Homosexuality and Paedophilia – A Link?

Given the recent fuss over what Andrea Minichiello Williams may or may not have said in Jamaica, I thought it would be interesting to explore what evidence there was, if any, of a link between homosexuality and paedophilia. As always, I want to try and be as objective as possible with the research data and accept what it tells us, even if we don’t like the results.

Brace yourselves….

The common argument that there is a link between homosexuality and paedophilia comes from the observed phenomenon (see for example this 1998 Home Office document on Sex Offending – as reliable a source as one could possibly get) that somewhere between a quarter and a third of all sexual abuse of children is male on male. Since the rate of homosexuality amongst the male population is in the region of 1% to 2%, it is argued that de facto the incidence of paedophilia must be many times higher in the homosexual population than in the heterosexual population (eg Freund). But this is faulty reasoning. In fact, many of the men who abuse male children are functioning adult heterosexuals – many are married and have children. It’s basic details like this that undermine the use of these ratio calculations to make the connection between adult sexual desire and paedophilic (or ephebophilic) sexual desire or activity.

There are however some interesting pieces of research that actually have some evidential data on the subject. Most of my readers will be familiar with the research indicating a link between fraternal birth order and male homosexuality. What is not so well known however is the research into fraternal birth order and paedophilia. Below I want to present some data from one such academic paper (MacCulloch et al 2004) which shows this effect.

macculloch1macculloch4macculloch5macculloch-table3macculloch-table4Shall we translate all that? The researchers took a sample of differing sex offenders and explored whether there was a correlation between where they came in the birth order of siblings and the number of convictions they had for sexual and violent offences. The highest correlation was between the birth order of sexual offenders and the number of convictions they had for sexual offences (and this was also the only correlation that was statistically significant). So, as a man, the more older brothers you had, the more likely you were to be convicted of a sexual offence against a minor.

What does this tell us? Well, there’s certainly some kind of effect here that is worth noting, but not too much can be drawn from the research at this point. The obvious parallel to be made is with the research that shows that the more older brothers you have the more likely you are to identify as homosexual as an adult, but we really need to be cautious inferring anything into that observation. The sample here is of sex offenders regardless of sexuality. We also don’t know if this correlation is observed in the wider non-convicted population -in order to see that we would need to ask a much larger group of people whether they had ever been sexually attracted to children and done anything to entertain that attraction (pornography, abuse or something else). That might be data that is quite difficult to get hold of for obvious reasons.

Hughes makes the observation that,

The main evidence in favor of a relationship between pedophilia and homosexuality is the common cause of fraternal birth order and post-natal learning. Also, an adult male sexually attacking a prepubescent 10-year-old boy would be probably called a pedophile and then 4 years later with the same boy would be called a homosexual, by definition. It seems to be questionable logic to view these 2 conditions as completely unrelated.

Possibly, but we would need to demonstrate that the same man who is attracted to a 10 year old boy is also attracted to an 18 year old man. Of course, what Hughes is pointing to here is the suggestion that the same developmental process for homosexuality (in one of the theories to explain the fraternal birth order observation it is suggested there is an “anti-body” effect of the womb feminising subsequent male foetuses in response to previous surges of testosterone in the womb with previous male foetuses) is found in paedophilia. It’s a nice idea, but it could be that another process altogether causes the development of child focussed sexual desire. Even then, if the same processes cause two different outcomes (paedophilia and homosexuality), that is not the same as saying that the outcomes are shared by individuals and neither does it in and of itself prove that if you are a homosexual you are more likely to be a paedophile (whether simply in orientation or practice).

Whilst there is now a growing body of evidence that provides a good steer for future research, at yet we cannot with any certainty claim there is a proven link between homosexuality and paedophilia. In the light of that it behoves us all to be very careful about the language we use in public and private when discussing these issues – it can land us in deep water if we’re not careful.

As always, please comment below. If you want to suggest some further evidence to move the academic debate along, please only refer us to primary sources which are publicly accessible. Comments suggesting a link between homosexuality and paedophilia without a link to primary research will be deleted.

