October 3, 2006

Anti-Gay Groups: Trying To Change The Subject

Posted at 11:14 am (Pacific Time)

As I anticipated in my Saturday post, antigay activists and their supporters have been seizing on the Foley scandal as an opportunity to link being gay with being a pedophile.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins issued a statement yesterday in which he complained that neither Republicans nor Democrats “seems likely to address the real issue, which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse … ignoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership.”

An editorial in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal made a similar linkage, arguing that the Foley scandal should increase liberals’ support for the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters.

Just to repeat what I wrote on Saturday: The ranks of child abusers, pedophiles, and sexual predators include people of all sexual orientations (and, as explained on my website, many child molesters don’t even have a true adult sexual orientation). The same goes for people who engage in sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace: They can be straight, gay, or bisexual.

But none of these groups are disproportionately likely to behave badly. A person’s sexual orientation isn’t related to his or her propensity for sexual abuse or engaging in other reprehensible acts.

Stereotypes routinely portray denigrated minority groups as a threat to the majority’s most vulnerable members. The myth that gay men are child molesters fits this mold. Predictably, it is being touted now by conservatives who’d like to shift the national discussion from questions about the congressional leadership to the more comfortable turf of gay-bashing.

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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September 30, 2006

This Post Isn’t About Mark Foley

Posted at 11:14 am (Pacific Time)

A few years ago, when the Catholic Church was rocked by the scandal about priests’ sexual abuse of boys, some of the Vatican hierarchy sought to focus attention on the “problem” of gay priests and seminarians (rather than the real problem of the church’s failure to protect children from predators). The Pope signed a policy in 2005 to ban ordinations of gay men, and a recently-completed probe sought evidence of homosexuality in Catholic seminaries. The fact that pedophile priests and gay priests are two distinct groups with little overlap was largely ignored.

Here we go again?

In the wake of Rep. Mark Foley’s resignation from the US House of Representatives, the Web has been full of commentary about it, including suggestions that being gay is equivalent to being a pedophile.

Although most people no longer accept the stereotype of gay men as child molesters, this old canard gains temporary currency whenever a sensationalistic story breaks. Without wading into a discussion of the specifics about Rep. Foley, I’d like to note an important fact:

There is no inherent linkage between an adult’s sexual orientation and her or his propensity for sexual attraction to children or molestation of children. The ranks of those who engage in sexually inappropriate behavior with children or underage teens include gay, straight, and bisexual adults. But none of these groups are disproportionately likely to be molesters or predators.

My web site includes an extensive discussion of this issue.

The Mark Foley story undoubtedly will generate considerable buzz in the days ahead. But it shouldn’t foster scapegoating of sexual minorities.

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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