The last few days, I had been going through a bit of “soul-searching.” Gradually, I began to feel that it was time to put down all of the thoughts and memories regarding my abuse into writing, to the extent that it was possible (I had done that somewhat earlier in the form of a poem, but this attempt is in much more detail). In doing so, I found myself getting triggered numerous times, as unprocessed memories I thought I had buried long ago began to emerge. Nonetheless, the entire process has definitely helped, in terms of seeing my abuse for what it was more clearly, and to organize my thoughts around it. It was difficult for me to decide what to leave in and what to leave out. The sexual abuse happened in a very complicated web of general abuse – i.e. physical, emotional, verbal etc. I’ve tried my best to focus on things relating to sexual abuse; inevitably, I’ve left out some details from my childhood that undoubtedly did contribute to shaping who I am today. In any case, what gradually began to take form was a very complicated account of my relationship with my perpetrator. Some details I have not shared with anyone in my life, ever. Also, I’ve tried to keep a calm tone of voice throughout, and I think I’ve more or less succeeded in doing so, but I just wanted to add: there were many, many times, while writing my story – especially when I uncovered new memories or recalled more of the disturbing details – where I simply wanted to stop and throw up.
My main perpetrator was my mother. The nature of the sexual abuse was not violent (though I have, on separate occasions, suffered physical abuse from her) nor forced at all, which added to the confusion; rather, it was subtle, deceitful and carefully crafted. The main chunk of my sexual abuse was from her; however, it only intensified and reached its peak in my late teens. There were some preceding “incidents” that set up the context and most likely contributed to wiring my brain in a certain (damaging) way, so I’m going to start with those first.
To begin my story, I want to mention something that is probably relevant in terms of understanding how I’ve come to be in light of sexual trauma. When I was about 4 or 5, I got an infection on my penis; I really don’t know how. I remember it being painful to urinate, and it being difficult to pull down my foreskin entirely because it was swollen, red-pink. I was taken to the hospital for I guess what amounted to an operation of sorts – all I remember is being strapped down, thrashing and screaming in pain. Bearing in mind I was 4 or 5, this operation somehow ended up (for lack of better words) “sexually activating” me. In retrospect, I can ascertain that at that young age, I felt shame over my penis. I remember abusing it – as an example, removing my shorts, crawling under a chair and placing one of its legs on it...
The next “incident” I remember, not long after the operation, was that I somehow became interested in breasts – in particular, my mother’s. I would randomly touch her breasts, and as far as I can remember, she didn’t object to it and even seemed to enjoy it. That was, until one day, she decided to grope me, grabbing a handful of my penis and genitals. She said, “See, you don’t like to be touched there either, right?” I got the hint – I wasn’t supposed to touch her breasts…at the expense of getting groped.
The next few years went by quietly in terms of sexual issues, although I have to mention in passing, they increasingly saw my mother’s problems with having a son (as opposed to a daughter) coming to the fore. To mention but a few things, she would put ribbons in my hair, and make me wear brightly-colored, flower-patterned shirts; I remember more than once hearing from her, “You’re so cute, you look like a girl,” like it was supposed to be some kind of compliment. Fast-forward a few years; I’m in third grade. I get groped by my driver (we were living in Southeast Asia at the time, having drivers was common); I remember somewhat enjoying it. I did end up telling my parents, however, and the driver got fired. However, I distinctly remember 3rd grade as marking the first time I masturbated myself to orgasm; I would have been 9 years old. Moving onto fourth grade – I get kicked in the testicles (on purpose) by a younger girl I “hung out” with in my apartment, in the swimming pool. “I kick boys’ balls when they annoy me,” she said. I start developing a feeling of shame and embarrassment for having testicles, in addition to the ones I already had for my penis. Towards the end of elementary school, I start “acting out”, lying to teachers and doing mean things to other kids. One of the most vivid ones was when I got annoyed at another kid in band class who was playing the trumpet – I shoved the trumpet into his lips while he was playing (ugh), and he ended up in the nurse’s office with me accompanying him, blood trickling down from the corner of his mouth…
To veer a bit off-topic from the sexual stuff: there was also one time, when my mother beat me with a billiard stick. It must’ve been in third grade. To this day, I cannot remember what for. I remember about half an hour later, she came to sit beside me on the sofa and apologized to me, whereby she promptly proceeded to beat herself with the same billiard stick, visibly bruising her shins black and blue and gingerly collapsing onto the floor as she tried to leave and walk in the other direction. The sudden, bewildering outburst of rage and violence was enough to shock me into a state of constant fear of her for a long, long time; remnants of it still remain now. These outbursts happened every now and then, set against an otherwise stifling love-bombing environment; I think deep beneath, it put me in a constant state of anxiety, as if I was walking around on china making sure not to break anything lest hell break loose. It drilled into me a pattern of passiveness and submissiveness that was to set the stage for other things to come.
