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Poland Approves Mandatory "Chemical Castration" Drug Treatment for Convicted Pedophiles
September 26, 2009 10:56 AM   Subscribe

In response to an incest case in which a man imprisoned, raped and fathered two children with his own daughter, Poland's Lower House of Parliament has approved an amendment to their penal code which makes chemical castration of pedophiles mandatory in certain cases.

The bill still needs final approval from the Upper House of Parliament and President Lech Kaczynski, but passage is considered inevitable. Poland would be the first nation in the EU to make such drug treatment obligatory. Similar, voluntary policies for convicted sex offenders currently exist in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Canada, eight US states (pdf) and South Korea.

The severity of the impending Polish law has sparked a debate in the EU as well as increased attention on whether the Czech Republic's voluntary chemical castration program is humane and effective.
posted by zarq (127 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is great news. I hope to see castration of rapists next, followed by other sex offenders and finally wife abusers. By forcefully preventing these broken men from raising children, perhaps we can create a society without sexual violence and finally achieve the Master Race we have all been waiting for.
posted by shii at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


I met a doctor once who told me that traditional talk therapy does not reliably prevent recidivism in pedophiles and that the only treatment known to prevent people from committing future crimes was chemical castration.

He was a great doctor, and I do believe that chemical castration is probably preferable to having a giant scarlet letter attached to your chest for the rest of your life, as is the case in most US states. But I wonder ... what about women (I know it's rare, but it happens) who sexually abuse children?
posted by brina at 11:08 AM on September 26, 2009


brina, I've heard that removing/inactivating the ovaries is equivalent.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2009


shii: This is great news. I hope to see castration of rapists next, followed by other sex offenders and finally wife abusers. By forcefully preventing these broken men from raising children, perhaps we can create a society without sexual violence and finally achieve the Master Race we have all been waiting for.

MetaFilter needs sarcasm tags. Sometimes I just can't tell...
posted by Dysk at 11:26 AM on September 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


Orange Pamplemousse: Interesting. I wonder if there are women who have been convicted of sex offenses and then (forced?) to undergo this twin to chemical castration.

I used to write for a newspaper in a posh town. There was a homeless shelter in a neighboring town, and when parents discovered there were sex offenders living at the shelter, they demanded it be shut down.

The thing is, with all the laws requiring any sex offenders to register after being released from prison, there was a huge double jeopardy thing going down. The parents didn't want convicted rapists living anywhere nearby. Meanwhile, the men were unable to find jobs or apartments because of their crimes, for which they had already served jail time.

There's a kind of hysteria in certain communities about sex offenders. And I'm not saying there isn't anything to be afraid of -- though usually it's your uncle, or pastor, or parent, and not a stranger living in a homeless shelter a few miles away.

I imagine there would be some willingness to undergo chemical castration, in addition to talk therapy, if a person wanted to prevent himself (or herself) from committing the same heinous crime again and over again. And maybe communities wouldn't freak out as much if they heard that a (castrated) sex offender lived nearby.

I'm not saying I'm for it. I don't know enough to form my own opinion on this. But wouldn't it be nice if people who had been convicted of crimes could eventually recover, get jobs, have homes, and safely reintegrate into the community?
posted by brina at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Doesn't imprisonment also solve the problem of felons potentially reproducing, and, oh I don't know, doesn't violate every standard of human morality?

It's really discouraging how humanity continues to excel faster and more efficient in the field of hurting other people than any other science in which it's experimented.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some people are advocating the death penalty for child rapists because "that's the only way we can be sure they won't do it again." There are a lot of flaws with that sentiment, however, if chemical castration could become a compromise to drop the idea of using the death penalty against people who haven't even murdered. And I would prefer that it be a choice between either castration and a sentence with parole or life in prison, as I feel that the punishment is less cruel/unusual if the convict has a choice in the matter.

For the record, I'm against using the death penalty against anyone so long as life in prison is a viable option (and when wouldn't it be?).

However, a big concern for me is that cases involving child molestation is that evience is often vauge or ambiguous. After all, they heavily rely on the testimony of a confused, scared child. It's getting better with DNA evidence, but since these cases are likely to change with new evidence, it seems pretty iffy to use an irreversible (AFAICT) procedure. You can release a falsely accused person from prison and give them a large settlement to make up for the damages, but you can't replace an organ you effectively killed.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Orange Pamplemousse: "removing/inactivating the ovaries is equivalent."

The double standard between surgical removal of ovaries vs. testes is fascinating - the testes carry so much mythological and sentimental baggage that ovaries do not. Anyway, I am pretty sure that any chemical castration that works to hormonally inhibit sex drive in men will do the same to women.
posted by idiopath at 11:37 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's cut the hands off pickpockets next. And maybe drive small vans over car thieves. That'll fix it.

When the people we elect into power think they need to make laws on the basis of mass hysteria created by sleazy tabloids, it begins to feel like society isn't quite running the way it should.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


Shii I hope to god that was some sarcasm.
I wouldn't be surprised if, should this bill pass, that it would be easily expanded to include homosexuals at a later date. The leaders of government in Poland are so flagrantly and repeatedly homophobic they make the GOP look like a gay pride parade. My (gay) boyfriend lived in Poland until his family fled to the US in the early 90s is so very ashamed of his mother country and, though he would love to return, never will until things change. It will be very interesting to see how the EU handles this as Poland is on shaky terms with the EU as a whole as it it.
posted by msbutah at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jeez, if they're going to sterilize the father/rapist they had better go and sterilize the products of the incestuous relations. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2009


Ok, two things about the obligatory nature of this law:

1) Sexual abuse isn't always about the sex. Treating every case (it's not at the discretion of the courts) as though it's a cause of the "sex drive" ignores other ways that could help prevent these crimes in the future. This should be so well known as to be barely worth repeating, but I guess sadly not.

2) If the offenders don't want the treatment, and they don't want to reform, then this treatment will only be seen as another hurdle for them to leap before they can get back to offending. I can understand its use for those who feel it will genuinely help, even if the "voluntary" nature of it may be difficult. But why pretend that this mandatory castration is "doing something" about the crimes in question? It's just a platform to win the law and order vote.

Anyway, I am pretty sure that any chemical castration that works to hormonally inhibit sex drive in men will do the same to women.

It depends on what they use. GnRH agonists should work in both men and women equally as far as I understand their action, but I'm sure somebody else knows more.
posted by Sova at 11:44 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit shocked that, after we just got done honoring Alan Turing, the Metafilter contingent is nodding in agreement with the reason for his suicide.
posted by electronslave at 11:45 AM on September 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


"anyone found guilty of raping children under 15"

Will they include statutory rape. Are they going to castrate an 18 year old boy caught mutually fooling around with his 15 year old girlfriend?

I've heard interviews with sex offenders who are in favor of chemical castration--it really seems to help, so I'm all for it, as long as it is applied in very carefully controlled situations, maybe as an alternative to longer prison sentences.

But the crimes have such an emotional reaction that people can go overboard and create worse problems than they are trying to solve.
posted by eye of newt at 11:45 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Doesn't imprisonment also solve the problem of felons potentially reproducing

But many rapists are not imprisoned for life, so on their release, they are "out in the wild."

The thing is, with all the laws requiring any sex offenders to register after being released from prison, there was a huge double jeopardy thing going down.

Exactly. Convicted rapists are not all sadistic bastards. I have a friend who was convicted of statutory rape when he was 18 or 19, something I only learned when he was living with me and the police stopped by to ask about him following an attempted rape in my city. He didn't match the description of the attempted the attempted rapist (a 2 foot height discrepancy is rather hard to hide), but he was in the area and registered. He's not in the same category as the Polish man of the FPP, but he still has a record. At least he doesn't need a special license plate declaring him to be a sex offender.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't imprisonment also solve the problem of felons potentially reproducing, and, oh I don't know, doesn't violate every standard of human morality?

My understanding is that sex offenders are encouraged to take part in voluntary programs in order to secure their more rapid release back into society.
posted by zarq at 11:55 AM on September 26, 2009


Doesn't imprisonment also solve the problem of felons potentially reproducing

I thought the purpose of chemical castration is not to prevent felons from having children of their own, but to prevent them from raping anyone else by decreasing their libido. Y/N?
posted by elizardbits at 11:58 AM on September 26, 2009


I wonder how many metafilter supporters of chemical castration actually know what it entails?

Forced treatment is not to be taken lightly and doubly so when it's imperfect. People that undergo this treatment will possibly lose muscle mass, reduce bone density, grow breasts and suffer severe psychological trauma. It may result in cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Doesn't that sound like cruel and unusual punishment to anyone else?
posted by ioerror at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


This is awful.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:02 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm a bit shocked that, after we just got done honoring Alan Turing, the Metafilter contingent is nodding in agreement with the reason for his suicide.

FWIW, I deliberately avoided making the connection to his case when constructing this post because the circumstances are not equivalent, and one of the many, vile ways gays have been attacked over the years has been to specifically equate them with pedophiles. I was concerned that by including him, the post might inadvertently do so as well.

Pedophilia is nearly universally reviled across human cultures. The agreement with Poland's law is somewhat disturbing, but not surprising.
posted by zarq at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2009


I thought the purpose of chemical castration is not to prevent felons from having children of their own, but to prevent them from raping anyone else by decreasing their libido. Y/N?

Yes.
posted by zarq at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2009


This seems to me the rough equivalent of cutting off someone's hands for stealing. So, if you've got qualms about that...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rape is a crime of power, control, anger, leaving the victim feeling powerless and damaged. The rapist dehumanizes his victim, and the victim feels her or his most intimate self has been violated. Yet the public still believes that rape is motivated by sex drive and that the victim is somehow culpable.

Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive and that its victims therefore share culpability. Discuss.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:21 PM on September 26, 2009


Meanwhile, over in the Czech Republic, the non-chemical castrations continue.
posted by cstross at 12:24 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just a few days ago, Metafilter was discussing the outrages and cruelty of inflicting chemical castration upon someone who was vilified for their crime, hounded out of their livelihood, and, when they eventually saw no way out of being branded for life, decided to end it.

Far be it from me to equate the supposed "crime" of Alan Turing which was committed with a consenting adult to a sex crime committed against the unwilling, but there are certain people here on Metafilter (a very sliver of a minority, to be sure) who are right in the fat and happy middle of the bell curve of their locale who would see chemical castration inflicted upon homosexuals in this day, in this country.

And until a few months ago, a particularly benighted person of their ilk was Chief Executive of the United States.

If sex criminals are so deeply evil that they can never be rehabilitated, they must be separated from society -- at society's cost. Everyone seems to want to give the dumbass who urinated in public while drunk a life sentence of being labeled a sex offender, or the angry driver who grabbed the arm of the dimwitted teenager, so just make life sentences mandatory on first offense. Or admit that offenders can be rehabilitated and take them off the public notification list after a period of time without reoffense.
posted by chimaera at 12:25 PM on September 26, 2009


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive

Even if we accept this,

and that its victims therefore share culpability. Discuss.

this does not follow and is an absurd leap. It seems a way to preemptively slander anyone who may think sex drive plays apart in rape as someone who blames the victim.

I'm inclined to think sex drive plays some part in motivations for rape. I do not blame the victim in the slightest. This is entirely consistent. Discuss.
posted by spaltavian at 12:25 PM on September 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


without any evidence at all to support the notion, i've always sort of assumed that all sexual inclinations are on a continuum, so everything from "normal" heterosexuality to bestiality are experienced as natural sexual desire. the "cure" is the same for all of them: castration.

it'll be interesting to see, then, how, once forcible castration becomes the norm for one slice of the continuum, it'll become easier to make excuses for adding other slices to the list castratable offences. followers of pat robertson believe that gays are responsible for 911, after all, and that's way worse than diddling little kids, right?
posted by klanawa at 12:29 PM on September 26, 2009


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive and that its victims therefore share culpability.

First I'd have to accept her theory about rape, which I don't.

This has always seemed more accurate to me: A synthesized (biosocial) theory of rape.
Features of contemporary theories of rape are integrated with information on neurohormonal variables to formulate a synthesized theory of rape. It consists of four propositions: (a) Rape is motivated by two largely unlearned drives (a sex drive and a drive to possess and control). (b) Natural selection has favored men who more readily learn forced copulatory tactics than women and women who are more inclined than men to resist forced copulations. (c) The tendency to use forced copulatory tactics is largely a function of the strength of an individual's sex drive plus estimates of the probability of success minus the probability of being punished, divided by sensitivity to aversive stimuli. (d) Genes that have evolved primarily on the Y chromosome affect neurohormonal functioning in ways that alter the strength of the sex drive and sensitivity to aversive stimuli and thereby affect individual probabilities of committing rape.
In every case, blaming the victim for being raped, sexually abused and/or molested is highly offensive and wrong.
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


this seems like as good a time as any to mention mckenzie phillips inscestual relationship with her father that went on for 10 years. I was going to make an FPP but there wasn't enough meat. It's weird though.
posted by djduckie at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm inclined to think sex drive plays some part in motivations for rape. I do not blame the victim in the slightest. This is entirely consistent. Discuss.

I have always baulked at the blanket assertion that rape is not about sex but power. Surely motivations will vary with the criminal individual concerned, as in other crimes. Sex drive is surely one possible motivation, varying from case to case and with a contributory influence stemming from zero to somewhere above zero?
posted by biffa at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2009


Also, why would you assume that castration removes sex drive? I don't see why it would. It certianly didn't stop Wane Dumond
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2009


Rape is a crime of power, control, anger, leaving the victim feeling powerless and damaged...Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive...

False dichotomy.

A fire needs both fuel and oxygen. You can believe that depriving a fire of oxygen is sometimes an effective way to fight it, without disputing that fuel is also essential.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did Susan Brownmiller die for nothing?
posted by Faze at 12:40 PM on September 26, 2009


I wonder how many people out there have a strong inclination towards paedophilia and/or rape, but never act on it because they have just enough restraint, or they're too frightened of the consequences. It's hard to believe that everyone who has these urges acts on them. It's an unnerving thought.
posted by WPW at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Without commenting at all on the severity of the punishment and the evil of the crime, I think it's notable that neither this case nor the case in Austria had anything to do with repeat offenders; neither have any bearing on the effectiveness of traditional punishment and psychological treatment.

So, the law being passed is dealing with the crime on the other side, really. If it were already in the books, both cases would have occurred just the same, although the punishment would have been different. Possibly the forgotten issue is the laxity with which rape allegations are treated with in general (that is, allegations that do not make the daily news).
posted by tmcw at 12:49 PM on September 26, 2009


Hard cases make bad law.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


Chemical castration is a stupid, vindictive idea based on stupidly simplistic ideas of why people (not just rapists but all people) do what they do.

Rape is of course partly about sex, but it is also majorly about anger and domination; I think if one were trying to isolate a single motivating factor it would be tension. The rapist decides that relieving the tension caused by his sexual desire, social situation, and history of interaction is important enough to violate another person and accept the risk of being caught and punished.

Chemical castration may or may not relieve sexual tension or prevent it from building; it certainly will have no effect on other motivating factors. Someone whose motivation is hatred and paranoia will scarcely be affected, and may just kill their next victim while using an object to effect penetration if their whims require that.

The often made observation that rape is more a crime of violence than passion is based on the fact that most of us feel tension, including large amounts of sexual and social tension, but few of us act on that tension by attacking other people and violating them (even if, as in some cases, that sort of thing is a primary sexual fantasy). The fact that rapists have taken it to the extreme of physical attack shows that, whatever else they are feeling, they feel willing and uninhibited about using violence, and lots of people with high sex drives don't feel that way.
posted by localroger at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2009


zarq: (b) Natural selection has favored men who more readily learn forced copulatory tactics than women and women who are more inclined than men to resist forced copulations.

While I know, zarq, that you in no way intend to blame the victim, I feel like this part of the mixed theory ultimately does. If women are genetically inclined to resist forced copulations and a forced copulation happens anyway, that tends to suggest either:

a) Her attempt to resist was unsuccessful (rape as assault); or,
b) She wasn't really resisting (rape at least in part blamed on the victim).

Since I don't believe b can exist in the absence of apparent consent to sex, than rape is an act of violent infringement on the will of the victim in the same way that murder violently infringes on the will of the victim to be alive (just as we presume in the absence of consent that someone wants to be alive, we presume in the absence of consent that someone doesn't want to have sex). I would argue (as I have on MeFi before), that inasmuch as violence is an assertion of power over another person's will, it is wrong in every instance. It's not horniness which makes rape wrong, it's the violation of another person's will.

Think of it this way: a law passes which mandates castration for all rapists, and they castrate every rapist and the kind of rape that happens in the movies where women are attacked in dark allies is largely done away with. Now, someone gets date raped by a guy who isn't castrated and is not (in society's mind) a rapist. I think, even though such a conclusion is illogical, that many people will assume in that instance that it wasn't rape. By isolating a group of people and taking away their ability to have sex, we create a group that we label "rapists" which presupposes that no one else is a rapist. I would instead argue that there are deep sexist pathologies in society which lead many men to disrespect women and a subgroup of those men who, put in the right circumstances, will commit rape.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:01 PM on September 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


When I try to put myself in their place, I think I'd much prefer to have my sex drive removed (even permanently and with a scalpel) than have to live in prison (or try to live there, considering what happens to fiddlers in prison) for a huge chunk of my life. If the length of the prison term is in part to protect future victims (and isn't just punishment for past victims), castration should cancel out that part of the prison term and take these guys off the offender lists.

But I'm guessing they're going to do all the usual stuff to the convicts -- full prison terms with constant physical assaults, followed by exposure to vigilantes -- and still pay doctors to cut their nuts off one way or the other.
posted by pracowity at 1:02 PM on September 26, 2009


This seems to me the rough equivalent of cutting off someone's hands for stealing.

Well, basically, yeah. In the sense that it's a permanent physical punishment in addition to the ten or twenty years of prison. What it basically comes down to is do you think it's OK for the State to mutilate a human being as punishment? Discussions centering around the efficacy of the punishment are similarly as relevant (cutting off someone's hands is an effective way to keep people from stealing, after all). Personally I don't think this kind of barbarism is how you go about advancing civilization.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:10 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive

I'm thinking more specifically about pedophilia than about rape. Statutory rape has always been something that's brought up in the same breath as pedophilia, but it is not the same thing at all.

When a man (or a woman) sexually abuses a child for a prolonged period of time, it is about a whole lot of things. Sex drive is a part of the equation, though certainly not the only part. There is the power dynamic -- a ten-year-old girl is easier to overpower and to threaten than an adult might be. Chemical castration certainly doesn't address the power issue. And sexual abuse does not have to involve penetrative sex.

But I am personally familiar with at least one case in which chemical castration might have been one of several helpful tools to prevent the perpetrator from recidivism.

We're talking here, not about people who are gay or people who had sex with their underage girlfriends, but about people who society describes as "monsters." How do you understand the mindset of a man who sexually abuses a young woman for years? How do you help that man to recover? Is there such a thing as full recovery for child molesters?

