Self-Grooming: How Pedophiles Neutralize Their Inhibitions

On May 24, 2019 Dr Jordan B Peterson posted on Facebook:

“Did you know that about 20 years ago the American Psychological Association published a paper showing that most people who were sexually abused as children recovered with very little psychological damage? This is an unsayable truth. …”

Screenshot of Dr Jordan B Peterson’s May 24, 2019 Facebook post

Dr Peterson had previously spoken of our ability to speak heaven or hell into being. He stated,

“When you speak truth then you speak paradise into being, and when you speak falsely you speak hell into being.  […] And what that means is that with every decision that you make; you decide for yourself and for everyone else if you’re going to tilt the world a little bit more towards hell or a little bit more towards heaven.  And that’s the burden you bear for your existence.”  — Dr Jordan B Peterson [1]

Did Dr Peterson’s post reflect truth? The following is what a deep exploration of the topic unearthed.

The Paper

The paper Dr Peterson referenced was titled, ‘A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples’.  It was published in 1998 in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin.

The authors (Bruce Rind, Ph.D., Philip Tromovitch, Ph.D., and Robert Bauserman, Ph.D.) examined the belief that child sex abuse (CSA) causes intense and pervasive harm regardless of sex by reviewing 59 studies based on college samples. They wrote,

“Self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women.” [2]

The authors suggested a new approach was needed by researchers when labeling and categorizing sexual events between adults and children. One approach they advocated:

“…focus on the young person’s perception of his or her willingness to participate and his or her reaction to the experience. A willing encounter with positive reactions would be labeled simply adult-child sex, a value-neutral term.” [2]

Screenshot from ‘A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples’ (1998)

The paper underwent peer review prior to being accepted for publication.

Some time passed before news of the paper reached the public. On the days of March 22 and 23 of 1999, Dr Laura Schlessinger used her radio show to condemn the paper stating, “The public must be extremely cautious in accepting and relying on papers that appear to counter common sense, fundamentals of morality, and long-term understanding of what is socially desirable.” [3]

APA Statement

The APA released a statement:

“…APA’s position is, therefore, very clear: The sexual abuse of children is wrong and harmful to its victims.
“The actual findings [of Rind et al. 1998] are that for this segment of the population (college students) being the victim of childhood sexual abuse was found to be less damaging to them than generally believed. However,
one overall statement of the results was that students who were the victims of child sexual abuse were, on average, slightly less well-adjusted than students who were not victimized as children.
“some of the conclusions expressed by the authors are inconsistent with the positions of the APA. For example, it is the position of the Association that children can not consent to sexual activity with adults and that such activity should never be considered harmless or acceptable. The facts are that
the majority of the psychological literature reveals that childhood sexual abuse has serious negative effects on its victims.
“No responsible mental health organization, including the American Psychological Association, endorses pedophilia or denies its negative effects on children. Any statement that suggests otherwise is a serious distortion of the truth.” [4]

Congress Denounced

The 106th Congress condemned the publication in July of 1999.  H.Con.Res.107 stated:

“Whereas information endangering children is being made public and, in some instances, may be given unwarranted or unintended credibility through release under professional titles or through professional organizations;

Whereas the Psychological Bulletin has recently published a severely flawed study […] which suggests that sexual relationships between adults and children are less harmful than believed and might be positive for “willing” children;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),

That Congress–

(1) condemns and denounces all suggestions in the article ‘A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples’ that indicate that sexual relationships between adults and “willing” children are less harmful than believed and might be positive for “willing” children.” [5]

The resolution noted one of the authors, Robert Bauserman, had an earlier article published in Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia, “a publication advocating the legalization of sex with ”willing” children.” [5]

Paidika’s first issue detailed its purpose: “Through publication of scholarly studies, thoroughly documented and carefully reasoned, we intend to demonstrate that paedophilia has been, and remains, a legitimate and productive part of the totality of human experience.” [6]

Bauserman’s article was titled, ‘Man-boy sexual relationships in a cross-cultural perspective’. It was published in 1989.

The resolution also noted pedophilia advocate groups in the United States, including North American Man- Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), were using the paper to justify child sexual abuse.

The editors of the Psychological Bulletin defended their decision to publish the article. (Though they did note, “At least one additional recognized scholar was asked to provide a review but declined.”)  The editors believed the problem began spinning out of control when the venue for the scientific discussion moved from scholarly journals and scientific conferences into advocacy-oriented websites, radio talk shows, and politics. [7]

Pedophilia/ Pederasty Advocacy

Scholarly critiques of the paper are to follow, but first it is necessary to understand the climate at the time of the publication. Today more people have probably heard of NAMBLA from South Park than from the news, but NAMBLA made national news multiple times in the years leading up to the publication of Rind and colleagues’ 1998 paper.

