NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Sexual contact between adults and children has long been a societal taboo so strong that it has been considered one of our culture’s few unquestioned moral principles. A recent barrage of books, academic journal articles and online material, however, has begun to argue that at least some sexual contact between adults and children should be acceptable, especially when children consent to it.
An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in March noted, “With more research, some scholars say, it may be only a matter of time before modern society accepts adult-child sex, just as it has learned to accept premarital sex and homosexual sex.”
The attempt to normalize such abhorrent behavior by referring to it merely as “adult-child sexual contact” illustrates how some would justify or rationalize sinful behavior under the guise of social science. If this precedent is not challenged, and if the effort is successful, it can only lead to danger and destruction.
Among the advocates of “adult-child sex,” Harris Mirkin, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has stated, “We say if someone touches or molests … a kid it will ruin the rest of their life. I don’t believe it. I think kids are more likely to laugh at it more than anything else — unless the whole culture says this is the most horrible thing that can happen to you.” Mirkin added, “Children are the last bastion of the old sexual morality.”
Mirkin is not alone in questioning whether child sexual abuse is actually harmful. An article in the July 1998 issue of the Psychological Bulletin written by Bruce Rind, Robert Bauserman and Philip Tromovitch, argued that the negative effects of child sexual abuse “were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women.” It then recommended that a child’s “willing encounter with positive reactions” be called “adult-child sex” instead of “abuse.”
Judith Levine, journalist and author of the book “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex,” has challenged notions of anxiety about pedophilia. Levine praises the Rind study for showing that scientific evidence “doesn’t line up with the ideology that it’s always harmful for kids to have sexual relationships with adults.” Speaking of the widely publicized pedophilia among some Roman Catholic priests, she commented that “yes, conceivably, absolutely” a boy’s sexual experience with a priest could be positive.
In her book Levine also writes, “Sexual contact with a child does not a pedophile make. … In other words, there may be nothing fundamental about a person that makes him a ‘pedophile.’ So-called pedophiles do not have some genetic, or incurable, disease.”
Levine additionally argues that it is absurd to criminalize adults who are sexually attracted to teenagers because nearly every adult male feels such attraction. She writes, “I asked Meg Kaplan, a widely respected clinician who treats sex offenders at the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Sexual Behavior Clinic, about the medicalization and criminalization of the taste for adolescent flesh. ‘Show me a heterosexual male who’s not attracted to teenagers,’ she snorted. ‘Puh-leeze.'”
Not all researchers, however, buy into the theory that pedophilia laws are a cultural suppression of natural desires. Steven Mirin, medical director for the American Psychiatric Association, states the APA’s unequivocal position that sexual contact between an adult and a child is always harmful. “From a psychological perspective, sex between adult and child is always abusive and exploitative because the adult always holds the power in the relationship,” Mirin notes. Therefore, “[a]cademic hair-splitting over whether the act should be considered adult-child sex or child sexual abuse … is not in the public interest and obfuscates the moral issues involved.”
“What the pedophiles are looking for is some group of professionals to champion their cause,” says Stephanie Dallam, a researcher for the Leadership Council for Mental Health, Justice, and the Media. “Then they’ll come up with a derogatory term to deride anyone who disagrees with them. Their claim will be objective science, even though their science is sloppy and terrible.”
Ironically, even some homosexual advocacy groups agree with Dallam’s assessment, arguing that pro-pedophilia studies are simply the manipulation of science to justify an abhorrent practice. According to David Smith, spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest pro-homosexual activist group, “Pedophilia is something that’s abhorrent, should be condemned in the strongest of terms, and should have nothing to do with gay civil rights issues.”
David Roach is a writer for SBC Life, the monthly publication of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, who will start his first year of studies this fall at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.