Gay 'n Gray
|by John D. Siegfried|
|Let's Play Nakee
It was a lovely small dinner partyeight gay men, mostly seniors, seated around a beautifully appointed candlelit table. The food was gourmet, the conversation lively, and the hosta natural comicregaled us with stories of his childhood.
"My cousin was three years older than I was. When I was eight or nine we were playing in a tent we'd strung together in the backyard. You know," he said, "the kind you make out of burlap sacks, a plastic tarp, and your father's night shirt. When my cousin said, 'Let's play nakee,' I didn't know what he meant.
"Innocently, I asked, 'How do you play?' He took off all his clothes, so I took off mine, and that's how we played nakee."
Similarly, I recalled a childhood contest in which the boys in the neighborhood raced down the side yard of our home so that their loose shorts dropped to their ankles while running. They tripped, falling to the ground. The object of the game was to see which of us could go the greatest distance before losing our pants. The reality, however, was that when a boy tripped and fell to the ground we all piled on top of him and wrestled with each other. I didn't care about winning the race but I did want to feel the bodies of the other boys piled on top of me.
My childhood sex play wasn't limited to boys. I played doctor with the girl next door. For some reason her mother objected when she found us naked behind the glider on the front porch of their home and she broke up our game. I never knew whether mom's objection was to our conducting this activity on the front porch, our state of undress, or the fact that I was trying to take her daughter's temperature rectally with the stub end of a two by four. Whatever the reason, it soured me on playing with naked girls but it didn't alter my interest in medicine. Fortunately, even before entering medical school I found more appropriate objects for rectal play and discovered rectal thermometers work better than two by fours.
After his introduction to nakee, our host confessed that whenever his parents were gone or out of sight he and his cousin enjoyed their special game together. For him it was not only an introduction to anatomy but also an introduction to his nascent sexual desire to be naked with other boys. Some years later, after years of separation, our host reunited with his older cousin post-adolescence. He was devastated to discover his cousin no longer wanted to play nakee. He felt rejected.
Everyone around the table had similar tales of childhood sexual experimentation. For many of us those events involved an older relative or friend, a school coach, a church youth director, or a scout leader. None of the men at the party felt these experiences had been harmful to their developing sexuality. In fact, in every case the sexual experience with an older man was positive.
That was my experience as well. My first sexual experience was at age fourteen and my partner was twenty-two. As an organ student at a Philadelphia seminary he visited our home every spring for a local music festival. On his first visit he shared my bed. On every succeeding visit he shared my bed and we shared our bodies. Between visits we corresponded regularly and looked forward eagerly to our next encounter.
That's a different experience, however, than what's been reported by the victims of sexual abuse in the recent priest scandals. There young men engaged in sexual acts not of their choosing. Seldom were they physically forced into having sex. Usually the coercion was a desire to please their respected, sometimes revered, older partner or the fear of confessing what they'd done to parents or friends.
What amazed me in our Saturday night dinner table conversation was how quickly some of my friends voiced their doubt that coercion was a factor in the priest scandals at all. "Don't tell me that a thirteen year old who has sex with a priest and doesn't report it until he's seventeen or thirty-seven didn't enjoy it and want more," was a typical comment.
I was appalled at the ease with which my dinner companionsall educated menwere willing to blame the victim. "He wanted it."
They saw the victims of sexual abuse as willing participants and enablers of their older partners. This is the same reasoning heard in rape cases where the rape is blamed on the woman because of the way she acted or the way she dressed. "She was asking for it."For many gay men sex during adolescence with an older man is exciting and affirmingparticularly if the older participant is loving and kind. But by legal standards it still is child abuse and sexual molestation. To generalize from my positive experience as a fourteen year old having sex with a twenty-two year old to all men and women who are truly victims of sexual abuse by older individuals is both illogical and unjustified. Perhaps, for those of us destined to discover our homosexuality sooner or later, those younger/older events are less threatening than to young men and women destined for a heterosexual path. But either way, blaming the victim is ignorant, hurtful and unjust.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale, maintains strong ties to our community and can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 11 August 08, 2008