(An interesting perspective from a reader. Published from a blogsite, Unspinners, without permission.)
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Many a time in the course of the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy II trial, the question was raised as to how a strong and reluctant twenty-something-year old man could be sodomised by a sixty-plus-year old person.
This question presupposes that an element of physical force was involved to bring the victim to submission. That supposition may be entirely erroneous.
A person of authority using his position or influence to gain sexual gratification from a person answerable or beholden to him is not a phenomenon either unknown or rare. It is in fact very common.
Think of those sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests and altar or choir boys which till now are plaguing the Catholic Church, those cases in the US military where superior officers sexually harass and exploit junior female personnel, instances in academia where instructors use their position to gain sexual advantage over students.
In many cases, because of their shame, confusion and emotional trauma, the victims took a great deal of time, sometimes years, to speak out on the victimisation committed against them.
Very often, there was no physical violence threatened or inflicted and the victims appear to have physically consented to the sexual relations.
In actual fact, their mental confusion and reluctance to question or resist the ‘requests’ or ‘suggestions’ by a person they look up to made them vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Or the exploiter is someone the victim is dependent on for job security or career advancement. The Anwar/Saiful sodomy case can easily fit into this pattern.
Some people consider it inconceivable or impossible for Anwar to have forced Saiful to submit to be sodomised. This is a very blinkered view, almost wilfully ignorant of what had happened in other parts of the world.
The answer to the question posed many times by observers as to how it was possible that a 60-year old man can sexually exploit a physically strong 20-something year-old man is that the former by using his charisma, position and influence can persuade or coerce the latter to do things against the latter’s better judgement with no physical violence or threats necessary.
So the act can appear to be physically consensual but in the mind of the victim during or after the act, it is something done against his or her will and is forced on him or her.
Far from it for me to say at this point that was what actually transpired in the Anwar/Saiful sodomy case. That’s for the trial to decide. What I’m saying is that it’s time people stop playing stupid and start to accept that it is not an impossibility for sexual exploitation to have taken place with no actual physical resistance on the part of the victim.
Things get very complicated once the victim ‘submits’ to the exploitation as the element of consent arguably becomes apparent. It is for this reason that sexual harassment laws have been formulated to deter persons holding positions of authority and power in organisations from even attempting to take sexual advantage of their underlings.
ANGELINE TAY MEI LIN
Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.