The Ferry Building seen from Coit Tower (2015). San Francisco, California, United States
From "Childhood Sexual Abuse and HIV among Latino Gay Men: The Price of Sexual Silence during the AIDS Epidemic" by Sonya Grant Arreola, in Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice, edited by Niels Teunis and Gilbert H. Herdt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).
Consistent with the quantitative data presented earlier, the men who described voluntary sexual initiation before age sixteen described as varied experiences as those who initiated voluntary sex after age sixteen, independent of the age difference between the partners. Although some men who initiated sex before age sixteen did so with partners their own age, many did so with much older partners. Carlos tells of his first love and sexual encounter at age thirteen with “a much older man”:
One summer I would spend at my cousin—my other aunt’s house in the beach area—I went to see my other cousin play soccer. I was biking and I just saw this very handsome man and we started talking. Next day I said oh my God, I’m in love I think. The next day I went to see him again and he was not playing. He had hurt himself and—it was so obvious that when I saw him, I got a hard-on and he noticed. It was so, so awkward that he noticed and he knows what was up. So the next day he invites me to bike around. He took me to this outdoor area and we had the great sex. It was first time I was penetrated. I know he was much older. I don’t know how much. He was an adult.
Carlos also gives voice to the possibility of experiencing mutually respectful sex with someone much older:
And he was very careful and he probably was my first time. I didn’t feel much pain. Anal sex can be painful. He was very tender and careful. It was great. It was very great and the next day there I was happy to see him again, and I went to visit his girlfriend. That was the end of it. But I still remember him with a lot of tenderness. I still remember him really well, the way he looked.
Finally, Carlos links his initial sexual experience with his adult views of his own sexuality: “How he treated me, which I think probably influenced the way I had sex from there on. I think it was a good experience, therefore, I see sex positive.”
Carlos’s story is testament to the importance of considering the subjective experience of sexuality when trying to understand childhood sexual abuse. Under some definitions, his experience would be construed as childhood sexual abuse, even though his narrative is full of fondness for the older man and their experience. Indeed, he attributes his positive sexual attitudes to this very encounter. To define Carlos’ experience as childhood sexual abuse undermines the constructive power of his tender initiation, as well as the destructive and wounding effects of early coercive sexual experiences.
Young Latino boys with bicycles. Julian Nava Collection, Urban Archives Center, Oviatt Library, California State University, Northridge.