Glen Lamb, Science Director of B4U-ACT, sets out in this guest blog for Heretic TOC the difficult challenge of encouraging better research on minor attracted people. He describes his organization’s developing work in this field and how it relates to differing elements of the MAP community.
Because of previous discussions about B4U-ACT on this blog, I wanted to clarify B4U-ACT’s approach and explain some differences between our approach and VirPed’s (Virtuous Pedophiles). Because I am B4U-ACT’s Science Director, I will do this by focusing on the political difficulties in promoting better research on minor attracted people (MAPs), how we are working to overcome them, and how people can get involved.
Most existing research on minor-attracted persons has relied on people in the criminal justice system (forensic samples) or people seeing clinicians about their attraction to minors (clinical samples), sometimes voluntarily but often not. Both of these are unrepresentative of MAPs more generally, and in both settings people often feel that it is not safe to be honest, thus leading to unreliable information. Since becoming B4U-ACT’s Science Director last fall, my primary goal has been and continues to be to get more researchers to study community samples of MAPs (i.e., non-clinical, non-forensic samples). Realistically, the main means of doing this will be online surveys promoted on various MAP message boards, forums, blogs, and listservs. This kind of sampling is far from perfect but would still be a major improvement over the status quo.
For researchers to do this with decent sample sizes, they must develop collaborative relationships with MAP communities or with people well-respected by MAP communities. They need to convince MAPs they are trustworthy and that they will treat them ethically. Basically, researchers will have to follow the same ethical guidelines they are expected to follow for virtually any other population.
Ideally, such researchers would over time develop relationships with the MAP community and come to understand its concerns and dynamics, but very few have attempted to do this, while those who do face grave skepticism (one researcher’s recent efforts to bridge the gap with MAPs online merely resulted in a flame war). If we just wait for researchers to successfully develop good relations with MAPs, we’ll be waiting a long time, so I am trying to establish B4U-ACT as an effective middle-man. This is no easy task.
For reasons that many have speculated about, the proportion of views on certain issues seems to be very different among MAPs than in the general population, and these are often extremely strongly held opinions. I will not speculate here on the reasons for this, but simply state that it merits serious research. It is also the most politically vexing challenge for my job as B4U-ACT’s Science Director, because it makes it difficult to simultaneously maintain good relations with MAPs and with mainstream mental health professionals (MHPs), scientists, and journalists. The huge difficulties in doing this can be seen by contrasting VirPed with some of the larger MAP sites.
VirPed is as palatable to the general public as any group of pedophiles could possibly be, but they are reviled in most MAP communities where they are discussed. By contrast, many researchers seem wary of establishing collaborative relationships with larger MAP sites like BoyChat or
GirlChat. I suspect this is because a great many MAPs on those sites openly express disagreement with many existing laws and moral positions, and to get along in those communities, MAPs who largely agree with these laws must be willing to agree to disagree. This differs greatly from how things are in society at large, so these sites gain a reputation among outsiders for supporting the abolition of AoC laws. A common mistake made by newcomers to these sites is that they fail to remember that disagreeing with a law is an entirely different thing from violating it. Based on these public perceptions, researchers do not want to be seen as being closely associated with these sites.
B4U-ACT’s mission is to promote the availability of quality mental health services for MAPs who want them and to promote the collection and dissemination of more accurate information about MAPs. People with a wide range of views on deeply divisive issues can all agree on the need for improvement in these areas, but the great difficulty is uniting such diversely opinionated individuals to work together on these critical areas of common interest. B4U-ACT’s commitment to promoting better research on MAPs requires that we work with researchers and that we develop and maintain amicable relations with the MAP community, ties we can definitely afford to strengthen, especially with members of various BL boards.
I have been in communication with a few researchers who want to work with B4U-ACT to research community samples of MAPs. If these go well, we will likely be getting more requests from researchers.
However, in much of the research, there are various constructs that many MAPs find deeply offensive and may even regard as pseudoscience. Some of the researchers with whom I have communicated have wanted to extend research with these constructs on forensic samples of MAPs to non-forensic samples.
This puts me in a difficult situation. If I refuse to recruit for them because they use these constructs, this suggests that B4U-ACT is taking a position which it does not. If I try to recruit widely for them, I run the risk of alienating MAPs who find these constructs offensive and think that B4U-ACT is endorsing them. Recruiting participants for the wrong researchers risks jeopardizing B4U-ACT’s potential to act as a middle-man for researchers in the future. My personal commitment to promoting quality research on MAPs exceeds my commitment to making B4U-ACT the premier organization responsible for doing so, but we are in a better position than any other group to assist in such research. I fear that any harm we may suffer in our ability to recruit research participants will increase the likelihood that the research simply will not happen, and we’ll be back to relying on forensic and clinical samples.
To address this difficulty we developed our Research Ethos, a document indicating what it does and does not mean when B4U-ACT recruits participants on behalf of a researcher. This document also describes how to reduce the barriers to communication researchers face in conducting MAP-based studies. The only alternative to B4U-ACT’s research initiative is to limit recruitment of community samples of MAPs to VirPed’s listserv of about 70 people who are more ideologically homogeneous than MAPs in general, something we’d prefer to avoid.
There are a number of ways for people to help in this effort. B4U-ACT recently began recruiting for three new volunteer positions especially important for promoting research on MAPs. When posting links to surveys, B4U-ACT encourages people who meet the participation requirements to take the surveys, although please note that we do not maintain an email list of people interested in taking online surveys. If you are thinking about conducting a study on a community sample of MAPs or if you are interested in volunteering for B4U-ACT, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Glen Lamb, Science Director
P.O. Box 1754
Westminster, MD 21158