Psychiatric understandings of paedophilia are an outcome of the medicalisation of everyday crime, suggested Thomas Szasz (1920–2012).
Forensic notions of sick desire rely on metaphors applied to crimes, not medical science. Szasz’s position is at odds with much of contemporary forensic psychology. Yet, it appears consistent with his critique of sexual nosology at mid-century, where he observes that ‘homosexuality is an illness because heterosexuality is the social norm’.
Scattered references to paedophilia in nineteenth-century descriptive psychopathology, discussed below, are indeed very much entangled with coeval debates about how to appreciate widernatürliche Unzucht [unnatural vice] in the new psycho-medical framework of Konträrsexualismus [sexual inversion]. These references foreshadow many comparable twentieth-century debates, for instance, about whether to psychiatricise gay bashing in terms of acute homosexual panic (or Kempf’s Disease, coined by Edward John Kempf in 1920), or rape in terms of raptophilia or biastophilic rapism (early 1980s terms by John Money) or sexual assault disorder (included in the first, 1976, DSM-III draft) or paraphilic coercive disorder (considered for inclusion in DSM-III-R in 1985 but voted down the next year).
In these cases, invocation of terms like disease, paraphilia and disorder makes cultural, legal and commercial sense when made to speak either to insanity defence strategies or to evaluations of civil commitment criteria.
Distinctions between criminal and madman have always been central to forensic psychiatry and pre-date ‘paedophilia’ by more than half a century. A generic ‘differential diagnosis’ between perversité morale [moral perversity] and perversion maladive [morbid perversion] informed French alienism in the early nineteenth century.
It was explicitly discussed by an author who ventured one of the early psychiatric taxonomies of sexual deviation, marking the subdivision of ‘perversion de l’instinct génésique’ [perversion of the reproductive instinct] into discrete ‘perversions’ – including philopédie.
The dichotomy was still critical to the author who would coin the term paedophilia erotica nearly half a century later, Richard von Krafft-Ebing.
Indeed, it prominently informed the 1896 article where this coinage takes place, which adds the term to a then familiar breakdown of ‘nonpsychopathological’ and ‘psychopathological’ child abusers.
Nosographic identifications of paedophilia, however, would be questioned as early as 1903, in the anthropologically oriented work by Iwan Bloch,
and soon after by Havelock Ellis. Illustrative of an enduring controversy, the run-up to the 2013 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was enlivened by the proposal to complement the entity of paedophilia with that of hebephilia – erotic attraction to pubescent rather than younger children. The latter rubric had first been used in a mid-1950s typology of sex offences and offenders, precisely ‘on a descriptive level [referring] to the crime committed’.
Hebephilia did not make the DSM-5, in part, no doubt, because of strong imputations by DSM veterans of medicalisation and forensic misuse.
The DSM-5 did introduce the distinction between Pedophilia and Pedophilic Disorder. The turn to ‘paraphilic disorders’ was generic for all former ‘paraphilias’. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) thus seems to have nominally demedicalised what it still calls ‘paraphilias’ as potentially ‘benign’, even if never ‘normophilic’, orientations.
That the use of terms remains delicate, however, was illustrated in the retraction late in 2013 of the insinuated applicability to paedophilia of the notion of sexual orientation (allowing a ‘pedophilic sexual orientation’ beside ‘pedophilic disorder’), which the APA indicated had been a ‘text error’.
1. ‘Erotic Age-Preference’: A Problem in Descriptive Psychopathology
In appreciating this corrigendum it deserves to be remembered how paedophilia and cognate terms entered clinical parlance. This warrants a slightly broader look at how notions of age-specificity and age-exclusivity in erotic attraction figure in the medical history of sexuality. Paedophilia has been consistently signalled out as a discrete entity under the shifting headings of ‘psychosexual perversion’ (1890s, as referenced below), ‘sexual deviation’ or ‘pathologic behaviour’ (1952–67: ‘DSM-I’ and II; 1965: ICD-8: code 302.2),
‘psychosexual disorder’ (1979: ICD-9-CM), ‘paraphilia’ (1980: DSM-III through IV-TR), ‘disorder of sexual preference’ (1992: ICD-10: code F65.4), finally ‘paraphilic disorder’ (DSM-5/ICD-11beta: 302.2/F65.4). Like other ‘sexual deviations’, paedophilia entered the DSM and the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) without attribution, reference, definition or diagnostic criteria. Apart from paedophilia few words pertinent to ‘erotic age-preference’ ever trickled down into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
and only paedophilia/pederosis ever entered the DSM/ICD indexes. Where heterosexuality was named and conceptualised in the earliest context of the naming of and apology for homosexuality,
the clumsy, gender-neutral neologisms adultophilia and teleiophilic preference (‘ordinary attraction to adults’) appeared long after an initial rush on pathological and gender-specific terms, and strictly on forensic occasions.
Note that with ‘teleiophilia’ the reader is already in the twenty-first century.
Historically, definitions of morbid age of attraction, age of consent and mean or modal age of ‘puberty’ show an approximate and a priori alignment. Definitions of all of these are at a fundamental level conventional, and their alignment around 1896 required an intertwining of as much moral and legal as psychiatric sensibility.
