Pedophilia - Is pedophilia violent?

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Is pedophilia violent?

Paper prepared by Tom O'Carroll for the WCS (World Congress of Sexology) in Paris in 2001, starting with the Abstract.

TITLE: Is paedophilia violent?


A section called "Violence and Sex (violence, pedophilia, rape)" was included in a leaflet promoting this congress as part of a list of topics listed for symposia and round table discussions. This paper challenges the appropriateness of viewing pedophilia (UK spelling: paedophilia) in terms of violence. The literature on personality and behavioural aspects of paedophilia is reviewed with particular reference to "preferential" as opposed to "situational" paedophilia. Evidence on harm to children commonly attributed to adult-child sexual contacts is considered, as is the validity and value of the "consent" construct in the light of recent research. The unscientific attribution of violence to paedophilia as a supposedly inherent characteristic is discussed, particularly with regard to lines of feminist analysis founded on issues of power imbalance in personal relationships.


When I first saw the draft programme of this conference a year ago at the International Academy of Sex Research annual meeting in Paris, I saw that paedophilia was to be discussed in a workshop on Violence and Sexuality along with rape, as though paedophilic behaviour is inevitably a form of violence.

In a tabloid newspaper article, I might have supposed this to be an unconscious assumption, but coming from the organisers of a conference of sexologists it struck me as more likely to be an entirely conscious ideological assertion, probably owing its origins more to very general feminist insights into violence, particularly male violence, than to detailed knowledge of paedophilia itself. That feminism should be suspected of having great influence on a scientifically oriented body such as the WCS is a tribute I am happy to pay to a movement which in the last three decades has contributed immeasurably to the debate on society and sexuality in every serious forum of relevance. The WCS may wish to disown any such direct connection but I nonetheless feel it is important to explore this theme of "violence" and to take a hard look at the limitations of its validity.

The adjective "violent" is defined in Chambers 20th Century dictionary as "intensively forcible: impetuous and unrestrained in action: overmasteringly vehement"; the noun "violence" refers additionally to "unjustifiable force: outrage: profanation: injury: rape". The current edition of Merriam-Websters Collegiate dictionary, and doubtless many other dictionaries of ordinary usage, has a similar emphasis on force, referring additionally to "fury", "emotional agitation" and "loss of self-control". The Concise Oxford mentions "intimidation".

Force, fury, outrage, injury, intimidation. How well do such strong words relate to the facts of paedophilia? As most people here will surely know, the word "paedophilia", or "paedophilia sexualis" originated as a medical description by Krafft-Ebing, and in the medical literature has generally been considered to describe a sexual orientation of adults towards children. Just like the terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual", the word has in its emerging scientific usage not been freighted to describe only violent attacks.

When scientists, as opposed to lesbian separatist feminists, refer to "heterosexual" intercourse, they do not invariably categorise it as a form of rape. Likewise some scientists may continue to believe, along with Kraft-Ebing, that "homosexuality" is a perversion, but when used scientifically the term refers to all forms of same-sex sexual attraction: violent, rapacious buggery of one man by another is recognised as just one end of a spectrum of homosexual activity which more typically includes affectionate and loving elements.

To dump the whole of "paedophilia" into a box labelled "violence", by contrast, flies in the face of scientific tradition, inviting the suspicion that debate and research on what really characterises paedophilic attraction and behaviour are regarded as not politically correct. It is as though the WCS is setting the terms of the agenda by saying "Everybody knows paedophilia is violent. Therefore let's discuss only how to eliminate it and how to treat its victims."

The assumption may be politically correct, but is it scientifically correct? This depends vitally on definition. Pleading for connections to be made between child sexual assault and the social construction of "normal" masculinity and male sexuality, the feminist writer Liz Kelly confronts us in a new book, published this year, with a startling departure from the scientific use of the word "paedophilia". She remarks upon reports that "as protective policies get stronger, 'paedophiles' are shifting from seeking work in children's homes and children's organisations and are moving into services for the elderly." Kelly asks "Just what does the term 'paedophile' mean in this context? What this example demonstrates vividly", Kelly suggests, "is that the issue here is power and control and the desire not to get caught." (Cox, Kershaw & Trotter).

The concerns expressed by Kelly and her co-authors about issues of power and control are indeed vitally important. Paedophilia should ultimately be considered against the wider background of socialisation and sexuality, both male and female. A narrow problematisation of sexual attraction to children will ultimately serve only to divert attention from broader issues of power and control, not solve them.