While I would have qualms about forcing anyone to undergo chemical castration, I think it might be better than either (a) allowing a person to rot in prison for the rest of his life, untreated, or (b) releasing a known abuser within a few years, without attempting to treat the underlying mental illness that contributed to his actions.

In the last few days, we've talked a bit on the blue about mental illness and why people are afraid of the mentally ill committing violent crimes. Obviously we as a society need to understand that there are different kinds of mental illness, that people react to their illnesses in different ways, and that good mental health care may help to prevent certain crimes.

I don't believe that anyone who sexually abuses a child can be mentally healthy while committing acts that will continue to hurt that child for the rest of his or her life. The doctor I mentioned in my earlier comment was a psychiatrist, for what it's worth. He strongly believed that chemical castration was one of the medical tools available to help sex offenders recover. But I don't imagine he'd suggest chemical castration was the only tool.

I don't know that you can cure a rapist by ensuring that his sex organ will remain forever flaccid; he may turn to other crimes that disempower his victims. I strongly doubt that chemical castration should be viewed as a "cure" at all. But I do think that a decreased sex drive might help a man who is trying to rebuild his life after spending years as an abuser.

Mackenzie Phillips, Jaycee Lee Dugard, Elisabeth Fritzl: these are all women who suffered sexual abuse in one form or another. Their abusers might have been, or in one case may still be, treated. I for one would like to one day witness the miracle of a man, formerly abusive in the most terrible of ways, rehabilitated and able to get through the rest of his life without harming others.
posted by brina at 1:11 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


l33tpolicywonk, I get your personal theory of rape, but I don't get your criticism of other theories -- why does doubting the truth of the blanket statement that rape is "not about sex, it's about power" mean that you're blaming the victim? There's definitely such a thing as one-sided desire to engage in sex, and given that this FPP is about a father raping his 14-year-old daughter, I have no idea why labeling his motivations as "domination" or "sexual desire" would have any bearing on the child's lack of culpability.
posted by palliser at 1:13 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sex crimes are awful, but society's response to them is almost as bad.
posted by maxwelton at 1:15 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This seems to me the rough equivalent of cutting off someone's hands for stealing.

Well, basically, yeah. In the sense that it's a permanent physical punishment


We're talking about chemical castration here, it's not permanent. It's nothing like cutting off someone's hands.
posted by spaltavian at 1:15 PM on September 26, 2009


Isn't there a major difference between regular rapists and pedophiles? I'm mostly educated by pop culture, but I thought that pedophiles were motivated far more by sexual desire than your average rapist.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:26 PM on September 26, 2009


spaltavian: exactly

Chemical castration is reversable and does not involve sterilisation. Just so we're all on the same page here.
posted by Sparx at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2009


I think we should bring back the use of leeches to treat illness too! And since we're bringing back ridiculous stuff from the dead, I never did get over my love of bell-bottoms so let's bring those back too!
posted by jamstigator at 1:54 PM on September 26, 2009


Statutory rape has always been something that's brought up in the same breath as pedophilia, but it is not the same thing at all.

The problem is that legally it is thought of as the same thing. At what age difference does it stop being statutory rape and start being pedophilia--even when there is supposedly mutual consent?

Legally they are often treated the same even if there is only a couple years difference in age, which I think is ridiculous. But if the legal system is going to be so stupid, then it should stay far away from any forced chemistry.

Rape is a crime of power You got that from a 18 year old column. My understanding is that all the latest research shows that rape is more often than not a sex driven crime, and that chemical castration can be really effective.

Sounds like I'm being contradictory, but it is two separate issues. The legal system needs to get smarter (which will never happen with these emotionally charged crimes), and the punishment system needs to offer smarter choices (another dream). But for reasons stated, forcing the castration will end up causing more problems than it solves.
posted by eye of newt at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2009


Sova GnRH agonists should work in both men and women equally as far as I understand their action

What always gets to me about the GnRH agonists, which are used to treat women for quite a few things, and seeing familiar brand names like Depo-provera in the descriptions, I can share that if that is what they are using to chemically castrate these men, the good news is all effects are reversed when you no longer take the drugs.

Unlike actual castration. Carry on.
posted by dabitch at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2009


zarq: (b) Natural selection has favored men who more readily learn forced copulatory tactics than women and women who are more inclined than men to resist forced copulations.

l33tpolicywonk: While I know, zarq, that you in no way intend to blame the victim, I feel like this part of the mixed theory ultimately does.

....I would argue (as I have on MeFi before), that inasmuch as violence is an assertion of power over another person's will, it is wrong in every instance. It's not horniness which makes rape wrong, it's the violation of another person's will.


Current theories regarding pedophilia suggest that libido plays a far greater role than in rape, and dominance & control play less of a role. Pedophilia and rape are similar but the behavioral drives behind them are not necessarily equal.

With regard to rape, I'm asserting that libido is a part of what drives one human being to rape another. It is an intrinsic part of a behavior which cannot be dismissed, nor considered alone without also taking other motivating factors into account. What makes rape wrong is the violation, yes. But that violation is not just of someone's will, it is also of their body.

Female genetic predisposition towards a higher resistance to forced copulation than males does not presuppose victimhood if resistance is not offered. As you mention, it implies potential consent.

Think of it this way: a law passes which mandates castration for all rapists, and they castrate every rapist and the kind of rape that happens in the movies where women are attacked in dark allies is largely done away with. Now, someone gets date raped by a guy who isn't castrated and is not (in society's mind) a rapist.

This is a strange example. It sounds like something out of science fiction. You're assuming that rapists can and would be unerringly identified prior to their having committed a rape. We generally don't act prophylactically against populations which have not yet committed a crime. Free will, a potential act is not an actual act, innocent until proven guilty and all of that.

I presume that in this hypothetical scenario they would simply assume they missed one and act accordingly.

I would instead argue that there are deep sexist pathologies in society which lead many men to disrespect women and a subgroup of those men who, put in the right circumstances, will commit rape.

And again, my argument is that such cultural pathologies may be one factor, but they aren't the only factor involved.

Also: "About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male. 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape."

At least some of those rapes were committed by women. Even if it were 1 or 2%, that's a statistically significant number.
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pedophilia is nearly universally reviled across human cultures. The agreement with Poland's law is somewhat disturbing, but not surprising.

Only if you define pedophilia as sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. In most of human history, girls married as soon as they entered menarche or shortly afterwards (though that age tended to be higher than it is today because of poor nutrition). In many cultures, children were married (to older men or to other children) for political, social, or religious reasons, though the marriage wasn't expected to be consummated until puberty. Teenage marriage was largely the norm until the Industrial Revolution, as I understand it.

Forced chemical castration is a grotesque violation of human rights, but voluntary chemical castration might, for the right person, be helpful. It's a treatment tool (or should be), not a punishment.
posted by jokeefe at 1:59 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


palliser: There's definitely such a thing as one-sided desire to engage in sex

Agreed. Of course, it's rare if impossible that someone who wants to have sex can find no one to have sex with. Rape requires two additional factors: the desire to engage in sex with this person, and their lack of consent. It seems to me like all the reasons you could want to have sex with a specific person that don't have to do with dominating that person in some way are irreconcilable with lack of consent (if you want to have sex with someone because value that person as a person in any small respect, you care about their consent; if you want to because they're physically attractive, there's other fish in the sea, etc). Having sex with someone in order to dominate them is per se violent.

Now, I admit I've gone far afield from the post's subject, which is pedophilia (though I'm a believer that the reasoning behind castrating pedophiles could just easily be applied to rapists). Still, if the essence of pedophilia is that children can never provide consent, and at least part of a correctly-ordered sexual impulse is about desirng those who provide consent, than the root of pedophilia isn't sex (more often than not, its a response to abuse).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:02 PM on September 26, 2009


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive and that its victims therefore share culpability. Discuss.

Recividism among rapists is >50%. Recividism among chemically castrated rapists is something like 1/50th that. Your fact-deprived feminism just got 49 women raped.
posted by effugas at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


zarq: At least some of those rapes were committed by women. Even if it were 1 or 2%, that's a statistically significant number.

Apologies for generalizing in haste; I'm not a fan when other people do that, and I ought hold myself to a higher standard.

I think, ultimately, this comes down for me to the idea that it's not rape to want to have sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you (though, in the case of pedophilia, it's a sign of mental illness), and it's not rape to act on that desire by telling the person you want to, or begging the person to want to, or even offering the person money to, but it is rape to use force to make them have sex with you. Inasmuch as it violates a person's will and their body (which non-sexual assault does too), I consider it an act to be considered wholly distinct from sexual desire.

That being said, I see your point and am beginning to be convinced by the hybrid theory. I just want to be very careful to clarify that the rapist acting on a sexual desire doesn't explicitly or implicitly assert the victim was being deliberately sexually desirable.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2009


effugas: Recividism among rapists is >50%. Recividism among chemically castrated rapists is something like 1/50th that. Your fact-deprived feminism just got 49 women raped.

The recidivism rate of executed murders is zero. Doesn't mean they killed somebody because they were alive.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the violence/sex angle -- it certainly seems to vary. Traditional "date rape" (frat boy out with girl, end of night comes, she doesn't want to, etc) seems to me to be a lot more about sex (sure, he could probably find someone else, but she's there now... of course, it's also about violence, because often it has a "she owes me" kind of connotation that is obviously about dominance). On the other hand, kidnapping a person for a decade or more would seem to be primarily about control and power.

Dismissing rape as one or the other overlooks what seems to me to be a fairly complicated set of impulses. And, of course, you can have power/dominance/aggression in consensual sex as well (most obviously in something like BDSM, but some [Andrea Dworkin, for example] would argue it's always there).