Pedophilia advocates attempted to draw parallels between the liberation of gays/lesbians and the “sexual liberation of children.” New York’s Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) became one of the first gay activist groups to sponsor a public forum on man/boy love in 1976. [8] As some gay and lesbian activist groups sought to draw clear distinctions between themselves and pedophilia advocates, a founding member of NAMBLA, David Thorstad, wrote in the 1979 issue of Gay Community News,

“the ultimate goal of gay liberation is the achievement of sexual freedom for all – not just equal rights for ‘lesbians and gay men,’ but also freedom of sexual expression for young people and children.” [8]

By this time, multiple pedophile advocacy groups had formed in the United States. They included: Childhood Sensuality Circle, NAMBLA (still active), and Rene Guyon Society (whose motto was “sex by year eight or else it’s too late”). [9]

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) held their 9th annual conference in Germany in 1987. The event included a pedophilia workshop which provided a forum to debate age of consent laws. According to the workshop minutes, attendees disagreed on whether a sexual relationship between an adult and a pre-adolescent child constituted abuse of power or an equal relationship.

The 11th Annual ILGA Conference in Vienna in 1989 also hosted a pedophile workshop. From the minutes,

“Should the Pedophile Workshop ask the scientific community to design unbiased research on consent, how it develops in children, and what cross cultural, educational, developmental, and sex differences exist in the ability to consent? […]  Some expressed distrust and contempt for the “scientific community” because of the tremendous damage it has done to the self-esteem of pedophiles.”

Image of Pedophile Workshop minutes from the 11th Annual ILGA conference in Vienna (1989).

NAMBLA was a member of ILGA. The United Nations granted consultative status to ILGA in 1993. In response, Congress passed a bill withholding $119 million in US contributions to the UN until President Clinton certified that no group that promoted or condoned pedophilia was granted status by the agency. ILGA expelled NAMBLA and other pedophile advocacy groups in 1994.

NAMBLA drew public attention again that year when a film was released profiling its members. It was titled, ‘Chicken Hawk: Men Who Loves Boys’. The film was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times & the New York Times.

When a teacher at Bronx High School was found to be a member of NAMBLA in 1993, the story was covered by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The Weekly Standard published a twopart feature titled, Pedophilia Chic, in 1996.

Pedophilia advocacy was in public view.

Intersection of Scholarship and Activism

There is historical evidence of scholarship seemingly intersecting with activism in the 80s and 90s. Academics provided content for and granted interviews to Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia – which published from 1987 to 1995.

Rind et al. weren’t the first to advocate the adoption of value-neutral language when describing sex between adults and children. In 1991, the Journal of Homosexuality devoted a special double volume to “intergenerational intimacy.” [10] Academics from universities within the United States and abroad contributed essays.

Social Deconstruction of Child Sex Abuse

The stated intention of the publication was to “establish a climate in which a less emotional and a more open and scholarly discussion [of man-boy relationships] is possible.” [11] One introductory essay was titled, ‘Man-Boy Relationships: Different Concepts for a Diversity of Phenomena’ – authored by Theo Sandfort, Ph.D., Edward Brongersma and Alex van Naerssen, Ph.D.  They noted,

“The choice of a particular label is not without consequences”. [11] They explained in the psychiatric use of pedophilia, the phenomenon is represented as pathological, whereas:

“In man/boy love the unproblematic affectional side of the phenomenon is stressed, suggesting reciprocity or even symmetry between the parties involved.” [11]


“Because intergenerational sex is also applicable to sexual contact between young and old adults, it gives man-boy contacts a less dangerous outlook.” [11]

The authors explained the special issue intended to present ideas for the possible role the social sciences could play by applying a broader approach “which could help to understand more accurately the diversity and possible benefits of intergenerational intimacy,” [11] and stated, “This special volume can also be seen as an attempt in that direction.” [11]

Gerald Jones, Ph.D., contributed to the special volume with ‘The Study of Intergenerational Intimacy in North America: Beyond Politics and Pedophilia’. Jones wrote,

“the study of intimate intergenerational relationships, pedophilia, child sexuality and related issues will be effective only to the extent that professionals involved in such study resolve to identify and reject emotionality in all its forms and influences. Terminology must be neutral and each researcher and author must acknowledge the probability that society’s emotional reactions are affecting her or his results or interpretations.” [12]

Jones offered value-neutral alternatives for child porn.

“…if the parameters are clear and the issues accurately defined, the use of less value-laden terms might serve objectivity better. Terms such as “kiddie porn” or “child pornography” could be replaced by the more neutral “sexually explicit material”.” [12]

Jones asked researchers to forgo assumptions of the pathological nature of child attraction.

“The possibility should be considered that intergenerational attraction on the part of some adults could constitute a lifestyle “orientation,” rather than a pathological maladjustment as is typically assumed.” [12]

A Normalization Process for Pedophiles?