Proposed definitions of ‘paedophilia’ have continued to waver between ill-defined physiological terms such as ‘puberty’, related somatoscopic (Tanner) stages,
and Ages-of-Man categories such as ‘child’ and ‘adolescent’. Revealingly comparable to age-of-consent legislation worldwide, they have also varied and shifted in stipulated minimal age and minimal age difference requirements for diagnosis. The DSM-5 concept of normophilia, or non-paraphilia, balances a naturalistic with a legal reference to age where it is defined in terms of the ‘sexual maturity’ and the legal ability to consent of the normophile’s preferred partner.
Moreover, nosological suggestions have consistently wrestled with the relation of mental disorder to the contingency of offences.
It was child endangerment that had been the most immediate connotation of the US legal rubric of ‘sexual psychopath’, which was current from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, and certainly of its 1990s successor, the ‘sexually violent predator’.
It has been a peculiarity of these rubrics that they have an opportune, not a necessary, footing in psychiatric diagnoses, and that the former particularly appealed to residual (‘Not Otherwise Specified’) categories in the DSM-III-R and subsequent revisions. Most of the post-DSM-III cultural and forensic interest in ‘paraphilia’ has concentrated on paedophilia and psycho-diagnostic notions developed largely around child sex offenders, notably, since 1984, that of ‘cognitive distortion’. Diagnostic criteria guided research only from the DSM-III onward. To date, these have importantly conformed to a criterion template applied to all ‘paraphilic disorders’, with consistently minimal and arguable scientific rationale.
These observations will prove of increasing significance to historians of the sexological present, given the rising importance of age to global definitions and representations of sexual justice since the weaning from ‘gender orientation’ both of Western morals legislation and psychiatric taxonomies. An important historical backdrop to understanding nosographic activity around all ‘paraphilias’ is indisputably the gradual Western depsychiatricisation of ‘homosexuality’ between the late 1950s and the late 1980s. Until the 1973, 7th printing of the DSM-II and the 1992 ICD-10, Anglophone psychiatric taxonomies still listed ‘homosexuality’ and ‘paedophilia’ under the common heading of ‘sexual deviation’. Historians of homosexuality note that between these dates, ‘the paedophile’ came to replace ‘the homosexual’ in the Anglo-American experience as a paragon of sexual danger to youth.
In post-war psychology, ‘a growing body of research evidence was building up a dividing wall between the non-dangerous homosexual and the pederast who did threaten the young and whom it was still thought necessary to include in the dangerousness framework’.
During the 1980s, the century-old trope of ‘homosexual seduction’ was definitively replaced with a new forensic parlance of ‘paedophilic grooming’.
Allusions to the former now received the quasi-psychiatric qualification of ‘homophobic’ slander.
Nineteenth century French dictionaries defined pédérastie [pederasty] only vaguely as a ‘criminal passion’ either between men or between men and jeunes garçons [young boys].
Yet, even in the European nineteenth century, ‘homosexuality’ importantly answered to a popular presumption, indeed a forensic pattern, of age difference.
This may have reflected the likelihood of crimes being reported. In any case, associations with child abuse plagued the earliest apologetic outlines of homosexuality. As discussed below, these associations inform the coinage and etymology of some of the earliest terms for homosexuality. Where most early terms denoting age preferences were subsequently coined to classify homosexuals, a definitive reversal in the order of mobilising parameters is achieved only in the DSM-III, which illustratively advises the specification of Pedophilia where the diagnosed person is found to be sexually attracted to males, females or both.
Moreover, the strong philological and philhellenic orientation to ancient paiderastia of even early twentieth century advocates of same-sex love necessarily married reflections on gender and age orientation. Jana Funke suggests that the denunciation of ‘seduction of youth’ by proponents of ‘Greek love’ had perhaps been more central to the modern assimilationist politics and acceptance of homosexuality than sympathetic historians may have cared to stress.
Well into the 1950s, many apologists for homoeroticism wrestled extensively with the spectres of ‘Greek love’ and ‘pedagogical Eros’, in efforts to distance themselves from the nascent sciences of crime and mental health. Writings celebrating the beauty of ageless ‘boys’ and ‘youth’ often deployed philosophical and anthropological arguments against medico-physiological and legal sensibilities around age and age difference.
In the 1900s, anthropologically oriented sexologists (Bloch and Ellis) and also early ethnologists of homosexuality including Ferdinand Karsch-Haack, either explicitly rejected or ignored emergent nosological frameworks for paedophilia/Knabenliebe.
The forensic identification of paedophilia only very gradually came to spearhead the new and dual scientific parlance of ‘perverted’ (rather than merely criminal or brutal) and precariously ‘developmental’ (thus vulnerable and aetiologically significant) sexualities.
These key notions were to assume an obvious architectural relation to today’s ubiquitous, triple psychiatricisation, which was, importantly, already converging in the mid-1890s, of ‘the paedophile’, the child sexual abuse victim and the ‘surviving’ adult. However, ‘erotic age preference’ assumed more sustained relevance in the nineteenth century context of naming, categorising, theorising and defending gender deviance. It was in such late contexts as the 1957 Wolfenden Report that ‘paedophiles’ still figured importantly in terms of ‘recognizably different categories among adult male homosexuals’.
Robertson suggests that, in the US, ‘By 1950, the media had begun to split homosexual offenders away from pedophiles and to present them as a problem in their own right, a ‘New Moral Menace to Our Youth’, as the title of an article in Coronet magazine trumpeted’.
In the Netherlands too, ‘The word paedophilia was rarely used before 1945, but shows up regularly in the medical records after 1950; homosexuality and paedophilia only began to be separated from that time onwards’.
