Fiction, Culture and Pedophilia: Fantasy and the First Amendment after United States v. Whorley

Kim-Butler, Bryan

In 1998, congressional and public sentiment was set ablaze by the publication of a seemingly esoteric academic article by three previously little-known psychologists. The article, in an American Psychological Association ("APA") journal, Psychological Bulletin, challenged the "lay belie[f] that child sexual abuse (CSA) causes intense harm" and concluded that the common construct of child sexual abuse was "of questionable scientific validity." The authors suggested further that psychologists researching child sexuality use different terms, "adultchild sex, a value-neutral term" for "a willing encounter with positive reactions," reserving "child sexual abuse, a term that implies harm to the individual," for a nonconsensual experience accompanied by negative feelings. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality ("NARTH"), a group that claims to "help" gays and lesbians rid themselves of "unwanted homosexuality," was the first to comment. NARTH claimed that the APA was attempting to "normalize pedophiles." Dr. Laura Schlessinger agreed, and together with NARTH and the conservative organization Family Research Council, prodded Congress to respond. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Dr. Schlessinger appeared at a press conference convened by the Family Research Council, introducing a bill requiring the APA to renounce the findings of the study. A House Resolution condemning the psychologists' conclusions passed 355 to zero in 1999.8 Looking back on the episode, literary critic Kathryn Bond Stockton comments that "Congress, it would seem, has acted only once to resolve against science: in order to say that children must be harmed."


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July 2, 2012