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When I was nine or ten my older sister who was 11 or 12 at the time probably wanted for me and her to touch each other in a way that would be considered wrong, I willingly went along. It was only done once and the following morning she said let's not do that again. We never did do it again-but I still feel ashamed and such by it. Was I wrong in going along with what she said? I feel sometimes like it may have affected me the same as someone who was abused, but I'm not sure and I don't want to jump to conclusions. I feel like I should have known better than to go along. If you could answer my questions, what your thoughts are on this. . . back to this email address, I'd appreciate it much. Thank you.

[name withheld]

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman



Dear [name withheld]--

It is completely normal, and quite common for children to experiment with sexuality both through masturbation and other auto-erotic practices, as well as by means of games and sex play with other children. The sex drive in living beings--including human beings--is very strong, and demands expression.

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman



Babies and younger children have strong erotic feelings, and have no shame about expressing them until they are taught shame by their parents and other caregivers. Usually, by the age of five or six, a child has been taught shame--often, but not always, in a religious context--and, unfortunately, most of us carry that shame with us, in one form or another, ever after. I assume from the tone of your letter that this is true in your case.

The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that there is a stage in childhood sexual development which Freud called the "latency period," in which sexual feelings and the need for sexual expression seem to be diminished. This latency period occurs in the years from around age five until puberty. If a child in the latency years is approached in a sexual way by a slightly older child who has the normal strong interest in sexuality, the younger child may experience the approach as intrusive and somehow "wrong," even though it is not, technically, abuse, and even though such sex play is expected and normal. Perhaps this feeling of intrusion plays a part in your situation also.

In any case, the questions in your letter indicate to me that you feel guilty--guilt-ridden, in fact--about this incident, and that is the problem, not that you had a sexual incident with your sister. Should you have known that it was wrong? I would say no, since I do not consider that it was wrong. Should you have resisted going along with it? I don't know, but the fact is that you did not resist, but now feel guilty about not having resisted. In other words, the problem is not a bit of sex play that happened years ago, but your oppressive guilt in the present.

Perhaps you will be able to accept my professional opinion which holds that such sexual games between sisters is normal and innocent. If you can, use it to help you to drop your guilt and stop obsessing on this. If you are unable to work this out on your own, I suggest you get into psychotherapy with a qualified counselor in order to get the help you need.

Be well.



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