However, I trust it will be agreed in this forum that it is not helpful to leap from child molesting to granny bashing as expressions of paedophilia. Nor, I suggest, should we include sexual assaults against children committed opportunistically, often when drunk or under the influence of drugs, by people whose usual sexual preference is not for children. Such offences can often uncontentiously be described as violent or abusive.

Paedophilia as a strong and persistent orientation, however, as described in DSM-4, is another matter. There is reason to suppose that many of those who prefer children want to relate well to them, in a way that does not apply to those for whom they are mere substitutes. Those who prefer children not surprisingly like to spend a lot of time in their company; they like to know them and be friendly. Just as adult-orientated grown-ups often go to considerable pains to make a good impression on their sexual partners, so do many paedophiles.

Finding that their sexual preference is for children, they also come to like and love them. The eminent criminologist Professor D J West noted this many years ago, before it became fashionable cynically to characterise paedophile courtship as so-called "grooming". Noticing the kindness of many paedophiles he observed that: "Their sincere fondness for their objects of sexual desire sometimes leads them to quite striking acts of charity in efforts to further the child's happiness or future prospects." (PTRC p59).

This benevolent outlook found confirmation in a study by K. Howells of non-aggressive offenders against girls. He said, "I feel that children are likeable to paedophiles in ways that are not purely physical; this would be consistent with the idea that the paedophilic offender may actually feel affection for his victim. Lest you feel it is self-evident that someone committing a sexual assault likes his victim, I would point out that in a previous study I found results which suggested that some rapists, for example, commit offences in states of heightened anger arousal and appear to be concerned to hurt rather than to achieve sexual gratification."

Howells is writing here within a research tradition bedevilled by terminology with a conservative bias, such that children who participate in adult-child sex are almost invariably characterised as "victims" and sexual encounters as "assaults" without regard to the nature of the encounter or the feelings of the supposed "victim". Even so, despite this colouring of the facts, Howells finds no difficulty in distinguishing gentle, affectionate paedophilia from malicious rape.

Many others in the field have reached similar conclusions. Swanson distinguished what he called "the classic paedophile" as a person who "requires the cooperation of a child partner in order to achieve sexual gratification". What is meant here is that the paedophile is aroused and gratified by situations in which the child is erotically active. This was realised as long ago as 1913 when the pioneer sexologist Albert Moll wrote "handling the child's genitals plays the chief part, frequently because the offender can himself obtain sexual gratification only through inducing sexual excitement in the child and watching this excitement."

The significance of this point is, I hope, obvious. Children are far more likely to reach sexual excitement if they are relaxed and happy in the paedophile's company than if they are being intimidated. The paedophile is virtually bound to seek their confidence in order to win their cooperation. This being the case, in addition to the strong possibility that he actually likes children, he has another powerful reason for wanting to relate well to them. All in all, he will want to be liked by children and will thus tend to regard them as what sociologists have called "significant others" people whose feelings and opinions count.

The sociologist McCaghy proposed that sex offenders who see children as "significant others" would not commit offences likely to alienate or harm the child. He tested a hypothesis that they would have in fact more social involvement with children than other offenders against them, and indeed this is what he found. None of the high social interaction offenders used any form of coercion, whereas over one third of the minimal interaction subjects did.

The work of Howells, Swanson and McCaghy dates from the 1960s and 70s, when it was possible for researchers to make discoveries about paedophilia with liberal policy implications and not be castigated for their efforts. That climate changed radically in the 80s and 90s under the influence of the largely feminist-driven extension of child abuse work into the sexual arena. But even in the new, highly illiberal, punitive atmosphere, scientific research, as opposed to child abuse industry rhetoric, has confirmed and strengthened the findings already cited, not undermined them.

This is not to say the new climate has found no anti-paedophile champions in the academically respectable research community. David Finkelhor, foremost among them, confidently hypothesised in 1988 with co-author I A Lewis that "many if not most" of what he called "child molesters" lack empathy for children and interest in them. (Howitt). But researchers who have taken the trouble to assess paedophiles beyond the unrepresentative confines of a clinical or penal context have discovered a very different picture. Wilson and Cox studied 77 members of a paedophile organisation by questionnaire and interview. Standard personality assessment failed, as it had failed in earlier research, to find links with aggressive or psychotic symptoms. The majority of paedophiles, they concluded, "seem to be gentle and rational", and they suggested "it is possible that parental feelings are often involved".