The first book-length forensic studies on ‘paedophilia’, in the Netherlands, Canada, Germany and Denmark, were published only from 1960 onward, at the time of the decriminalisation of homosexuality across Europe.
A lecture by Michel Foucault given on 19 March 1975, gestured toward a genealogy of paedophilia, arguably the first of such gestures.
Since then, substantial contributions to paedophilia’s medico-forensic prehistory have been few, fragmentary and recent.
Like ‘homosexual’, the label invites a historicisation of the labeller at least as much as of the labelled.
Little attention has been given to its globalisation. The broad outline offered below focuses primarily on the few, but diverse, references to age-specificity in nineteenth century West-European sexological nosology.
Παιδεραστία into Homosexuality/Paedophilia
Historians of homosexuality have observed an intricate cross-fading of the ramifications of pagan custom, sin and crime with those of mental disorder and social identity. Notwithstanding, medical as well as lyrical conceptions of homosexuality remained critically embroiled with those of ancient Greek paiderastia well into the twentieth century.
Twentieth century academic apologies for man–boy liaisons also invariably invoked Greek references.
In his 1875 textbook on forensic psychopathology, Krafft-Ebing referred to ‘Knabenliebe der Griechen und entarteten Römer’ [boy love of the Greeks and degenerate Romans] as among the ‘sexuellen Verirrungen des Alterthums’ [sexual aberrations of antiquity].
Discussion of this ancient custom was to remain a central point of reference in the sexual psychopathology here anticipated. There had been no ancient equivalent to such a psychopathology. The closest to an ancient medical pronouncement on boy-love had arguably been Plutarch’s ethico-moral distinction, in his Moralia, between approved παιδεραστία and untoward παιδομανία.
Christian disparagement of παιδεραστία featured a different, but still only moral, neologism. Verb and noun inflections of paidophthoros (παιδοφθορος, ‘child/boy seducer or corrupter’) appeared in numerous early Christian, as well as anonymous Greek ascetic texts. The latter term appeared in ‘stereotyped lists’ of sins apologetically or polemically levelled against the surrounding Greco-Roman world. The epithet, turning erastia ‘love’ into phthoros ‘abuse’, was possibly ‘part of a stock arsenal of accusations to be used in debates with pagans’.
It occurs in various enumerations of sins, and it is a matter of dispute whether the word can be taken to denote all homosexuality, all seduction of youth or both.
The Constitution of the Apostles (late fourth century AD) expanded the sixth commandment on adultery with: ‘Do not abuse boys (oude paidophthoréseis): for this vice is against nature and had its beginning in Sodom […]’. Among these earliest sources to specify sex offenders against ‘youth’ are pre-ecumenical ancient church councils and synods. The Synod of Elvira (305-306 CE) says of stupratores puerorum that they ‘shall not be admitted to communion, not even on their deathbeds’.
The term Knabenschändung (Knabenschände, Knabenschänderei, Knabenschänderey) [violation of boys] cross-faded from the sixteenth to early-nineteenth century from an ecclesiastical to a medico-legal relevance, often subsumed with bestiality under the legal header of Sodomie (Sodomiterey). The term long retained its scriptural ring: the Luther Bibel and the Zürcher Bibel (both sixteenth-century) translate the arsenokoitai of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timotheus 1:10 as Knabenschänder. Although the gender-neutral term Kinderschänder ‘child violator’ is of early-eighteenth-century origin
and encountered in early-nineteenth-century legal medical textbooks, Krafft-Ebing is notably one of the first, in 1896, to use it in an indisputably psychiatric context.
Where the early Christian neologisms were intended to reframe Greek boy-love, the earliest mid-nineteenth-century psychiatric terms proposed by Heinrich Kaan (puerorum amor [boy love] or paederastia) and Claude-François Michéa (amour grec [Greek love], including male philopédie) were undistorted echoes of and direct references to ancient Greece, retaining a philological connotation of pederastic age preference.
Philopédie and Pädophilie were among the very few modern sexological terms with cognate terms actually attested in ancient Greek. Lexicographically, philopédie appears to have been the first of modernity’s philias to figure alongside the earlier monomanies érotiques [erotic monomanias].
At that time the phil-/-philus prefix/suffix was scientifically familiar in entomology (1838: Sitophilus), medicine (1828: Haemophilie) and phrenology (1815: philoprogenitiveness). Denoting a psychiatric condition, however, it carried intrusive semantic baggage. Philologically, lifelong φιλία [friendship] between men was the ideal corollary of an initial paiderastic tutorship.
The superordinate term Paraphilie, incidentally, would not be coined until 1903, and here only as a counterpoint to medicalising alternatives.
From an etymological point of view, the late-nineteenth through to twentieth century juggling of terms (philia, sex, eros, perversion, disorder, orientation) amounted to considerable Wortsalat. To mid-nineteenth-century forensic authorities, the matching of ancient terms and medico-legal cases had already proved problematic.
The ancient distinction between edifying love and problematic behaviour, specifically between Pädophilie and Päderastie, had been revived deliberately in the late 1830s by the pioneering researchers into ancient Greek sexual mores Julius Rosenbaum, Moritz Hermann Eduard Meier and Heinrich Hößli. However, like Johann Ludwig Casper, all three notably used the terms Männerschändung (Fr.: andrérastie) and Männerliebe alongside the juxtaposed terms of Knabenschändung and Knabenliebe/Paedophilie.
