Hebephilia, the “measurable penile response”, and psychological damage in children

Jan 18 2012 Published by under Neuroscience, Synaptic Misfires

Since I first saw a post by Jesse Bering, responding to a question by a “Deep Thinking Hebephile”, I have wished to write a response of my own, covering more of the literature on the subject, and clarifying some points. It’s taken a while to gather my sources. For starters, I do not think that Jesse intended to, explicitly or implicitly, condone hebephilia. But this is where taking risks in scientific writing can lead to unintended consequences, and where choosing the wrong words, failing to adequately define the right ones, and mixing it all up with a lack of context and a paucity of references can produce a very unfortunate result. So I’d like to tackle this issue a little bit myself, from all the angles that were questioned in the original piece, with a few more sources, and a lot more context. This topic dovetails quite nicely with my upcoming Science Online discussion section with Kate Clancy, on writing about sex, and the line between education and titillation.

To begin: I do NOT in any way condone the practice of hebephilia (sexual activity between adults and children, in this case girls, at puberty, ages 11-14). I feel very strong disgust and aversion regarding this topic personally, but I also think there are sound medical reasons WHY we should feel that disgust, and place a taboo against this practice. What I’m going to cover is the medical and psychological issues associated, in particular the harm done to young girls by adult sexual abuse, and the concept and issues of “the measurable penile response”.

The original letter:

Dear Jesse,
I am a non-practicing heterosexual hebephile—and I think most men are—and find living in this society particularly difficult given puritanical, feminist, and parental forces against the normal male sex drive. If sex is generally good for both the body and the brain, then how is a teen having sex with an adult (versus another teen) bad for their mind? I feel like the psychological arguments surrounding the present age of consent laws need to be challenged. My focus is on consensual activity being considered always harmful in the first place. Since the legal notions of consent are based on findings from the soft sciences, shouldn’t we be a little more careful about ruining an adult life in these cases?

—Deep-thinking Hebephile

I think it’s clear that this letter comes with a large dose of bias (if the “...feminist, and parental forces against the normal male sex drive” aren’t enough of a clue). But we’ll take this point by point:

“I am a non-practicing heterosexual hebephile—and I think most men are—”

As Bering himself noted (though I think it was not strong enough, and I think Stephanie Zvan made a better point of this), wishing that most men are like you does not make them so. Most heterosexual men are not hebephiles, and do not explicitly demonstrate a preference for girls ages 11-14. The vast majority of hetereosexual men are attracted to women older than that, with an age range of late teens and early twenties to women of their own age. The original study which characterized the definition of a “hebephile” was a study by Blanchard et al, 2009, doing a study of measurable penile response in a group of convicted sex offenders. The results of the study with regard to hetereosexual men are below.

You can clearly see that the vast majority of sex offenders studied preferred adult women older than 17 years of age. The concept of “hebephile” extended only to a total of 10% of those studied. Keep in mind, of course, that these are specifically convicted sex offenders who were studied, and the percentage in the general population is probably substantially different (and I would guess lower) than that shown here. Indeed, a study in 214 control men known to be primarily attracted to females showed measurable penile response decreasing steadily as age decreased (Lykins, 2010). All penile reactions to naked bodies were larger than those in response to nature scenes, but by far the biggest response was to adult women, and preference decreased drastically when presented with very young girls. It is clear that pedophilia and hebephilia are very much in the minority.

The "Measurable penile response"

I would also like to take a moment to clarify the idea of ‘measurable penile response”, and the idea of “natural”. When you spend a lot of time in one particular field of study (in this case, psychology), phrases and words like these can lose one context (the one used by wider society), and gain another (used by the specialty).

First, to have a ‘measurable penile response’ is NOT to immediately have to hump the nearest item eliciting the response. It is quite clear that the human brain is much stronger than “a measurable penile response” elicited in the laboratory, and a person’s actions in the wider environment are going to take into account not just whether a person is physically developed (which presumably elicits the penile response), but other things, such as the child’s probable age and the person’s relationship with that child. While some men may have a “measurable penile response” to any female that is close to physically developed, they are not attracted to children. The fact that the person in question is a child will negate any motion toward a “measurable penile response” that is elicited in the lab by looking at naked pictures of kids.

Secondly, I would like to spend a moment on the idea of ‘natural’ in evolutionary psychology, as opposed to in the world at large. When evolutionary psychologists speak of something that is ‘natural’, it is a term that does not have a value judgement associated with it. Something is natural because it EXISTS in the human behavioral spectrum. In the wider world, however, the idea of “natural’ has a great deal more to it. We connect it with positivity, things that are “natural” are supposed to be ‘good’ or ‘useful’. This is why we have Whole Foods stores, they take advantage of our current belief that something ‘natural’ must be good. But just because something is ‘natural’ does not in fact mean that it is good. There are natural poisons, natural diseases, and there are natural behavioral responses which are not in any way positive. Wanting to kill someone for some reason may be natural, but I do not think the vast majority of people would condone the impulse as good. So just because a “measurable penile response” is “natural” does not mean it is good, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it is ok to act upon that impulse. As Bering himself stated very well:

let me make it perfectly clear that a biologically based arousal to pubescent or post-pubescent females (or males) is not academically informed license to engage in illegal, harmful, or otherwise inappropriate sexual relationships with them.

“If sex is generally good for both the body and the brain, then how is a teen having sex with an adult (versus another teen) bad for their mind?”

The letter writer is making a couple of assumptions here which are not based on evidence. First off, sex is not necessarily good for the body and the brain in all cases. And sex between a young teenager and an older male is particularly fraught, for a variety of reasons.

We all know that sex, while pleasurable and useful for many things when performed between consenting adults, can be risky. To begin with, there are risks associated with pregnancy in women, which are important in all ages but particularly problematic in young adolescents, including premature labor and delivery, anemia, hypertension, and problems with the infant including low birth weight (both due to premature delivery and intrauterine growth restriction, where the the uterus and body cavity cannot expand enough to allow for growth of the fetus), and increased morbidity and mortality in the first year. The are only the immediate physical risks, there are a large number of studies showing that early sexual activity in girls increases risk for STDs, substance abuse, intimate partner violence and risky sexual activity such as decreased condom use. There is even increased risk for health problems including pulmonary, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, etc, etc. In Bering’s original response, he cited Browning, 1997 showing no association between childhood sexual activity and adverse outcomes in adulthood, but this finding is overshadowed by a large number of citations showing otherwise. And not just girls are at risk, men sexually abused as boys also have similar adverse health outcomes with regard to STDs, substance abuse, and risky sexual activity. Kate Clancy will be covering this aspect extensively in her post on the topic.

And this does not even begin to cover the psychological effects. It would be impossible in our society to have relationship between an older man and a young girl without a significant power imbalance. This exists even when a girl is having a relationship with a man only two years her senior, and the power differential associated with a fully grown male is truly vast. Adolescence is a very sensitive neurological time period, and there are many studies showing that victimization of men and women in adolescence is a risk factor for psychiatric problems in adulthood, including increased risk of suicide.

Finally, yes, older men did, and do, marry or have sexual relationships with extremely young girls in other countries and societies. But it should also be noted that, in those countries and time periods where this kind of relationship is acceptable, it is acceptable because women and girls in those time periods and societies have few to no rights or personal agency, increasing the power differential and creating many situations of untold suffering.

Thus, while there may be exceptions, it is obvious that in the majority of cases, there is a high risk of negative outcome associated with girls in young adolescence having sexual relations with adult men. there is no need to re-evaluation, the existing data are extremely strong and show negative physical and psychological outcomes. While Bering conveyed this strongly in his addendum to his original post, in the original post, there was a confusion of terms and a few references only for examples, resulting in outcries on several levels. So I want to highlight the extreme care that is necessary in talking about risky topics such as this one. It is important to define your terms in the scientific context as well as the context of wider society, and acknowledge where these differ. It is important to find a large number of references to determine the scientific consensus on the issue. And it is extremely important, as Janet Stemwedel notes, to draw a line between the display of certain opinions and studies, and moral justification. And in this case, there is no doubt. A measurable penile response, and a “natural” attraction, does not a healthy relationship make.

Acknowledgements:
I am very thankful to Dr. Kate Clancy and Dr. Janet Stemwedel, who provided me with a lot of discussion and helped me to outline this article, and particularly thankful to Stephanie Zvan, who’s original posts on this topic helped me begin my own source hunting and who provided excellent evidence and scholarship.

