Homosexuality Is Not Pedophilia (In Case You Didn’t Know That Already) 14 June 2006Posted by Todd in Biology, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, Science, Sexuality.
Earlier today, a guest raised a morality argument about homosexuality by conflating it with pedophilia, a favorite and hateful red herring of the conservative anti-gay agenda. Here is a modified version of something I wrote for another forum when someone posed the question whether it is ethical or worthwhile to compare homosexuality to pedophilia, even if the two are apples and oranges. I'm sure most of you can skip this post, as you already understand how ridiculous this conflation is, but recently I've been having a lot of believing and practicing Mormons stopping by, so I figure it is worth rehashing some of this publicly.
When is it a useful and meaningful project to compare homosexuality with pedophilia? Or is it always inappropriate, given their incommensurability as categories?
1. The problem is that since the mid-19th century, homosexuality has been conflated in the Western mind with pedophilia, because many of the early sexologists mis-categorized homosexuality as a psychopathology. To be fair, some sexologists (e.g., Havlock Ellis and Mangus Hirschfeld) understood quite early that homosexuality was not pathological, and made arguments for its naturalness and the rights of gay and lesbian individuals and even transgendered people as early as the 1910s. These researches figured out a long time ago that pedophilia was quite different. Unfortunately, in the public mind, especially where religion is involved, the conflation of the two has been long-lasting and intractable. “Save Our Children” is a favorite rallying cry of Christian anti-gay forces, from Anita Bryant to Pat Robertson to Russel M. Nelson (Mormon apostle). So when in the course of public discussions about gay rights people casually compare homosexuality and pedophilia, people accept the association as a given, without thinking about what they are saying.
Because of the refusal of such false and calomnous ideas to die, we live in a culture where we will inevitably have the conversations comparing pedophilia to homosexuality. [We should also be comparing to heterosexuality, but that doesn't happen.] And so I say, in the words of our fuhrer, W., Bring It On. Let's have the argument, and once and for all dislodge this bit of deeply harmful bullshit from our collective consciousness.
2. If you frame the comparison as the etiology of homosexuality vs. that of pedophilia, it seems like an incomplete question. If pedophiles are claiming that their sex acts are the result of a 'sexual orientation' and not a socio-pathology, then pedophilia must be compared to heterosexuality as well. Whether or not it is a sexual orientation comparable to homosexuality/heterosexuality is a valid scientific question that can be researched. I won't rehearse all the data in detail, but I will point out the basics. Whereas homosexuals and heterosexuals have no demonstrable socialization commonalities as groups, pedophiles do; and whereas both homosexuality and heterosexuality are demonstrably heritable, no studies have found any evidence of heritability among pedophiles.
What emerges among pedophiles is a picture of idividuals who are sociopathic. Some kinds of sociopathology are biological (faulty frontal lobes, usually); but other kinds are acquired and/or learned. In the case of pedophiles, they share almost universally histories of childhood violence (not necessarily sexual) and as an adult, the need to control or hurt using sex as the weapon. Pedophilia almost always manifests as a pathology that seeks to control its object. Key here, these are similar pathologies as those found in other sexual criminals, such as serial rapists or spousal abusers.
To return to the question at hand, to make comparisons among heterosexuals, homosexuals, and pedophiles is a perfectly legitimate thing to do scientifically. In fact, we learn alot from doing so. We learn that pedophiles actually are a different category altogether from the basic sexual orientations of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and in fact belong in the cateogries of criminal pathologies. You discover that pedophilia has the characteristics of rapists and spousal abusers, for example: 1) need to control, 2) inability to empathize, 3) the sincere belief that their victims “want it” or “deserve it”, 4) sexual pleasure from violence, etc.
This then helps us more clearly see that heterosexuality and homosexuality describe an individual's orientation separate from a sexual pathology. A heterosexual man, for example, can be a pedophile who preys on little boys; homosexual woman can be a spousal abuser.
In the end, the key thing to remember is that the conflation and comparison of homosexuality with pedophilia is a red herring at best, and a homophobic lie at worst the perpetuates hatred, fear, and violence against gay men and women.