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Theories for Sexual Deviancy

Theories for sexual deviancy

Freud's Psychodynamic Theory suggests that the three constructs of the psyche (id, ego, and superego) are in constant turmoil over energy. Some theorists suggest that sexual offenders have very weak superegos (morals) and very powerful ids (sexual impulses, libido). Freud actually introduced the idea of sexual abuse early in his career with the paper entitled, "The Seduction Theory", but because his peers rejected such a concept, he revised his theory to be interpersonal or "in the head". Freud also developed and expanded the idea of the unconscious, and numerous defense mechanisms to protect a person's ego. Sexual offenders overly rely on the defenses of denial, displacement, and projection. Also at play would be the mother-son relationship. There is research to substantiate that the mother-son relationship is qualitatively different in sexual offenders than in non-offenders. Many times the sex offender's mother may be "hot and cold", "loving and hating". Furthermore, many mothers initiate covert incest with their son. With covert incest, there is no physical sexual relationship between the mother and son; the mother tends to make her son into her spouse, save the sex. All of the aforementioned concepts would shape the young man into a sexual deviant.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory suggests that irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions help to initiate sexual deviancy. Soon after the offender becomes conditioned to negative sexual stimuli, with "orgasm" being the reinforcer. These constructs combined (cognitive/behavioral) create persistent patterns on how the offender behaves as well as views the world. The secrecy, among other constructs, soon becomes part of the conditioned response and perpetuates the deviancy. The Learning Theory is also a significant component of this approach. Children who are sexually abused learn sex through inappropriate means, and if exposed enough, children may internalize this learned behavior. Sex offenders do appear to view the world differently than "normal" men--they perceive women, children, sex, and arousal qualitatively different. When this occurs after a long period of time, the offender begins to behave accordingly. Many times the sexual offender suffers from chronic low grade depression, very low self esteem, has been ridiculed his entire life, and so forth. These traits tend to distort the offenders view of the world, and, for the molester, he may find comfort and acceptance in the children he so desires. Immaturity is a trademark of the child molester. This appears to occur due to the fact that he has not advanced emotionally since his tormented adolescent years.

Evolutionary Theory posits that males in general have learned throughout time to become more aggressive and dominant towards women in particular. This would be due to successful reproduction and passing on the male's genetic material. The more aggressive males continued to pass on those genes while at the same time learning from prior generations. Prehistoric women were monogamous by nature--they needed men to assist them during and after childbirth. Without the assistance of man, the mortality rate for women and children would be substantially reduced. The more sexually aggressive males mated much more frequently than passive males, and therefore those genes kept evolving. Today, society becomes outraged when we compare human beings to animals. "We have advanced so much" "But our brains are so much more complex". The truth reveals that the human sexual drive and behavior is very similar to that of other mammals. Though our brains have advanced throughout time, our inherent drive to reproduce has not. This theory may partially account for rape, but fails to address child molestation. A strong indicator of this theory is that most sexual crimes are committed by males.

Bio-medical model suggests that sexual offenders produce more testosterone than non-offenders, and is similar to the evolutionary theory. New research suggests that males with longer ring fingers than index fingers may have more testosterone in the body. I have found that the offenders I have worked with do, in general, have longer ring fingers than the substance abuse clients I have treated with no known history of sexual deviancy The production of testosterone is in the testes, thereby removing the testes reduces or eliminates testosterone (either surgically or chemically). There are numerous studies suggesting significant reductions in recidivism rates in those who have been castrated.

Learning Theory would suggest that an offender has somehow learned the sexual deviancy from his or her environment. This theory also incorporates "modeling". This would suggest that the offender learned the behavior from watching someone else behave in a similar fashion, or even by their own sexual abuse. Studies have suggested that anywhere from 30% to 80% of offenders have been sexually abused themselves in the past, and this information may offer credible evidence to support this theory. There are many offenders, however, that report that they have never been sexually abused, and never witnessed sexual abuse in the past. Many offenders do appear to be continually learning and advancing in their sexual deviancy. They learn how to obtain victims more effectively; learn how far they can go; learn what things arouse them more; learn how to avoid or escape detection.

There are a number of "sub-theories" which may include the dynamics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Attachment Theory, and so forth. For many of the clients I see (both adolescents and adult sexual offenders), many appear to share the same symptomology: low self esteem, poor self perception, depression, isolation from same age peers, difficulty achieving and maintaining intimate relationships, and their "comfort zone" appears to be limited to their victimology characteristics.

Why does one decide to "go over the edge" and sexually offend someone? First we must remember, what "edge" are we referring to, our own standards, or the offenders. It is very easy for us to say that the offender should have known better, and for us to search out the "hidden reasons" why an offender initially engaged in the behavior. What if the truth is that it is all they know? Their world has been plagued with inconsistencies and warped boundaries, that they did not attach the same connotations as "we" may have. Moreover, it is quite possible that many sex offenders are very self centered people who are very selfish, and were only looking to satisfy their own yearnings.

We need empiricism (research) to thoroughly examine the dynamics of sexual deviancy, and to help provide information and feedback with regard to treatment interventions, and efficacy of treatment. We also need solid clinicians who specialize in assessing and treating sexual deviancy to utilize the information put forth by empirical studies, and to apply it using their own creativity and evaluation.


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