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Guilt Over Childhood Sex Play with Younger Same-Sex Female Cousin

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I am just trying to figure out if my childhood sexplay with a younger same sex cousin was normal or abuse. It all started with her wanting to comb my hair. She had to be 6 or 7 and I about 8 or 9. It went from combing my hair to rubbing my shoulders to us kissing. Eventually it lead to us touching. She would come over every now and then and we would experiment. I think eventually it led to oral by her suggestion because she would engage in the same activity with her mother’s daughter’s friend. I stopped once I got caught dry humping another girl who was around my age. My mom didn’t scold me but had a sit down with myself and the other girl along with the other mom to say it was inappropriate. My cousin would still come over to spend the night and rub against my leg to make me join in sexual play but I would say no firmly and kick her hand or foot off me. I guess my guilt stems from me being older. I should have known better. And I feel absolutely terrible about it. It keeps me up all night sometimes. I don’t remember her trying to force me other than the rubbing leg incident. And I don’t remember me forcing her to do anything. When I think about it I think she was far more advanced mentally than I was. My aunts house did not have the same rules as mine. The kids watched whatever they wanted even R-rated movies as they always had televisions in their room. When I would go over their house they would always call me “slow” because I didn’t get certain things. I guess being that I wasn’t street smart like them and was sheltered (no tv in the rooms only age appropriate shows). Anyway these sexual play encounters have really plagued my with tremendous guilt recently. I don’t want to think that I molested my younger cousin. I turned very mean to her to nip all attempts of sexual play in the bud. To make her hate me was a mechanism to keep us safe and appropriate I guess. She eventually came out as bisexual. I don’t want to think that I did this to her.. Please please help me figure this one out. I’ve been struggling for years.

Guilt Over Childhood Sex Play with Younger Same-Sex Female Cousin

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A.

From all that you have written, it sounds as if it was your cousin who led the way into the sexual exploration. It sounds as if she was the initiator, and it was her interest that fueled the activity. Should we blame her and consider her a sexual abuser? Should her name appear on a sexual offenders list? You might say no because she was only six. What if she was eight years old? Should her name appear on the sexual offenders list then? You would probably say no because, even at eight years old, she was clearly still a child. And you would be right, an eight-year-old is obviously and blatantly still a child. Using that same logic, it would be wrong to blame her because she was only an eight-year-old child. Wouldn’t it also be wrong to blame any eight-year-old child, including yourself?

Eight-year-old children, and children in general, need strict adult supervision. They simply do not know any more about right and wrong, then they are taught by the adults around them. No adult knew about the sexual exploration that was occurring between you and your cousin. At those times there was no adult supervision. Without adult supervision, children would not go to school or to bed at an appropriate time or take medicine or refrain from playing on the roof or swimming in a dangerous river. In other words, children do many things that they should not when there is not sufficient adult supervision to teach them what is safe and appropriate. They simply have the mind of a child and that mind is insufficient to allow them to make appropriate self-beneficial decisions. The mind of the child will often make the wrong decisions and every parent knows that.

You are bothered by the inappropriateness of the behaviors that occurred between you and your cousin but those troublesome thoughts are now occurring to an adult mind not the mind of a child. You were a child and at no time did you show ill will or a desire to hurt your cousin and I’m sure, neither did she. Her sexual orientation, as an adult, has nothing to do with the childish, secretive activities that occurred between you and her.

What you are describing is incredibly common. In general, we don’t talk about sexual activities because we think that they are tainted with “badness.” We can’t tolerate the fact that our parents are sexual creatures. We find the thought of their sexual activity to be unacceptable, though we will forgive them the one sexual act that allowed for each of our conceptions. We will forgive them that one sexual indulgence, after all it did have a good outcome, “us,” but anything beyond that is a disgusting perversion. Likewise, we don’t talk about sexual exploration among children. That too, is also a secretive, unmentionable topic.

Sadly, I must break with all convention and tell you that your parents did indeed have sex and did so with gusto and relish, just as you and your friends do, and children have always and always will engage in childish forms of sexual exploration. As adults we may not like it and we will certainly do our best to control it but we have always dismissed their being caught “playing doctor.” Parents apply more parenting, when they catch their children playing doctor but they always forgive them and consider it a fault of inadequate supervision or parenting, in some way. If you want to blame someone, blame the adults who allowed you and your cousin so many unsupervised moments but also realize that even the best parents cannot provide complete supervision. There will always be unsupervised moments. Parents blame themselves and forgive their children. Remember, you were an eight-year-old child. It is time to forgive that child. Good luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Guilt Over Childhood Sex Play with Younger Same-Sex Female Cousin

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Guilt Over Childhood Sex Play with Younger Same-Sex Female Cousin. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/03/19/guilt-over-childhood-sex-play-with-younger-same-sex-female-cousin/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.