In 1994 Vol. 3 No. 2 of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophila was published and featured an interview with anthropologist Gilbert Herdt, Ph.D. Herdt studied sex between adults and children in Papua New Guinea. Editor of Paidika, Joseph Geraci, asked Herdt,

“Is there a social acceptance process that paedophiles can engage in and nurture to improve their situation? A normalization process?” [13]

Herdt answered,

“One of the steps would be the deconstruction of the language and categories being used. Buried in them are very, very old prejudices, fears and moral approbations.”[13 ]

Image of p 32 from Joseph Geraci’s book, Dares to Speak – 1993 Interview with Gilbert Herdt

Herdt stated another important step would include more scholarly research “which would open up the whole phenomenon to a new way of thinking, and closely related, people willing to publicly talk about the research in a way that provides a new kind of fodder for public discourse.” [13]

In another paper published by the Journal of Homosexuality in 1999, Harris Mirkin, Ph.D., noted a need for neutral labels as well,

“As is usual in sexual politics issues are framed in terms of nature, and of absolute good and evil. Real discussions of pedophilia, as opposed to ritualistic condemnations, are almost non-existent.  There are no commonly used neutral labels, and words like “child molestation,” and “child abuse” are used in the same way as “fag” and “queer” were: to preclude discussion.” [14]

Sexual Politics: Feminism in Phase I; Pedophilia in Phase II

Mirkin argued the campaign against pedophiles paralleled earlier battles against feminists and homosexuals.

“…the Phase I patterns that were present in the original battles against homosexuality and women’s sexuality can be seen in the campaign against child molestation and child abuse. This campaign became politically important in the late 1970s. Those viewed as child molesters are zealously pursued and entrapped just as homosexuals were, and most of the discussions closely parallel earlier discussions about homosexuals and feminists.” [14]

Mirkin asserted the pattern of sexual politics is two-phase. During phase I: “psychological and moral categories are used to justify ridicule and preclude any discussions of the issue”. [14] Phase II “resembles traditional politics as different groups argue over rights and privileges”. [14] He stated, “Feminist and gay/lesbian politics have recently entered the second phase, while pedophilia is in the first.” [14]

Image of Paragraph 1 of Abstract from Harris Mirkin’s ‘The Pattern of Sexual Politics’ (1999)

Prejudices Imprinted by the “White Man’s Way”

Some researchers have questioned if modern views on child sexual abuse in the West are limiting and if we should look to primitive tribes for a more enriching perspective.

Mirkin argued, “…like homosexuality, the concept of child molestation is a culture and class specific modern creation. Though Americans consider intergenerational sex to be evil, it has been permissible or obligatory in many cultures and periods of history.” [14]

Very similar was the language used by Gisela Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, Ph.D., in her contribution to the 1991 special volume on intergenerational intimacy titled, ‘Pederasty Among Primitives’.  Ehrenbergy concluded,

“We may learn [from observations of pederasty among primitives and ancient non-European high cultures] the surprising plasticity of human sexual behavior in general. Mankind can be enormously enriched if, during our study of other people we learn to see, as if in a gigantic open-air museum, how much greater is the margin for possible human conduct than we had previously and mistakenly believed, imbedded as we were in our prejudices, imprinted by “the white man’s way.” [15]

Childhood as a Social Construct

A concept some constructionists have tackled is that of childhood itself.

Kenneth Plummer, Ph.D., wrote in ‘Understanding Childhood Sexualities’ (also published in the 1991 Journal of Homosexuality special volume),

“ “Childhood” itself is not a biological given but a historically produced social object. […] What the social scientist has to appreciate is how members of a society come to generate and transform their sense of age and competence through integrative work with others.

“Within this approach there is no assumption of a linear sexual development. […] a “child” “at 7” may have built an elaborate set of sexual understandings and codes which would baffle many “adults”.


“Cross-generational sexuality may serve to reinforce such assumptions – the child is a child, the adult is an adult. But it also harbours the potential to suggest that the child is an adult and the adult is a child; that such categories are neither fixed nor universal.” [16]

Image from Ken Plummer’s ‘Understanding Childhood Sexualities’ (1991)

Critical Reviews of the Rind, Tromovitch, Bauserman 1998 Paper

Accusation: Author Bias & Intersection with Advocacy Groups

Some critics of Rind and colleagues’ paper brought attention to the fact the authors had demonstrated bias in this area of research.

Already noted was Robert Bauserman’s contribution to Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia.  Bruce Rind had also provided content for Paidika. In 1995 Rind contributed a book review for First Do No Harm: The Sexual Abuse Industry.

Bauserman contributed an essay to the 1991 Journal of Homosexuality special double volume as well. He wrote, “It remains to be seen whether scientific objectivity can prevail against the need to defend the current dogma on man-boy sexual contacts.” [17]

Bruce Rind and Robert Bauserman had collaborated before their 1998 paper. They wrote ‘Biased Terminology Effect and Biased Information Processing in Research on Adult-Nonadult Sexual Interactions: An Empirical Investigation’ in 1993. From the paper,

“This finding indicates that, by describing specific cases of adult-nonadult sexual relationships with negative terms, researchers can give their readers the impression that general cases of these relationships are abusive even when the evidence in the specific cases points to neutral or even positive outcomes.” [18]

In 1995 Bruce Rind wrote, ‘An Analysis of Human Sexuality Textbook Coverage of the Psychological Correlates of Adult-Nonadult Sex’. He suggested the use of terms such as victims, survivors, offenders, and perpetrators was “problematic because it confuses harm done to children or adolescents with violations of social norms”. [19]

In 1997 Bauserman and Rind collaborated again on ‘Psychological Correlates of Male Child and Adolescent Sexual Experiences with Adults’. Stephanie Dallam noted the following:

Image from Stephanie Dallam’s ‘Science or Propaganda? An Examination of Rind, …’ (2001)

Dallam also discovered that following the publication of their 1998 paper, the authors were keynote speakers for what she characterized as an advocacy conference in the Netherlands. The conference took place in Rotterdam on December 18, 1998 and was organized by the Dutch Foundation for Ecclesiastical Social Work (KSA – Kerkelijk Sociale Arbeid). The conference title was, ‘The Other Side of the Coin’. [6]

Generalizability of the Results

Stephanie Dallam and colleagues wrote in 2001 that the purpose of their article reviewing Rind et al.’s 1998 paper was not to argue that all types of sexual abuse result in pervasive and intense harm in all victims. They explained, “we seek to examine the validity and generalizability of Rind et al.’s results”. [20]

Therein lied one of the major problems – how the paper was being spoken of.