Now, post-elementary school is the stage where, in retrospect, things seem extremely weird between my mother and me. I have vivid memories of bathing with her, naked; I had assumed this was a normal part of mother-son interactions, and, as far as I can remember, it continued up until I was 13 or 14. We would often have baths together. This was perfectly (!) normal. What bothers me is that more than once, I have vivid memories of the water in the bathtub going red…which I only much later realized was due to her having her period, while having me share a bath with her. I still feel numb about this. I clearly remember what her vagina looks like, including her genitals. At other times, she would have just gotten out of one, and be sitting in her room (naked); she’d ask me to come in, so I could put skincare cream on her back, or to massage her back. This issue, I’m still struggling to process; it was actually only today that I came across a thread on MS on this very topic. I read many members insisting that parents do not bathe with their children, though they simply bathe them. This is new to me; in fact, it stretches my imagination to think that most children grew up hardly ever seeing their parents naked. In other words, I’m still incredibly, if not shockingly, warped from this experience.
My “feminization”, to carry on from the previous issue, grew steadily between late elementary and middle school; gradually, I reached a point where I was invariably called a “fag” or a “queer” and whatnot by my peers. I did not have the slightest sense of identity nor, for that matter, a conscious feeling of existing. I floated. I was nothing. Complicating things further was the fact that I was constantly moving from house to house, country to country, due to my father’s work. By the time I was 13, I had already been uprooted seven times – whatever “social life” I miraculously seemed to muster dissipated every two or three years. Throughout those years, I had been really stifled with constant acts of physical “affection” from my mother, probably most notably the excessive lip-to-lip kissing. By the time I was in middle school, I was compulsively masturbating - it got to such a point where I would masturbate during class, in the classroom: unzipping and “working” on it, “hidden” underneath my shirt.
This brings me to high school. High school was when things became really skewed: my mother started sleeping with me. I think it coincided with the death of my maternal grandfather, but I am not sure what really triggered it. I also discovered I had a pretty huge talent in music, which took off initially in the form of playing the trumpet. I got solos for jazz band from an AWESOME band director, started performing, playing sports, not to mention my grades starting to go up (straight As in freshman year!) – in other words, in discovering the freedom to express my inner self through music, I went in about a month’s time from being a complete loser to a well-respected, high-achieving student. Looking back, my newfound autonomy and individuality must have posed somewhat of a threat to my mother, who had brought me up as a passive, pretty much non-existing, obedient and compliant child. (Long story short, in the middle of my sophomore year, she forced me to get braces – to fix my teeth, because apparently it was so much more important than a potential career in music – which destroyed me completely in that I couldn’t play the trumpet anymore; it was then that I discovered my current anchor, the piano.) I want to add a few more details before I get into the sleeping part, to get the context straight. By this point, my mother would often wake me up every day in the morning for school by cuddling and kissing my lips. In other words, every day, I would go to school in a sort of warped trance, like “I” was not “in” my body. It was also when what psychologists call “covert emotional incest” started: I became her husband, her father, her lover, her confidante – any male role except a son. She started making remarks about my looks – she invariably would not call me by my name, but by “Handsome.” She would constantly make remarks about how “cute” I was, and compliment my eyes, my mouth, my nose, and...the whiteness of my skin. It was in this context when she started sleeping in the same bed as me, from around 14 or 15 until 20 or 21. In the high school years, she would constantly cite nights when I couldn’t go to sleep because I was nervous about school (I was) – in her logic, when she slept in the same bed as I did, I would become less nervous and be able to sleep better. But it started developing into more than that.
