The effects of childhood sexual abuse and childhood sexual experiences on sexual orientation and sexual identity



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Anecdotal observations among clinicians and laypersons suggest that some men who have been sexually abused by men as children experience more homosexual sexual attraction and engage in more homosexual sexual behavior than men who have not been sexually abused. These men often report feeling “confused” about their sexuality. Some men also report believing that there is a relationship between their homosexual feelings and behaviors and their sexual abuse as children. Moreover, research in the area of sexual abuse reveals that disproportionately more men with sexual abuse histories identify as gay and bisexual than men with non-sexual abuse histories, especially when the perpetrator of the abuse was male. However, very few studies have specifically explored the relationship between sexual orientation and sexual abuse. The proposed study will examine the relationship between sexual orientation in men and their reports of childhood sexual abuse by males. Additionally, the proposed study will distinguish between those individuals that have interpreted their childhood sexual experiences as negative (or abusive) and those who have not. Past research in this topic has categorized participants as “abused” based on a set of predetermined benchmarks (e.g., age differential, specific acts performed, etc.,) while not including the individual’s subjective account/interpretation of the experience. This research will consider how the distinction between intergenerational sexual contact that is experienced as abusive and intergenerational sexual contact that is not experienced as abusive relates to sexual orientation and sexual identity.