for you if you are a woman,” she said.
The study contradicts the teachings of Sigmund Freud, who described Oedipal urges and conflicts, Cosmides said.
“He thought you are attracted to your relatives and your siblings and parents and it takes the force of culture and society to keep you from committing the incest that is in your heart,” she said.
Cosmides said Freud had a possible reason for his own feelings–he had a wet nurse who cuddled and breastfed him: “Who their brain thinks is mom is different from who they consciously believe is mom. For them it is quite reasonable that they have an attraction to their mothers.”