The findings were generalized when spoken of by pedophiles. They placed, arguably, unwarranted significance on the findings. In a speech on the House floor on July 29, 1999, Representative Dave Weldon read how one pedophile characterized the study,

“For several years now studies have been slowly chipping away at the harm myth. But this study is a major hammer-blow. It represents what is really known about sex with boys, and the conclusion couldn’t be clearer: When a boy and a man consent to make love with one another, the experience is positive, or at the very least, neutral. There is, simply, no harm… The genie is absolutely out of the bottle now and nothing in the world will be able to stuff it back in.”

Accurately spoken of, this was a meta-analysis of a select group of published and unpublished studies in which all subjects were college students.

Accusations of Sample Bias: College Students

Dallam et al. noted, “data suggest that by including only studies of college students, Rind et al. may have excluded some of the individuals most severely affected.” [20]

“Rind et al. stacked the deck, slanting their methods in the direction of their conclusions. To begin with, they included in their review only studies with college students,” [21] wrote David Spiegel, MD. He explained, “They selected those who were least likely to be seriously affected by abusive experiences, because they had made it through high school to college. […] This is a systematic bias in favor of their conclusion.” [21]

Renae Duncan, Ph.D., conducted research which found further complications with using college samples – those sexually abused had higher rates of drop-out with the highest rates of drop-out seen after the freshman year.

“because the current study found that a large proportion of sexually assaulted and multiple maltreated students left college after their freshman year, the samples analyzed by Rind and colleagues […] may have missed the most distressed survivors. […] researchers must be careful about using findings based on college students to portray the experiences of abuse survivors from the general population.” [22]

Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman did acknowledge this limitation in their original paper. They wrote in a footnote, “Persons with extremely harmful CSA episodes may be unable to attend college or remain there once they have begun. In this way, surveys of college students may miss extreme cases of CSA, limiting generalizability of findings from the college population.” [2]

They defended their use of college samples by stating their goal was to “examine whether CSA typically causes pervasive harm of an intense nature that is equivalent for both sexes.” [23] It was their position that if the assumed properties of intense and pervasive harm were valid, “it should follow that in any population sampled – drug addicts, psychiatric patients, or college students – persons who have experienced CSA should show strong evidence of the assumed properties of CSA.” [23]

Accusation: Straw Man

John A. Whittenburg, Ph.D., and colleagues noted, “Rind et al. employed a strategy not commonly used in scientific studies: setting up a straw man and then knocking the straw man down. The authors presented what they considered to be the four commonly assumed properties of child sexual abuse and then disputed their significance with the finding from their meta-analysis…” [24]

Accusation: Statistical Differences Between College and National Samples

Whittenburg and colleagues remarked on the relevance to the general population, “the college samples differed considerably from the national samples. [… ]The results of the analyses comparing the college samples with the national samples revealed that there are statistically significant differences…” [24]

Accusation: Exclusion of Severe Cases

Whittenburg and colleagues claimed Rind et al. excluded studies supporting different outcomes.

“Excluded were the more severe clinical and legal cases, considered by the authors to be nonrepresentative of the general child sexual abuse population.”[24]

“…it is obvious that they meta-analyzed only a very carefully selected number of the many published studies easily available for examination.” [24]

Rind and colleagues defended their decision to exclude clinical and legal cases, “…a comprehensive, scientific understanding of human sexuality is weakest when based primarily on clinical case studies, stronger with broad and diverse sampling within a society…” [23]

Rind and colleagues argued that criticisms of their review stemmed from the victimological viewpoint. [23]

Physical Harm: Pamela P. Tice and colleagues noted children can be physically harmed by sexual relations with adults. They wrote that injuries can include: “lacerations of the genitals, rectal damage, collapse of the anal sphincter muscle, internal bleeding, and asphyxiation.[…] Furthermore, the possibility of children and adolescents acquiring STDs from sexual relations with adults should never be ignored.” [25]

Possible Area of Consensus: Lack of Operational Definition of CSA

Dallam et al. wrote, “It is obvious that how CSA is defined is critical for studying its effects and that varying definitions cause difficulties when combining data for study. In the current meta-analysis, the use of studies that lacked a common definition was unavoidable, as there are nearly as many different definitions of abuse as there are studies.” [20]

Rind and colleagues explained the types of child sexual abuse varied in the 59 studies they analyzed, “including acts such as an invitation to do something sexual, exhibitionism, fondling, masturbation, oral sex, attempted intercourse, and completed intercourse.” [2]

Applicability of Meta-Analysis

Whittenburg et al. wrote, “given the ill-defined sexual abuse population, together with the wide variability within the samples and the heterogeneity of variance between the samples, the appropriateness of using parametric statistics and applying the meta-analytic technique is questionable.” [24]

Dallam et al. wrote, “a single estimate of adjustment obtained by averaging data on a wide range of exposure levels to CSA cannot be used to draw conclusions about the risk of problems and distress in an individual victim. Accordingly, attempts to use Rind et al.’s study to argue that an individual has not been harmed by sexual abuse constitute a serious misapplication of its findings.” [20] (This criticism ties back to the issue of how the results were being spoken of.)

