10 August 2020

Open Letter of Resignation from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS)

My 27-year association with SSSS must come to an end.  In the present culture war between science and popular appeal, the SSSS Board of Directors selected the latter. This is not the first time the SSSS Board abused their authority to silence science opposing their personal political views, and no valid organization can be in the name of science in name only.  I am grateful to the other sexuality scientists who have resigned in sympathy, both publicly and privately.

 

To acknowledge the facts: I have long posted news items and opinion pieces to SSSS’s member listserv.  In July, I posted an essay of my own, When is a TERF not a TERF, challenging the extremism that has taken over public discussion of trans issues, pointing out, for example, that the unwillingness ever to recognize anyone’s transition is different from citing the research suggesting children should wait until age 12 to transition.

 

A debate ensued, not focused on any argument or evidence submitted, but on whether such discussions should even be permitted.  The cessation of open, critical discussion is antithetical to the purpose of a scientific society.  Participating in the debate were three SSSS Board members and roughly a dozen general members, expressing a roughly 50/50 opinion [full thread downloadable here].

 

I then received an unsigned email informing me that I had been suspended from the listserv.footnote-1  Outrage among members ensued, triggering society resignations, list unsubscriptions, and a statement from the SSSS President, Zoë Peterson, defending the Board’s intervention.footnote-2

 

The Board took SSSS across the Rubicon on several levels:

1.     The board does not actually have the authority to suspend people from the member listserv.  The listserv policy (here) leaves such decisions to the list’s moderator, to whom the Board may only provide feedback.

2.     Although the SSSS President, Treasurer, and Student Representative each took active sides in the pertinent discussion, as shown in the thread, they did not recuse themselves from the Board’s official actions.

3.     While intervening in her role as SSSS President, Petersen indicated explicitly during the thread that she actively sought out views—not of mine, not of the 50/50 of list members expressing their opinions—but only of those who had expressed the same views that she herself did, without so much as a pretense of due process.

The SSSS Board did not respond to my emails pointing out these abuses of their authority.footnote-3

 

This is not the first time SSSS demonstrated its privileging sociopolitical opinion over science: In 2018, another researcher, Kevin Hsu, won the Ira and Harriet Reiss Theory Award for “the best social science article, chapter, or book published in the previous year in which theoretical explanations of human sexual attitudes and behaviors are developed,” a prize by the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.  An audience member disliked the content of this award-winning, published article.  In response to the ensuing complaint, the SSSS Board informed members they had not had input into the Reiss Award; thus, “Moving forward, The Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality will be incorporated into SSSS.  Starting in 2019, we will be maintaining full oversight of the awards process.”footnote-4  The Founder of the Award, Ira Reiss, condemned the SSSS Board, highlighting again its abandonment of the scientific mission.footnote-5 (See also https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-1420-y.)

 

SSSS’s demonstrable and repeated history of anti-scientific grand-standing gives scientists strong reason to pause before sending their manuscripts to the journal SSSS owns, The Journal of Sex Research (JSR).  Given that the SSSS Board already violates its own procedures to censor list members, take-over foundations, and disregard donors’ wishes, there is no reason to believe they would hesitate to abuse their authority with regard to JSR articles.  The SSSS Board has now forced manuscript authors to avoid JSR when evidence might potentially challenge someone’s political expectations, and they have compelled JSR readers to wonder “Does this content reflect the best science?  Or just the science we want people to hear?”

 

Moreover, the SSSS President, Zoë Peterson, was Associate Editor of JSR until last year, handling manuscripts, including the selection of reviewers.  Given her failure to follow SSSS policy for topics about which she has strong views, all scientists whose manuscripts were assigned to her must now question whether she treated them fairly or treated them as she did me: choosing to seek input only from those who share her views.  Although Peterson claimed “The SSSS Board of Directors would never attempt to block, censor, or interfere with the publication of a journal article that had been subjected to and withstood the peer review process,footnote-2 such a promise is empty.  Given an already repeated history of violating even formal established policies, authors have no reason to trust SSSS will not simply violate any such promise once again, as soon as anyone objects.  A scientific journal cannot be owned by an anti-scientific society and remain unaffected. 

 

It is unfortunate to have lost SSSS as a genuinely scientific organization, but there is little point in the collective pretense that it hadn’t already happened a while ago.

