Even worse, when sexually abused males do choose to talk about their abuse, they don’t always garner the empathetic and supportive response they need, because all of us—even therapists—are trapped in the man rules to some degree. Even highly trained clinicians have societally influenced expectations, sometimes thinking that sexually abused males should be able to just get over it without a lot of whining and crying. And thanks to these and similarly misguided cultural beliefs, it can be very difficult to identify, empathize with, and effectively treat a male client’s sexual trauma history.
When psychotherapists do choose to fully address male sexual abuse issues, they nearly always do so imperfectly, failing to recognize and incorporate not only their own cultural biases but the client’s. For instance, a wonderfully empathetic therapist who has shaken off the shackles of the man rules might recognize a client’s sexual abuse and want that client to immediately feel what he needs to feel, accepting and acknowledging the pain. However, the client, still mired in the rules of being a man, might not be ready for this and may in fact struggle with the very idea of it. Sometimes in situations like this the client will become frustrated and act out, expressing anger and a desire to quit treatment.