A pioneering work by Sandfort, unique in the literature, investigated ongoing paedophilic relations between men and boys in the Netherlands. Taking advantage of an all too short window of opportunity, a liberal period in recent Dutch history when it was possible for some such relations to flourish without heavy-handed police or social work intervention if the child appeared to be willingly involved, Sandfort undertook an in-depth study of the quality of such relationships and their impact on the boys' lives both sexually and socially. He discovered not merely that such relationships do not necessarily cause harm but that they can be characterised by affection and a positive influence on the child's development. Issues of adult power and dominance in the relationships were extensively examined but not assessed as problematic. Difficult though it may be in the conditions of hostility widely prevailing today, we need more research of this kind, looking at what actually takes place in paedophilic relations, rather than prejudicially dismissing them on the basis of dogma.

In a highly politically incorrect and therefore sadly neglected study, C K Li, working under the auspices of the respected Cambridge University Institute of Criminology, investigated paedophiles recruited from a range of sources, including magazine advertisements. From his interviews he concluded that many paedophiles are truly interested in the child's world and that affection and a loving relationship represent their ultimate ideal, not just sexual gratification.

He argued against dismissing such views as mere lies, cognitive distortions and self-serving excuses, saying "the viewpoint of mainstream society cannot simply be taken as correct and that of the paedophiles taken as suspect. Instead, each should be analysed in terms of its historical and ideological roots. Only after such an exercise can we begin to address the more practical question of ethics, the law and social policies" (in Howitt p 75).

Since this assessment appeared a decade ago we have seen, with a few notable exceptions (Plummer, Kincaid, Hunter, Geraci, Sandfort MII) little such analysis. Instead we have seen moral disapproval advancing under the camouflage of science. A number of commentators have exposed this masquerade (Li, Howitt, Randall, Oellerich) and Finkelhor himself has been honest enough to admit that his position is ultimately morally based rather than scientifically (Sandfort MIG p314).

We have also seen the most outrageous vilification of paedophiles in the media. The grossest of libels are often with impunity perpetrated against harmless, loving individuals, because their behaviour in law is characterised in such unflattering and inaccurate legal terminology as "indecent assault" or "statutory rape" -- now often abbreviated to plain rape, so that anyone seeing or hearing a news report will assume that violence or coercion was used.

An even more damaging abuse of language in recent years has been directed against so-called paedophile "rings", or "gangs" who have exchanged among themselves pornographic images downloaded from the Internet. In the recent Wonderland case in Britain a group of such friends were castigated as though they were guilty of "rape" and even "torture" words which were bandied around a great deal in media coverage when none of them had been prosecuted for so much as touching a child in a legally questionable way or taking a single photo themselves. (Footnote. Observer 11 Feb; O'Carroll - Paris 2000).

One further primary theoretical concern with paedophile so-called violence should be disposed of before moving on to the wider question of whether child-adult sexual contacts are in any sense harmful. In the era some decades ago before child sex abuse moved to centre stage as a social concern, the physical abuse of children came to been seen as a cyclical problem endemic to dysfunctional families: abused children, it was noted, would grow up to become abusive parents. This cycle of abuse theory has since been energetically advanced in the sexual domain but has repeatedly failed to find empirical support (Finkelhor 1984; Hansen & Slater 1988). Recent general reviews of the literature (Howitt 1995 pp56-7; Fergusson & Mullen 1999 p96) are generally sceptical.

Even within what I have broadly called the child abuse industry, where the abused-abuser hypothesis has become widely but baselessly accepted as established fact, some people are having problems with the idea. In a recent book of feminist perspectives authored by industry professionals, mainly academics with a background in social work, it is (Cox et al, xvi) pointed out that more girls than boys experience child-adult sexual contacts, yet men are more often the older party in such contacts than women. If the abused-abuser hypothesis were correct one would thus expect abused girls to grow up as abusing women and to outnumber male abusers. As this is not the case, the hypothesis would appear to be in deep trouble on purely logical grounds. To summarise the foregoing, then, far from being characterised by violence, paedophilic feelings and sexual expression have been noted in the literature as very often gentle, kind, loving and concerned with the mutuality of the relationship, both sexually and socially. And it is a mistake to suppose that child sex so-called abusers owe the origin of their inclinations to abuse in their own childhood. Indeed there is no reason to suppose that the aetiology of paedophilia can in any way be associated with factors that might be expected to lead to detrimental personality development.

