A less than fun but fascinating topic

A few weeks ago I got in a few hour discussion with Tucker and my girlfriend about sexual abuse. My question was: We know that with relative certainty sexual abuse fundamentally alters a child’s development and influence things like sexual orientation, propensity for drug abuse, a tendency to recreate trauma, promiscuity, and success. So what impact has that had throughout history?

What I meant was that we look at Britany Spears and quietly assume that her current escapades are a result of missing her childhood, perhaps early sexual abuse, selfish parents and her recent divorce. But then we look at someone like Caesar or Alexander the Great and hold them up as unitary actors who were simply motivated to great things. Are we deluding ourselves when we exclude those motivations and subconscious factors?

Tucker made it very clear (and rightfully so) that the things that can utterly ruin a child today would have had little impact 600 years ago. And that much of which we currently abhor and think damages a child has less to do with the act itself and more to do with the emotions it represents. For instance, it’s not the physical blows that plague the person for the rest of their life, but the fact that they had an unloving parent that would do such a thing–not to mention that such feelings taint all other interaction between child and parent. So pederasty because it was more about mutual love than submission or projected self-loathing wouldn’t have had the same effect on Alexander as it did to Michael Jackson.

Freaknomics pointed out some disturbing stats today:

1) 25 percent of victims are 10-14 years old; 23 percent are nine or younger.

2) 22.5 percent of the offenders are family members. Only 8 percent are strangers.

3) 25 percent of sex offenses reported to the police lead to an arrest.

So my question to you is: What impact do you think sexual abuse and childhood trauma has had throughout history? Have some of our greatest successes and most catastrophic failures been guided by these changes in early development? And lastly, what impact do you think the above statistics will continue to have on the next generation of people?

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.