Instigator / Pro

Is Child Sexual Abuse Harmful by Itself?


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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Better arguments
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After 3 votes and with 19 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

Pro argues that the vast majority of the harm that is correlated with kids having sex with adults stems from the stigma against it and failing to control for other confounding variables.

Con argues against this view.

Disclaimer: I (pro) have uncertainty about this view but I will attempt to play devils advocate.

Child sexual abuse: A person that is under 18 years old having sex (that they chose to have) with someone that is five or more years older than them.

Round 1

This text was originally about 96,348 characters in length so I had to not include about two thirds of it to go below the 30,000 character limit )-:

[Whenever one of my quotes from the Trauma Myth skips one or more words from a single sentence I make that known by writing . . . in place of the words that I skipped. For example if I wanted to summarize this quote that Clancy wrote:] I have opted to change the names of all the victims featured in this book and to either omit or modify any clearly identifying characteristics (such as age, birth date, place of residence, and specific occupation) [then I would quote her like this:] I have opted to . . . omit or modify any clearly identifying characteristics (such as age, birth date, place of residence, and specific occupation)." [Whenever one of my quotes from the Trauma Myth skips one or more words from multiple sentences I make that known to the reader by writing (. . . .) .]

[Sometimes when I quote the author I mix up the order of her sentences to make what she says more clear/brief or to make my point more clear/brief. I guess that readers will have to trust that I did not mix up the order of her sentences in my quotes to somehow make it sound like she is saying something different than what she is actually saying. However, if you don't trust that I won't do so then you can use CTRL F on a version of the Trauma Myth (or other source that I have quoted from) that you downloaded onto your computer to see if I have taken the quotes out of context.]

[When I write a source down I write the source like a title except that the text has normal text size, it is underlined as well as bolded, and is not considered a heading so it cannot be clicking on or seen in the table of contents part of the application/app (the application and app can be found on the website for both mobile phones and PCs respectively). Here is an example of this: Knauft, Bruce M. (1987). "Homosexuality in Melanesia," Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology, 10, 155-91. s All of the text under the sources that I write down like this is verbatim quotes from the source. The only exception to the text being verbatim quotes from the source is when I write down text in these [ ] just like [this]. When I write text in those things the text inside of those things is text that i have written myself (not quotes). Also, when I want to show that a source and the quotes from that source (lets call those both source one) are inside another source and the quotes from that other source (lets call them both source two) then I write source one like the following:]
<--> Janssen, D.F. (2002). "Papua New Guinea," Growing Up Sexually, Volume I: World Reference Atlas.
[Notice that <--> is at the start of the text to indicate that the source and the quotes from the source are inside of one other source and quote from the source. If the source was inside two sources there would be two of <--> for example:]
<--> <--> Janssen, D.F. (2002). "Papua New Guinea," Growing Up Sexually, Volume I: World Reference Atlas.

[I keep track of how many headings a heading is inside of in a similar way. To make headings inside of I have just bolded the text that I want to be headings ex Example of a Heading. However, I want to be able to make smaller second headings that go inside first headings. So, what I have done to know when a heading is a second heading is I have put an arrow that looks like --> right before all of the text that makes up the heading one to indicate that the heading one is actually a heading two. For example:]
--> Example of a Heading

[When I want to indicate that the heading one is a heading three then i write two arrows right before all of the text that makes up the heading one. If i wanted to indicate that the heading one is actually a heading four then i would put three arrows like this:]
--> --> --> Feeling ashamed about it

[I'll say the following to be completely transparant. There are no . . . that should be . . . . (except maybe one or two). However, as of writing there might be quite a few . . . . that should be . . .] I'll also say this following thing to be completely transparent. When I quoted someone (lets call them person one) who was quoting another person (lets call them person two) as of writing (the date is 06/16/2022 as of writing) I did not check to see if the quotes that person two said are verbatim or even real whatsoever.]

The Burden of Proof (Somewhat) lies With You
If you are familiar with philosophy then you have probably heard something like "the burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove a claim does not render that claim valid, nor give it any credence whatsoever." - This burden of proof lies with the person who is making the claim about something existing in the world. It is the person who makes the claim about something existing in the world to prove that the claim that they are making about something existing in the world is true. You are saying that something is existing in the world. You are saying that adult-child sex is harmful by itself. I am not saying that something is existing in the world. I am saying that something is not existing in the world. I am saying that child-adult sex is not harmful by itself. Granted, there is more to my argumentation than that and for those other parts of my argumentation the burden of proof lies of me rather than you. That other argumentation is that the stigma, the betrayal that results from the stigma, and the other confounding variables causes harm. For that argumentation the burden of proof lies on me. I have to "prove" that I am correct about those claims about things existing in the world. However, for that one part of my argumentation, for the part of my argumentation where I say that child-adult sex is not harmful by itself, the burden of proof lies with you. You have to show that adult-child sex is harmful by itself because it is a claim about something existing (rather than not existing) in the world.

