Ash spoke with Crystal Mundy, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, about her research on relationships, resiliency, and parenting intentions among MAPs.

Note: Sections in bold are included in the Summer 2020 newsletter.

Ash Masen:

What brought you to study psychology and ultimately to work with the MAP population?

Crystal Mundy:

I would say it came extraneously through my interest in forensic psychology. I’ve been doing that since my bachelor’s degree. I’ve been very interested in working with people after they’ve been in the correctional setting and helping them reintegrate and succeed after that life. Over 10-12 years that’s transitioned. Through my master’s, I studied sexual offending behaviors specifically. While I was in that literature working on my master’s thesis, I came across some of the beginning literature looking at minor-attraction.

This was probably five or six years ago, when some of the preliminary literature was coming out. Michael Seto had written about pedophilia being a sexual orientation, and that led me to look at it in a way I honestly hadn’t considered. I think that many researchers in that area haven’t thought about a whole population of people who aren’t involved in the forensic system, and need services that might have nothing to do with that. It just spoke to me in that personal way; I think everybody deserves services and everybody has value.

Ash Masen:

You mentioned Michael Seto. He has argued against using the term “minor-attracted” in a scientific context, citing differences between “people with pedophilia” and MAPs with other age-based attractions. Do you have any thoughts on that question?

Crystal Mundy:

I think at this moment it’s extremely difficult to finalize terminology because it is such a new area. I understand Dr. Seto’s point with research in particular, like when we’re running studies or when we’re trying to answer questions using a scientific method, we need to have operational definitions. In some studies, we are going to very specifically be looking at people with a certain area of attraction so it could be very beneficial to know if they’re pedophilic.

I think the reason that the term “minor-attraction” has started is that it’s very hard to disassociate the stigma that has come up with the words pedophilia and hebephilia. From what I’ve seen in my research, it’s such a heterogeneous group, like there’s so much variability, of course, as any other group of people that we would grab. It’s such a bigger spectrum, I think. So it’s hard to really just call it pedophilia.

That’s really not what I’m aiming to look at. I’m aiming to look at all people that are falling under the minor-attraction spectrum and trying to see: Are there different groups that need different services? Because I don’t think we’re going to find: here’s how you do therapy with a minor-attracted person that comes in. I don’t think that’s possible; as with any other type of therapy, I think it’s going to be on the individual and what they need to work on and what they want.

Seto has said he doesn’t like the “minor-attraction” term and prefers the term “child-attracted person.” But it’s still vague, which makes it difficult. I think the purpose of humanizing language and allowing that narrative to take place can be very difficult to pair with what we’re doing in research because we have to stay away from really vague terms in order to do what we want to do for research. It’s been really hard to marry those two paths together. It continues to be a struggle.

Ash Masen:

And how did you start getting involved with B4U-ACT? Was that during your master’s thesis, or was it after that?

Crystal Mundy:

It was during my master’s, when I was starting to work on my dissertation research. I wanted to work with minor-attraction in my master’s thesis, but it was so new, and we really didn’t have a good idea of how we would go about that work. And as I found four years later, networking is such a big part of it, and being able to get people invested in the research and build rapport so that they’re willing to communicate with you. It takes time to build those relationships.

As I moved into my PhD, I was able to start targeting my research more. I had initially become aware of Virtuous Pedophiles, and through that I ended up educating myself a lot more on minor-attraction, then came across B4U-ACT and they had their research symposium. We came and presented some research there. Some of my undergraduate students also presented some of their research. It was such a wonderful experience, it was so open and inviting and it was so nice to see people there from the minor-attracted community willing to talk with researchers.

And I think it has helped both myself and other researchers in the area, as well as people that are of the community themselves understand that sometimes it’s hard to get everything in terms of goals to line up, but at least having conversations about it and bringing the MAP community into these conversations is going to be important moving forward if we’re going to a.) get any participation, and b.) actually help people to improve their health and well-being.

Ash Masen:

Do you have any personal experiences that have contributed to your interest in working with the MAP community?

Crystal Mundy:

I’m not personally minor-attracted, although I do get that question very often. I haven’t personally [had any such experiences] outside of the people that I’ve worked with in the forensic setting. I have many people that come and talk to me that are interested in working in this area too that, say, have had a close family member that has been minor-attracted, or other things that have happened that have kind of piqued their interest.

