Twenty years after politicians and researchers howled in protest at research suggesting there was no lasting harm to minors who engage in same-sex sexual relationships with much older adults, similar research now is being met with the silence of the scientific community and may be used to challenge age of consent laws.
University of Texas Sociology Professor Mark Regnerus is at the forefront of the debate on sexual research and has come under withering criticism for his work concluding that children in homes where a parent is in a same-sex relationship fare worse than children in homes with their biological mothers and fathers.
There, researcher Bruce Rind has led studies suggesting there was no noticeable difference in long-term regret, shame or other negative reactions when compared to the teenagers’ long-term response after having sex for the first time with boys or girls of the same age.
In the Rind studies, the minor girls studied were age 15 on average, while their same-sex partners were 26 years old on average. For males, the boys were an average of 15 and their partners were 28 on average.
Regnerus says the efforts to remove the stigma from such sex are making a comeback after being scored almost two decades ago.
“And now here they are, back again in respectable academic journals,” said Regnerus. “Here they are teeing up the kind of evidence to overturn age of consent laws.”
“I’m not sure there’s another way to read that. That’s what I saw when I read them. They all come from the same person,” he added.
But the reaction from the scientific community is deeply troubling to Regnerus, mainly because there isn’t one.
“It’s not as if (the studies) are being praised or lauded. It’s that they have been released and published, largely to quiet. To be quiet here is to be complicit. And so I thought we have to call this out,” said Regnerus, who shakes his head when comparing the reaction to his own research.
“It’s disturbing that this guy publishes stuff on minor-adult sex to quietness and anything I say is shouted down from the rooftops, which is distressing to say the least,” said Regnerus.
He says the lack of outrage suggests it could be the first step toward trying to normalize such behavior.
“Downstream from documenting something becomes acceptability, which becomes something that’s legal. I don’t know that we’ll ever legalize this sort of thing. I pray not. But there is a bridge being built in that direction,” said Regnerus, and he says that bridge is being paid for in part with U.S. tax dollars.
“There’s not just foundation money underwriting this. Even the federal government, via the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, is tacitly complicit in this type of research,” said Regnerus.
Regnerus said the disturbing foothold is another direct consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
“The quest for marriage, I say in my new book entitled ‘Cheap Sex,’ was actually a sort of cultural land grab. Here we’re seeing a little more evidence that what’s at stake here is human decency and the dignity of children and persons in general,” said Regnerus.
Regnerus also condemns the research methods, from tiny numbers of sample cases to questionably gathered data. He says LGBT activists often use small samples to conclude there is no harm to children in same-sex parenting situations as well.
Also disturbing to Regnerus is that Rind admits many of the boys and girls went along with the same-sex experience and did not resist even though they did not want it. He says Rind seems to brush off a very serious aspect of this type of encounter.
“One of the ploys going on here is the, ‘Oh, regardless of the situation in which the first sex occurred, the outcomes long term are OK and going along with it is some form of consent,'” said Regnerus.
“That’s a ridiculous notion to suspect that somehow we’re talking about power that’s equal between a 13-year-old and say a 27- or 28-year-old. It’s a ludicrous notion,” said Regnerus.
Regnerus further asserts that because such events can convince young people that they must be of a certain sexual persuasion, that they don’t look back on such experiences negatively and may even look back on them as enjoyable, a metric he says Rind also equates with consent. He says it is very difficult to quantify the true impact of such an event years or even decades later.
He says the ongoing objective of the cultural and scientific left remains clear.
“What we’re looking at is sort of a comprehensive union when we’re talking about the sexual union. It’s just frightening to me that people want to pick apart at that until there’s almost nothing left,” said Regnerus.