Now, this episode in my life has given me much grief and confusion, not to mention uncertainty as to whether I was truly “sexually abused” or not. Needless to say, closely following that is whether I really belong on MS or not. To elaborate – we slept on the same bed together for many years, clothed. There was no penetration of any sorts. There was no contact in terms of “private parts” – i.e. her breasts and vagina, my penis and testicles. There was lip-to-lip (even…ugh…“passionate”, but not French) kissing, caressing and stroking of the arms and legs, as well as hair. To this day, I’m having trouble comfortably labeling this as “sexual abuse” – I’ve heard so many stories by now on MS of boys getting penetrated, abused and raped. This obviously wasn’t the case with me. But then, the lingering question, if what happened between my mother and me was not “sexual abuse”, what the hell was it? I did not get aroused by this interaction; it physically felt good, but it was not arousing to me. After this was over, my mother would snore off to sleep, and I would masturbate with one hand (because the other was being held by my mother’s) thinking of anything but my mother. *Please* don't tell me this is a mother's love for her son, like my father did...it's anything but that.
Where was I mentally here? I didn’t think there was anything wrong, I thought it was normal. That’s what mothers did with their sons. My father didn’t complain about it, so there must’ve been nothing wrong. As far as I was concerned, women weren’t sexual beings. I honestly believed at the time that I was born “asexually”: in other words, that my mother had magically given birth to me on her own, without having had sex with my father. (I assure you, I did not know anything about religions at the time.) Sex was disgusting. In retrospect, I realize that throughout this time, I was so brilliantly isolated from the rest of the world through the pioneering manipulation of my mother that I humbly admit the whole thing bordered on pure genius. I was told I was “special”, to be proud and not to interact too much with all of the other “lowlifes”. I was being groomed. She would constantly repeat things like, “We are one and together,” and tell me that I was the only person in the world who understood her, or that the whole world was full of jealous strangers who were out to bring me down, or that girls were simply evil like drugs, and on and on and on. She made me fear the external world perfectly, and had reduced my social life to basically me and her. Sometimes, I would venture to argue. She was ready and armed. “One day, when you’re a parent, you’ll understand their love for a child.” “You’re not grateful for love.” In other words, guilt-tripping. Another one of her methods was telling me sob-stories – of having married a man who couldn’t bring out her full potential, of having had a bad upbringing, of having been physically abused by her own mother, etc. They might have been genuine disclosures, but given the context of what had happened by then, I can't help but be suspicious of possible ulterior motives in retrospect.
The sleeping eventually did end, when I was about 20. That was about the age when the bubble burst. I was in college: I had tasted freedom, and I was free to think and feel as I was. I started acting out in college, big-time. The most destructive, and an addiction I still struggle with today: gambling. It is amazing I came out with a bachelor’s degree, but soon after, things began to deteriorate. I dropped out of my masters, and started gambling heavily. I became promiscuous (oddly seeking older men to service me – maybe a craving for some kind of male affection I never got from my father). Debts mounted. Overdue bills. Evictions. Homeless. Hungry. Cold. Thankfully, though, my three years in getting my bachelor’s degree had conditioned my mind to be sufficiently analytical and logical about the external world, and it was in desperately trying to understand what was happening to me that I stumbled upon a psychology book for the first time: a book I still keep by my side all the time (Counseling Troubled Boys: A Guidebook for Professionals). It was then and there, where the chapter named “Promoting Strength and Recovery” immediately caught my interest; it was actually a chapter devoted to sexual abuse. I read on and on. So many of the symptoms listed in that chapter fit me. So many things, finally, started to make sense.
I’m going to stop my account of my abuse here, as I’ve covered the main points. I just wanted to conclude by saying that I have omitted several acts of sabotage on my personal relationships and my career that she has committed on me. Although the sleeping-together-episode has stopped, physical acts that make my skin crawl still do continue today. My mother, over the past few years, has picked up a habit of pressing her vagina against my thighs every time she hugs me. I still let it happen, every time, simply freezing. If I happen to be dumb enough to play the piano in her presence, she most invariably sits next to me on the chair, wrapping her arms around my waist or stroking my arms as I play, leaving me completely warped or dissociated. I can feel that feeling as I type this. And I can’t move. Also, I’ve left out a lot of other things that have scarred my relationship with my mother – in particular, the emotional abuse. It is still ongoing – in every phone call, in every e-mail. The list is endless – the lecturing, the guilt-tripping, the victim games, the shaming, the manipulation, the nagging, the intrusions, the controlling, the contempt, the discouragements. To fill in the details of that would require maybe an even longer post. And to top it off, she invariably ends all correspondence by calling me things like “my beloved” or “my good little boy”, and signing off with “I LOVE YOU!!!!!”.
"Only the solitary seek the truth, and they break with all those who don't love it sufficiently." - Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago