Fighting Fear

Confronting phobias and other fears

Forbidden Sexual Liaisons

Throughout history, some men in positions of power have sexually exploited women. These patterns of exploitation have changed over time. Currently, there are social rules against this sort of behavior—which, unfortunately, have tended to promote a stereotype of women as being helpless. Read More


Congratulations on getting my first comment ever on PsychologyToday!

I understand that you are trying to explain that women have agency, but wow, no. In your introduction, it appears that you are trying normalize this systematic oppression of women by men, hinting that such behavior is universal. I highly suggest you do more research on primate social behaviors, and you will realize how diverse mating behavior can be. Yes, we cannot tell what early humans' were like in terms of behavior from fossils, which is why we often turn to primate models for greater understanding. Please see Frans de Waal's latest work on bonobos.

Also, I think your emphasis on women's responsibility to assert themselves in exploitative relationships completely ignores the dynamics behind these types of situations. Yes, women should say no if they feel uncomfortable in a situation. Yes, women should know that they have the right to not have sex with someone that they don't want to. However, when women and men end up in these exploited positions, because they feel disempowered in the first place!

I have been in a situation where I know I was exploited sexually by a person that was in a position of authority. I am not an idiot, but at the time, I was severely traumatized from other life events, which made me receptive to that person's advances. Lowered impulse control from psychological trauma can lead the smartest of us into dumb situations.

I agree that women or others being exploited should not be encouraged to see themselves as victims, but I do think they should learn to recognize when they are being victimized. There is clear difference, in that realizing when you are being victimized by another does not make it part of your self. For me, once I regained my self-confidence and reduced my anxiety, I was finally able to assert myself and distance myself from that individual.

It would probably benefit you to focus your energies on helping your patients regain self-worth, since this is much more likely the cause at the root of these exploitative situations than your mainsplainy history lesson. A teacher that has good self-esteem and follows a clear code of ethics will not have a hard time ignoring the flirtations of a student, nor would they make inappropriate advances on a student.

Oh yeah, and f*ck the patriarchy! (not literally though, hehe)

Two corrections for the OCD out there


Hi, Dr Neuman: I'm confused

Hi, Dr Neuman:

I'm confused as to how you feel such rules would make women feel like victims when they obviously would have to apply to both genders in order to avoid gender bias challenges. Given that application to all, why would rules holding that those with power in certain situations must protect the interests of those with less power make anyone feel anything about their gender -- as opposed to their dependent situation -- unless, for some reason, you're slipping in an assumption that the victim will always be a woman while no female priest, professor, or therapist will ever occupy the more powerful, supposedly protecting role? I admit such an unstated assumption would make your argument logically valid, but only at the expense of its being false because of the obviously incorrect extra premise (given that women are now the majority of therapists and coming up fast, percentage-wise, both in the ministry and post-secondary teaching). Perhaps there's some generational confusion here?

By the way, I also believe such rules protect the one in power. I know you must have heard what often gets said even about supposedly seduced professionals by their students, clients, and/or colleagues afterwards, and none of those variations on hypocritical, weak-willed, or can be led by the **** are good reputations to have.

The One in Power must control him/herself.

The colleages Dr. talks about that have slept with multiple women need to have their licenses revoked.
Whether male or female, a person who holds a position of power has the ability to exploit. With great power comes great responsibility.
If a therapist is attracted to a patient from the very start, he/she should admit it from the start and offer that they stop their professional relationship. End of story. The therapist that is getting mates from his chair week after week has a serious problem, if you ask me.
Like the Sea Lion that waits for the fishermen to reel in the wounded tuna right to them, or the Vulture that waits in his highway treestand for the roadkill. He is waiting for the damaged goods to arrive so he can have the easy pickings. That is not the type of animal I want in my therapist's office...

Male or female, the one in power has to recognize that he/she is held to the standard of much higher control. They will have weak people around them and their job will be to make them strong, NOT to take advantage of their wounds. Every once in a while, an animal chooses the perch like this in order to find the best prey. But mostly, the folks in these roles are of high standards, and just have to remind themselves that they are the only ones that have this good judgment. They have to have enough good judgment and control for two!!

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Fredric Neuman, M.D. is the Director of the Anxiety and Phobia Center at White Plains Hospital.


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