14 February 2011

The Daily Mail's Reckless Association of Homosexuality and Paedophilia

I'm not going to go into the rights and wrongs of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe's farcical appointment-then-sacking from the ACMD. For good summary of the background to this story, see Mark Easton. It suffices to say that it appears Dr Raabe was sacked for writing a paper that links homosexuality to paedophilia. As Tom Chivers explains, there is no link:

The University of California’s psychology department does a very good “facts about homosexuality and child molestation” section, and I’ve taken the following from there. First, the idea of “homosexual [or heterosexual] paedophiles” is not really an accepted one in psychological circles: “many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.”

Further, among those who are not solely attracted to children – those known as “regressed” child molesters – seem to be no more likely to be homosexual than the rest of the populace.

Sadly, it is still common to associate the two, despite the evidence. Paedophilia is clearly immoral behaviour, so it is up to those who value honest, factual reporting to counter the damaging myth that it is an any way linked to homosexuality.

Unfortunately the Daily Mail (and its Sunday sister paper) can't be relied on to provide such reporting. Their 'journalists' James Slack, Iain Drury, James Tozer, Stephen Glover, Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips have all written articles on Dr Raabe. All the articles mention his 'research', often uncritically pronouncing his work as 'academic' or 'scientific'. An unsceptical reader would be left with the clear impression that there is a clear evidence showing a link between homosexuality and paedophilia, when there is no such link. I consider this to be reckless.

In particular, Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips attempts to add more credence to this link by citing a government report. On Sunday, Hitchens wrote:

Who said these words? ‘Approximately 20 to 33 per cent of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature.’ I will tell you.

It was the Home Office, on Page 14 of Sex Offending Against Children: Understanding The Risk, published by the Policing and Reducing Crime Unit in 1998. I have a copy.

You can have a copy too. The document is available on the Home Office website [pdf]. The specific words cited by Hitchens and Phillips are simply referencing a paper called ‘The heterogeneity/homogeneity of pedophilia’, a study from 1988. So what we have here is a single 23-year-old study. That's all Hitchens and Phillips are using, albeit with a drizzling of irony that the Home Office happens to have mentioned this paper (once, 13 years ago).

The aforementioned University of California's page on the subject has far more citations, including literature reviews that incorporate many more studies. The overall body of evidence shows there's no link. The science shows that sexual attraction to children is a different phenomenon to sexual attraction to adults (male or female).

That's why the same Home Office report cited by Hitchens and Phillips explicitly states in the very same paragraph:

Individual studies must be viewed cautiously before generalising from them.

The Daily Mail's inability to exercise such caution is likely to spread homophobic views amongst its readership.


Peter Reynolds said...

The way the DM and the MOS allow their writers to distribute lies and misinformation is truly astounding.

I've started calling them to account on the cannabis issue with PCC complaints and it does work.

I think the truth is they've been allowed to get away with publishing whatever nonsense they want. No one calls them to account. It's up to us. The procedures are there. We just have to use them.

Anonymous said...

I suspect it's impossible for homophobia to spread beyond the 100% of the DM readership it already occupies.

Chris said...

"I suspect it's impossible for homophobia to spread beyond the 100% of the DM readership it already occupies." - I disagree with you on this, many people who read the daily mail are not yet homophobic. However, this type of reporting is likely to gradually increase suspicion of homosexuals over time. It's unlikely that any one article will have a sudden effect, but constant repetition of this sort of reporting will gradually shift opinions. "If I've read this sort of thing so many different times there must be some truth to it" and so on...

Anonymous said...

‘Approximately 20 to 33 per cent of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature.’

Surely that means that 67-80% of child sexual abuse is committed by straight people.
So in fact your child is less likely to be abused by someone who is Gay.
Trust the Daily Fail !

Anonymous said...

The same Home Office report also says:

"As described above, some offenders target only boys, some only girls, and some children of both sexes. This does not appear to reflect, however, sexual orientation towards adults. Marshall et al. (1988) found, for example, that even in a group of men who had offended exclusively against boys aged five to 10, two thirds had adult heterosexual preferences. In general, however, those who offend primarily against older children (i.e. 15 or 16 years of age) tend to have sexual response patterns in terms of age preference similar to men who offend against adults (Baxter et al., 1984)."

So, the report is basically saying that paedo's like children - gender is almost irrelevant.