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Response to the Bauserman Critique *

David A. Mrazek, MD, MRC Psych., National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine

Journal of Homosexuality, 20 - 1/2, 1990

* Bauserman, R.,
Objectivity and Ideology: Criticism of Theo Sandfort's Research on Man-Boy Sexual Relations

Bauserman has reviewed my critique of the work of Theo Sandfort as well as a critique by Finkelhor and one by Masters and Johnson. Unfortunately, his review is based more on emotion than reason. Sandfort's study is methodologically weak based on inherent sample bias, demand characteristics of the questions, and unchecked bias of the interviewers.

While generalizability of these results is acknowledged to be completely unwarranted, such generalizations are made despite the author's stated disclaimer. Sandfort reported that selected young boys did describe enjoying sex with adult men, but such an assertion could have been made based on a series of self reports. In some ways, this is a good way to describe this "study" which is the compilation of solicited testimonials. These points were all made succinctly in my original one page review of Sandfort's book and remain valid criticisms.

The ethical problems of this study are particularly disturbing. The basic question is whether appropriate human subject safeguards were apart of this research. This question must be addressed concretely in proposing any research in the U.S. Research involving children requires particularly scrupulous attention to human subjects concerns.

In this study, the researchers joined with the members of the National Pedophile Workshops to "study" the boys who were the sexual "partners" of its members. Both this study and the National Pedophile Workshops were financially supported by the Netherlands Association for Sexual Reform. There is no evidence that human subject safeguards were a paramount concern. However, there is ample evidence that the study was politically motivated to "reform" legislation. Specific risks that are not even acknowledged in the book include contracting sexually transmitted diseases, legal prosecution, and breached confidentiality leading to peer discrimination and family disruptions.

These researchers knowingly colluded with the perpetuation of secret illegal activity. External review of their activities was minimal. Possible negative consequences of their course of action were minimized despite the reality that some of these boys were as young as eleven years of age. In the majority of cases, these boys' parents were unaware of these sexual activities with adult men, and the researchers contributed to this deception by their actions. These ethical concerns lead to the crux of the matter. Even if this study was methodologically sound, which it certainly is not, on moral grounds alone such "research" cannot be sanctioned.

Children are not developmentally prepared to enter into sexual relationships on an informed and equal basis with adults. It is a basic responsibility of society to protect children and foster their development. These children were not adequately protected.


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