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Jay R. Feierman (ed.)

Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions

Springer-Verlag, New York (1990), ISBN 0-387-97243-9 


The Reason for this Volume

If we were to judge the seriousness of a psychosocial problem by the attention that the popular media give to it, we would have to conclude that the modern world is in the midst of an epidemic of pedophilic child sexual abuse. One can scarcely go more than a few weeks in any large metropolitan area without reading about one of the community’s upstanding citizens discovered to have been sexually involved with children or adolescents. 

The attention that the popular media give this topic is paralleled by the attention that it receives in the social sciences, where literally dozens of books and more than a thousand articles have been published on it in the past few years. In fact, "child sexual abuse," along with "co-dependency" and "dysfunctional family," have become the avant-garde psychological clichés of the decade. 

However, most of the lay and professional literature although voluminous, reflect a narrow anthropo-, ethno-, and chrono-centrism that precludes any real understanding of the topic with anything more than the preconceptions of our times.

The writing is anthropocentric because the topic often is discussed as though humans were the only species in which sexual behavior between adults and non-adults is found. 

The writing is ethnocentric because the behavior is discussed as though it were, somehow, peculiar to Western industrialized societies. 

The writing is chronocentric because the behavior is discussed as though it were a recent development in the history of the human species. 

All of these "-centrisms" obscure the fact that the behavior is seen in other species, societies, and times and has to be understood within these broader contexts. 

The behavioral-science disciplines that have contributed the most significantly to our current understanding of this topic have been sociology and social psychology

(e.g., David Finkelhor’s Child Sexual Abuse and Mark Cook's Adult Sexual Interest in Children). 

Numerous practitioners have based clinical interventions on the data base and knowledge generated by these disciplines. This volume adds to this data base by including new, biosocial contribution from the perspectives of history, political science, sexology, biology, primatology, anthropology, experimental and developmental psychology, and psychiatry. 

What results is a trans-species, trans-cultural, and trans-historical perspective that gives new biosocial insights into the roots of pedophilia as the phenomenon is found in contemporary industrialized societies.

Biosocial Perspective

Human behavior, like human anatomy, has evolved. The major mechanisms that account for this evolutionary process are natural, sexual, and kin selection, all of which are explained later in this volume. Selected behavior that leads to an increased chance for the individual to survive and reproduce ,is called "adaptive behavior,“ or simply, “an adaptation." 

As a result, almost all humans who are alive today are individuals who exhibit a repertoire of adaptive behaviors. Because of our current understanding of the evolutionary process, the biosocial perspective systematically asks the question, Is or was a particular behavior adaptive? It is legitimate to ask the question regarding any human behavior, including some aspects of adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents. 

Many social scientists would argue that the determinants of adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents simply are culturally transmitted across generations by social learning. This view has been the predominant perspective in the sociological and social-psychological literature on the subject to date. 

This volume will expand upon this view by developing the thesis that aspects of the behavior result from an interaction of genetic and non-genetic determinants and that in many instances, there is strong support that some of the genetic determinants were subjected to positive selective pressures or were the by-products of selective pressures in our evolutionary past. 

This realization is perhaps the single most important contribution of this volume and is of more than academic interest, inasmuch as it not only suggests why there is a proclivity towards the behavior in some individuals but it also suggests a rational strategy by which heuristic questions and future hypotheses can be formulated. 

The biosocial perspective augments the previously published literature on pedophilia, much of which is published under the category "Child Sexual Abuse" in the lay and professional literature. The perspective of most of the child sexual abuse literature is that of cultural transmission through social learning, a perspective that is strongly influenced by the emerging but still nascent discipline of victimology. One of the central theoretical tenets of victimology is the perpetuation of the behavior, perpetuation that occurs, it is said, because the primary determinant of one's being a child sexual abuser as an adult is that one was sexually abused as a child. 

This volume critically examines the biases under which the data that form the basis of this fundamental tenet of victimology are collected, as well as critically examining the actual data, and comes to the conclusion that, contrary to the popular belief that is based on victimology theory, being sexually involved with an adult as a child is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of the engaging in sexual behavior with a child as an adult. Clearly, alternative perspectives are in order. 


The title of this volume, "Pedophi1ia," is the word that the popular media give to any kind of sexual behavior between an adult and a legally underage person.

However, the more scientific definition of the term "pedophilia" is "sexual attraction to prepubertal children." The term for actual sexual behavior between an adult and a prepubertal child is "pedosexual behavior." 

Sexual attraction to adolescents is called "ephebophilia" (the synonym is "hebephilia"), and actual sexual behavior between an adult and an adolescent is called "ephebosexual behavior." 

All of these specific attractions and behaviors are discussed separately in this volume under the rubric "Pedophi1ia." 

Because of the biosocial perspective of this volume, a vocabulary was chosen that allows numerous species, including humans, to be described with the same terms. For example, 

the term "male" is used in place of "man" or "boy." 

The term "female" is used in place of "woman" or "girl." 

Likewise, the term "individual" is used in place of "person." 