If paedophiles are not generally violent, the question arises as to whether their sexual expression is nevertheless inevitably a violation of the children involved. No matter how kind, gentle and loving paedophiles may be, it is often argued, children are harmed by sexual contact with them. They may come to believe they have been degraded, and begin attributing all their problems to early sexual contact with an adult, ranging right down to the most fleeting incident, sometimes even a merely verbal proposition, or expression of interest. In the last two decades, it hardly needs stressing, there has been no shortage of testimony by adults who feel they have been victimised in this way.

Additionally, there are moralising conservatives who take the view that those who do not feel victimised by their experiences must be regarded as corrupted by them or else "in denial". Such commentators are entitled to their views but are guilty of bad, misleading science when as all too often is the case they infiltrate their moral bias into their research, particularly in the loaded terms (Rind 1993; Nelson) and definitions they use (Li & Randall on Finkelhor).

We should be alert to the fact that opponents of child-adult sexual relations use such means to cover every possible outcome, guaranteeing in advance of any study that any results favourable to such relations are defined out of existence. Finkelhor, for instance (Randall p192 in Jackbook) defines as victims even those children who grew up saying they looked back with pleasure on their early sexual experience as something positive in their lives. Far from respecting the views of the child, as the child abuse industry constantly urges when the result is sex-negative, Finkelhor's determination that the results match his moral expectations in effect says the child's view counts for nothing when it conflicts with adult conventional wisdom.

Many of you in medical practice, however, have doubtless encountered cases in which patients feel they have been victimised and I have no wish to deny that such clinical experience is in many cases a true reflection of a painful reality. But what we have been hearing most loudly, is only one side of a complex story. The testimony of many adult victims, or "survivors", is itself not a simple story of the terrible impact of sexual abuse. In the case of false memory syndrome, for instance, it has become abundantly clear that in many cases clearly disturbed and damaged adults have mistakenly loaded the cause of all their problems in life onto some entirely fanciful incident in childhood in some cases, it has to be said, incidents dreamt up with the connivance of dubious therapy methods, which are now reaping their just reward in malpractice lawsuits. (Crews, Jackson book refs).

Even in cases where there has definitely been sexual abuse in the most obvious sense where there has plainly been violence, coercion or exploitation, the story is not a simple one. Child abuse industry lobbyists, the media and politicians have all tended to latch onto the allegedly damaging effects of adult-child sexual contacts in the most grossly simplistic fashion, often totally ignoring the fact that many people who identify as sex abuse victims also have a family background with multiple problems including a history of psychological abuse, neglect and physical violence.

Fortunately, the misleading impact of this confusion and confounding of issues has recently been addressed in the landmark paper by Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman, which has created such a stir. The paper makes no mention of paedophilia, but its findings could hardly be more significant to the view society takes of paedophiles. This meta-analysis based on 59 studies of college students showing the effects on those who had been involved as children in sexual encounters with adults provides an important corrective to the view that such encounters are always gravely traumatic. A careful statistical analysis showed that many problems which the original researchers had uncritically assumed to be caused by sexual abuse could more plausibly be attributed to generally inadequate family environments, with which they were much more strongly correlated.

This paper proved to be dynamite, provoking an unprecedented political reaction in the United States. There has also been a lively academic reaction (Haaken & Lamb; Tavris; Spiegel; Ericksen; Oellerich; Berry & Berry; Rauch; Zuriff) which has left Rind and his colleagues with an enhanced, rather than diminished reputation. Bruce Rind, himself has recently been accepted into the prestigious and exclusive International Academy of Sex Research, and the findings of the Rind team have since been cited in the literature without controversy as to their accuracy (Meston et al, 1999). Those findings had in any case been extensively foreshadowed in the literature (Rind: SSSS; Oellerich) and have been vindicated since (Coxell). What prompted an outraged response was not the quality of the science but the authors' highly professional and all too rare refusal to wrap their data in a moralistic package at odds with the actual findings.

As we have seen, that refusal contrasts strongly with the work of such champions of conservatism as Finkelhor, who justifies his description of even enthusiastic

child participants in adult-child sex as victims by saying they don't know what they are doing and therefore cannot validly consent (Randall p192 in Jackbook). It is beyond my scope today to discuss the complex issue of informed consent, except that one might briefly note that even quite young children are now increasingly considered to be able to give or withhold their consent to matters of very great importance, such as surgery, when things are explained to them. (Footnote on iatrogenic effects).

Because their work was a meta-analysis, a study of studies, Rind and his colleagues found themselves unable to single out consent, whether informed or uninformed, as an independent variable: it unfortunately did not cleanly figure as such in the primary data they had available. Crucially, though, as they pointed out in a paper last year, a new study by Coxell and colleagues published in the British Medical Journal fills this gap, at least with regard to consenting boys.

The Coxell team examined a non-clinical sample of nearly 2,500 men in Great Britain, recruited from general medical practices. They inquired about sexual activity prior to age 16 with someone at least 5 years older that they had wanted to do, finding that 7.7% had had what the researchers termed consensual sex prior to age 16 with persons significantly older; 5.3% of the men reported having had non-consensual sex. Rind and his colleagues examined the Coxell findings on whether the men had reported a psychological problem of at least two weeks duration sometime in their life. The consenting group reported no more problems than the control group, but the non-consenting group had significantly more problems than either of these groups. The results, obtained by abuse researchers using a huge non-clinical sample provide, in the words of the Rind team "very strong support for the utility of the simple consent construct". (Footnote on gender differences).

In plain language, if children cannot give valid consent, how come only the ones who say they didn't want the sex ended up having psychological problems? Why does consent discriminate so well between good and bad outcomes if it is not valid? That is a challenge I put to you today. That's one challenge. Here's another. If gentle, loving paedophiles in affectionate sexual contacts with willing children do not do them any harm, in what way are they supposed to be violent?

What is being violated, I suggest, is not children, but the tyranny of ill-founded moral resistance of both right and left. It is a tyranny from which the gay community is only now escaping along with a diverse and culturally rich range of other long-despised and feared sexual minorities. And it is now high time for children and paedophiles to join this great escape.

I include children here, as well as paedophiles, because as we move away from a society based on the reproductive imperative to one in which overpopulation is a greater worry, society needs to scrutinise very closely its old imperatives for the regulation of sexuality. The issue of paedophilia is ultimately not just about one small sexual minority: it is about all children and how they are brought up. Are they to be kept in sexual ignorance and, as they grow older, run the risk of unwanted pregnancy among other avoidable dangers? Are they to be regarded solely as passive, "innocent" sexless individuals as women were once held to be? Is their sexual expression to be crushed out of existence, supposedly for their own sake, but actually as a sacrifice necessary to bolstering up a tottering, outdated moral order?

If one is identifying sources of violence, one need look no further than both the religious right and the feminist left, who alike have encouraged an atmosphere of violent, repressive hatred for paedophiles that would bring talk of genocide if directed towards an ethnic minority. Paedophiles are driven from their homes and jobs with the approval and encouragement of the media (Milmo). Mobs are increasingly hunting them down and killing them and in one arson attack in the UK a child was burnt to death (O'Carroll 2000). Mass police raids on flimsy grounds are wrecking their victims' lives and leading to a holocaust of suicides. Sentences for the mildest of offences lead to huge, decades-long sentences in prisons where violence against them is an ever-present threat. (O'Carroll 2000).

There is also no shortage of violence against children by parents, which goes largely unremarked in the media and by society at large. The life-long psychological damage frequently wrought by divorce has recently been well documented (Wallerstein et al; also Siblings from divorce families 'are not as close', report by Cherry Norton in The Independent, 10 June 2000 on research by psychologist Heidi Riggio at California State University, Fullerton) but in addition to the subtle problems of parental break-up much cruder concerns loom large. A study by Britain's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, shows that one in 14 children in the UK have suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of their parents, the vast majority have been either kicked, punched, choked, burnt or threatened with a knife at home. A further 6% were seriously neglected, being frequently deprived of food, medical care and clean clothes. Child murders too are far more frequently committed by parents than by strangers. (C. Pritchard, The Observer, 8 August 1999; see also Jonsson).

