December 30, 2009

Blanchard does it again: another perversion

Ray Blanchard, the father of the autogynephilia concept, seems to have a strong need to classify all types of out of the norm sexual desire in order to label them as a disorder or paraphilia.

I think we need some kind of Latin term for this clearly unnatural urge to sort out the freaks of nature, maybe something in the line of anal paraphiliphiliac or ordinophiliac (after Latin Ordino, to set in order).

The New Scientist reports that Blanchard now wants the diagnosis hebephilia included in the new edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.

"... this obscure diagnosis has huge significance in the courts. If it becomes accepted it could lead to hundreds of sex offenders who have served their jail time being locked up indefinitely - on grounds that some say are spurious. Hebephilia refers to when adults are sexually fixated on teenagers around the time of puberty. This sets it apart from paedophilia, which refers to a focus on pre-pubescent children. The DSM-V work group on sexual disorders is likely to call for paedophilia to be renamed paedohebephilia, and include a hebephilic subtype."

If you have never heard about this condition, it will probably please you to know that there are more coined by Blanchard and like minded researchers :

Hebephilia (erotically attracted to 11 to 14 years old)
Ephebophilia (erotically attracted to 15 - 16 years old)
Gerontophilia (erotically attracted to the aged)
Gynandromorphophilia (erotically attracted to transwomen)
Andromimetophilia (erotically attracted to transmen)
Abasiophilia (erotically attracted to people who are physically disabled)
Acrotomophilia (erotically attracted to amputees)
Fat Fetishism (erotically attracted to fat people)

I would like to add:
Ageladagynephilia (erotically attracted to cowgirls, see illustration)

Blanchard has made a device that records the blood flow in the penis to measure the arousal of men while they are listening to sexual material. If you get a hard-on at the wrong time, you are in big trouble! (Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol 38, p 335)

He is meeting some resistance. There are those that argue that such preferences may be shaped through human evolution and that the attraction itself is not pathological. Whether it is illegal or unethical is another matter.

Gregory DeClue points out that Blanchard and his friends completely overlook the question of how we decide which sexual interest patterns should be considered a mental disorder. Pedophilia is a mental disorder. Homosexuality and masturbation used to be, but is no longer. What about ephebolofilia? What about an attraction to MILFs, red heads, Asians or women with a lisp?

This is relevant to Blanchard's classification of autogynephilia as a paraphilia (perversion). He clearly wants to classify all sexual desires outside the norm of middle-class WASP America as a disorder. The main exception to this seems to be homosexuals, as there are just too many of them, but then again he has spent a lot of time trying to make sense out of homosexuality from an evolutionary perspective.

According to the New Scientist, Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist in El Cerrito, California, says that if hebephilia and paraphilic coercive disorder make it into DSM-V, they will be seized upon to consign men to a lifetime of incarceration.

Blanchard's reply is typical: "The clinical facts are what they are." But they are not. All clinical data is interpreted within the framework of a specific belief system or a paradigm, and it seems to me that Blanchard is unable to question the the cultural basis for his own research. What is normal? What is a paraphilia? This is why he always gest results that confirm his own prejudices.

9 comments:

  1. 1. -- "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" The Gregory DeClue article clearly states that the number of people diagnosed will not increase. There diagnosis will be better classified in DSM if this is added. The DSM is NOT the criminal code in any state or country and for an "expert" to claim that people will be incarcerated because of something in the DSM is throwing gasoline onto the discussion and lighting a match.

    2. -- People who sexually prey on children and defenseless adults and cannot control themselves probably should be locked up for their protection and society's protection. Whether or not it is in the DSM is immaterial. I am more concerned that the people who should be locked up won't be because some lawyer will use the DSM to get their client out...

    3. -- An abstract on "boychat.org" of Blanchard's paper clearly would not be impartial in any sense. Their agenda of "normalizing" and de-criminalizing certain sexual behaviors is very clear.

    What does "hebephilia" have to to with autogynephilia? Nothing... except for the "Blanchard" connection. If he is grossly wrong about autogynephilia, then anything and everything he does needs to be trashed... Right? Obviously, we know a lot more about human sexuality than Blanchard would ever know... Right?

    The question comes down to the definition "normal" vs. "disordered" sexual behaviors. When the definition gets fuzzy, then who is to say what is normal or disordered? It had better not be "middle class WASP America" psychologists with cultural biases! (or anyone with any hint of any cultural bias whatsoever...)