 

— James M. Cantor, PhD, CPsych, ATSAF

 

 

 

FOOTNOTE 1

 

On 2020-07-15, 8:51 PM, "SSSS" <thesociety@sexscience.org> wrote:

 

The SSSS Board of Directors has been made aware of several posts you have made that violate the SSSSTalk listserv guidelines, including the following:

 

Nasty, discourteous, unkind, uncivil, attacking, inappropriate, unprofessional, harassing, threatening, hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic, erotophobic, derogatory, or objectionable remarks or jokes that might be offensive to other people, abusive, defamatory, libelous, pornographic, obscene, invasive of another's privacy, or otherwise tortuous or unlawful messages will NOT be deemed appropriate. Courtesy is highly valued.

 

After a discussion and vote from the SSSS Board of Directors, your access to the SSSSTalk listserv has been suspended.

 

The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality 

1874 Catasauqua Rd. – PMB #208  |  Allentown, PA 18109-3128

 

 

FOOTNOTE 2

 

On 2020-07-16, 10:26 AM, "James Cantor" <jamescantorphd@gmail.com> wrote:

 

Please verify that I correctly understand:

·     Although “a discussion and vote from the SSSS Board of Directors” was taken, that is not the procedure outlined in the listserv guidelines.

·     Although the SSSS President, Treasurer, and Student Representative each took active sides in the pertinent discussion, they did not recuse themselves from that discussion or vote.  The email being unsigned masks the responsible leadership.

·     The SSSS President wrote, “Dear Finn, Jami, Jules, and others, I have corresponded with some of you privately, but want to say publicly that I hear you,” yet made no attempt to contact or hear “the defendant” or other critics of the view the President and other officers expressed holding.

·     The decision of the Board of Directors is the direct opposite of what a SSSS officer was quoted as saying: "I do not believe that he has violated any of the prohibited behaviors that, according to our policy, could invoke an investigation and potential termination of membership."  Although not communicated directly from that person, no officer corrected that statement (despite reassurances of listening), and no other warning or other indication of a change in what is acceptable was sent to me.

I will interpret lack of response as confirmation.

 

- James Cantor

 

 

FOOTNOTE 3

 

On 2020-07-20, 4:48 PM, "SSSS" <thesociety@sexscience.org> wrote:

 

Dear SSSS Members,

 

I love this organization. It is my academic home and has been the cornerstone of my professional life. I gave my first research presentation at a SSSS conference. As a student and junior scholar, senior SSSS members were my mentors and role models. Now, many of my most valued and loyal friends are people that I met in this organization. I agreed to run for President of SSSS because I care deeply about and am indebted to SSSS and many of its members.

 

Recently, I have heard from many of you who have contacted me individually or who have posted on the listserv. Some individuals have expressed concerns about the future of this organization. Those comments break my heart. I believe in this organization and its mission. I readily acknowledge that SSSS, as an organization, and I, as its leader, are far from perfect, but I also believe that SSSS and I have the ability to improve and grow.

 

It is usually my policy to provide a prompt response to all emails from SSSS members, but the volume of emails recently has prevented that. I want you all to know that I have been reading your messages. I am listening to you, and this letter is my attempt to respond publicly to the large collection of messages that I have received.

 

Before I continue, let me clarify one thing: I am currently the SSSS President, but I want to be totally clear that I speak only for myself. This is not an “official statement” from SSSS. Any official action within SSSS must occur by a majority Board vote.

 

That brings me to my main point: There was a majority Board vote to suspend a SSSS member’s access to our listserv. I know that some members are very upset about that decision. I want to help put that decision into context and into perspective.

 

First, we did not revoke anyone’s membership in our organization. We did not ban anyone from presenting at our research conferences. We certainly did not tell anyone that they could not review for or publish in our society’s journal. In fact, we did not even revoke anyone’s access to the listserv. We simply suspended one person’s access in accordance with our listserv policies. In the meantime, as a Board, we are discussing our policies and procedures around the listserv and considering the value and purpose of the listserv and whether the listserv is the best format in which to have the types of difficult but important conversations that have been occurring over the last week.