One of the questions wrt castration is whether, absent the sex drive, the rape would have occurred. To me it seems like rape is enough about sex in enough situations that there are many rapists for whom the absence of a sex drive would prevent rape. It also seems like there are certainly those who are just primarily sadists, and use rape as a tool of humiliation or pain, and those people would be no less dangerous without their sex drive. How do you tell which is which? If you can't, castration isn't really an effective treatment.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2009


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive and that its victims therefore share culpability. Discuss.

Treating Hamburglary as a crime which can be solved via reducing Hamburglar's hunger for hamburgers assumes it's a crime of hunger and that its victims therefore share culpability for having burgers.

I'd say "discuss," but really, there's nothing to discuss. Everyone wants hamburgers, but most have the restraint and respect for others to not steal them. Hamburglar's inability to control his desire for burgers is not the problem of his victims.
posted by ignignokt at 2:17 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, I have heard that some offenders who've been chemically castrated have said that it's helped them- got ride of their urges. So I dunno, maybe make it available for people who want it, with no coercion at all (i.e. without penalties for not doing it or bonuses for doing it), and bar its use on anyone who doesn't consent?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 PM on September 26, 2009


The recidivism rate of executed murders is zero. Doesn't mean they killed somebody because they were alive.

You want to say that it's unethical to subject someone to chemical castration, that's a reasonable argument and discussion to have. There are indeed many totally unethical ways to stop rape. However.

If you want to say chemical castration can't possibly work, because rape is a crime of power and not sex -- an argument that has successfully stopped chemical castration from being deployed -- well, you're getting women raped. You are ignoring the facts.

Policy matters. Policy based on universes we don't actually live in have terrifying side effects. In this case, 49 women raped.
posted by effugas at 2:34 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd say "discuss," but really, there's nothing to discuss. Everyone wants hamburgers, but most have the restraint and respect for others to not steal them. Hamburglar's inability to control his desire for burgers is not the problem of his victims.

In order for us to deal with crime and punishment in a meaningful and effective way, I think we need to be able to discuss it without becoming emotionally identified with the people or situations being discussed, and without losing perspective of the fact that we're discussing something and don't need to put anyone on trial right this moment.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2009


Being accused of child molestation is about the worst thing someone can be accused of in US society. Even if the case is dismissed or the person is found not guilty, there will be whispers about the person for the rest of his life.

And a person can be charged with child molestation based on the uncorroborated testimony of a child. A person can also be convicted of child molestation based on the uncorroborated testimony of a child. It happens every day. The DA will ask the jury, "Why would this child lie about this? Look how upsetting this is to the child! Do you think this is fun for the child? The only reason a child would go through this is because it really happened!" And the jury will generally convict.

Of course, convicting people of serious crimes based solely on uncorroborated statements by children is not without precedent. There was a time when it went on in Salem, Massachusetts. Without any corroborating evidence, people were convicted of witchcraft because crying children said they were guilty of it. Twenty-six out of twenty-six people who went to trial were found guilty. Twenty were executed.

So your fourteen year old estranged daughter claims you had sex with her when when she was eleven. There is no other evidence, and you are charged with the rape. Knowing what you do about how juries respond to crying children as accusers, do you take your case to trial and risk doing twenty years? Or do you take a plea that gets you out in six months and makes your register as a sex offender? Easy choice, right?
posted by flarbuse at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


We're talking about chemical castration here, it's not permanent.

You don't think taking those kinds of chemicals… for exactly how long are they expected to stay on them again?… isn't going to cause some kind of long-term physical damage? This isn't a spanking we're talking about. They're growing breasts.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:52 PM on September 26, 2009


If you look at the wikipedia article (for what it's worth), side effects aren't exactly guaranteed, though they should obviously be a consideration, and Depo-provera, the chemical offten used, allows the body to revert back to its normal status after stopping use - which would be important in, say, a case of wrongful conviction as mentioned above. Hormone therapy of a similar nature, with similar side effects, is used in a number of less criminally-oriented therapies for men such as slowing the progress of prostate cancer. And plenty of men get breasts from such mundane activities as drinking (again a hormonal response). So I'm less inclined to dismiss it out of some form of body-horror (Man Boobs!).

Also of note is the fact that California and Florida can both mandate CC for previously convicted pedophiles who violate parole. I'm not sure where I stand on the mandatory aspect, but the recidivism rate of 75% / 2% for unCCed/CCed convicts is a powerful argument in favour of the practice.

All stats/facts used in this comment are subject to the usual caveats wrt the accuracy of stuff I found on the intertubes
posted by Sparx at 3:41 PM on September 26, 2009


effugas, equating your assertion that chemical castration while reduce recidivism by 49% with 49 actual women and laying this at the feet of other posters is not even wrong, it's meaningless.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I have heard that some offenders who've been chemically castrated have said that it's helped them- got ride of their urges. So I dunno, maybe make it available for people who want it, with no coercion at all (i.e. without penalties for not doing it or bonuses for doing it), and bar its use on anyone who doesn't consent?

I think this is a fair point to make. There are some - some - pedophiles who feel genuinely sickened and plagued by their disease, turning to alcohol and drug abuse, sometimes suicide to escape from it. PG is right; there have been sex offenders who've volunteered for chemical castration and been grateful for having it done.

What I wonder is: is it possible to get a hold of these chemicals, via perscription I'm guessing, without getting arrested for a sex crime first? Could a pedophile go to a therapist, and after a lengthy discussion over a few sessions, decide that voluntary chemical castration is the way to go and have a script written up?

I'm not sure how I feel about involuntary chemical castration, even though it is a reversible process. But in the case of taking these chemicals voluntarily, if a pedophile can become a harmless and otherwise fully functioning member of society by voluntarily taking medication, isn't that a bonus for a society?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:09 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I met a doctor once who told me that traditional talk therapy does not reliably prevent recidivism in pedophiles and that the only treatment known to prevent people from committing future crimes was chemical castration.
It's amazing how doctor's are experts not in just medicine, but also criminal justice, psychology and sociology.
posted by !Jim at 4:45 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


usually it's your uncle, or pastor, or parent, and not a stranger living in a homeless shelter a few miles away.
Chances are it's both, given how stacked against felons the cards are. Studies show that recidivism rates of all crimes drop significantly when ex-criminals are able to build a happy, stable life (things like good relationships, jobs, houses, etc.), and yet all our society seems to want to do is make this harder and harder.
posted by !Jim at 4:50 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apologies for generalizing in haste; I'm not a fan when other people do that, and I ought hold myself to a higher standard.

No worries, and no need to apologize.

In fact, it turns out that you actually were more accurate than I first thought. A further read-through of the RAINN site revealed that the incidence of women raping men is approximately 1%. (This statistic is likely to be subject to underreporting -- it is believed that most men do not file charges when they have been raped.) But, the majority of the men being raped are apparently being violated by other men.

I thought you might find this interesting since means that the overwhelming majority of rapes (at least in the US,) are being committed by males. I believe this gives credence to your idea that rape is a result of societal pathologies, and I suspect such influences may be a partial factor in why rapes are committed.

I think, ultimately, this comes down for me to the idea that it's not rape to want to have sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you (though, in the case of pedophilia, it's a sign of mental illness), and it's not rape to act on that desire by telling the person you want to, or begging the person to want to, or even offering the person money to, but it is rape to use force to make them have sex with you.

I agree. There's a difference between desire (or even harassment!) and nonconsensual sex.

Inasmuch as it violates a person's will and their body (which non-sexual assault does too), I consider it an act to be considered wholly distinct from sexual desire.

If you by distinct you mean "separate" then I understand, even though I disagree. If you mean that "the act may involve sexual desire as well as the other factors we've been discussing," then we agree. By the way, I'm not making a judgement call here -- you're entitled to your opinion, after all. :)

That being said, I see your point and am beginning to be convinced by the hybrid theory. I just want to be very careful to clarify that the rapist acting on a sexual desire doesn't explicitly or implicitly assert the victim was being deliberately sexually desirable.

I agree completely.
posted by zarq at 4:55 PM on September 26, 2009


What I wonder is: is it possible to get a hold of these chemicals, via perscription I'm guessing, without getting arrested for a sex crime first? Could a pedophile go to a therapist, and after a lengthy discussion over a few sessions, decide that voluntary chemical castration is the way to go and have a script written up?

That's a fascinating question. Yes. In the US, the drug given is Depo-Provera, an injectible progestin-only contraceptive available by prescription from Pfizer. While insurance might not cover its use for a man, any doctor can prescribe and administer it. Since it is injectible, the patient would need to return to their doctor each time they needed a dose. This makes it an ideal drug to use when a physician wishes to monitor treatment.

But personally, if I were a physician or psychologist, I'd want to check first to see if doing so would open me up to a potential lawsuit, since using it that way is decidedly "off-label."
posted by zarq at 5:08 PM on September 26, 2009


In the US, the drug given is Depo-Provera, an injectible progestin-only contraceptive available by prescription from Pfizer.

Just to clarify... the drug is made by Pfizer. It's available to physicians through pharmaceutical distributors. And it's a sub-cutaneous injectable.
posted by zarq at 5:10 PM on September 26, 2009


effugas, equating your assertion that chemical castration while reduce recidivism by 49% with 49 actual women and laying this at the feet of other posters is not even wrong, it's meaningless.

Bullsh*t.

Look, if you put forth a policy banning abortion, and illegal abortion becomes the #1 killer of women (again), your policy killed women.

Some people have used their philosophy that chemical castration can't work, because rape is about power and not sex, to make this treatment unavailable. Those released in the regime they advocated, went out and were 50x more likely to rape. You're right, neither the posters on this thread nor the policy advocates actually did the raping. But you know, if a hundred rapists are released, and fifty instead of one of them reoffend, guess what.

