||Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions
||Jay R. Feierman
||Springer-Verlag © 1990
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010
This book sets out to offer a broad, biosocial perspective on
pedophilia that is in contrast to the narrow, often dogmatic preconceptions of
our times. As the introduction points out, pedophilic behavior is seen in other
societies, in other species, and has a history of occurrence that dates back to
ancient times. The book opens with a biosocial overview by the editor, who
speaks from 13 years of experience working professionally with pedophiles and
ephebophiles (adults who become sexually involved with adolescents). There are
chapters which take on the challenge of trying to understand the biological
function of pedophilic practices in evolution, as well as the influence of
hormonal factors and imprinting. Material is presented on pedophilic practices
in nonprimates, in an ape species called Bonobos, and in certain human societies
such as Melanesia and traditional Hawaii.
The approach taken in this book appears to be, "What can
we learn about pedophilia from studying all its manifestations?" According
to the editor, the single most important contribution of this volume is the
thesis that aspects of pedophilic behavior appear to have resulted from an
interaction of genetic and nongenetic factors that were to some extent byproducts
of natural selection in the evolutionary past. The idea that rapid evolution has
made humans vulnerable to behavioral disorders is also discussed.
Densely scientific chapters are interspersed with essays such
as the one that specifically addresses the viewpoint of victimology which,
according to author Paul Okami, "Characteristically employs polemical
devices and research that blur the line between social science and social
criticism." Okami critiques the work of specific authors whose writings
appear to spring from the victimology perspective, such as Diane Russell, and,
to a subtler degree, Finkelhor.
Another chapter that has particular relevance to the child
abuse movement of the 1970s and 1980s reviews the theory and research behind the
Abused/Abuser hypothesis. Garland and Dougher conclude that "sexual contact
with an adult during childhood or adolescence is neither a necessary nor a
sufficient cause of adult sexual interest in children and adolescents."
Five chapters explicate various developmental aspects of
pedophilia, including a unique, autobiographical essay by pediatrician Donald
Sylva who describes the development of his own pedophilic preference. Sylva's
story appears to illustrate the thesis put forth by John Money in the preceding
chapter that pedophilia may develop from a derailment of the parent/child
pairbonding instinct, such that it becomes entrained to sexuoerotic, lover/lover
pairbonding. In the concluding chapter, the editor reaffirms what he and the
contributors believe to be the strong biological components of pedophilia,
including a paragraph heading, "If Not For the Grace of God and Natural
The material in this book is much broader than, but very
applicable to, the topic of child sexual abuse. Those who are unable or
unwilling to suspend a moralistic view may find portions of it disturbing.
in the truest sense of the word, this book is humanistic in perspective. The
vocabulary is challenging at times, such as the distinction made between
"pedophilia" (adult preference for sexual interaction with
prepubescent children) and "ephebophilia" (adult preference for sexual
interaction with adolescents). The preciseness of vocabulary reflects the
scientific orientation of the contributors and the refusal of this book to offer
facile statements that would obscure the complexity of the subject matter.
scholarly yet readable book, over 500 pages long, both adds to our understanding
of a complex human behavior and honestly acknowledges the fact that there is
much that we still do not know.
Reviewed by Deirdre Conway Rand, Marin Psychological Services,
650 East Blithedale Avenue, Suite M, Mill Valley, CA 94941.