Hebephilia: A Postmortem Dissection
In 2008, the concept of hebephilia, which denotes an erotic preference for “pubescent children,” was suggested by Blanchard and his team for inclusion in the DSM-5 (Blanchard et al., 2009). Four years later, the APA’s Board of Trustees opted for the status quo and rejected that proposal. This essay sheds light on the reason for this rejection. I consider three important questions related to hebephilia: Does hebephilia exist? Is it a disease? And what would have been the social consequences of including it in the DSM? I argue that if Blanchard failed to convince others that hebephilia should be included in the DSM-5, it is not because he focused too much on the first question and was unable to offer a convincing answer to the second one, but because he made the mistake of dismissing the third one as extraneous. The DSM is not intended to be a pure research manual, and a category like hebephilia cannot be evaluated without taking into account its potential forensic impact. In part or in whole, the decision to include a new diagnostic category in the DSM is, and always should be, a political decision.
KeywordsHebephilia Pedophilia Paraphilia DSM-5 Forensic psychiatry
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