Right up to Krafft-Ebing’s forensic appropriation of the latter term in 1896, as evidenced in work by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, this contrast between Pädophilie (pedophily in the 1895 English translation) and Päderastie for many was still of purely philological significance and remained without definite nosological intentions.
Krafft-Ebing’s Paedophilia erotica, in this light, was a careful, but still awkward, reworking of known, indeed ancient, terms. Following French nosological terms including monomanie érotique and folie érotique [erotic madness], Krafft-Ebing coined the phrases Fetischismus eroticus in 1891 (adapting from Alfred Binet’s 1887 expression ‘fétichisme dans l’amour’, itself a diversion from fetishism’s previous anthropological uses) and Zoophilia erotica (next to Bestialität and Zooerastie) in 1894. It is in this terminological journey that Krafft-Ebing coined Pädophilia erotica in 1896 and, for purely taxonomical purposes, Gerontophilie in 1901.
3. Diagnosing Paedophilia
In texts on attentats aux moeurs [sexual offences] of the second half of the nineteenth century – by Casper
and subsequently by authorities such as Devergie, Tardieu, Pénard, Brouardel, Bernard, Toulmouche and Thoinot – virtually all attention was given to the physical and venereological (ie. evidentiary) status of child victims. While the fourth, 1887, edition of Paul Moreau’s Des Aberrations du Sens Génésique [Aberrations of the Sexual Instinct] is full of pre-adolescent nymphomaniacs and incestuous fathers and brothers, one finds moral denunciations of odieux attentats [odious crimes] but not yet a specification of offender types.
Of the Mädchenschneider [girl-cutter], Mädchenstecher [girl-stabber], and Knabengeissler [boy-flogger] cases subsequently discussed by Krafft-Ebing, some had long appealed to typological sensibilities; but they were to be subsumed under the rubric of sadism not paedophilia.
Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century evidence of slang applied to frequenters of child prostitutes, and to connoisseurship of young male beauty or girlhood innocence may be too scant to empirically consolidate a link with the kind of identity positions associated with ‘paedophile activism’, which may be traced back to the theme becoming a matter of discussion and schism in the late-1950s West-European homophile movement.
Considered symptomatologically, reports of paedophilia remain exceedingly rare and casuistic until the 1890s. In 1840, American phrenologist W. Byrd Powell mentioned a man, George Kennedy, hanged for rape of a ten-year-old girl who, according to a memorandum, while ‘standing on the drop, with the rope about his neck, […] informed the spectators that such [sexual] commerce with female children had been the governing passion of his life’.
Clinical research and organic theories of paedophilia seem to have been consolidated in, but also largely limited to, an 1864 article by Powell, discussing craniological similarities of at least five men (three executed, ‘several’ incarcerated) said to have had ‘an intemperate desire for commerce with female children’. This empirical basis confirmed Powell’s earlier impression that as ‘inveterate masturbators’, and in contrast to nymphomaniacs, such men turned out to have underdeveloped ‘organs of animal sensibility’ and overdeveloped ‘amatory organs’.
However, various independent nosological identifications of paedophilia can be seen at the close of the nineteenth century. This entails the passage from the incidental symptom of indecent behaviour to a sui generis mental affliction, that is, to an inborn, ‘primary’ orientation that is not strictly either an occasional symptom of senility, dementia, imbecility, epilepsy or an occasional corollary of alcoholism, impotence or libertine brutality. An 1881 conference paper by Freiburg psychiatry resident Ludwig Kirn, published in 1883, already offered most of this differential diagnosis, interestingly without elaborating its eponymous suggestion that heterosexual Unzucht mit Kindern unter vierzehn Jahren [indecency with a child under fourteen years], as widernatürliche Unzucht and Sodomie [sodomy], could be an expression of ‘perverse sex drive’.
In 1890, Italian sexologist Guglielmo Cantarano included ‘tendenza verso persone impuberi’ [propensity for prepubescents] in a classification of sexual aberrations, as an example of ‘perversion due to a failing sense of pleasurable reciprocity’.
In 1891, French criminal anthropologist Émile Laurent, in a short chapter on ‘les amoureux des enfants’ [child-lovers], discussed those, unlike elderly offenders and libertines, who are ‘so to say born with the passion’ and, furthermore, those whose amour slides into exclusive sexual obsession.
In that same year, in the first major monograph on homosexuality, Albert Moll would discuss ‘Neigung zu unreifen Mädchen und Knaben’ [inclination to immature girls and boys], ‘Liebe zu Kindern’ [love for children] and ‘Liebe zu Jünglinge’ [love of youths], beside ‘Neigung zu alten Männern’, as distinct perversions and ‘complications’ of that condition.
In 1893, Chicago urologist George Frank Lydston briefly mentions as warranting the term ‘sexual perversion’, ‘a class of cases where the criminal has no desire for female adults, but for female children only’.
By 1894, Spanish author José de Letamendi identified pederastia (‘amor á niños’ [love of children]) as an ‘erotic aberration’ (‘parafrodismo’ as opposed to ‘afrodismo’) distinct from homoerastia.
In 1896, French poet Marc-André Raffalovich, also explicitly located ‘l’amour des hommes pour les impubères’ [men’s love for prepubescents] outside both normal uranism and normal heterosexuality.
Von Krafft-Ebing described Pädophilia erotica provisionally as ‘eine krankhafte Disposition, eine psychosexuale Perversion’ [a morbid disposition, a psychosexual perversion] in an 1896 aetiological paper on Unzucht, excluding those ‘pubertati proximi’ from the paedophilic age range.
The term entered his textbook on psychiatry first in its sixth, 1897 edition, his Psychopathia Sexualis in the tenth German edition of 1898, the English language in that edition’s 1899 translation, the French language (as pédophilie érotique) in 1900 and the Italian language (pedofilia erotica) about 1902.
Influential medico-legal textbooks, notably dating before the first edition of Psychopathia sexualis, provided case studies Krafft-Ebing went on to consider indicative of paedophilia.
Another forensic case study, singled out by Krafft-Ebing for this purpose, dealt with an exclusive age preference for boys aged between six and twelve, with accompanying horror feminae and horror puellarum. Its authors stressed that their case evidenced an element of sensual and sentimental adoration, not just carnal interest. The patient had been generically diagnosed as ‘dégénéré atteint de perversion du sense génital’ [degenerate affected by perversion of the sexual instinct] and referred to an asile d’aliénés [insane asylum].
With his new diagnosis, Krafft-Ebing described the case a year later as ‘eine spezielle Anomalie’ ‘innerhalb des Rahmens der Homosexualität’ [a special anomaly…within the frame of homosexuality].
Early-twentieth-century comments on ‘paedophilia’ were few, and hardly deferential to Krafft-Ebing. Most psychiatrists including Kraepelin and Bleuler dedicated only a few lines to child molestation in their textbooks; both, like Freud, mentioned not sexual perversion but the older differential diagnoses of epilepsy, dementia senilis (Altersblödsinn) and mental retardation.
Havelock Ellis’s brief use of paidophilia in 1905/6, denoting a prevalent inflection of ‘erotic symbolism’, was credited neither to Krafft-Ebing nor to Saint-Paul (discussed below); Ellis would explicitly doubt the existence of a paedophilic perversion.
Auguste Forel coined a competing term – Pæderosis – in 1905, again without reference to Krafft-Ebing, to mean a ‘spezielle angeborene pathologische Anlage’ [particular congenital pathological predisposition].
Argentine physician, José Ingegnieros, also leaves Krafft-Ebing uncited where discussing a bizarre case of contemplative, ‘morbidly paedophilic’ fugue.
Krafft-Ebing briefly alluded to an associationist aetiology of the ‘eigenthümliche Art von Fetischismus…des Alters’ or ‘Altersfetischismus’ [peculiar kind of age fetishism] which he had named. He does so in an 1898 elaboration of his 1896 article.
He coined the word Gerontophilie when returning to this hypothesis in 1901, but did not discuss actual cases. In 1905, both Laurent
and Ellis described paedophilia in poorly elaborated terms of fetishism (Laurent: ‘fétichisme des juvénilités’ [juvenilities-fetishism]), neither with reference to Krafft-Ebing. More intricate theoretical approaches to age-specific attraction, as a purported dimension of either ‘psychical hermaphroditism’ or ‘psychosexual infantilism’, were being offered by Albert Moll (see below), later by early students of psychoanalysis (Hirschfeld, Otto Juliusberger, Max Marcuse) and finally in monographic studies by Wilhelm Stekel and Arthur Kronfeld. In psychoanalysis, intergenerational infatuations came to be represented as fixations of a generalised, indeed ‘civilisational’, economy of familial libidinal investments. Yet, of the five ‘complexes’ involving incestuous tendencies toward children proposed in subsequent psychoanalytic texts apropos the Oedipus and Electra complex (so named in 1910 and 1913, respectively), not one gained a psychoanalytic foothold.
The reported case load of paedophilia erotica at that time, it needs to be stressed, was small, combining those of Krafft-Ebing (about ten by 1899), Schrenck-Notzing (two), Ellis (one), Forel (one) and, avant la lettre, Laurent (two). As it appears from a late edition of his Der Hypnotismus [Hypnotism], Forel claimed acquaintance with ‘many cases’ but reported treating only one case by hypnosis (outcome ‘uncured’).
4. Age and ‘Sexual Inversion’
Typological attention to age is evident in the work of two early apologists for homosexuality, neither of whom was medically trained. In an 1869 pamphlet Karl-Maria Kertbeny made a distinction between boy-loving homosexuality native to Southern countries and man-loving homosexuality native to Northern countries.
The piece contained the coinage of the word Homosexualität. At the same time, epithets including Päderast/Knabenliebhaber [pederast/boy lover] and allegations of Knabenverführung [seduction of boys] were countered in a plea for social acceptance of adult male homosexuality.
Comparably, in his first of twelve famed pamphlets Karl Heinrich Ulrichs coined the term urnische Liebe specifically to establish a contradistinction to the popular connotation of Knabenliebe.
Ulrichs’ initial terminology had modern homosexuality emerge right out of Pausanias’ speech in Plato’s Symposium that provided the (dissenting) distinction between an inferior love belonging to Common Aphrodite (borne from Zeus and Dione) oriented toward ‘women as much as boys [paides]’ on the one hand, and on the other, a love informed by an older, ‘Heavenly’ Aphrodite (borne from Uranus) of younger men but not ‘boys before the stage when their intelligence begins to develop, which is near the time when they begin to grow a beard’.
Ulrichs’ later Urning typology, in his Memnon essays, blended a gender habitus and an age orientation schema: the Weibling loved drauci [strong young men], the Zwischen-Urning men aged between eighteen and twenty-three and the Mannling pueri [youths].
This early theoretical imbrication of gender and age preference, on the basis of a shared physical habitus between women and male youths from the perspective of the male Urning, was followed by theorists of sexual inversion of the 1890s. However, the terms themselves fell into disuse despite being used by John Addington Symonds and Havelock Ellis in the early- and mid-1890s, in the posthumous reprint of Memnon in 1898, and in allusion by Magnus Hirschfeld in the 1899, maiden issue of his Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen [Yearbook for Sexual Intermediates].
In his subsequent, 1869 pamphlets Incubus and Argonauticus, Ulrichs would further reflect on the relative incidence and pathological nature of ‘Geschlechtsneigung [Geschlechtsliebe; Geschlechtslust] zu unreifen Knaben’ [sexual inclination/love/lust directed at immature boys] in Urnings and Dionings (heterosexuals), in connection with a widely publicised forensic case (‘Fall Zastrow’) of alleged sadistic rape of a five-year-old boy in that year.
The accused apparently possessed and endorsed Ulrichs’ Memnon, and has been identified as the second person in this period, after Ulrichs, to publicly announce an attraction to men.
The case led to a sensational criminal trial and was timed so as to impact on important discussions later that year of possible reform of the Prussian anti-sodomy law. Significantly, in his discussions Ulrichs makes boy-love and man-love mutually exclusive (‘Wer Knaben liebt, liebt nicht Männer; und umgekehrt’ [Who loves boys, does not love men and vice versa]) and qualifies the former consistently as ‘krankhaft’ [morbid].
Ulrichs’ 1868/9 verdict was perhaps the earliest instance of an age-centric, rather than gender-centric, nosological conception of Knabenliebe – at least an early instance where the metaphor of disease was applied strictly on the basis of age.
An absolute schism between pathological boy-love and non-pathological, inborn man-love can thus be traced back to the earliest apologetic representations of homosexuality, and arose in the context of a criminal case, in an attempt to pre-empt popular conflations of homosexuality with violent child abuse.
The ‘Northern homosexualist’
would notably have to argue the same case for at least a century to come.
For Ellis/Symonds and later Moll, following Ulrichs, age-preference came to speak to the nascent theorem of sexual inversion, albeit briefly. Male youths shared the feminine features of women, such that only attraction to robustly adult males would indicate a complete inversion, and thus full pathology, of gendered sensibilities in males.
This symptomological significance of age is not found in Krafft-Ebing’s early Stufen-theory.
On the basis of many case studies, Moll alluded to the possibilities that age-attraction is a graded symptom of either developmental stagnation (‘Hemmung’) or even a standstill in the differentiation of sexual drive, or an admixture (‘Mischung’) of otherwise properly gendered, inborn forms of sexual receptivity (‘Komplexe von Reaktionsfähigkeiten’).
Both erotic age- and gender-preference would thus be the outcome of sexual differentiation and had the tendency to appear as ‘Mittelstufen’ [intermediate stages] or ‘psychosexuelle Übergangszustände’ [psychosexual transitional states]. Such transitional states would be the rule, not the exception. In 1899, Moll pointed out that in even in Germany ‘full sexual inversion’ – which would mean men’s attraction to men above the age of thirty – was rarer than attraction to those below twenty, and that until recent times a full degree of inversion may have been unknown – as it appeared to be in the Americas and the Orient. Here, only Knabenliebe, that is, ‘Homosexualität mit Neigung zu ganz oder halb unreifen Knaben’
[homosexuality with an inclination to completely or semi-immature boys], would have been widely acknowledged at the time.
A comparable taxonomical suggestion in mid-1890s sexology maintained that unlike innate, effeminate and ‘passivist’ (masochistic) Uranists, ‘acquired’ and ‘active pederasts, the only true pederasts, are attracted by immature youths (gytons) of feminine aspect’.
Of a half dozen loose schemas of age-specificity in erotic attraction found in the 1896–1914 period, all were occasioned by similar, mostly theoretical, attempts to differentiate between homosexuals, and mostly by authors seeking to qualify sexual inversion’s pathological status. Most prominently, they occur in writings by Georges Saint-Paul in 1896,
by Ludwig Frey (pseud?) in 1898,
in a 1904 theoretical typology by Dutch physician von Römer published under editorial care of Hirschfeld,
in a 1906 essay and 1914 book by Hirschfeld
and finally in a book on urban vice and gay subculture by Catalan pedagogue Max Bembo, published around 1912.
Only Hirschfeld’s male schema, which borrowed all terms without attribution from Krafft-Ebing and Saint-Paul, proved of some utility to twentieth-century sexologists, although it never found broad cultural resonance. Of further note, the earliest identifications of gerontophilia, which Krafft-Ebing only encountered among ‘sexual inverts’, all figured either in reference to homosexuals or as a ‘complication’ of homosexuality.
In his earlier aetiology-based typology of inverts, Saint-Paul had used the same term, paidophilie, in the same year as Krafft-Ebing, but used it in reference of a homosexual love for young éphèbes, not prepubescent enfants,
that is, as éphébophilie, a word also coined here for contrastive purposes and later to be reintroduced by Hirschfeld without attribution. Saint-Paul classified Oscar Wilde, in the year after his trials, as un inverti paidophile [a ‘paedophilic’ invert].
