How Not to do Reporting 101

Can we all agree that the whole point of reporting is to answer more questions than you raise?  In this respect reporting is distinguished from commentary or op-ed pieces, or at least that’s how it ought to be.  When I read an article I actually do want my material questions to be answered and not to have to guess as what the significance of any particular statement is.  My thoughts on the point are all the more pronounced when the article in question exists on-line.  Bandwidth and storage are cheap, after all, especially in comparison with newsprint; it’s not like it’s costing you materially more to go ahead and get all the important information out there.

So when I see a headline in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to the effect that “Every 20th Man has Paedophilic Fantasies,” and I react — as I’m sure the intention is — with disgust and alarm, I’d like to be able to finish reading the article and feel like my knowledge has expanded by some amount.  That is, alas, not the case.

Since there’s no link in the article (why? why should any on-line reporting of a study or document or video or official act ever, ever be without a link to the source?? in today’s world that’s just inexcusable) to the study cited, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:  Lead sentence:  “Every 20th man has paedophilic tendencies.”  Got your attention too, Gentle Reader?  Over the course of four years psychologists and psychiatrists from the Universities of Regensburg, Dresden, Ulm, Bonn, and Hamburg, as well as a Turkish university, interviewed 8,700 adult males, as well as 2,000 or so juveniles, as well as conducted something like 28,000 anonymous on-line interviews.  They determined that 4.4% of the 8,700 adult males interviewed admitted to “fantasies of sexual contact” with children 12 or younger.  They found that 5.3% of 2,200 adults admitted to on-line “contact with juveniles with sexual content.”  On the reassuring side, we’re told that fewer than 1 adult male in 1,000 actually acts on his fantasies (having three young boys of my own, I do find that thought comforting).

And there the substantive reporting more or less ends.  There’s the usual outline of on-line sexual predation, with adults giving false ages and luring juveniles into their toils.  And so forth.

For starts, why the different numbers of study subjects?  Is it 28,000, or is it 2,200 “adults” or is it 8,700 adult males or what?  For something like this, is 2,200 a valid sample size?  How were the interviewees selected?  Where were they found?  Obviously if they were anonymous, then you’ve got some serious statistical analysis to conduct before you even decide that you’ve got a usefully representative sample of actual people.  And how did the 8,700 or 2,200 or however many it might actually have been get winnowed from the 28,000?  I mean, if we’re to accept that nearly 5% of adult males harbor sexual desires about sexually immature children (you almost can’t even say that without throwing up a little bit in your mouth), that’s some pretty majorly disturbing news.  I’d kind of like a little assurance that the study has statistical validity.

[Update 21 Sep 15 to add link]:  Where were these study subjects from?  Were they all in Germany or Europe?  Or in the U.S?  If this was a world-wide study population, I’d like to know how many of them were from East Asia, which after all has a paedophilia tourism industry (e.g. Thailand), and which welcomes perverted Westerners to its cities for the purpose?  How many of them are from Islamic societies, which likewise condone the practice of what we would think of as child rape?  It doesn’t take much looking to find reports of what ISIS and Boko Haram are doing to the young girls who fall into their hands, and who can cite you book, chapter, and verse from the Koran to support their actions (in fact, it’s not just ISIS and Boko Haram; it’s alarmingly mainstream in those societies).  For that matter, I’ve written earlier on this blog about the percentage of girls in (Moslem) sub-Saharan African societies who are married off as young as 11?  If you get more of things you encourage — and that’s a universally true statement about any human conduct of any kind — then before I look at a crowd of my fellow redneck males and have to wonder which 5% of them are the perverts, I want to know whether that 5% is truly a world-wide number that I need to be worried about around my boys.

Further:  What are “fantasies”?  Is it a “fantasy” to contemplate an activity that makes you almost physically ill and which you banish from your mind for that reason as soon as its mere mention occurs to you?  Or is it what I think most people would consider to be a “fantasy” — a more or less volitional day-dream indulged in for purposes of pleasure to the dreamer?

Lastly, and here I stray into the politically unmentionable, what were the sex correlations of the dreamers and the objects of their fantasies?  Here I confess that I’ve never looked up the FBI data (or any other data which may exist) on sexual crimes, and so I speak solely from what I see reported on the television (when I watch it) or read in newspapers, or run across in on-line reports (like the FAZ, for example).  But my impression is that I very seldom see a report of a heterosexual abuse case of a pre-pubescent child, and of the ones I do see, they nearly all seem to be intra-familial, and specifically to involve step-fathers raping their step-daughters.  I know my impression can’t be correct in the literal sense — too unlikely, after all.  But still, it seems that the overwhelming bulk of the abuse cases involving young children are male-on-male cases, and especially so when the perp is a serial offender.  Just by way of example, I’m entirely comfortable that there have been through the years many priests who got the young girls in their congregations out of their knickers whenever they cold, but when was the last time you saw a report of a priest that didn’t involve a string of homosexual offenses?  The homosexual priest preying on his male congregants is so common as to be a cliché (I refer Gentle Reader to the line in Frank Zappa’s “Catholic Girls” from Joe’s Garage:  “Father Riley’s a fairy / But it don’t bother Mary.”).

On a side note, and you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see it mentioned in a study like this, because it’s focused on victims 12 and younger, but does any sex-correlation which does exist alter when the victim is no longer sexually immature?  In other words, does the pervert who fantasizes about pre-pubescent boys switch hit for (post-) pubescent girls?  For that matter, of the 4.4% of respondents who admitted to un-described fantasies about sexual activity with the sexually immature, how many also entertain such fantasies about children of either sex who were pubescent or older?  And to go ahead and finish belching in chapel, of the 4.4% who admitted to such fantasies about the sexually immature, how many were sexually active in respect of adults, and of those, how many were hetero-, how many homo-, and how many bi-sexual?  A quick Google search of the search terms “homosexuality” and “paedophilia” pulls a bunch of links to articles, screeds, studies, and so forth the tenor of which is that there is no provable connection between the two.  I’d be interested to know how this study, with its 28,000 interview subjects, shook out on the point.

I’d point out here that in asking about sexual contact between adult males and girls who are post-pubescent but still have no business taking up with an older man, you’ve got some serious cultural and historical issues to deal with in analyzing your numbers.  Just by way of famous examples, I will guarantee you that of the parties and guests present at the wedding where Jesus performed his first miracle, the groom would be looking at 20+ years hard time, the bride’s parents would draw a stretch for conspiracy and accessory before and after the fact, and someone’s going down on a charge of contributing.  You’d also likely sweep in a paddy-wagon full of other married couples present for at least some of the same offenses.  To take a slightly newer example, Varina Howell was all of 17 when she met and was courted by the family’s neighbor, Jefferson Davis, who was 35 at the time.  The modern reaction is Ick!!  Yet even today the age of consent is all over the map just among the 50 states, and that doesn’t even touch on the enormous disparities on the subject that exist across the globe.  Nowadays in the U.S., if you’re a 35 year-old man mooning about a 17 year-old girl, you’ll be lucky if being laughed at for a pathetic cradle-robber is the worst thing that happens to you.  More likely you’re going to earn yourself an ass-kicking from the girl’s male relatives.  As you deserve.

But wouldn’t it have been nice if the FAZ‘s reporter had dug into the study and answered some of the above questions for us?  Or at least given us a link to where the study’s available?

Nice try, guys; try harder next time.

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