Association Debates Lifting Pedophilia Taboo
Lawrence Morahan, CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
In a step critics charge
could result in decriminalizing sexual contact between adults and children, the
American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently sponsored a symposium in which
participants discussed the removal of pedophilia from an upcoming edition of the
psychiatric manual of mental disorders.
an annual APA convention May 19 in San Francisco proposed removing several
long-recognized categories of mental illness - including pedophilia,
exhibitionism, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism and sadomasochism - from the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Most of the mental
illnesses being considered for removal are known as "paraphilias."
Moser of San Francisco's Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and
co-author Peggy Kleinplatz of the University of Ottawa presented conferees with
a paper entitled "DSM-IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for
People whose sexual
interests are atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed should
not necessarily be labeled mentally ill, they argued. Different societies
stigmatize different sexual behaviors, and since the existing research could not
distinguish people with paraphilias from so-called "normophilics,"
there is no reason to diagnose paraphilics as either a distinct group or
psychologically unhealthy, Moser and Kleinplatz stated.
Participants also debated
gender-identity disorder, a condition in which a person feels discomfort with
his or her biological sex. Homosexual activists have long argued that gender
identity disorder should not be assumed to be abnormal.
situation of the paraphilias at present parallels that of homosexuality in the
early 1970s. Without the support or political astuteness of those who fought for
the removal of homosexuality, the paraphilias continue to be listed in the
DSM," Moser and Kleinplatz wrote.
A. Dean Byrd, vice
president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality
(NARTH) and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Utah,
condemned the debate. Taking the paraphilias out of the DSM without research
would have negative consequences, he said.
this does, in essence, is it has a chilling effect on research," Byrd said.
"That is, once you declassify it, there's no reason to continue studying
it. What we know is that the paraphilias really impair interpersonal sexual
behavior...and to suggest that it could be 'normalized' simply takes away from
the science, but more importantly, has a chilling effect on research."
pedophilia would have enormous implications, especially since civil laws closely
follow the scientific community on social-moral matters, said Linda Ames
Nicolosi, NARTH publications director.
pedophilia is deemed normal by psychiatrists, then how can it remain
illegal?" Nicolosi asked. "It will be a tough fight to prove in the
courts that it should still be against the law."
In previous articles,
psychiatrists have argued that there is little or no proof that sex with adults
is necessarily harmful to minors. Indeed, they have argued that many sexually
molested children later look back on their experience as positive, Nicolosi
other psychiatrists have written, again in scientific journals, that if children
can be forced to go to church, why should 'consent' be the defining moral issue
when it comes to sex?" she said.
But whether pedophilia
should be judged "normal and healthy" is as much a moral question as a
scientific one, according to Nicolosi.
courts are so afraid of 'legislating someone's privately held religious beliefs'
that if pedophilia is normalized, we will be hard put to defend the retention of
laws against child molestation," Nicolosi noted.
In a fact sheet on
pedophilia, the APA calls the behavior "criminal and immoral."
adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and
immoral act that never can be considered normal or socially acceptable
behavior," the APA said.
However, the APA failed
to address whether it considers a person with a pedophile orientation to have a
is the question that is being actively debated at this time within the APA, and
that is the question they have not answered when they respond that such
relationships are 'immoral and illegal,'" Nicolosi said.
Dr. Darrel A. Regier,
director of research for the APA, said there were
plans and there is no process set up that would lead to the removal of the
paraphilias from their consideration as legitimate mental disorders."
Some years ago, the APA
considered the question of whether a person who had such attractions but did not
act on them should still be labeled with a disorder.
clarified in the DSM-IV-TR...that if a person acted on those urges, we
considered it a disorder," Regier said.
Dr. Robert Spitzer,
author of a study on change of sexual orientation that he presented at the 2001
APA convention, took part in the symposium in San Francisco in May.
Spitzer said the debate
on removing gender identity disorder from the DSM was generated by people in the
homosexual activist community "who are troubled by gender identity disorder
in particular." Spitzer added: "I happen to think that's a big
What Spitzer considered
the most outrageous proposal, to get rid of the paraphilias, "doesn't have
the same support that the gender-identity rethinking does." And he said he
considers it unlikely that changes would be made regarding the paraphilias.
rid of the paraphilias, which would mean getting rid of pedophilia, that would
not happen in a million years. I think there might be some compromise about
gender-identity disorder," he said.
Dr. Frederick Berlin,
founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said
people who are sexually attracted to children should learn not to feel ashamed
of their condition.
have no problem accepting the fact that someone, through no fault of his own, is
attracted to children. But certainly, such an individual has a
responsibility...not to act on it," Berlin said.