Moll, Krafft-Ebing and Hirschfeld all repeatedly stressed that the incidence of ‘paedophilia’ in or seduction by inverts was less, or at least not more, prevalent than among heterosexuals. Already in 1891, Moll spoke of a ‘complete analogy’. Both Hirschfeld, in 1914, and Moll, in 1921, ventured estimations of the respective incidence of age-preference categories.
These estimations honoured a by now firmly established division between the first-order category of ‘homosexuality’ and second-order questions of ‘perversion’ or age-preference. Yet, the title of one of Krafft-Ebing’s last articles – ‘Flagellatio Puerorum als Ausdruck des Larvirten Sadismus eines Paedophilen Conträrsexualen’
– illustrates the concomitant problem of describing complex cases in terms of co-morbidity, especially in relation to the increasingly arguable ‘aberration’ of sexual inversion. Was the defendant at root an invert, a paedophile, a sadist or a flagellantist? The question clearly mattered to a world in which many, including Krafft-Ebing, had begun to de-pathologise ‘sexual intermediates’. One empirical contribution to Hirschfeld’s Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen claimed that 100 out of a nonclinical sample of 550 cases of Konträrsexualismus proved to be ‘complicated’ by other ‘anomalies’ in sexual preference, about fifteen cases by ‘Pädophilie’, the latter in turn considered ‘always closely entangled with masochism-sadism’.
5. ‘Paedophilia’ and Child Sexual Abuse
There has been an elaborate early modern legal discourse on the nature of child sex offenders, but at least in England this did not include the notion of a sexual perversion.
Even by the late-1850s, Tardieu signalled out pederasty where habitually committed on boys aged six to twelve years but could at that time only provisionally refer to Kaan and Casper in considering pederasty the corollary of a possible ‘perversion morale’.
In two 1894 book chapters marking the beginning of American forensic interest in the area of under-age sex crimes, neither of the authors specified perversion in relation to offences against children, although both alluded, as Tardieu, to the emergent European availability of such a specification.
Forensic psychology of child sex offenders is of twentieth-century, particularly psychoanalytic, origin, and at first relies minimally on the notion of paedophilia.
One could ask why a specifically forensic definition of a paedophilic predilection was not forthcoming until the 1890s, despite decades of alienist and forensic study of child sex offenders. Harry Oosterhuis characterises Krafft-Ebing’s medical forensic coinage of paedophilia as coterminous with a shift which was only gradual ‘from a psychiatric perspective in which deviant sexuality was explained as a derived, episodic and more or less singular symptom of a more fundamental mental disorder, to a consideration of perversion as an integral part of a more general, autonomous and continuous sexual instinct’.
Early forensic observations on victim age were largely concerned with hypotheses at the environmental and demographic level. Tardieu correlated offender and victim age, observing a general inverse relation, an empirical ‘law’ not contradicted in research by Alexandre Lacassagne, Paul Bernard and Paul Brouardel.
For Brouardel, it fitted the suggestion that impotence was a central predisposing factor in sex offences. Lombroso connected an apparent nineteenth century rise in offences against children, as opposed to adults, not to an idiopathic perversion but to ‘insatiability with regard to pleasure in the cases of individuals of high culture, together with the abundance of opportunity’.
Alienist attention to moral offences against children into the twentieth century focused mainly on possible grounds for defendants’ reduced capacity. Defendants, for their part, were likely to cite circumstantial and incidental, not preferential, factors. Exculpatory statements were scrutinised as possible clues to the state of their mental faculties. A case of predominantly homosexual child abuse reported in 1843, for instance, had alienists puzzling over whether the defendant’s apologia – a primary school teacher referring to ‘l’exemple de Socrate et d’Alcibiade’ [the example of Socrates and Alcibiades] and contesting medical consensus about onanism – entailed ‘la corruption du cœur ou la perversion de l’intelligence’ [a corruption of the heart or a perversion of the intellect].
Legal students including Ulrichs and Krafft-Ebing spelled out that any distinct morbid sexual orientation in recidivist cases of Notzucht [rape], Unzucht [indecency], Verführung [seduction], Blutschande/Inzucht [incest] or Schamverletzung whether involving men, women or minors, would not in itself indicate mental alienation. Krafft-Ebing’s coinage of paedophilia erotica was only to supplement a long-known list of etiological factors (senility, alcoholism, epilepsy, degeneracy and mental retardation) that in themselves might, or might not (libertinism), imply diminished responsibility in sex offenders. In all of his own cases, except a seeming Platonic one, Krafft-Ebing found signs of degeneration. Still, without a third factor (neurasthenia, dementia paralytica) present, acting upon a paedophilic orientation would not suggest diminished capacity. These conclusions were affirmed by others including Von Schrenck-Notzing.
Did ‘paedophilia’ dovetail with a nascent professional inclination to psychiatricise early sexual experience? Qualifications such as ‘damage’, ‘violation’, ‘defilement’, ‘corruption’ and ‘abuse’ had long informed the linked epidemiologies of Onanie [onanism], Knabenschände and Verführung. They assumed more precise aetiological significance to psychiatrists from the mid-nineteenth century onward, in informed assumptions about acquired pederasty (by Casper, from 1852) and in Binet’s 1887 associationalist aetiology of fetishism. The broadening of this significance by Freud in 1895/6 to hysteria, obsessional neurosis and paranoia (seduction’s promotion to the status of ‘caput Nili der Neuropathologie’, in Freud’s terms) was famously dismissed by Krafft-Ebing as ‘a scientific fairy-tale’.