References:
Rind, B. (2003). Adolescent Sexual Experiences with Adults Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 15 (1), 5-22 DOI: 10.1300/J056v15n01_02

Blanchard R, & Barbaree HE (2005). The strength of sexual arousal as a function of the age of the sex offender: comparisons among pedophiles, hebephiles, and teleiophiles. Sexual abuse : a journal of research and treatment, 17 (4), 441-56 PMID: 16341604

Blanchard R, Kuban ME, Blak T, Klassen PE, Dickey R, & Cantor JM (2010). Sexual Attraction to Others: A Comparison of Two Models of Alloerotic Responding in Men. Archives of sexual behavior PMID: 20848175

Malamitsi-Puchner A, & Boutsikou T (2006). Adolescent pregnancy and perinatal outcome. Pediatric endocrinology reviews : PER, 3 Suppl 1, 170-1 PMID: 16641854

Santhya KG (2011). Early marriage and sexual and reproductive health vulnerabilities of young women: a synthesis of recent evidence from developing countries. Current opinion in obstetrics & gynecology, 23 (5), 334-9 PMID: 21836504

Lykins, A., Cantor, J., Kuban, M., Blak, T., Dickey, R., Klassen, P., & Blanchard, R. (2010). Sexual Arousal to Female Children in Gynephilic Men Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 22 (3), 279-289 DOI: 10.1177/1079063210372141

DiCLEMENTE, R., WINGOOD, G., CROSBY, R., SIONEAN, C., COBB, B., HARRINGTON, K., DAVIES, S., HOOK, E., & OH, M. (2002). Sexual Risk Behaviors Associated With Having Older Sex Partners Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 29 (1), 20-24 DOI: 10.1097/00007435-200201000-00004

Springs FE, & Friedrich WN (1992). Health risk behaviors and medical sequelae of childhood sexual abuse. Mayo Clinic proceedings. Mayo Clinic, 67 (6), 527-32 PMID: 1434879

Senn, T., Carey, M., Vanable, P., Coury-Doniger, P., & Urban, M. (2006). Childhood sexual abuse and sexual risk behavior among men and women attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74 (4), 720-731 DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.4.720

Lechner ME, Vogel ME, Garcia-Shelton LM, Leichter JL, & Steibel KR (1993). Self-reported medical problems of adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Journal of family practice, 36 (6), 633-8 PMID: 8505606

Browning, C., & Laumann, E. (1997). Sexual Contact between Children and Adults: A Life Course Perspective American Sociological Review, 62 (4) DOI: 10.2307/2657425

Bartholow BN, Doll LS, Joy D, Douglas JM Jr, Bolan G, Harrison JS, Moss PM, & McKirnan D (1994). Emotional, behavioral, and HIV risks associated with sexual abuse among adult homosexual and bisexual men. Child abuse & neglect, 18 (9), 747-61 PMID: 8000905

Senn, T., Carey, M., & Vanable, P. (2008). Childhood and adolescent sexual abuse and subsequent sexual risk behavior: Evidence from controlled studies, methodological critique, and suggestions for research Clinical Psychology Review, 28 (5), 711-735 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2007.10.002

Steinberg L (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. Trends in cognitive sciences, 9 (2), 69-74 PMID: 15668099

Gershon A, Minor K, & Hayward C (2008). Gender, victimization, and psychiatric outcomes. Psychological medicine, 38 (10), 1377-91 PMID: 18387212

Molnar BE, Berkman LF, & Buka SL (2001). Psychopathology, childhood sexual abuse and other childhood adversities: relative links to subsequent suicidal behaviour in the US. Psychological medicine, 31 (6), 965-77 PMID: 11513382

118 responses so far

  • Shana Rowan says:

    Very interesting article. I was a bit surprised that hebephilia's existence and even prevalence over the last several thousands of years was essentially brushed over. I think it warrants more examination than the simple notion that those times were oppressive to women. That is only one aspect of previous societies, not enough to use as an argument against the idea of hebephilia.

    Young teenage girls marrying and bearing children with older men is not something that has only occurred in foreign countries and aboriginal tribes. In fact, it was commonplace in the US up until the last 50 to 60 years. Even today, in the state of Texas, a 14 year old girl is legally able to marry (60 of them did so in 2010). I don't intend to condone hebephilia altogether, but why are we pretending that all teenage girls mature at the exact same rate and that a certain age (which varies in all 50 states) is some kind of magic switch that automatically makes them "mature"?

    I'm not sure why you would assume that the penile response measured in convicted sex offenders, when shown images of pre-pubescent or pubescent children, would be higher than others not convicted of a sex crime. There are many people in this country committing all types of sexual abuse who simply have never been caught, and not all convicted sex offenders have committed crimes having anything to do with children. I believe you would be interested in a study by Thomas K. Zander, Psy.D., J.D. of Marquette University Law School, where a sample of men who had never been convicted of sex crimes or shown any interest whatsoever in children were shown photographs of pubescent and pre-pubescent children. The measurable penile response was upwards of 50%.

    • scicurious says:

      Of course the measurable penile response to a pubescent or fully developed body will be significant. But my point in this post is that there is a large difference between "measurable penile response" and the actions that result in practiced hebephilia. I think it is clear that, while there may be a "measurable penile response", the vast majority of men are not attracted to a girl that is clearly a child.

      I also do not think that young girls marrying under the age of 14 was "commonplace" by any percentage up to 50 years ago in the US. Historical records indicate that the vast majority of women in the UK married over 15, even as far back as the Middle Ages, and that the rest of Europe was relatively similar, and this would inform the majority of practices in the US. I would need to see a citation. I would also need to see a citation noting the "prevalence" of hebephilia. And even if there were full prevalence of the practice, that does not make it ok NOW, when we are well aware of the negative effects physically and psychologically.

      While I agree that people mature at different ages, and that some girls at age 14 or lower may be fine in a relationship with a much older person, the data is clear that the majority of girls of this age, and the majority of relationships with older men at this age, are unhealthy. If we have a lot of data that heroin causes addiction in a large number of cases, should we condone its use because a small number of people will be fine after using? It is in the interest of society to protect children from the possibility of severe harm, and while a girl who may mature quickly and prefer older men can easily enter a satisfactory relationship once she is of age, and an older man who prefers extremely young girls can satisfy himself sexually without a relationship, a girl who is harmed by such a relationship is harmed irreversibly, and the large number of potential effects is potent reasoning to avoid such relationships.

      • Dev says:

        I agree: the basic penile response would be a measurement of a physiological status (happens during sleep or not?) , but the behavior is more the result of conditioning and reasoning, which are part of the awake and functional time, and the nurture or environmental effect must be necessary for the long term favorable outcome.

        I think environmental influences at sensitive stages of development would result in fixation of a behavior in any gender status. And females instinctively know this because of the reproductive role.

        I say that 'the social warfare', as a result of extreme competition for viable resources, would yield accumulation of extreme and detrimental behaviors. So that the idea of multiplying 'your genes' at any cost is more of a stress or 'maladaptive' response. A transposition of manhood thoughts in the standard male psychology? the wrong connection of dots?

  • Paul Winkler says:

    I think the concept of "irreversible" harm in many cases, as referred to by Scicurious, needs to be particularly emphasized. These harmful effects are so difficult to manage, and appear to me to be rooted in a permanent loss of self-esteem, that society's revulsion at paedophilia and hebephilia is warranted.

  • brooksphd says:

    To add to Sci's reply - while there are documented cases of very young girls marrying (read - being forced to marry), the law of the land and the law of church stated explicitly that these children were indeed children and the marriage had to be non-consensual until the child reached the age of consent (15 - 16 years old). And this still in no way justifies an abhorrent practice.

    • scicurious says:

      I think you mean "non-consummated"? :) But yes, usually couples that married very young in the Middle Ages (where I have the most knowledge) usually were not allowed to cohabit until the bride was at least 15.

  • KateClancy says:

    Great post, Sci! I'm glad we did more tag-teaming on this :).

  • Geoff Rhodes says:

    1) The part where you mention consequences-- pregancy, std's etc- seems off-topic because these can be both prevented (and when it comes to lawmaking, used as the basis for punishment). Essentially, don't you think the idea of isolating the pros v cons of sex w/out consequences is possible these days?

    2) Also, note that we don't have a problem with women over the age of 35-45 having sex where problematic risks/consequences are known to increase substantially w/ pregnancy. Goes to logical consistency.