9 Comments on “Homosexuality and Paedophilia – A Link?

  1. ‘Of course, what Hughes is pointing to here is the suggestion…’

    Isn’t he also making a conceptual point rather than just a suggestion about a common causality for paedophilia and homosexuality? (ie that there is little substantive difference between someone finding a 10 year old attractive and still finding that boy attractive at 14 -and thus to describe one as paedophilia and one as homosexuality is to create a verbal distinction without a real difference underlying it?)

    Whether that claim is true is a different matter. It strikes me that there is an important difference to be made between finding a pre-pubertal and a post-pubertal child attractive (reading the difference between a 10 year old and a 14 year old as plausibly being that of puberty).

    • That’s the tree that I was barking up on Peter’s recent blog post, “Andrea Minichiello in Jamaica” – the link between what we call Homosexuality and what we call Paedophilia is a conceptual link. We can’t then reverse-engineer it by saying “the concept proves the data”.
      What’s interesting about the 10 year old/14 year old suggestion is that it’s the wrong way round – the link is not revealed by concentrating on what paedophilia IS related to (Children) but in what it is NOT related to (Adults). For example, where a man is sexually attracted to other males, that man is not sexually attracted to sexually mature females. There is, then, a dissociation between sexual activity and procreation. Where a man is sexually attracted to females, there is an association between sexual activity and procreation – which then lends itself towards a recognition of the difference between the body of a woman and the body of a girl.

      That ought to be reflected in data relating to both-sex sexual attraction, which would be interesting to know. The map is not the terrain. The data is not the reason. The reason flows from the nature of the conditions of same-sex sexual attraction and child sexual attraction. In other words, “Gay People” are not “Paedophiles”. It is simply the case that neither homosexuality nor paedophilia (as emotional realities) are “procreative orientations”.

  2. Attacking gay people by linking them with child molesters, the blood libel of homophobia, didn’t have its roots in academic research papers, but in its effectiveness as a means of attack. You don’t see an equivalent libel thrown at younger siblings, do you?

    • Let’s just be careful. What happens if someone does a piece of research that shows that if you are homosexual you are more likely to be a paedophile? That research is then repeated and the same results found. Is that still a “blood libel”?

      Actually I don’t like the phrase “blood libel”. Let’s not use it again please.

      • OK, fair enough, your place, your rules. :)

        I believe it’s important to acknowledge the nature of the link in homophobic rhetoric, particularly its purpose. Research findings are a separate issue.

  3. Unless I’m missing something, the study you cite doesn’t have anything to say about the alleged correlation between fraternal birth order and sexual offences against children. Only 17 out of the 64 sexual offenders in the study had been convicted of sexual offences against children (27%). You don’t cite any information about the fraternal birth order of this sub-group. In any case, 17 men would be a very small sample. The study, therefore, whilst relevant for researching the possibility of a correlation between fraternal birth order and conviction for sex offences, has no relevance whatsoever for the question of whether or not there is a correlation between fraternal birth order and sexual offences against children.

    You offer this as a “cautious steer” for future research into the alleged relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia, on the basis that both may show a positive correlation with fraternal birth order. Given that the study reaches no conclusions on either homosexuality (as you make clear) nor on child abuse or paedophilia (which you overlook), the study is of no relevance whatsoever. This study is a red herring.

  4. “In fact, many of the men who abuse male children are functioning adult heterosexuals – many are married and have children.” But this has long been known: anecdotally there are many stories of men, a good number of them married fathers, who have abused their position of trust as teachers, scoutmasters, vicars, social workers, foster parents etc to abuse children. In which case we are talking about bisexual men acting out homosexually. But how many is “many”? The problem is complicated by the weasel way the word ‘paedophilia’ is used to denote sexual involvement of adults with under-16 year olds. If that were so, then we would have to say a vast number of people in history, both east and west, have acted as paedophiles! I am at a loss to say what this study with its small sample actually proves, if anything. I think it would be more helpful than the above study – and probably a lot easier to do – to collate and analyse the figures and marital status of all who have been convicted of sexual offences against children under 12.

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