I teach a course in the summer on atypical sexuality. And part of what I do is I have a whole lecture set on minor-attracted people, those who are non-offending, and exploring what that looks like. And it’s nice because I have people come afterwards that maybe have had someone who has those attractions in their life, or something that they’ve dealt with and they’re able to look at it in a different way, or have a little bit more compassion or trying to understand things that they maybe hadn’t thought about before.

Ash Masen:

That approach seems nontraditional for a course on atypical sexuality. Did you have problems getting that approved?

Crystal Mundy:

I didn’t have problems getting it approved. To be fair, I don’t think the universities go slide by slide. It was approved by my committee. I made the course as one of my comprehensives for my PhD, and I wanted it to be on sexuality. It starts out by breaking down what society considers “deviant,” as well as topics related to sexual offenses. But then we also talk about the other side of that, in terms of what can be seen as atypical sexuality but that’s not harming anyone and maybe can be incorporated into a person’s sense of self, and lead to better well-being.

I can’t say everybody likes it, but it’s gone over pretty well so far. I’m happy that it seems that the up and coming generation is a little bit more open and willing to talk about it than some of the people I deal with at the higher level. I’ve had really good experiences so far of people being willing to listen when you go about it in a non-hostile way.

Ash Masen:

Do you think, just in terms of assumptions, that the increased awareness of teen sexuality and inclusive sex education is what’s allowed for that change?

Crystal Mundy:

I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about it. I think that that’s a great way to look at it, actually, because we do have so much more being talked about in terms of teen sexuality now. But I mean, even with that openness, there’s still such a divide in terms of whether people are willing to accept teenage sexuality and those sorts of issues. People are still fighting over sex education and simple issues like that. That’s at the basic level of sexuality, let alone something that a large portion of society sees as deviant or aberrant. Ideally, we would be able to talk about all sorts of sexualities at the teenage level when we do sexual education, but in many instances, we can’t even get people to talk about typical sexual education right now.

Ash Masen:

In your course, you look at a lot of non-normative sexualities. Do you see any commonalities between the different groups? Or did they just seem completely different?

Crystal Mundy:

I can’t say that there’s anything glaring that sticks out to me about that. I think people have a lot of stereotypes, but not all of them tend to hold up in the research. So, for example, people who offend are assumed to have been abused as a child. Well, there is a higher rate of abuse among people that offend, but most people that offend were not abused. So there’s a lot of conflation between a lot of these issues. I try to deal with the stereotypes that are out there in my course and try to remove some of those.

Ash Masen:

That seems relevant to people’s coming out experiences. One of the first questions many people get when they express that they’re minor-attracted is “when were you abused?” or “who did it?” and often that’s not the case.

Crystal Mundy:

Absolutely. During work on my dissertation, I interviewed about 30 people. It was… I don’t know that I have a word for it other than heartbreaking. There was a repetitive theme of individuals that are minor-attracted experiencing this when they’re 12 to 14, which really supports the notion of this as a sexual orientation. And one of my hopes moving forward is that if we can change the narrative to include those minor-attracted kids, then maybe we can get more willingness to help.

When a lot of people hear my research subject or we talk about this, it’s very much from a preventative standpoint. But we also fail to recognize that all of these individuals were children as well, many of them suffering from suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety from not being able to talk to anybody about this. We can’t say “help the children” and then only help some of them.

Ash Masen:

It seems to create a cycle where, if we want to reduce the incidence of illegal behavior among MAPs, then addressing teen sexuality, including the atypical and ignored aspects, is important.

Crystal Mundy:

I 100% agree, I think that a lack of education and refusing to talk about these things does not help. Craig Harper had some research that he presented at ATSA [Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers] recently that talked about the idea that when you try to hide something within yourself, and try to not accept it about yourself, that’s going to be where the problem area is — not people who are talking about it and trying to figure out how to live their lives.

Ash Masen:

Jesse Bering’s book Perv shares some similar ideas. One of the main themes of the book is that most people have some sort of attraction that does not fit what society considers to be the norm. It’s different for everybody, and I think that’s a pretty powerful idea.

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s very hard because people with pedophilia — specifically pedophilia, not in terms of all minor-attraction — are one of the final groups that you can openly stigmatize and hate without repercussions. Which is, I lack a better word than a little bit nutty. But we are still living in a society where you could say that you want to kill someone because of that. It’s hard to make headway on that.