 

Second, the Board’s vote to suspend one member’s access to the listserv had nothing to do with the suppression of science. Like many SSSS members, I have devoted my career to science because I believe that it is critical to positive change. I also share the view expressed by many on the listserv discussion that science is neither infallible nor apolitical, and that is exactly why professional discussions, disagreements, and critiques of scientific ethics, methods, and interpretations are essential. I would not support suspending someone from our listserv simply for posting and/or politely and professionally discussing a scientific article or a research finding—even if that article or finding was controversial. Although I do not want to speak for any individual Board member, from my perspective, that is not what the Board was doing in this case. The suspension in question was not due to any single post; rather, the Board felt that, in this instance, there was a long-term pattern of harassment from one member against several other members—even after those other members had repeatedly asked that member to stop. The Board believed that this unwillingness to be responsive to other members’ entreaties violated the guidelines of the listserv.

 

Third and related to my prior point, I am aware that one or more individuals have suggested that, because we suspended a member from our listserv, we might also be willing to interfere in the editorial independence of the Journal of Sex Research, SSSS’s outstanding and well-respected academic journal. I would hope that it is obvious that suspending someone from a member listserv, for which the stated purpose is posting “announcements of workshops, conferences, and meetings; publications; professional news items; awards and honors received by SSSS members; employment opportunities; and recruitment solicitations for sexuality-related research,” is not remotely equivalent to censoring peer-reviewed science. Nevertheless, I want to be clear about this (and on this, and only this, point I speak for the entire Board of Directors with their agreement): The SSSS Board of Directors would never attempt to block, censor, or interfere with the publication of a journal article that had been subjected to and withstood the peer review process. The editor of JSR has always been granted complete editorial independence, and I, personally, would not support any infringement on that.

 

Fourth, I want to correct some misperceptions that I have heard expressed about our listserv. Although we retain the right to do so, no one monitors or reviews any posts prior to their distribution to the listserv. This means that no posts have been suppressed; there is literally no one to suppress them. Recently, there was a technical issue with our listserv host, and thus, there were some delays between when posts were made and when they showed up. Indeed, the Board’s own message was delayed for several hours after we posted it. The delayed posts were not being suppressed or even reviewed; they were simply stuck in cyberspace. Additionally, only one person received a suspension from our listserv. No one else has been removed from our listserv unless they failed to renew their membership or unless they asked to be removed.

 

Of course, even after these clarifications, I understand and fully accept that some of you will still disagree with the Board’s decision to suspend someone from our listserv. Some members will feel that the Board’s actions in this case did not go far enough; some members will feel that the Board went too far. Differences of opinion in an organization are inevitable. Although I have no expectation of agreement from all sides, I can assure you that the Board acted with good intentions, intensive discussion, and a genuine desire to improve our organization.

 

Finally, and most importantly, to our transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming members who raised this issue and who have expressed that they have long felt hurt, disrespected, marginalized, and unprotected on our listserv and within our organization, I hear you and I thank you for sharing your experiences and reactions with such honesty and courage. I am deeply committed to making SSSS a supportive, inclusive, and harassment-free professional home for you. Even as you read this, the Board is working on a specific action plan around this issue. I vow to keep all members updated on the process and to seek your input as we go. You will be hearing more from me and the Board going forward.

 

Let me close by thanking you—my academic family—for trusting me to serve as your leader. It is hard for me to watch a fracture grow in the organization that I love—especially when that organization is one I am helping to steward. I am optimistic, though, that we can work together to mend this fracture in a way that, ultimately, makes our organization stronger. SSSS is worth it.

 

Warmly,

Zoe Peterson

SSSS President (2019-2021)

 

 

FOOTNOTE 4

 

On November 15, 2018 at 4:18 PM SSSS <thesociety@sexscience.org> wrote:

 

Dear SSSS Members and Annual Meeting Attendees,

 

The SSSS Executive Committee is aware of past and more recent incidents of language and behavior that has made transgender persons and other attendees feel unwelcome, unsupported, marginalized, or attacked at our Annual Meetings. We apologize. We want to assure all Members and attendees that we fully support you and stand with you. We are trans-allies.

 

We want to be clear that the Reiss Theory Award was selected by The Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, which is separate from SSSS. The Members of the SSSS Board of Directors and the SSSS Annual Meeting Program Committee have not had input into decisions regarding the Reiss Award. Moving forward, The Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality will be incorporated into SSSS. Starting in 2019, we will be maintaining full oversight of the awards process. This information is provided as an explanation, not an excuse.

