Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning about sexual coercers from teacher-student sex

Another way to look at abusive relationships is from a power and control standpoint. My previous post looked at sexual coercers as adult versions of pedophiles who sexually abuse. This essay will look at coercers as having similar motives to teachers who abuse students and rapists.

When Groth categorized rapists back in the late 70s / early 80s, he talked about anger rapists, power rapists, and sadistic rapists. Anger rapists are motivated by anger against women, and sadistic rapists are motivated by a sexual attraction to hurting women. It is the power rapist that I'm getting after.

Power Rapist: A sex offender whose primary motivation for raping others is to feel powerful and exercise control over victims. Offender’s mood is one of anxiety.

The difference between forcible rape and sexual coercion is the lack of physical force, not lack of consent, lack or power differentials, or power and control motives.

Robert Shoop said about consent -

"The existence of freely given consent or, conversely, the absence of coercion, is a critical factor in distinguishing sexual abuse from mere sex."

Sociopaths work with coercion, so technically, all sex between said sociopath and his victim is non-consensual. Unfortunately, non-consensual sex between adults isn't taken seriously unless there is force, or a custodial or therapist/patient relationship. The main difference between a power rapist and a sexual coercer is the fact that coercers use manipulation while power rapists can be legally be charged with rape. Power and control is still the long term goal.

Relationships involving sociopaths should be seen in the same manner as teacher/student, therapist/patient, or guard/inmate sex because if a sociopath is only looking for power and/or sex, then there can't be a peer relationship with a sociopath and his victim, but only intimate or coercive sexual exploitation. If there is no power imbalance in the relationship, then he (or she) can't exploit it.

Sexual predators prey on people's kids, regardless of whether they are kids in actuality or adults. Parents have a role to stop sexual predators, and this includes predators who prey only on legal adults. If a mother is concerned about letting predators have access to kids through age 18, she should be just as concerned about sociopaths gaining access to her kids after 18.

This is a letter to a site called Lovefraud, which focuses on sociopaths who groom women into relationships where there are no boundaries for the sociopath, but only sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and grooming for the victim.

Note that the controller was slowly changing how the woman in her mid 20s saw her parents and friends, and had her wear sexy clothing for him, but the sexy clothing only confirmed in his mind that she was a "whore." Note the parental involvement when the woman got out of the relationship.

It got to the point that my parents were afraid. My ex-boyfriend was losing control, and I was stuck in the middle. I would do anything for him, but then I did the one thing he forbade me to do. I got out. I realized that my parents didn’t hate me. I realized that my friends didn’t hate me, and I realized that I am stronger than he is and that I didn’t have to be his “good thing” anymore.

"I can say simply that when I was with him he was emotionally abusive, physically abusive, sexually abusive. He would always say, “You can’t rape the willing, and you know you’re always willing, don’t bother saying no, because I know that no means yes.”

A letter from a woman who replied to this original poster: Note the family concern.

But how many of us slowly give away our consent to a man like this because he’s eroding our sense of right from wrong? In my own similar situation, I thought I was being ever so avant garde and clever and cool and doing what was “hot” to please the man I loved. In truth, I was allowing him to debase and degrade me in ways that would horrify me if I found out someone was doing that to my sister or daughter. It wasn’t the actual sex that turned him on, I’m quite sure of that. It was the power and control and the knowledge that he could get me to say I was a consenting adult. In truth was a coerced and miserable woman trying too hard to please, but it happened so slowly that I barely noticed. My family did, though. They worried from the start, and I wish I’d listened to them and to other warnings I was given.

Teacher/student sex incidents are not "affairs," or "romances," even if the teacher is married, but with sociopaths, even affairs and marriages should be more properly seen as intimate (or coercive) sexual exploitation with an adult victim. A 56 year old doctor with a 30 year old waitress will usually have power over her, even if there has never been any doctor patient relationship simply because of economic and gender status.

Ann Lane's Gender, Power, and Sex - First, Do No Harm talks about the problem of "consent" in relationships between professors and students. The website Advocate Web describes the consequences of professional sexual abuse, not just with adults.

