Penn State and Sexual Shame

I finally said something about the Penn State tragedy. Here’s To Prevent Future Penn States, We Need to Celebrate the Good in Male Sexuality


My take-away from the Penn State tragedy is one of wonder and optimism. I marvel that the university’s trustees were willing to fire an octogenarian living legend for the grave lapse of not having done more to protect children and to do so by phone. I expected far more voices to be raised in defense of those whose commitment to the reputation of an institution trumped their moral obligation to kids. That Paterno’s firing has proved so popular nationwide (the stupid antics of a handful of PSU students notwithstanding) is indicative that we’re more willing than ever to confront the atrocity that is child sexual abuse. There have always been Jerry Sanduskys, and there have always been Joe Paternos to cover for them. Though we might wish that each faced a stiffer penalty still, what’s been done so far is more than would have been done just a few decades ago.

But progress is not perfection. And when it comes to rape and molestation, we can’t settle for the comforting reassurance that these crimes are becoming slowly rarer. Far too many women are still raped, and far too many boys and girls abused for us to be self-congratulatory. We need to continue to push for more protection for children, and we need to do more to teach men to end their own complicity in the culture of silence and tacit approval that makes rape still so common.

Tom concludes his piece with a reminder: “The real problem is that until now we haven’t wanted to look at sexual misconduct in our own communities.” And it’s about time we did.
That’s absolutely true. But we also need to remember that while pedophilia and related disorders are genuine mental illnesses, they are aided and abetted by sexual shame. In a world where the hefty majority of rapists and abusers are men, that means that helping men–all men–overcome that shame is a critical part of the “solution.” What Tom calls “misconduct” flourishes where frank talk about sex and desire is off-limits. Ignorance, silence, and the distrust of pleasure facilitate that misconduct.

Please read the whole thing.

One thought on “Penn State and Sexual Shame

  1. Hey it was boys who were being raped. Had it been girls they would have been sexualized as temptresses. But boys are human, and the male vice of patriarchy so perfectly con-cock-ted in football … can’t give the game away too much. The liability for keeping the top dogs in power will be huge, millions and millions of dollars out of male pockets for a male program… what about the children is simply code for what about the boys.

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