That's 49 women raped because of policy. The law of large numbers is cruelly neutral. Rapists are released in nonzero numbers. Either they do reoffend, or they do not.

Policy has consequences. Somebody named l33tpolicywonk should be more keenly aware of this. Somebody with that name may in fact be in a position to help design policy, so it's even more important that s/he recognize the real human lives involved here.

(And yes, Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, which talks about this very statistic, had a pretty transformative impact on my view of science in policy.)

(To be clear, I remain sympathetic to the argument that, even if effective, mandatory chemical castration crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed. But the argument that it simply doesn't work, because [ultimately] if it worked some philosophical claim would be disproven, is just offensive.)
posted by effugas at 5:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


!Jim--

It's amazing how doctor's are experts not in just medicine, but also criminal justice, psychology and sociology.

It's amazing how the people with data can speak more authoritatively than people without.
posted by effugas at 5:56 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


ioerror asserts: "People that undergo [chemical castration] will possibly ... suffer severe psychological trauma..."

& asks: "Doesn't that sound like cruel and unusual punishment to anyone else?"


I am the uncle of a young woman who, as a child, was repeatedly raped, over a period of years, by her older brother, who also threatened her with death should she seek help.

I can tell you that, in my opinion, "severe psychological trauma" inflicted upon my nephew sounds to me like a bare beginning toward balancing the actions he inflicted upon his sister.

I think it is probably true that achieving some form of balance or counterweight to the victim's suffering is at the heart of what we like to call justice.
posted by Forrest Greene at 6:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Chemical castration certainly doesn't address the power issue.

Well, maybe not directly. But testosterone does a lot more, both in the body and the brain, than just fuel sex drive. I wouldn't be surprised if one of its effects is to drive the desire to be dominant and aggressive.
posted by notswedish at 6:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Teenage marriage was largely the norm until the Industrial Revolution, as I understand it.
Apparently this was not the case at all in pre-Industrial Europe. This classic of English social history found the commonest age of first marriage to be 22 and the mean age a little higher; the very few child marriages amongst the gentry were most often espousals rather than full marriage. I think the figures are similar for France (Laslett mention parallels in northern and north-western Europe later in that chapter) and would expect likewise for Poland though not seen any data.
posted by Abiezer at 6:35 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, there are many ways to inflict severe psychological trauma. For instance, as part of ongoing psychotherapy, my niece has come out to the family about her brother's abuse.

This has terribly embarrassed her brother, the perpetrator, who has not yet found the sense of responsibility &, perhaps, the sense of self-respect required to admit his crime to the family, which might, I think, be a first step toward his possible rehabilitation. Many incest survivors report a desire, not for revenge or prosecution, but simply to have the perpetrator admit publicly to his crime. To end the lies, denial, & confusion.

His mother is the only one to have spoken to him about it since the crime became known. She reports his reaction as the mortified embarrassment & psychological denial of a spoiled-rotten child, outraged at being revealed as a long shot less than perfect. I imagine he no longer feels quite so universally approved-of as he hides behind the several uniforms he has chosen to make a career of wearing.

Perhaps, for a person with his values & his vanity, the severe psychological trauma of knowing he is seen by all around him as an incestuous pedophile would be sufficient punishment. I don't know.
posted by Forrest Greene at 6:58 PM on September 26, 2009


Did Susan Brownmiller die for nothing?

In the off chance that this question wasn't some form of literary device, let me take the opportunity to mention that she's still quite alive.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:00 PM on September 26, 2009


Recividism among rapists is >50%. Recividism among chemically castrated rapists is something like 1/50th that.

I could certainly buy that convicted rapists on androgen antagonists commit penetrative rape at a much lower rate than "control" convicted rapists.

But I wonder what proportion of treatment and control rapists commit other violent crimes within 10 years of their release, and what the distribution of those crimes is.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In wondering if public embarrassment & shaming was psychological trauma severe enough to constitute punishment & a step toward rehabilitation for the perpetrator, as well as to constitute justice for the victim, I remembered a Letter To The Editor I read somewhere long ago.

It was from a felon, incarcerated for a crime other than rape. He was addressing the difficulty experienced by rape victims getting fair & adequate treatment from authorities, avoiding the tendency to blame the victim, & obtaining meaningful verdicts & sentences from courts of law.

His suggestion was to charge the perpetrator not with rape, but rather with indecent exposure. He felt that the victim would be treated with much less doubt & suspicion, that obtaining a conviction would be much easier, & that the "I'm the man, I showed that bitch"-type brag & strut apparently enjoyed by imprisoned rapists would not be so attractive to them if all they had to brag about was, well, "showing the bitch," so to speak.
posted by Forrest Greene at 7:37 PM on September 26, 2009


effugas: That's 49 women raped because of policy. The law of large numbers is cruelly neutral. Rapists are released in nonzero numbers. Either they do reoffend, or they do not.

This isn't a conversation about castrating vs. doing nothing. This is a conversation about what castration implicitly says about what rape is, and the implications that might have for how we construe rape. My contention is that, if rape is made about sex, consent will be assumed in several cases where consent doesn't really exist. Like ROU_Xenophobe, I'm also strongly interested in whether castrated rapists will commit other violent crimes.

Policies do have consequences: among others, they shape how we perceive issues. The war on drugs has made drug control into a criminal issue regardless of whether or not treating drugs as a criminal issue has a measurable impact on drug use. In doing so, the war on drugs has stimulated crime. That being said, policies do not rape people, people do. The moment you suppose rapists don't have free will is the moment you make it incumbent on victims to keep themselves from being raped.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the difference between this and forced administration of psychiatric drugs?
posted by Danila at 7:53 PM on September 26, 2009


l33tpolicywonk--

Well, lets get to brass tacks here.

The data states unambiguously that convicted rapists are 50x more likely to reoffend if they are not chemically castrated. Do you dispute this data?

You argue that the however-many-thousands of rapists who are released should not be chemically castrated, not because it's ineffective or unethical, but because it will create a perception problem. Do you dispute this interpretation?

You seem to imply that, should perception shift, one of two things is likely:

1) Non-rapists will think it's OK to rape, because now they'll assume consent is less required.
2) Raped women will think it's OK to be raped, because they'll assume they somehow were partially responsible.

Are these the shifts you see happening because of perception?

If so -- and I apologize if I misunderstand, and state in advance that I do not wish to bash a straw man -- you seem to assert that the above two perception shifts would create more rapes than, you know, actual rapists on the street who are known to have a 50% recividism rate. Please show your data to justify this assertion.

Policies have consequences above and beyond mere "perceptions". Close all the mental institutions, and there's going to be a lot of people out on the streets off their meds. Ban abortion, and a ton of women are going to die from coathangers. Refuse to chemically castrate rapists, and more women are going to be raped. Shrugging your shoulders, as if your pretty little policies only have to exist in a land abstracted away from pain, where the only thing that matters is perceptions and how things "look".

Perception is not always reality. 49 women -- at least, since a recidivist may not be caught after his first victim -- are very real. Shrugging your shoulders and saying "well, yadda yadda, free will" -- what are you going on about? Free will is fine and good but 50% recidivism is 50% recidivism.

WRT to your other two points -- the drug war is a terrible example. To make sure drugs don't "look good", we've created millions of trained criminals. A war over perception has destroyed real, breathing human beings.

And, as for other violent crimes, given that we tend to identify rape as second only to murder, as long as they aren't out killing people, we've made things better. And I suspect that the recidivism rate for non-rape offenses will be either equal or lower to the general recidivism rate. As long as we are to have a policy that criminals should be released from prison -- i.e. not every conviction should be a life sentence -- that's a rate we do tolerate.
posted by effugas at 8:13 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Treating rape as a crime which can be solved via castration assumes it's a crime of sex drive and that its victims therefore share culpability. Discuss.

Recividism among rapists is >50%. Recividism among chemically castrated rapists is something like 1/50th that.


Recividism among dead rapists is 0% (don't have a source, but I'm pretty sure).
posted by msittig at 9:29 PM on September 26, 2009


Recidivism for theft and burglary in the US is just over 75%. What impact would maiming have on these figures?
posted by biffa at 10:41 PM on September 26, 2009


You know if we just hanged everyone accused of a crime I'm sure recidivism would go way down. Is that the top priority of our justice system?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2009


Why not just hang everyone? Crime rates would go to 0! That is our only goal here right?
posted by !Jim at 11:46 PM on September 26, 2009


It's amazing how doctor's are experts not in just medicine, but also criminal justice, psychology and sociology.

It's amazing how the people with data can speak more authoritatively than people without.
I have access to plenty of data from my school library, but it doesn't make me qualified to interpret it. I can also assert that what I heard on the evening news one day is fact, but that doesn't make it true, regardless of my profession. My point is that doctors aren't necessarily better-informed than your or I on this matter, nor are they necessarily better-equipped to interpret the very complex dataset that has come out of research into sex offenses.
posted by !Jim at 11:54 PM on September 26, 2009


'Recidivism' is an obnoxious word. Deadening the act of child rape by using a word for it which removes all the blood and pain is probably the worst way to try to think about something.

Frankly, if the only way anybody could keep me from raping children would be to cut my balls off, I don't think life would be worth living, and while I find suicide distasteful I'd be grateful to anybody merciful enough to put an end to my miserable life in such a circumstance. I thought government existed to save us from things like forcible castration, not to cause them.
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 AM on September 27, 2009


We're talking about chemical castration here, it's not permanent.

You've got a rapist released after 10 years in prison. He's 30 old now. Are you saying it's a good idea to give him injections for a few more years but not for the rest of his life? It's permanent if they never stop forcibly giving people injections, and you know they'll never stop.

So the only advantage over an orchidectomy would be, presumably, that the injections could be stopped if you figured he wasn't guilty after all. But if you give a man sterilizing injections for a couple of decades, do you think you could just reverse the damage and he'd be as good as new?
posted by pracowity at 2:23 AM on September 27, 2009


!Jim--

The data is not at all subtle. Take a rapist. Release him. He's got a +50% chance of reoffending. Chemically castrate him. He has a ~1% chance of reoffending. Show me where this data is "complex" or "hard to interpret". I'm serious, I'm listening.

msittg--

Your argument, I have no problem with at all. I'm serious. It's a major step for a society to take, to say that we should mandate a medical procedure on somebody. I fully accept the bioethical concerns here.

Where I take grave offense is people redefining reality to match their desired politics. "It wouldn't look good if reality was this way" is uniformly a dangerous philosophy. The idea that feminists are backing a policy that creates, in aggregate, at least 49 raped women for every 100 released rapists is viscerally terrifying to me.

It would *also* be scary to me to say we should execute anyone accused of rape, or even hold these people in jail forever, so it's not that I think we should do absolutely anything to stop this problem. But saying "we can't do chemical castration, because it won't work, or it'll be perceived the wrong way" is very different than saying "this is *wrong*, whether it works or not." It does work. It may still be wrong.

biffa--

Economic crimes are a little different. We make it really rough in the USA to live life on the outside once you're a felon. Really, can you get any job of note after that black mark is on your record? You certainly can't travel much. The system is sort of designed to make people reoffend.

I wouldn't be surprised if former rapists end up becoming burglars. But it's really, aggressively powerful data that after chemical castration, they absolutely do not rape again.
posted by effugas at 3:06 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


That being said, I see your point and am beginning to be convinced by the hybrid theory. I just want to be very careful to clarify that the rapist acting on a sexual desire doesn't explicitly or implicitly assert the victim was being deliberately sexually desirable.

More nonsense. Being "deliberately sexually desirable" does not make someone in any way, shape or form to blame for being raped. Being attractive to a rapist does not excuse the rapitst's behavior, even if you think there are sex drive/biological motivations for rape. Stop making strawmen.
posted by spaltavian at 6:37 AM on September 27, 2009


Teenage marriage was largely the norm until the Industrial Revolution, as I understand it.

This is a myth, in fact. At least in Europe. The very very ridiculously wealthy tended to marry their daughters off young, but average people tended to marry in their early- to mid-20s.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:47 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why not just hang everyone? Crime rates would go to 0! That is our only goal here right?

You know if we just hanged everyone accused of a crime I'm sure recidivism would go way down. Is that the top priority of our justice system?

Yes, because being chemically castrated and being executed are totally the same thing.

Look, the point of chemical castration is that it may be a way of rehabilitating violent criminals. You can't rehabilitate a corpse. Could people please stop comparing this to execution? It's pretty dishonest, not to mention intellectually lazy. Especially since in some parts of the States they actually do execute people - if you want to be morally superior, don't compare chemical castration to a more brutal practice that your country actually engages in.

Or, you know, keep it up. Don't let logic get in the way of your moral panic over how other countries try to deal with rapists.
posted by ellehumour at 8:27 AM on September 27, 2009


Look, the point of chemical castration is that it may be a way of rehabilitating violent criminals.

Yeah, because it may work, let's force it and its associated side effects on people!

Especially since in some parts of the States they actually do execute people - if you want to be morally superior, don't compare chemical castration to a more brutal practice that your country actually engages in.

No, fuck you. Both execution and forcible castration are vicious and cruel acts and the state should not be permitted to do either.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:36 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is there so much emotion in defense of convicted, repeat pedophiles and rapists? My hunch is it has something to do with a sense that the state is making him "not a man" any more, which is somehow equivalent to death or maiming. (Data point: 42% of overweight male comedians in the U.S. joke about their man-boobs, with no apparent ill effects.)

As Danila pointed out, the state mandates drugs with much worse side effects for schizophrenic and psychotic criminals (in fact, insane non-criminals too.) Where is your outrage over that cruel and unusual punishment? Why do rapists need to be protected from it more than those patients?
posted by msalt at 9:23 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Especially since in some parts of the States they actually do execute people - if you want to be morally superior, don't compare chemical castration to a more brutal practice that your country actually engages in.

I think a lot of the people either shocked or confused by chemical castration have pretty strong feelings about execution as well.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:32 AM on September 27, 2009



Why is there so much emotion in defense of convicted, repeat pedophiles and rapists? My hunch is it has something to do with a sense that the state is making him "not a man" any more, which is somehow equivalent to death or maiming.


Hmm. It might be because the whole sex-offender thing is out of control, faith in the criminal justice system is sort of compromised by the failed drug war, etc. To some extent, I think people worry rather more about being falsely accused as a sex offender than they do as a crazy person.

So there are lots and lots of very good reasons to be deeply uncomfortable with chemical castration. It's just the bald-faced political calculation that I object strongly to. It'd be like saying, "We can't have executions -- they make Republicans look good". There are legitimate arguments on both sides of that debate but that ain't one of them.
posted by effugas at 9:49 AM on September 27, 2009


Pope Guilty--

A 50x differential between reoccurance vs. not is better than penicillin. It clearly *works*. Arguing it doesn't is just flat out unscientific.
posted by effugas at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2009


Fair enough. I think we can agree that labelling a person a sex offender for public urination (=indecent exposure) is ridiculous and the legislature needs to fix that. I'm less likely to join the crowd in defense of 19 year olds with 15 year old girlfriends -- that's a huge power imbalance, any way you slice it -- and I know at least one such guy who went on to attempted rape within 2 years. But the blanket stigma of sex offender is a problem.

That doesn't seem to be the issue here, though. For most people in this topic, there seems to be a sense of "Oh my God, that's abhorrent, no civilized person could disagree." Well, I feel fairly civilized, and I can't pin down the exact principle that's being violated here. No physical damage to convicts?

And if that is it, there's a very interesting question of "Is this maiming, or effective treatment of a chemical imbalance?" We know that androgens are related to aggression and violence ("Roid rage"). Is there a right to keeping intact a mental disease that makes you rape or kill? Is it abhorrrent to force treatment of that disease?
posted by msalt at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2009


I didn't say "fuck you", Pope Guilty, but now that you mention it...

There's no guarantee that ANYTHING will work, justice-wise. People break out of prison. Therapy fails. Conditions of parole get violated. I'm a big fan of community-based justice initiatives that involve rehabilitation and minimizing the use of the prison system, because the prison system is rife with gross abuses of power, but I'm also aware that community-based initiatives can be exploited, too. But so what? Should we just not bother with the whole thing because there's no guarantee that any of it will work? Trials are expensive, prison can be traumatic, even rehabilitation with therapy and medications can cause emotional stress (especially in cases of making someone realize why what they've done was wrong). Should we just let criminals go because otherwise we'd be putting them through difficulties without a 100% solid guarantee that these things will work?

I seriously have no idea what you think should be done. The only thing that has a 100% success rate for preventing recidivism is, as you've said, the death penalty, which you're against. But you're also saying that chemical castration shouldn't be tried because a 100% success rate can't be guaranteed. So... what? What now?

Like it or not, society needs a healthy way of dealing with sick people. Castration is an acceptable option in cases of testicular cancer; think of these criminals as having a disease that's not terminal for them, but is terminal for others. How are we supposed to treat that disease, in your little world?
posted by ellehumour at 10:14 AM on September 27, 2009


Removing a woman's ovaries does not remove her sex drive. While castration can seem like a viable way of punishing proven sex offenders, the crime itself is less about sex and more about power and victimizing. I'd like proof that it would prevent a person from actually abusing a child before considering such a step.

I will admit that if I caught someone hurting a child I would be tempted to castrate them myself, it is the most hideous act to steal a child's innocence.
posted by gypseefire at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2009


effugas: The data states unambiguously that convicted rapists are 50x more likely to reoffend if they are not chemically castrated. Do you dispute this data?

Without the time or the expertise to look at it, I don't. However, the argument is not about castration vs nothing, but about castration vs alternatives, which may come close to or equal castration's effectiveness. As several people have said up thread, the easiest way to prevent anyone from committing a crime is killing them, and we're clearly not going to do that.

That being said, the perception shift is relevant. If therapy prevents, say, 40 rapes and the perception shift prevents 49 rapes but causes 9, the apparent effectiveness of both methods would be equal. However, I think it is of enormous social importance to consider the affects of a perception shift which puts blame on the victims of rape, not only with regards to sexual assault, but to sexual harassment, suicide, sexism generally, etc.

Why people rape is important, just like why people do drugs is important, especially because getting our idea about why has destroyed real, breathing human beings (lots of them) in the latter case. By and large, rapists don't stand in the shadows and jump out at unsuspecting women as they walk home, they're acquaintances who take advantage of a woman's vulnerabilities both physical and psychological. Contributing to the psychological vulnerabilities of women, whether a little or a lot, therefore matters a great deal.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2009


I wonder if rapists had a choice between being chemically castrated and not imprisoned but released with some restrictions (checking in with parole officer/and or regular therapy) or imprisoned for a long, long time which they would take -- I wonder how the statistics would line up.
posted by nnk at 11:36 AM on September 27, 2009


The data is not at all subtle. Take a rapist. Release him. He's got a +50% chance of reoffending. Chemically castrate him. He has a ~1% chance of reoffending. Show me where this data is "complex" or "hard to interpret". I'm serious, I'm listening.
It is. I just checked three studies on sex offender recidivism. One cited the rate as around 2%, another around 40%, and a third around 20%. There are many many factors that affect recidivism, and frankly, I don't think the criminal justice system, or society at large has tried many of them. For example, one the studies reported that factors like having a stable job and stable relationships significantly reduces recidivism, but that since our society so stigmatizes sex offenders and criminals in general, these things are difficult for this population to attain. Why must we jump to most inhumane option? It's true that castration isn't permanent, but at what point do we decide to stop requiring sex offenders to take the drugs? And after having gone years with little sex drive, have we given them the tools needed to deal with their urges? If there are other more-permanent, and similarly effective ways of reducing recidivism without the reduced quality of life and medical risk, isn't that better for everyone?

I haven't read this whole thread, or all of the linked articles, so I'm not sure where you're 1% figure comes from, but when I did a quick search, I did not find any academic articles at all on chemical castration. And anyway, my original comment was not even about chemical castration, but rather questioning the notion that a medical doctor is an expert on sex offenders that was put forth above.
posted by !Jim at 11:42 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


gypsee--

The effect on the victim is to feel powerless and victimized. But you know, people who are robbed also feel powerless and victimized. The robber is very rarely in it for the rush -- they want money.

This is the crux of things. Rape isn't "just sex", because people have sex every day and certainly don't feel raped. It's an entire realm of violation that colors the perceptions of the victim for an extended period of time. I am totally sympathetic to the desire for the crime to be symmetrical, i.e. "he violated her, so he must have utterly desired this total spiritual assault". From a philosophical point of view, equality between the effect and the cause is emotionally desirable. Hell, maybe it even makes therapy easier -- it turns the attacker into a monster, utterly unlike another mate the victim may eventually connect with.

It's a comfortable, maybe even useful fiction. But it's unfortunately untrue. Rapists, by in large, are "just" trying to have sex. We see this, because when we remove the desire for sex, recidivism plummets. They really and truly don't pull out ... other accouterments, to feed their devious need for emotional violation. It just doesn't happen.

So we have a comfortable fiction versus an uncomfortable truth. Chemical castration eliminates the problematic sex drive.

If it makes the pill easier to swallow, maybe it eliminates the problematic power drive too, by sheer coincidence. Regardless, "it can't work" is proven false. It does work. Saying otherwise just gets women raped.

l33tpolicywonk,

Nobody has any idea what you're talking about, regarding the sexual desires of the *rapist* with culpability of the *raped*. I'm serious. It's like you're saying the sky might turn orange or something. A mugger wants money. It's not his victim's fault that he had money in his pocket. It has nothing to do with the victim -- the mugger wants, the mugger takes. We as a society have to deal with him.

Therapy and treatment aren't even close to equal here. Take a hundred rapists and give them therapy, and 50 women are getting raped. Take a hundred rapists and give them drugs, and 1 woman is getting raped. Now, maybe there's some "no therapy" case, in which 99 women are raped instead of 50. If so, I laud the psychotherapeutic community. But that seems unlikely.

If you want to argue "this isn't right", you've got me on shaky ground. I really don't know if I like the state mandating chemical castration treatment, on ethical grounds. But you can't just make the facts suit your philosophy. Fact is, the stuff works, no matter what it working disproves.
posted by effugas at 11:55 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


effugas: The data states unambiguously that convicted rapists are 50x more likely to reoffend if they are not chemically castrated. Do you dispute this data?

Could you please provide a link to this data? Google is giving me a lot of conflicting information.
posted by Tenuki at 1:00 PM on September 27, 2009


My original cite comes from Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, who is citing Owen Jones California Law Review article, which is here. The actual data, according to Pinker, was 46% to 3% -- rather less than the 50-to-1 I've been quoting -- so, no, it's not 49 women raped, it's 14.

Full text search on that PDF isn't enabled, and I'm on a plane, so I can't dig through that thing right now to get the original data -- but the link is above, and I'll revisit when I get to more sound quarters.
posted by effugas at 7:31 PM on September 27, 2009


!Jim: For example, one the studies reported that factors like having a stable job and stable relationships significantly reduces recidivism, but that since our society so stigmatizes sex offenders and criminals in general, these things are difficult for this population to attain. ... Studies show that recidivism rates of all crimes drop significantly when ex-criminals are able to build a happy, stable life (things like good relationships, jobs, houses, etc.), and yet all our society seems to want to do is make this harder and harder.

Do you think it's wrong for society to stigmatize sex offenders? What exactly are you proposing, given a large number of criminals with a high recidivism rate for horrific crimes? Education to not stigmatize sex offenders? Job programs and dating services for rapists and pedophiles?
posted by msalt at 10:50 PM on September 27, 2009


Like it or not, society needs a healthy way of dealing with sick people. Castration is an acceptable option in cases of testicular cancer; think of these criminals as having a disease that's not terminal for them, but is terminal for others. How are we supposed to treat that disease, in your little world?
posted by ellehumour at 10:14 AM on September 27 [+] [!]


Ease off the throttle a bit here Ellehumour. Cancer is a physical disease that WILL kill. So it is either snip snip or death. Whereas molestation is a choice. This can be corrected with psych treatments and therapy. Lot of people realize what they did was wrong and never do it again. This is not the healthiest way of dealing with sex offenders. Why yourself why do you want this to happen to someone? My guess is not because it will stop rape/molestation but because it will make you and everyone else feel that justice was served.

Addressing the main subject here: This should be an option available for sentencing. I do not agree that it should be used on everyone. In fact it should rarely be used at all. BUT we should still have it. Leave it up to the judge to decide if a person deserves it. Also criminal record should be taken into consideration as well. Does this person have a history of this type of behavior? If they do then this should be used as a punishment not a rehab tactic.

Also rape and molestation are not always about sex. They are about being in control of someone and making them do what you want. You do not need a sex drive to do this. Think of it this way, some people drink because it makes them feel good. Some smoke for the same effect. These sick fucks rape and abuse other people for the same reason. It does not have to be about sex.

Secondly what do we do about these types?. You cannot castrate a woman. What ultimate punishment is available here?

Lastly lets not kid ourselves here, this is not about rehabilitation. This is not about what is good for society. It is about revenge plain and simple. It is meant to make everyone sit here, read the story, and then read "This sick rapist asshole will lose his balls because of his crime.". In fact when I read it, I got that "I want to pump my fist" feeling. This man is a horrible person for doing what he did and the victim, society, and everyone else deserves to see this wrong be righted. Anyone who says this is meant to rehabilitation someone is kidding themselves or they do not want to admit that this type of punishment fulfills a primal need to see a bad thing happen to a very bad person.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:34 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


molestation is a choice. This can be corrected with psych treatments and therapy. Lot of people realize what they did was wrong and never do it again. ... This is not about what is good for society. It is about revenge plain and simple.

Where do you get this from? And what gives you the power to read the mind of both child molestors AND people who want to punish them? It's an ignorant ad hominem attack (and wrong!) for you to just declare that ellehumour and others (including me, apparently) don't really want to stop rape or do what's good for society.

I mean, really, where do you get the nerve? I'm not going to declare that you're obviously sympathetic to child molestors, HMMM, WONDER WHY?!?!? But that's exactly what you're doing.
posted by msalt at 11:24 AM on September 28, 2009


Whereas molestation is a choice. This can be corrected with psych treatments and therapy. Lot of people realize what they did was wrong and never do it again.

The data suggests that this doesn't happen for sex crimes. There's a reasonable argument that, in the defense of those who really can pull their lives together, that they shouldn't be lumped with those who have a mental quirk that means they probably can't without treatment.

Chemical castration is a psych treatment, no less than lithium.

Again, I'm totally OK with the argument that this isn't a direction a modern society should go in. I think there are legitimate ethical qualms to be had. But acting like you can just talk a rapist out of raping again -- that's just not true.
posted by effugas at 12:25 PM on September 28, 2009


Chemical castration is a psych treatment, no less than lithium.

Yes, giving someone lithium is totally comparable to fucking up their hormonal balance. Good call. That's the kind of intelligent content I've come to expect you to contribute to Metafilter based on your contributions to this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:35 PM on September 28, 2009


What makes you say that rapists and child molestors have balanced hormones? If Depo-Provera drastically reduces recidivism, isn't that prima facie evidence that it improves their hormonal balance?
posted by msalt at 12:42 PM on September 28, 2009


Depo-Provera inhibits many, many peoples' sex drives, not just rapists' and pedophiles'. Part of the process of getting on birth control for women is finding a method that doesn't destroy the sex drive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2009


You may feel it's a horrible injustice to inhibit the sex drive of repeatedly convicted rapists. I don't. And apparently some of the rapists themselves appreciate it too. Certainly the people they don't rape do.
posted by msalt at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2009


Except as has been pointed out repeatedly in this thread, hormonal treatments can seriously fuck you up far beyond diminishing your libido.

If you're not going to read the thread, don't try to participate in the thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:17 PM on September 28, 2009


What are you, a vigilante moderator? I've read every comment.

I asked you (in the comment immediately preceding yours), why are you assuming that rapists have balanced hormones in the first place? I don't have studies (and it doesn't appear that you do either), but it makes sense that rapists might have excessive hormones, and that drugs that reduce that are bringing them back into balance. The success of the treatment -- and the fact that at least some perpetrators like the treatment -- are at least circumstantial pieces of evidence supporting this. Also, we know that steroids cause aggression and "roid rage".

