How Unwanted or Abusive Sexual Experiences Can Cause Problems

Problems with trust, emotions, relationships, sex – all are totally normal, and make sense.

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Betrayal of Trust

Such experiences almost always involve a betrayal of trust by someone who has power over the child or teenager. The violation of trust is even greater when the other person had responsibitity for the child’s care and protection.

So any man who’s experienced such betrayal as a boy is likely to have difficulty trusting others.

Strong Emotions and Problems Managing Them

Unwanted or abusive sexual experiences typically cause, when they happen and/or soon afterward, intense negative emotions.

Those emotions include fear, anger, sadness, and shame. Such feelings may not go away, and may get worse, if the child has no one safe to tell what happened or help him deal with his feelings. In some cases, children try to get help but are blamed for what happened, told they are lying, or worse – which add yet another layer of painful and overwhelming emotions.

Understandable consequences of what happened — and very good reasons for hope.

In response to these extreme negative emotions, children and teenagers often attempt to ignore and block them out. This usually leaves them alternating between being emotionally numb and feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

In short, when it comes to emotional experiences and behaviors, unwanted and abusive sexual experiences can cause major problems with negative emotions and what therapists call “emotion regulation.”

Relationships and Sex

Such problems with trust and negative emotions can lead to lots of relationship problems.

Especially in intimate relationships but also in friendships and work relationships, problems with trust and overwhelming emotions can lead to outbursts, conflicts, and sudden endings.

For those who hide their negative emotions and pretend everything is OK, there can be major stress, inner turmoil, and a constant feeling of disconnection and being unreal.

Not surprisingly, unwanted or abusive sexual experiences can lead to sexual problems too, including fear of sexual intimacy, difficulties performing sexually, and sudden feelings shame and guilt – even when an intimate relationship or sexual interaction is otherwise going well.

Masculinity

The last major issue we’ll raise here: Unwanted or abusive sexual experiences themselves, and their emotional aftermath, are completely the opposite of how males are “supposed” to be.

Males are told that they’re supposed to be strong and in control, not manipulated or controlled by others; they are expected to be sexually dominant, not sexually dominated; and masters of their emotions, not overwhelmed by feelings like fear and shame.

It’s totally normal, then, for men who’ve had such experiences to worry about being “real men.” It’s totally normal to fear that others will see them as “unmanly.”

When such a sexual experience involved another male, these concerns can be huge, and there can be fears of being gay. Or if one is gay or bisexual, to fears that it’s because of the childhood sexual experiences.

For more on these issues, see Masculinity, Self-Esteem & Identity.

Final Thoughts

  • Everything discussed above (and more) is covered in greater depth elsewhere in Online Readings.
  • As covered in Hope and Get Help, all of these are problems that you can overcome.
  • As you’ll see in Other Guys Like Me, many other men have gone through similar experiences, struggled with similar problems, and made huge progress in healing and achieving the lives they want.
  • Many other men have “come out the other side” and moved on. You can too.

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