    3) I think the guy intends to question to the 'soft scientific' basis for the presumed 'power imbalance' and self-esteem issues

    • scicurious says:

      1) The issue is whether or not hebephilia is a behavior that is adaptive means the idea of pregnancy is not off topic. If hebephilia were to be adaptive, young girls would have to reproduce, the dangers of pregnancy are important here.

      And I do not think it's ever really possible to separate the pros vs cons of sex from the consequences.

      2) I don't have a problem with women 35-45 having sex because they are old enough to exhibit a sense of agency and control over their own sex lives. They are fully capable of handling the risks. Young girls in our society are not.

      3) I realize that he intends to question the "soft science" but the findings are clear and highly replicable.

      • Geoff Rhodes says:

        No, you fail. Why avoid addressing preventative measures available to counter the dangers of pregnancy that level the playing field here?

        So, perhaps think of it this way: birth control measures from condoms to abortion make this use case less risky than allowing older women to have sex (the risks/consequences to the baby are greater in health terms). Your blanket statement about mature women is interesting because: 1) It is a generalization that behavioural economics shows us otherwise: humans are not as rational when in a state of arousal (see: Predictably Irrational by D. Ariely), 2) It supports the notion that adult partners for teens would be better than other teens.

        Finally, we can punish the male adult should a pregnancy occur- perhaps a fine equal to the cost of the pregnancy.

        • Geoff Rhodes says:

          *sorry, that's "as risky" not less risky in the teen & adult risk re potential pregnancy

        • scicurious says:

          I do think that contraceptive measures are always good things to discuss, but they weren't the focus of my post here.

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            right- good to know. so back to the point about women past a certain age (i chose an arbitrary range I once saw some disturbing medical stats on):

            Your generalization about how great older women are is really unsatisfactory in dismissing the point when it is spot on when talking about what is adapative in this context. And then note the point I made about irrational behavior when in a state of arousal. Would you care to revisit to address it more deeply?

            Since pregnancy is diseased state for all females and with 7 billion people on the planet, should we reconsider what it means to be responsible w/ our reproductive capabilities?

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            A little hard to read up there because I'm on the road.. i think you can make out my meaning

        • Raging Bee says:

          So, perhaps think of it this way: birth control measures from condoms to abortion make this use case less risky than allowing older women to have sex...

          That's a riciculously minor point compared to the much larger picture of the physical and psychological harm done to early-teens by sexual relationships with "adult" men.

          Finally, we can punish the male adult should a pregnancy occur- perhaps a fine equal to the cost of the pregnancy.

          Yeah, let's just wait until the damage (a good bit of it irreparable) is done, then charge the guy a fine to pay the immediate medical bills. Way to show your concern for the welfare of teenagers, moron.

      • Geoff Rhodes says:

        By the way, I do cede the point about whats on topic in this post-- strictly in terms of what is adaptive, pregancy is certainly relevant

    • SayWhat says:

      So Geoff, how exactly do you propose preventing pubic lice, HPV (wart and cancer causing strains) and herpes?

      Condoms do not prevent STIs that are transmitted via skin contact, only those contained in fluid. The three I mentioned, plus others, range from annoying, to agonising, to deadly. One is curable, one can be permanent, the other is permanently alive in the nerves, with painful recurring outbreaks. Why would you want them inflicted on anyone, let alone children?

  • sean says:

    "I feel very strong disgust and aversion regarding this topic personally, but I also think there are sound medical reasons WHY we should feel that disgust, and place a taboo against this practice."

    disgust being a highly relative emotion, culturally mediated in almost evrey instance (witness the young child's ability to play with it's own faeces without disgust)

    medical reasons being questions of empirical fact

    taboos being moral injunctions..

    you're on very thn ice here in philosophical terms, i'm sorry to say.

    • scicurious says:

      How do my personal feelings on a topic make me unable to look at it from a scientific angle? Should I not research drugs of abuse because I feel them to be harmful? I think that feelings on a subject should not prevent your ability to look at the evidence and adjust your feelings accordingly.

    • Raging Bee says:

      She's not arguing philosophy, you stupid wanker, she's arguing medical facts.

      And no, just because some kids play with their own shit does NOT mean Sci's arguments are weak. (How pravalent is that, anyway? I don't remember even ONE kid in my generation playing with his/her excrement. Don't most babies CRY when they wet their diapers?)

  • ChrisLyte says:

    An important piece that is always left out of these discussions is the unique phase adolescent brains are in during puberty and adolescence. They are *extremely* plastic, and set up to wire to sexual cues with particular ease. Not only that, by adulthood, their brains prune unused circuitry. So it matters a lot what sexual behavior youngsters engage in - whether they "willingly" participate or not.

    If an adult with his own motives interferes with a teen's normal sexual development by providing age-inappropriate sexual stimulation, he may alter that kid's sexuality for life. That seems a high price to pay for a few early jollies - or for an adult's sexual pleasure. This potential for molding young brains is why "sex isn't always healthy." Please see "Why Shouldn’t Johnny Watch Porn If He Likes?" http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201110/why-shouldn-t-johnny-watch-porn-if-he-likes

  • Geoff Rhodes says:

    Okay, read the link "Please see "Why Shouldn’t Johnny Watch Porn If He Likes?" and found it informative and well-put-together. For addiction and addiction to internet porn. Not that it will change my opinion that porn is not going away and shouldn't be regulated out of existence.

    But that doesnt support your statement arbitrarily condemning adults rather than teens that go after consentual sex with other teens.

    • ChrisLyte says:

      Are you saying that the same brain plasticity that makes teens more susceptible to addiction wouldn't make them more susceptible to seduction by an adult with age-inappropriate sexual behavior?

      • Geoff Rhodes says:

        Actually I was pointing out the logical inconsistency (and 'hypocriticality') when it comes to the concept of consent (and its removal). Teens are able/permitted to consent to other teens, but then if the partner is an adult, the teen is thought by many to have no ability to consent. To my mind, you can't have it both ways: either we ban all teen sex or we decide not to infringe on reproductive rights.

        But you raise more support for this because brain plasticity is there regardless of the age of the partner.

        I was also pointing out that the supporting arguments for harm due to sex failed for the reasons given above.

        • ChrisLyte says:

          Actually, kids can and do harm themselves due to some of their extreme sexual behavior with their peers while their brains are very plastic, and it would generally be better for them not to rush their fences. Good luck banning their activities. But why is it unreasonable to hold adults to a higher standard of self-control?

          Your assumption that because peer-to-peer sex meets with less outrage than adult-teen sex, society is being hypocritical to "infringe on adult-teen reproductive rights" is silly. A teen can no doubt accept a betrayal of trust by an equally boneheaded peer with less trauma, brain rewiring and future harm than a betrayal of trust by an adult.

          And of course there are issues with consent. In this regard, here are the words of a psychology professor I respect:

          It seems problematic to me for the “sexual desirer”—in this case, the adults who desire sexual contact with children—to be the agents who decides what is “appropriate” and “inappropriate” contact, and who is a “willing” or “unwilling” participant in such contact (and I don’t believe that a child can be a “willing” participant in the same moral, ethical, cognitive sense as an adult can be). There is just too much motivation for the “desirer” to misperceive and misjudge the situation, in my mind.

          [Moreover] negative consequence can be broader than the obvious ones most people think of, such as depression, sexual maladjustment, poor self-esteem, etc.)

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            Thanks for your opinion on the matter- it is honest and direct.

            However, it is silly. to infringe on reproductive rights in my world- and you are the dolt who would think it trivial.

            The only thing that lets you get away with it is the stupid mishandling of the word 'child'; teens aren't children- and the critical difference in this context is lost so you can use the term silly.

            But you most certainly can keep trying to learn how to think & argue- I hope you improve.

          • KateClancy says:

            Actually, I think ChrisLyte is one of the more thoughtful, evidence-based commenters in this whole thread.

        • Raging Bee says:

          Teens are able/permitted to consent to other teens...

          Actually, no, adults generaly do NOT permit teens to "consent" to other teens. Are you TRYING to make yourself look stupid?

        • Stephanie Z says:

          The use of the term "reproductive rights" in this context is both ridiculous and appalling. Reproductive rights are the rights of couples and individuals to choose when to have children and when not to. They have nothing to do with any hypothetical "right" of adults to make sexual decisions that benefit them at the expense of pubescent children.

