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Beyond Homophobia » Myths & Stereotypes

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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