Numerous cases could be advanced in which an astonishingly casual and sympathetic attitude is shown towards violence by women against their children. This sympathy is most commonly expressed in a traditional tolerance towards infanticide by young single mothers, a form of killing not even ranking as murder in many jurisdictions, including the UK. Killing a baby is almost acceptable it seems, if a mother is the culprit. This dubious extension of a woman's right to choose has apparently now also become a woman's right to abuse. In New Zealand recently, for instance, a foster mother of a 10-year-old boy conducted a reign of terror that included threatening to chop his head off, swinging a baseball at him, and tying him to a tree with a dead chicken around his neck. Finally she drenched the boy's t-shirt with petrol, flicked a cigarette lighter and set him ablaze, causing serious burns. Whereas a man who merely touches a child's genitals should not be surprised if he gets a prison sentence of four years or more in many countries, this monstrous woman was sentenced to four months of which she had to serve only two. (Moonen corresp).

So why should gross domestic and other violence against children go ignored while affectionate, loving paedophilic sexuality is abominated? Much of this strange emphasis is undoubtedly owed to the feminism of recent decades. So constructive in promoting equal rights and opportunities for women, it has been unscientific, mistaken and destructive in other respects.

When I speak of feminism I am of course speaking of a very broad church indeed. There are many feminisms. Some feminist analysis, not least as developed here in France, is not hostile towards men as potentially nurturant, loving and intimate with children. There are thinking women who recognise that the attraction of all good mothers to their children has erotic overtones. These women have pondered the inevitable inequality of size and power between a mother and her child. They know these inequalities can be exploited and abused, by women as well as men. But they also acknowledge that for the most part such inequalities are at the heart of a mother's love: she would not need to nurture and protect a baby as big and powerful as herself. These women also acknowledge there is no intrinsic reason why men too cannot, in the right cultural setting, be kind, gentle and loving. They have been honest enough to query the dogma that women always use their power well, whereas men always exploit it wickedly. Some women call themselves post-feminists. Certainly many have rejected the more strident, anti-heterosexual versions of feminism that held sway in the heyday of so-called political lesbianism. (Roiphe, Paglia, bell hooks). Many educated women in the West still support equality with men in terms of job opportunities and so forth but no longer see men as the enemy, no longer perceive in the West at least patriarchal power as an undefeated enemy and the key to all social evils and injustice. Some post-feminists, indeed, have joined male commentators in arguing that men now have more problems than women, acknowledging that the undermining of their traditional roles has left them struggling to adjust to new ones.

But this welcome maturing of Second Wave feminism into post-feminism is far from complete. There is still a powerful army of unreconstructed Second Wavers at work within the child abuse industry a crusading army still inspired by fiery anti-patriarchy tracts from the 1970s of dubious relevance today. It is an army that has rejected what it calls "male science". It is an army which, while using the apparatus of scholarship, appears deeply wedded to anti-rational intuitions and assertive mantras.

Many of you will recognise what I am saying without me spelling it out, although others have done so very ably. Okami, for instance, was pointing out a decade ago that influential victim advocates (Rush, Russell) have been busy building up a picture of supposed "harm" to children and supposed "violence" against them that flies in the face of the actual findings of the research on which they themselves were basing their assertions. (Okami 93). Exploring links between the moral attitude prevalent among such advocates with the Social Purity movement of the Victorian era, Okami shows how both have tended to equate moral violation with physical violence. (Okami 95).

For many of these campaigners, he points out, even gentle and loving heterosexual sex between adults is considered a violation of the woman, reminding us that the outspoken anti-sexual abuse activist Andrea Dworkin makes this explicit by stating that "intercourse is punishment". (Okami 96). Likewise sex even between children of equal age is always suspected of being abuse by one of them, giving the impression that for many anti-abuse advocates the real enemy, no matter how pleasurable, is sex itself, not the imposition of one person's wishes on another. (Okami 97; Birkett).

Okami also examined research methods prevalent among abuse industry advocates, pointing out specific abuses of research methodology that arise as a consequence of ideology. Taking as a key example Russell's study of sexual abuse of females for the US National Institute of Mental Health, he notes how Russell's interviewers were systematically trained in ways guaranteed to introduce bias in the data they collected. Russell describes the assertion that children sometimes take the initiative in sexual liaisons with adults as "a myth". To avoid propagating this myth, she said, "we did not specifically ask who took the initiative". As Okami remarks, "Russell's statement -- rather than reflecting a desire to avoid propagating a myth -- probably reflects a general disinclination to collect data that might contradict a political or moral position." (Okami101).