I think we are [making headway]. I think more people are interested in doing the research. I think it’s expressing a willingness of people to try to listen a little bit. At least more than they were before.

Ash Masen:

What’s interesting is that while those attractions are being punished, at the same time, so much media and pornography is geared towards making adults look younger.

Crystal Mundy:

I agree. I think we have this odd relationship with youth and sexuality. “Teenage” pornography is one of the most popular pornography types across Canada. And the research does show at some level a sizable portion of men that show some sexual interest in teens 14 and up. Not the levels of minor-attracted people, but there’s some sexual interest there. So it’s not like this is unseen outside of this group, it’s just penalized in a very different way.

Ash Masen:

It seems like it could be considered more of a spectrum, rather than an explicit label that gets applied.

Crystal Mundy:

I think that’s part of what comes up in the terminology that we talked about earlier with Michael Seto. In my research right now, I have people label on a scale their age and gender attraction. Is it both adults and children? Is it more one way? Is it both females and males? Like I think it’s very much the same as we would say about bisexuality, there’s fluidity to it.

Ash Masen:

And we’re starting to see the fluidity of gender as well. I wonder how the sexuality research field will look in 20 years.

Crystal Mundy:

That’s what makes me hopeful. We are seeing some of this change in the area of sexuality. I’m just afraid that it’s moving so slowly and that I won’t see it in my lifetime. But at least we can know that we’re part of that change. But it’s hard to be in this area when we’re still struggling for basic LGBT rights. I find that the real problem is the conflation between child sexual abuse and minor-attraction. And that conflation leads people to turn off their rationality when having these conversations. It’s very much emotional.

Ash Masen:

It is difficult because many of the gains in minority struggles have come about through media portrayals. In most situations when minor-attraction is portrayed, it’s in some sort of criminal activity. How do you present positive portrayals when many people are so against it and funding can be pulled?

Crystal Mundy:

I think that’s an issue even in the research field because it remains difficult to get funding to do the research in this area. It’s mind-boggling; many people are not happy with this research, but at the same time, they are talking about wanting to help children or wanting society to be safe. And I come back to that cycle we can’t seem to get out of without actually addressing something.

It’s a whammy of an area to work in, but I enjoy it. What I enjoy most is when you know that you’ve actually impacted someone, and they start to think about it in a different way. Then you can have a conversation with them. My mom had known I was going to work in this or a similar area for quite a while, but she was concerned and didn’t quite get it. Now she will attend lectures and she’s trying to learn. But you’re right, positive representation remains slim to none. If anything, the media representations are making the problem 100% worse.

Ash Masen:

Within the LGBT community, one of the things that has led to increased acceptance is people actually coming out. Then people can associate the label with their mother, brother, or someone else close. The positive regard challenges the prejudice.

Crystal Mundy:

We’ve talked about that some at B4U-ACT too, in terms of the human narrative. We have a significant amount of research that shows if you can have people interact with others in a personal way and can represent the other as more than that one fact, differences will become less stigmatized. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about B4U-ACT, they are able to bring researchers together. Many researchers are not minor-attracted, but can come together with the minor-attracted community, speak with them about the research, and get a better idea of what they want to see.

The first conference that I attended changed some of the research that I was doing. It’s taught me a lot. The two research projects we have going on now came out of dialogue with the community. During the round table, one of the conversations we had was, what sort of research does the MAP community want answers to?

We ended up doing one study about parenting intentions and parenting desires and how minor-attraction affects that. The second one that we’re running right now is about adult sexual and romantic relationships to see what people who have one are getting from it, what they enjoy about it, and how it helps their life. Those were two research questions that came directly from the community itself.

Ash Masen:

Do they combine into a larger research project or are they independent?

Crystal Mundy:

Those are independent. They’re part of my research, but not part of my dissertation. My dissertation was about developing measures of both internalized and societal stigma, because right now we don’t have any measures to work with the minor-attracted population. So it was trying to validate some. I pulled a lot of the literature from the LGBT community and ended up modifying some measures that way, and they worked really well. I’ll also be writing up the interviews related to health and well-being among minor-attracted people, including their experiences with the mental health field. My dissertation was large and contains a whole bunch of stuff, but it’s mostly related to resiliency.

Ash Masen:

Are you finding a high degree of internalized stigma so far?

