|A Consenting Juveniles narrative is a first-hand account reporting the words of the research subject on his or her experience.|
Translated from the original Dutch for SOL Research.
He let me believe I was better than others.
|Source:||Het begint met woorden, niet met seks|
(Dutch: It begins with words, not sex)
by Joachim Lafosse
De Standaard (Belgium), December 4, 2010
This case does not fit the criteria of the Consenting Juveniles research. It is presented here as a counterpoint to those that do in order to show a very different perspective from which a teenage sexual relationship can be viewed. The essay below appeared in the Beligian newspaper, De Standaard, side-by-side with the one by Ivo van Hove.
Joachim Lafosse has won many awards for his film direction and screenwriting. The New York Times praised his 2006 movie, Private Property, saying that he twist
This is the very first time Im telling my story. I made a movie about it two years ago, Elève libre [Private Lessons], but I never admitted it was autobiographical. I thought the story had to speak for itself. But soon, the movie will be shown on television and two years have passed, so I guess its okay now. Though its very hard for me to talk about it. For twelve years, I had psychotherapy sessions three times a week to cope with it all.
It started when I was almost 16 years old. My home situation was chaotic: my parents were practically never home and I was left to take care of myself. I played tennis, but couldnt make a career out of it and at school my grades dropped year after year. I got so far behind they eventually kicked me out of school. There was no place for me in the standard system. So there I was, alone, abandoned, without hope of ever getting a diploma. Then suddenly, there he was, an acquaintance of my tennis coach, a private teacher who believed in me, who wanted to help me get a diploma from the board of examiners, who gave me the feeling I could do something, that I was special. Of course I didnt want to let that opportunity go by.
It started with lessons about books, movies, science, but after a while it was more about life and therefore also about love and sexuality. I had a girlfriend then and he wanted to know more intimate things: what I thought about that relationship, what the sex was like. He introduced me to a group of very libertarian friends. They told me what they thought about sex. First they only shared their ideas, later on they gave me tips, showed me techniques, tried out some things on me. My private teacher told me you can only know youre gay by experimenting. Whatever we did, afterwards he told me how brave I was. This made me feel special again, a member of the club.
My teacher knew how to cultivate this feeling like no other. People always think abuse starts with sexual behavior, but it starts with words, with a discourse. My teacher constantly told me how special I was, how much more open and free I was in comparison to my peers. Maybe that is the worst thing about the whole situation: he let me believe I was better than others. Afterwards, it took me years to rebuild a normal social life. I thought my peers were stupid turds because I had experience and they didnt. That manipulation alienated me from them. It isolated me completely because I only wanted to interact with adults. This way, the place that man occupied in my life only grew bigger.
I started realizing something was wrong when the relationship with my girlfriend ended. Suddenly, I realized all that experience and all those tips didnt help me loving her. I was so far gone I completely separated feelings and sex, body and mind. Of course she couldnt understand. Or maybe she could: she saw that sex and love had become a performance for me. So she left.
I immediately broke contact with my teacher. I was twenty years old then; I had spent four years stuck in this perverse situation. And the recovery took me years. I think I completely recovered when I got power and authority. As a director, for example, because I decide what happens with the actors. Then I realized how power can be abused. And how subtly that often happens.
I dont think the man who abused me had other victims I dont know for sure. But I still suffer from the following question: Do I need to prevent something like this from happening again? I think its important that victims of abuse go to the police, but I dont have the strength to do it myself. I dont want to relive this period again. I got away from it and I want to concentrate on other things right now: my son, my family. I also believe Ive done my part: I made a movie about my experience, I testify to it in this newspaper. Furthermore, I dont think I have to be the only one who needs to be alert. Its a shared responsibility: of parents, of teachers, of everybody.
Thats why I was so shocked by the reactions to Elève libre. I noticed youngsters between 16 and 22 had no problem recognizing the mechanism of manipulation and abuse. For them it was clear: this is a teacher who abused a student. But a lot of adults didnt find the movie black-and-white enough. They took a stand for the teacher, because he surely wasnt a monster. And The student did participate in his game, but can you really expect a teenager to resist, to see through the mechanism?
For the same reason, I find Ivo Van Hoves discourse so dangerous. I think its a good thing its possible to talk about pedophilia without using black-and-white words people like so much, so I dont judge Van Hove. But I do want him to recognize his responsibility. He has to be aware of the consequences of his words. I think his discourse closely resembles that of the man who abused me, What happened isnt bad, on the contrary, its part of life. Its almost an elitist attitude: I have no trauma from it. Im even glad I experienced it. Ive had a richer experience that others didnt have. Maybe this is a defense mechanism and he doesnt want to face the truth, but it seems to me like a rationalization. I also wonder what the reactions would have been if a bishop had said, I had a relationship at fourteen with an older man, but it hasnt troubled me. Then everyone would probably be screaming blue murder.
Some people might think of me as reactionary, but the law must protect minors. This protection is a universal right and is more important than absolute freedom. A society without boundaries is one without morals. Youngsters need to explore sexuality with each other; adults shouldnt interfere. That is what I blame my teacher for: that he took from me my childhood. That he left me nothing to be learned on my own, because I already knew everything, or so I thought. Luckily, I later learned that love is so much more than sex. And that I have to learn these things like anyone else. Especially thanks to my wife, who still remains mysterious and fascinating to me.
Translation posted pending permission.
Footnotes1. Forbidden Games: My Two Sons, My Ex-Husband, My Lover and Me (Movie review: Private Property)
by Manohla Dargis, New York Times, May 18, 2007