Probably all through history (and before) men have exploited women sexually. When early humans travelled around in extended families, the biggest, strongest male set all the rules--the rules being, “I get what I want.” Judging from some of the current practices of other primates, the alpha male dominated the other males, for a while, at least-- and probably by strength alone, dominated the females. As in other species, the females had some say in selecting sexual partners, but probably not very much. Not when there was a considerable size difference between the sexes. (In other animals—think spiders—the size differential runs the other way.)
All this is supposition. I was not around during that time. Fossils dating from that time do not speak to the sexual practices of these primitive people. Later on, though, when men and women formed together in larger groups—in tribes, and then in kingdoms-- the social structure that grew up did have rules. There were so many people a single male could not monopolize all the women. Morality was born. Women were recognized as belonging to other men and were not, therefore, subject to arbitrary demands. The concept of rape grew up. Even during this more egalitarian age, some men—like Solomon and Genghis Khan—reached such preeminent status, that they took more than their share of the females. Solomon was said to have had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Speaking practically, I would not distinguish the wives from the concubines. They were a great number of women.
Genghis Khan, as part of his marauding, slept with his choice of the conquered women. Very, very many women. He and his descendants were so prolific that a significant fraction of the people living today in that area of the world are their descendants--approximately sixteen million people. That’s according to DNA studies. The whole family had a fondness for virgins; and his grandson, Kubilai Khan, used up an additional thirty virgins every year.
Still, by that time, most men had only a few wives. And a lot had only one. As the result of having to solicit cooperation from a single mate, other, more familiar, rules appeared. Women were said to have certain rights, merely because they were human beings. They were still regarded as subservient—even unto the present era by some in the United States and elsewhere. Still, these rights were, and are, taken seriously. Perhaps they sum to a single principle: Men should not, by virtue of being stronger or by being in a position of authority, attempt to seduce women sexually. This is called “exploitation.”
We know these rules; but I think they fall into a hierarchy, which I will describe here. The heading should be “Thou shalt not…”
Yet these things do happen from time to time. When they become public, there is an outcry.
Having practiced psychiatry for a long time, some of these cases have come to my attention. At one extreme was a woman who made a suicide attempt following an affair with her psychiatrist who promised to marry her and did not. I happened to know that man. He was inclined to lie to women and exploit them whether or not they were patients.
More commonly, I have spoken to women who have had affairs with previous psychiatrists and speak of it with some regret, but not much bitterness—although for a number of reasons, they may not have been entirely frank with me. Others are angry. Some women sue their psychiatrists for inappropriate sexual advances, but, by coincidence, none of those whom I have met.
I must mention, though, that there are a number of psychiatrists who have married their patients. Those marriages do not seem to be characteristically happy or not. They resemble other marriages—at least from the perspective of an outsider.
I know of priests who have fallen in love with those with whom they were in professional contact. They left the order and in one case, at least, married that person.
Although the admonition against sexual relationships in this context is well-recognized, it is widely ignored.
Occasionally, in this time of more women reaching positions of power in business and in other endeavors, it is the woman who is in a position to exploit sexually a male employee—but not often; and in that situation, the male employee is often thought to be complicit.
I have some concerns with this list of “Thou shalt not…” First of all, I do not like setting up ethical rules which are widely ignored. It leads to hypocrisy and cynicism. If certain rules can be ignored, why is it necessary to follow other rules? I am speaking especially of those admonitions listed above under paragraph numbers five and six. In some of these situations, I have had trouble figuring out who is exploiting whom. Is the college student who seeks an A by sleeping with her teacher exploiting him, or is he exploiting her?
I saw a teacher one time who told me how very upset he was when a student he had slept with the previous night ignored him the next day on campus. These relationships can cut both ways.
Secondly, I think it must be recognized that people have sex—and fall in love, sometimes—with people they meet, including in these various circumstances. Men who are in a position of power are attractive to some women, and I do not think their exploiting that fact is necessarily worse than taking advantage of being physically attractive, or rich, or whatever.
But most important, I object to the stereotype of the innocent woman being deceived. I do not mean to defend men who deceive or manipulate women in any context! But the stereotype of the helpless woman is not much different than the various depictions, some of which I describe above, by which women have always been demeaned and dismissed. It treats women as less than men. Surely, a student can resist the solicitation of her teacher if she chooses to. Patients do not have to fall in with their doctors’ plans for a tryst.
An undesirable—and often unnoticed-- result of these rules is to make the woman into a child! Women—adult women—are perfectly capable of saying “no.” They know these rules as well as the man. Standing up to men of power is not easy, but women do it all the time. If they are not regarded as having responsibility—equal responsibility—for these relationships, they are necessarily regarded as someone who is inherently less competent than a man. This is not a matter of redistributing the blame. Perhaps there is no one to blame.
I am always sympathetic to anyone who feels deceived and disappointed. But I do not like to think of such a person—automatically—as a victim. To be a victim is to be helpless and incompetent. It is bad for a woman to think of herself that way.(c) Fredric Neuman 2013 Follow Dr. Neuman's blog at fredricneumanmd.com/blog