Assessing Paraphilic Interests Among Women Who Sexually Offend
Purpose of Review
We examine the state of scientific research on the assessment of paraphilic interests among women who have committed sexual offences.
Research on the assessment of sexual interests in women using genital measures shows little evidence, overall, that women’s genital responses are indicative of sexual interests. Some non-genital measures of sexual interest may be a valid indicator of age interests. Very few studies have focused on women who sexually offend.
At this time, there is no validated measure that can be used to assess paraphilic interests among women who sexually offend. Much research is needed to determine if some measures (other than self-report) could validly assess a variety of sexual interests in women in general, and women who sexually offend in particular (e.g. interest in children, interest in sexual violence). This research is needed to determine if paraphilic interests are involved in women’s motivation for sexual offending, and to determine if such interests are predictive of sexual recidivism.
KeywordsWomen who sexually offend Paraphilic interests Sexual interest testing Genital response Forensic assessment This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sexual Disorders
The editors would like to thank Dr. Samantha J. Dawson for taking the time to review this manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
- 4.Seto MC. Pedophilia and sexual offending against children: theory, assessment, and intervention. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2018.Google Scholar
- 11.Suschinsky KD, Lalumière ML. Genital plethysmography for female sexual offenders? Assoc Treat Sex Abusers Forum. 2009;21.Google Scholar
- 15.Chivers, M. L., Suschinsky, K. D., Timmers, A. D., & Bossio, J. A. (2014). Experimental, neuroimaging, and psychophysiological methods in sexuality research. In APA handbook of sexuality and psychology, Vol. 1: Person-based approaches. (pp. 99-119). American Psychological Association. doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/14193-005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 16.Suschinsky, K. D., Lalumière, M. L., & Chivers, M. L. (2009). Sex differences in patterns of genital sexual arousal: measurement artifacts or true phenomena? Archives of Sexual Google Scholar
- 22.Laan, E. (1994). Determinants of sexual arousal in women: genital and subjective components of sexual response. PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
- 27.• Chivers ML. The specificity of women’s sexual response and its relationship with sexual orientations: a review and ten hypotheses. Arch Sex Behav. 2017;46:1161–79. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0897-x. A comprehensive review of the empirical literature on the category-specificity of women’s sexual response, focusing on women with typical sexual interests.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 36.Suschinsky, K. D., & Chivers, M. L. (2019). Assessing gender-specificity of clitoral responses. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
- 39.Lalumière, M. L., Sawatsky, M. L., Dawson, S. J., & Suschinsky, K. D. (2019). The empirical status of the preparation hypothesis: explicating women’s genital responses to sexual stimuli in the laboratory. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
- 41.Laan E, Everaerd W, Evers A. Assessment of female sexual arousal: response specificity and construct validity. Psychophysiology. 1995;32:476–85. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.1995.tb02099.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 42.Suschinsky KD, Lalumière ML. Category-specificity and sexual concordance: the stability of sex differences in sexual arousal patterns. Can J Hum Sex. 2011;20:93–108.Google Scholar
- 44.Laan E, Janssen E. How do men and women feel? Determinants of subjective experience of sexual arousal. In: Janssen E, editor. The psychophysiology of sex. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; 2007. p. 278–90.Google Scholar
- 46.•• Sawatsky ML, Dawson SJ, Lalumière ML. Genital lubrication: a cue-specific sexual response? Biol Psychol. 2018;134:103–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.02.003 A test of the preparation hypothesis using a direct measure of genital lubrication showed that responses were specific to women’s most preferred sexual stimulus categories. This high degree of gender cue-specificity is inconsistent with the preparation hypothesis. Further testing is needed to establish whether the litmus test strip is a viable measure of women’s sexual interests.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 48.Masters WH, Johnson VE. Human sexual response. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.; 1966.Google Scholar
- 50.Bartels, R. M., Gray, N. S., & Snowden, R. J. (2016). Indirect measures of deviant sexual interest. The Wiley Handbook on the Theories, Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Offending. John Wiley & Sons Singapore Pte. Ltd.Google Scholar
- 51.Schmidt, A. F., Banse, R., & Imhoff, R. (2015). Indirect measures in forensic contexts. In T. M. Ortner & F. J. R. van de Vijver (Eds.). Behavior-based assessment in psychology: going beyond self-report in the personality, affective, motivation, and social domains (pp. 173-194). Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
- 57.Lalumière ML, Earls CM. Voluntary control of penile responses as a function of stimulus duration and instructions. Behav Assess. 1992;14:121–32.Google Scholar
- 63.•• Attard-Johnson J, Bindemann M, Ó Ciardha C. Pupillary response as an age-specific measure of sexual interest. Arch Sex Behav. 2016;45:855–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0681-3 Across two experiments, the pupillary responses of androphilic women exhibited high cue-specificity for age, but not gender. Pupil dilation appears to reflect age preferences among women with typical sexual interests; further research is needed to investigate potential applications of pupillometry for assessing women with paraphilic interests. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- 70.• Dawson SJ, Chivers ML. Gender-specificity of initial and controlled visual attention to sexual stimuli in androphilic women and gynephilic men. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0152785. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152785. Using eyetracking as a measure of visual attention, androphilic and gynephilic women with typical sexual interests showed high gender cue-specificity at the controlled stage of attention (duration of fixation); however, androphilic women exhibited low gender cue-specificity for initial attention (time to first fixation). Since the duration of fixation is under conscious control, this response may be vulnerable to manipulation in the context of forensic assessment. Further research is needed to investigate potential applications of eyetracking for assessing women with paraphilic interests. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- 74.•• Vásquez-Amézquita M, Leongómez JD, Seto MC, Bonilla M, Rodríguez-Padilla A, Salvador A. Visual attention patterns differ in gynephilic and androphilic men and women depending on age and gender of targets. J Sex Res. 2019;56:85–101. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1372353 Using eyetracking as a measure of visual attention, androphilic and gynephilic women with typical sexual interests exhibited high cue-specificity for age at the initial and controlled stages of attention (time to first fixation and duration of fixation, respectively). Visual attention appears to reflect age preferences among women with typical sexual interests; further research is needed to investigate potential applications of eyetracking for assessing women with paraphilic interests. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 75.Baur E, Forsman M, Santtila P, Johansson A, Sandnabba K, Långström N. Paraphilic sexual interests and sexually coercive behaviour: a population-based twin study. Arch Sex Behav. 2016;45:1163–72. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0674-2 Behavior, 38, 559-573. doi: 10.1007/s10508.008-9339-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar