Troubled and Confused by Sexual ‘Games’ Played in Childhood

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Reader’s Question

When we were kids, a cousin of mine of the same sex got me into being sexual with them. I was just a couple of years younger and we were always playing a game called “mother and daddy.” The nature of the encounters included kissing, oral sex, and bumping our parts against each other. We are adults now and never speak of this game we played as children.

The same type of game was presented to me by another kid in my family, except this child was a male. The game included bumping our clothed parts together and his rubbing his unclothed parts against me. There was never any penetration. I seem to remember some oral done to me. Again, we are now adults and never speak of the game.

What really bothers me the most about this whole situation is that when this male was in his early teens, like around age 12, he seemed to be passionate about me and jealous of my boyfriends. This was kind of spooky because we had long ago stopped experimenting on each other’s body.

I battle with this sometimes and I wonder if this type of things is normal for kids. I also ask myself if I am really still a virgin. There is a lot of shame in it, and I wish that it had never happened.

Does this sound like sexual experimentation in kids or was it incest?

Psychologist’s Reply

You might find some facts and information about the circumstances you describe to be of help to you in sorting things out.

The term “incest” has been applied to a variety of sexual behaviors and patterns occurring between persons related to one another in varying degrees of kindred. And although there is variation with respect to how incest is defined in law, most states prohibit sexual intercourse per se between persons who are closely related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Sexual experimentation by children is not uncommon and is far more frequent between children well known to one another or in some way related to one another. For this and other reasons, most such activity, even that which occurs between closely related children, is not regarded as truly incestuous.

A careful distinction also needs to be made between strictly voluntary yet forbidden sexual activity between closely related persons (incest), and rape. Some incestuous activity is truly a form of rape, and rape does not necessarily imply the use of physical force or violence. Subtle coercion, implied threats, use of psychological manipulation such as the evoking of guilt or sense of obligation and abuse of trust can all be used as means to gain compliance. Further, even in situations in which there is no outright coercion, differences in age, level of maturity, and most especially the inability to give free, informed consent, are all factors that can lead such activity to be best characterized as rape. Even though most near-age peer-level sexual acts might be more rightfully described as experimentation, if any of the aforementioned factors are present, they could be more rightfully regarded as instances of rape.

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Many children experience a host of reactions, feelings, and concerns about sexual experiences in childhood, even if they’re not victims of true incest or rape. It’s important to recognize and validate your feelings as well as to work through any issues the childhood activities you report might be presenting in your current relationships as well as your sense of self. My best suggestion: seek the help and counsel of a therapist with special expertise dealing with child sexual behavior issues and concerns.

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