This is from my book that is under review by several publishers so please don't distribute this.

Am I Gay If I Think about Penises a Lot?

Sometimes the victim becomes fixated on penises. Thoughts of performing oral sex on men or boys become the theme of sexual fantasies for some survivors. For those who are truly homosexual this is a natural source of arousal. For the male victim of same-sex abuse, the penis may have a different meaning in such recurring fantasies. What we find sexually stimulating can also be termed “erotic”.

If you are heterosexual, the thought of a woman’s body can be quite stimulating. Because our sexual conditioning may involve a focus on body parts, some men become particularly interested or aroused by breasts, buttocks or legs. Others become attracted to the vagina. Likewise, if you are gay, the arousal to a penis or a man’s body can be stimulating for you. There is no “right” way to be attracted.

Years ago I worked with a man who was obsessed (or “fixated”) by legs, feet and women’s shoes. He reported that his mother used to come home from work and ask him to massage her legs and feet. She moaned as he worked on her legs and said things like, “Oh, you’re so good. That feels great, yes, yes!” He said he remembered often being sexually aroused and during one massage session with her, when he was about eleven, he experienced his first orgasm and ejaculation. He later associated sexual response with women’s legs, feet and shoes. The greatest turn-on for him during sex was to kiss his partner’s feet and massage her legs. He was also a big consumer of pornographic magazines that cater to those attracted to legs, feet and shoes. He concluded that had he not been eroticized to his mother’s legs and feet as a boy, he would have had a more normal sexual attraction to a woman’s body and not be fixated on her legs and feet.

This man associated sexual pleasure with his mother’s (and later his partners’) legs, shoes and feet. Similarly, if a boy experiences powerful sexual feelings while stimulating his abuser’s penis, or from having his own penis stimulated, he may make a similar connection. In addition, as teenagers discovering masturbation, we reinforce the pleasurable feelings with the sight and feel of our own penises. So, with a non-abusive sexual history, we will have a neutral to positive association with penises. Our penis can make us feel good, give us a sense of power, and can alleviate boredom.

But when the sexual feelings are forced, unwanted, confusing and even painful, the association with the penis can be contaminated. Some men hate their penis because it “betrayed” them by becoming erect in an abusive situation. Because the male abuser, particularly when there are negative feelings towards him, involves his penis in the acts, some survivors may associate the penis with the hurt, betrayal, pain, humiliation, shame and guilt from the abuse. Think of the confusion you might feel from having these negative emotions about the abuse or abuser, and at the same time trying to feel good about your sexuality, and about a part of your body that is so central to your sexuality as your penis.

Many survivors report a desire or temptation to look at the groins of other men, or at their exposed penises in situations like a restroom, changing room in school, gym, or at a swimming pool. It is natural for boys and men to be curious about the penises of other guys, and no amount of reassurance that size doesn’t matter seems to lessen this curiosity. Just because you are looking at someone else’s penis, doesn’t mean you are gay or interested In sex with that person.

For survivors, however, the penis is also a symbol of the harm they have suffered. You may think, for example, that your penis is what “attracted” the abuser; this is often why survivors, both teens and adults, report feelings of wishing they were not boys, or of wishing they didn’t have a penis. Although this is not very common, some survivors are so conflicted about having a penis that they sometimes seriously think about cutting theirs off.

The sexual parts of other males can also arouse feelings of discomfort and peril in you: that is, you are looking at other men not because you desire them, but because you are on alert for signs of possible arousal, which for you would be a danger signal. But notice once again how, when you experience these feelings, you are in fact also re-experiencing the control that the abuser had over you. The abuser’s penis was the source and symbol of so much of what was happening to you as a boy. Now, even though the abuse has ended and you no longer need fear harm from the abuser, these old defense mechanisms are still active. What the abuser did years ago still has the power to influence how you think and behave.

One important consideration for those who are sexual with other men is to look at why you desire to act sexually with them. If the behaviors are reenactments of your abuse, it may be because the trauma is still unresolved and the sex is a way of returning to the trauma, perhaps hoping – on an unconscious level – that this time you will not be the helpless victim.

One example of this is familiar with those who know or work with abused women. How many women in abusive relationships end their relationship, but then return to the abusing partner or wind up with another man who turns out to be abusive as well? On some unconscious level these women may be hoping that “this time it will be different”. This way of thinking leaves them in a situation where they find themselves in a repeating cycle of bad or abusive relationships.

It may also be that you have been taught or conditioned that behaving in this way will bring closeness, acceptance or some other emotional need that you may not have in your life at the moment. Or you may have learned that by giving in, you will not be beaten or hurt more.

Again, look at all these situations and you can see the continuing control of the abuser. The bad times are gone, and perhaps the abuser too, but the emotional responses you learned as an abused boy may still be with you.

Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse