Dr. James M. Cantor
The following document is in-press in the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. Because I have already received several requests for copies, I have made this (unofficial) pre‑print available here, in accordance with that journal’s policies.
The Errors of Karen Franklin’s Pretextuality
James M. Cantor1
Addiction and Mental Health,
In Hebephilia: Quintessence of diagnostic pretextuality, Karen Franklin
(2010a) expands on her previous argument that psychologists and psychiatrists
should not diagnose as abnormal hebephilia,
the sexual preference for early pubescent children, typically ages 11–14.2 (To forestall a common error: Puberty should not be confused with adolescence.3) Very briefly,
Franklin’s essay outlines political and financial aspects of sex offender
management in the U.S., asserts that the science (and the scientists)
studying hebephilia are lacking, and concludes that the acceptance of
hebephilia among professionals, professional organizations, and courts (including
the U.S. Supreme Court) is due to the financial factors rather than any
scientific merits. That is,
The backbone of
The falsity of
A substantial justification for
Beier, K. M., Ahlers, C. J., Goecker, D., Neutze, J., Mundt,
Brown, A. S., Gray, N. S., & Snowden, R. J. (2009). Implicit measurement of sexual associations in child sex abusers: Role of victim type and denial. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research & Treatment, 21, 166–180.
S., & Granger, L. (2008). Personal and criminal characteristics
distinguishing pedophiles, hebephiles, and rapists. In G. Bourgon,
R. K. Hanson, J. D. Pozzulo, K. E. Morton-Bourgon, & C. L. Tanasichuk
(Eds.). Proceedings of the 2007 North
American Correctional & Criminal Justice Psychology Conference (pp.
Studer, L. H., Aylwin, A. S., Clelland, S. R., Reddon, J. R., & Frenzel, R. R. (2002). Primary erotic preference in a group of child molesters. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 25, 173–180.
There is no objective means by which one can declare how much research is enough research, how many researchers are enough researchers, nor how many replications are enough replications. To declare that none of this science and none of these scientists even exist, however, is a misrepresentation of fact. For reference, I have made available online a comprehensive list of all the peer-reviewed, empirical articles that include samples of hebephiles, whether published by my own team, the aforementioned teams, or other teams (Cantor, 2011b).
Franklin’s remaining evidence for hebephilia’s alleged obscurity represents more symbolism than meaningful indictment: Franklin insinuates that my colleagues and I have inappropriately popularized hebephilia because we were the first authors to use the word in an article title (i.e., Cantor et al., 2005), and she questions the concept of hebephilia because the word “hebephilia” does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The aforementioned research databases, however, reveal that the first use of “hebephilia” in an article title was actually “A comparison of sexual victimization in the childhoods of pedophiles and hebephiles,” by Greenberg, Bradford, and Curry (1993) in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Finally, despite its standing, the OED has never been the standard for the acceptance of terms in highly specialized fields. Indeed, also absent from the OED is the word “pretextuality.”
Zucker and study coauthors Blanchard
(How my team
and I manage also to be consistently publishing in multiple other top
journals in which we have no editorial appointment,
Franklin chose to publish her essay in Behavioral Sciences and the Law (BS&L), so to take that journal as the most obvious exemplar: The BS&L editorial board consists of 36 persons, and a standard literature search (which I have made available online; Cantor, 2011c) reveals that 16 of the board members have published one or more articles in that same journal recently (within the five years prior to Franklin’s essay). All this is to say that publishing articles in journals for which one serves on the editorial board is a non-issue, the handling of which is exactly what the masked review system was designed to do. If Franklin has any evidence whatsoever to justify her insinuation that Kenneth J. Zucker (editor of the Archives) has violated the integrity of the masked review process for my or for anyone else’s benefit, I invite her to present it and to report it to the appropriate regulatory body.
As Moynihan put it: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Nonetheless, that is the bulk of Franklin’s essay: A series of easily falsified mischaracterizations of the content and status of the science of hebephilia, a series of vague insinuations unrelated to the findings, and a misrepresentation of the operation of the masked peer review system, serving to evoke rhetorical sympathy from any readers unaware of how such systems operate.