          What the phrase does do, however, is identify you as the sock-puppeting commenter who was banned from my blog, but not before being presented with significant evidence of harm in these types of relationships.

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            "Reproductive rights are the rights of..."

            I'm glad we have the authoritative source on the scope and definition of this in our midst

  • sean says:

    ChrisLyte: "So.."

    i'm sorry, don't see where this this word is justified in your context.

    also, Marnia Robinson's theories on pornography addiction don't reflect any orthodox psychological view.

    also, changes in the brain from childhood to adulthood are from adaptive plasticity to optimized specialization, not from cognitive incompetence to competence. the trend to reading social and functional values into these changes is really ideologically inspired.

    what we are being told is that the alert, curious, passionate young person's brains is but a pale sketch of what it will become: a glorious, fully fledged 'Sun' reading, lager sucking, chain smoking adult's brain. very convincing.

  • ChrisLyte says:

    I think you've misread the post, whoever wrote it. There are definitely skills that teen brains lack, and evolutionary reasons for them. Being adults won't prevent them from doing stupid stuff, but that's no reason to allow adults to overstimulate them sexually before their executive control is on line and their sensitivity to reward somewhat muted. We all have to weigh these two brain functions, but in the case of teens, a foot is holding down the "reward" side of the scale.

  • sean says:

    ChrisLyte: "evolutionary reasons for them"

    in the eea, people barely lived past their 20's. are you saying humans have evolved to function best after death?

    • larrymike says:

      Could you cite some research that shows our ancestors suddenly died before age 30? Complete nonsense. Childhood mortality, and death by infection/injury may have lowered the average life expectancy, this says nothing about the many that lived to ripe old age. If no one lived beyond 30, menopause could not have evolved.

      • sean says:

        larrymike: "Could you cite some research"

        sorry don't have much time right now. how about this?

        "Life expectancy was typically 30 years or less, often much less."
        http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_5.htm

        the nonsense is that the rising generation is belittled and infantilized by an older generation threatened by their vigour.

        • larrymike says:

          Sean, have you ever taken a statistics class? Life expectancy is based on averages.

          Your statement is that early Homo sapiens could not have lived past 30 - which is nonsense.

          According to your citation: "sharp rise in the number of people who were over 30 years old" clearly indicates that individuals existed who were above 30.

          Homo sapiens left Africa 60-125,000 years ago to migrate to differing regions. Your logic claims that each and every one of these divergent population groups separately evolved the exact same genes for life expectancy. Yeah, that happened.

          You still haven’t answered - How could menopause, a uniquely human trait, evolved if no one live past 30?

          Yuo need to read a real study: http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf

          • sean says:

            "Your statement is that early Homo sapiens could not have lived past 30"

            no it isn't. i said that if the human brain has evolved to reach it's peak function at 30, it is best adapted to life after death.

            like any learning algorithm, evolution is an entropy reducing process. statistics are implicit in any evolutionary explanation.

          • scicurious says:

            Exactly. Also, even when a human only lived until 30, waiting to reproduce until 16-17 (though this varies by energy expenditure) or so (the age on onset of menses in for forager populations) gives a lengthy period of time for reproduction without having to resort to subfecund reproductive strategies which are harmful physically to both the potential mother and child.

          • sean says:

            so a great grandmother of 36 lives on despite her menopause. where's the mystery?

        • ChrisLyte says:

          "the nonsense is that the rising generation is belittled and infantilized by an older generation threatened by their vigour."

          I expect that every generation persuades itself that this is the case, but this generation of young adults appears to be the least justified in this belief, given the many forums on which young men are reporting porn-related sexual dysfunction. Start with this one: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Mens-Health/Too-much-porn-masturbation-cause-ED/show/183203 (1500 comments and growing)

    • KateClancy says:

      ORLY? Maybe you are conflating life span and life expectancy? Because this is patently false. A significant percentage of people made it to their seventies and eighties in the EEA. We have fossil evidence that people made it well into adulthood, and evidence from modern foragers that that lifestyle still contributes to plenty of folks making it to old age.

      • sean says:

        plenty, but very far from the majority.

      • sean says:

        "seventies and eighties"

        not a chance.

        • Dustin says:

          You do realize that averages are not modes, correct?

        • Stephanie Z says:

          Chance has got nothing to do with it. You're being given anthropological data by an anthropologist, data that you can confirm for yourself with a wee bit of research. Your response? "Not a chance." Sheer personal incredulity.

          • sean says:

            yes, Gurven & Kaplan's paper is really interesting. thx to whoever posted that, i have to say i was surprised by it's results!

            one clue i've used intuitively to estimate human lifespan in prehistory is the contrast between modal lifespans of wild and domestic animals, especially the chimpanzee (15 vs 42 yrs in table 4 of G&K).

            it is difficult to estimate the level of culture that pertained over the bulk of the 2 million years of our evolution, but it's reasonable to assume that much of it took place in the absence of anything like the technical facility of modern hunter gatherer societies.

            i stand corrected regarding menopause, but i maintain my skepticism regarding optimal timing of reproductive function and cognition being much beyond the early teens in the human animal.

            whatever, my key criticism of this blof is it's abuse of the naturalistic fallacy: in particular that there are medical reasons for disgust and that these form the basis of an ethical argument.

          • Stephanie Z says:

            Time to read up on the naturalistic fallacy, sean. It's the idea that because something happens naturally, it is good ethically. This is what DTH argued by suggesting his response was a part of natural male sexuality.

            What you're arguing is that we shouldn't say or feel something is bad because it has negative consequences. That isn't the naturalistic fallacy. It's simply absurd.

          • sean says:

            Stephanie: "Time to read up on the naturalistic fallacy, sean. It's the idea that because something happens naturally, it is good ethically. This is what DTH argued by suggesting his response was a part of natural male sexuality.
            What you're arguing is that we shouldn't say or feel something is bad because it has negative consequences. That isn't the naturalistic fallacy. It's simply absurd."

            you're quite right here. i stand corrected.

            i'm trying to convey something in the sense of a criticism of consequentialist arguments against sexual contact between children and adults.

            i fully accept that such contacts can have bad outcomes, and that precocious sexual debut can be harmful, but i dispute that these harms are universally determined, and i strongly dispute that sex play (as opposed to coitus and other kinds of 'real' sex) is typically harmful for children.

            i don't necessarily condone this behaviour. however, i do dispute that any moral conclusion can be drawn from its harmfulness, because the evidence of necessary harm is flimsy at best.

            realising that this blog, unlike Kate Clancy's, does not air the adaptionist critique of adult/child sex, i admit it is to that perspective that i was directing my accusation of naturalism. nevertheless, the conflation of medically inspired disgust with moral imperative that introduces this blog does indeed give grounds to my claim.

            i did not initially post here to annoy people, but i have to confess to some satisfaction in seeing the layers of sober rationalism peel away to expose a passionate belief system.

            perhaps we need this belief system. perhaps children cannot be safe without it. but is this to be the tenor of all discussion of adult sexual interest in children, that departure from the orthodoxy will not only not be tolerated, but will be 'demonized' (Jason Thibeault).

            if that has ever been the most productive way to solve problems then i stand corrected. i would have hoped for something more from a science blog

          • scicurious says:

            So you're trying to " convey something in the sense of a criticism of consequentialist arguments against sexual contact between children and adults. "

            But at the same time, you admit that these contacts can have bad medical and psychological outcomes. Indeed, there are large numbers of citations (many of which I listed above) showing significant psychological harm and long term consequences of this contact. While some people may not have these consequences, I don't think that we should allow sexual contact under the guise that the kid might not be upset.

            You've made some good points and contributed to the discussion, but many of your rationalizations appear to be weak and based on the idea that if some kids aren't harm, maybe we should allow some contact. Harm is impossible to determine a priori, and children in the vast majority of cases are not prepared, educated, or emotionally mature enough to make informed consent with regard to sex with adults, making the possibility of harm high.

            I think that the medical reasons I listed in the post are enough to encourage sanctions against adult/child sexual activity. Even without these medical risks, it is clear that psychological risks are high, prompting further discouragement. While I admit that this is not "disgust", I feel it is a good basis for the social sanctions in place.

            And ah, yes, "i would have hoped for something more from a science blog". I can't say that I'm surprised that this science blog has failed to meet your expectations for discourse. You are welcome to write one of your own if you feel that you can do better. You are, after all, a biologist.

  • claims says:

    No, I didnt read the article, but what I'll say has no relationship to the content of it, but rather to the topic:

    Why so much interest in defending the normality of hebephiles and so little interest in defending the normality of pedophiles? It blows my mind that while pedophiles are far, far way more discriminated and segregated by society, all these "experts" focus on saying how nice hebephiles are in comparison to those "evil pedophiles". "Hebephiles are normal and healthy human beings while the 'pedos' are actually the really bad guys".

    • sean says:

      pedophiles are ok too.

      • scicurious says:

        I will be reporting this comment.

        • sean says:

          what is that supposed to imply? why not just admit to being opposed to free speech and leave it at that?

          • scicurious says:

            With regard to free speech, this is not a street corner and you are not holding a sign. This is my blog which I will moderate as I see fit. And I will send your comments to spam if I do not feel they forward the conversation in a useful manner.

          • I absolutely love the "free speech gambit" used to defend against being told that you've just said something actionable. If you think pedophiles are "just fine", you're free to say so on a crowded street and see what happens. You're free to say it, but there will be repercussions.

            You could also try another experiment -- you could scream that you have a gun and want to kill people randomly while you're in a crowded store, then when people with guns approach you, tell them that you're just exercising freedom of speech. See how well that goes for you.

        • Sterling says:

          Nothing to do with the content of the remark, but a point of information -- I am not so experienced in these forums. If as your later reply indicates, you are the moderator of the blog, then who would you be reporting this to? Wouldn't you either delete it or else perhaps issue a warning? Who is the other entity to which it would be or was reported?

          Thanks.

    • Geoff Rhodes says:

      'claims' --BTW, I love the moniker, but the 'moral play' only works if you make good claims while pointing out the flaws on both sides of the argument

  • KateClancy says:

    If you had read the article, you would notice that Scicurious does not defend the normality of hebephiles. She has an equal moral disdain for them that she has for pedophiles.

  • Sterling says:

    I think Deep Thinking Hebephile was way off base. But if we're going to address his post... Everyone has a curve plotting sexual interest by age, and the more interesting assertion is that most men have a significant attraction to the pubescent age group (not that it is stronger to that group). I think we all agree that a lot of them do.

    Regarding evolutionary arguments: Early teen pregnancies may be risky, but when life as a whole is risky, it may be worth taking those risks sometimes. If during some brief periods of our evolutionary history there was some disease that killed almost everyone at age 16, that would be enough to keep considerable hebephilic attraction alive. I also think you ignore the idea of an enduring pair bond. If a man is picking someone he expects to be with for ten years, then the pubescent could be a better bet than the 30-year-old. And if you (as a man) can satisfy your sex drive with infertile matings for a couple years, it may pay off later.

    Evolution is a sordid, amoral business, and think it rarely tells us much about how we should live today -- though it may tell us something about our impulses. Man-girl sex is wrong and should stay illegal.

    "I feel very strong disgust and aversion regarding this topic personally, but I also think there are sound medical reasons WHY we should feel that disgust, and place a taboo against this practice."

    A sound medical reason for feeling disgust seems like an odd concept. I understand the personal reaction, but to claim science says we ought to feel that way is quite a leap. Sound medical reasons for disallowing the practice I agree with. Now, my response curve to females covers a wide range but is actually strongest around age five or so. But unlike Deep Thinking Hebephile, I am strongly against man-girl sex at any age. But it would be nice if people would limit their disgust to actions and try to lessen it to people based only on thoughts that are beyond their control. From a distance it may look all the same to most of you, but it matters a lot to people like me.

    • sean says:

      well put, Sterling.

      since so much sexual activity between adults and children turns out to be abusive and harmful to the child, i think there are good reasons for its general prohibition.

      that makes attempts to bolster this prohibition with garbled scientistic rationalisms, as in this blog, not only fallacious but also superfluous.

      i agree with Deep Thinking Hebephile's analysis to a point, but like this blog i think he fails to account for the broad condemnation of sexually expressed hebephilia (and paedophilia) as a social fact, and for the effect of this social condemnation on the experience of the younger partner.

      i also agree with your comment that feelings in themselves ought not be subject to moral (or for that matter legal) condemnation. hebephilia and paedophilia are not intrinsically harmful and sexual conduct is not intrinsically harmful, but combine these along with other social factors and the potential for harm is amplified.

      it's cowardly and primitive to single out a group of people to persecute based on their innate sexual orientation. scapegoating is a consequence of superstition and unresolved internal moral conflict and evidence of a simplistic world view.

      it's also bad science and bad philosophy to attempt to use biological concepts to underpin moral intuitions. it contributes nothing to the real discussion, which to date is largely free of dispassionate analysis and emotional honesty. the substantial number of adults who find children sexually attractive need to be included in this discussion and offered a proper hearing, without prejudice. they are the one's who can contribute to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and who choose how they act.

      historically, paedophiles and hebephiles have contributed much of value to the world, including much to the world of children. nothing is black and white and to only see black and white is to live in a world without depth; a world of cardboard cutouts and newspaper headlines.

      • scicurious says:

        I think that we both agree that the general prohibition here is reasonable due to the high risk of harm. I was not attempting to unpin a moral feeling here, but rather to use data to express the risk inherent to these behaviors.

        I further agree with you that attraction is NOT action. I think this is a very key point, we are more than our measurable penile responses (as I tried to state very clearly). I do not want to attempt to go into the morality of this issue, I want to provide the biological data showing the risk and harm in practice, and reasons for its prohibition.

        • sean says:

          "I want to provide the biological data showing the risk and harm in practice"

          fair enough, but i'm inclined to dispute that such data exist. i'd claim that the primary source of harm in consensual adult-juvenile sexual contact is sociogenic. such contacts occur routinely in other species and appear neutral if not adaptive.

          negative effects flow uncontroversially from sexual assault and 'abuse' in the usual sense, and there are risks associated with pregnancy and with infection, but surely these can be ameliorated if the sexual practices in question are limited to, for example, mutual inspection or mutual masturbation. sex 'play' in other words. regardless, those safe behaviours are also punished severely if they occur between adults and children.

          there is also a question of harm related to a confusion of roles. any adult has a nurturing role in any relationship with a child, and that can conflict with an erotic aspect. role confusion seems to be especially harmful in parent child incest. otoh, there is a kind of love that often informs paedagogy that seems to me infinitely preferable to the cold fury of the disciplinarian 'child trainer'.

          crucially, all of this evaluation of 'harms' in an ethical context assumes a consequentialist stance, but is that the most appropriate one to take here? if adult/juvenile sex were shown to be harmless, would it therefore be morally acceptable to everybody?

          altho i'm a great admirer of Hume & co, my position on this question is more Aristotelian than utilitarian. i'm inclined to ask: what kind of person satisfies his sexual appetite through deception and secrecy, ignoring the strongly held beliefs of parents and caregivers regarding the welfare of their own children. what kind of person allows the heat of arousal to blind him to the vulnerability of a very young sexual partner, and to ignore the huge differences between her experience of sex and his own.

          this argument doesn't rule out the possibility of benign sexual experiences between adults and children, but neither does it require such experiences to be harmful, as the consequentialist one does. it simply recognizes that a society that values individual rights, including those of women and children, also takes a strong stand against adults having sexual contact with children. society's position may be an intuitive or it may be a collection of superstitins and old wives tale, but it has a moral weight. seeking sexual contact with children is therefore incompatible with a virtuous life in this moral universe.

          to be sure, a powerful thread of sexual phobia and sexual authoritarianism runs thru the 'child sexual abuse' discourse, and 'paedophile panic' shares much with the child masturbation panics of the 18th and 19th centuries. sexual rehearsal is necessary for healthy sexuality, and children often naturally turn to adults for sexual knowledge, as they do for other kinds of instruction. but children are also uniquely vulnurable to sexual exploitation and many suffer lives of abject misery as the helpless targets of adult sexual bullying. i can think of few things so soul destroying for a child as to become the sexual plaything of an adult, so i can see the need for lines in the sand.

          but this need doesn't excuse the excesses that a united front against child sexual abuse has allowed. paedophiles are not uniquely responsible for child sexual abuse and paedophiles are not evil monsters. many, probably most, treat children with perfect decency and live blameless lives.

          consider this: if a paedophile seeks to work with children (and many do) and if he act appropriatelys with his charges, according to the prevailing moral code, should he then be free to express his private feelings in some way, to someone, without the terrible certainty that it will ruin his life?

          i think so, and as well as making the paedophiles life more bearable, maybe this would reduce his likelihood of acting out harmfully with kids he genuinely cares for and LOVES.

          it's not about 'biology'. the question in discussion here is one of humanity.