Crystal Mundy:

In the current paper I’m doing a latent class analysis. I took all the information that I had from the people that answered my surveys and took important things like stigma, loneliness, and hopelessness. Then I used the analysis to see if there’s different types of groups (or classes) that come out. It looks like we’re seeing about four groups, so it’s going to depend on a number of different factors. Certain groups have a lot of internalized stigma, have more going on in terms of mental health, and are just struggling more. Another group seems to be doing just fine. They’re very socially active, happy, not lonely, and not hopeless. It’s sorting out into heterogeneous groups and I think that’s good to see.

It’s taking me longer to write because I want to be very careful in how I frame everything, because I am aware that this kind of research could be misused to harm people. So I don’t personally want to be a part of that use, and I want to present everything in a way that it’s not going to be used for that purpose.

Ash Masen:

It also might come to shape people’s identity and sense of well-being.

Crystal Mundy:

Absolutely. That’s how I’m trying to frame everything that’s coming out of the dissertation now. At the beginning, it was about prevention and how to discriminate between those who offend and those who don’t, whereas now, it’s about identifying the factors that impact people’s well-being and maximizing them. Because I think any person would agree that if you increase someone’s well-being, they’re inherently going to be less likely to act in a harmful way. And I don’t think that that needs to be the goal, but it is a side outcome of increasing people’s well-being. If that’s the case, then how about we help people in their lives?

Ash Masen:

That is an area where I am interested in the results of your current research. What leads some groups to be more well-adjusted, and what can be changed to increase the well-being of the others?

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to look at right now. I don’t have any solid answers because we’re still analyzing, but that’s the hope. Can we look at people who are less lonely and less hopeless and determine if there are other things in their lives that might be causing that? I think it speaks to what we’ve already seen in the literature, especially some of the stuff by [Dr. Jill] Levinson and [Dr. Melissa] Grady, that when people come into therapy, they’re not necessarily coming in to talk about their minor-attraction. So, a therapist recurringly focusing on that sometimes harms the relationship and they end therapy when they might need it for other reasons like depression or anxiety, working on life skills, or a vocational assessment.

So I don’t think of minor-attracted people as a separate set of individuals. It’s a separate group in terms of sexual orientation, but probably not in any other way. There’s heterogeneity there, there are different personal characteristics and experiences, like any other human that will impact who they become later in life. If they’re coming in for something that’s not related to minor-attraction, then through our training as clinical psychologists, we know how to work with those things.

What we need to understand now is, if someone is struggling with their minor-attraction, then how do we deal with that? Typically, I think that the process has been trying to get rid of that attraction. That’s a real problem if that’s their sexual orientation because conversion therapy does not work and causes severe harm to people. If we say that this is a sexual orientation, then goals in therapy probably need to change. It’s not going to be about trying to stop this person from having these thoughts and feelings; it’s about how this person accepts who they are and lives a meaningful life without doing anything that they don’t want to do.

Ash Masen:

It seems to speak to the nature of prejudice and how people are perceived as a trait instead of a full person.

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah, the defining characteristic of the person becomes their attraction to children, like we see in the media. People are terrified to tell someone because it can ruin your whole life. I don’t mean just ruin; it can get you killed. I can’t imagine living with that and then to come into a counselor’s office to be further stigmatized. That is heartbreaking to me. In clinical psychology we’re just as non-educated in this area because it is such a small research area. The cohort in my program is probably much more educated about minor-attraction than most cohorts because I study it and I talk to them about it. I get their thoughts on it and browbeat them a little bit, so they’ve been forced to grow in a way that other clinicians haven’t, but there’s not a me everywhere. Until we have a lot more me’s or a lot more you’s, it’s hard to disseminate the information that we have.

Ash Masen:

In your current research you said you’re doing a latent class analysis. You also did that in your master’s thesis. What drove your decision to use that?

Crystal Mundy:

What I really like about latent class analysis and other types of data driven approaches is that I’m not putting any pre-assumed relationships into the data. I’m not assuming there’s any type of groups among minor-attracted people like differences between people who offended and those who don’t offend. I input the data and see if there’s those relationships between the variables. I feel like those methods are less likely to introduce any sort of bias. But they’re not as frequently used because they are more advanced.

Ash Masen:

Then do you plan to keep that as an active part of your work? It seems to take a more quantitative [numbers and statistical analyses] approach when a lot of the research is more qualitative [descriptions of peoples’ perspectives or lives].

