Leading Academic Journal Publishes Paper Claiming “Sexual Relations Between Youths and Adults” Are Not Harmful

A leading academic journal has published an article questioning the need for age of consent laws and claiming that discussions of “youth sexuality” are unjustly hindered by “cancel culture.” The author, Marshall Burns, is a physicist and technology entrepreneur who was involved in the development of the early computer industry and operates a website titled “Consenting Juveniles.”

In his article, which was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in June and titled “The Elephant in the Room: Youth Sexuality,” Burns argues that “sexual relations between youths and adults” is wrongfully seen as a contentious issue in society.

Marshall Burns
Source: consentingjuveniles.com

The Archives of Sexual Behavior special section on cancel culture is an important reference on a dangerous phenomenon taking place in front of us. Yet the section omits discussion of the primary cancellation issue that arguably helped set the stage for what we face today and that remains the most lightning-rod subject of all,” Burns writes.

“It ignores the elephant in the room: youth sexuality, and in particular, discussions of sexual relations between youths and adults without an a priori assumption of abuse and harm.”

In the article, Burns presents a selection of previous academic publications alongside reactions in order to highlight what he portrays as examples of cancel culture in action. The first incident he provides describes criticism leveled against Dutch-American, Columbia-affiliated academic and LGBT activist Theo Sandfort, who, Burns says, found that sexual relationships between adults and minors are “mostly harmless.”

Prior to relocating to Columbia University, Theo Sandfort received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He was also the Chairman of the Interfaculty Department of Lesbian and Gay Studies at Utrecht University and Director of the Research Program “Diversity, Lifestyles and Health” at the Netherlands Institute of Social Sexological Research.

Sandfort served as President of the International Academy of Sex Research and the Dutch Society of Sexology, and was a fellow with the American Psychological Association (APA). In 2008, he received the John Money Award from the Society of the Scientific Study of Sexuality for his work.

The psychiatrist was also listed as an editorial board member of an academic pro-pedophilia journal called Paidika, which was printed from 1987 to 1995. Two editions, in the 1993 and 1994 magazines, featured his research on the “sexual experiences of children”.

Sandfort’s 1988 paper and dissertation, “The importance of the experience: about sexual contacts in early childhood and sexual behavior and experience later in life,” (Het belang van de ervaring) is cited by Burns as evidence that adult-child sexual interactions can be “beneficial”.

According to Burns, in the wake of a widely publicized criminal case involving the pedophilic abductions and murders of children in Belgium in 1996, Sandfort began to receive death threats and went into hiding on recommendation from the police.

However, Burns neglected to mention that, for his research, Sandfort had reportedly recruited men from among members of the multiple pedophilia lobbying groups in the Netherlands at that time.

“Why… should pedophiles, just as other humans with deviant sexual preferences, not have the right to express their sexual desires?” wrote Sandfort, while condemning as “moral dictator” the feminist movement for its stance against child sexual abuse and pornography.

According to Dutch sociologist, former professor at the University of Amsterdam, and pro-pedophilia academic Gert Hekma, Sandfort’s dissertation concluded that “voluntary sexual contacts of youngsters before they turned 16 years with adults had in general a positive influence on their later sexual life… They learned from these relations and were content with them. They were less afraid for sex and liked lust better.”

Yet this was not the only instance where Sandfort expressed pro-pedophile leanings – rather, he has an extensive history of publishing writings and research sympathetic to pedophilia. While still living in the Netherlands, the psychologist and sexologist penned several academic texts on the topic of adult-child sexual relationships.

In 1983, Sandfort authored an article for Youth and Society (Jeugd en Samenleving) titled “Erotic moments in working with children”, a small-scale study of sexual desires among five adult group leaders for the children in their care. The men described deriving sexual pleasure from working with children, specifically when exercising together, bathing the children, or holding them on their laps. One man, identified as “Lex,” spoke of being aroused while “tickling” children aged “2 or 3,” wearing only his underwear, and proceeding to touch the toddlers’ genitals.

That same year, a study by Sandfort was published that positively portrayed adult-child sexual relationships. “Pedophile relationships in the Netherlands: Alternative lifestyle for children?” concluded that “the partner and relationship, including sexual aspects, were experienced in predominately positive terms; evidence of exploitation or misuse was absent.”

Similarly, Sandfort’s 1987 publication, “Boys on Their Contacts with Men,” presented a study of 25 boys between the ages of 10 and 16 involved in sexual relationships with adult men.

Sexologist and psychologist Dr. John Money, known for having coined the term “gender identity” – as well as his disturbing medical experiments on children, authored a foreword for Sandfort’s book, praising the text as having “great scientific merit.”

“Juveniles and teenagers are attracted to the way their older lovers treat them as equals,” wrote Money, before asserting that the book “constitute[s] that one wall on and around which more may be built.”

In 1991, Sandfort co-edited a compilation of essays defending pedophilia titled Male Intergenerational Intimacy. An introduction co-authored by Sandfort, “Man-Boy Relationships: Different Concepts for a Diversity of Phenomena,” reads:

“It is difficult to predict in the future with respect to man-boy relationships, child sexuality, the position of children in our society. Will pedophilia become a lifestyle for some people, based on their personally designed sexual orientation? Will society allow people to adopt such a lifestyle, or will society persist in seeing them only as child molesters?

Can sexual involvement between adults and children be only conceived as child sexual abuse, or will the professionals and the public come to realize that there are various kinds of intimate involvement between adults and children and that distinctions between voluntary involvement and forced involvement can be made?”

The book is composed of the writings of over a dozen pro-pedophilia activists, including an essay by David Thorstad, the founder of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), and Edward Brongersma, a Dutch politician who advocated for lowering the age of consent in the Netherlands with a specific focus on sexual relations between adult men and boys.

In 2020, after his previous pro-pedophile writings resurfaced, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services issued a public statement cutting all ties with Sandfort, who had been working with foster youth aged 13 to 21 in order to conduct surveys.

The research, “Experiences and Well-Being of Sexual and Gender Diverse Youth in Foster Care in New York City,” concluded that more than one out of three youths in foster care identified as “LGBTQAI+” which was deemed “substantially higher” than the percentage found in the general population.

The child welfare agency spent roughly $416,000 in public and private funds over a period of five years for the survey project led by Sandfort.

The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) spokesperson Marisa Kaufman stated, “The City of New York has zero tolerance for pedophilia. The health, safety, and well-being of children is our top priority, and those who endanger children are contrary to the values of our city. Our work with Dr. Sandfort began over five years ago and current ACS leadership was not aware of these previous writings until after the survey findings were released. ACS has severed all ties with Dr. Sandfort.”

Another academic text cited by Burns as further evidence of the supposed harmless nature of adult-child sexual encounters is the 2002 book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, published by the University of Minnesota Press and written by Judith Levine.

In Harmful to Minors, Levine argues against “harmful protection” of children from sexuality, criticizes feminist arguments against pornography, and downplays the physical and emotional consequences of child sexual abuse.

“Pedophiles are not generally violent, unless you are using the term sexual violence against children in a moral, rather than a literal way,” Levine writes. “Its perpetrators rarely use force or cause physical injury in a youngster.”

Levine’s book ultimately concludes: “Sex is not harmful to children. It is a vehicle to self-knowledge, love, healing, creativity, adventure, and intense feelings of aliveness. There are many ways even the smallest children can partake in it.”

Significantly, Levine cites as an influence in her work the perspective of attorney Lawrence Allen Stanley, who, during the course of his career, would defend men in possession of child sexual abuse materials. Stanley’s own writing on this topic – an article titled “The Hysteria Over Child Pornography and Paedophilia” – was first published by the pro-pedophilia journal Paidika, then later reproduced for Playboy magazine.

In June 2002, Stanley was arrested in Brazil, found in possession of more than 1,000 photographs and more than 100 videos of young girls ages 8 to 14 years old in swimsuits and underwear. Stanley had built up a business selling child pornography involving underage Brazilian girls online using a pseudonym.

The former attorney who was said to have been on the steering committee for the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) also had a prior criminal record: in 1998, a Dutch court convicted Stanley in absentia for sexual abuse of three children ages 7 to 10, after which, he fled to Brazil.

Burns, in his recent article for The Archives of Sexual Behavior, defends Levine and the ideas presented in her book about “children’s sexuality,” saying that it has “called for more honest sex education, acknowledging children as sexual beings, and protecting them from those who protect them from sex.” According to Burns, Levine and the book swiftly became “the targets of a vicious media firestorm,” an incident that he says neglects “research findings that sexual relations between youths and adults are not always abusive and harmful.”

Burns is behind several websites, including a personal page in which he describes himself as a “physicist and technology entrepreneur who pioneered in the development of personal computers in the 1980s and 3D printers in the ’90s.” Burns is listed on the Society of Physics Students website as having a Bachelor of Science from MIT and a PhD from the University of Texas.

Another site he operates is called “Consenting Juveniles,” where he attempts to argue that young people are unfairly punished for sexual encounters with their peers due to statutory rape laws. On the homepage of the site, he features photos of celebrities with partners who were still minors when they met — such as Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Priscilla was 14 when she began a relationship with the 24-year-old rockstar.

The website also boasts a number of “case studies” Burns uses to argue that childhood sexual activity is not inherently harmful, using quotes from child sexual abuse victims who claim their experience was positive. One of the subjects, a gay man named “Larry,” stated he began pursuing adult men from the age of 7.

“I actively pursued male lovers from the age of 7 or 8. I really liked older men but none would have me. Because I desired them so deeply and know they desired me, and looking at past cultures, I don’t believe it’s absolutely wrong,” he says on his page.

In another “case study,” Burns pulls from the autobiography of British journalist Tom Driberg, who recounted becoming sexually aroused when fondling his brother’s genitals at age two or three.

Yet another website belonging to Burns, SOL Research, was ostensibly established “to provide factual information about sex laws and their effects on people and society,” but makes arguments against the usefulness of sex offender registries.

But perhaps most disturbingly, Burns was invited to present on the topic, “Consenting Juveniles: First-hand Accounts of Sex for Fun or Love” at a conference organized by the former president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), Eli Coleman.

In 2015, Burns attended an event organized by Coleman and faculty of the University of Minnesota Program in Human Sexuality, spearheaded by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), a group which provides “sex therapy” and promotes John Money’s concept of a gender identity.

The university’s program in Human Sexuality has received funding from multi-millionaire trans-identifying male Jennifer Pritzker, through his philanthropic organization the Tawani Foundation, which has poured millions of dollars into transgender lobbying efforts.

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Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.

Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.