Although these terms may appear to be somewhat awkward at times, the overall effect of having a common terminology with which to describe the behavior of humans as well as nonhumans outweighs the disadvantages. 

Incest is defined in this volume as sexual behavior between any two individuals who are first-degree relatives and, therefore, are related to each other by 0.5. This category includes relationships between parents and offspring and between brothers and sisters. Incestuous behavior does not imply that one of the individuals is a child or an adolescent, because much incestuous behavior takes place between first-degree relatives both of whom are adults. When incestuous behavior involves a child or an adolescent, the adult is engaging in pedo- or ephebosexual behavior. Such an adult may or may not be a pedo- or an ephebophile. 

The tendency in the clinical literature has been not to consider most adults who engage in sexual behavior with children and adolescents as being pedo- or ephebophiles, inasmuch as pedo- and ephebophilia previously have been assumed to be the result of either previous childhood victimization or mental derangement. 

This volume will question both of these assumption, inasmuch as the major "roots" of pedo- and ephebophilia are found neither in the previous childhood exposure to sexual behavior with an adult nor in the minds of the seriously mentally ill. Rather, the bulk of the determinants of pedo- and ephebophilia are embedded in the phylogenetic, i.e., the evolutionary, past of all humans.

In addition to the very sensitive issue of incest, there is also a very sensitive and somewhat strained relationship between adult homosexual males and adult, androphilic pedo- and ephebosexual males. An awareness of the nature of this relationship has resulted in the use of the terms "androphilic" and "gynephilic" in this volume rather than "homosexual" and "heterosexual" to describe the sex of the individuals to whom pedo- and ephebosexual males are sexually attracted.

Contents and Organization of this Book 

The volume is organized in six parts, the middle four of which represent ethologist Niko Tinbergen’s suggestions regarding the areas of inquiry that one has to address if one is going to understand a particular behavior. 


In Chapter 1, "A Biosocial Overview . . . ," Feierman develops a biosocial basis by which selected aspects of human sexual attraction and behavior in general can be understood and then puts pedo- and ephebosexual behavior within this context. 

In Chapter 2, "History ..." Bullough places adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents into the historical context of Western civilization and concludes that such behavior, in contrast to popular belief, is at an all-time low level of occurrence. 

In Chapter 3, "Sociopolitical Biases in the Contemporary Scientific Literature ..." Okami shows how the use of the nascent discipline of victimology, as a basis with which to understand all adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents, serves more as a sociopolitical vehicle for the values of some of its users than as a scientific model with which to understand the phenomenon. 


In Chapter 4, "The Phylogeny of Male/Female Differences .. . ," Medicus and Hopf show how an understanding of the evolutionary history of male/female differences can help in explaining why pedo- and ephebophilia are largely adult male phenomena. 

In Chapter 5, "Dominance, Submission, and Love: ...," Eibl-Eibesfeldt explains how the origins of pedo- and ephebophilia can be found in the dominant/submissive sexuality of our reptilian ancestors as well as in parental love. 

In Chapter 6, "Adolescent/Adult Copulatory Behavior in Nonhuman Primates," Anderson and Bielert document that a low frequency of copulatory sexual behavior between adults and non-adults is widespread among our primate ancestors and that the patterns of who copulates with whom can be predicted to some degree with a knowledge of the species as well as of the socio-ecology of the particular social group. 

In Chapter 7, "Mechanisms of Inbreeding Avoidance ...," Pusey describes the two main biosocial mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance in nonhuman primates: separation of close relatives (by death or dispersal) and suspension of mating (by prolonged familiarity) between close kin living in the same social group. These biosocial mechanisms predate the emergence of humans and, therefore, of age-of- consent laws and incest taboos. 


In Chapter 8, "The Modification of Sexual Behavior Through Imprinting: . . . ,“ D’Udine describes how adult sexual preferences in rodents can be predictably and permanently altered through experimental manipulation of their early environment by cross-fostering among different species. 

In Chapter 9, "The Modification of Sexual Behavior Through Conditioning...," Domjan demonstrates experimentally in the Japanese quail that even in adulthood, sexual behavior can be modified in some degree through conditioning to inanimate objects. 

In Chapter 10, "Hormones and Neuro-endocrine Factors . . . ," Gladue reviews the literature on neuro-endocrine correlates of sexual orientation in humans and suggests how these same techniques can be used to study the neuro-endociine correlates of age orientation. 

In Chapter 11, "Adult-Male/Juvenile Association . . . ," Mackey, using a comparative field approach among many societies, argues that the consistency and predictability of certain nonsexual temporal associations of adult males with children and adolescents across diverse societies suggests that" such behavior is a species-characteristic trait of humans. 


In Chapter 12, "The Concept of Function . . . ," Dienske discusses the possible answers and their bio-philosophical implications that result from asking the ethologically justified question, Is there a function of adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents? 

In Chapter 13, "The Functions of Primate Paternalism: . . . ," Taub reviews the various functions of adult-male/non-adult associations in nonhuman primates. 

