15 July 2013

Happy Birthday, Virtuous Pedophiles!

An important, if controversial, new mutual support group just celebrated the first anniversary of its founding. For most people, pedophile is a synonym for child molester, but they are very different things, as the Virtuous Pedophiles demonstrate (www.VirPed.org). 'Pedophilia' refers to the sexual interest in children, whereas 'child molestation' refers to the actual behavior. Despite the common notion that pedophiles are all child molesters in waiting, very many—perhaps even most—pedophiles know they cannot express their sexual interests and work to be celibate, for their lifetimes, with no support from anyone. These are the Virtuous Pedophiles, and they deserve every credit and support we can provide them.

10 July 2013

Atypical sex and atypical sex researchers: Who thinks what of whom?

The mainstream media have been remarkable in challenging several of the public (mis-)conceptions about pedophilia. (If nothing else, the public emotionality and the potential implications of pedophilia being a brain phenomenon keep this a very popular, attention-getting topic for the media.) Even more interesting than the public reactions, I think, have been the reactions I’ve received from the actual groups I get to study. I almost wanted to title this post Hate Mail/Fan Mail.

The feedback I receive from pedophilic folks has, in general, fit into two camps. Indeed, the feedback I receive from all the atypical sexuality communities I've done research with has generally fit into two camps: People either love it or hate it, usually depending on whether the findings seem to support what they already believed before they saw the research and on whether they think the findings are flattering or politically useful.

07 July 2013

Pragmatism in using the DSM-5

Someone on a listserv I’m on asked what looked suspiciously like a simple question (paraphrasing): Even though the DSM-5 no longer incudes ‘general functioning’ in diagnoses, should I put it in my reports anyway?

I’ve been in very many debates in and around DSM-5 issues, and I started a quick response, but found myself attaching even this very discrete issue to my whole philosophy of how we do diagnosis. Apparently, the DSM-5 and the debates leading up to it have impacted my thinking more than I realized. Although usually an aspiring idealist, I find myself circling in on the role of pragmatism in diagnosis.

We still appear to retain a belief that science should serve as the final arbiter for what is/is-not a diagnosis and when. But the content of the DSM debates has not been about the science (both sides appear to have a very similar view of the actual content of the empirical literature), but about how to apply it and about the fears for potential misapplication. That is, the lion's share of debate has been: What would it mean for SVP if Diagnosis X were in the DSM? What would it mean for insurance reimbursements if Diagnosis Y were in the DSM? What would it mean for civil rights if people with Sexual Interest A were given a technical name? If I may expand that thought: I suspect that, mostly without being explicit about it, we have been forming our opinions based on the results we want to see and then working backwards to endorse diagnostic criteria that guarantee our arrival at those outcomes.

14 April 2012

Pedophilia, the brain, and cause-and-effect

One of the questions I commonly receive about MRI research on pedophilia is: How do we know what causes what?  Comparing the brain scans of pedophiles with non-pedophiles gives us a correlation, and correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

It is true that correlation does not equal causation, but that does not mean we are powerless about it either.  To understand how to attack this kind of problem, we need to recall a few important (but pretty rarely discussed) principles of science: