Mother-Son Incest (The Book)


I wrote the first edition of this book in 1994 (first published in 1995, by the Safer Society Press) as my Master’s thesis. At that time, I knew nothing about Mother-Son Incest, and believed, like many others, that this form of incest is very rare, if it even existed. I chose Mother-Son Incest as my topic because I selfishly believed my thesis would be “a piece of cake;” all I would need to do, I thought, was to explain why Mother-Son Incest does not happen, and my work would be done.

Boy was I wrong! The more I researched the topic, the more I realized Mother-Son Incest is a reality.

At first, my literature search findings agreed with the notion that this form of incest was very rare, and I could only find a few case studies. Text books of human sexuality stated the same. But then, as I kept searching, I began finding more and more cases of Mother-Son Incest in the literature. When I met other psychotherapists at conferences, it seemed they all knew people, and they all had clients who were survivors of Mother-Son Incest.

I realized I was wrong to assume Mother-Son Incest did not happen, and I had to figure out what caused me and society at large to take on this denial and to believe this form of incest is so rare.

I ended up writing my thesis as an advocacy paper seeking to explore this denial and to heighten awareness of Mother-Son Incest among sexuality educators and the helping professions. My thesis discussed and challenged the following five misconceptions which help sustain society’s denial of Mother-Son Incest: (1) “mother-son incest meansintercourse,” (2) “boys cannot be victims of sexual abuse,” (3) “what harm can be done without a penis?” (4) “motherly love cannot be sexual,” and (5) “one of them must be crazy.”

Unfortunately, more than 10 years later, society’s denial about Mother-Son Incest is as strong as ever. We still face significant obstacles to preventing child sexual abuse, and we still have ways to go in meeting the recovery needs of survivors, especially boys and men. Men who were sexually abused as children, continue to encounter ridicule, minimization, and dismissal. Memories of childhood sexual abuse are still labeled “false” even though most therapists and survivors I know, would find it terrifically painful concocting such “falsities” and then having to deal with them.

Nevertheless, some “positive” changes have occurred, which are worth mentioning. As Lew (2004a) points out, these days “One would have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of the reality of sexual child abuse and even of the sexual victimization of boys” (p. xxvii). There have been widely reported scandals about sexual victimization of boys by pop star Michael Jackson, and by men in church, scouting, sports venues, child care, and through the internet (Gartner, 1999). There has been more media attention paid to abuse and recovery issues, and some of the stigma attached to male victimization has been lessened as a result of celebrities speaking out about their own histories of sexual abuse. And there have been some positive changes in child protective legislation.

Movies, such as The Boys of St. Vincent, which address male survivor issues, are starting to be made and distributed in theaters and video stores.  Major sports figures, like star hockey player Sheldon Kennedy and Olympic gold-medalist diver Greg Louganis are speaking out about having been sexually abused, and baseball superstar Mark McGwire donated three million dollars to the fight against child abuse (Lew, 1999).

Likewise, in the past decade, there has been increased awareness among both professionals and the public regarding the existence of female sexual abusers. A recent rash of cases involving female teachers and their teen “lovers” has led to a raging debate over whether there is a double standard when it comes to the way society, the media and the courts view sexual misconduct by women. It seems the legal system is beginning to take a stand against female sexual offenders, but the punishments given have been criticized as lenient compared with male sexual offenders (Hope & Ong, 2005). The media has played a major role in letting the public know about notorious “affairs” in recent years between older women and boys. The case of Mary Kay Letourneau is outlined in Chapter 4, as an example.

Interestingly, with the development and advancement of the Internet, when one “Googles” the words “mother son incest,” almost two million links come up (as of the end of 2006). The majority of the links are pornographic cites and chat rooms that feature mother-son incest. Apparently, society does have a morbid interest in the idea, but mostly as a sexual fantasy.

During the last decade, I have been licensed as a psychotherapist, earned my doctorate degree in Human Sexuality, and have been certified as a Sex Therapist (Diplomate) and Supervisor by the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. I have seen many clients in my private practice, including my share of mother-son incest survivors.

I have also given several presentations about Mother-Son Incest at various professional conferences and seminars. After each presentation, I had several therapists come up to me to discuss their own experience with clients who had been sexually abused by their mothers. But, the most humbling experience I had was at the International Conference of the National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization (NOMSV) in New York, in 2001. Unbeknownst to me, the conference organizers limited the attendance in my presentation only to survivors of mother-son incest. As I began my presentation, I quickly learned there was not much I could tell these men that they did not already know. So, I turned to them and asked them to share whatever they felt like sharing. This was a very powerful, moving experience for me; being in one room with about 20 men, all survivors of mother-son incest, all willing to share their experiences and help others in their recovery.

This revised edition of Mother-Son Incest: The Unthinkable Broken Taboo Persists, is no longer written only for sexuality educators and for helping professionals; I wrote this revised edition also for survivors, their partners, perpetrators, and any interested individuals. As you read through the same five misconceptions, the revised book provides an updated and embellished overview of findings, (Although much of the discussion holds true for other forms of incest and sexual abuse, this book focuses on males who have been sexually abused by their mothers). The new edition has a chapter with personal stories of survivors, and another chapter about recovery from mother-son incest. The book ends with an appendix of resources.

One last thing: This is a difficult book to read. As one of my reviewers on related: “This book can be difficult to read, especially if you’re one of the sons, or a person trying to have a life… with one of them.” I suggest you read this book in a safe environment, when you have time to reflect on it, and make sure you have ready access to a support system.

Hani G. Miletski, Ph.D., MSW
Bethesda, Maryland


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