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sexual fantasies

Queen's University

This comes from research that Mr. Looman did on the sexual fantasies of child molesters.

A structured interview was used to collect data concerning the mood preceding and accompanying sexual fantasies, and the way in which the other person in the fantasy was perceived by 21 child molesters, 19 rapists, and 19 non-sexual offenders, all incarcerated in federal prisons. For the child molesters, fantasies about both children and adults were examined. It was found that child molesters did not differ from the other groups in terms of their perceptions of adults in their fantasies, and the adult fantasy was perceived more positively than the child fantasy. Child molesters were more likely to fantasize about children when in a negative emotional state than when in a positive mood, and these fantasies were likely to produce a negative mood state. It is suggested that child molesters may fantasize about a child as an inappropriate way of coping with dysphoric moods, thus enhancing that dysphoria and leading to further inappropriate fantasies. These results suggest that sexual fantasy monitoring should become an important component in the treatment of child molesters.

Research with child molesters has explored in depth the sexual arousal patterns of these men (Freund, 1967). There is little doubt that child molesters as a group become sexually aroused when shown slides of nude or scantily clad children (Barbaree & Marshall, 1989), or listen to audio-taped depictions of sexual activity with children (Avery-Clark & Laws, 1984) to a greater extent than men who have no history of molesting children (Barbaree and Marshall, 1989). Much of the treatment of child molesters has therefore involved attempts to decrease this arousal through conditioning procedures (e.g., Marshall & Barbaree, 1978), following the proposition that sexual orientation is a conditioned response developed in childhood.


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Storms (1981), however, proposed a theory whereby one's sexual orientation is a result of an interaction between classical conditioning and social learning factors. He concluded that early masturbatory experiences lead to the eroticization of stimuli, and early fantasies serve as the basis of adult sexual orientation. This early classical conditioning is reinforced by environmental influences as the adolescent is encouraged by the peer group to develop and maintain an appropriate sexual orientation.

Similarly, Laws and Marshall (1990) use a combination of classical and instrumental conditioning processes to describe how a man may develop deviant sexual interests by pairing sexual arousal and ejaculation with an early deviant experience. This arousal may be reinforced by such social learning processes as modelling of aggressive behaviours and one's own attributions regarding one's sexuality. The deviant interest may be maintained by continued masturbation to deviant fantasies and intermittent actual deviant sexual contacts.

Given that fantasies are important in the above models (Laws & Marshall, 1990; Storms, 1981) of the development of sexual orientation, in applying these models to pedophiles it seems that it would be important to determine the extent to which pedophiles fantasize about children. The notion that deviant fantasies are an important part of sexual deviance was emphasized by Abel and Blanchard (1974), in their review of fantasy in the development of sexual preferences. They underlined the importance of treating fantasy as an independent variable which may be altered, and of the utility of modifying fantasies as a means of changing sexual preferences.

FANTASIES OF SEXUAL OFFENDERS

Both offenders' self report and phallometric research, which demonstrates that child molesters as a group display sexual arousal to children (e.g., Barbaree and Marshall, 1989), have supported the belief that at least some child molesters do fantasize about children. For this reason, deviant sexual fantasies have become one area of focus in the research on child molesters, as well as other sexual offender populations. For example, Dutton and Newlon (1988) reported that 70% of their sample of adolescent sexual offenders admitted having sexually aggressive fantasies before committing their offenses. Similar findings were reported by MacCulloch, Snowden, Wood and Mills (1983) and Prentky et al. (1989) with adult offenders. Rokach (1988) also found evidence of deviant themes in sexual offenders' self-reported fantasies.

The assumptions that deviant sexual fantasies play a key role in the commission of sexual offenses has had implications for the treatment of sexual offenders. For example, Laws and O'Neil (1981) described a masturbatory conditioning treatment with four pedophiles, one sado-masochist and one rapist in which deviant arousal was lessened and appropriate arousal increased by alternating deviant and non-deviant fantasy themes.

McGuire, Carlisle and Young (1965), exploring the development of deviant sexual interests, reported on the sexual fantasies and experiences of 52 sexual deviates. They found that the majority of their patients reported masturbating to deviant fantasies and that these fantasies were based on their first real sexual experiences. It was proposed that the fantasy of this experience had become paired with orgasm over repeated masturbatory experiences, thus sustaining arousal to it.

Abel and Rouleau (1990) summarizing the results of two earlier self-report studies involving 561 sexual offenders also indicated that there appeared to be a significant trend toward early onset of paraphilias. They found that the majority of offenders had acquired their deviant sexual interests in their teenage years; for example, 50% of non-incest offenders with male victims acquired their deviant interests before the age of 16, and 40% of those with female victims before the age of 18.