 

We are taking steps to help all Members and attendees feel safe and welcome at SSSS events. For example, SSSS is currently creating a new Civility and Anti-Harassment Policy to supplement our mission and ethics statements. The policy will include prohibitions against harassing, demeaning, or discriminating against any identity group. It also will include expectations that scientific and philosophical disagreements and challenges be expressed in a respectful and civil manner. We will be inviting feedback from the membership on this policy in the coming months.

 

As a part of the Annual Meeting, all attendees will also receive a post-conference survey, on which anonymous feedback can be provided that can assist us in making improvements in preparation for SSSS 2019 in Denver.

 

We care deeply about the experiences of our Members and conference attendees, and we are working hard to ensure a more welcoming and inclusive environment at all SSSS events. We wish to continue serving as your professional home.

 

SSSS Executive Committee

Eric Walsh-Buhi, President

Zoe Peterson, President-elect

David Bimbi, Treasurer

Terry Humphreys, Secretary

DJ Angelone, Membership Chair

Mandy Peters, SSSS Executive Director

 

 

FOOTNOTE 5

 

On 2018-11-16, 5:50 PM, "ira reiss" <irareiss@COMCAST.NET> wrote:

 

Hello to all:

 

Back in 2006 I founded the Reiss Theory Award Plenary in order to develop social science, research tested, theories concerning sexual behaviors and attitudes.  I feel the need to respond to the SSSS executive board’s email yesterday concerning Kevin Hsu’s published article on transgender behaviors and attitudes that won the Reiss Theory Award at this year’s SSSS Montreal meetings.

 

The response from the SSSS executive board Thursday, to this paper was, inadequate, inaccurate, and inappropriate for a scientific organization.  I did not attend the meeting but I contacted both Kevin Hsu and the moderator of the session, Jean Levitan, and I read the many emails that came in from SSSSTalk and Sexnet.  It seems that Christine Milrod had rudely interrupted Kevin’s talk on some transgender issues.  Jean Levitan told Milrod to let Kevin finish his paper and then raise her comments or questions.  The audience also came in asking Milrod to wait until Kevin was done.   It was an unfortunate disturbance but it was not created by Kevin and was effectively contained by Jean Levitan the moderator.  After the talk Jean Levitan apologized to Kevin for the actions of Christine Milrod.   Ken Zucker, an expert in the area of this talk was there and summed up his reaction by saying that Kevin gave a “superb talk with amazing data.”

 

When I read the email yesterday from the SSSS executive board Members I was shocked to see what seemed like a statement criticizing the selection of this paper for the award.   Was it Kevin’s fault that he was criticized by Milrod?  Was he expected to use only the terminology and conclusions that Milford wanted?  SSSS is supposed to represent in their actions scientific based conclusions and explanations.  The executive board in their email to the SSSS membership never cited any flaws in his research or theory work that was presented.   Where was the scientific evidence that supported the boards statement that the problem was in “the awards process”?

 

Paul Vasey, the Award Committee chair at that time and the members of his Reiss Theory Award Committee voted to select Kevin Hsu’s paper.  That Award Committee examination of publications and voting on a winner was the award process that was followed since 2006.   Nothing specific was said in the SSSS executive board’s message to back up their criticism of the award process and it seemed to me that they were likely reacting to some objection from Milrod or others that Kevin Hsu didn’t agree with their perspective.  Kevin was presenting his findings and his explanations. and some of his work seemed to clash with what Milrod wanted to hear.  A scientific award doesn’t change because someone without convincing evidence just objects or was bothered by the findings.  No specifics on the problem the board had with the award process was in the executive board’s email yesterday.

 

Also, the promise that the SSSS executive Board would from now on “take full oversight over the awards process” sounded authoritarian. I would expect them to say they would keep the award process fair and science based and would not yield to emotional outbursts or positions that lacked scientific support.   Would the executive board when they “took full oversight” make their “award process” decisions the same way they made them in this executive board Message?  Would they cancel an award by the Reiss Theory Award Committee because someone found the publication offensive or disturbing?  The answer to that question is not clear and is of serious concern. 

 

This is not a minor issue that will just pass.   Today the emails coming in are asking SSSS members to resign from SSSS.  The executive board cannot just claim they wanted to keep things civil.  Their actions express a non scientific perspective and they need to clarify and discuss their views.    It’s time for the executive board to discuss scientific concerns that I’ve expressed above and those expressed by many others in their emails.  The board needs to build confidence in the membership and in the public that they will act in line with the name of our organization which was founded as--The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

 

Ira

 

Ira L. Reiss

Website: https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/reiss/

08 July 2020

When is a "TERF" not a TERF?

