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Mature Sexual Play

There are multiple reasons why it is important to be concerned with the etiology of sexual offending. First, the development of effective prevention strategies is contingent on having credible knowledge about the underlying causes of sexual offending and victimization. Without credible etiological knowledge, prevention efforts are likely to be haphazard and inefficient. Second, knowledge about causes can help sex offender management professionals manage and mitigate risk more effectively. (For more, see Chapter 6, "Sex Offender Risk Assessment," and see Chapter 8. "Sex Offender Management Strategies," both in the Adult section.) Simply put, knowledge about causes and pathways to offending can provide important insights into the characteristics of various sex offending behaviors (including preferred victim type) and the likelihood that they will persist over time. Third, knowledge about causes can help sex offender management professionals develop more effective treatment interventions. (See Chapter 7 "The Effectiveness of Treatment for Adult Sex Offenders" in the Adult section for more.) Rather than focusing on symptoms or using a one-size-fits-all approach, rehabilitation efforts can target the specific underlying causes and pathways to offending that apply to the individual offender. Fourth, etiological information can inform both discourse and decision-making at the policy level, whether the focus is on sentencing, oversight in the community, civil commitment or any other criminal justice or societal response to sexual offending. In short, knowledge about origins, causes and pathways to sexual offending can play a critical role in the development and delivery of effective public safety strategies.

mature sexual play

Biological theories of sexual offending have centered on abnormalities in the structure of the brain, hormone levels, genetic and chromosomal makeup and deficits in intellectual functioning. Key research findings concerning the validity of various biological theories follow:

Evolutionary theories have been proposed to explain a variety of human behaviors, including sexual aggression. Evolutionary theory views human behavior as the result of millions of years of adaptive changes designed to meet ongoing challenges within the environment.

Several theories rely on evolutionary postulates about sexual selection and sexual strategies to explain sexual aggression. One is that sexual coercion is a conditional sexual strategy. In this theory, sexual coercion is postulated to be merely a type of reproductive strategy, as it is in nonhuman species (Bailey, 1988; Malamuth & Heilmann, 1998; Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). Another evolutionary theory views rape as an outcome of a competitive disadvantage for some men that causes them to lack the resources or ability to obtain a mate by more appropriate means (Figueredo et al., 2000; Lalumiere et al., 1996; Malamuth & Heilmann, 1998; Quinsey & Lalumiere, 1995). Another theory describes rape as a "courtship disorder" that results from an interruption in normal mating processes (Freund, 1990; Freund, Scher & Hucker, 1983, 1984).

Seidman and colleagues (1994) conducted two studies aimed at examining intimacy problems and the experience of loneliness among sex offenders. According to these studies, sex offenders have deficiencies in social skills that seriously restrict the possibility of maintaining intimacy. Ward and colleagues (1995) proposed that sex offenders are likely to have difficulty forming attachments with others and will engage in distorted thinking, such as "courting" a child and treating him or her as his lover. Knox (2014) recently found that juveniles who have committed a sexual offense had lower levels of attachment to fathers or father figures than juveniles who have committed a non-sexual offense.

Personality theorists also use formulations of personality development based on the results of testing instruments designed to profile personality types. Studies concerning this approach, however, have produced diverse and contradictory findings, and they have been criticized for failing to adequately demonstrate how the results obtained from testing instruments can add to the understanding of the origins of sexually deviant behavior (Stinson, Sales & Becker, 2008). Further evidence is needed to show how certain personality traits relate specifically to the cause of sexual offending behavior.

Cognitive theories address the way in which offenders' thoughts affect their behavior. It is well documented that when individuals commit deviant sexual acts, they often try to diminish their feelings of guilt and shame by making excuses or justifications for their behavior and rationalizing their actions (Scott & Lyman, 1968; Scully, 1990; Sykes & Matza, 1957). These excuses, justifications and rationalizations are commonly referred to as "cognitive distortions" or "thinking errors." They allow offenders to absolve themselves of responsibility, shame or guilt for their actions. Thinking errors on the part of sex offenders have been identified and supported frequently in research. These errors include denial, minimization of harm done, claiming the right or entitlement to the behavior and blaming the victim (Marshall, Anderson & Fernandez, 1999; Ward & Keenan, 1999). The literature also suggests that many sex offenders hold feelings of resentment and use these feelings as justification for their behaviors. Marshall, Anderson and Champaigne (1997) theorized that sex offenders are more likely to be self-protective and self-serving due to low self-esteem, poor relationships with others and emotional discomfort or anxiety. When challenged about their behavior, sex offenders reframe the situation to maintain feelings of self-worth.

Another type of cognitive distortion common among sexual offenders is a sense of entitlement, which involves the belief that the need to offend is more important than the negative consequences experienced by the victim (Hanson, Gizzarelli & Scott, 1994). Hanson, Gizzarelli and Scott (1994) found that this sense of entitlement in incest offenders led to decreased self-control, while Ward, Hudson and Keenan (1998) found that thinking errors lead sex offenders to pay attention to information consistent with their distorted beliefs and to reject information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. For example, a child molester may interpret a child's hug as sexual interest because that interpretation conforms to his or her distorted beliefs, or a child molester may ignore a child's crying because it conflicts with his or her beliefs. Further, egocentricity or self-interest allows the sex offender to justify deviant sexual behavior on the basis that it satisfies his or her needs. The offender will see victims as deserving of victimization or may have distorted views of what the victim wants from the offender. He or she may display a consistent tendency to blame others or negate personal responsibility through such statements as "I just couldn't help myself" (Hanson, 1999; Hanson, Gizzarelli & Scott, 1994: Segal & Stermac, 1990; Ward, 2000; Ward, Hudson & Keenan, 1998).

Cognitive theories have contributed to a better understanding of sex offenders and their behaviors. There is evidence demonstrating that sex offenders engage in cognitive distortions or thinking errors, and that these distorted thinking patterns have the capacity to drive deviant sexual behavior. Cognitive theories serve as a core component of many of the sex offender treatment programs in existence today, and most treatment programs incorporate some type of intervention to help the perpetrator identify and correct his or her thinking errors.

Despite the contributions made by cognitive theories and their use in treatment models, these theories have limitations. First, no method has been identified for connecting in a causal manner what the offender reports about his or her thought processes and a sex offending act itself. Second, cognitive theories do not explain where the cognitive distortion thought processes originate. Third, the research that is available on cognitive theories reflects few differences between sex offenders with cognitive distortions and non-sex offenders with cognitive distortions. In short, cognitive theories do not explain why some individuals commit sexually offensive acts specifically (Stinson, Sales & Becker, 2008).

Behavioral theories explain sexually abusive behaviors as a learned condition. Behavioral theories are based on the assumption that sexually deviant arousal plays a pivotal role in the commission of sex crimes and that people who engage in sex with, or have sexual feelings toward, inappropriate stimuli are more like likely to commit sexual violence than those with appropriate sexual desires (Becker, 1998; Hunter & Becker, 1994; Lalumiere & Quinsey, 1994).

In behavioral theory, the occurrence of continued deviant sexual behavior (as with all behavior) depends on reinforcement and punishment. Sexual gratification and the perceived lack of negative consequences for sexual offending, coupled with a lack of support for not engaging in sexual offending behavior, increases the likelihood for sex offenses to continue. The key factor is that if the negative consequences of the behavior (punishment) are sufficiently strong, the negative behavior (sex offending) is less likely to occur (Laws & Marshall, 1990).

Self-regulation is also a behavioral theory that has been applied to sexually deviant behaviors. Self-regulation involves the selection of a goal and strategies to reach that goal. The goals of sexual satisfaction, intimacy, mood control or other rewards related to sexual deviance can affect recall, judgment and information processing (Ward, 2000). According to self-regulation theory, the goal of engaging in sexually deviant behavior and the strategies employed to reach that goal become automatically integrated into the behavior of the offender because they have been consistently reinforced in the past (Ward & Hudson, 1998). 041b061a72


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