A. The Charge. In 1999 the radio commentator Laura Schlessinger asserted that “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys.” In fact, the boundaries between adult-adult homosexuality and pedophilia are fluid. In 2010 Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council noted: "While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. ... It is a homosexual problem." For this reason homosexuals must never be allowed to serve in any profession that involves working with children or teenagers.
B. Background. In recent decades concern with the sexual abuse of children and teenagers has spread in the United States and abroad. This anxiety has been heightened by widespread reports of abuse by Catholic priests and other religious figures, accompanied by the sense that the church authorities have been more committed to covering up the infraction than to punishing the abusers. These occurrences pose not only the physical problem (the sexual contact itself), but also the issue of psychological wrongness (the matter of misusing authority).
Understanding these issues is complicated by terminological confusion. Some observers use the term pedophilia to refer to all cases of sexual attraction to underage partners. Others restrict it to the preference for prepubertal children as sexual partners. Traditionally, sex with teenaged boys has been designated as pederasty. More recently, the term hebephilia has been proposed for adult attraction to adolescents.
Historians point to the fact that intergenerational sex has been common in such societies as ancient Greece, medieval Islam, and medieval Japan. However, these attitudes are not readily transferable to modern industrial societies in North America and Europe.
Empirical research in today’s societies is hampered by the fact that most studies involve convicted perpetrators or pedophiles who have sought professional help. Clearly, these groups are subsets of a much larger population subject to such attractions. Some in this group never act on impulse and remain undetected. This is as it should be, as they have done nothing wrong. The available data suggests, however, that most pedophiles have never developed any sexual interest in adults, remaining fixated on children. For this reason they cannot be designated as merely homosexual.
The mistaken conflation of adult-adult homosexuality with adult-child behavior is being seen once more in 2013 in discussions concerning the current problems of the Catholic Church, which has been troubled for some time with reports of pedophile priests. Observers have noted the presence also of priests who have relations with other adult priests. These two groups are not the same.
C. Response. As the child-abuse specialist Nicholas Groth noted in 1982: “Homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia are not synonymous. In fact, it may be that these two orientations are mutually exclusive, the reason being that the homosexual male is sexually attracted to masculine qualities whereas the heterosexual male is sexually attracted to feminine characteristics, and the sexually immature child’s qualities are more feminine than masculine.. . . . The child offender who is attracted to and engaged in adult sexual relationships is heterosexual. It appears, therefore, that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater sexual risk to underage children than does the adult homosexual male.”
The mainstream view among researchers and professionals actively studying child sexual abuse is that homosexual men do not pose any special threat to children. Moreover, gay men and lesbians have a proven record of working effectively in a wide variety of employment settings. Research has revealed no significant differences between heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals in job performance. Nor is this true in terms of capacity to properly exercise authority in supervisory positions. Most importantly, the empirical research does not show that gay and bisexual men are any more likely than straight men to molest children.
One cannot argue that gay or bisexual men never molest children. It is of vital importance, however, to note that there is no scientific basis for claiming these men are more likely than heterosexual men to commit such an act. As has been noted, most child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation. Their sexual-attraction patterns are directed exclusively to children.
Note: Some of the points indicated above derive from the excellent posting by Professor Gregory Herek, University of California, Davis: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html. See that source for further analysis and an extensive bibliography.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. A. Nicholas Groth and H. J. Birnbaum, “Adult Sexual Orientation and Attraction to Underage Persons,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7:3 (1978), 175-181; A. Nicholas Groth and T. S. Gary, T. S.” Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Pedophilia: Sexual Offenses against Children and Adult Sexual Orientation,” in A.M. Scacco, ed., Male Rape: A Casebook of Sexual Aggressions, New York: AMS Press. 1982, pp. 143-52; Theo Sandfort, Edward Brongersma, and A. X. van Naerssn, eds., Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-psychological, and Legal Perspectives, New York: Haworth Press, 1991; E. O. Lauman, J. H. Gagnon, R. T. Michael, and S. Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994; Nathaniel McConaghy, “Paedophilia: A Review of the Evidence,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 32:2 (1998), 252-65.