Do what I say, not what I do in the world of social science research.

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.

  • Ryen, A. (2004). Ethical Issues. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium & D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative research practice (pp. 230-247). London ;Thousand Oaks, Calif. :: SAGE.
  • Yuill, R., & Elliot, D. (2012). Researching and Theorizing the “Age Taboo” on Intergenerational Sexualities. Journal of LGBT Youth, Volume 9, 67-71. doi: 10.1080/19361653.2012.627726
  • Rind, B. (2008). The Bailey Affair: Political Correctness and Attacks on Sex Research. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 37, 481–484. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9334-0
  • Tolich, M. (2001). Research ethics in Aotearoa New Zealand concepts, practice, critique. Auckland, N.Z.: Longman.
  • Wallis, R. (1977). The Moral Career of a Research Project. In C. N. Bell, Howard (Ed.), Doing Sociological Research (pp. 149-167). London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Ulrich, H., Randolph, M., & Acheson, S. (Fall/Winter 2005-06). Child Sexual Abuse: A Replication of the Meta-analytic Examination of Child Sexual Abuse by Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998). The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 4(2), 37-51.
  • Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., & Bauserman, R. (1998). A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples. Psychological Bulletin, 124(1), 22-53.
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4 thoughts on “Do what I say, not what I do in the world of social science research.

  1. My impression of Sarah Goode’s work to date is about as positive as can be for a main-stream researcher investigating pederasty (pedophilia, etc.). Is she hiding behind the same ‘protect the children’ banner as everyone else? Of course she is – until this insanity calms down quite a bit, which IS beginning to happen, it’s complete suicide to do anything else. Her work is a small but important part of why it’s beginning to calm down and may return to the more rational approaches common in prehysteric days.

      • Sarah’s work is very reminiscent of work done on “Recovered Memories” by Elizabeth Loftus in the early 1990’s, and the observations of Judith Levine in “Harmful to Minors”. Loftus dramatically illustrated how false and patently absurd memories can be implanted in the minds (especially) of children and adolescents – a rather critical point today when today’s dogma requires that there be no other possible outcome to an inter-generational relationship than absolute devastation. And Levine’s concise conclusions show just where virtually all of the damage actually originates. Sarah is suggesting that rather than accept the dogma, we actually LOOK at the phenomena and its implications. She has not gone as far as Judith in suggesting the causes of the outcomes, but the approach she suggests is balanced and intelligent despite her unwillingness to come right out and say the emperor has no clothes. Clancy goes further, and without hiding behind the skirt of modern feminism. They are all essential reading for anyone interested in understanding what’s actually happening within all this. And while we’re on the topic of seminal works, Tom O’Carroll’s “Paedophilia: The Radical Case” is the bedrock upon which the foundation of any logical policy on this area should partly rest.

      • “Susan Clancy’s book The Trauma Myth was reviewed by Richard Green in Archives of Sexual Behavior (2010). He does not disagree with you and yet he makes the point Susan Clancy is damming of any sexual contacts between adults and minors.

        [Quote] “Nevertheless, Clancy repeatedly reminds us how evil this non-traumatic (at the time) experience actually is. This moral mantra is identified as the catalyst of later trauma: ‘‘It is the act of sexual abuse and not the damage it causes that makes it wrong’’ (p. 185), ‘‘the act is inherently vile’’ (p. 186), ‘‘why sexual abuse damages victims probably has little to do with the actual abuse and a lot to do with what happens in its aftermath’’ (p. 113), and ‘‘Sexual abuse is very wrong, regardless of how it affects victims’’ (p. 185), etc.”

        The most cynical remark Green makes is this, “I wondered whether Clancy was up for tenure at Harvard when writing this book”. It is this writing for an audience that plagues some academics when they write. What Green does not state, but is very important for a reader of Clancy’s book, is how her research is there for the reader to see, bold, almost raw. Even if Green is right and Clancy was playing some kind of game, one can put to one side her moral comments of blame for all adults involved sexuality with children and see her research shed light on how a very small part of her sample ever talked of trauma at the time they interacted sexually with adults.

        Details:
        Clancy, S. A. (2009). The trauma myth the truth about the sexual abuse of children–and its aftermath. New York: Basic Books.
        Green, R. (2010). The Trauma Myth. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(5), 1205-1206. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9643-y

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