No More Incest!

No More Incest!

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, heard it all, experienced it all, that’s when you discover life can get sicker, more warped, more twisted, more disgusting than you ever imagined.

I knew my husband, Rhys, had been raped multiple times by his aunt when he was an innocent four-year-old boy. I knew his rapist had been raped by her father, Rhys’ grandfather. I hoped the incest stopped there. It didn’t.

Not long after Rhys and the mother of his children divorced, he found himself in another relationship. Although they never married, Rhys and his girlfriend co-parented his children when they came for visitation. They even called her ‘Mam’. When the relationship ended, his now ex-girlfriend remained on good terms with the children.

Too good. Too warm. Much too warm.

This week we were horrified to learn that Rhys’ second-eldest son is now in a romantic relationship with the (much older) woman he once called ‘Mam’. Is it incest? In Wales, no. As far as I’m concerned, f*ck yeah it’s incest.

An incestuous family is a family that cannot look each other in the eye.

His relationship mirrors a troubling trend in today’s culture. A push to normalize and de-criminalize incest. Just two days ago, the DailyMail reported on a father who is ‘married’ to his biological daughter with whom he shares a child.

In 2016, the DailyMail reported on a mother who married her biological son, later leaving him to marry her biological daughter.

In 2015, Deutsche Welle ran a story about Endrik Wilhelm, a German lawyer actively working to legalize incest in Germany.

One isn’t entirely shocked by the incestuous relationship of actor John Barrymore, who lost his virginity to his step-mother, or actress Gloria Grahame who divorced her husband to marry his son, after committing statutory rape by sleeping with him when he was a mere thirteen years old. But I didn’t expect incest among my step-children. I thought the incest had stopped one generation ago. Instead, I find it perpetuated in the next generation.

Incest as the setting for pornography has exploded according to Rhys, who like many rape victims, finds the virtual world of sexuality safer than real-life sex. ‘It’s shocking,’ Rhys commented disgustedly one night, ‘there never used to be so much incest porn listed on Pornhub. I’ll never watch it. I hate it.’

The categories are seemingly endless.

Step-mother / step- son

Step-father / step-daughter

Step-brother / step-sister

Brother / sister

Father / daughter

Mother / son

To an incest survivor like Rhys, such videos are off-putting, disgusting and triggering. It’s comforting to discover we’re not the only ones who find this trend worrying .

In May 2015, a Pornhub user wrote, ‘Cut out the incest porn please. As it stands right now, 9 out of the top 10 most viewed videos of the week are incest porn. I fully understand that these are fictitious stories meant to highlight what some may consider a “fetish.” I find this extremely disturbing that Pornhub would cater to the idea of proliferating such a terrible idea. This needs to come to an end or at least be dealt with. It bothers me that Pornhub only takes a stand against something once it is brought to the public eye, for example; revenge porn.Take a stand against this now. It is disgusting to think that Pornhub may in fact be perpetuating a culture of incest.’

Pornhub’s Customer Service responded promptly confirming that society is getting off on the topic of incest saying, ‘These are the most viewed videos of the week, they are not hand picked.’ That much was true.

They then went on to claim, ‘Incest is also against our TOS’ which I don’t believe for a moment.

Something is wrong in a culture where Rose McGowan is applauded for speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, while the daughter Woody Allen molested has been doubted and shamed for years for speaking out against a man who’s wife is actually his step-daughter.

Sexual abuse of any kind is the worst kind of abuse. But incest is even worse, rubbing salt in the sexual abuse emotional wound. It violates the family as a whole. Breaks the bonds of trust that underpin the concept of family, teaching the incest victim that no one can be trusted, not even mom, dad, brother, sister.

An incestuous family is a family that cannot look each other in the eye. The first time I met Rhys’ extended family was years before he told me about the incest. Seeing them together, something seemed extremely strange. When each new person arrived, the other family members ignored them. No one made eye contact with each other. No one made the new arrival welcome. No one got them a chair. People drifted in and out without acknowledging each other. It was weird!

That should have tipped me off. But I never imagined the grandfatherly man in the corner was actually a rapist. It never occurred to me that the middle-aged aunt who warmly welcomed me to the family had raped MY husband.

My step-son’s incestuous relationship with his (ex) ‘step-mother’ is just the latest incestuous relationship in a family that, apparently, all slept with each other. It’s too late to right the wrongs of the past, but I won’t condone the perpetuation of incest in future generations!

My step-son and his girlfriend are not welcome in my home. I can’t look in the eyes of a woman who once slept with my husband and may very well have committed statutory rape by introducing my step-son to sex years before he came of age, years before their ‘official’ relationship began. She must live with her conscience. I cannot condone incest and live peacefully with mine.

Let’s send our families, society (and PornHub) a strong message. #nomoreincest

Photo by jmussuto

Incest Is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn. Wait, What?

Few acts are more extreme or deviant, psychologists say. And yet here we are.

Bree Mills was taking a victory lap.

While the adult film director and producer had been nominated at last year&rsquos AVN Awards, which is often referred to as the Oscars of porn, this year&rsquos ceremony was a coronation. At the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas in late January, Mills took home the top award, movie of the year, for Half His Age: A Teenage Tragedy, a film about a student-teacher relationship and a pair of raunchy step-siblings. She also won "Best New Imprint" for her company Pure Taboo, which produces films that feature, among other topics, &ldquofamily role play.&rdquo And she picked up another win for "Best Taboo Relations&rdquo&mdasha category that didn&rsquot even exist until 2015&mdashfor Dysfucktional: Blood Is Thicker Than Cum.

Incest porn, it seems, is having a moment.

"You can ask any young female performer what bookings she has this month, and she&rsquoll tell you she&rsquos playing 17 step-daughters," Whitney Wright, who&rsquos filmed three performances for Pure Taboo, told Esquire. Since she came into the industry in 2016, the majority of her roles have involved some sort of family element. "Everybody has become pretty used to it."

Incest isn't new territory for porn. And it's not just straight porn, either. In 2009, Czech studio Bel Ami's website doubled its traffic to 1.5 million monthly users, all flocking to witness the "twincest" videos of Elijah and Milo Peters&mdashthe latest in a dozen or so pairs of actual brothers to appear in gay porn together since the 1970s. But across the board, the floodgates have opened. In 2014, incest terms started showing up in Pornhub's top searches&mdash"stepmom" came in 4th place, "mom" in 5th&mdashand have been popular ever since. On the front page of Gamelink you&rsquoll find new releases like Mommy Blows Best and My Dad, Your Dad: Calm Down, There Are Enough Dads for Everyone. Nearly every popular studio now features a family-style imprint too, from Team Skeet's Sis Loves Me series to Brazzers' Mommy Got Boobs.

It&rsquos like the feeding frenzy that happened among record labels after a certain style of music broke&mdash "Get me the next Nirvana," but the horny uncle version.

From the Bible to Back to the Future, incest has been an ever-present element of storytelling, and one that has always been frowned upon. Every state in the U.S. has a prohibition against incestuous relations on the books, which explains why a significant percentage of "family role play"-style films tiptoe around actual incest. Instead, they frame characters as non-blood relations. Technically speaking, it's "fauxcest."

"Every scene I do is always a 'step,' it&rsquos never my real father," explained Riley Reid, one of the most popular adult actresses in the business. "And usually they're fairly new [relations]&mdashlike, 'my mom's new husband,' so it's not somebody who has raised me."

"I think you legally have to say, 'This is crazy, you&rsquore my step-brother' a certain number of times," Wright added. "You also have to somehow fit in there that both are over the age of 18, like, 'Now that so-and-so's back from college.'"

Production companies that don&rsquot draw such a line can run into problems legally, performers and directors I talked to explained. Some credit card companies won't even process payments for that type of material. But that hasn't stopped smaller niche outfits, or independent performers themselves, from eschewing even that disclaimer&mdashin large part because there's such a high demand.

This latest trend is just a natural progression in our society's relationship with porn, according to Paul Wright, Ph.D. of the Media School at Indiana University.

&ldquoAs types of pornography that were less common in the past&mdashfor example violence, this or that fetish&mdashbecome more and more common and easily accessible, consumers get bored by them and need the extremity and deviance upped a notch to once again become aroused and excited," says Wright. "Few sexual acts are more extreme or deviant than incest."

"Few sexual acts are more extreme or deviant than incest."

Lonnie Barbach, a doctor of clinical psychology who has written numerous books on sexuality and female sexuality in particular, echoes Wright's sentiment.

"Pornography keeps pushing the boundaries&mdashit&rsquos been doing that for a number of decades, to now where it&rsquos gotten to incest," she said. "Sex has alway been about the forbidden, and here it&rsquos just about as forbidden as you can get."


Debate about the origin of the incest taboo has often been framed as a question of whether it is based in nature or nurture.

One explanation sees the incest taboo as a cultural implementation of a biologically evolved preference for sexual partners with whom one is unlikely to share genes, since inbreeding may have detrimental outcomes. The most widely held hypothesis proposes that the so-called Westermarck effect discourages adults from engaging in sexual relations with individuals with whom they grew up. The existence of the Westermarck effect has achieved some empirical support. [2]

Another school argues that the incest prohibition is a cultural construct which arises as a side effect of a general human preference for group exogamy, which arises because intermarriage between groups construct valuable alliances that improve the ability for both groups to thrive. According to this view, the incest taboo is not necessarily universal, but is likely to arise and become more strict under cultural circumstances that favour exogamy over endogamy, and likely to become more lax under circumstances that favor endogamy. This hypothesis has also achieved some empirical support. [ citation needed ]

Limits to biological evolution of taboo Edit

While it is theoretically possible that natural selection may, under certain genetic circumstances, select for individuals that instinctively avoid mating with (close) relatives, biological evolution cannot select for punishing others for incest, since even genetically weakened, inbred individuals are better watchposts against predators than none at all, and weak individuals are useful for the stronger individuals in the group as looking out for predators without being able to seriously compete with the stronger individuals. [3] [4] [ dubious – discuss ] Punishing both parties in an incestous relation cannot even be beneficial for the genes of individuals punishing a somewhat more distant relative for mating with a closer relative, since punishing the closer relative as well is counterproductive to any function of protecting the closer relative and the health of its offspring (in a context where predation and starvation are significant factors, as opposed to a rich welfare state). [5] [6] Genetic sexual attraction theory is also incompatible with the theory of smell being a significant factor in avoiding inbreeding. [7]

Modern anthropology developed at a time when a great many human societies were illiterate, and much of the research on incest taboos has taken place in societies without legal codes, and, therefore, without written laws concerning marriage and incest. Nevertheless, anthropologists have found that the institution of marriage, and rules concerning appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior, exist in every society. [8] The following excerpt from Notes and Queries on Anthropology (1951), a well-established field manual for ethnographic research, illustrates the scope of ethnographic investigation into the matter:

Incest is sexual intercourse between individuals related in certain prohibited degrees of kinship. In every society there are rules prohibiting incestuous unions, both as to sexual intercourse and recognized marriage. The two prohibitions do not necessarily coincide. There is no uniformity as to which degrees are involved in the prohibitions. The rules regulating incest must be investigated in every society by means of the genealogical method. The prohibition may be so narrow as to include only one type of parent–child relationship (though this is very rare), or those within the elementary family or so wide as to include all with whom genealogical or classificatory kinship can be traced. The more usual practice is that unions with certain relatives only are considered incestuous, the relationships being regulated by the type of descent emphasized. In some societies unions with certain persons related by affinity are also considered incestuous. What penalties fall on (a) the individuals concerned (b) the community as a whole? Are such penalties enforced by authority, or are they believed to ensure automatically by all action of supernatural force? Is there any correlation between the severity of the penalty and the nearness of the blood-tie of the partners in guilt? Should children be born as the result of incestuous unions, how are they treated? Are there any methods, ritual or legal, by which persons who fall within the prohibited degrees and wish to marry can break the relationship and become free to marry? [9]

As this excerpt suggests, anthropologists distinguish between social norms and actual social behavior much social theory explores the difference and relationship between the two. For example, what is the purpose of prohibitions that are routinely violated (as for example when people claim that incest is taboo yet engage in incestuous behavior)?

It should be further noted that in these theories anthropologists are generally concerned solely with brother–sister incest, and are not claiming that all sexual relations among family members are taboo or even necessarily considered incestuous by that society. These theories are further complicated by the fact that in many societies people related to one another in different ways, and sometimes distantly, are classified together as siblings, and others who are just as closely related genetically are not considered family members.