Despite pointing out Franklin’s mischaracterizations of my and other scientists’ research, I should not be mistaken to be supporting any given sex offender management policy—Many jurisdictions have implemented multiple, poorly conceived, and emotionally driven policies based on no science at all, and worse, in direct opposition to the available science. For the interested reader, I recommend Tabachnick and Klein’s (2011): A reasoned approach: Reshaping sex offender policy to prevent child sexual abuse, published by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and which provides summaries of the relevant research and recommendations for integrating the science into sound public policy.
Decisions about what should and should not be included in the DSM is part science and part value judgment. Regarding the science, I am personally of the opinion that the existing peer-reviewed data pertaining to hebephilia support the existence of hebephilia as a taxonometrically meaningful category on par with the evidence that supports other categories already listed in major diagnostic systems. (Even critics of explicitly naming hebephilia in the DSM see me this far.) Regarding the value judgment, the many and opposing values cannot be decided by science. Franklin is entirely free to her view, as are the many other stakeholders—victim-advocates, an anxious but often misinformed public, policy-makers who are often pressured to make snap and sometimes ill-conceived decisions, professional providers of defense testimony (a group Franklin does not mention among those with a potential financial interest), advocates for the fair treatment of offenders, and even alternative sexuality advocates who philosophically reject the idea that any sexual interest (including hebephilia and pedophilia) should ever be deemed a diagnosis. These and many other groups have the freedom to consider their social and political values in deciding how to apply scientific knowledge in the public policy arena. But to employ propaganda-style journalism where objective scholarship should be would be the quintessence of pretextuality.
Blanchard, R. (2009). Reply to letters regarding Pedophilia, hebephilia, and the DSM-V [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 331–334.
Blanchard, R. (2010). The fertility of hebephiles and the adaptationist argument against including hebephilia in DSM-5 [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 817–818.
Blanchard, R., Lykins, A. D., Wherrett, D.,
Cantor, J. M. (2011a). 100 texts that include hebephilia [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://individual.utoronto.ca/james_cantor/page21.html
Cantor, J. M. (2011b). Peer-reviewed research articles providing data on hebephilia (1972–2010) [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://individual.utoronto.ca/james_cantor/page19.html
Cantor, J. M. (2011c). Misconceptions about masked peer review [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://individual.utoronto.ca/james_cantor/page22.html
Cantor, J. M.,
Klassen, P. E., Dickey, R., Christensen, B. K.,
DeClue, G. (2009). Should hebephilia be a mental disorder? A reply to Blanchard et al. (2008) [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 317–318.
Franklin, K. (2010a). Hebephilia: Quintessence of diagnostic pretextuality. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28, 751–768.
(2010b, March 12). Latest
hebephilia critiques: Point-counterpoint [Web log post]. Retrieved
Greenberg, D. M., Bradford, J. M., & Curry, S. (1993). A comparison of sexual victimization in the childhoods of pedophiles and hebephiles. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 38, 432–436.
Grumbach, M. M., & Styne,
D. M. (1998). Puberty: Ontogeny, neuroendocrinology, physiology, and
disorders. In J. D. Wilson, D. W. Foster, H. M. Kronenberg,
& P. R. Larsen (Eds.), Williams
textbook of endocrinology (9th ed., pp. 1509–1625).
Herman-Giddens, M. E., Slora, E. J., Wasserman, R. C., Bourdony, C. J., Bhapkar, M. V., Koch, G. G., & Hasemeier, C. M. (1997). Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: A study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network. Pediatrics, 99, 505–512.
Moser, C. (2009). When is an unusual sexual interest a mental disorder? [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 323–325.
Plaud, J. J. (2009). Are there “hebephiles” among us? A response to Blanchard et al. (2008) [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 326–327.
Roche, A. F., Wellens, R., Attie, K. M., & Siervogel, R. M. (1995). The timing of sexual maturation in a group of US white youths. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, 8, 11–18.
