Hebephilia-- the sexual attraction to post-pubescent children, is currently being proposed for inclusion into the DSM-V. Should it be considered a mental disorder? (This is different than asking if it should be a crime.)
Allen Frances writes that hebephilia shouldn't be in the DSM because hebephilia is normal.
The basic issue is that sexual attraction to pubescent youngsters is not the slightest bit abnormal or unusual. Until recently, the age of consent was age 13 years in most parts of the world (including the United States) and it remains 14 in many places. Evolution has programmed humans to lust for pubescent youngsters--our ancestors did not get to live long enough to have the luxury of delaying reproduction. For hundreds of thousands of years, sex followed closely behind puberty. Only recently has society chosen to protect the moratorium of adolescence and to declare as inappropriate and illegal a sexual interest in the pubescent.
He agrees it should still be a crime:
It is natural and no sign of mental illness to feel sexual attraction to pubescent youngsters. But to act on such impulses is, in our society, a reprehensible crime that deserves severe punishment.
If you're surrounded by carpenters, everything becomes about hammers.
Frances and the debate teams are mostly forensic guys, which means their reading of the true purpose of hebephilia's inclusion in the DSM is for involuntary commitment. If hebephilia is in the DSM, it earns the status of a scientifically accepted diagnosis even if it isn't, and can then be used to justify indefinite commitment.
He's probably right about that.
He's wrong about everything else.
The problem with media is that it tricks you into debating the conclusions while accepting the form of the argument. So you get to ask, "is hebephilia a pathological disorder or is it normal?" so that no one asks the question, why do we now, today, want to have this debate?
Pedophilia and hebephilia have always been considered maybe pathological and maybe not; Psychopathia Sexualis makes clear the distinction of the pedophile who has grown weak of moral character vs. those whose urge towards children is a "pathological perversion" that to him is "quite natural" and is thus "not a criminal, but an irresponsible insane person." The distinction between criminality and pathology has to this point been decided on a case by case basis: "To examine not merely the deed, but the mental condition of the perpetrator."
So why now? The answer is there in Frances's article, the mistake that is in his article: "sexual attraction to pubescent youngsters is not the slightest bit abnormal or unusual." Boy oh boy did you walk into that one.
If you look closely at your calendar, right after the year you will see, in tiny font, that interest in pubescent girls may be normal; but interest in pubescent boys is always and seriously whacked.
Once you "normalize" sexual interest in 14 year old girls, you either normalize the interest in boys or you quietly suggest homosexuality in general is slightly pathological. You can only pick one, and the rest of us have to live with the consequences.
If hebephilia-- all of it-- is pathology, however, you avoid having to make that dicey distinction. Phew. America is safe.
I am not here making a case for what is normal or not; I'm pointing out the very specific societal approval that allows me to keep drooling as long as I say out loud, "son of a gun, Ali Lohan's only 14? She looks so much older!" but forbids me from even putting up a picture of a boy and making any comment-- even if I am gay; even if I am a woman. Go ahead and try it. And what does it mean that society permits a 14 year old boy to choose to be a girl who is [her]self attracted to males, but in theory lacks the maturity/intellect/right to seduce a grown man? It means put a sock in it, wiseguy. We have a society to run.
As evidence for this, Ray Blanchard, the Chair of the Paraphilias Workgroup at the DSM, wrote a 2800 word justification for hebephilia's inclusion in the DSM in which the words "boy" and "girl" appear only once:
In the third place, a distinction between pedophilia and hebephilia on the grounds of reproduction makes no sense when applied to homosexual pedophilia and hebephilia, since neither pubescent nor prepubescent boys can become pregnant. Lastly, there is no evidence that the arrival of menarche abruptly demarcates girls' attractiveness to heterosexual pedophiles vs. hebephiles
How can you have a debate about what is normal and what is pathology and never discuss the gender? He pulls it off. The point here is not science; neither is the point involuntary commitment. The point is to limit the scope of the debate to manageable, politically expedient constructs. Allow the belief that there is something biological behind all this (what the term "pathology" should be understood to connote); while at the same time preserving an illusion of free choice.
In this way, Frances and the DSM workgroup he opposes are actually on the same side: using psychiatry as the battleground for difficult social questions.
There's a third level to understanding this debate. (But you'll have to wait.)