Moreover, the definition restricts itself to sexual intercourse this does not mean that other forms of sexual contact do not occur, or are proscribed, or prescribed. For example, in some Inuit societies in the Arctic, and traditionally in Bali, mothers would routinely stroke the penises of their infant sons such behavior was considered no more sexual than breast-feeding. [10] [11]

It should also be noted that, in these theories, anthropologists are primarily concerned with marriage rules and not actual sexual behavior. In short, anthropologists were not studying "incest" per se they were asking informants what they meant by "incest", and what the consequences of "incest" were, in order to map out social relationships within the community.

This excerpt also suggests that the relationship between sexual and marriage practices is complex, and that societies distinguish between different sorts of prohibitions. In other words, although an individual may be prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with many people, different sexual relations may be prohibited for different reasons, and with different penalties.

For example, Trobriand Islanders prohibit both sexual relations between a woman and her brother, [12] and between a woman and her father, [13] but they describe these prohibitions in very different ways: relations between a woman and her brother fall within the category of forbidden relations among members of the same clan relations between a woman and her father do not. [13] This is because the Trobrianders are matrilineal children belong to the clan of their mother and not of their father. Thus, sexual relations between a man and his mother's sister (and mother's sister's daughter) are also considered incestuous, but relations between a man and his father's sister are not. [14] A man and his father's sister will often have a flirtatious relationship, and, far from being taboo, Trobriand society encourages a man and his father's sister or the daughter of his father's sister to have sexual relations or marry. [15]

Instinctual and genetic explanations Edit

An explanation for the taboo is that it is due to an instinctual, inborn aversion that would lower the adverse genetic effects of inbreeding such as a higher incidence of congenital birth defects (see article Inbreeding depression). Since the rise of modern genetics, belief in this theory has grown. [16] [17] [18] [19] [ failed verification ]

Birth defects and inbreeding Edit

The increase in frequency of birth defects often attributed to inbreeding results directly from an increase in the frequency of homozygous alleles inherited by the offspring of inbred couples. [20] This leads to an increase in homozygous allele frequency within a population, and results in diverging effects. Should a child inherit the version of homozygous alleles responsible for a birth defect from its parents, the birth defect will be expressed on the other hand, should the child inherit the version of homozygous alleles not responsible for a birth defect, it would actually decrease the ratio of the allele version responsible for the birth defect in that population. The overall consequences of these diverging effects depends in part on the size of the population.

In small populations, as long as children born with inheritable birth defects die (or are killed) before they reproduce, the ultimate effect of inbreeding will be to decrease the frequency of defective genes in the population over time, the gene pool will be healthier. However, in larger populations, it is more likely that large numbers of carriers will survive and mate, leading to more constant rates of birth defects. [21] Besides recessive genes, there are also other reasons why inbreeding may be harmful, such as a narrow range of certain immune systems genes in a population increasing vulnerability to infectious diseases (see Major histocompatibility complex and sexual selection). The biological costs of incest also depend largely on the degree of genetic proximity between the two relatives engaging in incest. This fact may explain why the cultural taboo generally includes prohibitions against sex between close relatives but less often includes prohibitions against sex between more distal relatives. [22] Children born of close relatives have decreased survival. [18] [19] Many mammal species, including humanity's closest primate relatives, avoid incest. [2]

Westermarck effect Edit

The Westermarck effect, first proposed by Edvard Westermarck in 1891, is the theory that children reared together, regardless of biological relationship, form a sentimental attachment that is by its nature non-erotic. [23] Melford Spiro argued that his observations that unrelated children reared together on Israeli Kibbutzim nevertheless avoided one another as sexual partners confirmed the Westermarck effect. [24] Joseph Shepher in a study examined the second generation in a kibbutz and found no marriages and no sexual activity between the adolescents in the same peer group. This was not enforced but voluntary. Looking at the second generation adults in all kibbutzim, out of a total of 2769 marriages, none were between those of the same peer group. [25]

However, according to a book review by John Hartung of a book by Shepher, out of 2516 marriages documented in Israel, 200 were between couples reared in the same kibbutz. These marriages occurred after young adults reared on kibbutzim had served in the military and encountered tens of thousands of other potential mates, and 200 marriages is higher than what would be expected by chance. Of these 200 marriages, five were between men and women who had been reared together for the first six years of their lives, which would argue against the Westermarck effect. [26]

A study in Taiwan of marriages where the future bride is adopted in the groom's family as an infant or small child found that these marriages have higher infidelity and divorce and lower fertility than ordinary marriages it has been argued that this observation is consistent with the Westermarck effect. [27]

Third-parties' objections Edit

Another approach is looking at moral objections to third-party incest. This increases the longer a child has grown up together with another child of the opposite sex. This occurs even if the other child is genetically unrelated. [19] Humans have been argued to have a special kin detection system that besides the incest taboo also regulates a tendency towards altruism towards kin. [28]

Counter arguments Edit

One objection against an instinctive and genetic basis for the incest taboo is that incest does occur. [29] [30] [31] Anthropologists have also argued that the social construct "incest" (and the incest taboo) is not the same thing as the biological phenomenon of "inbreeding". For example, there is equal genetic relation between a man and the daughter of his father's sister and between a man and the daughter of his mother's sister, such that biologists would consider mating incestuous in both instances, but Trobrianders consider mating incestuous in one case and not in the other. Anthropologists have documented a great number of societies where marriages between some first cousins are prohibited as incestuous, while marriages between other first cousins are encouraged. Therefore, it is argued that the prohibition against incestuous relations in most societies is not based on or motivated by concerns over biological closeness. [32] Other studies on cousin marriages have found support for a biological basis for the taboo. [33] [34] [35] Also, current supporters of genetic influences on behavior do not argue that genes determine behavior absolutely, but that genes may create predispositions that are affected in various ways by the environment (including culture). [36]

Steve Stewart-Williams argues against the view that incest taboo is a Western phenomenon, arguing that while brother-sister marriage was reported in a diverse range of cultures such Egyptian, Incan, and Hawaiian cultures, it was not a culture-wide phenomenon, being largely restricted to the upper classes. Stewart-Williams argues that these marriages were largely political (their function being to keep power and wealth concentrated in the family) and there is no evidence the siblings were attracted to each other and there is in fact some evidence against it (for example, Cleopatra married two of her brothers but did not have children with them, only having children with unrelated lovers). Stewart-Williams suggests that this was therefore simply a case of social pressure overriding anti-incest instincts. Stewart-Williams also observes that anti-incest behaviour has been observed in other animals and even many plant species (many plants could self-pollinate but have mechanisms that prevent them from doing so). [37]

Sociological explanations Edit

Psychoanalytic theory—in particular, the claimed existence of an Oedipus complex, which is not an instinctual aversion against incest but an instinctual desire—has influenced many theorists seeking to explain the incest taboo using sociological theories. [2]

Exogamy Edit

The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss developed a general argument for the universality of the incest taboo in human societies. His argument begins with the claim that the incest taboo is in effect a prohibition against endogamy, and the effect is to encourage exogamy. Through exogamy, otherwise unrelated households or lineages will form relationships through marriage, thus strengthening social solidarity. That is, Lévi-Strauss views marriage as an exchange of women between two social groups. This theory is based in part on Marcel Mauss's theory of The Gift, which (in Lévi-Strauss' words) argued:

that exchange in primitive societies consists not so much in economic transactions as in reciprocal gifts, that these reciprocal gifts have a far more important function than in our own, and that this primitive form of exchange is not merely nor essentially of an economic nature but is what he aptly calls "a total social fact", that is, an event which has a significance that is at once social and religious, magic and economic, utilitarian and sentimental, jural and moral. [38]

It is also based on Lévi-Strauss's analysis of data on different kinship systems and marriage practices documented by anthropologists and historians. Lévi-Strauss called attention specifically to data collected by Margaret Mead during her research among the Arapesh. When she asked if a man ever sleeps with his sister, Arapesh replied: "No we don't sleep with our sisters. We give our sisters to other men, and other men give us their sisters." Mead pressed the question repeatedly, asking what would happen if a brother and sister did have sex with one another. Lévi-Strauss quotes the Arapesh response:

What, you would like to marry your sister? What is the matter with you anyway? Don't you want a brother-in-law? Don't you realize that if you marry another man's sister and another man marries your sister, you will have at least two brothers-in-law, while if you marry your own sister you will have none? With whom will you hunt, with whom will you garden, who will you visit? [39]

By applying Mauss's theory to data such as Mead's, Lévi-Strauss proposed what he called alliance theory. He argued that, in "primitive" societies, marriage is not fundamentally a relationship between a man and a woman, but a transaction involving a woman that forges a relationship—an alliance—between two men. [40] His Elementary Structures of Kinship takes this as a starting point and uses it to analyze kinship systems of increasing complexity found in so-called primitive societies (that is, those not based on agriculture, class inequalities, and centralized government). [ citation needed ]

This theory was debated intensely by anthropologists in the 1950s. It appealed to many because it used the study of incest taboos and marriage to answer more fundamental research interests of anthropologists at the time: how can an anthropologist map out the social relationships within a given community, and how do these relationships promote or endanger social solidarity? [41] [42] Nevertheless, anthropologists never reached a consensus, and with the Vietnam War and the process of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, anthropological interests shifted away from mapping local social relationships. [ citation needed ]

Some anthropologists argue that nuclear family incest avoidance can be explained in terms of the ecological, demographic, and economic benefits of exogamy. [43]

While Lévi-Strauss generally discounted the relevance of alliance theory in Africa, a particularly strong concern for incest is a fundamental issue among the age systems of East Africa. Here, the avoidance between men of an age-set and their daughters is altogether more intense than in any other sexual avoidance. Paraphrasing Lévi-Strauss's argument, without this avoidance, the rivalries for power between age-sets, coupled with the close bonds of sharing between age-mates, could lead to a sharing of daughters as spouses. Young men entering the age system would then find a dire shortage of marriageable girls, and extended families would be in danger of dying out. Thus, by parading this avoidance of their daughters, senior men make these girls available for younger age-sets and their marriages form alliances that mitigate the rivalries for power. [44]

Endogamy Edit

Exogamy between households or descent groups is typically prescribed in classless societies. Societies that are stratified—that is, divided into unequal classes—often prescribe different degrees of endogamy. Endogamy is the opposite of exogamy it refers to the practice of marriage between members of the same social group. A classic example is India's caste system, in which unequal castes are endogamous. [45] Inequality between ethnic groups and races also correlates with endogamy. [46]

An extreme example of this principle, and an exception to the incest taboo, is found among members of the ruling class in certain ancient states, such as the Inca, Egypt, China, and Hawaii brother–sister marriage (usually between half-siblings) was a means of maintaining wealth and political power within one family. [47] Some scholars have argued that in Roman-governed Egypt this practice was also found among commoners, [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] but others have argued that this was in fact not the norm. [55] [56] [57]

Not all incest is abuse

Forum rules
You are entering a forum that contains discussions of abuse, some of which are explicit in nature. The topics discussed may be triggering to some people. Please be aware of this before entering this forum. If you are posting about actions of yours which you feel are/were abusive please post about this in The Remorse Forum. If you have been falsely accused of abusing someone please post in the For Those Falsely Accused of Abusing thread.

Please also note that discussions about Incest in this forum are only in relation to abuse. Discussions about Incest in a non-abusive context are not allowed at PsychForums.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Not all incest is abuse

by BrotherHobo » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:36 pm

For years homosexuality was considered a mental illness. People who practiced BDSM or other fetishist sexual practices were considered sexual perverts. Today, we are struggling with gay marriage and all the other civil rights that married heterosexual people enjoy.

Incest has existed from the start. The very fact that an incest taboo exists at all indicates that it was a common thing in society. History is rife with stories of romantic relationships between family members. There are the obvious problems of genetic anomalies if children result from a first-tier incestual relationship, but the risk is only a few percentage points higher than a mother over 40. Genetic anomalies can result from many things. We don't criminalize people with a high risk for Tay-Sachs, or cystic fibrosis, or neurofibromatosis, so why is society so obsessed with the genetic risks of incest? We have birth control. We have vasectomies and tubal ligation. We have intrauterine genetic testing like amniocentesis. The
"deformed babies" argument no longer holds water, and truthfully, never did.

