Not many people know about maternal sexual abuse and the ones that do tend to not take it very seriously, or simply dismiss it off as something impossible. The sad truth is, this kind of abuse exists, and many men go through this.
- Maternal sexual abuse of sons is difficult for people to acknowledge because it violates taboos and core expectations of maternal behavior.
- The abuse may or may not involve sexual intercourse, and sons may not understand, or may just deny, that the actions are wrong or inappropriate.
- It may be difficult for sons who have been sexually abused by a mother to establish healthy age-appropriate romantic relationships later in life.
Mother-son incest is one of the most taboo topics and one of the most unthinkable. Despite society’s denial of its existence, though, it can happen. We idealize mothers and never want to envision them as sexually abusive, especially with their own offspring.
Hani Miletski, a psychotherapist and sexologist in private practice in Bethesda, Maryland, is the author of the book, Mother-Son Incest: The Unthinkable Broken Taboo Persists. I talked with her openly and honestly about this subject. Here is an excerpt from the podcast:
Here Is Why It’s So Hard To Identify And Acknowledge Maternal Sexual Abuse
1. Why do you think this topic is so taboo?
Hani Miletski: The idea that a woman is a sexual abuser is hard for people to accept, first because women don’t have a penis. How much harm can they do? And women love their children, they’ll do anything for them – it is unthinkable that they would sexually abuse them.
2. Is there a difference between mothers and fathers sexually abusing their children?
HM: There are a lot of different ways to sexually molest children. But women have the advantage, so to speak. They use seduction. For example, sexual molestation can be disguised by the way mothers touch their children while bathing them. When their son reaches puberty, mothers can ask their son to help zip up a dress – that kind of thing. Or sleeping together in the same bed and cuddling.
3. I often say when men do it, it is more overt, when women do it, it is more covert. What do you think?
HM: I agree. Kids get very confused because the mother supposedly is taking care of them, but it feels weird. It feels like something is wrong and they don’t know what’s going on, which makes it even worse.
4. Kids cannot put into words what is happening because they just don’t understand it. As therapists, we have to help them find the words, and that’s tricky.
HM: You also have to worry about not putting any ideas in their heads that were not there. You have to work on a very thin line.
5. The sons think, ‘It’s my mom,’ and just dismiss it.
HM: They think, ‘She loves me, she wouldn’t harm me, whatever she does, she does because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, even if it doesn’t feel good.’
6. Is there a kind of motherly love that crosses over into incest behavior?
HM: I think the crossing over is when the son begins to feel uncomfortable and the mother doesn’t care and doesn’t pay attention. For example, if a mother hugs her teenage son and he is squirming and doesn’t know what to do and obviously feels uncomfortable, that’s when the mother – the adult – has to say, ‘Okay, he doesn’t like it. I should back off. I shouldn’t do this anymore. At least for now, until he grows up and it’s okay to hug him again,’ or something along those lines.
I think it’s the responsibility of the mothers – the adults – to really pay attention and see when the kid is uncomfortable and act appropriately.