There are Many Societies Where Children Have/Had sex With Adults and it Seems to not Harm the Children. Therefore Child-Adult sex is Likely not Harmful by Itself
[I'm not going to assume that you know what a confounding variable is so I'll give you an example of confounding variables. Let's say that you're conducting a study to see if ice-cream somehow causes people to get more sunburns. You find out that the more ice-cream people eat in any given day the more sunburns they get so you conclude that ice-cream consumption does cause sunburns. However, ice-cream does not cause sunburns. What did you, the conductor of this study, do wrong? Why did you reach the false conclusion that ice-cream causes sunburns? At least some of the confounding variables are that people like to eat ice-cream on hot sunny days and people like to go outside and have fun on sunny days more than cloudy days and when they do so they are more likely to drive/walk/bike/travel past ice-cream shops that sell ice-cream and then think about the possibility of getting ice-cream become enticed by the ice-cream and decide to buy some. People would be less likely to think about the possibility of getting ice-cream and be enticed by it if they did not decide to go outside because it was a sunny day because going outside greatly increases their chances of seeing an ice-cream shop. You reached the false conclusion that ice-cream causes sunburns because you did not control for these (and maybe other) confounding variables. The confounding variables are what caused people to become sunburned. Peoples ice-cream consumption did not cause them to be sunburned. If you do not control for one single confounding variable then you might reach the false conclusion that ice-cream eating causes sunburns.]

[Here is another example of confounding variables.] "You find that babies born to mothers who smoked during their pregnancies weigh significantly less than those born to non-smoking mothers. However, if you do not account for the fact that smokers are more likely to engage in other unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking or eating less healthy foods, then you might overestimate the relationship between smoking and low birth weight. [The confounding variables are the unhealthy behaviors (such as drinking and eating less healthy foods) that smokers are more likely to engage in than non-smokers.]" -

[Now let's get back to talking about what causes the harm to children who have sex with adults. Here is an important question: Is the harm caused by the children having sex with adults itself or is their confounding variable(s) that are causing the children to appear to be harmed by the sex when they are actually harmed by the confounding variable(s)? Here are a few possible confounding variables that could be causing children who have sex with adults to be harmed more than the general population: Stigmatization, shaming, the police getting involved, societies reaction to the adult-child sex, ect. All of these confounding variables could cause children who have had adult-child sex to experience harm that is not a result of the adult-child sex but is a result of the confounding variables, the factors that are tied to adult-child sex in our society.]

[Humans are all pretty much the same. Therefore if adult-child sex is openly practiced in some societies and if it seems to not harm the children who participate in the it in those societies then adult child sex must not inherently harm children throughout the whole world who participate in adult-child sex. If adult-child sex is openly practiced in some societies and if it seems to not harm the children who participate in the it in those societies then if children appear to be harmed by adult-child sex in other societies (ex The United States) there must be some confounding variable(s) that are causing children to appear to be harmed by adult-child sex even though they are not inherently harmed by it. If the confounding variables like let's say stigmatization ("it's terrible that that happened to you, I would be traumatized for life, ect"), guilt, and shame associated with adult-child sex were eliminated then adult-child sex would not cause children to be harmed. All in all this is why I will quote and write in my own words that there are many past and present societies where humans have adult-child sex, it is socially accepted, and it seems that the children are not harmed from it.]

Human Adult-Child Sexual Relationships
--> GUS, a world atlas to growing up sexually
The range and detail of accounts involved in this page will only serve as a brief demonstration of non-western diversity in intergenerational sexuality. If readers are seeking a broader, more detailed and integrated study, they may find Diederik Janssen's Growing Up Sexually more appropriate. Growing up Sexually can be found here: This link (the one right behind this sentence) is broken. To fix it put an underscore in between GUS and MAIN. Also to fix it put an underscore in between MAIN and INDEX. A link to the wayback machine version of GUS can be found here: This link (the one right behind this sentence) is broken. To fix it put an underscore in between GUS and MAIN. Also to fix it put an underscore in between MAIN and INDEX.

--> Melanesia
Melanesian societies have normalized the consumption of semen by prepubescent boys. This is thought to be in aid of their future status as warriors. Semen is received via oral or anal sex with an adolescent boy or man. Relationships are said to be free-flowing and affectionate among the Sambia of New-Guinea.

<--> Hyena, Hank (1999). "Semen Warriors Of New Guinea,", September 16.
"Although many boys tremble initially ("I felt afraid... the penises were enormous," recalls Kalutuo, a Sambian from the Eastern Highlands) they all adjust quickly, because they believe semen is an elixir for manhood."

<--> Knauft, Bruce M. (1987). "Homosexuality in Melanesia," Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology, 10, 155-91.
Melanesian boys "coquettishly initiated" homosexuality with grown men. Relationships were "grounded in personal affection rather than obligation".

<--> Anitei, Stefan (2007). "How to Drink Sperm to Become a Strong Man," Softpedia, October 6.
"This power is transmitted between the members of the tribe by means of sex. That's why young boys, even at the age of 12, get it from the sperm of the older males. The boy gets "power" orally by a young man assigned to be his partner. Few years later, the teenager is formally involved in relationships with many male sex partners, after which he turns into an "inseminator" from an "inseminee.""

<--> Janssen, D.F. (2002). "Papua New Guinea," Growing Up Sexually, Volume I: World Reference Atlas.
"...the “Sambia” value male-virgin contacts (1984:p177), while “sexual partners are perceived as having more “heat” and being more exciting the younger they are. A second factor is reciprocity: the more asymmetrical the sexual partners (youth/boy), the more erotic play seems to culturally define their contact” [sic]. Against the background of an utterly phallocentric ideology on the androtrophic properties of semen, “Sambia” prepubertal boys (7-12, on average 8.5) fellate post-pubertal adolescents to ejaculation in order to grow and turn seminarchic themselves, so that they may reverse roles. The boys do not have orgasms, and might have “vicarious erotic pleasure as indicated by erections” only “near puberty” (Herdt and Stoller, 1990:p70-1)."

--> Polynesia
<--> Martinson, Floyd M. (1973). Infant and Child Sexuality: A Sociological Perspective. The Book Mark.
"Sex play was common practice from the earliest ages among the Marquesa and not only tolerated but encouraged. (Kardiner, 1939, p. 205-206). They recognized the erotic impulse in childhood and accorded it the right of free exercise. They eroticized the child by masturbating it to keep it quiet. In the case of the girls, labia were manipulated as a placebo, but also to encourage the growth of large labia, which to the Marquesans was a mark of beauty. Such activity was, no doubt, also erotically stimulating. There was social recognition of all sexual activity in childhood, and there were no restrictions against encouragement to exercise it freely; it was allocated the same place in the child's world that it occupied in the adult's."

[There are an absolutely mountainous amount of accounts of adult-child sexual relationships between both humans and monkeys and other animals that I could not include because of the character limit. I also was not able to include my notes from the revealing book called The Trauma Myth (it has a misleading title).]

Evidence that Confounding Variables are the Cause of the Harm to Children who Have had sex With Adults
<--> Coffey, P., Leitenberg, H., Henning, K., Turner, T., & Bennett, R. T. (1996). "Mediators of the long-term impact of child sexual abuse: Perceived stigma, betrayal, powerlessness, and self-blame," Child Abuse & Neglect, 20(5), pp.447-455
"Regression analyses entering only the level of sexual activity to predict the mediator variables found that level of sexual activity was related to stigma [...] The level of sexual activity was also a direct predictor o1 the GSI when entered into a regression as the sole predictor [...] However, when level of sexual activity and the mediator variables were used in combination to predict GSI, this analysis yielded an X2 of .33, F(5,168) = 16.71, p < .0000 and the only predictors that accounted for unique variance in the GSI were two of the mediators. They were stigma (B = .36), F = 17.04, p < .001 and self-blame (B = .25), F = 11.99, p < .0007. The level of sexual activity was no longer a significant predictor of the GSI score when the mediators were entered into the equation. The results of this path analysis therefore indicate that the only mediational paths in predicting adjustment on the GSI were for level of sexual activity via stigma and self-blame. [...] Because the path analysis tests a particular mediation model it is also fair to say that these results support the hypothesis that stigma and self-blame may underlie the long-term negative impact of a child sexual abuse experience. [...] Clearly feelings of self-blame and stigma regarding child sexual abuse can linger long into adulthood. This sense of feeling ashamed, tainted, and blameworthy regarding the abuse may impact adjustment by affecting the survivor's core beliefs about their worth as a person. Struggling with these feelings may result in heightened levels of psychological distress. These findings further suggest that feelings of both stigma and serf-blame in adulthood are particularly affected by the level of sexual activity involved in the abusive experience. It may be that higher levels of sexual activity result in an increased sense of being "damaged goods" and tainted due to a greater sense of personal and societal violation. Certainly society considers intercourse to be the most taboo form of sexual contact with children."

<--> Finkelhor, D. & Browne, A. (1985). "The traumatic impact of child sexual abuse: A conceptualization," American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55 (4), 530-541.
Three of the four "tramagenic dynamics" proposed by Finkelhor for child sexual abuse are related to Western society's conceptualization of sex or reaction to CSA. "Betrayal refers to the dynamic by which children discover that someone on whom they were vitally dependent has caused them harm. This may occur in a variety of ways in a molestation experience. For example, in the course of abuse or its aftermath, children may come to the realization that a trusted person has manipulated them through lies or misrepresentations about moral standards. They may also come to realize that someone whom they loved or whose affection was important to them treated them with callous disregard. [...] A child who was suspicious of a father’s activities from the beginning may feel less betrayed than one who initially experienced the contact as nurturing and loving and then is suddenly shocked to realize what is really happening. Obviously, the degree of betrayal is also related to a family’s response to disclosure. Children who are disbelieved, blamed, or ostracized undoubtedly experience a greater sense of betrayal than those who are supported. [...] Powerlessness – or what might also be called disempowerment, the dynamic of rendering the victim powerless – refers to the process in which the child’s will, desires, and sense of efficacy are continually contravened. [...] But force and threat are not necessary; any kind of situation in which a child feels trapped, if only by the realization of the consequences of disclosure, can create a sense of powerlessness. [...] Stigmatization, the final dynamic, refers to the negative connotations (e.g., badness, shame, and guilt) that are communicated to the child around the experiences and that then become incorporated into the child’s self-image. These negative meanings are communicated in many ways. They can come directly from the abuser, who may blame the victim for the activity, demean the victim, or furtively convey a sense of shame about the behavior. Pressure for secrecy from the offender can also convey powerful messages of shame and guilt. But stigmatization is also reinforced by attitudes that the victim infers or hears from other persons in the family or community. Stigmatization may thus grow out of the child’s prior knowledge or sense that the activity is considered deviant and taboo, and it is certainly reinforced if, after disclosure, people react with shock or hysteria, or blame the child for what has transpired. Children may be additionally stigmatized by people in their environment who now impute other negative characteristics to the victim (e.g., loose morals or “spoiled goods”) as a result of the molestation. [...] Some children may be too young to have much awareness of social attitudes and thus experience little stigmatization, whereas others have to deal with powerful religious and cultural taboos in addition to the usual stigma." The single non-related dynamic ("traumatic sexualization") explains responses that are considered negative because of Western society's conceptualization of sex.

<--> Childhood and adolescent sexual abuse of community women: mediated effects on psychological distress and social relationships: Link: DOI:
"Possible mediators of sexual abuse severity were tested on the basis of D. Finkelhor and A. Browne's (1985) traumagenic dynamics model . . . . Severity was level of force, number of perpetrators, relationship to perpetrator, and age at first assault. As expected, structural equation modeling showed powerlessness, and stigmatization largely mediated the effects of sexual abuse severity on women's psychological distress in adulthood. Powerlessness also mediated the effects of severity on maladaptive social relationships. The expected path from betrayal to relationships was nonsignificant. Overall, the results support extension of D. Finkelhor and A. Browne's model."

<--> Malón, Agustín (2009). "Onanism and Child Sexual Abuse: A Comparative Study of Two Hypotheses ," Archives of Sexual Behavior. In press.
This article agrees with the above analysis of Finkelhor's model: "Finkelhor and Browne (1985) hypothesized four “traumatogenic dynamics”: traumatic sexualization, deceit, defenselessness, and stigmatization, and claimed these explained the traumatic specificity of CSA, something that is different from other otherwise equally severe trauma. But even a cursory examination of these shows they are found in other than CSA experiences, all are not always present, nor are they necessarily intrinsic to the child’s experience; they are, in fact, largely extrinsic societal artifacts."