In other words, at the time of the naming of a paedophilic orientation, there was only a limited and disputed basis for the psychiatric relevance of sexual victimhood. ‘Paedophilia’ was clearly relevant both to narrowly-defined and expanded sexual aetiologies of mental illness, but certainly not critical.
The label did occur in the very same year as the publication of Freud’s three ‘seduction theory’ papers, a coinage suspended between Edward Tylor’s exogamy and Edward Westermarck’s incest avoidance theories and the germination of Freud’s Oedipus complex.
Freud’s rethinking of the issue has been considered ‘the central event in the discovery of psychoanalysis, both in Freud’s own account and in that of his biographers’.
In the early 1980s, historical unearthing of the abandoned ‘seduction hypothesis’ figured prominently in an epochal reassertion of that inference. Freud notably signalled out three groups of ‘seducers’: ‘nursemaids, governesses, domestic servants, and teachers’;
older children and siblings; and ‘adult strangers’. Not a single accusation of a parent or ‘paedophile’ can be identified in Freud’s published caseload at the time.
The term paedophilia does not appear in the Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (1906–18). Freud never used it in print or correspondence, and would only briefly reflect on the child as erotic object of choice in 1905.
Equally, in perhaps the earliest aetiology-centred quantitative study of child sex offenders, published in that year, the existence of any such mental disposition as paedophilia (‘eines Kinderschändungstriebes’) was considered ‘most questionable’ and no mention was made of either Krafft-Ebing or his term.
Wulffen’s voluminous textbook Der Sexualverbrecher [The Sex Offender] of 1910 still had little to add to Krafft-Ebing’s provisional, descriptive account.
In 1912 Hermann Rohleder would claim to be the first to suggest that incest could be read as a corollary of paedophilia or parthenophilia erotica, matched with the suggestion that it should be punished only where involving depravity against children.
The first to offer substantial discussions of paedophilia and gerontophilia, incidentally, had fallings-out with Freud–Moll and Stekel.
The first dedicated psychoanalytic commentaries in English appear only in 1926.
As hebephilia, a new empirical gaze on erotic age preference is seen in the mid- to late-1950s, and soon became tied to phallometry or penile plethysmography (the measurement of erectile circumference and/or volume in response to usually visual stimuli). The technique was originally developed by Czech sexologist Kurt Freund to facilitate ‘diagnosis of sexual deviation’, in particular the ‘differential diagnosis between homosexuality and heterosexuality’.
It is here, in a series of Czech articles by Freund, that both sex-preference (including homosexuality) and age-preference (including pedophilia, ephebophilia/hebephilia, and androphilia)
are first, and simultaneously, ‘diagnosed’ in a psychophysiological test. Age of attraction soon became the mobilising research parameter for phallometrists.
The mid-1960s goal was to turn a ‘supposed’ diagnosis arising from legal precedent (recidivism) and/or self-admitted preference into a ‘test diagnosis’ using ex ante age brackets. It resonated with a forensic interest in weeding out draft dodging ‘pretenders’ and more broadly with a largely clinical distinction hitherto mostly associated with homosexuality, between ‘situational’ and preferential offenders.
In the US, distinctions such as this would inform civil commitment procedures, especially from 1990, with the first ‘sexually violent predator’ law in California. It is indeed only in the 1990s – mostly the 2000s – that academic neologisms like ganyphilia, hebephilia, adolescentofilie (in Czech) and juventofilia (in Spanish) were seen aiming to designate discrete ‘paraphilias’. Chronophilia, John Money’s idiosyncratic term coined in 1986 to replace his slightly earlier classificatory nudges at ‘fixation on age disparity’ and ‘age-discrepancy paraphilia’, has remained an entirely speculative and normative gesture.
Money actively sought to populate the small ‘chronophilia’ family (coining infantophilia/nepiophilia), and repeatedly complained about the absence of terms such as twentiophilia, thirtiophilia ‘and so on’, stating that such terms would enrich ‘nosology’ and inform ‘diagnosis’ of people’s ‘lovemap’.
For a clinician highly sensitive to the medicalisation and politicisation of sex, this seems careless use of terminology: Money reported no cases and no evidence supporting the existence of a ‘chronophilic’ subgroup of paraphilias, nor data that would establish the conceptual validity of chronophilia (in evidence when ‘the paraphile’s sexuoerotic age is discordant with his/her actual chronological age and is concordant with the age of the partner’), nor, finally, did he empirically consolidate the status of ‘mental disorder’ for any so-called paraphilia (to date, paraphilias lack biomarkers).
The 2013 passage from paraphilias-as-mental-disorders to paraphilic disorders did little to solve these basic, nineteenth-century problems. If anything, the ‘lived metaphors’ of disease, trauma and therapy seem to have become more fundamental to Western responses to sex crime than ever. Greatly exceeding the boundaries of a strictly medical history, psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions (Sexualtrauma [sexual trauma]; Verdrängung [repression]) have been greeted with a massive socio-political and legal appropriation. Both in the UK and the US, this development seems traceable ‘with some precision’ to media coverage of sexual minorities and sex crimes in 1977/8.
As Simon Cole
has spelled out, ‘paedophilia’, within the resulting culture of truth-unearthing, memory-recovering and conspiracy-revealing, figures quite diffusely as a mental, institutional and cultural morbidity. Legal, psychiatric and culture-critical dimensions of the term are today rarely cleanly distinguished, surprisingly even in many legal, clinical and historical communications.