          • KateClancy says:

            I appreciate your perspective in a few ways here, sean, I really do. But to say that there is nothing biological going on, no data to discuss, nothing meaningful from an evolutionary standpoint... this is faulty and ignores the evidence-based post Sci wrote.

          • Dustin says:

            "i think so, and as well as making the paedophiles life more bearable, maybe this would reduce his likelihood of acting out harmfully with kids he genuinely cares for and LOVES."

            Completely learned. This is not biological and completely irrelevant. Just because someone has developed a "love" means nothing. I love cars. There is no biological evidence that I should do this and no reason that, because I have developed this, anyone should make my life more bearable.

          • i'm inclined to dispute that such data exist

            *looks up at original post*

            *looks back at you*

            *squints*

            Perhaps you should try clicking some of the links. You'll find the experience edifying.

      • Raging Bee says:

        ...it's cowardly and primitive to single out a group of people to persecute based on their innate sexual orientation.

        We're not singling anyone out for their orientation; we're singling certain people out for acting like selfish assholes by trying to pretend they can get what they want without hurting anyone; and who have gone beyond having certain desires to trying to rationalize and excuse them as more than idle fantasies.

  • Raging Bee says:

    This whole "measureable penile response" thing is pure selfish crap. It doesn't even come close to justifying anyting. Whoever pushes this argument is, quite literally, saying we should all let our dicks do our thinking for us. And even if I let my dick do my thinking, I still get better ideas than those "deep-thinking" pervy asshats.

    As others have pointed out, physical arousal is nowhere near the same as actually wanting to do something or thinking it would be a good idea under any curcumstances. I get turned on by well-endowed 14-year-old girls too, but that doesn't even say anything about my actual desires, let alone my actual interests, their interests, or the alleged evolutionary benefits of knocking teenagers up.

    • scicurious says:

      Exactly. I personally think that reducing men to their "measurable penile response" is actually pretty offensive to men. There's so much more that determines attraction, and more than that that determined action.

      • Raging Bee says:

        Exactly. And what is "measurable" anyway? If my dick moves a millimeter in response to seeing something, that's "measurable." But is it meaningful? And if it moves that much when (for example) I see Hermoine in the first Harry Potter movie, that could be because I have the hots for little girls; or it could just as easily be because I imagined what that girl would look like ten or more years later.

        Seriously, "measurable penile response" doesn't really tell you squat.

        • And if someone's penis responds because you just realized you have electrodes strapped to it and they feel kind of weird, does it mean you had a sexual thought about that lovely pastoral mountain scene you were just shown?

          It's so damn close to a pseudo-random number generator in my mind, that I can't imagine it being useful except to get a vague idea what might or might not appeal to a person, and then after collecting absurd amounts of data. As an indicator that you actually PREFER one thing over another, you'd need, to my mind, a huge dataset.

  • Raging Bee says:

    These "deep thinking hebephiles" kinda remind me of the pervy idiots who stepped up to defend Roman Polanski after he drugged, raped and sodomized a teenaged girl. I doubt that's purely coincidence.

    • sean says:

      perhaps best not to put words in people's mouths.

      Polanski behaved like a pig and his actions were criminal, but that doesn't excuse the public's exculpation of it's own sins through ritual condemnation of his.

      • Raging Bee says:

        Right...the people aren't perfect, therefore it's inexcusable that we condemn Polanski (but perfectly okay for you to do so)? What a juvenile fucking hypocrite!

        I can see why my offhand comment hit a nerve with you.

  • sean says:

    the phenomenon of sexual attraction is complex, the behaviour stemming from it is complex, the data reflecting the attraction and the behaviour is complex and the conclusions are necessarily complex.

    it's not possible to base absolute ethical paradigms on this much complexity.

    Kate, thanks for your comment. also, i've never said there isn't anything biological going on. i'm a biologist.

    i'm disputing the science that's being reported as fact (Marnia Robinson) and (possibly wrongly) disputing age structure in evolutionarily significant human populations.

    my basic point is that one can't argue for or against having sexual contact with children from a biological perspective. it is a philosophical error, not a scientific one. no child has ever been 'biologically' harmed by a genital caress from an adult. so it's ok then?

    • Does psychology count as biological, then? I would have thought so, personally, but you, as a biologist, might think psychology is something else.

      Because we have a lot of data about psychological harm, as well as some data that physical harm can take place as well -- check out the links attributed to Stephanie Zvan.

      • sean says:

        i'm skeptical enough of psychology, but some of it is sound. just not the studies you refer to.

      • sean says:

        it's always amusedme that, as a biologist, i've been subjected to decades of accusations from psychologists that an organic basis of human behaviour is 'reductionist' and 'essentialist' until, suddenly, coincidental with the invention of positron emission tomography, every second psychologist is a brain scientist.

        wow. what a spot of luck for a discipline cornered by shrinking budgets for the humanities.

  • Raging Bee says:

    the phenomenon of sexual attraction is complex, the behaviour stemming from it is complex, the data reflecting the attraction and the behaviour is complex and the conclusions are necessarily complex.

    Therefore...what? It's all too complex for us stupid yokels to set a few sensible rules to help kids stay out of trouble? Like maybe "don't let so-called adults have sex with people under 16 because generally such relationships turn out badly for the younger parties?"

    my basic point is that one can't argue for or against having sexual contact with children from a biological perspective.

    Yes, we can, if biological harm can be demonstrated, and/or if biology can demonstrate that children's minds are not fully formed enough for responsible impulse control. The studies cited appear to have done BOTH; and all you can do is say "i'm disputing the science that's being reported as fact ," without citing any documented facts to back up your dispute.

    And besides, we're not just arguing from biology; we're arguing from psychology, sociology, and lots of documented experience as well.

    it is a philosophical error, not a scientific one.

  • sean says:

    "The are only the immediate physical risks, there are a large number of studies showing that early sexual activity in girls increases risk for STDs, substance abuse, intimate partner violence and risky sexual activity such as decreased condom use. There is even increased risk for health problems including pulmonary, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, etc, etc. "

    and you're quite sure there are no confounding factors in these data?

    • And you think there ARE confounding factors, especially those that would skew data toward harm unfairly in the case of children engaging in sexual relations with adults? Could you kindly provide ANYTHING to back up ANY of your assertions so far in this thread, please and thanks?

      • sean says:

        is delinquency associated with early sexual debut? gosh, seems it is.

        why is that do you think? why would young people rebel by having sex?

        surely not because of anything YOU would say [heavy irony].

        • Stephanie Z says:

          Yes, sean, because increased intimate partner violence in teenagers with older partners is somehow caused by characteristics of the teenagers instead of characteristics of the abusing adult partners. "I had to hit him/her. S/he was delinquent!"

          If you're not stopping to think about what you're saying, you may have gotten too invested in this discussion. You might want to consider backing out before it gets even less graceful.

        • Tell me, sean: who exactly are these young people having sex with, when they're rebelling? When they are delinquents, are they having sex with adults? Or are you using that to say that it's acceptable for adults to have sex with children considered delinquent? How do you define delinquency? And again, do you have ANY proof for ANY of these assertions, or are you simply going to answer questions with more questions and "heavy irony"?

  • sean says:

    "My understanding is that support of pedophilia is an offense reportable to the FBI."

    paedophilia is an affect, not a belief or an act. people who have this affect as a trait are as deserving of respect as anybody.

    of course paedophiles who commit sexual crimes are as deserving of condemnation as any other sex criminal, but child molesting and paedophilia are distinct phenomena. there is a growing literature that argues for greater social acceptance of paedophilia, drawing parallels with gay liberation.

    i guess you either agree with this or disagree, but calling on the state to enforce your view by silencing the argument you don't like is exactly comparable to the state sanctioned persecution of homosexuals last century.

    • Raging Bee says:

      paedophilia is an affect, not a belief or an act. people who have this affect as a trait are as deserving of respect as anybody.

      Sure they are, as long as they ACT RESPECTABLE and don't try to rationalize or excuse their "affect" or dress it up in fake-sciencey lipstick.

      Having desires for teenagers does not make you a threat. But spouting a lot of bogus rationalizations to pretend it's okay to actually get what you desire makes you, at best, a fucking selfish idiot. And selfish idiots do NOT deserve respect.

