Danger and Difference: The Stakes of Hebephilia

color photo of Patrick Singy
Patrick Singy, Union College (NY)
Event Date: 
January 27, 2015
Event Time: 
2239 Lane Hall
Event Tags: 
color photo of Patrick Singy

In 2008 the diagnostic category of “hebephilia” (erotic preference for "pubescent children," or young adolescents) was suggested for inclusion in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, published May 2013). Immediately a vehement debate arose over whether or not this condition should be considered a disease, and in 2012 the proposal to include hebephilia in DSM-5 was finally rejected. In this talk Patrick Singy argues that the debate about the diagnostic validity of hebephilia was profoundly misguided. Diagnosis of hebephilia plays a role in “sexually violent predator” (SVP) laws, which can preventively deprive “dangerous” people of their liberty if, and only if, they are deemed mentally ill—for instance, by suffering from hebephilia. Singy contends that the legal requirement of mental illness for the application of SVP laws serves both to identify the most dangerous people and, more covertly, to define them as quasi-animals, outside humanity, and thus to safeguard the laws' constitutionality in a liberal context. According to Singy the requirement fails on both counts, and the debate over hebephilia should have targeted this unsound requirement itself. Instead, because it focused on the issue of diagnostic validity, the hebephilia debate rested implicitly on an acceptance of the requirement of mental illness for application of SVP laws.

Presented by LGQRI and cosponsored by the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop, Doing Queer Studies Now.