In Chapter 14, "Socio-sexual Behavior . .. Among Bonobos," de Waal shows how sexual behavior functions in regulating inter-individual tension among all age and sex combinations in bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees), a species of living primates that is one of the genetically closest to humans. 

In Chapter 15, "Ritualized Adult-Male/Adolescent-Male Sexual Behavior in Melanesia," Schiefenhövel discusses the functions of a behavior that is considered criminal in Western industrialized societies but is both normative and obligatory in some Melanesian societies. 

In Chapter 16, "Selected Cross-Generational Sexual Behavior in Traditional Hawai’i: .. . ," Diamond presents a sexual ethnography, with emphasis on adult/non-adult sexual behavior, of a non-Western society known even to most non-anthropologists. 


In Chapter 17, "Pedophilia: . . . New Phylism Theory as Applied to Paraphilic Lovemaps," Money shows how pedophilia (and ephebophilia) can be understood in terms of a transposition of the parenting and mating "phylisms." 

In Chapter 18, Silva — the pseudonym for an incarcerated, androphilic pedo~ and ephebosexual physician with specialty training in both pediatrics and child psychiatry — describes his own sexual development and adult behavior, giving a unique, personal insight into the development of pedo- and ephebophilia. This chapter should be particularly helpful to individuals reading this volume who have little previous knowledge of the topic. 

In Chapter 19, "The Abused/Abuser Hypothesis . . . ,“ Garland and Dougher critically review the literature concerning what now must be considered the most widespread misconception about child sexual abuse: that being sexually involved with an adult as a child or an adolescent will cause one to be sexually attracted to children and adolescents in adulthood. 

In Chapter 20, "Sexual Development at the Neuro-hormonal Level: . . . ," Hutchison and Hutchison critically review sexual brain differentiation and sexual development in terms of the role of androgens, the male sex hormones. 

In Chapter 21, "The Complexity of the Concept of Behavioral Development: A Summary," Zivin reviews and synthesizes the latest concepts concerning behavioral development in general and applies them to our current, rather simplistic views on how pedo- or ephebosexual behavior develops. 


In Chapter 22, "Human Erotic Age Orientation: A Conclusion," Feierman develops a biosocial understanding of why "pedophilia" and "ephebophilia" are perceived, categorized, and labeled. 

The processes of the "neotenization" of nubile females and "nubility perpetuation" of any-age, reproductively competent females are examined in their relationship to pedo- and ephebophilia. 

It is argued that to date, although aspects of pedo- and ephebophilia appear to be phylo-genetically adaptive, the entire behavioral repertoire — in the context in which it is seen in modern industrialized societies — is best conceptualized as a by-product of selection. The chapter concludes with the optimistic hope that through acceptance, compassion, and understanding, pedo- and ephebophiles will be provided the help they need in order to conform their behavior to the expectations of the societies in which they live. 


The impetus to produce this volume came from the International Society for Human Ethology, some of whose members suggested that human ethology, the biology of human behavior, had to demonstrate its usefulness in a clinically relevant area. 

The editor of this volume, who at the time was the Membership Chair of the Society and had worked clinically for more than 10 years as a psychiatrist with adults who had been sexually involved with children and adolescents, suggested that the subject matter that now composes this volume was worthy of consideration. 

In the summer of 1987, The Servants of the Paraclete, a Catholic religious order, generously supported the convening of the Society in the order’s secluded retreat facilities in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, where this very sensitive topic was addressed. Approximately 50 behavioral scientists from seven countries met for a week in Jemez Springs to try to further the understanding of the phenomenon. 

The respective final versions of many of the chapters in this volume reflect the thinking of numerous individuals in attendance at the Symposium. For their contributions, specific appreciation is expressed to Mark Cook, Kathryn J. Dolan, David Finkelhor, Suzanne G. Frayser, Robert W. Goy, J. Stephen Heisel, Jane B. Lancaster, Joan A. Nelson, Hilda and Seymour Parker, Donald Pfaff, Susan Phipps-Yonas, Theo G.M. Sandfort, Albert Yonas, and others. 

Approximately half of the individuals who presented papers at that meeting were invited to submit revised manuscripts, and in addition, a number of individuals not in attendance at Jemez Springs also were invited to submit manuscripts. From these submitted manuscripts, this volume was developed. 

Without the support of the International Society for Human Ethology and The Servants of the Paraclete, the volume never would have come to fruition. 

The Vista Hill Foundation, San Diego, California, generously provided financial and secretarial support for the editor during 1983-1987, which made it possible for the Jemez Springs Symposium to be organized and to take place. 

Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has supported the editing of the volume with secretarial staff and office space for the editor in 1988 and 1989. 

Susan Weiss has overseen the entire project during a three-year period. Her organizational, editing, and writing skills are reflected in almost every aspect of the volume. 

Finally, this work is dedicated to all of the adults, adolescents, and children whose lives have been affected, in one way or another, by the topic that is addressed in this volume. 

Jay R. Feierman, M.D. Corrales, New Mexico, October 31, 1989

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