In the responses to JK Rowling’s challenge to the more extremist (and vocal) factions of transgender activists, there has been much more name-calling than reasoning.  The most common such epithet has been to call her (or anyone else) a TERF, a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” 

Having been deeply involved in the science and clinical care of trans people for more than two decades, I have watched this particular term evolve and lose whatever meaning it originally had.  It used to refer to the most extreme of the other side:  There do indeed exist genuinely transphobic people who will refuse to recognize anyone’s transition under any circumstances and are accurately called TERF’s.  Now just a social media meme however, the term is bandied so broadly that it no longer carries any meaning at all.

I must first challenge the ironically binary premise that “exclusion” is all or none.  It’s only in the current climate of extremism that no moderate views get discussed.  Here is a range of some areas in which sex/gender require protection:

• Employment
• Housing
• Public accommodation…
• Locker rooms/showers, with nudity (sauna, hottub…)
• Locker rooms/washrooms, sex segregated
• Competitive sports teams, where physical size is an advantage

It would be perfectly accurate to call someone “trans exclusionary” for rejecting transpeople from all of these.  But that’s not meaningfully the same as (for example) a cis-woman who supports all civil rights, but feels uncomfortable naked in a locker room with a person whose every external feature is male (i.e., their female features are all internal).  I’m not saying I *agree* with this hypothetical cis-woman—I am pointing out the error of painting this entire range of opinions with a single dichotomous brush and dismissing them all as if they were all the most extreme imaginable.

Also on a spectrum is the point during transition at which one can/may/should be deemed which sex:

• Upon declaration
• Upon psych/medical exam/approval
• Upon declaration *despite* psych/medical exam results
• Upon part-time social living
• Upon full-time social living
• Upon hormone treatment
• Upon genital surgery
• Never

It’s easy to recognize “never” as genuinely transphobic/exclusionary.  But it is not meaningful to use the same term for everyone who breaks from the opposite extreme, based only on a recent (sometimes even curiously convenient) self-declaration.

Relatedly, there also exists debate over the age at which a youth should be permitted to begin to transition, socially and/or medically:

• Prepuberty (upon request/demand from child)
• Age 12 (mid-puberty, breaking point in outcomes research)
• Age 16 (usual age of consent for sex)
• Age 18 (legal age of adulthood)
• Age 25 (final brain maturation)
• Never

I support age 12, not for any ideological reason, but because that is what the (current) evidence supports:  The majority of prepubescent kids cease to feel trans during puberty, but the majority of kids who continue to feel trans after puberty rarely cease.  To someone who supports “upon demand,” however, everyone everywhere else on the spectrum is the same as the farthest opposite extreme.  It is not meaningful to claim that wait-until-12 is the same as never.

To repeat, I am not actually taking sides on any of these issues (except to indicate what is vs. not consistent with the science).  Rather, I am pointing out that “TERF” does not meaningfully convey anyone’s ideas about anything.  It is being used only as an epithet, to discredit rather than inform, holding even the slightest symbolic evidence of the smallest departure from one extreme as proof of membership of the other extreme....It is being used as an excuse not to engage with what the person is *actually* saying.

24 November 2019

The story of the Virtuous Pedophiles

The founders of the Virtuous Pedophiles movement, Nick and Ethan, recently wrote an excellent history of how the whole thing got started.  (You can also read my 2013 post about VirPed here.)  They first posted it to a listserv (Sexnet).  It's an important and interesting story, so I asked them if I could repost it here for others to have access too.

My admiration for what these people are doing in face of what they are dealt grows still.

People interested in supporting or receiving support from VirPed can contact the group at www.VirPed.org

 James Cantor


______________________________________________________


The beginnings of Virtuous Pedophiles are to be found in Nick's experiences on the Sexnet listserv and the b4uact pedophile peer support group.

