March 12, 2010

Latest hebephilia critiques: Point-counterpoint

I've just updated my Hebephilia and the DSM-5 Controversy resources page with two new articles in the Archives of Sexual Behavior critiquing the proposed diagnosis of pedohebephilia.

Green: Moral standards masquerading as science

In his boldly titled "Sexual Preference for 14-Year-Olds as a Mental Disorder: You Can’t Be Serious!!," prominent psychiatrist and sexologist Richard Green pulls no punches. Green, who teaches at the Imperial College of London, served on the Gender Identity Disorders subcommittee for DSM-IV. Back in the 1970s he was a forceful advocate for removing homosexuality from the manual of mental illnesses, a struggle he references in his current critique:
The parody of science masquerading as democracy made a laughing stock of psychiatry and the APA when it held a popular vote by its membership on whether homosexuality should remain a mental disorder. Decreeing in a few years time that 19-year-olds who prefer sex with 14-year-olds (5 years their junior) have a mental disorder … will not enhance psychiatry’s scientific credibility.
As he points out, the age of legal consent in several European countries falls within the range that the proposed pedohebephilia disorder would make pathological for the older participant:
If the general culture is accepting of participation by the younger party, but psychiatry pathologizes participation by the older party, then the mental health profession pronounces a moralistic standard and, if successful, becomes an agent of social control.
Green goes on to catalog "biased terms" and "logically frail arguments" in the proposal. In this, he joins a growing chorus of voices sounding the alarm about myriad problems with the proposed pedohebephilia diagnosis.

O'Donohue: Let's go even further

Coming at it from the opposite angle of most critics is William O'Donohue, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada at Reno and co-editor of the second edition of the widely consulted text Sexual Deviance.

O'Donohue argues for keeping it simple: "any sexual attraction to children … is a pathological, abnormal condition." His proposed diagnosis reads as follows: "The person is sexually attracted to children or adolescents under the age of 16" as evidenced by (1) self report, (2) laboratory findings, and/or (3) past behavior. Whether the person has acted on his or her attractions would not matter. The number of victims would not matter. And internal distress would not be required.

O'Donohue expresses a lack of concern over the inevitable false positive errors that such a broad net would ensnare. He argues that we should be more concerned about false negative errors -- pedophiles who escape diagnosis when the criteria are too narrow, for example when more than one known victim is required. And he applauds the move to expand pedophilia to include hebephilia, or attraction to pubescent minors.

Prosecution-retained evaluators in U.S. civil commitment cases will be salivating at the prospects for this one. But consider the source. O'Donohue is the psychologist who has argued for subjecting gay and lesbian parents to special scrutiny in child custody evaluations. (Respected child custody experts Jonathan Gould, David Martindale, and Melisse Eidman wrote an outstanding counterpoint, summarizing the empirical research as indicating that "sexual orientation is not a pertinent factor when considering the best psychological interests of children." In the interest of full disclosure, I share that view, as I wrote in an article published in the same journal a few years earlier.)

And, despite his support for diagnostic expansion, even O'Donohue concedes that the psychometric properties of the proposed diagnosis remain unknown. In other words, neither its reliability nor its validity have been empirically established. A wee problem, that.

A list of published articles on the hebephilia debate, with links to the publisher's web pages, is HERE. For the newest additions, look for the "NEW" icon towards the bottom of the page.


ACH said...

Green was also on the DSM-III psychosexual disorders committee and was one of the leading opponents of having ego-dystonic homosexuality in DSM-III. He also strikes me as someone with a rather lively writing style.

I found O'Donohue's arguments troubling, although he did give a very substantive critique of the paraphilia vs. paraphilic disorder distinction that is currently being proposed.

Anonymous said...

What is truly baffling is the fact that in a great many cases you can't tell by looking or interacting with someone what age they are.

For example, I was with my family eating dinner out, and someone brought up the age of our waitress, whereupon we began to speculate (with the girl there to affirm or deny the guess) on her age. A cousin's wife guess 23. No. A cousin guessed 21. No. Another cousin guessed 25. No. A cousin's 15 year-old daughter guessed 18, and I guessed around 19 or 20. We were all wrong. She was 14.

How can you say that being attracted to someone who looks just like someone who is of the age of consent or better is "perverted" for being attracted to that person? It boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

Is it the attraction that is worrisome or the acting on the attraction? As a point of discussion, why would an inability to "guess an age" or to know an age, factor into an opinion as to where sex with a 14-year-old is right or wrong?

Just a thought

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

Hopefully we are not discussing on this forum whether sex with a 14-year-old is "right or wrong." Most criminal behaviors are deemed by society to be "wrong"; that is precisely why they are criminalized. Criminal conduct, however, does not necessarily imply mental abnormality. If it did, then culprits could seek to avoid legal responsibility for their criminal conduct. Crimes that are not considered evidence of mental abnormality include everything from murder and terrorism all the way down to jaywalking. The issue here is whether either sexual attraction or behavior with a postpubescent (physically mature) minor is evidence of psychiatric pathology that requires a novel and formal diagnostic category in the upcoming edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

Anonymous said...

Hebephilia is the erotic preference for individuals in Tanner stages 2 and 3.

But when does Tanner stage 3 actually end?

The answer is on average 13.1 years because that the age when tanner stage 4 starts.

And other sources Ive seen have given an even lower number.

So even with a revised pedophilia entity to include hebephilia the guideline for the diagnosis should actually be LOWERED one year from "generally age 13 years or younger" to "generally age 12 years or younger", not be increased to 14!

Why have they done this?