People involved in consensual incestuous relationships roughly occupy the same territory that homosexuals did in the 1950's. Millions of people are incestuous, but very few talk about it, nobody admits it, and the "ick" factor from society is punitive and harmful. Incest relationships exist in a sort of secret, "underground" world, but the vast majority of consensual incest couples are completely isolated and marginalized by the rest of society. The only relationships that are coming aboveground are the abusive, harmful ones. Rape is rape, regardless of the familial relationship between the persons involved, but it is completely inappropriate to designate every incestuous relationship as "abusive." I believe that while there should be a place for the victims of incestuous sexual abuse to discuss their trauma, there ALSO should be a place for non-abusive, consensual, ADULT people involved in an incestuous relationship to discuss the issues unique to incest. (This is NOT about rape, child abuse or sexual exploitation. I am talking about ADULT, CONSENSUAL incest.)

In particular, brother-sister "sibling" incest is very common in society, and has been estimated at about 2.5% of the population. If these polls are accurate, that would indicate that over seven million Americans are or have been involved in some type of incestuous relationship. There is a sort of "therapeutic prejudice and censorship" going on that automatically categorizes every incestuous relationship as traumatic and harmful, and the result is that people involved in incest are afraid to seek therapy for anything, for fear of being denounced to the police by "well-meaning" therapists who think they have the right and authority to make decisions about other people's lives. They think that they know what's right for everybody else, and feel justified in trying to suppress what they believe to be a negative behavior. Even discussion of incest that is not condemning and pejorative is censored off forums just like this one. People involved in incest are just like everybody else, with the single exception of with whom they fell in love. It's time to repeal criminal penalties for adult, consensual incest and let genetically-related people make their own choices, just as homosexuals do, or BDSM fetishists do, or anybody else.


Re: Not all incest is abuse

by HesDeltanCaptain » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:59 pm

Agreed. Interestingly, even the Bible condones some incestuous pairings like uncle-niece, aunt-nephew, and 1st cousins. One ultra-orthodox rabbi in particular says such unions are especially blessed:

"Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Marrying a Niece or Cousin

Dear Rabbi Brody, am I allowed according to Halacha to marry my niece or my cousin? Would there be any medical or genetic dangers? Thank you, NK from the Great Neck area

Your superb question is mentioned in the Gemara, tractate Yevamot, 62b, on the bottom of the page. Indeed, our sages both encourage and bless anyone that marries a niece."

That's the Jewish side of it. For more approval look at European monarchies and royal familes. Polynesians and Hawaiis are another group, plus the Japanese are all big proponents of incest. And as you said, with modern birth control, and I'd add genetic screening, risks of birth defects can be all but made neglible. It's really just a taboo born out of ignorance of the facts. When you can't even wave the Bible in the air, just how far from the pack have you strayed?

Re: Not all incest is abuse

by BrotherHobo » Sat Nov 16, 2013 4:34 pm

I don't want to stray too far off the topic here, but I must admit, that while I am a Christian and think that I ought to live a Christian life, that is a personal choice. I do not think any one moral viewpoint ought to be codified in law. For instance, millions of Americans are vegans, and are morally opposed to eating animals. They feel quite passionately about it, and they have many excellent arguments about dietary health, the cruelty of slaughterhouses and so on, but eating meat is legal and should remain legal. (Not to say that we shouldn't work to improve diet, slaughterhouse conditions and so on.)

Only one state in the U.S. repealed it's laws against incest, and that is New Jersey, of all places. They retained laws that protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, of course, and laws against sexual assault. New Jersey does not permit incestuous marriage, of course, but they aren't going to be prosecuting any brother-sister or uncle-niece couples over the age of 18. Laws do not prevent behavior. We have millions of people in the U.S. who use illegal drugs. They know that it is illegal, and they just don't care. Threatening them with life in prison (this is actual fact) for trafficking in cocaine, or meth or heroin doesn't seem to mean a thing. They do it anyway.

The most common type of incestuous relationship, by far, is brother-sister. In most cases what happens is that the siblings fall in love as teenagers, then individually move far away from their family and reunite as a couple in another city where nobody knows them. Since they already share the same last name (usually), they don wedding rings and so far as the world knows, they are just another married couple. In some cases, where the woman was married before, or in the case of step-siblings, they have different last names, and they just become another anonymous co-habiting couple. Like polygamous families, essentially they "hide in plain sight." If they tell nobody the true nature of their familial relationship and do not get pregnant, or if they do have a baby, they do it through a mid-wife or some other way outside of a hospital and it's laboratory testing, no one is the wiser.

I have actually known two persons in my professional life who were the product of first-tier incest. Both were from father-daughter relationships where the daughter was a teenager, and both cases were abusive, non-consensual incest. In one case, the child was free of genetic anomalies, in the other the child had some minor problems that may or may not have been caused by the incestuous relationship (i.e., they might have occurred even if the parents were not related.) Obviously, anyone involved in consensual incest should be using an effective form of birth control.

Since consensual sibling incest is by far the most common, and according to statistics, the type least likely to cause psychological trauma, it stands to reason that it should be the first type considered for decriminalization. The issue here is not the actual incest, because that is already occurring, and is not stopped by it being criminal. The issue here, the crux of decriminalization, is the 'permission' implied, the 'acceptance' implied, by repealing the laws against incest. Consensual incest is probably going to happen anyway--it is, after all, a relationship conducted secretly -- but it makes a criminal offense a private matter, like smoking marijuana is in some states. (I don't smoke pot, and even if it were 100% legal I still wouldn't smoke it, but decriminalizing it does remove some of the stigma involved in "soft" drug use.)

12 Real Life Incest Stories That Are Shocking

Mackenzie Philips, 57, is an American actress who is known for playing important roles in many famous 70s movies and TV shows like "American Graffiti," "One Day at a Time," etc. In 2009, she shocked the world when she admitted to having a consensual incestuous relationship with her dad, John Phillips. John Phillips a.k.a. Papa John was a famous American singer and songwriter. He was the lead vocalist of the popular folk-rock band, "The Mamas & the Papas." Sometime in the late 1970s, he raped his daughter while she was under the influence of drugs. Mackenzie was upset with what happened, and she even confronted his dad about the rape. Her father insisted that he had not abused her, but just made love to her. She was a troubled teen battling drug addiction back then, and she even lost her role in "One Day at a Time" because of drugs. She then traveled with his dad's music group, "The Mamas & the Papas," for ten years, a period when she frequently had sex with her dad.

David Epstein is a top-league Colombian professor who in the past lectured at prestigious educational institutions like Harvard University. He also contributed to The Huffington Post as a contributing blogger. In 2010, he was arrested by Colombian police on the charges of third-degree incest. Between 2006 and 2009, he had an inappropriate sexual affair with his own daughter, who was 24 years old at that time. It was unknown how the police came to know about the relationship. It was said to be a consensual affair.

'Incest Porn' Is on the Rise, And These Are the Reasons Why

Back in January, we told you about the 6 biggest porn trends we’d be seeing throughout the year, and one of the most notable of those was the growing popularity of fake incest porn, also known as “fauxcest,” and how it’s going to be one of the top porn genres in 2018.

This is interesting, considering incest is a huuuge taboo and most cultures have prohibitions against incest, and how most people gag and/or shudder at the thought of having sex with an immediate family member. Even in Game of Thrones when we first saw Jaime and Cersei get it on, fans were more or less repulsed (though we got used it later on).

To illustrate just how exponentially popular incest porn is becoming, here are some studies to take into consideration. A report by adult content provider uncovered an average increase in the consumption of “family role-play porn” of 178 percent between October 2014 and January 2015, with the highest increases observed in Utah with 765 percent, Michigan with 698 percent, New York with 669 percent, Alaska with 524 percent, and Arkansas with 452 percent.

Furthermore, a 2013 analysis called Deep Inside: A Study of 10,000 Porn Stars and Their Careers found that out of 20 of the most common female roles in porn, the sixth most common is “daughter,” and the tenth is “sister.”

“Family roleplay themes and voyeuristic 'almost caught' scenarios were among the most popular online and within my brands,” head of production at Gamma Films Group, Bree Mills, told Men’s Health at the AVN Awards.

Speaking with Esquire, Dr. Paul Wright of Indiana University explains: “As types of pornography that were less common in the past—for example violence, this or that fetish—become more and more common and easily accessible, consumers get bored by them and need the extremity and deviance upped a notch to once again become aroused and excited. Few sexual acts are more extreme or deviant than incest."

But even though the greater majority of the population say they think incest porn is downright distasteful and frankly quite gross, why is it so explosively popular? What’s going on?

“Intimacy between step-relations is very taboo in contemporary US culture, and yet many people live in step-blended families,” sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals told Vice. “There's something about stimuli for such a highly taboo topic simultaneously being so commonplace that may resonate with some people. In terms of 'why now,' certainly technology, accessibility, and the availability of the content itself all play a part."

So, from this, we can conclude that taboo things are exciting and arousing, which is absolutely accurate. There's just something about the impermissible that makes it mind-numbingly hot for the creative powers of the human mind.

(Photo: NorthPole Entertainment)

Elaborating further, porn star Tasha Reign says: "People love taboo. People are aroused by things that they 'shouldn't' be aroused by. There's a lot of shame and guilt in watching it, but there shouldn't be because it's a fantasy, and you leave it in your bedroom. It's exciting that people are being able to explore themselves a bit more, even if it's just at home through a movie.”

"A lot of the fauxcest boom is a reflection of what our preoccupations are in mainstream society," another porn star, Dana Vespoli, told Mic. "But because of what people typically do when they watch this content (i.e. masturbate), it's a more primitive response. People are fighting against whatever rigid boundaries are in their lives. It's the need to break against convention and feel free in a safe and legal place."

But aside from the cultural aspects of what makes incest porn so popular, we still don't know the psychological underpinnings of why it's so endearing. which is where some hard science comes in.

We know Sigmund Freud had his theories on repressed incestuous urges, but most of those theories were discredited over the years, even though his lexicon is still a massive part of our daily vocabulary. But that’s beside the point.

Freud believed incest wouldn’t be such a serious cultural taboo if people weren’t sexually attracted to relatives in the first place, and recent scientific evidence actually suggests he was at least partially right about familial attraction. We are somewhat attracted to people who resemble us.

"I told you so." -Sigmund Freud

However, other studies suggest humans have an innate repulsion to incest: 19th century sociologist Edward Westermarck argued that we have an evolutionary biological mechanism to help us avoid incest, because mating with someone who shares a genetic profile too similar to yours (like a sibling or parent) leads to producing offspring with serious genetic abnormalities, which does nothing to help the survival instincts we’re biologically wired with.

That said, other scientists have also argued that we subconsciously use biological cues to estimate the relatedness of those around us, and if the relatedness is assumed to be too high, the very thought of any sexual relations with the person triggers innate incest avoidance mechanisms, a.k.a. disgust.

Now, when it comes to incest porn, though, it's not actual incest, so it doesn't tap into any of the incest avoidance mechanisms. It's just role-play where two unrelated porn stars play into the darker side of your imagination, thereby fulfilling your forbidden thoughts, which are the thoughts you have that are contrary to social customs and your own moral principles.

And since incest porn is 1) not real incest, and 2) frowned upon in the real world, many people enjoy masturbating to it. In other words, it has the ultimate taboo factor that pushes boundaries without going overboard, making it devilishly satisfying to those who are into it.

"The industry does these movies because that's what sells," says Dan O'Connell, founder of Girlfriends Films. "And, very simply, they sell for their taboo factor."

What is covert incest?

Covert incest occurs when a parent or caregiver relies on a child for support that a romantic partner would typically give. Another name for it is “emotional incest.” It does not involve sexual abuse.

The word “covert” refers to the fact that this type of incest is often less noticeable and more difficult to identify than incest that involves sexual abuse.

In this article, we describe covert incest in more detail, provide examples of behavior that may indicate covert incest, and look at its impact on children and young people involved.

According to the American Psychological Association, covert incest is a type of emotional abuse. It occurs when a parent or caregiver consistently violates the normal boundaries between themselves and a child. Therapists sometimes call this emotional incest or “enmeshment.”

In an emotionally incestuous relationship, a caregiver depends on a child for support. This reverses the norms of parenthood and means that the child has to prioritize the needs of the adult.

In some cases, the adult treats the child as if they are a romantic partner. However, what makes covert incest distinct from other types is that no sexual contact is involved.

Emotional incest is also different from a parent or caregiver and child having a close relationship. In cases of covert incest, closeness results from the adult prioritizing their needs over those of the child, harming the child’s well-being.

The following examples come from anecdotal reports from people who have experienced covert incest. A parent or caregiver may be engaged in this behavior if they:

  • Rely on a child for support: This may include confiding in them about their relationship problems, looking to them for comfort or reassurance, or asking the child for advice that is inappropriate for their age.
  • Put their needs before the child’s: The caregiver may expect frequent praise and affection from the child or wish to feel that they are the most important thing in the child’s life, at the expense of the child’s other relationships.
  • Invade the child’s privacy: This may involve invading the child’s personal space frequently or preventing the child from having a space of their own. The caregiver may also do things that make the child feel uncomfortable, such as ignoring the child’s wish for privacy when they are nude or being nude around the child.
  • Treat the child like a romantic partner: This could involve the caregiver taking the child on dates, discussing their sexual experiences, or inappropriately commenting on the child’s body or appearance. The caregiver may also insist that the child call them names typically reserved for adult partners.
  • Feel jealous of the child’s relationships: When the child becomes an adult, the parent or caregiver may become jealous of their romantic relationships. They may compete for attention, intrude, or attempt to sabotage them.

A caregiver does not have to do all of these things to engage in covert incest. A relationship is covertly incestuous if there is a consistent lack of parent-child boundaries.

Caregivers who engage in this behavior may not realize that it is harmful. The child involved may feel that the relationship is simply special or that it cannot be abusive because it does not involve sexual contact.

Health experts do not know how common covert incest is, and little research on its effects exists. However, psychologists in this field claim that the impact on their clients is similar to that of physical incest.

In his book Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners, psychologist Kenneth M. Adams states that covert incest can cause:

  • a love-hate relationship with the caregiver
  • feelings of abandonment toward other parents or caregivers who have left the household or are allowing the behavior to continue
  • difficulty identifying and fulfilling personal needs because the person is so used to caring for others
  • feeling inadequate and unworthy
  • sexual dysfunction
  • compulsive behavior or addiction
  • difficulty forming lasting intimate relationships

Since the publication of this book, researchers have developed the Childhood Emotional Incest Scale (CEIS), which aims to measure how covert incest affected a person during their childhood.

According to the Journal of Counseling Psychology, high scores on the CEIS accurately predict increased anxiety and lower levels of life satisfaction.

Because there has been little research on covert or emotional incest, its causes are not well-understood.

However, anecdotal evidence from therapists suggests that covert incest often occurs when a parent’s or caregiver’s emotional needs are not being met by a partner or spouse. This may be due to:

  • relationship dysfunction or breakdown
  • infidelity
  • divorce
  • abandonment
  • bereavement
  • domestic abuse

As a misguided attempt to cope, the caregiver may turn to their child for comfort. Mental health conditions and substance abuse may also contribute.

If the caregiver experienced covert incest when they were young, they may repeat the same pattern of behavior, believing it to be normal.

It may take a long time for someone to recognize the full impact of the caregiver’s behavior. A person may idealize the parent or caregiver involved and struggle to accept that the relationship was not healthy.

However, acknowledging covert incest is essential for recovery. This is especially true because people often blame themselves for their parent’s or caregiver’s behavior. It is important to recognize that no form of incest is ever the child’s fault.

Steps a person can take to begin healing from covert incest include:

  • Having therapy: A qualified therapist can help someone understand what happened to them during childhood and provide a judgment-free space for them to talk about it. Therapists can also help people adjust their ideas about what healthy relationships look like.
  • Joining a support group: Some people find it beneficial to communicate with others who have had similar experiences. Support groups can also help people recognize unhealthy patterns of behavior and so reduce the power that their parent or caregiver has over them.
  • Establishing boundaries: If an adult child is still in contact with their parent or caregiver, they may need to establish healthier boundaries. An individual may also need to practice setting boundaries with other people, such as romantic partners, friends, or their own children.
  • Taking medication: If a person who has experienced covert incest has depression or anxiety, medication may help manage the symptoms.

For anyone who believes that they may have experienced emotional incest, help is available.

An adult can seek support from a therapist in person or remotely, such as via phone or video call. If a person wants to discuss covert incest specifically, it is a good idea to look for a therapist with experience in this area.

Mental health treatment may be especially beneficial for people who also have depression, anxiety, or a substance abuse disorder.

Covert incest, or emotional incest, occurs when a parent or caregiver relies on a child for the support that an adult partner would usually provide. They may also treat the child like a romantic partner.

Covert incest is different from physical incest because it does not involve sexual abuse. But it, too, causes harm. According to some psychologists, covert incest and physical incest have similar effects and prevent children from learning how to form healthy boundaries.

A therapist with knowledge of covert incest or enmeshment may be able to help someone understand their caregiver’s behavior, its effects, and how to begin to move forward.


Oedipus refers to a 5th-century BC Greek mythological character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother, Jocasta. A play based on the myth, Oedipus Rex, was written by Sophocles, ca. 429 BC.

Modern productions of Sophocles' play were staged in Paris and Vienna in the 19th century and were phenomenally successful in the 1880s and 1890s. The Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), attended. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams first published in 1899, he proposed that an Oedipal desire is a universal, psychological phenomenon innate (phylogenetic) to human beings, and the cause of much unconscious guilt. Freud believed that the Oedipal sentiment has been inherited through the millions of years it took for humans to evolve from apes. [9] He based this on his analysis of his feelings attending the play, his anecdotal observations of neurotic or normal children, and on the fact that Oedipus Rex was effective on both ancient and modern audiences. (He also claimed that the play Hamlet "has its roots in the same soil as Oedipus Rex", and that the differences between the two plays are revealing. "In [Oedipus Rex] the child's wishful fantasy that underlies it is brought into the open and realized as it would be in a dream. In Hamlet it remains repressed and—just as in the case of a neurosis—we only learn of its existence from its inhibiting consequences.") [10] [11]

However, in The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud makes it clear that the "primordial urges and fears" that are his concern and the basis of the Oedipal complex are inherent in the myths the play by Sophocles is based on, not primarily in the play itself, which Freud refers to as a "further modification of the legend" that originates in a "misconceived secondary revision of the material, which has sought to exploit it for theological purposes". [12] [13] [14]

Freud described the character Oedipus:

A six-stage chronology of Sigmund Freud's theoretic evolution of the Oedipus complex is:

  • Stage 1. 1897–1909. After his father's death in 1896, and having seen the play Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, Freud begins using the term "Oedipus". As Freud wrote in an 1897 letter, "I found in myself a constant love for my mother, and jealousy of my father. I now consider this to be a universal event in early childhood.
  • Stage 2. 1909–1914. Proposes that Oedipal desire is the "nuclear complex" of all neuroses first usage of "Oedipus complex" in 1910.
  • Stage 3. 1914–1918. Considers paternal and maternal incest.
  • Stage 4. 1919–1926. Complete Oedipus complex identification and bisexuality are conceptually evident in later works.
  • Stage 5. 1926–1931. Applies the Oedipal theory to religion and custom.
  • Stage 6. 1931–1938. Investigates the "feminine Oedipus attitude" and "negative Oedipus complex" later the "Electra complex". [16]

The Oedipus complex Edit

In classical psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex occurs during the phallic stage of psychosexual development (age 3–6 years), when also occurs the formation of the libido and the ego yet it might manifest itself at an earlier age. [17] [18]

In the phallic stage, a boy's decisive psychosexual experience is the Oedipus complex—his son–father competition for possession of mother. It is in this third stage of psychosexual development that the child's genitalia is his or her primary erogenous zone thus, when children become aware of their bodies, the bodies of other children, and the bodies of their parents, they gratify physical curiosity by undressing and exploring themselves, each other, and their genitals, so learning the anatomic differences between male and female and the gender differences between boy and girl.

Psychosexual infantilism—Despite mother being the parent who primarily gratifies the child's desires, the child begins forming a discrete sexual identity—"boy", "girl"—that alters the dynamics of the parent and child relationship the parents become objects of infantile libidinal energy. The boy directs his libido (sexual desire) upon his mother and directs jealousy and emotional rivalry against his father—because it is he who sleeps with his mother. Moreover, to facilitate union with mother, the boy's id wants to kill father (as did Oedipus), but the pragmatic ego, based upon the reality principle, knows that the father is the stronger of the two males competing to possess the one female. Nonetheless, the boy remains ambivalent about his father's place in the family, which is manifested as fear of castration by the physically greater father the fear is an irrational, subconscious manifestation of the infantile id. [19]

Psycho-logic defense—In both sexes, defense mechanisms provide transitory resolutions of the conflict between the drives of the id and the drives of the ego. The first defense mechanism is repression, the blocking of memories, emotional impulses, and ideas from the conscious mind yet its action does not resolve the id–ego conflict. The second defense mechanism is identification, in which the boy or girl child adapts by incorporating, to his or her (super)ego, the personality characteristics of the same-sex parent. As a result of this, the boy diminishes his castration anxiety, because his likeness to father protects him from father's wrath in their maternal rivalry. In the case of the girl, this facilitates identifying with mother, who understands that, in being females, neither of them possesses a penis, and thus are not antagonists. [20]

Dénouement—Unresolved son–father competition for the psycho-sexual possession of the mother might result in a phallic stage fixation that leads to the boy becoming an aggressive, over-ambitious, and vain man. Therefore, the satisfactory parental handling and resolution of the Oedipus complex are most important in developing the male infantile super-ego. This is because, by identifying with a parent, the boy internalizes Morality thereby, he chooses to comply with societal rules, rather than reflexively complying in fear of punishment. [ citation needed ]

Oedipal case study Edit

In Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy (1909), the case study of the equinophobic boy "Little Hans", Freud showed that the relation between Hans's fears—of horses and of his father—derived from external factors, the birth of a sister, and internal factors, the desire of the infantile id to replace father as companion to mother, and guilt for enjoying the masturbation normal to a boy of his age. Moreover, his admitting to wanting to procreate with mother was considered proof of the boy's sexual attraction to the opposite-sex parent he was a heterosexual male. Yet, the boy Hans was unable to relate fearing horses to fearing his father. As the treating psychoanalyst, Freud noted that "Hans had to be told many things that he could not say himself" and that "he had to be presented with thoughts, which he had, so far, shown no signs of possessing". [21]

Feminine Oedipus attitude Edit

Initially, Freud equally applied the Oedipus complex to the psychosexual development of boys and girls, but later modified the female aspects of the theory as "feminine Oedipus attitude" and "negative Oedipus complex" [22] yet, it was his student–collaborator Carl Jung, who, in his 1913 work, "Theory of Psychoanalysis", proposed the Electra complex to describe a girl's daughter–mother competition for psychosexual possession of the father. [6] [23]

In the phallic stage, a girl's Electra complex is her decisive psychodynamic experience in forming a discrete sexual identity (ego). Whereas a boy develops castration anxiety, a girl develops penis envy, for she perceives that she has been castrated previously (and missing the penis), and so forms resentment towards her own kind as inferior, while simultaneously striving to claim her father's penis through bearing a male child of her own. Furthermore, after the phallic stage, the girl's psychosexual development includes transferring her primary erogenous zone from the infantile clitoris to the adult vagina. [24]

Freud thus considered a girl's negative Oedipus complex to be more emotionally intense than that of a boy, resulting, potentially, in a woman of submissive, insecure personality [25] thus might an unresolved Electra complex, daughter–mother competition for psychosexual possession of father, lead to a phallic-stage fixation conducive to a girl becoming a woman who continually strives to dominate men (viz. penis envy), either as an unusually seductive woman (high self-esteem) or as an unusually submissive woman (low self-esteem). [26] Therefore, the satisfactory parental handling and resolution of the Electra complex are most important in developing the female infantile super-ego, because, by identifying with a parent, the girl internalizes morality thereby, she chooses to comply with societal rules, rather than reflexively complying in fear of punishment.

In regard to narcissism Edit

In regard to narcissism, the Oedipus complex is viewed as the pinnacle of the individual's maturational striving for success or for love. [27] In The Economic Problem of Masochism (1924), Freud writes that in "the Oedipus complex. [the parent's] personal significance for the superego recedes into the background' and 'the imagos they leave behind. link [to] the influences of teachers and authorities. ". Educators and mentors are put in the ego ideal of the individual and they strive to take on their knowledge, skills, or insights.

In Some Reflections on Schoolboy Psychology (1914), Freud writes:

"We can now understand our relation to our schoolmasters. These men, not all of whom were in fact fathers themselves, became our substitute fathers. That was why, even though they were still quite young, they struck us as so mature and so unattainably adult. We transferred on to them the respect and expectations attaching to the omniscient father of our childhood, and we then began to treat them as we treated our fathers at home. We confronted them with the ambivalence that we had acquired in our own families and with its help, we struggled with them as we had been in the habit of struggling with our fathers. "

The Oedipus complex, in narcissistic terms, represents that an individual can lose the ability to take a parental-substitute into his ego ideal without ambivalence. Once the individual has ambivalent relations with parental-substitutes, he will enter into the triangulating castration complex. In the castration complex the individual becomes rivalrous with parental-substitutes and this will be the point of regression. In Psycho-analytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (Dementia paranoides) (1911), Freud writes that "disappointment over a woman" (object drives) or "a mishap in social relations with other men" (ego drives) is the cause of regression or symptom formation. Triangulation can take place with a romantic rival, for a woman, or with a work rival, for the reputation of being more potent. [28]

When Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) proposed that the Oedipus complex was psychologically universal, he provoked the evolution of Freudian psychology and the psychoanalytic treatment method, by collaborators and competitors alike.

Carl Gustav Jung Edit

In countering Freud's proposal that the psychosexual development of boys and girls is equal, i.e. equally oriented – that each initially experiences sexual desire (libido) for mother, and aggression towards father, student–collaborator Carl Jung counter-proposed that girls experienced desire for father and aggression towards mother via the Electra complex [ citation needed ] —derived from the 5th-century BC Greek mythologic character Electra, who plotted matricidal revenge with Orestes, her brother, against Clytemnestra, their mother, and Aegisthus, their stepfather, for their murder of Agamemnon, her father (cf. Electra, by Sophocles). [29] [30] [31] Moreover, because it is native to Freudian psychology, orthodox Jungian psychology uses the term "Oedipus complex" only to denote a boy's psychosexual development.

Otto Rank Edit

In classical Freudian psychology the super-ego, "the heir to the Oedipus complex", is formed as the infant boy internalizes the familial rules of his father. In contrast, in the early 1920s, using the term "pre-Oedipal", Otto Rank proposed that a boy's powerful mother was the source of the super-ego, in the course of normal psychosexual development. Rank's theoretic conflict with Freud excluded him from the Freudian inner circle nonetheless, he later developed the psychodynamic Object relations theory in 1925.

Melanie Klein Edit

Whereas Freud proposed that father (the paternal phallus) was central to infantile and adult psychosexual development, Melanie Klein concentrated upon the early maternal relationship, proposing that Oedipal manifestations are perceptible in the first year of life, the oral stage. Her proposal was part of the "controversial discussions" (1942–44) at the British Psychoanalytical Association. The Kleinian psychologists proposed that "underlying the Oedipus complex, as Freud described it . there is an earlier layer of more primitive relationships with the Oedipal couple". [32] She assigned "dangerous destructive tendencies not just to the father but also to the mother in her discussion of the child's projective fantasies". [33] Moreover, Klein's work lessened the central role of the Oedipus complex, with the concept of the depressive position. [34] [35]

Wilfred Bion Edit

"For the post-Kleinian Bion, the myth of Oedipus concerns investigatory curiosity—the quest for knowledge—rather than sexual difference the other main character in the Oedipal drama becomes Tiresias (the false hypothesis erected against anxiety about a new theory)". [36] Resultantly, "Bion regarded the central crime of Oedipus as his insistence on knowing the truth at all costs". [37]

Jacques Lacan Edit

From the postmodern perspective, Jacques Lacan argued against removing the Oedipus complex from the center of psychosexual developmental experience. He considered "the Oedipus complex—in so far as we continue to recognize it as covering the whole field of our experience with its signification . [that] superimposes the kingdom of culture" upon the person, marking his or her introduction to symbolic order. [38]

Thus "a child learns what power independent of itself is as it goes through the Oedipus complex . encountering the existence of a symbolic system independent of itself". [39] Moreover, Lacan's proposal that "the ternary relation of the Oedipus complex" liberates the "prisoner of the dual relationship" of the son–mother relationship proved useful to later psychoanalysts [40] thus, for Bollas, the "achievement" of the Oedipus complex is that the "child comes to understand something about the oddity of possessing one's own mind . discovers the multiplicity of points of view". [41] Likewise, for Ronald Britton, "if the link between the parents perceived in love and hate can be tolerated in the child's mind . this provides us with a capacity for seeing us in interaction with others, and . for reflecting on ourselves, whilst being ourselves". [42] As such, in The Dove that Returns, the Dove that Vanishes (2000), Michael Parsons proposed that such a perspective permits viewing "the Oedipus complex as a life-long developmental challenge . [with] new kinds of Oedipal configurations that belong to later life". [43]

In 1920, Sigmund Freud wrote that "with the progress of psychoanalytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become, more and more, clearly evident its recognition has become the shibboleth that distinguishes the adherents of psychoanalysis from its opponents" [44] thereby it remained a theoretic cornerstone of psychoanalysis until about 1930, when psychoanalysts began investigating the pre-Oedipal son–mother relationship within the theory of psychosexual development. [45] [46] Janet Malcolm reports that by the late 20th century, to the object relations psychology "avant-garde, the events of the Oedipal period are pallid and inconsequential, in comparison with the cliff-hanging psychodramas of infancy. . For Kohut, as for Winnicott and Balint, the Oedipus complex is an irrelevance in the treatment of severe pathology". [47] Nonetheless, ego psychology continued to maintain that "the Oedipal period—roughly three-and-a-half to six years—is like Lorenz standing in front of the chick, it is the most formative, significant, moulding experience of human life . If you take a person's adult life—his love, his work, his hobbies, his ambitions—they all point back to the Oedipus complex". [48]

Scientific criticism Edit

According to Armand Chatard, Freudian representation of the Oedipus complex is little or not at all supported by empirical data. [49]

In recent years, more countries have come in support of same-sex marriage, with the number expected to increase. As of December 2017, the countries that have legalized gay marriage stands at 29, including the majority of European nations and the Americas. [50] Scientific and technological advancements have allowed same-sex couples to start families through adoption or surrogacy. As a result, the pillars of the family structure are diversifying to include parents who are single or of the same sex as their partner along with the traditional heterosexual, married parents. These new family structures pose new questions for the psychoanalytic theories such as the Oedipus complex that require the presence of the mother and the father in the successful development of a child. [33] However, as evidence suggests, children who have been raised by parents of the same sex have shown no difference when compared to children raised in a traditional family structure. [33] The classic theory of the Oedipal drama has fallen out of favor in today's society, according to a study by Drescher, having been criticized for its "negative implications" towards same sex parents. [33] It is necessary for the psychoanalytic theory to change to keep up with the times and remain relevant. Many psychoanalytic thinkers such as Chodorow and Corbett are working towards changing the Oedipus complex to eliminate "automatic associations among sex, gender, and the stereotypical psychological functions deriving from these categories" and make it applicable to today's modern society. [33] From its Freudian conception, psychoanalysis and its theories have always relied on traditional gender roles to draw itself out. In the 1950s, psychologists distinguished different roles in parenting for the mother and father. The role of primary caregiver is assigned to the mother. Motherly love was considered to be unconditional. While the father is assigned the role of secondary caregiver, fatherly love is conditional, responsive to the child's tangible achievements. [33] The Oedipus complex is compromised in the context of modern family structures, as it requires the existence of the notions of masculinity and femininity. [51] When there is no father present there is no reason for a boy to have castration anxiety and thus resolve the complex. [33] Psychoanalysis presents relationships outside the heteronormativity (e.g. homosexuality) as a negative implication, a sort of perversion or fetish rather than a natural occurrence. [51] To some psychologists, this emphasis on gender norms can be a distraction in treating homosexual patients. [51]

Postmodern criticism Edit

According to Didier Eribon, the book Anti-Oedipus (1972) by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is "a critique of psychoanalytic normativity and Oedipus . " and ". a setting oedipinianisme devastating issue of . ". [52] Eribon considers the Oedipus complex of Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis is an "implausible ideological construct" which is an "inferiorization process of homosexuality". [53] According to psychologist Geva Shenkman, "To examine the application of concepts such as Oedipus complex and primal scene to male same-sex families, we must first eliminate the automatic associations among sex, gender, and the stereotypical psychological functions based on these categories." [33]

Postmodern psychoanalytic theories are not meant to rid or discredit the foundation of psychoanalysis, but rather aim to reestablish psychoanalysis for modern times. In the case of newer family structures that refute the traditional Oedipus complex, it may mean modifying or discarding the complex completely. Shenkman suggests that a loose interpretation of the Oedipus complex in which the child seeks sexual satisfaction from any parent regardless of gender or sex, would be helpful: "From this perspective, any parental authority, or institution for that matter, may represent the taboo that gives rise to the complex". Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, proposed a theory which broke gender stereotypes, but still kept traditional father-mother family structure. Melanie Klein assigned "dangerous destructive tendencies not just to the father but also to the mother in her discussion of the child's projective fantasies". [33]

Moreover, from the postmodern perspective, Grose contends that "the Oedipus complex isn't really like that. It's more a way of explaining how human beings are socialised . learning to deal with disappointment". [54] The elementary understanding being that "You have to stop trying to be everything for your primary carer, and get on with being something for the rest of the world". [55] Nonetheless, the open question remains whether or not such a post-Lacanian interpretation "stretches the Oedipus complex to a point where it almost doesn't look like Freud's any more". [53]

Sociocultural criticism Edit

Parent-child and sibling-sibling incestuous unions are almost universally forbidden. [56] An explanation for this incest taboo is that rather than instinctual sexual desire, there is instinctual sexual aversion against these unions (See Westermarck effect). Steven Pinker wrote that "The idea that boys want to sleep with their mothers strikes most men as the silliest thing they have ever heard. Obviously, it did not seem so to Freud, who wrote that as a boy he once had an erotic reaction to watching his mother dressing. Of note is that Amalia Nathansohn Freud was relatively young during Freud's childhood and thus of reproductive age, and Freud having a wet-nurse, may not have experienced the early intimacy that would have tipped off his perceptual system that Mrs. Freud was his mother." [57]

Some contemporary psychoanalysts agree with the idea of the Oedipus complex to varying degrees Hans Keller proposed it is so "at least in Western societies" [58] and others consider that ethnologists already have established its temporal and geographic universality. [59] Nonetheless, few psychoanalysts disagree that the "child then entered an Oedipal phase . [which] involved an acute awareness of a complicated triangle involving mother, father, and child" and that "both positive and negative Oedipal themes are typically observable in development". [60] Despite evidence of parent–child conflict, the evolutionary psychologists Martin Daly and Margo Wilson note that it is not for sexual possession of the opposite sex-parent thus, in Homicide (1988), they proposed that the Oedipus complex yields few testable predictions, because they found no evidence of the Oedipus complex in people. [61]

In No More Silly Love Songs: A Realist's Guide to Romance (2010), Anouchka Grose says that "a large number of people, these days believe that Freud's Oedipus complex is defunct . 'disproven', or simply found unnecessary, sometime in the last century". [54]

In Esquisse pour une autoanalyse, Pierre Bourdieu argues that the success of the concept of Oedipus is inseparable from the prestige associated with ancient Greek culture and the relations of domination that are reinforced in the use of this myth. In other words, if Oedipus was Bantu or Baoule, he probably would not have benefited from the coronation of universality. This remark recalls the historically and socially situated character of the founder of psychoanalysis. [62]

A study conducted at Glasgow University potentially supports at least some aspects of the psychoanalytic conception of the Oedipus complex. The study demonstrated that men and women were twice as likely to choose a partner with the same eye color as the parent of the sex they are attracted to. [63] Another study by anthropologist Allen W. Johnson and psychiatrist Douglas Price-Williams suggests that the classic version of the Oedipus Complex that boys go through is present, with the sexual and aggressive sentiments less repressed in cultures without class separation. [64]

Another study examined adoptive-daughters and choice of husband. The study attempted to distinguish conceptually phenotypic matching from positive sexual imprinting. Phenotypic matching can be understood as an individual's seeking (presumably without conscious awareness) traits in mates that are similar to their own phenotype. Sexual imprinting can be understood as mate preferences that are influenced by experiences and observations with parents/caregivers in early childhood. Adoptive daughters were examined in part to disentangle these two influences. The results of the study support positive sexual imprinting independent of phenotypic matching: "Judges found significant resemblance on facial traits between daughter's husband and her adoptive father. Furthermore, this effect may be modified by the quality of the father–daughter relationship during childhood. Daughters who received more emotional support from their adoptive father were more likely to choose mates similar to the father than those whose father provided a less positive emotional atmosphere." The study's authors also hypothesized that "sexual imprinting on the observed features of the opposite-sex parent during a sensitive period in early childhood might be responsible for shaping people's later mate-choice criteria," a hypothesis that would be at least partially in accordance with Freud's Oedipal model. [65] [66]

The Impact of Emotional Incest

Children who have experienced emotional incest may have great difficulty setting boundaries and getting their needs met as adults without feelings of excessive guilt. In addition, their relationship with their gender and sexuality can greatly inhibit their ability to maintain intimacy in adult partnerships.

