The November 20, 2000 Globe and Mail contained a compassionate editorial arguing that convicted pedophiles should not be imprisoned. The essay was written by Dr. John Bradford, who holds two high-sounding psychiatric appointments (Clinical Director of the Forensic Programme and the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, and Head of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa), in response to the re-arrest the week before of Peter Robert Whitmore, a three-time convicted pedophile who was found in a Toronto hotel room with a 13 year-old male runaway a month after his latest release from prison.
According to Dr. Bradford, people like Mr. Whitmore should not be incarcerated because, "that is exorbitantly costly and ridiculously ineffective in curbing the risk to society. The fact is that the vast majority of pedophiles ... are not violent or life threatening." Rather than being criminals, pedophiles are really hapless victims suffering "a psychiatric disorder" that is "the product of a disordered but inescapable sex drive that targets children."
Haven't we heard this before? Starting some 40 years ago, many of Dr. Bradford's peers, together with radical elements within the emerging homosexual lobby, made precisely the same argument when they called for the decriminalization of same-sex erotic behaviour. In 1969, their lobbying paid off when Pierre Trudeau removed the prohibition against buggery from the Criminal Code, arguing that, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." Four years later, zealous homosexual activists bullied the influential American Psychiatric Association into taking the next step by re-defining homosexuality as "a normal condition."
Today, few battles remain in the war to regularize homosexuality. Four Western European countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Holland) have legalized homosexual marriage. So has the American State of Vermont. With several court challenges to the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage in the works, together with the activist efforts of a gay-friendly Supreme Court, there is no reason to believe that Canada will not soon follow the lead. Dr. Bradford's editorial suggests that the regularizing of pedophila will not be far behind.
The similarity between homosexuality and pedophilia does not end with my appeal to slippery-slope theory. Dr. Bradford presents no good evidence for calling pedophilia a "disordered but inescapable sex drive." To be sure, most people, myself included, consider pedophilia a heinous crime and unmitigated perversion, not the least because it represents the sexual exploitation of immature and vulnerable children by vile and degenerate people (mainly, but not exclusively, men). But this does not make it a mental disorder, especially when, as Dr. Bradford himself grudgingly acknowledges, most pedophiles do not seek or wish treatment, have no psychiatric "affliction" (his term) except a desire to engage in various sexual acts with young children, and otherwise lead happy and fulfilling lives. This is precisely the argument that homosexual activists employed when they fought to have same sex coupling decriminalized and de-stigmatized.
Using Dr. Bradford's own assertions, homosexuality and pedophilia present very similar syndromes: both "afflict" some three per cent of Canadians; there is no known cause for either orientation, though studies show that a large portion of both homosexuals and pedophiles were sexually molested at some point in their lives; neither "disorder" is now generally viewed as a deliberate choice freely made by individuals but rather an "incurable" personal "affliction" that may be genetically programmed; and unlike other "psychiatric disorders," both homosexuals and pedophiles are typically rational and competent, able to function productively on a day-to-day basis in everything but their "compulsive" sexual urges.
Dr. Bradford asks us to accept pedophilia as a "disorder" which is "an inevitable part of human existence." NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, whose motto is "sex by eight or it's too late," would only qualify Dr. Bradford's position with the assertion that pedophilia is no disorder at all but a natural, normal, and healthy activity for those who engage in it.
The indifference of the state to same-sex relations between consenting adults as enacted in the 1969 legislation was partly based on the observation that because homosexuals are unable to control their feelings, then the erotic acts they engage in should not be criminalized. This is the argument that Dr. Bradford uses to attack the incarceration of convicted pedophiles. It is also the official position of NAMBLA, which says that when a 60-year-old man sodomizes a 14-year-old boy neither a criminal, nor an immoral, nor an unnatural act has taken place.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Bradford fails to mention the known adverse psychological sequelae of Canada's age-of-sexual-consent codes. Neither does he relate pedophilia to homosexuality nor acknowledge that a disproportionately high number of homosexuals are also pedophiles. According to a comprehensive review of the scientific literature by William Gairdner (reported in his best-selling book, The War Against the Family, 1992, p. 388), although homosexuals represent no more than four per cent of the U.S. population, they commit between one-third and one-half of all pedophilic acts. Homosexuals and bisexuals are also 12 times more likely to molest children than are heterosexuals, and "gay" teachers perpetrate between 25 and 80 per cent of all pupil sexual assaults.
Indeed, Dr. Bradford makes no mention at all of homosexuality in his essay. Like most psychiatrists, he probably accepts that same-sex eroticism is a normal, natural, and healthy form of carnal release. Instead he relates pedophilia to illnesses like diabetes: "Would we deny a patient with diabetes his insulin? Should we deny pedophiles their appropriate treatment by warehousing them in jail?"
Yet Dr. Bradford says that pedophilia has no known cause, cure, or effective treatment - except surgical or pharmacological castration. Accordingly, one might conclude that the most "appropriate treatment" for the condition must be to allow those "afflicted" by it to act out their desires - to permit them to engage in all manner of sexual acts with pre-pubescent children. Again, this is the official NAMBLA position.
Because he is preoccupied with the mental health of pedophiles, Dr. Bradford downplays the possible traumatic effects of pedophilia on the object of the pedophile's desire, except to surmise that some of these children may also become pedophiles while others may find being anally or vaginally penetrated by an adult "disturbing events." Of course, if Dr. Bradford were to admit that many of these abused children also suffer long-term or life-long psychological trauma, his argument against the incarceration of pedophiles would lose its authority.
Nor does Dr. Bradford entertain the possibility that just as there is a distinction in the scientific literature between voluntary and compulsory homosexuality, there are many pedophiles who voluntarily engage in sensual acts with minors because they lack the appropriate social skills or opportunity to attract adult partners or because they are titillated by the illegality or immorality of sex with young children. This is because he uncritically assumes that pedophiles (and presumably non-pedophiles as well) have no control over their sex drive - human nature and their genes make them do it.
This assumption has important moral and legal implications. If people have no control over their drives, sexual or otherwise, then free will does not exist. If free will does not exist, human beings cannot be held responsible for what they do. If people cannot be held responsible for what they do, collective morality and shared norms have little meaning or application. Since most laws, especially those relating to sexuality, represent the formalization of moral norms, then there should be no legal prohibition or punishment of pedophilia. Though this line of reasoning may seem absurd to some, it is still the way some psychiatrists try to explain away the behaviour of their "disordered" patients.
My point is this: if pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder, then so is homosexuality. If homosexuality is a natural, normal, and healthy part of the human condition, then so is pedophilia. If homosexuality has no victims, neither does pedophila. If both are inborn and psychologically unproblematic for their participants, then why is this not also true for other erotic activities such as incest, bestiality, and necrophilia?
Is there any hard psychiatric evidence to refute these assertions? Or is Dr. Bradford's essay yet another example of the disordered nature of modern clinical psychiatry?