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah. But I did mixed methods [both qualitative and quantitative] for my dissertation. I’m doing latent class analysis right now, but I’ve also got a whole portion that was qualitative as well. Because I don’t think that we can effectively understand the depth of the issues that are going on without actually speaking to the community themselves. Sometimes it’s irresponsible to leave them out. I think that any way we move forward, we’re going to have to involve the community to actually understand what’s going on. I don’t think that we can ever assume those things and properly test it. It makes more sense to do it backwards. What we’re hoping to do is get information from the qualitative approach and then refine what we’re talking about and see if the patterns make more sense based on the qualitative information.

Ash Masen:

Your master’s research confirmed things I had heard elsewhere in finding that there is a population of people who commit sex crimes involving minors but are not minor-attracted. It’s more opportunity or situational.

Crystal Mundy:

One of the groups definitely ended up looking like that: without a lot of attraction to children, but were offending. And that is definitely something that has been strongly found in the literature. I think we’ve seen upwards of 40 to 50% of offenders against children are not primarily attracted to children. It is very opportunistic or power related. There are many factors that go into sexual offending and it does not necessarily mean they’re attracted to that person.

Ash Masen:

Some of Seto and [Dr. James] Cantor’s research focuses on brain differences between those convicted of sex crimes involving children and those involving adults. For me, that leads to a question if this is a difference in the minor-attracted population, or something specific to a forensic sample?

Crystal Mundy:

Right. And I think that is a huge… I don’t want to say weakness because it’s much easier to operate and get data within forensic settings. But I am very interested to see how the sexual offending literature plays out within just the minor-attracted population because so much of that literature comprises both people who are and are not sexually attracted to children. I don’t know how much of that is applicable to what we’re doing. That was part of what I hoped to look at in my dissertation. I reviewed the literature on sexual offending and pulled out all of the variables that could be related to resiliency and not offending. Had something been different in their lives, would they have not gone on to offend? We pulled a lot of the factors that have been found to be related to offending from the research, such as hopelessness or loneliness. But, if there are groups that are minor-attracted and have high levels of loneliness or hopelessness and are not offending, then it’s not necessarily about the minor-attraction.

It could be that people who have certain brain characteristics, are impulsive, or just have a certain characteristic may have a predisposition to offend, unrelated to their minor-attraction. Maybe they are more likely to commit a crime regardless. I don’t think we have the literature to answer the question of what differentiates a minor-attracted person offending from not offending. It’s hard because I love working in this area and meeting all the participants even though at times they’re about hard topics. Just connecting with another human is nice, especially when others don’t always respond to them well. It can be a special thing to sit and have a conversation and it’s sad that it is a special thing. But at the same time, some of my research is about prevention and understanding what the differences are. When I had conversations at B4U-ACT with the MAP community about research questions they wanted to see, some people did want to understand what is causing those differences. Then there’s another group that wonders why we are even asking that question and don’t like the assumption that they are at risk of offending. It’s really hard to always marry those views, even within the MAP community itself.

Ash Masen:

In the literature on minorities, I’ve seen the idea that how you see yourself guides your future behavior based on how you internalize the perceptions other people have of you. I met a MAP who had the assumption at the beginning of his discovery that he would harm a child. It wasn’t until he actually got integrated with the community and met others that he was able to say “that’s not who I am.” Before that, it was just a built-in assumption of where that would lead, and I think that’s pretty sad.

Crystal Mundy:

That has come up a lot in the research I and others have done as well. The media and society’s narrative is “you are ravenous, are going to harm someone, and there is nothing you can do to stop.” I cannot imagine being 13 and reading something like that.

That theme came up so much. It was interesting because there was a two-stage theme in which a lot of people started understanding what their sexual interests were around 10 to 12 — some a bit earlier, some a bit later — and recognized they were attracted to people younger than them, but hadn’t labeled it yet. Then later, around 14 to 16, they start recognizing it as what’s called pedophilia. For some, that’s when the shame, stigmatizing, and suicidality started. A lot of people, when they got to the recognition part, everything came crashing down.

Ash Masen:

Do you have any hypotheses that you are hoping to find in your recent research on relationships and the desire for parenting?

Crystal Mundy:

I was interested to see this come up as a theme that the community wanted to talk about, but also something that I’ve seen come up several times in Virtuous Pedophile forums as well. I read the forums because everybody has their own story. In one post, a mother was worried about offending against her young child, who was under one year old at that point, but she’d been aware of her minor-attraction for a long time without acting on it and never actually felt attracted to her child. She was so caught up in ruminating about everything she’d been told about minor-attraction that she was terrified that she was going to do something even though she had no inclination. She was just so afraid. I imagine she’s not the only one that’s ever experienced that, but I am interested to see if that is something that people who are attracted to children consider when they think about parenting.

It’s a whole new avenue of acceptance. Like, is it something they’re willing to talk to their kids about when they’re older? What does it mean to be a parent when you’re minor-attracted, and does it change anything? If it doesn’t, how do you communicate to people that you’re not at any more of a risk of offending against your child? Even people who offend against non-related members of the community are unlikely to offend against their own children, and even if they have offended before. It’s an area where there’s so many stereotypes and thoughts about what could go wrong.

Ash Masen:

It seems that incestuous feelings are different from minor-attraction.

Crystal Mundy:

I would say that even when we talk about minor-attraction, people who are attracted to their own children versus children in general are very different. But it is the labeling characteristic. Once you say someone’s minor-attracted, then everything else turns off. The assumption is they’re going to sexually assault any child that’s near them whether related or not, even though that makes no sense. That’s not how humans operate.

I say that often to people who are struggling with the idea of minor-attraction. For example, we do not assume a straight cisgender male is going to assault a woman with big breasts when he walks by one on the street. I think the fear comes from the restriction on acting on minor-attraction. Recently, we published some research I did a couple years ago that looks at paraphilic interests in the community in non-forensic settings. The research showed that people had lower life and sexual satisfaction when their interests were not legally feasible, even if they were not acting on it. If it was just legally unfeasible, it caused more problems for the person. I see that as very similar, and I think that’s where many people’s arguments come from.

Ash Masen:

After you finish your current line of research, where do you plan to go? Do you plan to stay in a research setting, go into practice, or some combination?

Crystal Mundy:

Oh my gosh, I wish I knew. I have no idea right now. I’m very open to my future. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m applying for an internship this year. So I’ll have a full year somewhere, and then some of those questions start. I will be a licensed psychologist at the end of it, so I’m hoping that it won’t be too difficult to find a job somewhere.

I really like research, but I don’t know that academia is the life for me. It’s hard to do research and remain completely neutral when I feel like there’s humanity also in it. It’s hard to not see how what I do can be misused even though it can also be used for something positive. It’s hard to move forward knowing that. I would love to do some private therapy, potentially with minor-attracted people, and fill some of that gap that’s needed there.

Hopefully I will be able to continue to be involved with institutions like Virtuous Pedophiles and B4U-ACT and sit on their committees even after I’m gone from UBC because it’s no longer just an area of research for me. It’s also an area I talk about quite frequently in my personal life to educate people. I teach on it, and it’s part of an interest in improving sexual education, not just my research topic.

Ash Masen:

I saw that Dr. Jian Cioe has been involved with both your master’s and your current line of research, along with others at UBC. How has it been working with faculty advisors in this area and getting approval from the school IRB [Institutional Review Board]?

Crystal Mundy:

Dr. Cioe has been wonderful. He’s my research supervisor and I would not have survived the last six years without him. He’s been supportive of me doing this research since I brought it up. Almost everybody has actually been great with my research. I don’t think they always get it, so there’s some education there. But they’ve been really good about allowing me to speak to these things. Every time I have to present in class, it’s generally something about sexual orientation, including minor-attraction. They’re used to me beating them over the head with it.

The IRB has been interesting. My dissertation went through without too many issues. I find that the less of a prevention standpoint there is in any type of application, whether it’s ethics or funding, the harder it is to get it approved. I know it is a difficult answer to hear because we all want the research to go on. But oftentimes, unless it is framed in that preventative stance, it’s hard to get it through anywhere.

Ash Masen:

It seems like Dr. Cioe has focused a lot of his research in the forensic area. How has it been switching away from the forensic area in that setting?

Crystal Mundy:

I think it’s great and it gives my work more meaning. It’s easier for me when there’s humanity attached to it. It’s not just a research question anymore, I’m trying to help people’s lives, so it becomes bigger. It’s been a very good process to switch away from forensics.

