Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spanking for Jesus!

Recently on an Ex-Ex-gay Yahoo listserve group, I received a series of e-mails denouncing and trying to get their minds around a a Spanking for Jesus ministry (okay that is a gross generalization of the discussion).

I cannot help but think how this relates to "ex-gay" ministries.

If we consider Joe Kort's words in the film Fish Can't Fly, that "ex-gay" therapy is a form of implicit sexual abuse, I see some similarities.

Kort suggests that with "ex-gay" therapies someone in a position of authority (church or "ex-gay" leader) imposes his/her sexuality or concept of sexuality (heterosexual/"ex-gay") on someone who looks up to them for guidance and protection. Kort concludes that this is a form of sexual abuse, not explicit where people are physically molested, but implicit where someone uses their position to force a sexual belief onto another.

When questioned, most "ex-gay" workers say they do what they do out of their spiritual convictions, as part of their ministry. They do it for God and in Jesus' name. But like sexual predators and abusers, do they also get power over others through implicit sexual abuse?

If we consider Exodus' shift of focus where they now explicitly target youth, this concept of sexual predator in the form of Christian ministry comes into even sharper focus.

Many times in my "ex-gay" experience, I've been told that there is a connection between sexual abuse and same-sex attraction. From what they say a high percentage of the folks attending "ex-gay" programs have been sexually abused. They point out that this group represents a higher percentage than the national averages. They then conclude that means the national averages are wrong proving that sexual abuse is a cause of same-sex attractions and one's involvement in the "gay lifestyle".

What these folks don't take into account is that many of us who had been abused sexually as children had become vulnerable to further abuse at the hands of other abusers, including "ex-gay" ministries. Because of our abuse, we were susceptible to the messages within the conservative church and the"ex-gay" ministries that there is something fundamentally wrong with us and that we need to change, we need to be cleansed, we need to be made new.

Unwittingly playing off of the shame of unresolved sexual abuse, the "ex-gay" ministries lure those who had already been abused by others thus extended the abuse even further (and Spank us for Jesus!)

I explore this further in How Sexual Abuse Made me "Ex-Gay".

Would love to hear other people's thoughts and experiences.


At 1:03 PM , Blogger Contemplative Activist said...


Do you think sexual abuse could mean different things to gay person than it might to a straight person?

I wonder if it is more difficult for a gay person to access services which support survivors of sexual abuse than it is for a straight person? Would it be easier for a straight person to speak to a doctor/someone at a sexual health clinic/mainstream counsellor about sexual abuse or sexual difficulties than someone who was gay?

People who have experienced sexual abuse in general have a harder time in forming sexual relationships as adults, or understanding their sexuality than people who haven't experienced abuse. I would guess those difficulties might be heightened if you were gay and part of a culture which devalued same-gender attraction & love?


At 1:32 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

CA, you bring up a good question (no surprise).

Hmmm, I know that in regards to my own history of being sexually abused, because of the shame of it being a "same-sex" abuse (and because part of me liked the attention I received from another man and learned that it was WRONG by my society), I didn't even acknowledge it as abuse until I was in the my 30's.

Up until then, I just thought of it as sin and my fault (which actually is quite common for lots of folks who have been abused). But yeah, I think it was harder for me to speak out agains this sort of abuse because it felt so shameful and as a male in my society, I felt pressure to be strong.

That means I felt compelled to believe that I should have fought it to begin and since I didn't I was not "manly". And then after it happened, I felt obligated to just suck it up and get over it.

I think this is the sense of what lots of boys felt in English boarding schools where histories of sexual abuse have since emerged. "It happened. Be a man and get over it."

If you listen to Marvin's recent posts about just getting an HIV test as an adult male with a gay past, you can get a sense of how challenging it can be to talk to some medical professionals.

I literally had to train my doctor on how to talk about gay issues, and he is a fairly progressive guy.

I would be interested to hear how others respond to your question.

(oh, and I'm thinking of a Sept UK trip!)

At 3:16 PM , Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

Glad you're planning another trip :). I hope we can catch up & you're welcome to visit, of course! Southampton Friends would have you back if you're willing & some people would like to know if you're doing any open performances as they'd be interested to come along :).

I was at an NHS (UK National Health Service) training event the other day on diversity. There are plans afoot to include people's sexual orientation on their medical records (they already have religion & race). I'm trying to mull over the advantages & disadvantages. I think we're much more aware now than previously about religious/cultural diversity - I wonder if we're improving on sexual diversity too...we can but hope.

The service I work in is very progressive (or at least the psychologists I work with are) - there's lots of stuff on sexuality in people with intellectual disabilities, including some same-sex stuff. I'm not sure how typical that is - I've heard of some professionals (and clients' families) being completely appalled by any notion of sexuality in the clients I work with, never mind same-sex sexuality :S!



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