The treatment may also have harmful side effects, though I don't consider reducing the sex drive of sex criminals to be one. But as I asked earlier, (and Danila did as well), so what? We require schizophrenic and psychotic criminals to take drugs with much more severe side effects. Do you object to that, too? I think the term "chemical castration" is misleading people here; we're talking about reversible hormone treatments.
posted by msalt at 7:31 PM on September 28, 2009


Lot of people realize what they did was wrong and never do it again. This is not the healthiest way of dealing with sex offenders. Why yourself why do you want this to happen to someone? My guess is not because it will stop rape/molestation but because it will make you and everyone else feel that justice was served.

I don't know if that is so, but I really don't think it is. All I've ever heard is that the compulsion was so strong that this type of offender (one who goes so far as to rape children) would offend over and over again (although that doesn't mean they'd be caught). Where is the evidence that psych treatments and therapy are as effective as chemical castration, or even effective at all?

I do think that I have finally realized one reason why there is such angst surrounding this issue but not other issues of forced treatments: the idea that those in favor (or those who aren't outraged) must want it for punitive reasons. I have nothing personally against pedophiles and kind of feel bad for them, because I have believed that most were abused themselves and the compulsion to have sex with children is very difficult to overcome. I have seen it like a mental impairment. And chemical castration has seemed to me to be a merciful thing, the one thing that could give them a chance to break free.

Yes, giving someone lithium is totally comparable to fucking up their hormonal balance.

Lithium probably tends to do a lot more damage, so I guess they're not comparable. After spending months with my mother in the hospital after she suffered a lithium-induced coma, and after having my own experiences with the drug and other psychiatric medications (including by force when I was guilty of no crime), my perspective on this is a little different from yours.

The success of the treatment -- and the fact that at least some perpetrators like the treatment -- are at least circumstantial pieces of evidence supporting this.

Yeah, I've learned quite a bit from this thread. But one piece of information I already knew was how much more effective this treatment is than any other. And I just think of all the potential rape victims and their loved ones who could be saved, because one chronic rapist does a whole lot of damage.

Although I do think there are ethical issues with this. But I'm equally as wary of any forced medical treatments. I am curious why those who are outraged over this are not outraged over forcing prisoners to take other drugs, or requiring "medication compliance" as part of the parole process. I think I might have found one reason though:

I think the term "chemical castration" is misleading people here; we're talking about reversible hormone treatments.

It's that "castration" word, that's why this was being compared to cutting off the hands of thieves. "Castration" has a very specific history and connotation for men that seems to spark a keen sense of outrage and violation.
posted by Danila at 8:19 PM on September 28, 2009


pracowity: So the only advantage over an orchidectomy would be, presumably, that the injections could be stopped if you figured he wasn't guilty after all.

Or if, in the meantime, punishment, therapy and support have rehibilitated the criminal. Or not- the point is that it's not permanent, and comparing chemical castration to maining, cutting of hands or surgical castration is simply inapt.

I'm against forced chemical castration. As program where certain, screened voulnteers could possibly recieve greater privileges or parole-- after spending the lion's share of their sentences and agreeing to other treatment- I think it may be useful.
posted by spaltavian at 7:24 AM on September 29, 2009


So let me get this straight: blaming the victim is rightly condemned because the responsibility for the rapist's actions lies with the rapist ... except when the responsibility for the rapist's actions lie with the policy that refuses to chemically castrate him. Okay then.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:47 PM on September 30, 2009


I'm confused -- who are you saying is the victim?
posted by msalt at 3:35 PM on September 30, 2009


What has all this talk about rape have to do with the post, which is about pedophiles?

Given that most molestations happen with family members or acquaintances, where is all this talk about repeat offenders coming from? Seems like most offences are cases of temptation/opportunism gone very bad. The former statistic makes it appear as though actual pedophiles are quite rare. I have at some point in the past, seen statistics saying that recidivism is actually quite low with child molesters. This makes sense, if most of them are diddling their own family members. Of course, the exceptions get all the attention! We've all heard about the priests and a scoutmaster or two (which would fall in the category of 'known' molesters, instead of strangers).

A friend of mine revealed that her father had been diddling her little brother for years. But as far as anyone suspects, he never touched any other boys. It's sick, it's unfortunate, and horrible for the victim (who managed to be otherwise functional, good for him. I knew him, he was closer to my age than she was). I can't comprehend that situation in any other way than to view it as a power/control trip, rather than sex. It's not like there weren't plenty places for a married man to go have some on the down-low, if that's what he needed. Sexually speaking, folks are very strongly not inclined to mess with family members. The very familiar isn't usually attractive. Same applies to the proverbial girl-nextdoor, contrary to tons of popular fiction.

The whole mess is drowned in a wash of emotion and politics. The emotion is perfectly understandable. The politics is an ugly thing. Judges making decisions based on their chances for re-election I find totally repugnant. The news media make mountains of money doing stories that reliably bring on the proverbial two-minute-hate, at the expense of society.

So Europe has decided that the state shouldn't execute. Now they're saying that same unreliable state should have the power to decide who should be chemically castrated. Oh, it's reversible, so that's not so bad. So lets just lock these bad guys up and torture them in prison awhile, then chemically cut their nuts off and send them back into society to be shuned, now that we've nearly made certain they now suffer from their own PTSD hell (in addition to the hell many theories about the behavior suggest they already suffered). (The prison/torture part is extrapolating to the States. I hear European prisons aren't anywhere near as abominable as in "The Land of the Free").

We speak of the horror of "stealing the innocence" of children. Apparently, once you've had sex, you are guilty. Clearly, sex is bad, in that scheme of things. The very set of words, for my way of thinking, prove the lack of rational thought on the matter. But we do seem to like to assure the victims that they have had a horrible trauma. Sure, sometimes it is. Other times, it's having sex with someone you don't want to have sex. Unpleasant. (And before any of you desk chair experts start screaming at me, I've been raped, serially. Have you?)
posted by Goofyy at 6:33 AM on October 1, 2009


So Europe has decided that the state shouldn't execute. Now they're saying that same unreliable state should have the power to decide who should be chemically castrated.

For clarity's sake, the issue against capital punishment in Europe isn't that the state can't be "trusted" to execute people, but that capital punishment is inhumane. Not saying chemical castration is less so, but there it is.

We speak of the horror of "stealing the innocence" of children. Apparently, once you've had sex, you are guilty. Clearly, sex is bad, in that scheme of things. The very set of words, for my way of thinking, prove the lack of rational thought on the matter.

The innocence that's stolen is the belief that your own parents, some relative, or some other grown-up can be trusted to be in your care without sexually violating you. The opposite of "innocent" isn't always "lacks culpability"; it can also refer to having your beliefs shattered by the reality of the situation around you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2009


That should of course read "the opposite of 'innocent' isn't always 'culpable'".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:33 AM on October 1, 2009


Perhaps, Marisa, but the root of the expression is in religious. It is, therefore, rather loaded, and not suited to rational discourse, but useful if you wish to raise the emotional content.

There are people who are mean to kids. Sometimes even cruel. Kids come and complain, and we may well agree, "Oh, that was a mean thing to do! I'm sorry that happened, and I will try to fix it." But kids get "molested", and suddenly it's "stealing innocence", etc. It seems from all I've heard, that when kids get molested, it usually means someone touched/fondled them. Yes, that's wrong. But do we need to send the message to the child, and the world, that this was the utmost horror, and that they are, therefore, ruined for life? Because someone rubbed their woohoo? Or worse, because someone with a problem exposed themselves? (I knew a flasher once. Totally ordinary guy from Missouri, but he had a need to show himself).

Some people assault and harm kids. These are the ones that cause me the most concern. They are the dangerous. Yet the media and politicians seem all to anxious to condemn everyone who so much as pees in public as a "sex offender", building up a bigger and bigger image of horror. And then they call for bigger and bigger solutions to the problem.

Creating colossal bogeymen is dangerous business. Whether the bogeymen are terrorists, pedophiles, gypsies, jews, gays, liberals, communists, or left-handed dentists. Bogeymen demand political solutions. Such solutions seem to come loaded with accessories that are rather hazardous to children and other living things.
posted by Goofyy at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2009


But kids get "molested", and suddenly it's "stealing innocence", etc. It seems from all I've heard, that when kids get molested, it usually means someone touched/fondled them. Yes, that's wrong. But do we need to send the message to the child, and the world, that this was the utmost horror, and that they are, therefore, ruined for life?

Uh ... do you really want to go down the "it wouldn't be a big deal if we didn't tell kids it was" road?

What I mean is, I don't really buy the attitude that if we downplayed what emotional and mental effect being molested has on a child that children would just deal with it and the trauma would end. I believe this because a generation or so ago the conventional wisdom was that it wasn't that big a deal to be "touched/fondled". Somewhere along the way survivors started speaking up about what a living nightmare it was to spend their lives under the care of someone that everyone else thought was a trustworthy human being who was, in fact, making this child miserable. They spoke up about why this was horrible, what it does to a person, and why it should be a Big Deal. I don't think it's the language of the discussion that damages the kids; the act itself does damage enough.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2009


Given that most molestations happen with family members or acquaintances, where is all this talk about repeat offenders coming from? ... The former statistic makes it appear as though actual pedophiles are quite rare. I have at some point in the past, seen statistics saying that recidivism is actually quite low with child molesters.

The answer is there in your question. There are two fairly distinct groups of child molestors; those who abuse family members, and those who abuse others. The former have a low recidivism rate, but the latter have a very high recidivism rate (6% vs. 30% within 5 years, in one study; more in others). (Keep in mind that many crimes are not reported, or reported but not arrested, or arrested but not convicted, so these rates are low.)

So a law, like the one in Poland, that singles out recidivists for these hormone treatments seems to make a lot of sense.
posted by msalt at 12:32 PM on October 1, 2009


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