There are times when the people overseeing some of my research do not share my viewpoint. Like when I was doing the proposal for my research, I sometimes hypothesized that I would not see any differences [between MAPs and non-MAPs] because I’m not focused on what is different about minor-attracted people. But people don’t always agree with me, that minor-attracted people are not inherently going to offend. It’s hard at times when people at the higher levels are entrenched in those stereotypes.

Ash Masen:

For other researchers who may be looking to get into this area, do you have any advice on how to get involved, or advice on dealing with issues with funding, research advisors, or even just stigma within their program?

Crystal Mundy:

I would say become more involved in the research and MAP community because you will be able to network and have the discussions with people because that’s important as you’re building the research and proposals. After what I’ve learned in my dissertation, I don’t just write a proposal, send it to IRB, and send it B4U-ACT when everything is done. Instead, I actually send it to Richard [Kramer, former B4U-ACT science director] and the other people working with him and have them give feedback while I am writing it. If there’s anything that I’m inflexible with because of institutional requirements, I tell them and we talk about it.

I think that in order for us to progress the research forward and get the volume and quality of research we need, we have to be willing to do those things. We have to be networking and showing that we also want to help because I think it would be very easy and not completely wrong of the community to be wary of people coming in to do research. So you really have to be willing to put in the time to build rapport with the community. And just be honest about what your intentions are.

Sometimes your study is not going to be a good fit for B4U-ACT. One of my studies never went on B4U-ACT because it was viewed as having too much of a prevention standpoint. And that was okay. It’s still better to have these networks and talk about what you want to do with the community, because it’s going to make it a lot easier to release back into the community. That’s probably my biggest thing, B4U-ACT’s line of “nothing about us without us.”

Ash Masen:

Do you have any suggestions on how people can work towards changing minds within their department? It sounds like you had to work on that a lot.

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah, and I think the key to that, and really to any type of education that we’re doing, is don’t attack people, don’t be hostile, don’t force things down their throats, have a conversation with people, and give them facts that refute what they say. You’re never gonna yell someone into a different thought, you’re never going to hate someone into a different thought. And it’s hard because I’m on Twitter, so I see all the Twitter wars that start. But it’s like beating a dead horse, right? People that don’t want to change their mind aren’t going to change their mind. The people that are open to it will have a conversation with you, but you have to open that conversation in the right way.

Not that being angry is not valid, because it is. But in order to actually make any real change, I think that we’re going to have to go about it in a non-hostile way. There’s a lot of that backlash that’s going on right now I’ve noticed with people saying, “Don’t normalize pedophilia,” or “You’re a pedo sympathizer,” or things like that. And I’d say if you are going to research in this field, you’ve got to let water run off your back. People say and do all kinds of things. I’ve had death threats on Twitter for my research, it’s ridiculous. So being wary of that, too, is kind of needed in this field.

Ash Masen:

It brings up interesting questions about how best to be an ally. It seems difficult to do that when there’s so much vitriol at the moment.

Crystal Mundy:

Absolutely. And I think that the people that are allies at this point are the ones who just don’t care. We’re more adversarial or willing to take that step, but I’m sure there’s many, many people that also would be willing to have that conversation. But they don’t want to make a post and then get eviscerated or lose friends and family members over their stance on this, which is sadly what would happen right now in some circumstances.

Ash Masen:

Yeah, I think that’s true, especially with a lot of people’s histories. Often, it’s a silent condition; you don’t meet MAPs in your life who are law-abiding because people aren’t coming out in the same ways.

Crystal Mundy:

Well, and that’s one of the things I always say to people, you know, when they’re having a hard time interpreting and I’m like, “Listen, if you don’t think that you’ve already been around a minor-attracted person, you’re just not following the statistics. Like you’re undoubtedly around people who are attracted to minors, but obviously they’re not going to announce it, what would you do if they did?”

Ash Masen:

For younger students who may be in a bachelor’s or master’s program and are looking to continue on to work in this area, do you have any suggestions for finding schools or departments that are supportive?

Crystal Mundy:

I would say that’s not an easy thing to do in this field, especially if you’re in clinical psychology. Research psychology would be a little bit easier, but generally it’s hard to even find a forensic supervisor, let alone when you’re getting down to this specific of an area. So honestly, I was very lucky that I was able to do exactly what I wanted for research. I know that’s not always going to be the case. So if you’re able to get your degree and do forensic work, that’s great. You can always be volunteering with B4U-ACT, you can be doing side projects that you can submit there, so if you’re not able to do it directly in your research, there are always other ways of doing it. And that’s essentially how I ended up starting it. In my master’s, while I was doing the sexual offender literature, I was running side studies on paraphilic interests, and that’s kind of how all of this stuff started. So be interested and network, go to events. Even from going to B4U-ACT I’m now friends with two researchers in the United States, and they’re going to help me with my dissertation coding. I ended up working a little bit with Levinson on the parenting study and had her step in on it and help a little. There are many ways to get there.