NOTE: There were additional critiques of a more technical nature. Heather Ulrich and colleagues replicated the meta-analysis (using the same 59 samples) in 2005 – correcting for these statistical issues. Doing so did not significantly alter the results. The authors acknowledged the use of college samples & non-uniform definition of child sex abuse were not remedied. 

Criticism: Narrative – “Willingness” of Children

Tice and colleagues wrote the criterion of child willingness avoids adult ethical concerns about sexual behavior. “Such a criterion is an extremely poor one because it totally ignores the vast power deferential between adults and children. Psychologically and cognitively immature children cannot possibly have developed the ability to either willingly or consensually participate in an activity they cannot yet fully understand.” [25]

Whittenburg et al. also cited research suggesting “The perception of willing or consensual participation might simply be a component of the developed coping strategy.” [24]

Anna C Salter, Ph.D., critiqued the paper in Predators. She wrote,

“the seduction or manipulation of a child into sexual activity would not be considered “abuse” by definition, even if trickery, bribery, or conning was used. […] the offender has disappeared. In Rind and his colleagues’ view, kids are either forced into sexual acts through violence or they “consent.” The underlying assumption is that children and adolescents are equal matches for adults. Presumably either adult pedophiles are not trying to manipulate and con children for sex, or it is a “buyer beware” situation in which the kids can and should fend for themselves. But the former is absurd, and the latter is unfair.” [26]


Child sexual abuse is commonly understood to most often involve non-violent manipulation. The World Health Organization states, “Physical force/violence is very rarely used; rather the perpetrator tries to manipulate the child’s trust and hide the abuse. […] Perpetrators usually engage the child in a gradual process of sexualizing the relationship over time (i.e. grooming).”

Jon R. Conte, Ph.D., Steven Wolf, and Tim Smith interviewed sex offenders “about the process whereby they selected, recruited, and maintained children in a sexual abuse situation”. [27] They wrote the offenders they interviewed “claim a special ability to identify vulnerable children, to use that vulnerability to sexually use a child,” and noted, “sexual abuse is inherently coercive, even though many offender statements minimize the level or coercion and violence, and that offenders systematically desensitize children to touch.” [27]

Their paper was titled, ‘What Sexual Offenders Tell Us About Prevention Strategies’. It provides insight into the process through which compliance (or “willingness”) is sometimes cultivated. Below are some of the questions they asked and answers they received (quoted from their paper [27]):

Q: Was there something about the child’s appearance which attracted you to the child?

  • Has a look of being vulnerable in some way. May not be assertive; may not be outgoing. Trusts adults. You can see this in their body language, the way they look with their eyes. They way they hold themselves.

Q: Was there something about the child’s behavior which attracted you to the child?

  • Someone who had been a victim before; quiet, withdrawn, compliant.
  • Quieter, easer to manipulate, less likely to object or put up a fight, goes along with things.

Q: How did you gain control over the victim?

  • I think they were confused because I was appearing to be someone they could trust, but I was doing something they didn’t like. I would continue in a playful way to pretend that what I was doing was not sexual.

Q: Write a manual on how to sexually abuse a child.

  • I would find a child who doesn’t have a happy home life, because it would be easier to groom them and to gain their confidence.
  • I would find a child that didn’t have very many friends, because it would be easier for me to gain their friendship. Look for a kid who is easy to manipulate. They will go along with anything you say. I would approach them by being friendly, letting them think I was someone they could confide in and talk to.
  • Be in a position where you are a close friend with someone who is involved with alcohol and drugs and probably has the attitude that kids are like dogs, just around the house. […] Being a molester, you can pick on that and start showing the kids extra attention. They’ll thrive on it and will become easily manipulated to your control.

Body of Literature Suggesting Harm

As noted above, the APA stated, “The facts are that the majority of the psychological literature reveals that childhood sexual abuse has serious negative effects on its victims.” [5]

Dallam noted, “Rind et al.’s conclusion about the relative harmlessness of CSA conflicts with the findings of three other meta-analyses of the relationship between CSA and maladjustment.” [6] (e.g., Jumper, 1995 [28]; Neuman et al., 1996 [29]; Paolucci et al., 2001 [30])

Child Sexual Abuse Studies Since 1998

The body of literature suggesting correlations between child sexual abuse and harm in some individuals has continued to grow since 1998. Some excerpts from reviews published in 2011 and 2013 follow:

 NOTE: I do not have the expertise to examine the statistical significance of the studies shared. I am merely presenting these for review.  

