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Sympathetic research in the wrong frame

A Short Comment

Sexual Development, Coping With Forbidden Feelings, and Relieving Sexual Arousal in Self-Identified Pedophiles;
Jenny A. B. M. Houtepen, Jelle J. Sijtsema, and Stefan Bogaerts - Department of Developmental Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands; 2015

Comment by Frans E. J. Gieles PhD, The Netherlands; 2016

A Positive Comment

We all know that most research in this area is processed among convicted en often also incarcerated and clinical samples. Thus, we know that quite one-sided data and conclusions appeared, surely not fit to extrapolate to the whole population of people with pedophile feelings.

Well, here we read,

“In this study we aimed to provide more insight into pedophilic attraction by interviewing non-forensic and non-incarcerated individuals with pedophilic interest.”

A lot of research is devoted to answer the question, ‘How and why could our respondents not control themselves?’
Here we read,

“participants were interviewed about sexuality, coping, and sexual self-regulation.”

So, here we hear the most normal ‘every-day pedophile’, and not ‘the child molester’ speaking about themselves and their self-control:

  • “Ten participants stated that they had never engaged in physical sexual contact with minors. Three of them admitted that they had considered seeking sexual contact with a minor at some point, but never fulfilled these fantasies.”
  • “Five participants admitted that they had engaged in sexual behavior with minors, but none of them defined this behavior as child sexual abuse.”

[…] But also:

“All stated that they would never engage in sexual contact with children again.”

I may contest that the far majority of the Dutch people with pedophile feelings explicitly avoids any sexual contact with any child. This is the leading kind of ethics dominating the Dutch forums in this area.

We say: “the weekly pedophiles” or “the from-Monday-to-Friday-pedophiles”. We strongly point to the crucial difference between the latter and the ‘child molesters’, thus also between pedophilia, feelings and pedo-sexuality, acts.

Thus, we appreciate that those feeling-only people has been asked to speak. We than read that being such a responsible person in society is not easy, that several problems arise – and that the mental health professional help often is experienced as not helping – and that the self-help groups en forums often are able to offer real help.

A negative Comment

One-sided references

The first act I usually perform by reading such articles, is having a look at the references. It shocked me a bit to see a very one-sided list. It is a list concerning offenders and child-molesters, their disorders, and how to control them. Nearly all magazines quoted can be placed within the offender-model.

Quite scarce are the references to literature with authentic stories of ‘pedophiles’ who do not molest or abuse children.

Only Seto (2012) opens a view on ‘pedophilia’ as an orientation instead as a deviance or a criminal act.

Yes, Jahnke’s research of the stigma, that causes many problems for ‘pedophiles’ and that provokes them to live in secrecy, thus often isolation. No Ipce with its extensive four libraries,
No JON with a lot of Dutch texts, including “Uit het leven gegrepen”, which means “Stories from real life”.

The Offender Model

Reading the whole text, I have to say that those non-offending, non-etcetera people are viewed in the scope and model of ‘the offender’. I will give here only some examples, but the offender-model can be recognized in the language and concepts used in the whole text.

The questionnaire

We read that

“the interview questionnaire was developed on the basis of information that we had previously collected from exploratory interviews with law enforcement and mental health professionals who specialize in sex offending (i.e., five police officers employed in the prosecution of sex offenders and a forensic psychologist).”

“Law enforcement”, “mental health professionals”, “sex offending”, “sex offenders”, “forensic” …

This is the world of the offender-model.

Why didn’t the authors have a look at <  >, a forum for people with pedophile feelings who do not want to act?
Why did they not ask consult at a Dutch self-help group “for people that have the ability to fall in love with children, but who do not want to activate those feelings into sexual acts with children.” – the first words one read on <  >, the group JON?
Both are the world of the “non-forensic and non-incarcerated individuals with pedophilic interest.”

Viewing pictures

Viewing pictures, by the respondents of whom nine said that they

“had closely considered what type of material they could justify watching”,

cached under the heading “Child Pornography Offending”.

Viewing children on pictures is not the same as offending. ‘Soft porno’, without sexuality, does exist and is seen. Moreover, the rules of what is legal and what is illegal differ quite greatly by state and era.

Higher Risk?

Have a look at this passage:

“Given the earlier described taxonomy of mapping risk factors into
o    features related to criminal behavior (continuum 1) and
o    sexual deviance (continuum 2) (Houtepen et al., 2014),
it seems that these participants have problematic scores on both continua and have a higher risk for re-offending.”

Higher risk? This contrasts with both quotes, given here above, with

  • “[they] never fulfilled these fantasies” and
  • “All stated that they would never engage in sexual contact with children again”.

Having problems – the respondents had problems – is not the same as being deviant in the sense of ‘distorted’ or ‘dangerous’ and ‘inclined to recidivism’.

It is also in contrast with the reported result that

“they [the respondents] seemed to have found better coping strategies to control their sexual interest, for example through fantasizing and masturbation. For others, these coping strategies comprised telling others about their sexual feelings, thereby diminishing the risk of offending by enhancing their self-control with social support and control from others.”

Risk for Developing Pedophilia?

We read in the report:

“With regard to risk factors for developing pedophilia, most participants experienced early sexual behavior with other minors, which seemed to have influenced their cognitions concerning children as sexual beings.”

A “risk” to “develop pedophilia”? Is pedophilia (‘feelings’) a risk that should be avoided? Is this possible?

We read, “early sexual behavior with other minors” – should this be avoided? Isn’t such behavior completely normal between children? Should children be forbidden to have such contacts? Is the latter possible? Desirable?

Here, it seems that the authors have written ‘prevent pedophilia’, knowing that this is not possible – and in my view also not desirable. We may suppose that the authors have wished to prevent pedo-sexuality, which might be prevented and is desirable. Thus, the authors use here – and in other passages of their text – pedophilia (feelings) and pedo-sexuality (acts) as a synonym. Sloppy work!

Short Comment in Short

A renewing view on people with pedophile feelings who massively are willing and able to control themselves … is seen through the spectacles or within the frame of the more familiar ‘good old’ offender-model, just the people that could not control themselves.

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