The missing mechanism of harm in consensual sexually expressed boyhood relationships with older males

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[From the introduction:]

This paper is a review of previous works and thus offers no new concepts; the apparent absence of harm in sexually expressed child/older person relationships has been attested to as far back as 1937 (Bender and Blau 1937) and 1942 (Menninger 1942). C.A. Tripp asked "What is the mechanism {for transmuting a benign childhood sexual experience into harm}?", noting that "victimologists have never provided one that is scientifically credible;" (as reported by Bruce Rind in personal communication 2002) and Kilpatrick (1987) also posed the question: "What has been harmed - the child or the moral code?" (p. 179). Bailey (2011) observes what is to him "a surprising... lack of scientific evidence" (p. 3) for these claims. Clancy (2009) proposed that at least initial trauma is a "myth," and noted that she "cannot offer a clear theoretical model as to exactly how and why sexual abuse damages victims" (p. 142). Constantine (1981) described the effects of intervention based on this assumed/assigned harmfulness as "psychonoxious" (p. 241). However, as Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman (1998) point out, since the late 1970s a large number of mental health professionals have claimed that all sexual interactions between children and older persons "... cause harm, {that} this harm is pervasive,... {is} likely to be intense,... {and} is an equivalent experience for boys and girls..." (p. 22). However, no path or mechanism is offered as to how these sexual interactions actually cause harm.


Thus, then, the question remains: Where is the elusive path or mechanism by which such an intrinsically benign experience becomes harmful to a boy? The literature on non-clinical populations of male subjects seems to suggest that boyhood sexual contacts with adults are not, per se, sources of trauma or negative psychological sequelae (Baurmann 1988; Bauserman and Rind 1997; Coxell et al. 1999; Money 1983; Rind et al. 1998; Sandfort 1987; Tindall 1978). This research further suggests that for boys, in the cases when observable harm does occur, it results from a non-sexual element of the experience as described earlier (i.e., coincidence, iatrogenesis, and/or nocebogenesis). Future research would do well to look into, as Clancy initially tried to do, retrospective (preferably recent) impressions of the nature of sexually expressed boy/older male (and/or child/older person) relationships in non-clinical populations, insulated from any victimological presumptions and influences. First, to evaluate if there was, in fact, any real short- or long-term harm, and second, to appraise the type and degree of any such harm.

It may be unpleasant to be reminded, but the social sciences have a long history of getting things horribly wrong, from the hyper-behaviorism of Watson and Skinner through "repressed/recovered memories" (Loftus and Ketcham 1994), "disassociative identity disorder" (Piper and Merskey 2004), and "Satanic ritual abuse" (Nathan and Snedecker [Snedeker?] 1995), to mention just a sampling. The decadeslong process which finally removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness is well known, as is the previously discussed depathologization of masturbation. The current victimological assumption of harm as being intrinsic to sexually expressed boyhood relationships with older males likewise has neither objective foundations nor offers any rational path or mechanism of cause. Most adult issues, such as commitment, pregnancy, etc., are not pertinent to the transient intimacies of boys, who deserve to be freed from the threatening shadows of adult sexual complexities and be allowed the autonomy to explore their own sexuality as boys, as they have done through countless millennia before the onset of victimology. That is, in their own way, at their own pace, with minimal intrusion (Friis 2007; Short News 2005), with whomever of any age or gender they choose so long as they do no real harm to themselves or to others, and with the validation and support of appropriate, significant, and empirically accurate legitimate social science, as well as of enlightened parents and society in general.

source: Article 'The Missing Mechanism of Harm in Consensual Sexually Expressed Boyhood Relationships with Older Males: Further Thoughts Associated with O'Carroll (2018)' by David L. Riegel;;; Sexuality & Culture; 2019; First online: 16 April 2019