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Psychiatric Association Debates Lifting Pedophilia Taboo
By Lawrence Morahan
CNSNews.com, June 11, 2003
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.
Psychiatrists attending 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."
Psychiatrist Charles 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 Removal."
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.
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.
"Normalizing" 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.
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 said.
But whether pedophilia should be judged "normal and healthy" is as much a moral question as a scientific one, according to Nicolosi.
In a fact sheet on pedophilia, the APA calls the behavior "criminal and immoral."
However, the APA failed to address whether it considers a person with a pedophile orientation to have a mental disorder.
Dr. Darrel A. Regier, director of research for the APA, said there were
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.
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
What Spitzer considered the most outrageous proposal, to get rid of the paraphilias,
And he said he considers it unlikely that changes would be made regarding the paraphilias.
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.
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