The other day, I wrote about a controversy surrounding Haworth Press’s decision to drop a book, Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West, after the far-right website WorldNetDaily raised a ruckus about an essay in the book which argued that sexual relationships between adult men and adolescent boys should not be viewed as harmful or wrong.
An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education examines the brouhaha. (Thanks to author David Glenn for the tip; unfortunately I’m not sure the link will work for non-subscribers.)
Last Wednesday, two days after WorldNetDaily’s condemnation, the press announced that it had canceled the book. Kathryn Rutz, Haworth’s vice president for editorial development, said in an e-mail message to The Chronicle that five of the press’s top officials had made the decision.
The press received approximately 20 messages of complaint in the two days after the WorldNetDaily attack, Ms. Rutz said. She added, however, that “it is likely that this would have come up later in the production process, even without the input of outside correspondents.”
The decision to cancel was not easy, Ms. Rutz said. “There was vigorous discussion, to be sure,” she said. “Issues on the table included freedom of speech, consequences of negative publicity, personal objections to the subject matter, and resistance to what might appear to be caving in to a particular group with its own right-wing agenda.”
In 1998 Mr. Rind and two colleagues published an article in the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association, in which they reviewed 59 previously published studies of college students who had been victims of child sexual abuse. In their analysis, Mr. Rind and his colleagues found that not all of the students had suffered lasting psychological harm, and that 42 percent of the male students retrospectively viewed their sexual experiences with adults as “positive.”
The paper came under immediate and heavy criticism from other scholars of sexual abuse. Among other things, scholars objected that studies of college students were not the best way to capture the full range of experiences of abused children. The following summer, after a campaign by talk-radio hosts, the paper was denounced in unanimous resolutions by both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Other critics of Mr. Rind’s work have pointed to a 1995 essay of his published in Paidika, an obscure, explicitly pro-pedophilic journal. In that article, Mr. Rind called for the abolition of age-of-consent laws. One condemnation of that essay appeared in Haworth’s own Journal of Child Sexual Abuse in 2002.
I remember the outcry over Rind’s 1998 article. Some of the hysteria was over the top, particularly the congressional resolution (there are plenty of other articles in academic journals that express fairly outrageous viewpoints without incurring the same kind of condemnation). However, as some scholars quoted by Glenn point out, the issue is not just the conclusion (shared by many other researchers) that many victims of child sexual abuse make it to adulthood with no enduring trauma; it’s that Rind and his co-authors seemed to cross the line from research into advocacy. The Paidika essay, of which I was previously unaware, makes it clear that Rind (an adjunct psychology instructor at Temple University) crossed that line a long time ago.
One contributor to the canceled volume, Amy Richlin, a professor of classics at the University of California at Los Angeles, was quoted in the Chronicle as saying of Haworth Press, “If they’re going to allow themselves to be held hostage to the radical right, then they should get out of the publishing business.” So now, being against the normalization of man/boy sex marks you as a member of the radical right? I would estimate that on this issue, some 99% of the public would agree with WND. And why give ammunition to enemies of gay rights who are always using the specter of pedophile acceptance as a scare tactic?