Why What Happened To Chris Brown Was Sexual Abuse
In an interview with the UK paper The Guardian, Chris Brown speaks with writer Decca Aitkenhead about the time he was sexually assaulted by a teenage girl, but it’s all good, because boys “can’t” get raped:
It’s different in the country. By that point, we were already kind of like hot to trot, you know what I’m saying? Like, girls, we weren’t afraid to talk to them; I wasn’t afraid. So, at eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it. You can be the best at it.” (…he doesn’t want to say how many women he’s slept with: “But you know how Prince had a lot of girls back in the day? Prince was, like, the guy. I’m just that, today. But most women won’t have any complaints if they’ve been with me. They can’t really complain. It’s all good.”)
A friend and I were having a conversation recently, which was sparked by the story of the Montana school teacher who received 30 days in prison for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old student. The girl killed herself as a result of the sexual assault and the attention that surrounded it. During our conversation, my friend, who is the daughter of a former sex crime detective, remarked very poignantly on what her father used to tell her about how some sexual abuse victims can come to perceive their victimization. Basically, if you live in a particular environment long enough, no matter what kind of sick and depraved things happen in that environment, it all becomes sort of normal. In that spirit, it puts attention on understanding how patriarchal norms also help to normalize the sexual abuse of boys in our society.
Brown is not the only Southern boy to have been sexually abused as a prepubescent kid. R&B singer Ne-Yo told the story once of “losing” his virginity at 9 years old to a teenager. A couple of years ago, NOLA native and rapper Lil’ Wayne admitted to Jimmy Kimmel in an interview that he was “seduced” by a grown woman at the age of 11 years old. However, I don’t know if we can blame this on country folks – or by default the black community in general (because generally that’s how these things go whenever the person in question is African-American). Why? Because in popular culture, particularly in film and in television, it has pretty much been perpetuated that manhood and an active sexuality go hand in hand. One of the biggest movie troupes in teen flicks is the awkward and nerdy high school guy, who has one summer to finally lose his virginity so he can enter college, or adulthood, as “a man.” Once he gets the punany, he is suddenly transformed from awkward nerd into cool stud. And if he fails, well, he ends up as the 40-year-old electronic store employee with an abnormally large action figure collection and still on the hunt for his manhood.
Outside of the realm of entertainment and on to the more personal, I have heard similar stories from men I know who claimed to have had their first sexual experience at prepubescent ages, and at the hands of a much older woman. In the majority of instances, their “sex partners” were women well into their middle ages and they weren’t looking for it, nor were they the initiators. Their first experience, just sort of happened; like an ex-boyfriend, who told me of his first sexual encounter happening at 12 years old and being at the hands of a 42-year-old former neighbor and friend of his mother. When I raised the point that what happened to him verged on, if not surpassed, sexual abuse, he just kind of shrugged it off and said, “It’s different for girls and boys. All my friends were already f**king and I was the last one. So when she came along, I was like, yeah…”
However, the thought never occurred to him that perhaps his friends were lying to impress him and others. And perhaps, the pressure he felt to measure up to his friends motivated him more than his desire to actually be with this woman. What if my ex-boyfriend would have resisted the advances of his mother’s friend and instead told his homies that he opted for chastity instead? In our society, a man, who has never “engaged” in sexual intercourse is looked upon as socially awkward or worse, “not man enough.”
In this respect, the expectation to be hyper-masculine can be just as oppressive to boys, who in actuality, might have more thoughtful and gentle spirits. In fact, there is research that suggests that one in three boys feel pressured into sex and are more likely to think that waiting is a myth. However, that is not the general message we see. What we see and hear is that men are supposed to do it and do it regularly. Not only that, but they are supposed to do it with a variety of partners: older, younger, man, woman, fat, slim, one-legged, bucked teeth, Spanish, Asian, etc…the more conquests, the bigger his badge of masculinity. It is this constant pressure to hold up to the ideas of what male sexuality is supposed to be, which probably keeps boys from admitting to weakness and vulnerability, including being pressured and forced into a sexual relationship they didn’t want or feel that they were ready for.
I can’t say if this is what Chris Brown feels emotionally about the incident being sexual assault or molestation. I would say that a 15-year-old engaging in sexual activity with an 8-year-old is definitely sexual abuse. And I would also say that his continued reliance on his sexual prowess with the opposite sex as a testimony to what kind of partner he is with the ladies – even years removed from that “country” upbringing – says lots about how we rear boys to view themselves and their roles in society.