McGrath et al. (2011) – Sexual Victimization in Childhood and the Propensity for Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Criminal Behavior (quotes from paper) [31]

  • “for the majority of CSA victims, the trauma of childhood sexual abuse was linked (directly or indirectly) to a wide range of negative adult outcomes, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, relationship difficulties, and substance abuse.”
  • “it is established in the literature that individuals who have been sexually molested as children have an increased likelihood of being a perpetrator of adult intimate partner violence (Bassuck et al., 2006; Widom, 1989).”
  • “Felson and Lane (2009) contend that individuals who are sexually abused as children have learned the behavior and corresponding justification, and will often replicate it as they become sexual perpetrators later in life.”
  • “Burton, Miller, and Shill (2002) found that male delinquents learned their sexually aggressive behaviors from their own sexual victimization experiences in childhood.”
  • “Gault-Sherman, Silver, and Sigfusdottir (2009) found that children who were sexually abused were more likely to engage in violence.”
  • “One study found that male delinquents who participate in sexually abusive behaviors tend to have been sexually abused themselves (Burton et al., 2002).”
  • “Felson and Lane (2009) found that adult offenders who experienced sexual abuse were more likely to commit sexual offenses than nonviolent offenses and the odds of committing a sexual offense against a child was more than 8 times higher if the offender had been sexually abused.”

Collin-Vezina et al. (2013) – Lessons Learned from Child Sexual Abuse Research: Prevalence, Outcomes, and Preventive Strategies (quotes from paper) [32]:

  • “Among the most established conceptual frameworks on the impact of CSA is the Four-Factor Traumagenics Model. [37] This model suggests that CSA alters a child’s cognitive and emotional orientation to the world and causes trauma by distorting their self-concept and affective capacities.”
  • “systematic reviews have confirmed that, given the vast array of etiological factors that interact in predicting mental health outcomes, CSA is considered a significant, though general and nonspecific, risk factor for psychopathology in children and adolescents [42-44].”
  • “Aside from post-traumatic stress and dissociation symptoms, a significant number of other mental health and behavioral disturbances have been linked to CSA. High levels of mood disorders, such as major depressive episodes, are found in cohorts of children and teenagers who have been sexually abused [56,57]. Sexually abused children are more likely than their non-abused counterparts to present behavior problems, such as inappropriate sexualized behaviors [58]. In the teenage years, they are found to more often exhibit conduct problems [59] and engage in at-risk sexual behaviors [60,61]. Victims are more prone to abusing substances, to engaging in self-harm behaviors, and to attempting or committing suicide [62-65]. Adolescents sexually abused in childhood are five times more likely to report non-clinical psychotic experiences such as delusions and hallucinations than their non-abused counterparts [66].”
  • “The mental health outcomes of CSA victims are likely to continue into adulthood as the link of CSA to lifetime psychopathology has been demonstrated [67-72]. Even more worrisome is the fact that CSA victims are more at risk than non-CSA youth to experience violence in their early romantic relationships [73,74] and that they are 2–5 times more at risk of being sexually revictimized in adulthood than women not sexually abused in childhood [75-77].”

Denial of Harm as a Legal Defense

Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman noted in the closing of the paper,

“…lack of harmfulness does not imply lack of wrongfulness. Moral codes of a society with respect to sexual behavior need not be, and often have not been, based on considerations of psychological harmfulness or health. Similarly, legal codes may be, and often have been, unconnected to such considerations. In this sense, the findings of the current review do not imply that moral or legal definitions of or views on behaviors currently classified as CSA should be abandoned or even altered.” [2]

Their paper has been used in legal proceedings, none the less. Dallam and colleagues noted examples in their 2001 paper (quotes from paper [20]).

  • “in State of Arizona v. Steward (1999) a convicted child molester used the article to argue for leniency, saying that research shows that children are rarely harmed by sexual molestation.
  • “In deposition testimony, a psychologist working as an expert witness for a pedophilic priest relied on the study to form the opinion that a victim’s psychological injuries were not due to sexual abuse.” [20]

Rind and colleagues responded saying, “testimony from a victimological perspective has occurred innumerable times.” [23]

Denial of Harm as a Linguistic Device

Denial of harm has effects beyond the utility it may provide to predators attempting to escape justice. It also has the potential to facilitate future acts.

Some researchers consider self-grooming the first stage of the grooming process. This is the stage where the offender overcomes their inhibitions. Carla van Dam, Ph.D., explained in Identifying Child Molesters: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse by Recognizing the Patterns of the Offenders,

“To commit sexual offenses against children, the molester must overcome internal inhibitions, which is done by Orwellian Newspeak. This occurs when the activities are reinterpreted in a different and seemingly more acceptable context.” [33]

Self-grooming can include the types of semantic manipulations chronicled above as well as the adoption of justifications.

Techniques of Neutralization

Techniques of Neutralization are linguistic devices criminals use to protect themselves from self blame. The concept was developed by Gresham Sykes, Ph.D., & David Matza, Ph.D. They believed these techniques of neutralization can precede deviant behavior – making it possible. They explained these justifications for deviant behavior have the effect of neutralizing internal norms in advance.