Tabachnick, J., & Klein, A. (2011). A reasoned approach: Reshaping sex offender policy to prevent child sexual abuse. Retrieved from Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers website: http://atsa.com/pdfs/ppReasonedApproach.pdf
Tomova, A., Lalabonova, C., Robeva, R. M., & Kumanov, P. T. (2011). Timing of pubertal maturation according to the age at first conscious ejaculation. Andrologia, 43, 163–166.
Tromovitch, P. (2009). Manufacturing mental disorder by pathologizing erotic age orientation: A comment on Blanchard et al. (2008) [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 328.
Wilson, R. J., & Mathon,
H. F. (2006, fall). Remembering Kurt Freund (1914–1996). ATSA Forum.
World Health Organization. (2007). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (10th rev., version for 2007). Retrieved from: http://apps.who.int/classifications/apps/icd/icd10online/index.htm?gf60.htm
Zander, T. (2009). Adult sexual attraction to early-stage adolescents: Phallometry doesn’t equal pathology [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 329–330.
1 Address correspondence to James M. Cantor, Law & Mental Health Program, Centre for
2 It is the tradition for letters such as the present one to be submitted to the journal that published
the initial article. Unfortunately, that journal—Behavioral Sciences and the Law (BS&L)—does not publish letters-to-the-editor, and the BS&L Editor informed me that this letter could not be submitted to their anonymous peer review system either, because the specific points I raise necessarily reveal my identity. I therefore elected to submit these comments here.
3 Puberty refers to the transitional period during which the several maturational systems variously
activate, the first of which typically becomes apparent around age 11, and most of which have come online by age 14. Adolescence spans this period until the completion of maturation, usually in the late teens or early twenties. The first appearance of pubic hair occurs at a mean age of 11.0 years in females and 11.2 years in males (Roche, Wellens, Attie, & Siervogel, 1995); the first stage of breast development in females (“breast buds”), at a mean age of 11.2 (Roche et al., 1995); the initial growth of the penis and testes in males, at a mean age of 11.2 (Roche et al., 1995); the first menses occur at a mean age of 12.9 years in Caucasian, American females (Herman-Giddens et al., 1997); and the pubertal growth spurt begins at a mean age of 10 in females and at a mean age of 12 in males (Grumback & Styne, 1998, Fig. 31-11). This period lasts approximately until age 14: In females, the adult-pattern of pubic hair is typically achieved at ages 13.1–15.2, and of adult breasts, at 14.0–15.6 years (Grumbach & Styne, 1998, Table 31-2). In males, the adult-pattern of public hair is achieved at ages 14.3–16.1, and the genitalia attain adult size and shape at 14.3–16.3 years (Grumbach & Styne, 1998, Table 31-4). Approximately 0.3% of boys experience their first ejaculation before age 11, and 87.7%, by age 14 (Tomova, Lalabonova, Robeva, & Kumanov; 2011). Adult height is achieved at approximately age 15 in females and 17 in males.
extolled the scientific quality of my team’s work:
“Blanchard et al.’s findings are useful toward consideration of whether a
pattern of erotic preference for pubescent and/or early post-pubescent humans
is reliable, stable, and identifiable” (DeClue,
2009, p. 317). “I am not challenging their conclusion that sexual interests
in pubescent and prepubescent minors are distinct entities (albeit with some
overlap) or that the distinction may have utility for research purposes”
(Moser, 2009, p. 323). “I find no problem with the plethysmography
methodology employed” (Plaud, p. 326). “If I had
been a peer-reviewer for…‘Pedophilia, Hebephilia, and the DSM-V,’ I would
have recommended publication with only minor revisions….The bulk of this
peer-reviewed article appears to be scientific and to contribute to the
advancement of knowledge” (Tromovitch, 2009, p.
328). That is, the nature of the criticisms levied was not about the quality
of my team’s findings. The nature of the criticisms pertained to those
writers’ perceptions of the implications
of our work (which is very much their right), but not of our work itself, as
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Last updated 3 October 2011