Emotional incest can create an unhealthy sense of loyalty or obligation to a parent, which can result in a love/hate relationship between children and parents. Additionally, substance abuse, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and compulsivity around work, sex, and food are all potential outcomes.

Emotional incest also can impact the family dynamic as a whole. One partner typically experiences being shut out and may be denied opportunities for parent-child bonding. Additionally, other children may be neglected as the parent leans heavily on the “chosen child.”

Neurobiology and Neurodevelopment of Pedophilia

Introduction and conceptual framework

Research regarding the etiology of pedophilia suggests the view of a complex and multifactorial phenomenon in which the influences of genetics (Blanchard et al., 2007), stressful life events, specific learning processes (Jespersen et al., 2009a), as well as perturbations in the structural integrity of ‘pedophilic’ brains may generate this specific phenotype of a sexual preference (Schiffer et al., 2007 Schiltz et al., 2007 Cantor et al., 2008). Initial theories relied mainly upon psychological mechanisms to account for a pedophilic preference, including classical and operant conditioning, as the behavioral mechanism through which the �used-abuser’ theory by Freund et al. (1990) and Freund and Kuban (1994) could be explained as well as attachment style in childhood as a marker for dysfunctional cognitive sexual schemas in adulthood (Beech and Mitchell, 2005).

The first theories to account for sexual behavior disorder associated with pedophilia suggested masturbatory conditioning [e.g., Laws and Marshall (1990)] or childhood sexual abuse (Freund et al., 1990 Fedoroff and Pinkus, 1996) as causal explanations. However, as Seto purports, due to lack of stringent methodology that includes proper control groups, small experimental or treatment effect sizes, and lacking knowledge of effect duration, these theories are not well supported. Beyond this, the majority of victims are female, whereas the majority of offenders are male, and if conditioning were the only logical theory to explain the etiology of pedophilia, it stands to reason that there would be more female pedophiles than are clinically seen (Seto, 2008 Jespersen et al., 2009b). However, a study by Klucken et al. (2009) showed that men are more easily conditioned through exposure to sexual stimuli than are women, casting significant doubt on the conditioning theory as it applies to female pedophiles. Currently, there is a strong push to understand the brain’s role in sexual preference development, particularly as it relates to pedophilia.

As discussed in a previous review by Seto (2008), there are three major neurobiological theories, which have come to be connected to pedophilia but all have the same shortcoming that they rely on data based on cases of pedophiles who have other psychological disorder diagnoses, are incarcerated or otherwise legally sanctioned, or are not sufficiently diagnostically classified (i.e., not differentiating between the exclusive or the non-exclusive type, etc.).

The first is the 𠇏rontal lobe” theory that refers to orbitofrontal and left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex differences that are often seen in pedophilic men (Graber et al., 1982 Flor-Henry et al., 1991 Burns and Swerdlow, 2003 Schiffer et al., 2007, 2008a,b). As the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for behavior control (Bechara et al., 2000 O𠆝oherty et al., 2003), especially inhibiting sexual behavior, volume differences or dysfunction in this area may explain the sexual behavior disorder associated with pedophilia, although not pedophilic sexual preference.

The second major theory is the “temporal lobe” theory, referring to reports of hypersexuality accompanying pedophilia. Studies have shown that disturbances of the temporal lobes can result in an increase in pedophilic behaviors or an increase in the breadth of deviant sexual interests (Hucker et al., 1986 Langevin et al., 1988). These disturbances include temporal lesions and hippocampal sclerosis (Mendez et al., 2000). Ponseti noticed further differential temporal lobe activations in pedophilic men that highlight a hypersexuality-specific activation profile, further supporting the role of the temporal lobe in the expression of hypersexuality that is often seen with sexual behavior disorders (Schiltz et al., 2007 Ponseti et al., 2012). However, this theory also does not fully explain the etiology of the preference.

The third major neurobiological theory holds that differences in the sex dimorphic brain structures affected by the masculinization of the male brain would more strongly affect pedophilia development. Furthermore, the volumes of these structures would be influenced, but the hypothesis failed to state in what direction these changes occur, i.e., either increased or decreased volumes as a result of testosterone exposure. In the frontal and temporal lobes, these differences would be limited to those sexually dimorphic structures, rather than a generalized difference in region volume, but research has not supported the hypothesis (Cantor et al., 2008).

Furthermore, there is an additional theory that combines the frontal and temporal lobe theories. It states that the frontal and temporal lobes affect pedophilic sexual preference expression and its associated behaviors differently, with the frontal lobe (orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices) accounting for committing the sexual offenses against children and the temporal lobe (amygdala and hippocampus) accounting for the sexual preoccupation with children often seen in pedophilic men (Seto, 2008, 2009 Poeppl et al., 2013).

Currently, pedophilia is often viewed as an interaction among neurodevelopmental factors based on genes and the (in utero-) environment as previously discussed (Becerra Garc໚, 2009). This theory holds that pedophilic sexual preference is a neurodevelopmental disorder corroborated by increased rates of non-right-handedness, shorter stature, lower intelligence, head injury, prenatal androgen levels, and the associated neuronal structural and functional differences that are present since childhood and/or adolescence. The exact directions of these relationships to pedophilic sexual preference, committing child sexual offenses, or consuming child pornography are still to be disentangled. There is currently no causal evidence yet to support a role in pedophilic sexual preference development.

Neurodevelopmental correlates of pedophilia

The prevailing perspective among biologists was that sex differences are linked solely to the exposure to testosterone in utero [see Phoenix et al. (1959) and Ehrhardt and Meyer-Bahlburg (1979)]. The masculinization of an initially undifferentiated human female brain is caused by testosterone’s induction of organizational effects during a limited period of time, as extrapolated from animal research. Sexual differentiation and development of subsequent sexual preference are likely an interplay between the impact of sex chromosomes on gene expression and sex hormones (Bao and Swaab, 2010). In pedophilia, research investigating biological differences is underway and studies have already highlighted structural and functional differences. The following is a discussion of findings that are classified as neuropsychological however, the onset of these differences is in utero, childhood, and adolescence, thus suggesting that these findings are actually a part of human development and contribute to pedophilic preference onset rather than acting as consequences thereof.

As a group consisting of primarily incarcerated individuals, pedophilic men show a doubled rate of head injuries before age 13, though after 14 years of age the difference is no longer significant, highlighting possible causative effects in multiple areas of cognitive functioning. While prenatal perturbations influence cognitive functioning and disorder development, so can head injuries resulting in unconsciousness in childhood, especially before age 13 years (Blanchard et al., 2002, 2003). This is a result of cortical development plasticity during childhood, when synaptic myelination and pruning are at their peak (Zhong et al., 2013). Of 725 originally tested, 685 pedophilic men participated in a study investigating the role of head injuries with associated loss of consciousness in pedophilia development. Pedophilic participants reported a significantly higher number of head injuries that resulted in a loss of consciousness prior to age 13 than did non-pedophilic child sexual offender participants. These results also positively correlated with a diagnosis of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and left-handedness among pedophilic participants.

More importantly, the more child victims each pedophile had correlated positively with each additional head injury before age 13, but not those sustained later in adolescence or adulthood (Blanchard et al., 2003). However, no studies have yet been conducted investigating head injuries in non-incarcerated pedophilic men with histories of CSA, or those with no such histories. Also lacking are studies on the prevalence of head injuries in children in general, as well as for the number of children with head injuries who subsequently go on to commit sexual offenses against children in adulthood.

The organizational�tivational hypothesis was initially developed by Phoenix and his colleagues in the 1950s in consequence to observations that a temporary rise in prenatal and early post-natal testosterone shapes development by masculinizing and defeminizing neural networks in males, whereas the absence thereof results in the development of female-typical neural phenotype (Phoenix et al., 1959 Schulz et al., 2009). According to the organizational�tivational hypothesis, pre- and perinatal as well as pubertal/adolescent androgens are able to shape cortical circuits (organization), whereas in adults androgens can only modulate the activity of these circuits (activation). The process of sexual differentiation occurs between weeks 12 and 18 of prenatal life and during the first 2 months after birth, periods during which testosterone has organizational effects on the brain. During this time, not only behavior is programed, depending on the level of exposure to testosterone, but also handedness, total digit length, and second to fourth finger length ratios (George, 1930 Rahman, 2005). These neuroendocrinological developmental differences are then activated during puberty and their relationship to pedophilia development will be discussed further in the coming paragraphs.

In understanding the relationship between testosterone, the brain, sexual behavior, and the rise of sexual deviancy, one must first understand how testosterone influences the brain. In vertebrates, androgen receptors (ARs) can be found in several brain regions, including the lateral septum, posteromedial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTpm), medial preoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus, ventral premammillary nucleus, ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, and the medial amygdaloid nucleus, otherwise found in the temporo-occipital, superior-parietal, and orbitofrontal cortices (Wood and Newman, 1999 Jordan et al., 2011a).

Research has shown a relationship between prenatal androgen exposure and hand preference in pedophilic men with a history of sexual offending against children. These men show a trend for increased rates of sinistrality – more efficient use of the left side/hand and is preferred – whereas hebephilic men show increased rates of ambiguous-handedness (Fazio et al., 2014) as compared to teleiophiles, and this has been discussed as an indicator of developmental perturbations resulting from a lack of prenatal testosterone exposure (Cantor et al., 2004). Homosexuality has also been associated with a higher prevalence of left-handedness (Cantor, 2012), and it would be of interest to see whether the higher prevalence of left-handedness seen among pedophilic men is attributable to pedophilia specifically or to a higher rate of homosexuality within this population as compared to teleiophilic men. More specifically, approximately 11% of the general non-offender population is non-right-handed, whereas pedophilic men with histories of sexually offending against children are approximately 15% non-righthanded, this difference being significant (Bogaert, 2001 Cantor et al., 2004, 2005 Blanchard et al., 2007 Rahman and Symeonides, 2008). Future studies should control for sexual orientation (homosexuality vs. heterosexuality) when examining handedness in pedophilia.

These effects also influence the second to fourth finger length ratio (D2:D4) (Voracek et al., 2007), a marker altered also in other psychiatric disorders including alcohol dependence (Lenz et al., 2012). The D2:D4 ratio is smaller in men than in women and is used as an indirect marker of prenatal testosterone exposure (Beaton et al., 2011). Additional differences in sexual orientation exist, such that the D2:D4 ratio is smaller in homosexual women compared to heterosexual women, as well as homosexual men compared to heterosexual men (Williams et al., 2000 Rahman and Wilson, 2003 Rahman, 2005 Manning et al., 2007). Although prenatal testosterone exposure affects both hand preference and D2:D4 ratio, the data here are equivocal and no firm conclusions have been drawn regarding the absolute relationship between hand preference and D2:D4. However, exposure to prenatal testosterone does not affect the D2:D4 ratio between 9 weeks gestation and birth, in contrast to hand preference, where differences are noted here and possibly after puberty (Lenz et al., 2012). How this applies to pedophilia is currently under investigation.

The following markers of neurodevelopmental abnormality have also been implicated in the neurodevelopmental processes contributing to pedophilia: sibling sex composition, maternal and paternal age at birth, and the fluctuating asymmetry of finger lengths and wrist widths. Pedophiles have a greater number of older brothers (Lalumière et al., 1998 Côté et al., 2002). Greater paternal age at birth was related to an increased chance of homosexuality, whereas greater maternal age increased risk for pedophilia, specifically (rather than generalized paraphilia) (Rahman and Symeonides, 2008).

Considering the effects of neurodevelopmental perturbations and executive functioning on pedophilia development, it seems worthwhile to consider the effect of intelligence. Research results have been contradictory: for example, generalized sexual delinquency is related to lower intelligence, whereas among groups of non-sexual offenders, pedophiles, and non-pedophiles, neither education level nor intelligence differed significantly. However, when pedophilic participants were separated by use of child pornography, those who had no history of child pornography use showed a decreased IQ and lower mean education level as compared to those who did (Briken et al., 2006 Blanchard et al., 2007 Schiffer and Vonlaufen, 2011). The main caveat to this research is that child pornography is considered a reliable indicator of pedophilic sexual interest, therefore confounding any results found with education or intelligence level because those pedophiles with child sexual offense histories are also more likely to have used child pornography (Seto, 2010). Research is currently focusing on the role of intelligence among pedophilic men who have only consumed child pornography and those who have committed CSA offenses, particularly differentiating those who have been incarcerated from those who have not (Babchishin et al., 2011 Seto et al., 2011, 2012).

As these results indicate, pedophiles do seem to differ from HC on neurodevelopmental measures. However, these results are varied and few strong conclusions can be drawn, including increased rates of left-handedness and increased rates in head injuries before age 13. The next section will discuss the relationship of neurological and neurobiological differences to the development of pedophilia, as both are the focus of current research determining the neural correlates of pedophilia. Please refer to Table ​ Table2 2 for a summarization of neuroimaging findings in pedophilia.

Table 2

Findings from previous neuroimaging studies in pedophilia.

Author (year)MethodStructural/functionalPPT groups (n)Paradigm/softwareCorrectionThreshold/SigFindings
Schiffer et al. (2007)MRIFrontostriatal and cerebellum structureHeterosexual (9) and homosexual pedophiles (9)
Heterosexual (12) and homosexual (12) controls
VBM-whole brain/SPM 2FDR (whole brain)/FWE corrected within ROIsp <𠂐.05GM volume reductions in pedophiles: PHc L/R, IFG L/R, OFC L/R, Ins L/R, Cer L/R Cin L/R, Posterior Cin L, STG L/R, MiTG R, Pcu L/R, Put L/R (Amy L/R in unpublished re-analysis)
Schiltz et al. (2007)MRIAmygdala structurePedophilic (15) Community controls (15)VBM/manual morphometry/SPM2 ROIs/MRIcroFWE/corrected for multiple comparisons within ROIsp <𠂐.05GM reductions in pedophiles: Amy R, Hyp L/R, SI L/R, Septal Region R, Bed Nucleus
Striae Terminalis L/R
Enlargement of Temporal Horn R
Poeppl et al. (2013)MRIPrefrontal cortex and amygdala structureHeterosexual (2) and homosexual (7) pedophiles
Heterosexual (11) controls
VBM 8 toolbox/SPM 8FWE corrected within ROIsp <𠂐.05GM volume decreases in pedophiles: only in Amy R pedosexual interest and sexual recidivism associated with GM volume decreases in insular cortex and DLPFC L, preference for younger children associated with GM decreases in the OFC and Ang L/R
Cantor et al. (2008)MRIWhite matter structurePedophiles (44) Teleiophilic sexual offenders (21)
Non-sexual Offender (53)
VBM whole brain/SPM 2
Parcelation with ANIMAL
FDRp <𠂐.05Reduced WM volumes in pedophiles in Superior Fronto-Occipital Fasciculus L, Arcuate Fasciculus R
No differences in GM
Cantor and Blanchard (2012)MRIWhite matter structurePedophiles (19)
Hebephiles (49)
Teleiophiles (47)
VBM Whole brain/SPM 2Not specifiedp <𠂐.05Reduced WM volumes in Temporal Lobe L/R and Parietal Lobe L/R in pedophiles/hebephiles compared to teleiophiles
Cohen et al. (2002)PETFrontal and temporal functionHeterosexual pedophiles (7)
Community controls (7)
Auditory stimulus/software not specifiedBonferronip <𠂐.05No differences seen in glucose metabolism after an erotic auditory paradigm lower metabolism in ITC and in Superior VFG during neutral auditory condition in pedophiles compared to controls no survival after correction
Dressing et al. (2001)fMRIOrbitofrontal functionHomosexual pedophiles (1)
Controls (2)
Visual stimuli block design/brain voyagerNot specifiedNot specifiedStronger recruitment in pedophiles in response to erotic pedohomosexual stimuli: ACC, Brain Stem R, PFC R, Basal Ganglia R, OFC R
Walter et al. (2007)fMRIHypothalamus and lateral prefrontal cortex functionPedophiles (13)
Controls (14)
Visual stimuli/SPM2Uncorrectedp <𠂐.005Decreased activations in pedophiles to sexual >𠂞motional arousal contrast: DLPFC R (Precentral), DLPFC R (MFG/SFG), DLPFC L (SFG), Occipital Cortex L
Schiffer et al. (2008a)fMRIFrontal and temporal functionHomosexual pedophiles (11)
Homosexual matched controls (10)
Visual stimuli/SPM2Whole brain analysis uncorrected/false discovery ratep <𠂐.001/p <𠂐.05Stronger Activations in pedophiles compared to controls in contrast nude children/adults >𠂝ressed children/adults: Fus L/R, HC L/R, Tha R
Schiffer et al. (2008b)fMRIAmygdala functionHeterosexual pedophiles (8)
Heterosexual matched controls (12)
Visual sexual stimuli/SPM2Whole brain analysis uncorrected/FDRp <𠂐.001/p <𠂐.05Activations seen in pedophiles compared to controls in contrast nude children/adults >𠂝ressed children/adults: MFG R, ACC L/R
Sartorius et al. (2008)fMRIAmygdala functionHomosexual pedophiles (10)
Heterosexual controls (10)
Visual stimuli/SPM2Uncorrectedp <𠂐.005Activation in pedophiles to children (Boys/girls) < neutral geometric stimuli contrasts in Amy R
Poeppl et al. (2011)fMRICortical and subcortical functionHeterosexual (2) and homosexual (7) pedophiles
Heterosexual non-sexual offender controls (11)
Visual sexual stimuli/SPM5Whole brain analysis uncorrected/FWE/FDRp <𠂐.001/p <𠂐.05Activations in pedophiles compared to controls in contrast nude children > scrambled images of children: MFG R, Ins L/R, MTG R, IPL L, Pos R, MCC R, PCC R, HC R, Tha L, Cer R
Ponseti et al. (2012)fMRIPattern classification functionHeterosexual (11) and homosexual (13) pedophiles
Heterosexual (18) and homosexual (14) controls
Visual stimuli pattern classification/SPM8Uncorrectedp <𠂐.001/p <𠂐.001Deactivations in homosexual pedophiles compared to controls in boys < men contrast: Cer L/R, Lin L/R, Anterior Tha L, HC R, Occ L, Fus L, ITG R, Ang R
Deactivations in heterosexual pedophiles compared to controls in girls < women contrast: NC L/R, SPG L/R, ITG L/R, Fus L/R, Cin L, Occ L, Amy L, Ins L, IFG R, Tha L, Cer R
Habermeyer et al. (2013a)fMRIFunctionHeterosexual pedophiles (8)
Heterosexual controls (8)
Erotic sexual stimuli/brain voyager 2.3.0Uncorrected/cluster-level threshold correctionp <𠂐.005/p <𠂐.05Activations in pedophiles in sex ×𠂚ge × group voxel-wise ANOVA analysis in MiFG R
Kärgel et al. (2015)rsfMRIFunctionPedophiles +𠂜SA (12)
Pedophiles −𠂜SA (14)
Healthy Controls (14)
SPM8 and rsfMRI toolkit RESTUncorrected at voxel level Family wise error corrected at cluster levelp <𠂐.005/p <𠂐.05DMN: (P-CSA > P +𠂜SA) Diminished connectivity to left MSF, left OFC. No differences in opposite contrast (P +𠂜SA > P-CSA). (HC > P +𠂜SA): VM PFC, OFC. No differences in P +𠂜SA > HC contrast
Limbic Network: (P-CSA > P +𠂜SA) diminished connectivity between L Amy and VM PFC, ACC, OFC, anterior PFC. No differences in P +𠂜SA > P-CSA. In HC > P +𠂜SA contrast: increased connectivity between L Amy and L anterior/inferior PFC, L Lin. No differences in P +𠂜SA > HC contrast
Poeppl et al. (2015)rsfMRIFunctionHeterosexual (2) and homosexual (7) pedophiles
Heterosexual (11) controls
Meta-analytic connectivity modeling (MACM) and ALEFEW at cluster levelp <𠂐.05Seed area: R Amy connected to HC, R ventral striatum, R Tha, L Amy, L Cla, L hyp, L Put, L HC, L Mid, L Tha for psychosexual arousal
L DLPFC: L Ant Ins, DMPFC, L Per, L SPL, L VLPFC for cognition and perception, spec. working memory
L Ins: L PaO, L Ant Ins, L Pos, L STG, L Put, R PaO, R STG, R DLPFC/Ant Ins, R Put, R pMC, L Tha, R Tha, L Ext for perception and cognition

ACC, anterior cingulate cortex Amy, amygdala, Ang, angular gyrus, Cau, caudate, CC, corpus callosum Cer, cerebellum Cin, cingulate gyrus Cla, claustrum DLPFC, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex Ext, extrastriate cortex FPPFC, frontopolar prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 10) Fus, fusiform gyrus HC, hippocampus Hyp, hypothalamus IFG, inferior frontal gyrus Ins, insula IPL, inferior parietal lobule ITC, inferior temporal cortex ITG, inferior temporal gyrus L/R, left/right Lin, lingual gyrus MCC, middle cingulate cortex MFG, medial frontal gyrus MSF, medial superior frontal Mid, midbrain MiFG, middle frontal gyrus MOG, middle occipital gyrus MTG, middle temporal gyrus NC, nucleus caudatus Occ, occipital lobe OFC, orbitofrontal cortex PaO, parietal operculum Par, paracentral lobule PCC, posterior cingulate cortex Pcu, precuneus Per, peristriate cortex PHc, parahippocampal gyrus Pos, post central gyrus Pre, precentral gyrus PSS, posterior cingulate cortex Put, putamen SFG, superior frontal gyrus SI, substantia innominata SPG, superior parietal gyrus SPL, superior parietal lobule SOG, superior occipital gyrus STG, superior temporal gyrus Tha, thalamus VFG, ventral frontal gyrus.

Structural brain alterations in pedophilia

For the purposes of this review, we focused on providing an overview of recent neuroimaging work in pedophilia research starting in 2007, with case studies from 2000 to 2003. This was done for space and readability reasons such that another recently published review provides an excellent in-depth discussion of neuroimaging in pedophilia (Mohnke et al., 2014). That review summarizes the state of the art of neuroimaging in pedophilia as being in its infancy, with a general consensus that findings are scattered and need to be replicated. Most results from neuroimaging studies in pedophilia have found neurostructural or neurofunctional correlates of CSA, not pedophilia per se. The amygdala remains a region of high interest, but Mohnke et al. (2014) suggest stricter methodology to replicate these findings. Our discussion parallels and expands upon the aforementioned review.

A famous case study that highlighted a neurological disease that caused impulsive sexual behavior and could have been an expression of an underlying pedophilic orientation was a right orbitofrontal tumor in a 40-year-old man (Burns and Swerdlow, 2003). Prior to the discovery of his tumor, the patient had overtly claimed no sexual interest in children, but after the tumor progressed, he made sexual advances to his prepubescent stepdaughter and began a pornography collection, including child pornography, resulting from impulse control loss associated with orbitofrontal cortex dysfunction. Although his behavior was non-exclusive and his preference was not explicitly tested, the most striking fact about his symptoms is that all pedophilia-like symptoms disappeared after resection of the tumor. Even more, after the tumor recidivated, the pedophilia-like symptoms remerged and disappeared again after the second resection, thus showing a clear causal link between behavior and brain function. However, the clear majority of orbitofrontal tumors do not result in pedophilic behavior, meaning this case study should be interpreted cautiously.

A further publication with two case studies highlights the role of the temporal cortex in regulating sexual behavior (Mendez et al., 2000). In the first case, a 60-year-old man developed fronto-temporal dementia and presented with increased sexual drive the molestation of extrafamilial children. The second case was a 67-year-old man who developed hippocampal sclerosis that similarly increased his sexual desire. He attempted to molest extrafamilial children. Both patients sexually abused their own young children, suggesting a latent predisposition to pedophilic behaviors existed in these patients prior to disease onset. Both patients showed hypometabolism of the right temporal lobe as measured with FDG-PET. After treatment with antidepressants (paroxetine for the former patient and sertraline for the latter), a decrease in pedophilic behaviors and desires was reported (Mendez et al., 2000). These findings support that dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex may prompt a latent predisposition to sexual attraction to children through disinhibition, whereas a dysfunction in the temporal cortex might elicit this response through sexual preoccupation (Jordan et al., 2011b). This does not explain the etiology of pedophilia as a sexual preference but as an acquired hypersexual behavioral disorder, and furthermore one that rarely presents in the realm of fronto-temporal dementia and hippocampal sclerosis. Clear here is the expression of pedophilic behaviors resulting from the neurological diagnoses, but not why these behaviors were pedophilic rather than hypersexual in nature. For further discussion of dementia and its relation to hypersexual/pedophilic disorders, please refer to Mohnke et al. (2014).