Ten years on from Okami's withering analysis, modern Social Purity feminists are still playing the same cracked old records. In Childhood Sexual Abuse: An Evidence Based Perspective, published this year as Volume 40 of the journal Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, Ferguson and Mullen have produced the most recent account available based on scientific analysis. They are scathing (97) about what they call "advocacy based accounts" derived from feminist and psychotherapeutic theories. They also carefully demolish the weak evidential claims underpinning the recovered memory movement (98-102), ritual and satanic abuse (102-3), multiple personality disorder (105-6) and the supposed infallibility of child testimony (103-5).

And anyone who believes that feminist activists against child sex abuse have all moved on from the wilder shores of psychobabble and Steven King-style horror fiction in their assessment of the issue should try reading Child Sexual Assault: Feminist Perspectives, published this year by Cox, Kershaw and Trotter. The authors are senior figures within the child abuse industry, all occupying influential British university posts related to social work and child health.Yet many years after massive police enquiries into satanic abuse were discredited in a government report prepared by a female professor (Lafontaine), and years after the massive misdiagnosis of anal abuse by parents in Cleveland_child_abuse_scandal Britain's Cleveland disaster was exposed in a government report by a female judge (Butler-Sloss), these women are still dismissing such assaults on the credibility of their theories as what they call "resistance" based on patriarchal "backlash".

The tone is one of nostalgia for the good-old-days of the 1970s when their brand of feminism was impacting on the whole of male-female relations not just penned in as it is now to the specialist area of child abuse. Regret is specifically expressed that many of the old tracts that inspired them are now out of print. There is head-shaking over male social work figures who are less than enthusiastic over their analysis, coupled with a revivalist spirit, with contributors urging a girding of the loins to fight ever harder against the "resistances" of an entrenched patriarchal establishment. There is little suggestion that the evidence suggests new thinking is necessary, and that their theory may be wrong, or at least of limited validity. On the contrary, the authors utterly ignore such evidence: the Rind team's findings, for instance, is just one of many science-based papers that go totally unmentioned.

The authors write, indeed, as if they themselves are victims, whose accounts of victimisation are being marginalised and ignored by a powerful enemy. What they do not appear to see is that they themselves are powerful, with entrenched positions in the academic world. They represent what has become the orthodox voice of the child abuse industry. Specific items on their agenda, such as satanic abuse, may have been widely discredited, but society at large, including the media and the politicians, has yet to come to grips with how far the dogmas of feminism as it relates to the child abuse industry have gone astray from evidential reality.

It is ironic that powerful feminists are so stuck in the groove, running intellectually on empty, during a period when a burgeoning men's movement has been seeking to bring out men's caring, "feminine" side (Farrell). Ironic also that so-called "male" science is at the forefront of attempts to study the origins of male rape and violence through evolutionary psychology, opening up the possibility of consciously developing our culture in ways that may enable us move forward into a gentler, kinder future. (Wrangham & Peterson; Thornhill, Palmer, & Wilson).

Society at large is stuck with that irony for the moment but I see no reason why any scientifically based body, such as the World Congress of Sexology, should be bound by the ill-founded and unscientific dogmas of a certain kind of feminism to which I have referred. To do so can only weaken its credibility and value to society in addressing such real issues and problems as paedophilia and child sexuality may involve. Likewise as medical professionals working in a clinical setting, many of will I am sure have been appalled by the dangerously unscientific excesses of some therapeutic practitioners from whom such feminists have derived inspiration and comfort, especially in the field of recovered memory and multiple personality disorder. If you value your reputation and that of this body you will wish to distance yourselves from such disastrous practice.

I trust also that as practitioners you will strive to keep uppermost in your mind the need not to be unduly influenced in your thinking by the particular cases you may have dealt with, either of children distressed by abuse or paedophiles unhappy with their own inclinations. Good science requires you to remember that as doctors you will always be confronted with the problem cases, some of them very serious, rather than with a representative sample of child-adult sexual encounters: that is why we need the controlled, whole-population studies of figures such as Bruce Rind and his team.

Finally, I would remind you of the statement of universal sexual human rights endorsed by the World Congress of Sexology in Hong Kong in 1999, especially section four, which supports freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of either sexual orientation or age. Ladies and gentlemen, should you be in any doubt, I can assure you that paedophilia is indeed an orientation, entirely analogous with homosexuality or heterosexuality. It is not an unfortunate condition, with symptoms. It is a vital part of the identity of those, like myself, who experience a deep and abiding love of children throughout their adult lives: deny it and you deny the essential humanity of the person concerned and thereby commit a grave infringement of human rights.


See also