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Post: Text

Woah, we’re halfway there: reflections on getting halfway through the first draft of my book for male survivors of sexual abuse.

By Jeremy Sachs

April 2024

 

I thought I’d write a short ‘halfway there’ blog about the book I’ve been writing. Although, if I was being honest, it should be called ‘Halfway through the first draft with all the graphs, worksheets, and illustrations still to be started and I’m slightly panicking’ blog. Despite not actually being halfway through the total workload, I am halfway through deciding what I want this book to say, and this feels significant. The book’s working title (still not agreed with the publisher) is ‘An Intersectional Guide for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Those Who Support Them: Masculinity Regrouped.’ It looks at men’s experiences of sexual abuse and considers how identity (such as race, class, (dis)ability, gender, or sexuality) may help or hinder an individual’s healing. It’s due for submission with the publishers on the 1st of October 2024.


While I suspected the book writing process would be challenging, particularly for someone with limited energy and capacity for sitting down and typing, some of the challenges have been surprising.  The first surprise was when I started to dream about the themes in the book, most potently, shame! I often say shame is, ‘the most acute and destructive human emotion.’ This is why I should have been less surprised that when writing a chapter on it, all sorts of experiences started floating up from my subconscious in my dreams. In my waking hours too, I noticed how sensitive I was, quick to annoyance and frustration. While all of this was manageable, it was also disturbing…’I thought I’d dealt with all this,’ I thought to myself. Once the first draft of the shame chapter was finished, the shameful feeling subsided, like the Kraken sinking back into the deep.


The second surprise is how lonely the process is. Typically, I like my own company and many of my projects professionally or personally involve working alone, but somehow writing feels different. I went to a writer’s group in a fancy part of Glasgow. When telling the first person I met I was writing a non-fiction book, he said, ‘God I wish I was writing non-fiction, it’s so much easier, you’re lucky you don’t write Sci-fi’ Needless to say, I didn’t go back. Needing someone to share my experience, I spoke with two successful academic writers, one a public health researcher and the other a well-known psychosexual psychotherapist. I asked if they struggled and they both separately said, ‘Not really, I love sitting down and writing.’ I literally cannot imagine ‘loving writing.’ The loneliness is amplified by the inevitable insecurities of whether the book is any good, whether it finds its audience…will it help survivors!? It’s 85,000 words, the same as a PhD, but I don’t have a supervisor to scrutinise or guide the progress. I plan on leaning on friends a bit more, chewing their ears off about it until they inevitably know the book as well as I do. While they are not writers, many are either therapists or artists, all well-placed to manage and relate to my lonely feelings of insecurity and creativity.


What I have discovered is I do love coming up with names for chapter titles. I love the chance to be playful with the titles while remaining respectful of the fact these issues can be deeply painful to those reading. I hope that playfulness invites an informal sense of kindness in the book. It is not an academic text, but rather a companion guide as men and therapists work through the chapters. In honour of discovering this joy, I’m sharing the titles of the chapters I have first drafts for. Hopefully, it'll pique your interest when the book gets published.


01. Introductions: I’m glad you’re here

02 What do we mean when we say ‘trauma’?

04 Masculinity - How to build a man.

05 The stomach-dissolving experience of shame.

7. Sex, gender and nurturing our authentic sexual self

8. Trust, relationships, and the bitter legacy of betrayal

9 Disclosure: The why, when, and, how.



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