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The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said…

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Obviously, we have come to the time when I get myself in all kinds of trouble again.

So, before we begin, I want to point something out–the last time I took up this topic, a poster to this blog not only signed off for good, but stopped speaking to me. 

At all.


And Lymaree didn’t stop speaking to me (thank God, or Whatever), but she was miffed.

And they weren’t the only two.

So, let me plunge right in.

Clinical psychology as it is largely practiced in institutions–schools, prisons, hospitals, and most social service departments–is largely a prescriptive, not a descriptive field.

That is, unlike science–which would investigate, codify and classify data and only then come to a conclusion about what is “normal”–the clincial psych people tend to assume that the behavior they approve of is “normal,” and everything that deviates from it is a “disorder.”

If you really want an overview of this–especially as it relates to sex offenders, and sex offenses–try getting hold of a book called Science and Pseudoscience in Clincial Psychology, which was written by people in the field who are trying to bring some attention to the worst of the depredations of this sort of thing.

But in the meantime, let me start with one of the less emotionally volatile examples.

We are told that there is something called “ADD” or “ADHD.”  This is “Attention Deficit Disorder” and “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Distorder.” 

These are “disorders” largely found in children, although diagnosing them in adults is becoming increasingly common.

There are certainly children out there whose biochemistry is so severely out of whack that they find it impossible to sit still for even a moment or two, but if those were the only children who were receiving these diagnoses (and the almost inevitable drug-intensive “therapy” to goes with them) there would be a few hundred cases of this a year and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Instead, in some of the schools in the better heeled suburbs of a state like Connecticut, as much as 25% of all boys are being “medicated” for “hyperactivity.” 

The assumption of the “diagnosis” is that it is normal for an eight year old boy to be perfectly comfortable sitting still and focussing on math problems for big swatches of his day, and abnormal –disordered–for him to prefer to daydream, run around on the playground, or just about anything else that’s academically impractical.

In other words, Mark Twain, and Shakespeare, and Dickens were all wrong.  It isn’t normal for little boys to want to play hooky and go fishing.  That’s the “symptom” of a “disorder” and if we just give them this drug here, they’ll be better in a jiffy.

Oh, and when even the drug doesn’t quite do it, well, we’ll give them “accommodations,” like extra time on their tests, so they’re not disadvantaged by their “disability.”

This sort of silliness would be laughable if it didn’t cause a lot of damage, but it does. 

For one thing, over the last twenty years we’ve medicated the hell out of thousands upon thousands of children, basically pumped them full of speed for years on end.   

We did it without knowing what the long term effects of this sort of thing are–in fact, we still don’t know.   Twenty years further on, we may be looking at long term physioneural damage we’ll have caused all by ourselves.

But that’s not the only thing that’s here.  We’ve also brought up a generation of children who have been encouraged to think of themselves as “disabled,” and to assume that they are both entitled to special treatment in competitions and incapable of competing without that special treatment.

We’ve also got parents who fake symptoms for their children in order to get them the drugs, which in fact do increase the ability to concentrate, and therefore give any kid an edge he wouldn’t have otherwise.

And then we do what we want to do otherwise, because if the kids don’t function well with it, that’s a symptom of their “disorder.”  So–abolish recess for more class time?  You bet!

In the meantime, over in Japan, where virtually nobody is “diagnosed” with ADD or ADHD, they break the class day up with twenty-minute hunks of recess devoted to strenuous physical activity, because, you know, if they don’t do that, the boys get all fidgetty and distracted.

If we want to talk about sex, we could spend the entire day, but just let me try one particular aspect–the tendency of older men to like young girls, say in the 15 to 19 year old stage.

Now, anybody who has spent any time reading classic fiction ought to notice something here–this particular attraction has been going on for millennia.   We can find it in Homer, in Chaucer, in Balzac…you name it. 

In fact, every society on earth up to now has recognized the fact–and it is a fact–that the majority of men are sexually attracted to teen-aged girls. 

And most of those societies have also recognized that the teen-aged girls are often attracted back.

And most of those societies have also recognized that this is not a good thing.

Historically, the social response to this situation has been to limit the access of men to girls, mostly by limiting the options of girls to get out and move around without being watched.

In Crete until very recently–and possibly even still–it was common for mothers to keep their daughters away from their fathers and brothers from the time they turned thirteen until they married.

As late as the days of my adolescence and early young adulthood, it was common to either remove girls from male company–in girls’ schools and women’s colleges–or to give them different and stricter rules than their brothers, and to police their interactions with males as often as possible.

But as time went on, this was increasingly seen to be unjust, and not least because such restrictions hampered the development of independence in at least some girls and therefore made them less capable of participating in the professions as fully as boys.

So we gave that up.

And we invented a fiction.

The fiction says that, on the one hand, it’s a “disorder” when men in their forties are attracted to girls this age, and that even if the girls say they’re just as into the relationship as the men (and even if they actively go after the relationship), it doesn’t matter, because the girls “aren’t capable of consent.”

This is, quite frankly, complete and utter crap.

Men are attracted to girls this age–and, even when they’ve been trained out of it, are attracted to girls whose body type mimics this age–because 150,000 years of human evolution hard wired them to be. 

Think about it–we evolved in a world where fertility was best taken advantage of as soon as possible, because people died young, and women died in childbirth even younger. 

If your biological imperative is to pass along your genes to the next generation, then women would do best if they got to breeding as quickly as they could, and men would do best if they mated with women as young as possible within the framework of fertility.

I am not a biological determinist, and I know that we can in fact learn to control and channel our impulses.

But we live in a very strange world.

For one thing, we don’t feel comfortable telling people to control their impulses, and “social science” is on record as declaring that one’s sexuality is the core of one’s identity.

Therefore, we find it nearly impossible to admit that the attraction is perfectly natural, because if it’s natural we think we have to approve of it.  Hence, a “disorder” is born.

Second, we not only live in a hypersexualized society, but in a society that is hypersexualized precisely to the body type of teen-aged girls.

Go take a look at your latest round of models and young actresses–they’ll almost invariably have large breasts and slender hips, a configuration that is normal to most human females only in adolescence.

And if the model or actress you want to use doesn’t quite fit the look–well, the art director can go at the gels with an Exacto knife and make the picture fit.

Then, of course, we come to the girl, and the disturbing fact that a fair number of them a) dress much older than we are (and we can’t police that–that’s self expression!) precisely in order to attract older men and b) claim to know what they’re doing and want what they’re getting.

But that’s impossible, since young girls going out with older men is Bad Behavior that we know we disapprove of (and, as I said, for good reason).

But then we seem to be in a place where we’re denying the girls the “right” to the expression of their sexuality, which we think is a Bad Thing, since sexuality is the core of one’s identity.

And we’re on record saying that no sex is bad if it takes place with consent.

So–voila!  We invent the fiction that the girls are “incapable” of consenting.

They’re just too young.  They don’t know their own minds.  There’s a “power differential.”

(Which, by the way, is also supposed to be a “disorder”–even though the powerful male and the frail female has been a staple not just of men’s porn but of women’s romance novels, and an entire BDSM industry.)

I’m sorry, but I think you could spend a lifetime trying to figure out if some man who has gone to jail and landed on the sex offender registry for the “statutory rape” of a seventeen year old is going to “offend again,”  because the “science” surrounding the issue has become completely divorced from reality. 

And that’s another example of the harm this sort of thing does.

My parents’ and grandparents’ generations may have done things to protect girls that you and I don’t like–all those girls schools, all those chaperones, all those curfews–but at least they did something that had a chance in hell of succeeding.

What we do doesn’t have a chance in hell of succeeding, because it is based on a false premise:  that such attractions are “disorders,” a kind of disease that needs to be “cured.” 

But since there is no disease and nothing that can be cured, all the treatment in the world won’t get you squat.

The punishment for the offense might–he doesn’t want to go to jail, so next time he’ll be a lot more careful about making sure he sees a valid ID–except that he’ll almost certainly land on the sex offender registtry, which will  make him unemployable.

Which means, the next time, he’ll have a lot less–and maybe nothing at all–to lose.

So at that point, any odds on whether he’s “likely to reoffend” would be better determined by a coin toss than a psych evaluation.

For what it’s worth–we could do a lot to start correcting this mess if we could get the courts to do one thing:  ask for stats on efficacy before accepting expert psych testimony as “science.”

People should not be allowed the status of “experts” whose predictions are less accurate than chance.

Written by janeh

May 1st, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said…'

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  1. Hmm. First, let me say I enjoy these discussions too much to be really miffed or to drop out for reasons of being miffed. Unless you actively hurt someone I care about, I don’t get miffed. Due to reasons of advancing senility, if I did get miffed, I wouldn’t remember it very long. So.

    I was waiting for the premise I might disagree with, and didn’t see it. But, I don’t think you take things quite as far as you might with some of your reasoning.

    If we’re going strictly off what humans are hard-wired to desire in furtherance of humanity-breeding, then clearly there shouldn’t be *anyone* attracted to girls under the age of menarche, or to young (under puberty) boys. There shouldn’t be homosexuals of any type, or asexual people. But there are large numbers of people who find themselves sexually attracted in all sorts of directions that are non-breeding related. So if that is a hard-wiring issue, the wiring is clearly on the fritz where no breeding can take place. So attractions to 2 year olds, in my book, *are* disorders.

    I’m not sure what else you could call that kind of attraction. For the sake of all the 2 year olds out there, it would be wonderful to be able to cure people like that, but so far, we can’t.

    We’ve talked ourselves as a society into believing that homosexuality is “normal” or at least in-born. I agree with what you’ve said in the past that if you accept that, then you’ve stepped foot on the slippery slope to accepting that sexual attraction to babies is also nothing more than one end of a spectrum. Ooops.

    I personally don’t know what to do about this. I think homosexual people deserve rights, love, respect and the pursuit of happiness equally with everyone else. That’s in a world of 6 billion. But if our tribe was the last 1000 people on the earth, I’d think that homosexual orientation was a selfish aberration and they’d better get cracking and contribute to the gene pool, dammit. Perhaps you’re trying to make the point that by confusing non-aberrant behavior such as attraction to nubile females with true aberrations such as attraction to rubber boots, we dilute the meaning of “disorder” and actively prevent being able to analyze and treat real disorders which might be amenable to change. ?? I’m guessing here.

    I also think that just because everyone draws the “consent” line in a different place, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile trying to draw the line *somewhere.* Two-year-olds clearly cannot consent. Most normally-intelligent 17-year-olds can. Somewhere in there, for each child, a threshold is reached between “can’t” and “can.”

    Breeding success actually increases if one does not breed a female of any species during her first fertile period. “Able to conceive” doesn’t equal “able to carry to term” or “able to have healthy offspring and not die in the process.” A *slightly* older mother is better in all cases, maturity of about 17-20 years is optimum for humans, presuming that menses start at around 14-15 years. So if hard-wiring were actually as precise as all that, a 13 year old who didn’t go out of her way to appear sexualized shouldn’t be any more attractive to most men than a 2 year old. Of course, nowadays more girls are starting to bleed much earlier, but it doesn’t really mean they’re physically mature enough to be considered good candidates for motherhood. Those skinny hips don’t deliver babies well.

    From the standpoint of psychological readiness to consent to sex, It would be nice if there could be some sort of individualized determiner for “able to give consent.” I don’t know what that might be. Some kids are ready at 12. Others aren’t ready at 20.

