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Posts for October, 2006

Update on “The Politically Inconvenient Truth”

Jim Burroway

October 20th, 2006

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins going on various media outlets to claim that gays are much more likely to molest children. I examined the “evidence” that he offered and found it to be quite lacking.

When I wrote that, I had tried to contact the FRC to get some clarification on exactly what source material Tony Perkins was using when he made his claims. My e-mail went unanswered for more than a week, and when I did get a reply, they just referred me to their online tract, Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse, which wasn’t much help.

A few days ago, someone passed on an E-mail he received from the FRC which clarifies one point, namely the following claim:

…the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that boys molested by men are almost four times more likely to become homosexual or bisexual than boys who weren’t molested.

When I wrote my examination, I couldn’t find the relevant article in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. My detective work led me to believe that claim actually came from a third-hand reference to a book written in 1979 by David Finkelhor. I now stand corrected.

According to the email I received, the claim actually comes from an article written by James R. Bramblett, Jr. and Carol Anderson Darling entitled “Sexual contacts: Experiences, thoughts, and fantasies of adult male survivors of child sexual abuse” (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, vol 23, no. 4, Winter 1997; pp 305-316).

And right there on page 313, we read the following:

In this study, 46% of the abused men, as opposed to 12% of the non-abused men, defined their sexual orientation as either bisexual or homosexual.

This study examined two groups of men, one group of 35 men who had been sexually abused and another non-abused group of 33 men to serve as controls.

That’s right. The Family Research Council is basing its evidence on thirty-five men who somehow are to represent all men who were sexually abused — that’s not very compelling evidence.

And notice the non-abused group. Twelve percent identified themselves as being gay. Now, if this group were representative of non-abused men, would the Family Research Council concede that gay men make up 12% of the male population? I doubt it.

Another interesting fact is that the composition of the abused group broke down this way: 54% straight, 32% bisexual, and 14% gay. In other words, the number of gay men in both groups is the same. What’s more, there were no bisexuals in the non-abused group. They were either gay or straight.

So why the large numbers of bisexuals in the abused group? The authors note that “according to existing literature, gender identity confusion and gender preferences are often cited as being affected by childhood sexual abuse.” The very small number of participants makes it extremely dangerous to try to draw broad conclusions. Not all bisexuals — and perhaps not even significant numbers of bisexuals — are bisexual due to past abuse, for example. And this is not to say that bisexuals generally are “confused”, but it certainly begs the question of whether abused men suffer a greater degree of uncertainty over their sexual orientation than non-abused men.

The most this study proves is that abused men are more likely to report being bisexual than being gay. That’s an important distinction given the difficulties involved with overcoming child sexual abuse. But the Family “Research” Council won’t recognize that very important distinction. Instead, they’ll do just about anything for a smear, including misrepresenting the lives of abused men to denigrate others.

The Politically Inconvenient Truth

Jim Burroway

October 8th, 2006

Over the past week, Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, has tried to make himself something of a media expert on the supposed link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse. Since October 3, he appeared on CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball and MSNBC Live, Fox’s The Big Story, with Charmaine Yoest on CNBC, and all three nightly network newscasts. And wherever he’s appeared, he’s been making the claims that he made in this blurb, entitled “The Politically Incorrect Truth” that he posed on his web site:

The more recent revelation that Foley himself was molested as a teenager, and his lawyer’s acknowledgment that he is indeed a homosexual, simply reinforce a pattern well-attested in the scholarly literature. For example, the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that boys molested by men are almost four times more likely to become homosexual or bisexual than boys who weren’t molested. Homosexual activists don’t want you to know that, because it undermines the myth that people are “born gay.” Although homosexuals and bisexuals are less than 3% of the male population, male-on-male abuse accounts for about a third of all child molestation. The Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that “eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”

Three specific statistical claims, but only two cited sources. Let’s examine them one by one.

Claim 1:

…the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that boys molested by men are almost four times more likely to become homosexual or bisexual than boys who weren’t molested.

I looked high and low in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy for this statistic. It was nowhere to be found. But after searching through the FRC’s website, I was able to find it repeated in another document that carried this footnote: Watkins and Bentovim (#35).

Update (10/20/2006): Almost there weeks after writing this post, I have learned the actual source for this claim. You can read that update here.

Okay. Here’s the first example of shoddy research: Tony Perkins got his source wrong. He should have referred to Bill Watkins and Arnon Bentovim’s “The sexual abuse of male children and adolescents: A review of current research”, which originally appeared in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry vol 33, no. 1 (January 1992): 197-248.

I happened to have that report on file, and this is what I learned:

Finkelhor (1984c) note it is a traditional mythology that molestation leads to homosexuality, but at the same time he found, in his college study, that boys victimized by older men were over four times more likely to be currently engaged in homosexual activity than were non-victims.

With that, I went to our local university library and found David Finkelhor’s 1984 book Child Sexual Abuse: New Theory and Research (New York: Free Press) and found this on page 195:

Boys victimized by older men were over four times more likely to be engaged in homosexual activity than were nonvictims.

For this statistic, David Finkelhor cited yet another book he wrote clear back to a book he published in 1979, Sexually Victimized Children (New York: Free Press). This book presented some preliminary results of a survey that he conducted in the mid-seventies among social science college students at six New England colleges. Notice that now we’re talking about data that is some thirty years old. And since it comes from a convenience sample of social sicence college studients, the data is not representative. David Finkelhor plainly discusses the weakenesses of his sample in pages 38-41 of his book.

But that’s not all. Finkelhor’s claim about boys victimized by men doesn’t actually appear to be in the book (I can’t find it, anyway). So how did he determine that these kids were “currently engaged in homosexuality” as he said in his later book? I found my answer in appendix B, where the questionnaire was reproduced:

In the last year, how many sexual experiences have you had with someone of your own sex?

0. None
1. 1-2
2. 3-5
3. 5-10
4. 11 or more

So this is what it took for Tony Perkins to come up with his statistic that he’s so proud of. It wasn’t a comprehensive survey of adults who were molested as children. Perkins had to find an obscure third-hand reference to a thirty-year-old study that was not peer-reviewed, and was based on a convenience sample of college students taken at the very height of the sexual revolution (college students who were enrolled in social science classes in New England, no less). And that statistic included those who may only have had a single experimental experience in the past year.

How’s that for cherry picking?

Let’s skip Perkins next claim for now — that 3% of male homosexuals account for a third of all molestations, a claim we’ll come back to in a moment — and move on to his other attributed statement.

Claim 2:

The Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that “eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”

This is a very poor choice of support for such a broad contention. That 1988 study (Erickson, W.D.; Walbek, N.H.; Seely, R.K.; “Behavior patterns of child molesters.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 17, no. 1 (1988): 77-88; abstract available here) consisted of a convenience sample of only 63 convicted molesters against male victims. The brief sentence of “eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual” is the only mention of sexual orientation. There was no attempt to follow up on whether any of these predators had any adult relationships, or if so, what kind of relationships they were. There was no description of how they may have measured these predator’s sexual attractions. There was no attempt to quantify their erotic age preference. Just one single sentence in passing, with no further explanation or support.

This is important. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to label oneself as a homosexual than as a pedophile. Members of the Aryan Nation, for example, call themselves Christians instead of bigots, a claim which most Christians would vehemently disagree.

I’m sure the “researchers” at the Family Research Council had to dig long and hard to find that statistic, because it runs completely counter to what the most respected experts have to say about the subject — Dr. Carole Jenny, Nicholas Groth, and the late Kurt Freund, for example. They have all found that this supposed connection between homosexuality and pedophilia simply don’t exist.

And finally…

Claim 3:

Although homosexuals and bisexuals are less than 3% of the male population, male-on-male abuse accounts for about a third of all child molestation.

Here’s a news flash: that 3% statistic only applies to men who openly acknowledge their sexual orientation. It does not include those who engage in same-sex sexual activity but identify as straight.

A recent random survey of 4,193 men in New York City revealed that among men who have sex with men, 72.8% identified as straight. And these only represent those who admit to such sexual activity when questioned.

In short, this claim is not only unsubstantiated, it is logically false and demonstrably wrong. But he’s not the only one to make it. You can read an extensive analysis of that myth in my report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Friends, this is what passes for research at the Family “Research” Council: cherry-picking of thirty-year old data, ill-supported conclusions, and statements built on faulty logic. In other words, the same old stuff. It’s time we — and specially the press — called them on their so-called “science” and exposed it for what it is: junk.

Challenging Predators Is “Gay-Bashing”?

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2006

Just a few moments ago, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council just appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” to talk about the unfolding scandal involving Congressman Foley’s sexually explicit Instant Message exchanges with 16-year-old pages. When Perkins was asked why he thought the Republican Congressional leadership delayed so long in handling the situation, he answered that he didn’t know. But, he said, it raised a lot of questions:

Was it out of fear of pushing something too far, over-reacting, and that, uh…. because of the orientation of congressman Foley they would be seen as being ‘gay bashing’? Was that part of the decision not to act? That’s what I think we need to know.

