Editorial:  Appropriateness of Emotion: The Claims that Male Homosexuality is Disproportionately Related to Pedophilia or Involvement of Minors

 

Over the years, there has been a lot of  anecdotal literature from mostly right-wing sources claiming that homosexual males are disproportionately represented in cases of pedophilia and ephebophilia or involvement with underage minors (which can include teenagers). Even if the total number of cases involving heterosexual minor abuse is greater, the reports of proportional misrepresentation are disturbing because they seem to imply that a given homosexual male is more likely to offend with minors. These claims can contribute to lingering homophobia in certain fields, especially teaching.

 

The mainstream gay rights movement has of course distanced itself from these claims, and generally they are answered by an appeal to rationalism. That is, the proper way to look at an individual is his or her own personal conduct, and not to extrapolate from statistical associations that may not apply in a particular case. For example, despite claims that homosexual men tend to prefer young “attractive” partners, there are many examples of stable older gay may couples, and there are many examples of older heterosexual men chasing very young, but sometimes presumably nubile women (even in public life). Adult male homosexuality is cast as something very distinct from erotic interest in the immature; homosexuality is a “private choice” or immutable trait (either way) that can be channeled into psychological growth, and pedophilia should not be seen as having anything to do with it, whatever the combinations defined on Venn diagrams and by computer statistics packages. The gay rights movements has of course distanced itself from groups like NAMBLA and openly condemned them.

 

Nevertheless, the right wing seems to be playing on something subtle, yet obvious. They are maintaining that homosexual men tend to live in a narcissistic fantasy world disconnected from grounding in the needs of others. The heterosexual process of courtship (coupled with abstinence before marriage) is supposed to connect sexuality with socialization so that the man will have a real role in the world and balance his own ego with the needs of others.

 

In fairness, it needs to be mentioned that there have been some sensational media reports of heterosexual child abuse, such as with the polygamist “fundamentalist Mormon” sect in Colorado City, AZ, by a male patriarch, as in an ANC “Primetime” report on March 2, 2006.

 

We then get back to wondering about when moral calculus should be based on actions and when it should focus on the legitimacy of the emotions leading to actions—ultimate intentions. Inappropriate motives may indeed make someone seem untrustworthy.  The right wing will try to use observations like these to justify the ex-gay movement and trying to goad homosexuals into “changing.” It’s well to bear in mind that a large portion of underage offenses (homosexual and heterosexual) have been committed by married men with families, sometimes living double lives. Further confusing matters is that sometimes men are attracted to teens who are mature physically and mentally for their years but still not of legal consent age in a particular state; this may be a bigger issue for heterosexuals because girls tend to mature slightly earlier than boys. In recent years, there seems also to be an increase in media reports of grown women arrested for heterosexual relations with underage teenage boys. Many pedophiles—that is, those with a sexual interest in those who have not reached puberty—have committed violations with both males and females.

 

When should society mess with people’s hidden thoughts and motives (“thoughtcrimes”). Libertarians say, never: morality is simply a matter of not abrogating the rights of another on a individual basis—but sex with a minor is a crime because a minor cannot give consent.  But what about “changing” what one feels? Love is said to be what you do, not what you feel. (I have to mention here one group associated with ex-gay efforts, “Love in Action,” because the name expresses the paradox). Yet, we also know that underlying motives and attitude matter. That’s harder to see today in an individualistic world than it was in earlier times, as when the early Christians lived communally.

 

The open and freewheeling opportunities provided by the Internet have drawn attention to these problems and led to some public hysteria with some measure of witch-hunt mentality. Perhaps that emotional reaction is related to the burden parents bear today. In late 2005, there were extensive and sensational media reports about male ephebophiles going into chatrooms to arrange illegal liaisons with minors (both males and females), especially minors who provided webcam images of themselves (as in The New York Times stories) and with vigilante volunteers (from “Perverted Justice”) with whom NBC “Dateline” worked to arrange police stings. No, I would not volunteer to act as one of those minors in such a fishing witch-hunt.  There have been similar concerns about minors and even college students being stalked based on their profiles on social networking websites like myspace.com. Almost all of the perpetrators in the Dateline and Time stories were men, usually at least middle-aged, although there have been some media reports of females also having illegal liaisons with minors. Most of the men in the Dateline reports, while sometimes having positions of public trust such as military personnel, special education teachers, or pastors and sometimes being married with children, were rather tawdry and obviously had midlife problems in maintaining emotional connectivity with others their own age. The moral turnoff really seems to have as much to do with neglect of others as it does with exploitation of minors, who sometimes are nearing the age of legal adulthood. Many people without stable relationships would probably have to admit that young adults at their “summer solstice” would be attractive to them, even if most people have enough self-control not to act on their feelings or succumb to temptation in an illegal way. This problem should be viewed as distinct from actual pedophilia, which apparently (as in an “ABC Primetime Live” Report) which often seems related to early childhood abuse and a desire to revisit that abuse upon someone else as a way of gaining control. NBC “Today” reported, on March 1, 2006, that inappropriate sexual addictions and fantasies are being exacerbated by Internet pornography (now in the hundred of millions of porn webpages), and the visual stimulation, in some people (especially men) tends to feed a biological addiction feedback cycle, with the buildup of neurological tolerance, similar to that of drugs.

 

The Mark Foley email and IM “scandal,” in which the 52-year-old Republican Florida congressman had sent inappropriate and salacious or louche emails and instant messages to male Congressional pages (ages 16 and up) for a few years, until a journalistic showdown at the end of September 2006 forced him to resign abruptly. Law enforcement is ambiguous as to whether he broke the law as rigorously applied, although it is possible that the state of Florida could prosecute him (Florida has prosecuted others before in stings, even without the person’s travel), and it is not clear that he intended any illegal liaisons (in D.C. the age of consent is 16, but sometimes solicitation laws apply up to age 18). Foley had been chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Time magazine offered an essay on Of 16 by Karen Tumulty, “The End of a Revolution,” with emphasis on the political fallout, and the implied “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that socially conservative Republicans have in their own midst. Foley had even insisted that some matters should not be discussed in public. Foley’s interests could be properly called “ephebophilia,” not pedophilia. James Poniewozik carried on the Time piece with the sidebar, “Mark Foley’s New Sin Was Breaking America’s Favorite Taboo,” and included nasty quotes, like Utah’s Chris Cannon who said “You don’t need ‘gaydar’ to understand he has certain dispositions,” and Pat Robertson said, “Well, this man’s gay. He does what gay people do.” In other words, “every gay man is a pedophile waiting to happen.” John Cloud follows with an op-ed, “Actually, Foley’s Mistake Was Not Being True to Himself,” and offers a quote from Fred Berlin of the National Institute for the Study and Prevention of Sexual Trauma. “Any man can find an older adolescent attractive.” For a heterosexual male, this recognizes that adolescent girls become nubile around 13 or 14 and used to marry very young in earlier cultures. For the homosexual male, it seems to be an awareness of the male “biological solstice,” in late teens into the twenties: the lean, muscular bodies, hairy legs, perfection that will be followed by years of gradual tissue death. Berlin writes, “But you get a disorder where people are recurrently drawn to adolescents and show no interest in people their own age.” Indeed, call it emotional perfectionism, as a branch of narcissism. It says something, “my most important quality is my sensitivity, my ability to discriminate; I won’t waste any emotion on anyone who is less than perfect.”     

 

In the current climate, it is very dangerous for someone to say that he or she finds much younger people attractive, even if that observation is obviously true for a lot of adults who don’t act on their impulses. Particularly for people who work with children and teens (mainly teachers and school employees), we may be about to embark on some new kind of “don’t ask don’t tell” and rebuttable presumption logic in our legal system.

 

We are led back to another problem, whether marriage is just about love and satisfaction between two persons, or whether it is about fulfilling some unwritten social obligation. These all seem like paradoxes.

 

©Copyright 2005 by Bill Boushka, subject to fair use

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Examples of references:

 

“Homosexual Pedophiles Are Vastly Overrepresented in Child Sex Abuse Cases”; (6/7/2005)

http://www.afamichigan.org/2005/06/07/homosexual-pedophiles-are-vastly-overrepresented-in-child-sex-abuse-cases/ , which claims that homosexuals account for about 1/3 of pedophilia cases

 

 Stankey Kurtz, “The Problem of Equivalence,: 1/26/2004, National Review,

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment012601a.shtml

 

New York Post: http://www.inoohr.org/homosexualpedophilesinthepub.htm