Only a handful of studies of MRI-based structural differences in pedophilia have been published so far. By means of voxel-based morphometry (VBM), several alterations of gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) were found. In 18 incarcerated exclusive heterosexual and homosexual pedophilic men with histories of sexual offending against prepubertal children, a significantly lower GM volume in the bilateral orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral insula, bilateral ventral striatum (putamen), precuneus, left posterior cingulate, as well as superior and right middle temporal, parahippocampal gyrus, and in the cingulate compared to 24 teleiophiles was found. These findings were corrected for multiple comparisons using the false discovery rate within the whole brain (Schiffer et al., 2007). However, only the left parahippocampal gyrus would have remained significant had a Bonferroni correction for the 15 additional ROI analyses been applied. The authors proposed a theoretical frontal-executive dysfunction and suggested that – similarly to obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders – these findings may form a neurophysiological circuit contributing to the pathophysiology of pedophilia.

In another study with 15 pedophilic forensic inpatients in comparison to a healthy teleiophile group, GM reductions were found in four pre-defined ROIs comprised of right amygdalae in right septal region, the bed nucleus striae terminalis (BNST), hypothalamus, and the substantia innominate bilaterally (Schiltz et al., 2007). Later on, amygdalar volume reduction was confirmed by a post hoc manual volumetric analysis, unpublished until now (Schiltz, personal communication). These results could be related to a developmental hypoplasia and underscores the influence of right amygdalar lateralization on regulation of sexual behavior, supporting the temporal lobe hypothesis of pedophilia.

One study was published showing that, in comparison to non-sexual offender controls (n =�), convicted pedophilic offenders (n =𠂙) show only GM volume decreases in the centromedial nuclei group of the right amygdala which extended into the laterobasal nuclei group and the cornu ammonis of the hippocampus, although this finding did not survive correction for the large number of predefined ROIs (Poeppl et al., 2013). Interestingly, pedosexual interest, including the strength of such interest, and sexual recidivism were associated with GM volume decreases in the left insular and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, while preference for younger children was associated with GM decreases in the orbitofrontal cortex and bilateral angular gyri (Poeppl et al., 2013).

What the studies of Schiffer et al. (2007) and Schiltz et al. (2007) have in common is a comparison between a group of sentenced sex offenders recruited from forensic institutions with healthy teleiophiles without criminal histories, leading to potential confounds in the results with factors other than pedophilia, such as criminality or stress of imprisonment. However, an advantage of the study by Schiffer et al. (2007) is that they included only pedophiles of the exclusive type, allowing for interpretations including sexual preference.

By comparing 44 pedophilic men with histories of sexually offending against children or child pornography consumption, with 53 men with histories of non-sexual offenses, differences were found in the WM only, highlighting a bilateral connection route traveling the superior fronto-occipital fasciculus, as well as a right-sided alteration in the arcuate fasciculus. No differences in GM were observed (Cantor et al., 2008). These findings were upheld in a follow-up confirmatory reanalysis (Cantor and Blanchard, 2012) and interpreted as insufficient connectivity in pedophilic individuals, rather than simply GM reductions in disparate (sub-) cortical regions (Cantor and Blanchard, 2012).

Studies to date contain shortcomings either due to the sample sizes, to the configuration of the control group, or because the methodology of VBM was used in a restricted way by focusing on a priori regions of interest. The take home message of the present structural imaging MRI studies of pedophilia is that while there have been different results from different studies, one finding has been replicated across studies: reduced right amygdala volumes in pedophiles compared to teleiophilic controls (Mendez et al., 2000 Schiffer et al., 2007 Schiltz et al., 2007 Poeppl et al., 2013). This finding supports the temporal lobe theory of pedophilia referred to in Section “Introduction and Conceptual Framework.” Diffusion-tensor imaging is a method of WM imaging that holds promise to validate and expand previous VBM results.

Functional brain alterations in pedophilia

Only a few functional imaging studies have been conducted to investigate possible differences during the processing of sexual stimuli in the brains of pedophiles. With only one exception, they were visual sexual stimulation studies, thereby inducing a strong visual bias while making this modality the dominant model of perceptual processing alterations in paraphilias, although sensory systems offer potential other routes to sexual responsiveness. However, with the background of recent evidence explaining how hetero- or homosexual teleiophilic brains process visual sexual information and regulate the psychosexual and physiosexual components of sexual arousal [please refer to Safron et al. (2007), Georgiadis and Kringelbach (2012), Stoléru et al. (2012), and Poeppl et al. (2014)] for a deeper discussion), it is a reasonable step toward the understanding of pedophilia to study whether there are functional differences in the brain network associated with sexually arousing visual pictures of children.

Research has highlighted alterations in pedophiles through positron emission tomography (PET) and functional MRI. For example, in a PET study of pedophilia, a decreased regional cerebral metabolic rate for glucose was found in the right inferior temporal cortex and superior frontal gyrus, without Bonferroni correction. This rate decreased in the pedophilic group after presentation of girl and women cues, whereas it increased in the teleiophilic group (Cohen et al., 2002). The authors interpreted this as a consistent brain abnormality underlying decreased glucose metabolism in the temporal and frontal cortices implicated in cortical regulation of sexual arousal. The small sample size of seven participants in each group limits the generalizability and confidence with which the results can be interpreted.

In fMRI research, the first study that included a single homosexual pedophile found increased activity of the anterior cingulate gyrus, right prefrontal cortex, and basal ganglia in response to pictures of minimally clothed boys, regions that comprise the attentional brain network with the right orbitofrontal cortex (Dressing et al., 2001).

Decreased activations were seen in the hypothalamus, dorsal midbrain, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and right lateral parietal, right ventrolateral, and right occipital cortices, as well as in the left insula in 13 hetero- and homosexual forensic pedophiles when viewing sexual stimuli as compared to emotional stimuli as compared to teleiophiles (Walter et al., 2007). Based on these findings, it was suggested that the missing sexual interest toward adults could be explained by impairment in subcortical regions associated with the autonomic component of sexual arousal, i.e., lack of activation seen in hypothalamus and dorsal midbrain in pedophilia. Additionally, using a regression analysis approach, the activation in the left DLPFC was inversely correlated with the score on the child abuse subscale of the multiphasic sexual inventory (MSI), indicating also possible alterations of cognitive processing of sexual stimuli in these subjects (Schiffer et al., 2008a,b).

Homosexual and heterosexual incarcerated pedophiles were examined with fMRI to determine whether there were differences associated with age and child gender preference. Among homosexual pedophiles with a history of sexual offenses against children (n =�) in comparison with homosexual (n =�) controls, the substantia nigra, caudate nucleus, the occipitotemporal and prefrontal cortices, thalamus, globus pallidus, and the striatum were activated in response to male child sexual stimuli, whereas these were not among the matched homosexual teleiophiles (Schiffer et al., 2008a). This was interpreted as an increased effort in evaluating respective stimuli in pedophilic compared to control participants. In another investigation, heterosexual pedophiles (n =𠂘), when compared to heterosexual teleiophiles (n =�), after presentation with female child sexual stimuli displayed significant activations in the amygdala, hippocampus, substantia nigra, caudate nucleus, the medial dorsal thalamic nucleus, and the inferior temporal gyrus, suggesting a similar response pattern to sexually preferred stimuli as seen in healthy heterosexual males (Schiffer et al., 2008b). Pedophilic males showed a signal increase only in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in response to the preferred sexual stimuli (no activation was seen in the control group to sexual stimuli of adult women). An interesting finding was that whereas the healthy male teleiophiles activated the orbitofrontal cortex in response to both sexually explicit adult female and female child imagery, this activation was not seen among male pedophiles. All together, the authors suggest that orbitofrontal deactivation, as shown in pedophilic participants, represents a dysfunction of the neural network necessary for the appropriate cognitive component of sexual arousal processing.

There were also attempts to investigate the perception and emotional processing of visual sexual stimuli. For example, the right amygdala showed greater activation in homosexual pedophiles when they were presented with male child sexual stimuli compared to heterosexual male teleiophiles who observed female adult sexual pictures, although the participants were not matched for sexual orientation, thus potentially obscuring true ‘pedophilic’ activations (Sartorius et al., 2008). The authors interpreted this increased amygdala activation to stimuli depicting children that were observed in pedophiles as a possible fearful emotional reaction combined with sexual arousal, supported by the lack of an appropriate amygdala activation to adult female stimuli (Sartorius et al., 2008).

Poeppl et al. (2011) used a block design in their study to investigate sexual interest in pedophiles (nine pedophiles with a history of contact offenses and 11 non-sexual offender controls) that consisted of male and female nude Tanner scale imagery, including Tanner scales I, III, and V, corresponding to prepubescent, pubescent, and adult images. Results of whole brain analyses showed significantly greater activation in the middle temporal lobe, hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, thalamus, medial frontal lobe, and culmen of the cerebellum in pedophiles to the Tanner I > neutral contrast. When compared to control teleiophiles in the Tanner V > neutral contrast, pedophiles showed a significant deactivation in the right insula. Furthermore, in the between group contrast of interest (pedophiles > Tanner I, teleiophiles > Tanner V), there were significantly greater activation signals seen in the postcentral gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus, anterior midcingulate cortex, and the amygdalae bilaterally (Poeppl et al., 2011). The authors interpreted these findings as an easier sexual arousability in pedophilic as compared to non-paraphilic participants when stimulated with purposefully non-erotic material (Poeppl et al., 2011).

In a similar study, Habermeyer et al. (2013a) investigated eight pedophiles (three with a history of contact offenses, five with a history of child pornography consumption) and eight heterosexual teleiophilic controls in an event-related design consisting of erotic pictures of boys, girls, men, and women. In an ROI analysis including the middle frontal gyrus, only the pedophilic participants showed activation in the girl contrast, whereas controls showed deactivation (Habermeyer et al., 2013a). A further finding showed that during the immediate processing of erotic stimuli, both groups showed significant activations in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a finding the authors attributed to the crucial role this region occupies in the critical evaluation of and attention to sexual stimuli (Habermeyer et al., 2013a).

Two recent studies investigated functional connectivity in pedophilia and have supported decreased connectivity associated with CSA, but not with pedophilia. Specifically, Kärgel et al. (2015) examined functional connectivity at rest (RSFC) in 26 pedophilic men stratified according to offense status (14 P+CSA, 12 P𠄼SA) and 14 HC within (1) the default mode network and (2) the limbic network. Pedophiles who engaged in CSA depicted diminished RSFC in both networks compared with HC and P𠄼SA with diminished RSFC between the left amygdala and orbitofrontal as well as anterior prefrontal regions. These findings highlight a diminished resting state functional connectivity in offending pedophiles as compared to controls, suggesting a relationship to CSA more than to pedophilia. Using complex multimodal integration of brain structure and function analyses, Poeppl et al. (2015) found that the functional role of brain regions that are altered in pedophilia were linked to non-sexual emotional as well as neurocognitive and executive functions, which were previously reported to be impaired in pedophiles. They suggested that structural brain alterations affect neural networks for sexual processing by way of disrupted functional connectivity and that structural alterations also account for common affective and neurocognitive impairments in pedophilia.

Further, new methods have been investigating differences that go beyond regional activations. Pattern classification is a new method of analyzing neural activation patterns. The idea of pattern classification is to use activation patterns in different brain regions in a multivariate approach rather than relying on region by region comparisons (Linden, 2012). It can be used for classifying groups. For example, in the field of sexology pattern classification has been applied successfully to classify heterosexual and homosexual male teleiophiles (Ponseti et al., 2009).

Research found that the activations seen in heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles to child stimuli are nearly indistinguishable from those in heterosexual and homosexual healthy males to adult stimuli (Ponseti et al., 2012) this supports the assumption that pedophilia is primarily a sexual age preference similarly to teleiophilia. The activation pattern among heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles and healthy male teleiophiles includes the caudate nucleus, cingulate cortex, insula, fusiform gyrus, temporal cortex, occipital cortex, thalamus, amygdala, and cerebellum. Despite the similarity in activation patterns between pedophilic and teleiophilic men, the novel pattern classification technique has been successfully applied based on the presentation of preferred sexual stimuli and resulted in a mean accuracy of 95%, with 100% specificity and 88% sensitivity (Ponseti et al., 2012 Mohnke et al., 2014), thereby showing a promising new approach for classifying subjects. Please refer to Figure ​ Figure3 3 for a visual explanation of pattern classification according to Ponseti et al. (2012). These studies included fully admitting pedophilic participants only therefore, further research should verify its use with partially- or non-admitting pedophiles. The promise of functional predictors is, however, also supported by a similar study which, in contrast to Ponseti et al. (2012), used a highly hypothesis-driven approach of several impaired functions.