The vast majority of Americans are outraged at the recent accusations of child rape by a former member of the football coaching staff at Penn State University and the seeming cover-up by the university’s president and legendary head football coach. At the same time, a small, radical organization, B4U-ACT, is lobbying under the radar to convince the American Psychiatric Association (APA) - publisher of the bible for identifying abnormal behaviors, the Diagnostic&StatisticalManualofMental Disorders (DSM) -to declare that pedophilia should not be included in the list of abnormal behaviors.
Members of the APA need to listen to the public outcry and disregard members of B4U-ACT. Raping a child, sexually exploiting a child, destroying a child’s innocence, and psychologically and physically damaging a child are abhorrent crimes. Media coverage has downplayed the physical trauma abused children often suffer from sexual assaults. Contrary to the views of some on the radical fringe, the criminal is not the victim; nor is that person to be protected and the crime covered up while the abused and sexually exploited children are left to suffer the consequences and later, endure the years of psychological rehabilitation that is required before they can be restored to normality.
B4U-ACT is a small group of mental health professionals and pedophile activists who seek greater tolerance for “minor-attracted persons” (pedophiles). Indeed, those involved in the lobbying want to decriminalize, even normalize, pedophilia. They are working to change public perceptions so that raping children is acceptable behavior. Among the academics lending respectability to these efforts by speaking at the recent conference in Baltimore were researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the universities of Louisville and Illinois. The fringe activists promise to disrupt future meetings of the APA until they are successful in normalizing pedophilia, a strategy successfully employed in the 1970s to get homosexuality removed from the DSM - not because of new scientific evidence, but because of political pressure by a small group of activists. For instance, in 1990, the JournalofHomosexuality published a special double issue devoted to adult-child sex, calling it “male intergenerational intimacy.”
All of this reminds me of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s warnings about “defining deviancy down” and cultural disintegration. I paraphrase his advice this way: Win the battles over language and you win the culture war.
Now the pedophilia activists are flexing their political muscles and with some success, changing the culture through changing the language of social science and medical terminology. To be released in 2013, the DSM proposes subtle yet significant revisions to its featured section on “paraphilic” disorders. The term “paraphilia” encompasses a wide range of aberrant sexual urges and behaviors, including but not limited to pedophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism, sexual sadism and masochism. In every version of the DSM, such forms of sexual deviance have been classified as paraphilic disorders. But now, radical fringe groups with a bully pulpit are arguing that people with “atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed sexual interests” should not be labeled ill, and they are putting tremendous pressure on the APA to comply.
The proposed changes to the DSM paraphilia section seek to make a distinction between “paraphilias” and “paraphilic disorders,” and in order to meet the criteria for the disorder, the person who is “minor-attracted” must experience significant “distress or impairment” or cause “harm to others.” So, essentially, a grown man who engages in sex with a consenting 12-year-old and sleeps soundly at night does not have a disorder. Pedophilia is only a problem when it falls within certain narrowly specified criminal categories.
We’ve all heard the nonsensical expression, “I’m just a little pregnant.” Now it seems one can be “just a little pedophilic.” As part of the paraphilia changes, the “pedophilia” subgroup will be given a new name: “pedohebephilic disorder.” In order to qualify, one must experience sexual stimulation from at least two prepubescent children - or at least three children, if one is pubescent. All this must take place for at least a period of six months and must involve the repeated use of porn.
Under such conditions, a person who molests the same child for years - exclusively - is not a pedophile. A person who sexually assaults different children for less than half a year is nota pedophile. Clearly, as Allan Bloom and Gertrude Himmelfarb said, “Sturdy virtues are being diluted into shallow values.”
Surely, the skeptic in all of us wants to cry out, “This can never happen. Pedophilia can never be normalized.” After all, it doesn’t take a medical or theological degree to know that child rape is wrong. But as David Brooks noted in a NewYorkTimes column, “Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.”
Due to our human sensitivities and American values of fairness and equality, our nation has been duped into accepting the unacceptable, all because the lies have been packaged for us so nicely. We were told that morality is relative and that right and wrong are simply cultural preferences. We were told that adhering to an absolute truth that judges between good and evil is narrow-minded. We were told we needed to alter our language to become more politically correct - that pedophiles are simply “minor-attracted persons” who are the victims of societal stigma, bigotry and intolerance. We are told that our children are sexual from birth and have the capacity to be willing participants in intercourse from their infancy.
The time has come when we can no longer casually dismiss fringe radicals as irrelevant. Instead, we must take seriously those who want to steer our nation into a moral morass. We are not powerless; we can serve as watchdogs, monitoring institutions such as the APA and keeping them accountable. If we’ve learned nothing else from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, we have learned that pedophilia involves real people, and little children are the victims when a trusted adult perpetrator exploits their innocence and takes sexual advantage of their trust.
Janice Shaw Crouse, author of “Children at Risk” (Transaction, 2010), is director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.