    The problem is that the justification for making a philia not a disorder can be applied easily to all other philias. This does a huge disservice to people who need help and the only "help" a therapist would be able to offer is, "Don't worry! Be happy! You are not disordered! No treatment necessary!"

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  2. Good points!

    Still, it seems to me that his extreme urge to classify all types of out-of-the-norm sexual desires and behaviors is more damaging than helpful.

    Men who forces themselves upon kids are criminals because they hurt them in one of the worst possible ways, not because of their desire.

    Many -- if not all -- people have thoughts and desires they feel ashamed about, sexual and otherwise. That does not mean that they are paraphiliacs or that they act upon these urges.

    To feel sexually attracted to a 14 year old does not a pervert make. However, if he does have sex with a minor he is a criminal (at least in most states and countries).

    To get aroused by the idea of being a woman does not necessarily make you a pervert either, in my book. It can just be another variant of that strange and magical phenomenon called human life. If you do this to hurt others, however, you are a definitely a criminal.

    In the case of autogynephilia, of course, you cannot hurt others in the same way as an active pedophile. Our ethical dilemma is not whether it is wrong to have these urges, but to what extent we manage to handle them without hurting those we love.

    There is no doubt in my mind that autogynephiliacs can suffer from severe psychological problems: depression, suicidal thoughts, compulsive obsessions, and many of us need a therapist.

    But you don't need to include a specific syndrom in the DSM to achieve that. Homosexuals continue to get psychiatric help, even if their perversion is no longer classified as a perversions, as do -- of course -- "normal" people (whatever that is).

    I believe we need a scientific typology that includes a phenomenon like autogynephilia, but it does not need to be included in a manual like this one.

    The official abstract of Blanchard et al's article can be found here: http://www.springerlink.com/content/7j127536573h5q8t/ I have a copy if anyone is interested.

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  3. By the way, Robin, I appreciate your comments very much. There is a distinct danger that now that I am beginning to see a pattern I believe in, I will become complacent, forgetting the need to be very critical towards any idea, including my own. Keep the comments coming!

    Jack

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  4. I recall reading an article somewhere on the web long ago by pyshologist that clamed that homosexuality was removed from APA classiccation of sexual disorder because of politics not because of further scienftic study of the topic at hand.

    Now some sickness like cancer are wide spread but that doesn"t mean it is normal to have cancer. Although its far fetchid comparison to homosexuality.

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  5. @Kristjan

    "I recall reading an article somewhere on the web long ago by pyshologist that clamed that homosexuality was removed from APA classiccation of sexual disorder because of politics not because of further scienftic study of the topic at hand. "

    That is probably true. And it is amazing to see how the researchers struggled to develop a new definition of paraphilia that did not automatically include homosexuality.

    That being said, Blanchard is not lying when he says that he believes homosexuality is not a paraphilia. Some have argued that he himself is homosexual. I have not been able to find proof of this, though.

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  6. This will come very close to what you might call thought police or variously penis or genital police.

    The classification of human behavior into paraphilias in this way is very dangerous. The reason is that it is not the act of arousal that is deviant but rather the inability to control the urge and acting on it.

    It is like saying if you are attracted to guns you are a murderer or if you are a boxer, you are violent.

    It is the same with autogynephilia as a hypothesis. The material used in his survey disallowed any answer outside of sexual response and those that said they had no sexual response where classified as liars.

    He and his research is not to be trusted. His expertise is the creation of postulates which are informed by his "most beloved ideas" then biased research to push them into hypotheses which remain entirely unproven. After they have been around for a few years they gain a form of acceptance but remain without proof. It is just a magic trick and scientifically unsound.

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  7. @Kathryn

    It is interesting to see that homosexuality was removed from the DSM based on the argument that not all homosexuals were mentally ill, meaning that homosexuality is not a mental illness, although the reactions from society might cause mental illness.

    If we used this argument on crossdreaming, "autogynephilia" should not be part of the manual either.

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  8. @Kathryn

    It is interesting to see that homosexuality was removed from the DSM based on the argument that not all homosexuals were mentally ill, meaning that homosexuality is not a mental illness, although the reactions from society might cause mental illness.

    If we used this argument on crossdreaming, "autogynephilia" should not be part of the manual either.

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  9. Just a detail: all those philias are not named after Latin words, but after Greek ones. Your "ordinophilia" should thus be "orthophiilia..."

    The strangest is that the meaning of the Greek word philia does not include any sexual content... That should be eros...

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