    • Raging Bee says:

      i guess you either agree with this or disagree, but calling on the state to enforce your view by silencing the argument you don't like is exactly comparable to the state sanctioned persecution of homosexuals last century.

      Who here is calling on the state to enforce any view? The fact that you're still here, posting stupid bullshit with impunity, proves your accusation is bogus.

    • Nobody's demonizing non-practicing pedophiles, sean. What we're demonizing are people who provide apologetics for practicing pedophiles because we know that pedophilia demonstrably harms its victims. Saying "pedophiles are all right" in the sense of "they're fully human beings" is fine. Saying "pedophiles are all right" in the sense of "what they're doing is acceptable" is pretty fucked up.

      • sean says:

        Jason Thibeault: "Nobody's demonizing non-practicing pedophiles, sean. What we're demonizing are people who provide apologetics for practicing pedophiles because we know that pedophilia demonstrably harms its victims. Saying "pedophiles are all right" in the sense of "they're fully human beings" is fine. Saying "pedophiles are all right" in the sense of "what they're doing is acceptable" is pretty fucked up."

        nobody's demonizing non practicing rapists either Jason, so you can rest easy on that score (i'm assuming), but if what paedophiles are doing is not 'practicing', in what sense is defending them fucked up?

        and actually, i don't agree that defending sex offenders is problematic. they are are a broadly scapegoated minority, subject to some of the most draconian laws enacted in modern times. there is a strong case that a 'moral panic' is in force against adult sexual contact with children that is largely insensitive to actual harms and actual criminal intent. if no apology can be made for these defendants, what is the point of a legal system? let's just get on with the lynching.

        and you talk of demonizing apologists being justified. is demonizing anyone justified? i thought justice was blind.

        • sean says:

          Jason: "What we're demonizing are people who provide apologetics for practicing pedophiles because we know that pedophilia demonstrably harms its victims."

          apologies Jason, you did specify 'practicing' and this is an important distinction. i credit you and everybody else here who has made it.

          i think a large part of the disconnect is around the term practice. you use heavily loaded terms like "victims", but the 'practice' of most paedophiles is quite anodyne. some, as i suggested earlier, express there feelings in a manner quite uncontroversially positive, as in teaching or fostering children. many might fantasize about various kinds of intimacy with children, but only a tiny minority would realise such fantasies, or even want to.

          it's time that more care was taken in the characterization of paedophilia.

          my personal position is that child molesting and sexual abuse are always wrong, but that sexual contacts between adults and children are not always contained by these terms. nevertheless, i do believe there is a moral authority derived of social norms, and that ethical conduct relative to these norms does not allow sex acts with children.

          but these are subtle arguments. the 'evidence' is not as conclusive as you make out, and the big bad paedophile is overdetermined as an actor in this drama.

          the only way to resolve the conflict between what seems to be a naturally occuring componet of the human sexual repertiore and the safety of children is to build concensus across the lines, between those who feel differently and those who feel the same.

          it also pays to recognize that many of us were once children ourselves, and may have experienced the world of childhood quite differently to the one publicised by our protectors. i'm not going to provoke you with claims for 'children's rights' but i will comment that severe physical abuse of children in the guise of 'discipline' is routinely ignored, even while entire mechanisms of the state are mobilised against children having experiences that in many cases are experienced as pleasurable and positive.

          it angers some ex-children to be lectured in sexual morality as adults by representatives of the same ideological bastions that persecuted their freedom seeking childhood selves. it's even more insulting to be told that this hectoring is on behalf of 'the children'. my own childhood left me with a profound distrust of adult sexual authoritarianism, and i still feel it. more than that, i was cared for by men whose sentimental regard for boys would be suspect by your reckoning, but who were trusted and loved by me and who provided me with vast resources of time, knowledge, tenderness and care.

          you can't discount experience you don't have, and the more determined your effort to silence reports of this experience, the more it will be spoken of.

          • scicurious says:

            I appreciate a lot of your points here, Sean. But,

            "while entire mechanisms of the state are mobilised against children having experiences that in many cases are experienced as pleasurable and positive."

            Do you have a citation for this? That these experiences are pleasurable and positive? And between say, kids and other kids? Or between kids and adults? And how would you separate out those who might not have been harmed from those who were, and might feel silenced?

          • sean says:

            given the enthusiastic reception given to professionals who challenge sexual abuse dogma [heavy irony] it's surprisingto find research exists that does just this. even more surprising that such research eventually makes it to press.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rind_et_al._controversy
            "Child sexual abuse does not necessarily lead to long-term harm."

            http://www.mhamic.org/rind/
            "Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported.”"

            contemporary Anglophone culture goes to extreme lengths to condemn the erotic experiences of young people, a debilitating and neurotic attitude to sex that is harming young people terribly:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joycelyn_Elders
            "In 1994, she was invited to speak at a United Nations conference on AIDS. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and she replied, "I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught." This remark caused great controversy and resulted in Elders losing the support of the White House. White House chief of staff Leon Panetta remarked, "There have been too many areas where the President does not agree with her views. This is just one too many." [1] Elders was fired by President Clinton as a result of the controversy in December 1994"

            child sexual abuse dogma must be evaluated against this background, but nowehere is this happening other than in libertarian discourses that seek to legitimize [ractices that even i would consider harmful.

            the particulars are everything here. the caricature of the predatory child molestor is stencilled over children's experiences of sex with such exhaustive coverage that alternatives are barely thinkable.

            for an interesting fictional investigation of a mild and harmless sexual contact between an adult and a child generating an extreme and harmful response, you could read "The good mother" by Sue Miller.

          • scicurious says:

            So you're going to throw three links at me, two of which reference the SAME citation (Rind et al) and one of which promotes the teaching of masturbation. Masturbation isn't even up for debate here. Thus far I see one study showing now long term harm, with another study which I myself cited in the post. Against the 20 studies which I also cited, which are merely a selection of the ones I found.

            I'll believe that sometimes a child is not caused long term harm, but the majority of the research shows that long term harm is present psychologically and medically (not just resulting from pregnancy, women sexually abused in childhood are at higher risk for a multitude of medical disorders, as I cited above). If the majority of the research supports long term harm, it would be ridiculous to change the current illegality of sexual contact with minors.

          • sean says:

            try reading the bibliography of this book for the references you seek.
            http://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Myth-Sexual-Children-Aftermath/dp/046501688X
            Clancy is not saying that adult/child sex can be morally acceptible, so her conclusions are faulty given her assumptions, but the research she cites is extensive, sound and up to date.

            the point i'm making in the previous post is that the doctrine of necessary harm does not persist because the evidence supports it, but because it is a doctrine.

            the reason the doctrine is a keystone is because (along with Kantian deontological universalism) consequentiaal;ist ethics have come to dominate contemporary western moral thought. according to this view, if something is harmless, it cannot be wrong, hence the doctrine's primacy in CSA dogma.

            i'm not exactly against this approach, but as i said earlier, an Aristotelian argument is a closer reflection of the intuitive ethics behind the prohibition of adult child sex, and does not require factual distortions (the doctrine of necessary harm) to maintain it's authority.

            also note that i am not claiming that child sexual abuse is harmless, i'm claiming that not all sexual contact with children is harmful. if all child sexual abuse is harmful (a reasonable proposition) then not all sexual contact with children is child sexual abuse.

            if you say that satement is wrong even when some sexual contact with children can be shown to be harmless, then you are claiming sexual contact with children is intrinsically wrong, not consequentially wrong.

            that's ok, but you need to be clear about it and not write a blog that uses harm to support your moral claim.

  • Geoff Rhodes says:

    @Raging: why (repeatedly) make the point about being selfish? it shows ignorance in a social scientific discussion- especially when you're all amped & quixotic about a topic. I dont see your points as bringing anything new to this topic..honestly, do you?

    @Jason: your last statement in response to Sean is guilty of the same point made in the first sentence. No one that I can see is defending what you're demonizing...

    • No Geoff, the last sentence in my response to sean is an example of what I explained in my second sentence, not my first.

      Reading comprehension. It is your friend. Do not shy away from it. It will help you to understand people's points when you employ it on text-based services.

      • Geoff Rhodes says:

        @Jason: perhaps that was unclear: your second, third and fourth sentences are guilty of what the problem you say in your first sentence.

        Your counter should have included a quote (aka evidence) from someone who is saying what you are demonizing- namely condoning pedo behavior.

