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A map of desire: multidimensional scaling of men's sexual interest in male and female children and adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2020

J. Michael Bailey
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Ray Blanchard
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Kevin J. Hsu
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
William Revelle
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Corresponding

Abstract

Background

Men sexually interested in children of a specific combination of maturity and sex tend to show some lesser interest in other categories of persons. Patterns of men's sexual interest across erotic targets' categories of maturity and sex have both clinical and basic scientific implications.

Method

We examined the structure of men's sexual interest in adult, pubescent, and prepubescent males and females using multidimensional scaling (MDS) across four datasets, using three large samples and three indicators of sexual interest: phallometric response to erotic stimuli, sexual offense history, and self-reported sexual attraction. The samples were highly enriched for men sexually interested in children and men accused of sexual offenses.

Results

Results supported a two-dimensional MDS solution, with one dimension representing erotic targets' biological sex and the other dimension representing their sexual maturity. The dimension of sexual maturity placed adults and prepubescent children on opposite ends, and pubescent children intermediate. Differences between men's sexual interest in adults and prepubescent children of the same sex were similar in magnitude to the differences between their sexual interest in adult men and women. Sexual interest in adult men was no more associated with sexual interest in boys than sexual interest in adult women was associated with sexual interest in girls.

Conclusions

Erotic targets' sexual maturity and biological sex play important roles in men's preferences, which are predictive of sexual offending. The magnitude of men's preferences for prepubescent children v. adults of their preferred sex is large.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

*

Now at: the Department of Psychological and Social Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, Abington, Abington, PA, USA.

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