What I felt I ought to feel was that I was abused

Interview mit Stephen Fry, im Stil einer Psychotherapie, das im Fernsehen von der BBC gezeigt wurde.

Source: Shrink Rap: Stephen Fry Meets Dr Pamela Connolly, Channel 4 (United Kingdom), April 3, 2007

Conolly: So if I say to you, “Were you ever abused?” Let’s say sexually.

Fry: I might have been. I think I probably was. Certainly had my bottom fondled lots of times by schoolmasters and things like that. I don’t think I was ever seriously abused. But, if that’s abuse, well, to Hell with it. It’s fine. I have no problem with that at all.

Conolly: Stephen, –

Fry: Yeah.

Conolly: If you have not been sexually abused, what would you then call the time that you were sodomized by a sixth-former when you were in the first year?

Fry: [laughs] I would call that, him taking a damn liberty. [laughs] But I can’t moan about it. I mean, it was wrong of him, but he was– What? – Maybe he was 18 and I was 15. He was a child as well. And he wanted a damn good time and he got himself one off me. But I didn’t feel used. He was charming to me. He said it was delightful. And I’m happy to be of service to people.

Conolly: Stephen, –

Fry: Yeah.

Conolly: I wish I could find that funny, but I don’t. You even wrote a poem about it. Look back at the poem. What did you feel about it at the time?

Fry: Well, I think what I felt was fine, but what I felt I ought to feel was that I was abused. I think that’s a problem. I think, actually, what I did feel was okay. I think if it had been an abuse of trust – I think with an adult and a child, when there is affection and admiration on the part of a young girl or boy for an older man, who then abuses it for purely sexual reasons, that’s a terrible thing.

Conolly: Well, isn’t that exactly the same?

Fry: No!

Conolly: This was a person in a position of power over you. He was a much older boy. Even if it was only three years, that’s considerable. He had a particular position in the school. He used that position to order you into his study.

Fry: No, I’m afraid you’re – You may think that I ought to think it’s a terrible thing, but I don’t.Stephen Fry and Pamela Connolly

Conolly: Well, I’m really just going from your poem. Can you remember what you wrote about it?

Fry: I don’t. I don’t remember at all, no.

Conolly: Because it seemed to me that you thought of it almost as though you’d been sort-of used as a woman, in a sense.

Fry: Well, because that’s the language that he used. And I was fully aware that that’s the way older boys at a school like that justify to themselves their desires for younger boys. It was –

Conolly: But that was also something that made it particularly painful for you, that you’d been cast in the role of a woman in a sense.

Fry: Well, yeah. I think, only because I could see that he was kidding himself. I have to say, the real dishonesty there is in writing a poem where I am putting what I think one ought to feel. That’s the sort of correct response one should have to an episode like that. I assure you, with my hand on my heart – If you were to give me a lie detector test – I do not feel that was an abusive episode that I should be angry about or upset about. I think it was perfectly okay.

Conolly: [sighs]

Fry: And it didn’t hurt and it was quite funny and I had no –

Conolly: You’ve written about the pain. You’ve written that it was painful. Was that not true?

Fry: Well, yeah, it was – It was surprising.

Conolly: I mean, if somebody suddenly sticks their penis up your ass.

Fry: [laughs] It was just a shock. Didn’t get it all the way up, if we want to be that brutal about it. I was like, “Hello, don’t do that!” I had no idea that’s what he was going to do. But, really, I know one is supposed to find these things terrible, but I really don’t.

Conolly: Well, then I certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that one should feel a particular way. I’m totally with you, if you tell me that you didn’t feel –

Fry: I think it if it had been an adult, it would have been appalling. I wouldn’t have let myself get in that situation with an adult. And it would have been dreadful. But it –

At this point, Connolly interrupts Fry to ask about his earliest sexual memories, which were playing show-me with other boys and girls at three or four years old. Then they talk about his deep feelings for the boy he fell in love with at 14, and both the enlightenment and pain associated with that experience.

Near the end of the interview, they come back to the anal incident after Fry talks about a self-critical voice in his head, which Connelly says is the voice of his father. Although she had earlier said that she didn’t what to tell Fry how he should feel, she now tells him that he can never feel peace of mind until he accepts that he was abused, including sexually.

Conolly: Because that peace won’t come until you can let go of the voice. And in order to do that, I’m afraid, Stephen, you’re going to have to accept that you really were traumatized as a child in quite a number of ways. And I know that you don’t want to think about that because you think it’s weak and suppy.

Fry: No, not that it’s weak. I want to be honest. I want to be absolutely honest.

Conolly: I think you were tremendously traumatized. I think that it was very traumatic. Because, you know, trauma for children doesn’t just occur with somebody beating them severely or nearly killing them or doing something very active. There’s tremendous trauma in simply being ignored.

Fry: Yes.

Conolly: But on top of that, you know, you were misunderstood at school. You were beaten, all the time, at school.

Fry: Yeah.

Conolly: And you were sexually abused and you’re a long way from accepting it.

Fry: Well, no. I’m accepting that these things happened.

Conolly: You’re a long way from accepting that they are negative things that had a profound effect on who you are today.

Fry: We ought to come back to that because it’s obviously so important. I don’t want to come across as someone who is in denial about the importance of being buggered as a 14-year-old. Of course, it must be, simply because society says it must be important.

Conolly: I’m not criticizing you for it; –

Fry: No, no. And I’m not taking it as criticism, –

Conolly: I understand why.

Fry: but one ought to get to the root of what I really feel about it. And I don’t know what I really feel about it. I know that, socially, especially in this particular quadrant of the 21st century, it is the permanent bad, about which there is nothing good to be said and that one is supposed, definitely, to take it badly. I know that. And I know that my feelings about it were confused in all kinds of ways. It’s very difficult, if you’re a boy –

Conolly: Did you sexualize it?

Fry: Well – I was about to say, it’s very difficult if you’re a boy and you’ve been abused, and you’re gay. How do you separate the abuse from the being gay? Would I have been gay if I hadn’t been abused? You’re not sure. Or, did my being gay come across as a signal to that boy that made him abuse me, therefore, did I bring it on myself? All those issues.

Conolly: It has nothing to do with your being gay.

Fry: I’m aware of that. But all I’m saying is that, naturally, they might become connected –

Conolly: Indeed.

Fry: in one’s mind, and they need a lot of separating out. But all I know is that the thing that emotionally, really knocks me up are things like my inability to let go, my sense of physical awkwardness, inelegance, lack of dance, lack of joining-in-ness that I had. This awkwardness, –

Conolly: Well, that in itself was traumatic for you.

Fry: Those were the things that were traumatic for me.

Conolly: Yes, indeed.