        Rules of evidence are your friend, douche

        • So you think that there's no difference between a non-practicing pedophile and a practicing pedophile? Between someone who merely has inclinations toward underaged lust objects, and someone who actually acts upon those inclinations?

          Yeah. I can't show you evidence for what you've imagined.

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            No, I'm saying you are guilty of the quixotic hysteria often found in debates about this topic

          • "Hysteria"? Hilarious. It's like a verbal tic, isn't it?

            I guess all those twenty-odd citations in Sci's original post are also guilty of "quixotic hysteria".

          • Geoff Rhodes says:

            I ddint say that the quotes were hysteria-- but they are being used to push it... especially the ones that do not support the topic

        • sean says:

          what's a 'citation' when it's at home? is something automatically true because it can be cited then? wow, didn't realise that.

    • Raging Bee says:

      No, Geoff, I'm not "bringing anything new" to this topic; I'm stating facts and reason that's been well-established for YEARS, not making shit up. And you know you can't refute any of it, which is why you're falling back on that tired old "you're not saying anything new" dodge.

      • Geoff Rhodes says:

        @Raging Bee: no, you've not supported with mostly facts and reason- you've appealed to emotion and authority (or historical precedence). That works for lawyers (sometimes), but not so in debate, idiot

  • Wolfy says:

    That moment where im 16y (m) old now and im in a -mutual love- relationship with a 28y old (m). We accidently met one day and it started evolving ^^ aah it was such a sweet story, BUT society is not so keen on these topics.

    I still think all this chronophilia-talk is so overrated... you cant label one person with what the 'bigger group' does.. soo what if most teens these days are dumb? that doesnt mean i cant have a relationship like this.. Grow/improve your brains then..

    ''Oo the young are so frail and vulrenable'', i call it, bs.

    And you could NEVER label the situation im in as ''child abuse'' or ''rape'', whatever they do these days if one person is just a little bit under 18.. since its WRONG. Who ever gave them the right to tell me what to do??

  • Thanks for this work and article.

  • Jedah says:

    I think all studies on this matter are faulty because they are taken from a society that has a skewed and negative view of sex when it isn't done by the christian standard. Sex is always seen in the media and society in general as tinged with "evil" when it is done simply for pleasure and without a committed relationship. This view is especially harsh on women, which is why young females who engage in sex are more likely to be ashamed of it later. If there was no shame in sex, shame that society presses on each individual, would there still be any mental harm from it? I really don't think so. So we must ask ourselves if it is society and its puritan views on sex which is to blame for the trauma and look at it objectively.

    Here's a good example of what I am talking about:

    If we went to a Muslim country and asked gay people in this hypothetical country whether or not having homosexual relations has been a positive or traumatic experience for them how many do you think would feel those experiences were positive? I think we all know the answer to that, and that truth about humanity, the fact that we can be so horribly indoctrinated to believe our natural inclinations are "wrong" and "evil", makes any study done on this subject faulty.

  • jacob says:

    As a practicing psychiatrist this topic is a funamentally interesting one, there can be little debate about that. What disturbs me after looking at these comments is the absolute (seemingly, albeit) misunderstanding of just what a scientific study is. I'm shocked at how utterly foolish and ridiculous these comments are in the name of "science" and "facts". Here is a fact: There is no current answer or resolution among the psychiatric profession as to the "normalcy" and prevalence of attraction to young adolescents. So if the best and most experienced minds in the field are actually currently arguing about whether or not hebephilia is pathological how can you possibly react toward "sean" and "geoff" with such certitude. I'm familiar with Dr. Blanchard's work and also with counterparts who vehemently disagree.

    Scientific studies are conducted in attempts to prove or disprove a hypothesis ( seems simple enough), they do not establish facts. However they do bolster arguments and that would be fine if the majority of the commenters weren't imlicitly and sanctimoniously saying they held complete domain over the facts of this issue.

    Now to the substance: There are two channels of possible ramifications of sexual activity: psychological disorders and biological complications ( pregnancy, infection, etc) I separate the two EVEN THOUGH psychological disorders are by definition disorders of the brain which always have neurological pathway alterations which makes them by definition BIOLOGICAL. Mental disorders are biological. So while sex in general has obvious complications it is disingenious to pretend that it doesn't have amazing positive effects for the body. The original writer said sex is "generally" good for the body, and it is! From preventing dermatitis to raising oxytocin levels and impeding pain to increasing lifespans it is generally good for you. Do you not know what the word "complication" means, its inherently in the minority in terms of occurence. If HIV and STD's were the most associated thing with sex it wouldn't "complicate" anything. Also to cite "hypertension" made me laugh. Sure it can definitely be linked as a negative to sex. But citing bad things that happen as a result of sex doesn't come close to negating the overwhelming scientific body of knowledge that shows sex increases health.

    Does sexual abuse have serious ramificatios for the victim? Yes, the preponderance of evidence suggests absolutely yes. But if I understand correctly the argument here was some sort of: there are "medical" reasons to justify the abnormality of hebephilia. Okay again with all the pomposity of the original post medicine is in the bussiness of treating diseases and not in the bussiness of establishing social norms for society.

    "First, to have a ‘measurable penile response’ is NOT to immediately have to hump the nearest item eliciting the response. It is quite clear that the human brain is much stronger than “a measurable penile response” elicited in the laboratory, and a person’s actions in the wider environment are going to take into account not just whether a person is physically developed... While some men may have a “measurable penile response” to any female that is close to physically developed, they are not attracted to children. The fact that the person in question is a child will negate any motion toward a “measurable penile response” that is elicited in the lab by looking at naked pictures of kids. " WHAT?

    To lecture those who have disagreed with you to "cite" facts you unleashed a whole bombardment of facts right out of the University of Your Rectum. What i think you meant to say was : Most normal law abiding men are able to realize attraction does not equal compulsion to act. Yes most likely right. Other than that pure opinion.

    The ability to be attracted to someone and the subsequent actions after that vary person by person, to suggst that normal males have some sort of universal code of what and when and who to be attracted to is by and large preposterous. The hypothalamus has something called a Sexually Dimorphic Nucleus which largely decides FOR you what you are attracted to and how you will act. While most men are able to exhibit "self control" a large number of non-pedophilic men can and have exhibit attraction at minimal degrees to children and it can not be "negated" by any social norm.

    "let me make it perfectly clear that a biologically based arousal to pubescent or post-pubescent females (or males) is not academically informed license to engage in illegal, harmful, or otherwise inappropriate sexual relationships with them."
    Translation: Biologically natural attraction is no justification to break the law. Agreed! What a novel concept because you have a natural urge it doesn't mean you should break the law. I assume your enjoying your cash prize that came with that Nobel?

    So this boils down to: you have made a value judgement against hebephilia one that very well could be correct. But your citations and selective fact use doesn't do you any good when ACTUAL scientists scrutinize it. For example you say that adolescents brains are "sensitive" and not fully formed. Obviously correct but devoid of any substance. You have trapped yourself in a hole. Now your implicit standard for appropriate normal non-harmful sex is a developed brain. Well that would come roughly around the age of 25. Hmmm, so yes society has made a subjective line in the sand. The ony two scientifically justifiable ages of consent are 13 (childhood over) or 25 (brain development complete). Why the middle? Becase it "feels" right.

    There were a litany of misleading and arrogant citations but i have tackled as many as my hands could handle. This issue is not going to be resolved in a blog post. There is no clear answer, I dont have one and neither does anyone here. Hebephilia if going by the age gap of 11-14 is tough to determine. Do most men have attractions to 11 year olds? Not from what i have seen in psychiatry rounds and publications. Do most men have attractions to 14 year olds? Not even close, yes. It may be morally and philosophically wrong to act on these attractions but that has no bearing on whether the attractions themseves are pathologically abnormal. Want to argue about attractions to 14 year olds ? Take it up with the "tribal" countries of Spain, Mexico, Italy, France, Serbia, and Germany. Either there is some degree of normalness or all those countries are in the hands of clueless zealot hebephilies!

    It could be normal and the laws are wrong. It could be normal and the laws are still right. It could be abnormal and the laws are right. Science offers support for both sides. But my gosh your article doesn't come close to establishing anything of relevance in this topic.

  • jacob says:

    fundamentally *

  • […] With citations. In which Kate Clancy and Scicurious bury Jesse Bering’s “deep-thinking hebephile” column under a great big pile of […]