Summary. Clinical experience with 36 males, between the ages of 21 and 60 are described. All of them felt an enduring sexual attraction for boys. Sixteen males were treated for sexual identity conflicts. For eight of them this ended in a positive self-labeling as pedophile, the others had severe problems with accepting sexuality as positive and lustful. Twenty males were treated for identity management problems and counceled how to handle their relationships with boys. Several modalities of interpersonal interaction in man-boy relationships are proposed and the ways conflicts can arise within the frames of reference are explored in counseling and psychotherapy.
The Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Utrecht, started sexual counseling in 1974. [...] I was contacted by the police department of Utrecht. According to the penal law in The Netherlands, any form of sexual behavior between an adult and a minor under the age of 16 is considered a criminal act for the adult (Article 247 of the Dutch Penal Code that dates from 1886). In 1950 84% of all punished sex crimes involved a minor under the age of 16, this figure was 51% in 1971, and 28% 1982. The police recognized that in many cases involving sexual contact with boys and girls between the ages of 11 to 15, the youths were consenting participants. The police department asked if referal to our clinic was possible. An agreement based on three points was reached: (1) the adult must request psychological advice or treatment, (2) the court case must be non-violent, (3) no manifestation of severe psychiatric symptoms as delusions or depression.
During 1980-1985 nine men were referred. As the opportunity for counseling and psychotherapy became known, other men not involved in court cases came to the clinic. This article is based on clinical experiences with 36 males between the age of 21 and 60. Of the total, 31 felt exclusively attracted to boys, the others felt attracted to both boys and girls but their attraction to boys was stronger. This article describes assessment, counseling and psychotherapy with these men. A theoretical outline is given for each procedure.
Sexual contact between two adult men is homosexual, but if one of them, deliberately and skillfully "plays the female," it's a situation that is psychologically different from sexual contact in which both "play the male." And if two 11-year-old boys masturbate each other out of curiosity, the psychological meaning of this behavior is quite different from the situation in which they do the same thing, playing "mom and dad."
The problem of naming and classifying sexual relationships is described in Michael Ross's article, "A theory of normal homosexuality" (1987) in which he names 16 different aspects and meanings of sexual relationships. We can argue about the number of meanings we want to consider, but it is inevitable that we use some psychological frame of reference if we want to evaluate a particular sexual desire. Otherwise we come to circular definitions in that a sexual desire is a desire for sex and that a pedophiliac desire is a desire for children, definitions that are interesting but not illuminating. Starting from a subjective point of view, we can ask what meaning a person attaches to sexuality.
Some people see their sexual behavior as the consequence of sexual desire. They have no specific sexual orientation, in fact they like all kinds of people, male and female, child and adult, and if they have the opportunity, they will have a sexual contact or a sexual relationship with a person they feel attracted to. On the other end of the continuum are people who see their sexual behavior as the consequence of a more specific sexual desire, either innate, acquired, or a mixture of both.Scientific theories are mostly on the side of people in the latter category, following Freud's (1905, 1953) idea of a polymorphous sexual instinct (desire) that differentiates in the course of life and fixates on ertain objects (male, female, child) or certain behaviors (sadism, masochism).
Most psychological development theories take heterosexual desires and commitments as the norm. What happens in a boy's mind that leads him to become interested in girls and want to have emotional, erotic and sexually meaningful relationships with at least one of them? This process is poorly understood. Psychodynamic, behavioral and cognitive explanations differ considerably. nevertheless it seems that if the outcome is successful, most boys become interested in girls at a certain age in implicitly or explicitly this heterosexual interest is the "natural" outcome of the process. But why do some persons become homosexual, pedophile, sado-masochistic and so on?
The theories on homosexual identity development (see Minton and McDonald, 1984 for an overview) agree on one point: prehomosexual boys realize at a certain age that they are different, that they are not the same as their peers. It's not homosexual behavior that initiates these thoughts, it's the interpretation, the cognitive structuring of events that leads to the attribution "I'm different, maybe I'm homosexual." This is beautifully described in Edmund White's A boy's own story in which two boys have sex but both interpret the relationship in a completely different way. For one the contact is just fun, the other realizes that the sexual relationship is meaningful for him in an intense, emotional way. Psychosexual development is in most theories a discovery of something that was "always there" and a person gradually realizes what his sexual desires are by a rpocess of sensitization, structuring and self-labeling.
For some men this structuring process is without internal conflicts: they accept their feelings at an early age, only slightly confused by the fact that others see them as sinful, psychologically or socially deviant. But for a considerable number becoming homosexual is not easy and there are different ways to cope with the feelings that one feels attracted to men or boys and to integrate this feeling in one's self concept. I agree with Minton and McDonald that unity, consistency and continuity of a person's perception of himself are the criteria a counselor should make to decide if there is an identity conflict.
The reasons for identity conflicts can be diverse It is the insecurity, the often chaotic memory of things, the inconsistency on partner choise and the general disorder in speaking and thinking of the meaning of sexuality that are clinical indications for an identity conflict. Some men succeed in effectively using systems of denial (Tripp, 1975) by practicing homosexuality without having to admit to themselves or to others that they are homosexual and in doing so deny the existence of an identity conflict. The man who always, in his sexual contacts with other men, acts as a masculine male in a male-female relationship can have a consistent idea of himself as heterosexual up to the moment he meets a partner he likes who does not want to accept that role. The identity conflict can come up after years of an undisturbed bisexual life.
Developing a sexual identity is in fact making sense of one's behavior, fantasies, intellectual, and emotional attachments. What counts is the structuring of behavior and desire. The labels used in common and scientific language (hetero-homo-bisexual, pedophile, sado-masochist) are frames of reference a person uses in his lifetime to give unity, consistency and continuity to his sexuality. We have to realize that there are probably a lot of people who structure their behavior and desire without any label of sexual preference.
I used the criteria of unity, consistency and continuity in the intake procedure with these 36 males. I asked them to explain in their own words how they saw themselves sexually and what, in their view, were their problems. Although all males reported sexual attraction to adolescent boys, their self-labeling was different. Twenty males saw themselves as pedophiles, 14 were hesitant and two saw themselves definitely as not pedophile. Those who considered themselve pedophile gave self-definitions strongly linked to their sexual desire. In their psychosexual development most of them had had sexual experiences with females or other males, but they found these experiences unsatisfying and were, at the beginning of the therapy, motivated to have intimate relationships only with adolescent boys. None of them felt attracted to pre-pubertal boys; in fact, most of them considered this kind of desire highly abnormal.
The 14 males who were hesitant were more heterosexual. Some of them were sexually experienced, both homo-, heterosexual, with adults and boys. In the sexual biography of others we found only incidental contacts with a boy and no sexual contacts with adults. Some males were married and found the contacts with their female partners and the adlescent boys equally satisfying although different. In this category were all 10 males who felt attracted to both prepubertal and adolescent boys, one male who felt attraction to prepubertal boys and three who experienced only attraction to adolescent boys. The two males who did not consider themselves pedophiles were the ones who wanted conversion therapy. They stronly condemned their sexual desires and wanted to be rid of them.
There was an almost perfect correlation between the problems these 36 men reported and their self-description. Those who considered themselves pedophiles wanted to talk about their relationships with boys, they complained about the absence of social support, and were not very interested in ta;king about their past. Those who hesitated and/or wanted conversion therapy were confused about the meaning of their desires ans wanted to talk about how they had to structure them in their psychosexual life.
In line with these ideas on homosexual identity development, I diagnosed those 16 males who didn't see themselves as pedophiles and who didn't want conversion of their desires as having an identity conflict. [...] All males reported feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and depressive moods. Another characteristic was an extreme concern about their erotic and sexual feelings being found out. Often the therapist was the first person with whom they spoke about pedophilia. [...]
I presented some affirmative models of man-boy love by giving them biographies in which both men and boys spoke about their relationships in a positive way and asked them to discuss these models with me. For eight men this strategy was successful within 10 therapy sessions, leading to a positive self-labeling as a pedophile. For eight others this method didn't change their negative feelings and confusion. It was remarkable that they all had had strong sex-negative upbringing that seemed to influence all thoughts about their sexual self. They made a severe distinction between sex and love, seeing sex as essentially dirty or degrading and defining love in a very romantic way. With these we set the primary goal of therapy not as coming to terms with pedophilia but in overcoming negative feelings concerning sexuality and sexual relationships. [...]
[...] A sex-negative upbringing is very destructive in building a sexual identity, while sex, especially the sensual enjoyment of one's own body and that of the partner, is seen as sinful and against nature. This idea is often internalized at a very young age and expresses itself later in life in many ways: fear of touching and being touched, all kinds of defense mechanisms, a strong desire to control interpersonal relationships, especially as emotions enter, and so on. Regardless of the fact that these men feel attracted to boys, they are sexually dysfunctional. Disorders in desire, arousal and orgasm have high frequency in this group.
Some of these men are afraid to enter the adult world. They exhibit Peter Pan conplex, and idealize youth. Sex with a boy one likes and admires is for them an unhealthy affair for which one ought to be punished. I noticed a lot of fetishism in these men [...]
[...] A sex-negative upbringing can result in all kinds of psychologicall stress, the main problem being that one learns that sexuality is always a problem, dirty and lustful at the same time.
Three studies (Rossman, 1976; Sandfort, 1981; and Reeves, 1983) have shown that man-boy relationships exist in our society and that they can be enjoyed by both partners.
From these studies I extracted four models of interpersonal interaction:
Men who had a certain coherence in their self-concept as a pedophile or a boy-lover would unconsciously realize this in the context of the relationships described above. We have no data on the boys, but we suppose, on basis of the research described above, that these models were present in their minds too. Conflicts in a man-boy relationship can arise in several ways: