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.
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.
Shall 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.
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.