<--> Jones, L. M., Cross, T. P., Walsh, W., & Simone, M. (2005). "Criminal investigations of child abuse: The research behind 'best practices'," Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 6(3), 254−268.
"Concern about the impact of repetitive interviews on children may be warranted. Two small studies (Berliner&Conte, 1995; Tedesco & Schnell, 1987) found that the greater the number of interviewers children reported, the more likely the child was to perceive the investigation experience as harmful. Another found a significant correlation between the number of interviews and the level of trauma symptoms experienced by children, even after controlling for several potential confounding variables (Henry, 1997)." [It could be that the interviews don't cause the children who are harmed more than the other children harm but the children who are more harmed seek out the interviews more because they are more harmed but maybe the study controlled for this by making victims have interviews whether they wanted to have the interviews or not. Look into this if i feel like it.]

--> Self-appraisal of abuse (Q)
<--> McNally, Richard J., and Geraerts, Elke (2009). "A New Solution to the Recovered Memory Debate," Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(2), 126-134.
"Only 2 of 27 subjects remembered the experience as terrifying, overwhelming, or traumatic. The other subjects remembered it as weird, confusing, or uncomfortable. Moreover, only 2 subjects understood the experience as sexual at the time it occurred. [...] However, after recalling their experience during adulthood, and viewing it through the eyes of an adult as sexual abuse, many subjects became highly distressed. In fact, 7 met symptomatic criteria for current PTSD, and all the participants believed that the abuse had multiple adverse effects on their lives. Retrospective reappraisal of the abuse as a trauma, after subjects recall it during adulthood, may render the memory pathogenic later in life."

--> Effects of "CSA" - ethnic factors (Q)
The harm of CSA varies significantly between ethnic groups, presumably due to cultural differences. This is the closest substitute to comparisons between societies for which data is available.

<--> Roosa, Mark W., Reinholtz, Cindy, and Angelini Patti Jo (1999). "The relation of child sexual abuse and depression in young women: comparisons across four ethnic groups," Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25:65-76.
"This study has shown that severity of CSA was a significant predictor of depression scores among young non-Hispanic white and Mexican American women after controlling for background factors. [...] CSA was not a significant predictor of depressive symptoms for African American or Native American women."

[Why would the negative effects that are correlated with CSA differ so much between ethnic groups? If ethnic groups are truly almost identical to all other ethnic groups in terms of intelligence, mental traits, physical traits, ect then the children of different ethnic groups would not experience more harm that is inherently a result of adult-child sex compared to other ethnic groups experiencing harm that is inherently a result of adult-child sex. Therefore this study suggests that children are not inherently harmed by having sex with adults. However, the children in some certain ethnic groups who have/had sex with adults experience more harm as a result of child-adult sex compared to the children in other certain ethnic groups who have/had sex with adults. Therefore there must be a confounding variable that is causing children of some certain ethnic groups who have/had sex with adults to be more harmed/less well off than other children of other certain ethnic groups. So, what is this confounding variable? By answering this question we can have a possible explanation for the results of this study and from that the study will be more likely to be legitimate from our perspective. The confounding variable that is harming some children who belong to a certain ethnic group more than other children who belong to a different certain ethnic group could be that differing levels of stigma around CSA adopted by different ethnic groups. Perhaps the more stigma against adult-child sex an ethnic group has the more that the children who have sex with adults who are a part of that ethnic group tend to suffer.]

--> In victimologists' own words (Q)
Abuse industry figureheads often provide statements betraying how hard it is to sell the "victim" label to minors who have become intimately engaged with adults. [The writing that is under this title is just anecdotes but I think that these anecdotes may help readers realize the ridiculousness of society thinking that adult-child sex is harmful.]
"The authors also recommend training for law enforcement since some of the targeted youth may not initially see themselves as victims and may require sensitive interviewing in order to cooperate with investigators."

"A child psychologist not involved in the Alamo case said that investigators will have to be careful interviewing the minors, particularly because some of them may have been taught to believe that any abuse that may have occurred was not wrong. 'If they don't believe it was abusive, that may be truly what their reality is at this point,' said Dr. Janice Church, assistant director of the Family Treatment Program at Arkansas Children's Hospital. 'It's going to take a lot of cautious interviewing and careful relationship-building just to get them to distinguish between reality and what they may have been programmed or taught to believe.'"

Rosalind Prober (victim advocate) talking to (Dec, 2006)
"Young people often argue with you that what they're doing is what they want to do and the person on the Internet is really their boyfriend, they weren't sexually exploited and they wanted to raise their shirts and show their breasts over the Internet," Prober said. "It takes a lot of debriefing and deprogramming to get those children to view themselves as victims, which they truly are, a compliant victim."

Hall, Steve (2009). "Fiends may appear as friends," Lancashire Evening Post, 18 August.
Det Sgt Warren Atkinson: "Parents and social workers may find convincing the young person they are a victim extremely difficult."
Round 2
Round 3