Social controls that serve to check or inhibit deviant motivational patterns are rendered inoperative, and the individual is freed to engage in delinquency without serious damage to his self image.” [34]

Neutralization theory is widely accepted within criminology. [35]

Sykes & Matza identified five major types of neutralization techniques: Denial of Injury; Denial of Responsibility; Denial of the Victim; Condemnation of the Condemners; and Appeal to Higher Loyalties.*

Techniques Pedophiles Use When Justifying Sex with Children

Researchers have utilized the sociological framework of the techniques of neutralization to assess publications by pedophilia organizations as well as pedophilia online forums and have found denial of injury to be pervasive.

Denial of Injury

Mary DeYoung, Ph.D., wrote, “The denial of injury as a technique of neutralization is a strategy used by these pedophile organizations to redefine adult sexual behavior with children in positive terms. If they can convince themselves and others that no injury or harm is done to the children, then the behavior can be normalized; once normalized, the adults who engage in this behavior can effectively disavow or neutralize any imputation of a deviant identity by the larger society.” [9]

Keith Durkin, Ph.D., and Clifton Bryant, Ph.D., monitored a pedophile forum for a month and found 39% of the pedophiles in the group offered denial of injury as a justification.** They wrote, “…they are trying to convince themselves as well as others of a certain point of view. Although it is highly unlikely that pedophiles who use the Internet will persuade the general public that sexual contact with an adult will not harm a child, they may be trying to convince themselves that such activity is not injurious to children. This account may serve an exculpatory function for pedophiles by assuaging the guilt associated with engaging in (or desiring to engage in) sex with children.” [36]

Claim of Benefit

Claim of benefit is an extension of denial of injury. “The claim-of-benefit account, which consisted of the contention that sexual contact with an adult is beneficial to children, was offered by 9.8 percent of the pedophiles in the sample.” [36]

DeYoung found publications by pedophile organizations “are filled with anecdotal accounts, testimonials, letters, and poetry that feature the beneficial and advantageous effects on children of sexual behavior with adults.” [9]

Edward Brongersma, JD, contributed an essay titled, ‘Boy-Lovers and Their Influence’ to the Journal of Homosexuality’s 1991 special volume. In it he referenced a 1976 book, Sexual Experience between Men and Boys, by Parker Rossman. Brongersma wrote,

“Rossman (1976) gives several examples of social workers achieving miracles with apparently incorrigible young delinquents – not by preaching to them but by sleeping with them.” [37]

Brongersma claimed the sexual experiences with men “did far more good than years in reformatories.” [37]

Brongersma also wrote of a test program in Berlin which placed young delinquents under the supervision of boy-lovers. “The results were totally successful, but unfortunately the fear of public reaction soon closed the program down.” [37]

In 2019 documentation can still be found on pedophile advocacy websites referring to sexual experiences between adults and children as beneficial for the children involved – in some cases even providing instructions for creating an atmosphere in which affection can be given when working with children.

A recent six-month investigation conducted by Hearst Connecticut Media found “at least 250 victims in 30 states who say there were sexually abused as children at the hands of employees, volunteers and other members of Boy & Girls Clubs of America.” [38]

Interviews with the offenders may reveal if exposure to claim of benefit narratives precipitated any of these crimes. How many overcame their inhibitions by subscribing to the cognitive distortion*** they were providing a benefit to the children?

Denial of Victim

“The denial of the victim as a technique of neutralization rests on this complex issue of consent. By reconceptualizing children as willing and informed partners of adults in sexual behavior, the victim status of the children is denied, and the behavior itself is normalized,” [9] explained DeYoung. She provided examples from NAMBLA bulletins:

Mary DeYoung shared excerpts from NAMBLA Bulletins in ‘The indignant page: Techniques of neutralization in the publications of pedophile organizations’ (1988)

Evidence of the use of denial of injury and denial of victim was found throughout the Journal of Homosexuality’s 1991 double volume. One example was found in the essay titled, ‘A Model for Group Counseling with Male Pedophiles,’ in which Gertjan van Zessen, Ph.D., advised mental health professionals,

“When a boy is very young (12 years old and under) or emotionally unstable, the counselor can suggest that the man reconsider the relationships thoroughly, especially its sexual aspects. A non-sexual relationship with a boy, regardless of his age, is not illegal. However, when partners voluntarily enter into a relationship or sexual contact, there is no need for the therapist to condemn or interfere.” [39]

Condemnation of the Condemner

“The utility of [the condemnation of the condemners] technique is that the pedophile organizations redirect the condemnation and the negative sanctions they have received back to the larger society that condemns them in the first place,” [9] wrote DeYoung.