In 2007, after coming to terms with his pedophilic interests, Nick reached out to a Northwestern University professor by the name of Mike Bailey who was an expert on scientific issues involving sexual matters. Nick had heard of Mike from one of Mike's former students, who had indicated that Mike was open-minded and had many beliefs that were outside the norm. Mike had never entertained the idea that there might be pedophiles who were committed to avoiding sexual contact with children and was intrigued. Sometime around 2009 or 2010, Mike invited Nick to join a listserv that he hosted which was known as Sexnet. The listserv was primarily for researchers on sexual matters, though some journalists were members as well. To Nick's surprise, the group was very welcoming, and he became friendly with several leading experts on pedophilia such as James Cantor, Ray Blanchard, David Prescott, Michael Seto, Robin Wilson and Paul Federoff.

Near the time that Nick joined, Richard Kramer, the head of an organization called b4uact, also joined Sexnet. B4uact was a group of pedophiles and professionals organized to improve access and quality of therapeutic care. They had a small support group which Nick joined.

Nick did not enjoy his time with b4uact. He thought they were unnecessarily antagonistic towards scientists who had befriended him. And, in fact, Richard Kramer alienated these scientists by aggressively criticizing them for supporting the view expressed in DSM that pedophilia was properly viewed as a disorder if it caused marked distress to an individual or lead to sexual abuse of children. Nick also believed that the societal hatred attached to pedophilia could be reduced if society could be made to understand the difference between pedophilia (sexual feelings towards children) and child sexual abuse (sexual acts with children). He felt that b4uact could make progress in this area, but only if it unequivocally stated that adults should not have sexual contact with children. B4uact refused to do this because it believed this would alienate pedophiles and also, Nick believed, because many of its leaders felt that adult-child sex should be legal. After trying to get b4uact to modify its views, Nick decided the differences were too great to be bridged, and in 2011 he resigned from the organization. He had the idea of creating a website that would express the reality that many pedophiles are dedicated to (and succeed at) avoiding sexual contact with children. 

Nick began work on a website for a new organization in 2012. At the same time, Ethan Edwards, who had heard of Sexnet through acquaintances, reached out to Mike. Mike knew of Nick's project, was impressed by Ethan, and put them in contact with one another. Nick sent Ethan an early version of the website and the collaboration began. Nick found Ethan's input sufficiently valuable that he invited him in as a co-founder.

One important precursor to Virtuous Pedophiles was a 2010 column by Dan Savage, featuring a letter from a pedophile who hadn't offended and was sure he would not. The column is titled Gold Star Pedophiles. That was the original working title for the group, but Ethan in particular thought it was demeaning, the relevant gold stars being shiny worthless paper things that adults bestowed on gullible children for work well done. Nick objected to Ethan's idea of "Celibate Pedophiles" because non-exclusive pedophiles are just child-celibate, not truly celibate. We chose "Virtuous Pedophiles". The name has generated considerable controversy but on the whole has served us well. 

Nick and Ethan put most of their effort into the website before it went live in June of 2012. We also put together a support group, without much initial thought. It was a google group, which still exists as an archive. Early members of the support group included a few from b4uact who shared our values, including Gary Gibson and Craig Dahlen.

The website received a considerable amount of positive press, including important support from James Cantor, and Nick and Ethan gave several anonymous interviews. Membership in the peer support group increased. One of the group's enthusiastic members was Sammy Jenkis, who had in the past run a phpbb support group, and he put together the basics of what we have today. It came up in September of 2013 and the Google group became an archive. Anyone who really likes VP owes Sammy a big debt for bringing that to fruition when he did. We could never have grown to the size we are if we were trying to do it in a Google group.

Sammy wasn't always consistently available to maintain things, which was a source of anxiety. "Urgeless" took over those responsibilities in the summer of 2018 (phew!) and in September of that year released a new, improved version of the phpbb board that included better support for mobile devices.

A couple of other events in our history really stand out. In August, 2014, Luke Malone wrote a wonderful article featuring one of our members, Adam. As a 16 year old, Adam had formed his own group for teenage pedophiles who were committed to not abusing children. At the end of 2014, This American Life hosted an episode featuring Luke, Adam and the noted scientist Elizabeth Letourneau, who has become a friend of our group.

In August, 2014, Todd Nickerson joined the group, and in September, 2015 he wrote a tremendous piece in Salon called I'm a Pedophile But Not a Monster, which received a tremendous amount of interest. Todd has become our most effective spokesperson.

No particular date, but over the years, Gary Gibson began attending ATSA meetings and assembled a list of friendly therapists. Gary regularly refers members to therapists and is also an effective public figure. Gary has long been one of our most valued members. Adam and our moderator Brett Matthews (known by the VP username "Daywalker") represented our group at the last ATSA meeting.