If counselors or doctors had a reputation of abusing their clients, clients would never allow themselves to be vulnerable to the degree necessary in psychotherapy or medicine. Thus when professionals abuse their power and position, they not only injure the client and violate society's trust, they also damage their entire profession. This is why the standards of professional conduct and codes of ethics and laws make it clear. Sexual exploitation of clients is not to be tolerated, and it is the professional's responsibility to ensure this does not happen.

The difference between teacher (or professor)/student sex and sexual coercion between ostensible equals is the authority of the teacher, not the power the abuser or manipulator has over their victim.

It doesn't have to be teacher/student - it can be between two 20 year old students. The investigation of apparently consensual sex has a role to play in anti-rape programs and the understanding of sexual violence.

This touches on a major problem in relationships between over 18s – whether legal consent is actually consent. In some cases, sexual coercion is a legal (but unethical and immoral) tactic where psychological persuasion is used against a vulnerable adult victim.

It goes unrecognized when there are not formal authority or formal power differentials (i.e. professor/student, therapist/patient), but the power and control motives do not change. The difference between coercive sexual encounters among students or between “partners” is the lack of authority, not lack of power, lack of consent, or the betrayal of trust.

When a lynch mob hung a black man back in the 1930s, they had power, but not authority. When the state hung him for the murder of a white man or rape of a white woman, the state used its authority.

The difference between teacher/student or doctor/patient sex and other forms of sexual coercion is authority, not power or the betrayal of a position of trust. Professors have authority over students, and so do teachers. Prison guards have authority over inmates due to their formal status. A coercive “boyfriend” or husband does not have authority over his victimized girlfriend, but he has power and a position of trust he is abusing.

Sexual coercion + authority = professional sexual abuse or manipulation.
Professional “consensual” sex – position of authority = sexual coercion.

I believe that analysis of teacher/student relationships can be a glimpse into the world of power and control motives in legal, but coercive sexual encounters (i.e. not criminally chargeable as rape or sexual assault, but still victimizing.) The formal power motives of a teacher/professor who has ‘romantic” relationships with a student can be equated with the informal power of a “boyfriend” who has a psychologically and sexually controlling relationship with that same student.

Except for age and formal position of authority, there is no difference from a victimization standpoint between the 40 year old teacher and the 20 year old student and a sexually manipulative relationship between 2 20 year olds.

A power and control analysis can be done for relationships among students and relationships between faculty and “romantic” or sexual partners. In both cases, the rate of victimization (whether sexual or physical) approaches 1 in 4. Unlike teacher (or professor) student sex, power differences based on formal authority is not initially present. Like teacher/student sex, all abusers create or exacerbate existing power differences so they can take advantage of people.

Intimate sexual exploitation is defined very well by a specialist in teacher/student sex cases, Dr. Bob Shoop:

(Shoop, 2004, Sexual Exploitation In Schools, page 3)

The modus operandi of the intimate exploiter involves leading the youngster to believe the educator has a genuine desire for a mutually committed intimate relationship. The immature youngster is often mesmerized by the belief that a charming, smart sophisticated, attractive adult is interested in him or her.

Regardless of the sincerity of the adult’s motivation, the intent is irrelevant; the impact of the behavior is exploitative.

The same can apply to relationships AMONG adults.

Informed consent needs to be the norm in all relationships, not just fiduciary relationships. Whenever there are power differences in addition to gender, race, and class, they also must be accounted for. (I don’t include sexuality because 2 queer people in a relationship do not usually have to deal with oppressive sexuality unless there is internalized homophobia). For example, a 20 year old woman may not be a suitable sexual partner for a same age “peer” due to unresolved abuse issues.

There is no “partnership” in any abusive relationship because partners are peers, equals, and abusers by definition create power differences. Even if they are the same age and come from the same background, abusers can never be peers to their victims because that would take away the reason for their manipulation, deceit, and their scheming. Even if the abuser and the abused have wedding rings on each other’s hands, there is no real “romantic” relationship. There is sexual manipulation, but the idea is power and control disguised as “love”.

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