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Title: Participating victims: A study of sexual offenses with boys
Author(s): Michael Ingram
Affiliation: Child Counselor, London, England
Citation: Ingram, M., “Participating victims: A study of sexual offenses with boys,” in Constantine, L.L. & Martinson, F.M. (eds.), Children and sex: New findings, new perspectives, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1981, pp. 177-187.


Most literature in the field of adult-child sexual behavior suffers from two shortcomings: reliance on data taken from hospital files, and the failure to distinguish between children who are sexually mature and those who are not. The current study confined itself to prepubescent boys, which were identified as those who had no pubic hair, or in the absence of such evidence, those under 14 whose voices had not changed.

This study involved 92 cases of man-boy sexual interaction. Fifty-nine percent of the cases came from boys who were referred to the author for counseling for various reasons (family, school, or behavior problems), and who revealed sexual activity during counseling. Another 26% of the cases resulted from the author overhearing conversations of such activity, and the remaining 15% were referred to him specifically due to the sexual activity. Thus, while the sample was not strictly a criminal or clinical sample, it was also not representative of all child-adult sex since these boys already suffered from some difficulties.

Some of these cases were excluded from the study due to lack of information, suspected lack of truthfulness on the part of the boys, or a discrepancy between the boy’s and the man’s story. This left 83 sexual contacts involving 74 boys coming from 65 families. The boys ranged in age from 6 to 14, with an average age of 9.2 at first sexual contact. They came from families with an average of 4.2 children per family, and all but 6 came from families judged as unsatisfactory due to abusive, neglectful, or psychologically unhealthy parents.

Two out of the 74 boys had been sexually assaulted by a stranger. These incidents were followed by violent family scenes and the child was examined by police, a doctor, and possibly others—an ordeal that compounded the trauma.

In the 6 families where the parents were judged satisfactory, the boy told them some time after the event, and the parents responded calmly. These cases involved only boisterous sex-play—no “lovemaking.” The boys seemed healthy and required no further counseling.

In 8 families, there was one healthy parent. The boy told that parent, who did not inform the other parent. Again, the boys seemed to require no further counseling.

Eight more boys told their parents. These were among the most disturbed boys, and their families were the most unsatisfactory. One father threatened his son with violence in front of the researcher. Four of the boys had clearly enjoyed the sexual act.

The 55 sexual contacts not reported by the boy were kept secret apparently due to guilt or fear of the parents’ anger. The boys feared negative reactions from parents due to their enjoyment of forbidden pleasure and their loyalty to the men who they had sexual contact with. Also out of this loyalty, many boys refused to name the man when interviewed.

The researcher was able to obtain the names of 37 men, and contact 17 of them. Eleven were willing to meet him for an interview. Only two of the men were strangers to the boy; the rest had professional or some other legitimate contact with the boys.

These men were uninterested in adults as sexual partners, and were from the middle and upper classes, although 8 had family backgrounds similar to those of the boys. Only three seemed to have normal childhoods free from trauma. The men viewed their own sexual development with disgust. They loved children and did much valuable work in the community, and had significant fear that disclosure of their sexual activity would ruin their careers.

The author comments that it was not hard to see how men deprived of love as children would find children in similar situations the object of a deep love, nor that the boys would cling to them. It was also not surprising that such relationships would become sexually intimate, but the author hesitates to agree with those men who said the relationships was sexually meaningful.

In cases where the men refused to meet for an interview, the sexual activity had involved looking at pornography, which led to sexual horseplay and mutual masturbation. These activities did not involve affection, and occurred in groups, perhaps alternating with affectionate interaction in private.

At the time, the boys had looked up to the men for their perceived sexual prowess. Many of the boys later despised them for the activity, but others remained very friendly with them into adulthood. One of the men was a clergyman, and was asked by two of the boys to perform their weddings. Another man was asked by three of the boys to become their own children’s godfather.

In other cases, the sexual relationships involved demonstrations of affection when the man and boy were alone, which led to the man masturbating the boy, and less often, the boy masturbating the man. In only a few cases did fellatio, intrafemoral intercourse, or anal intercourse occur. Whenever there were multiple activities, they were mutual.

During interviews, some of the men said that the boys were provocative. This was often confirmed by the boys themselves, who were sometimes even seductive toward the researcher.

At least four of the boys eventually identified as homosexual. Two of them were among the four who were promiscuous or became involved in prostitution before age 11. Two were from families in which the mothers seemed to hate males and rejected the sons.

According to the researcher, the overwhelming number of incidents in this study (and in his earlier counseling experience) involved children who willingly participated—a fact that the law, parents, and police do not recognize. However, both man and boy blurred the distinction between permitting, participating, and inviting. While many boys allowed the sexual activity, they often did so because they sought affection.

In 42 cases, during the activity, the boys climaxed quickly and lost interest in the sexual activity, while the man was still becoming excited and wanted it to continue. Thus the act was sexually meaningful for the man, but not the boy. However, according to the author, the love may have been meaningful for both.

In 66 cases, the boys seemed to actively seek affection, and 36 of the descriptions resembled the non-sexual affection-seeking behavior natural and common among younger children. Sixty of the 63 boys who participated in “lovemaking” kept up a loving relationship with the man for over 3 months. In some cases the relationship lasted for several years, but the sexual component rarely lasted over one year.

The seductive behavior on the boys’ part seems to have represented sexual curiosity rather than explicit sexual signals. Clearly, many of the boys in this study communicated an invitation to sexual activity, but this invitation probably would not have occurred without the man’s earlier “invitation to invite.”

The author concludes that in these cases, emotional and behavior problems revealed themselves to be more related to disturbances and neglect in the boys’ homes than to the sexual experience with men:

I do not think there is any evidence from my study that any of the children were worse off for the activity; many, no doubt, may be better off for a relationship with a loving adult outside the family. I can see how a lot of harm can come from a violent reaction to the activity and suggest that counseling should replace legal procedures wherever possible.
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