Prior to our formation, ATSA, a highly regarded organization specializing in the treatment of sex offenders, had on its website this quote: "Although virtually all pedophiles are child molesters, not all child molesters are pedophiles." After getting to know us, our allies in the scientific community challenged ATSA on this, and ATSA immediately removed the quote. One measure of what VP and similar organizations have accomplished since 2011 is that we don't think any serious scientist would write that any more or believe it. The thousands of us in this group make it pretty clear that "virtually all" is not the right descriptor for how many pedophiles molest children. It's only one small step, but a significant one.

Member Eddie Chambers was featured in two documentariesThe Pedophile Next Door (2014) and I, Pedophile (2016). Unfortunately, Eddie became disenchanted with the group and left, but his contributions while here were very important.

Last, but certainly not least, would be the era of Ender. He joined the group in 2014 and quickly became a moderator and then an administrator. It's easy to lose track of just how vital and central he was to this community when he was active. He is still #3 on the all-time list of posters. His interest then waned, and he started MAP Support Chat, with the controversial (wonderful but perhaps risky) policy of letting in people as young as 13 who thought they were pedophiles. He started a blog and was very active defending virtuous pedophiles on twitter. Unfortunately, he spent so much time on pedophile related matters, and spent so much energy engaging the haters, that he burned out and disappeared from the scene. We hope he is doing well. 

It's also worth a note that every non-pedophile we mentioned is identified by their true name. Almost all pedophiles in our support group are known only by pseudonyms, including the two of us founders. Notable exceptions are Gary Gibson, Todd Nickerson, and Eddie Chambers, who in fact have helped our cause enormously by showing their faces in public, often at considerable personal cost.

One unforeseen benefit of the peer support group has been as a vital source for scientific research on pedophilia. It is the first time that a substantial group of pedophiles has come together who have not offended and are not in favor of making adult-child sex legal and accepted. Scientists make posts inviting board members to participate in anonymous, online surveys. Several published papers have emerged and others are in progress. Also, novelists, playwrights, and film-makers often ask to join so they can portray pedophiles more accurately in their fictional work.

It has certainly been quite a ride. When we first started, we thought we would put up a website expressing our views and be done with it. Seven years later we have a support group that has been joined by about 4,500 people and has hosted about 200,000 posts. We feel that we've helped a lot of people come to terms with their pedophilia. We also think that we have helped to encourage some people to avoid sexual contact with children who otherwise might have behaved inappropriately with a child. We have strong relationships with leading organizations, such as ATSA, Dunkelfeld, Stop It Now, and Stop-So, and with leading therapists and sexologists. We feel that we've helped to change the narrative around pedophilia, and that the hatred is a bit less than it was before we came on the scene. Many favorable articles have been written about our organization and non-offending pedophiles; we are unaware of any having been written before. If there were any, there were certainly very few.

We recognize, however, that the road is long and hard. Hopefully the next seven years will see even more progress than the previous seven. 

Ethan and Nick

22 September 2019

It may sound PC, but van Anders et al. is a Trojan horse of language politics.

An essay about how to talk about trans issues at professional conferences has just been circulated by a group of five academics: Sari van Anders, M. Paz Galupo, Jay Irwin, Markie L. C. Twist, and Chelsea J. Reynolds.  (The essay is downloadable at Talking about Transgender Experiences, Identities, and Existences at Conferences.) In it, the authors "wanted to provide some guidelines for discussing studies with trans and transgender people, experiences, existences, backgrounds, and identities, and related aspects of gender diversity, at conferences for those individuals unaware or ignorant of current best practices or approaches".

Although I am strong advocate of consistency in language, just so we can all be sure when we are talking about the same/different things, I am frankly uncomfortable when someone—anyone—tells me what I may and may not say.  This document adds to the long and growing history of activists silencing scientists on this and other controversial issues.  Although I share 95% agreement with the document authors on many of these issues, I find it helpful to apply this bias-detector to myself: What if the same/equivalent thing came from a couple of people who I generally disagree with?  For example (I’m a devout atheist), what if a group of radically religious people posted how I, a scientist, may refer to god (or God) and whatever beliefs in my work and presentations?  


In that context, the power dynamics are more apparent, but the principle is the same.  We either apply it equally to people we agree or disagree with, or we are merely hypocrites doing unto others exactly the crimes that have been done unto us.