    I totally agree though, about sentencing people to or funding programs with abysmal recidivism records. That’s just doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Might as well be a con job.


    1 May 11 at 5:34 pm

  2. Hmmm. OK, I’m in pretty much complete agreement with the blog post. A few quibbles.
    Predictive is predictive and normative is normative, and they need not meet–anywhere. This is especially true if you have tens of thousands or people deriving employment from detecting certain behaviors, or training the detectors. If I say that the behavior I WANT is for all those little boys to sit down and shut up, and if I have to shoot them all with tranquilizer darts, so be it, this isn’t refutable. And if I actually shoot only 45% of them, I can even make a case for “abnormal.” Heck, I can make a case for ALL of them being abnormal. Probably blame the tendency to jump up and run around on TV or video games.
    You can’t stop the practice by science or law as these now stand. The only thing I can think to do is make the program a laughingstock, so that eventually schools and courts are unwilling to stand by it. Don’t laugh. That’s what finally did in segregation: first educated people were ashamed to stand up for it, then the courts weighed in.
    On the younger woman-older man thing, yes, of course we’re interested. When I stop noticing pretty girls, I’ll be dead and not just tired. But there does, I think, need to be a presumptive age of consent, even if some exceptions may be called for.
    I also think it’s a rule worth preserving to maintain certain professional distances: teachers ought not to be sleeping with students, nor drill instructors with trainees, for example. As a general rule, you shouldn’t be having sex with anyone if you’re then going to send in grades or an efficiency report. This is not because it always ends in tears, but because it’s always bad for the organization. One of the points of civilization (and childrearing) is that just because we want something doesn’t mean we ought to have it.
    But on predicting behaviors: this is real science, in the sense that it’s falsifiable. And that means it ought to be possible to prove in appelate court that Smith was treated unfairly in court because Jones, the “expert witness” called against him, had an abysmal record on predictions, and the court either didn’t care or didn’t ask. Eventually, you ought to be able to get an entire field disqualified if the results are demonstrably poor. But there’s money in expert witnessing for both the expert and the lawyer, and it challenges the competence and discretion of the courts. I wouldn’t want to wait for anyone to even make the case, let alone win.
    All we can do be be grateful that phrenology was mostly dead before the expert witness craze started. Fixing the present mess will probably take more years than I’ve got.


    1 May 11 at 7:42 pm

  3. CAFiorello

    1 May 11 at 9:17 pm

  4. My sister had 3 boys, all of whom ended up on some sort of ADD med. When I dared to question her on this (suggesting to her that the behavior she was finding problematic was, when we were that age, called ‘being a boy,’) I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not a psychologist, therefore, my opinion was invalid. This, of course, is the same sister who, when I commented on the hours each day she allowed her boys to play video games, defended the practice with “it teaches them eye/hand coordination.” When I pointed out that learning to tie your shoes teaches the same skill, I was told to shut up. I did.

    So, I watched my nephews grow up medicated. Did this medication help them? Hard to say, of course, because there is no control to compare against. I imagine, though, that they might have ended up in just the same place, in terms of levels of success, without the medication. Yet, when you have an industry that needs these ‘disorders’ in order to give itself reason for being, I suspect we will see more – not fewer – diagnoses of all manner of ‘disorder.’ And when you have parents of all socio-economic classes whose focus is work, sports, and hobbies, with little time left over for parenting that goes beyond chauffeuring their children from one activity to the next, I suspect we will see more and more parents looking for someone who will give them anything to get their kids under control, including medication.

    And, you are right about the accommodations. The number of students I have who need extra time or a ‘distraction free environment’ to test grows greater every semester. And believe me, they have learned to work and milk that system for all that it’s worth. They know, and assert, exactly what they are entitled to. They don’t need an accommodation any more than you or I would, but the accommodation allows them to not be responsible for their own choices about studying/working – or not.

    And, don’t even get me started on the sex offender thing.


    1 May 11 at 9:20 pm

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