[content note: rape apologism]
In 2013, Ray Blanchard– head of the paraphilia working group for the DSM-5 and originator of the controversial ‘two-type’ theory of transness— gave an interview about his work as part of the paraphilia working group, which included the following passage:
[Interviewer:] Do you think autoandrophilia, where a woman is aroused by the thought of herself as a man, is a real paraphilia?
[Blanchard:] No, I proposed it simply in order not to be accused of sexism, because there are all these women who want to say, “women can rape too, women can be pedophiles too, women can be exhibitionists too.” It’s a perverse expression of feminism, and so, I thought, let me jump the gun on this. I don’t think the phenomenon even exists.
Quite frankly, I am flabbergasted.
Ray Blanchard openly admitted, in a publicly available interview, to attempting to include a condition that he does not think exists in the DSM. Why? Because feminists might get angry at him if he didn’t.
In the published version of the DSM-5, Transvestic Disorder does not include a “with autoandrophilia” specification; it existed only in the draft version. One hopes that someone read this interview, talked to Blanchard, and explained to him that the DSM should include conditions that exist and should not include conditions that don’t exist. One would hope that that was a fact a psychologist would be aware of once he has his PhD, or gets tenure, or is involved in writing the DSM, or is literally the head of a DSM-related working group. But I suppose we all miss minor details now and again.
Perhaps there should be some sort of training or orientation for people joining a DSM working group. I imagine, ten years from now:
“It is important,” the trainer might say, “that the DSM reflect reality as best it can. Psychologists and psychiatrists will use it to guide their treatment; insurance companies will allow or deny coverage based on it; drug companies will develop medications for the diagnoses we create; journalists and self-help writers will take inclusion in the DSM as a sign that a disorder wasn’t made up by crackpots. Human psychology is messy and it’s hard to create categories that aren’t at least a little bit arbitrary; we’re not expecting perfection, just do your best. A good-faith effort is fine.”
A member of the sleep disorders working group raises her hand. “So, if we’re just supposed to make a good-faith effort, what does this actually rule out?”
“Well, for example,” the trainer says, “if you would describe a phenomenon with the words ‘I don’t think it even exists,’ you should not put it in the DSM.”
“Who would do that?” the head of the depression working group says. “This is absurd. This is worse than the ‘instead of being a Nazi, consider not being a Nazi’ trainings we have to do every time we do research.”
“Yes, well,” the trainer says, “you’d think, but unfortunately Ray Blanchard fucked it all up for everyone. Please turn to page twenty of your booklets for the quiz entitled ‘In What Circumstances Is It Okay To Put A Disorder In The DSM Even Though You Don’t Think It Accurately Describes Reality At All’.”
The room is silent except for the scribbling of pens. A hand is raised.
The trainer sights. “Yes, Ray?”
“I’m stuck on number 12, ‘is it okay to put a disorder in the DSM, even though you don’t think it exists, if a feminist might get mad at you and write a mean article saying you’re wrong?'”
“That’s a no, Ray,” the trainer says.
“But what if it’s a really, really mean article? Like what if they call me a transphobe or something? Surely it’s okay if they might call me a transphobe.”
“We’ll cover that in Unit Four,” the trainer says, “where you learn about the exciting career opportunities available in pitching articles to Quillette.”
Sadly, this vision of the future would not come to be.
In fact, other than having “with autoandrophilia” removed as a specification, Ray Blanchard has faced zero negative consequences for his behavior whatsoever. There was no investigation; he was not censured; he was not removed as the head of the paraphilia working group; his previous research was not reviewed to see whether he has at other times engaged in academic dishonesty in the name of political correctness. This interview appears to have been entirely forgotten.
Indeed, Ray Blanchard has somehow gotten a reputation as a defender of science against political correctness. Presumably this is because his beliefs about transgender people are extraordinarily unpopular among trans advocates and he has faced various negative consequences, such as harsh criticism and Twitter suspension. It is easy to assume that a person facing a lot of criticism for their beliefs is a disinterested scientist following the data where it goes without regard for politics. As a recent example, Helen Joyce, an editor at the Economist, objected to Blanchard’s recent Twitter suspension by calling him “a world expert in the field… setting out his findings from a lifetime of research” and highlighting his work as head of the paraphilia working group.
Certainly, feminists and trans advocates have sometimes made arguments that contradict the best scientific evidence; certainly, it is important to pursue truth even when it goes against what you find politically palatable. But to the best of my knowledge no trans advocate or feminist has ever put a diagnosis into the DSM-5, which they sincerely believed did not exist, for the sake of political gain. Certainly, none of them have done so not because they think it would help people– which would be understandable, although morally wrong and academically dishonest– but because experiencing criticism from feminists is scary and they don’t want to.
That is literally all Ray Blanchard.
Have you considered that if you don’t like being criticized maybe you should be involved in writing the DSM?
Late in the interview, Blanchard says:
But I don’t think we should promulgate untruths for the sake of political agendas, even if they are worthwhile political agendas.
I believe this is excellent advice. Ray Blanchard should consider following it.
Two final notes:
In the interests of being more intellectually honest than Blanchard, I’d like to highlight that Blanchard appears to have changed his mind to some degree about autoandrophilia. He has recently argued that “autohomoeroticism”– a paraphilia in which female people are aroused by the concept of being gay men– may exist, although rarely. However, it is unclear to me whether Blanchard sincerely believes in autohomoeroticism, or merely has figured out that lying in order to keep feminists from yelling at you works better if you don’t openly admit to lying. It seems wise to me to view all his research with distrust.
Second, I have avoided discussing anything other than the object-level issue in this post. Although I am a trans advocate, I hope people of all political persuasions may find Blanchard’s behavior here objectionable; certainly, people who are against trans advocacy have made it very clear that they consider science to be more important than political correctness. I don’t want the conversation to be derailed by other, more controversial topics. Therefore, I have written my other thoughts in a separate post, which will be up on Wednesday.