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Ipce Newsletter E13, June 2002

Some quotes from

 Bruce Rind
Gay and Bisexual Adolescent Boys' Sexual Experiences With Men
An Empirical Examination of Psychological Correlates in a Nonclinical Sample;
In: Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 30, No.4, 2001



Over the last quarter century the incest model, with its image of helpless victims exploited and traumatized by powerful perpetrators, has come to dominate perceptions of virtually all forms of adult-minor sex. Thus, even willing sexual relations between gay or bisexual adolescent boys and adult men, which differ from father-daughter incest in many important ways, are generally seen by the lay public and professionals as traumatizing and psychologically injurious. This study assessed this common perception by examining a nonclinical, mostly college sample of gay and bisexual men. 

Of the 129 men in the study, 26 were identified as having had age-discrepant sexual relations (ADSRs) as adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age with adult males. Men with ADSR experiences were as well adjusted as controls in terms of self-esteem and having achieved a positive sexual identity.

 Reactions to the ADSRs were predominantly positive, and most ADSRs were willingly engaged in. Younger adolescents were just as willing and reacted at least as positively as older adolescents.

 Data on sexual identity development indicated that ADSRs played no role in creating same-sex sexual interests, contrary to the "seduction" hypothesis. Findings were inconsistent with the incest model. The incest model has come to act as a procrustean bed, narrowly dictating how adult-minor sexual relations quite different from incest are perceived. 

From the Introduction 

A quarter century ago, attention to the issue of sexual encounters between adults and minors increased markedly in the United States (Jenkins, 1998). This increased attention was an outgrowth of initiatives taken by the women's movement, which first focused on the problem of rape and shortly thereafter the problem of incest (Finkelhor, 1984). Rape served as a model for understanding father-daughter incest (Okami, 1990), and incest in turn quickly became the dominant model for understanding sexual encounters in general between men and girls , (Finkelhor, 1984). Based on the rape and incest models, these encounters came to be seen as a form of power abuse and violence that exploited unwilling and powerless victims, inflicting lasting psychological trauma in the process (Okami, 1990). The burgeoning child abuse profession, given a major boost in 1974 by passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, rapidly spread this view, across society, where it has remained well-entrenched ever since (Gardner, 1993;  Jenkins 1998) 

As chi1d abuse researchers expanded their domain of inquiry in the early 1980s, research began to include sexual encounters between men and boys, and eventually between women and boys (West, 1998). The incest model also strongly influenced how researchers, other professionals, and the lay public attempted to understand these encounters, inc1uding those between adolescent boys and unrelated adu1ts (Jenkins, 1998; Rind, 1998). […]
In one typical example, an editorial in a major U.S. newspaper asserted that sexual encounters between adolescent boys and men are "profoundly damaging," because they "invariably involve the imposition of power and exploitation, in the most fearfully private of all ways ... [which leaves] emotional scars, distrusts, [and] self-contempt that last through lifetimes". (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1984, p. 22A). 

Recent reviews of the nonclinical literature suggest that the incest model, along with its assumptions of intimidation, violence, and pathogenicity, is not valid for boys in the general population who participate willingly in sexual relations with adults -- "willing" indicates simple as opposed to informed consent (see Rind et al. , 2000, for a complete discussion). Bauserman and Rind (1997), in a review of the nonclinical literature on boy-adult sex, found that willing relations were associated with neutral or positive reactions. Rind et al. (1998), in their meta-analytic review of college samples, found that boy-adult sex was not associated with symptoms when the boys were willing participants. In these samples, most boys with experiences labeled child sexual abuse reacted positively or neutrally (66% ), whereas most girls reacted negatively (72%). These gender differences, which appeared to an equal degree in the national probability samples meta-analytically reviewed by Rind and Tromovitch (1997), imply that it is generally not valid to extrapolate from girls' experiences, especially father-daughter incest, to those of boys. 