The language around trans issues is more than highly politicized.  This is true not only for the language recommendations in the document, but also in their absence.  For example, despite that every follow-up study of gender dysphoric kids showed that they will develop into cis-gendered gays/lesbians, the word “desistance” does not so much as appear in the document, even once.  The entire concept is disappeared.  


The document’s authors do not include clinicians:  The fields of expertise of the document’s authors are: neuroendocrinology, sociology, human development, communications, and experimental psychology.  None of them—not one—has borne the diagnostic/clinical responsibility of clients transitioning or de-transitioning or undergoing the process to decide.  Their experiences are their personal experiences (to the extent that some are openly trans): perfectly valid, but no more so than other peoples’, including the people they left out.  For example, the authors of the document include no desisters…again consistent with the complete disappearing of desistance in the document, despite that all the evidence indicates that the majority of children desist.


The message in leaving out desistance in conference language recommendations is, of course, that we may not talk about desistance at all.


Although the authors’ experiences are perfectly valid, this was not merely the sharing of language suggestions.  This was a declaration that “Because my path was the right path for me, my path is the right path for everyone” or “I didn’t desist, so there’s no such thing as desistance” or “The door to diverse experiences must be opened up enough for me, but no further.”  


We must not do unto others as was done unto us.

03 January 2019

Dear Dr. James: How can pedophiles find someone to talk about it with?

Dr. Cantor,

My name is Peter, I am 55 years old, and I am so very tired of being sexually attracted to teenage boys.  There, I said it.  I also want to say right up front that I am not a danger to myself or others.  I am not suicidal, and I am not an offender.

My entire life, I have been cursed by this attraction / orientation / compulsion / obsession / perversion.  Make no mistake, it is a curse, akin to vampirism or lycanthropy, and I want to help science solve it.  End it.  Learn to treat it.  Something along those lines.

I have friends, but no one really knows me, no one knows what I keep locked and chained in the basement of my mind.  I work, pay my bills, sometimes clean my house.  But I cannot wait until my workday is over, and I can race home, lock the door, and be safe.  I made up my mind to find someone to talk to about this, but there’s no safe way to do this, so I googled “therapy for pedophiles” and found your name and email address.

I really want to know the “why” behind my sexuality, and it is a terrible burden to realize that I most probably will never get this answer.  I feel like I live outside of normal human society.  I feel like an alien.

I would like to find someone in whom I could share my story, all of it, in the hopes that something could be learned about how this sickness takes hold.  And I’d like to donate my brain to science when I die, so that it can be researched and perhaps help in finding a key to the disease or (hoping against hope) a path towards some kind of effective treatment or cure for future people cursed with the same affliction.

I can’t talk with anyone in religion, because I refuse to believe in an invisible, imaginary, supernatural being who would ever create a life as painful and lonely as the one I have lived.  I cannot go to a local therapist because of mandatory reporting laws.  I cannot disclose this to a friend because, well, because I can’t afford to lose the few bits of human contact I have been able to nurture over the years.

I know it is folly to ask but can you help me?  Not treat me, or analyze me, or anything like that.  I know that there is no cure, only abstinence.  But help me tell my story, and maybe add a little information to the puzzle that is deviant sexuality.

At the very least, I’ve done what I promised myself I would do in 2019 – I’ve reached out.

Thank you for your time, and thank you in advance of any help you can provide.


Hello, Peter.  Congratulations on finally expressing it.  My own coming out (as gay) was hard enough, all I can do is imagine how much harder it is for you and others in your position.

The very best group I can send you to are the Virtuous Pedophiles at www.virped.org.  In case you have not already heard of them, they are other people who have come to appreciate that they are attracted to kids and support each other in remaining celibate (in some cases) or still maintaining a romantic relationship with another adult (in other cases).  You and they would all benefit from each others’ stories.  I am also posting it here (changing your identifying information) to help remind others in your position that none of you is alone.

Thank you very much for your generous (too small a word!) offer.  Unfortunately there does not yet exist a brain bank (or funding) for a project using actual brains.  I hope very much to be able to help establish such a thing.  It could be an amazing benefit to the generations that will follow you and me.  I certainly cannot not make any promises, but if I (or another scientist I find out about) ever does start such a thing, I will most certainly be doing everything I can to publicize it, including on my website, twitter account, and so on.  

I wish you the best of luck.