Sarah Goode has put up a piece on the newspaper site The Independent. (How can we prevent child abuse if we don’t understand paedophilia?) In a comment on that site I offered the folowing view.
The approach that Sarah Goode offers which says informed reflection and decision-making is better than ignorance is not a position I would criticise, rather safe positioning in my books. However the issue is, as she points out, a bit more complex than it looks at first. Her position that research done, and this includes methodologies adopted, while on this journey has a green light because it is viewed as part of child protection leaves me a little uncomfortable.
Goode states above “Now is the time to shift our attitudes and begin to explore. The journey is uncomfortable but the goal is better child protection, so any discomfort is worth tolerating”, those words “so any discomfort is worth tolerating are the ones that give me pause to think. John Haidt (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Kindle, March 29, 2012) would argue what Sarah Goode’s text does, the pulling on a cord labelled child protection, is designed to trigger something in the reader deliberately. Sarah Goode is in effect saying let me do what I want and don’t think too much about it. (I acknowledge Sarah Goode has written elsewhere about how ethics committees in academic settings have made life complicated for her, sometimes unreasonably so, “Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction to Children: A Study of Paedophiles in Contemporary Society“, Kindle, July 3, 2009).
Research into groups does need ethical guidelines. Those being researched deserve to be protected from researchers who too often are guided by the view, “results is what matters; the subject being researched is fair game”. What I think is needed is research on the researchers. Of the work that is out there, how much of it was done ethically, where the subject being looked at was an adult who has an attraction to the young. Was the subject treated as we would want to be treated ourselves. Sarah Goode has my support, but it is not unqualified support.
When Sarah Goode did her research for the book I refer to above (Goode, 2009) the people she interviewed reported a degree of disquiet regarding her research methodology. As subjects they did not feel they had been ethically managed by her. Hopefully the concerns of those being researched will be allowed to influence how future work is done by social science authors.
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