Religious conservative websites are ablaze with claims that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has just reclassified pedophilia as a sexual orientation, forcing the APA to issue a statement clarifying that this isn’t true.
The story first gained attention when the American Family Association, an ultra religious conservative anti-gay group, issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that the APA had made the reclassification in the new edition of the DSM, the manual used for standardizing diagnostic criteria, with Fox News talking head and AFA spokeswoman Sandy Rios saying:
“Just as the American Psychiatric Association declared homosexuality an “orientation” — under tremendous pressure from homosexual activists in the early seventies, now, under pressure from pedophile activists, they have declared the desire for sex with children an “orientation,” too. It’s not hard to see where this will lead. More children will become sexual prey.
“Sanity will never return to this culture until truth is reclaimed. It is not now, nor has it ever been acceptable for men or women to desire sex with children. Any who struggle with this must at least know that it is wrong before they can combat it and seek change.”
The AFA made the claim — without fact checking with the APA — based on a reading of the DSM-V made by a student campus website Neon Tommy, which is produced at Annenberg Digital News at the University of Southern California. The original Neon Tommy article claimed:
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) drew a very distinct line between pedophilia and pedophilic disorder. Pedophilia refers to a sexual orientation or profession of sexual preference devoid of consummation, whereas pedophilic disorder is defined as a compulsion and is used in reference to individuals who act on their sexuality.
The report offers no citations of the DSM-5 classification or the particular areas of interest. Nevertheless, several religious conservative media sites quickly picked up on this story, including Charisma News. That version of the article in particular began to spread through social media sites, and was the impetus for a number of wider media reports.
There’s just one problem: the reading appears to hinge on one paragraph in the DSM-V’s text discussion (not the actual diagnostic criteria) in which the phrase “sexual orientation” is used instead of “sexual interest.” This in no way changes the diagnostic criteria for a pedophilic disorder which remains classified as a disorder and not a sexual orientation.
The APA has admitted this small error and has clarified:
“Sexual orientation” is not a term used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder and its use in the DSM-5 text discussion is an error and should read “sexual interest.” In fact, APA considers pedophilic disorder a “paraphilia,” not a “sexual orientation.” ¯This error will be corrected in the electronic version of DSM-5 and the next printing of the manual.
Due to the fact that the AFA originally said the American Psychological Association was the one responsible for the change, that group has now also been forced to issue a statement debunking this claim:
A news release sent Oct. 30 on behalf of the American Family Association mischaracterized the position of the American Psychological Association with respect to pedophilia. The American Psychological Association does not classify mental disorders or publish the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as the release incorrectly stated.The American Psychological Association maintains that pedophilia is a mental disorder; that sex between adults and children is always wrong; and that acting on pedophilic impulses is and should be a criminal act. The American Psychological Association has worked for many years to prevent child sexual abuse and will continue to do so.
Charisma News, after originally updating its article, has now “dug a little deeper” and offered a follow up and correction on the story it published. Several other news sites are continuing to circulate the story, however.
The American Family Association has offered no correction to the claims it made. As to why the AFA so readily seized on the report without checking its veracity, one need only look at the group’s record of bias and outright fabrications against the LGBT community – that gay people are recruiting children, for instance — to know that the report seemed to fit so neatly into the AFA’s views that it likely felt it didn’t need to check out the truth.
That this could have also served as a weapon in several gay marriage battles, most notably the one currently playing out in Hawaii, also cannot be overlooked as a factor in why religious conservative sites might rush the story out of the door without bothering to check the particulars. Religious conservatives often crow about the “slipper slope” of gay marriage and, as mentioned in Rios’s claims above, this seems to be the angle they were working in publicizing their understanding of how the APA had changed its classification of pedophilia.
The mainstream media, and in particular Fox News, would do well to remember this shoddy incident when next faced with a gay rights story and inclined to interview the American Family Association as though it is a credible policy group.
For its part the AFA, as a driving force behind this latest misinformation, owes the public an apology. Let’s not hold our breath though.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.
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