Durkin elaborated, “Law enforcement officers and social workers are typically the targets of diatribes that accuse them of engaging in a variety of unscrupulous and incompetent practices such as ‘‘brainwashing’’ children and engaging in a draconian witch hunt against pedophiles.” [36]

Mary DeYoung shared excerpts from NAMBLA Bulletins in ‘The indignant page: Techniques of neutralization in the publications of pedophile organizations’ (1988)

‘Child Abuse Industry’ is a term which appears in advocacy literature. In Gerald Jones’ essay contribution to the Journal of Homosexuality’s special volume, he defined the term,

“The “child abuse industry” is the term sometimes applied to the collection of professionals who, one way or another, earn livelihoods from investigating, treating, prosecuting or otherwise dealing with those involved in child abuse. In effect, they both profit from and influence public policy regarding child abuse.” [12]

Durkin explained how this mindset may affect treatment efforts. “Such an attitude may make pedophiles les sensitive to punishment and less amenable to treatment efforts. … It is doubtful that they would be amenable to any type of treatment or intervention because they believe they have been persecuted by members of the mental health profession.” [36]

Appeal to Higher Loyalties

DeYoung described how this technique is deployed, “The final technique of neutralization is the appeal to higher loyalties, a strategy by which the persons labeled deviant neutralize that label with the insistence that their behavior serves the interests of a higher principle to which they owe allegiance. In the case of the pedophile organizations under consideration, that higher principle is the liberation of children from what they characterize as the sexually repressive bonds of society.” [9]

She continued, “These pedophile organizations, then, tend to embed their advocacy of adults-child sex within the larger context of the liberation of children. That allows them to present themselves to the larger society as organizations with goals higher and more legitimate than that of just advocating adult sexual behavior with children.” [9]

Dr Jordan B Peterson on Pedophilia

Though it was Dr Jordan Peterson’s Facebook post which inspired this deep dive, it has to be noted that he did not take a neutral position during his interview with Milo Yiannopoulos when he expressed the feeling that Milo was preyed upon by the adult male with whom Milo had a sexual relationship when he was 14 years old. [40]

The topic also came up during a Q&A video Dr Peterson posted to his YouTube channel. He responded to a viewer submitted question which asked, “How do I deal with the fact that I’m a pedophile?”  Dr Peterson explained that he was not an expert in treating pedophilia but did offer this, “If you have the opportunity, you should probably go speak to a counselor or priest or someone that you trust. […] I would say that you need a plan. […] and I would include in that plan: the absolutely catastrophic consequences of not regulating that behavior properly. And you should really think it through, because that pedophilic impulse, let’s say, could lead you into seven different sorts of hell – you and whoever you happen to tangle up in it.” [41]

Dr. Peterson has a large body of work available online to draw from in attempting to understand possible motivations for citing the infamous paper. In the video clip which accompanied the Facebook post, Dr. Peterson described his takeaway from the 1998 paper as, “a testament to the fundamental resiliency of human beings.” [40] The quote below may provide some further insight.

“If you turn around and you confront the suffering voluntarily, you find out that you are way tougher than you think. It is not that life is better than you think. Life is as harsh as you think. It might even be worse, but you are way tougher than you think if you turn around and confront it. And so then what you discover is that there’s a spirit within you that can pursue something meaningful that has the resilience and the strength to contend properly with the catastrophe of existence. … Life is suffering. This is true. And it’s worse than that, because it’s suffering contaminated by malevolence. …That’s very pessimistic, but the optimistic part is that you’re so damn tough you can actually not only deal with that, you can improve it. … I think the fact that we’re armed for the task is even more true than the fact that life is catastrophe contaminated by malevolence. We’re stronger than things are terrible. And things are pretty terrible.” – Dr Jordan B Peterson [42]

That’s a powerful message which transcends any paper discussed in this article. He was not speaking directly of child sexual abuse, but when applied to that particular type of suffering, his words are especially powerful. Reminding individuals who have survived child sexual abuse that their experiences do not diminish their potential (because every one of them has the capacity to contend with malevolence) is noble.

Closing Remarks

It is important to avoid simplistic narratives & imprecise generalizations when speaking about complex phenomena – to ensure hell isn’t spoken into being.

I hope what I have unearthed will serve as a reminder of what is at stake when we attach significance to and derive meaning from everything produced in academia. Activism can and often does intersect with scholarship. Just as industry can manipulate science for profit, activists can misuse the social sciences to construct the world they want to live in.

About the author: I am no one, and I have no credentials.

All professional titles reflect the most recent I could find and not necessarily the author’s title at the time of publication. I have made no attempt to misrepresent the authors through the excerpts I have chosen to share. It is only for the sake of readability that I have made them as brief as possible. I have deliberately provided direct quotes rather than provide my interpretations. All readers are encouraged to read the literature discussed in its entirety. All SOURCES are provided.

Continuing Research:

(Let’s collaborate.)

Future Unearthing:

  • The Eugenics Review – scientific journal which published from 1908 to 1968.


*The list of techniques of neutralization is not fixed. Different researchers provide different categories. See ‘A Model of Neutralization Techniques’ for an example.
**Durkin and Bryant used Theory of Accounts as their framework – developed by Scott and Lyman in 1968.  An account is a linguistic device employed whenever an action is subjected to valuative inquiry. Accounts are categorized as: excuses and justifications. “justifications are socially approved vocabularies that neutralize an act or its consequences when one or both are called into question.”[43] Scott and Lyman used the techniques for neutralization as a preliminary list for what they called ‘justification’s in their theory of accounts.).
***Some researchers analyze the crimes of sexual predators using the framework of Cognitive Distortions. Ribeaud & Eisner proposed a broader framework which integrates neutralization techniques with cognitive distortions.


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