Let’s get these two things clear right away:

  1. Going after sexual predators is not gay bashing.
  2. Equating homosexuality with sex abuse is.

Fear of gay-bashing? This congressional leadership? Give me a break. The election is down to the last five weeks. I’m surprised the gay bashing hasn’t started earlier.

Gary Bauer, who heads a group which calls itself “American Values” sent this outrageous statement out in his daily “End of the Day” e-mail this afternoon:

Groups like NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, continue to be given positions in “gay rights” parades and, without shame, continue to promote their governing slogan, “Sex by eight or it’s too late.”

I would like anyone who has any evidence of NAMBLA has been invited to participate in a gay pride parade to email me directly. I’m looking for photographs or mainstream newspaper articles. (Sorry, I’m afraid I won’t take Agape Press’s word for it.) I haven’t seen anything like this in at least the past ten years –- probably longer. I know I would be outraged to see such a thing, as would virtually everyone I know. If it’s happening, I want to know about it.

It looks as though this scandal will provide the anti-gay lobby plenty of ammunition to use against us. Now is the time to get informed. One place to start is by reading Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?.

Ben Stein’s Libel

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2006

I figured it was only a matter of time. And I wouldn’t have to wait for very long.

Former Congressman Mark Foley, Republican from Florida, resigned after sexually suggestive Instant Messages between him and a 16-year-old page were made public. It had been rumored in the mainstream press that Mark Foley was gay, but closeted for several years. And now that those rumors are confirmed by way of a scandal, the supposed link between homosexuality and pedophilia is being trotted out once again.

This time, these charges aren’t confined to a few web pages of militant anti-gay activists. Ben Stein offered this bit of wisdom in the American Spectator today:

We have a Republican man in Congress who sent e-mails to teenage boys asking them what they were wearing, and an entire party, the Democrats, whose primary constituency, besides the teachers’ unions, is homosexual men and lesbian women. I hope it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys. (Take a look at anyone renting Endless Summer next time you are at the video store.)

Ben Stein presents himself as someone who is knowledgable about a lot of things. He even cashed in on that reputation in a game show called “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” in which contestants were challenged to “steal” his money by outwitting his vast knowledge of all sorts of minutia.

Unfortunately, Ben Stein is horribly uninformed about pedophilia. Where’s the isolation booth when you need one?

In our report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?, I looked over countless articles in the social science literature and could not find any evidence that there was any link between homosexuality and pedophilia. Instead, I found researchers saying things like this:

The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be a homosexual.

Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t any predatory gay men or women. It looks like Foley provides us with one shameful example. But when child abuse experts have studied this problem closely, they clearly state that there is no evidence of a greater proportion of predators among gays than anyone else. (A few experts have even argued that openly gay men and women are less likely to be sexual predators.)

No, the fact that Foley went after teenage boys is not an integral part of his homosexuality. It’s a part of something else. What is that something else? I don’t know. Maybe we should ask Debra LaFave, who at 25 repeatedly had sex with a 14-year-old boy in 2005. Or maybe we should ask Tracy Tapp, who molested three male high school students.

And maybe we should ask every straight person we meet why “a big part of heteroseuxal behavior is interest in young boys and girls.”

Ben Stein tries to justify his ignorant remarks with this laughably classic line:

Don’t get me wrong. My very best friend is gay. I have many gay friends and they are great people. But…

But… no. This isn’t about homosexuality, and certainly not healthy homosexuality. The closet has a terribly corrupting influence. And with few exceptions (and certainly, exceptions exists), almost all of our “gay scandals” involve closeted gay people. Andrew Sullivan puts it this way:

What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I’ve read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty. While gays were fighting for thir basic equality, Foley voted for the “Defense of Marriage Act”. If his resignation means the end of the closet for him, and if there is no more to this than we now know, then it may even be for the good. Better to find integrity and lose a Congressional seat than never live with integrity at all.

And therein, I think, lies part of the problem. As long as gay men and women continue to be marginalized by large segments of our society, and as long as people continue to feel pressured to hide who they are to everyone around them, they will continue to seek out human contact in the most inappropriate ways. Maybe Ben Stein should get to know his “gay friends” a little better and observe exactly what it is about them that makes them great people. I’ll bet a princely sum that he knows these great people because they’re not closeted.

We will see many attempts to link pedophilia with homosexuality in the next several weeks. Like the famous “blood libel” that Ben Stein’s ancestors suffered under, this libel is not likely to go away anytime soon.