Nonclinical studies reporting data on woman-boy sex (e.g., Condy et al., 1987; Promuth and Hurkhart, 1987; West and Woodhouse, 1993; Woods and Dean, 1984) have generally found that boys react predominantly positively to these encounters, especially if they are adolescents at the time. Presumably, most of the boys in these studies were heterosexual, given the predominance of heterosexuality in the general population. It follows that, if adolescent heterosexual boys respond predominantly positively to sexual relations with older females, then adolescent gay or bisexual boys may respond similarly to such relations with older males. This inference differs markedly from expectations that follow from the incest model. It was the purpose of this study to examine these competing predictions. 

 From: Current Study 

The purpose of the current study was to add to scientific knowledge in this area by presenting research that avoided the shortcomings just discussed. A nonclinical, mostly middle class sample of young adult gay and bisexual males was examined. Both adjustment and reaction data were analyzed, as were data concerning sexual orientation development. Consistent with the nonclinical and cross-cultural research just reviewed, and contrary to predictions from the incest model, it was expected that age-discrepant sexual relations (ADSRs) between gay or bisexual males and adult men would be experienced predominantly non negatively and would not be associated with adjustment problems. Furthermore, contrary to psychoanalytic theorizing and labeling theory, it was not expected that homosexual interests would be the "adverse" outcome of ADSRs. In the current study, ADSR was defined as a sexual encounter or relationship involving at least genital contact between a gay or bisexual boy aged less than 18 with a man aged at least 18 and at least 5 years older than the boy. 

From: Results 


Subjects' mean reaction was positive (M = 3.94, SD = 1.25), although individual reactions ranged from very negative to very positive. Overall, reactions were as follows: 38.5% very positive, 38.5% positive, 7.7% neutral/mixed, 3.8% negative, and 11.5% very negative. Combining categories and rounding, 77% were positive, 8% were neutral, and 15% were negative. 


Overall, subjects were mutually consenting (M = 4.15, SD = .51); consent ranged from acquiescing to encouraging. Thus, forced or coerced contact was not a factor in this sample. To the contrary, nearly a quarter (23.1 %) encouraged the contacts and about two-thirds (69.2%) mutually consented; 7.7% acquiesced. Thus, 92% evidenced positive desire for the sexual involvement. 

From: Discussion 

Psychological Adjustment

In the current study, ADSRs between gay or bisexual boys and men were examined. Contrary to conventional assumptions, derived in part from the influential incest model, these relations were not associated with damaged self -esteem or sexual identity development. The self -esteem of subjects who experienced ADSRs was as high as those who did not. ADSR subjects were not delayed in achieving a positive sexual identity; to the contrary, in the two samples combined, ADSR subjects actually reached this milestone earlier than did control subjects. […]

This finding is inconsistent with conventional professional and lay views, which reflect the incest model, but is consistent with empirical findings on willing boy-adult sex based on college samples (Rind et at. , 1998). Given that willing ADSRs predominated in the current sample and that the current sample was composed mostly of college students, this consistency is not surprising.  

Sexual Identity Development 

Before gay liberation, professionals frequently expressed concern that man- boy sex was pathogenic, because they believed it was likely to cause boys to become homosexual (Rind, 1998). […]Consistent with a growing literature [..], subjects in the current study became aware of their sexual attraction to other males years before puberty on average- in the case of ADSR subjects, 3.5 years before. All but one ADSR subject became aware of these attractions prior to having their first ADSR. [..] The timeline suggested by these events is, for most of these subjects, as follows: becoming aware of same-sex attractions, labeling these interests as gay, then experiencing ADSRs. This timeline contradicts the seduction hypothesis. […]

The vast majority of narratives provide no evidence of harm to sexual identity formation. Contrary to stereotypes of harm, Savin-Williams (1997) concluded from his interviews that many of the ADSRs helped "the adolescent more readily identify as gay, feel better being gay, and learn much about himself" 

Reactions and Consent

The incest model offers the image of a frightened child, powerless to resist, coerced into a traumatizing sex act. This image fits some case studies presented in clinical research on gay boys' ADSRs (e.g., Myers, 1989), but does not fit the typical ADSR in the current sample. […]
It was positive and very positive reactions that predominated (77% of the cases ). […]
This predominance of positive ADSRs is strongly at odds with the image forwarded by most feminists, child abuse professionals, and media commentators. The boys in these cases were not frightened, powerless to resist, or coerced into traumatizing sex acts. Instead, the vast majority either mutually consented to the relations or actually initiated them. In contrast to the clinical and clinic-based samples discussed previously, force and coercion played no role in the current  sample, the boys were not involved in ADSRs before puberty, and incest was rare […]Noteworthy is the finding that age difference, the sine qua non of the power abuse perspective, was not associated with type of reaction and was positively rather than negatively, associated with level of consent. The boys were more willing to be sexually involved as the difference in ages between them and the men increased. Moreover, the younger boys (aged 12-14) did not react more negatively than the older ones-to the contrary, they all reacted positively. This contradicts the conventional wisdom that younger participants would be vulnerable to negative outcomes because they are too naive sexually. Contrary to this presumption of naivetι or "innocence," however, almost every boy in the current sample had already become aware of his sexual attractions to other males prior to his ADSR. Additionally, these sexual attractions, whether felt by boys who experienced ADSRs or not, often involved significantly older males. […]
Rather than seeing older males as a threat to abuse them, these boys often regarded them with "excitement, euphoria, mystery" (p. 24 ).

This favorable predisposition may account for the receptivity, and hence generally positive reactions, to the ADSRs that occurred in this sample. It also suggests that the reports of positive ADSRs were generally valid, rather than artifacts of psychological or social pressure to present their homosexual history in a favorable light. 

From: The Incest Model: A Procrustean Bed 

The discrepancy between findings in the current study and expectations based on the incest model is so great as to warrant further consideration. […]

This sort of extrapolation has become commonplace since the early 1980s. Sexual phenomena that have only age-discrepancy in common with incest are reshaped in a narrow, rigid manner to fit the demands of the incest model. Media commentators conclude that willing sexual relations between adolescent boys and unrelated men are invariably profoundly damaging (e.g., Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 1984, p. 22A). Professionals reject or distort data regarding these relations that are inconsistent with the incest stereotype, reaching instead the obligatory conclusion of pervasive harm (e.g., Bartholow et at., 1994; Masters et at., 1985). 

A 1993 case in London, Ontario, illustrates paradigmatically the procrustean influence of the incest model when applied too broadly. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) documented on its premier informational show IDEAS (1994, 1995, 1999) what it termed the biggest sex scandal in North America. About 60 men sexually involved with adolescent boys were arrested in the midst of a "moral, panic ... generated by the police, with the help of therapists and social workers, and ... fueled by the media" (IDEAS, 1994, p. 29).

CBC interviews with the boys indicated that they generally were gay or bisexual, were "sexually active teenagers who were having sex for fun or for profit" (IDEAS, 1994, p. 31 ), engaged willingly, had reached Canada's age of consent of 14 when the sex occurred, and were treated well by the men. […] 

The producer of the series summed up the procrustean influence of the incest model when applied to teenage males involved in willing relations with unrelated adults:

“... the modern and useful feminist analysis of the reasons young women suffer in horrible incest cases -- that analysis has been inappropriately used in an attempt to understand an entirely different set of circumstances. A blurring of motives and psychological effects has taken place, which has created a powerful and misleading narrative that produces neither justice nor happiness.” (IDEAS, 1999) 

From: Concluding Remarks 

[…]the current findings are consistent with those of other nonclinical research in demonstrating that adolescent boys' willing sexual experiences with older persons are very poorly described by victimological models (i.e., rape and incest) that evolved in the early 1970s to describe women's and girls' unwanted sexual experiences. Alternative models should be sought that incorporate the consistent finding that adolescent boys generally react neutrally or positively to ADSRs that are willingly engaged in and involve adults of the gender consistent with the adolescent's sexual orientation.  

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Ipce Newsletter E13, June 2002