I think you also need to decide whether it’s strictly research or whether it’s an allyship, because that’s also going to change how you approach it. I think Seto has said before that he’s very strictly not an ally. He’s very clear that’s not his role in this and I feel like I’m more gray, which is why I think that stepping back from the research might be the best choice for me moving forward.

Ash Masen:

A question I meant to ask earlier: regarding your romantic study, some of the LGBT research is splitting romantic interest from sexual interest. For example, some people are starting to identify as more hetero-romantic, but homosexual and teasing out some of those differences. Do you see similar things happening here, where somebody may be teleio-romantic but hebe-sexual or something like that?

Crystal Mundy:

I can’t say from that particular study that we have found anything yet because we haven’t looked at the data. It’s still running at the moment. But preliminarily, I can see from the interviews that I did for my dissertation that asked about the differentiation between romantic or emotional congruence and sexual attraction, and how they saw that within themselves. And that was very much a theme that came up, people had varying degrees to which they were emotionally or sexually attracted. There was such a variety in terms of how they split that up, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you there are groups, it was just so varied. Some people were in adult relationships and were primarily sexually attracted to children, but got everything emotionally they needed from that adult relationship. But then there’s other people that identify as both sexually and emotionally exclusive, and who feel unable to have an emotionally satisfying adult relationship.

Ash Masen:

The theme of our next workshop is “Authenticity in the Face of Stigma: Challenges for Clinicians and Minor-Attracted People.” If somebody was a parent or a loved one of that person who was 10 to 12 years old and struggling with coming to terms with their minor-attraction, or even if they are that 10-to-12-year-old, what advice do you have for them?

Crystal Mundy:

Well, I think my number one thing would be don’t shame them. I’ve had a few teenage clients where I’ve addressed this a little bit, not with their parents, specifically with them. It was just about trying to understand sexuality, and with the client in particular that I thought might be having some attraction to minors. For me, it was very much what I do in any other therapy session, which was normalizing it, which was talking about the research I do, and the fact that many of the minor-attracted people I’ve met dealt with it at that time range, and what it looked like and what the outcomes have been when they don’t talk to somebody about it, and what the resources are like – all those things.

The client I saw denied any type of attraction to minors and that was fine. We left it at that but when he left I ended up giving him some resources and said like if that is something that you’re wondering about, or you want to talk to someone about, this is somewhere that you can go to and you can talk to someone there. I think the knee jerk reaction, unfortunately, would be to shame them, or tell them that it’s bad, and all those things. But as we know, that doesn’t tend to change behavior, that just tends to make them feel poorly towards themselves.

Ash Masen:

I was listening to David Schnarch on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Podcast and he was talking about sexuality and how it relates in therapy, and one of the things he was saying is sometimes, at least in couples counseling, for the therapist to avoid a certain topic ends up stigmatizing it and drawing it out more in the clients mind.

Crystal Mundy:

Yeah. So I think it would just depend on what’s going on with the kid. That’s the hard thing when we have these conversations, when we’re at the conferences we often talk about what kind of therapy we want to see. But the way I see it, it’s more of going to be as a researcher trying to get a good picture of what minor-attraction looks like, what struggles it causes, what can we help improve and what we can’t, and then applying that individually in therapy. There’s never going to be a manual on how to treat minor-attraction because it’s not necessarily the minor-attraction we’re treating. We’re treating the stigma that’s coming with the societal narratives, we’re treating depression or loneliness, the mental health stuff that comes with it, but it’s typically we’re not actually treating the minor-attraction itself. So yes, it I think it’s a fair point. Something that’s come up in the interviews is people and therapists tend to go back to minor-attraction over and over as if that’s something that needs to be dealt with. And sometimes that has nothing to do with why they’re in therapy.

Ash Masen:

And do you have any suggestions of resources or therapeutic frameworks that you might suggest others look up?

Crystal Mundy:

I’ll just refer right back to B4U-ACT there too. There’s a therapist list that you can get from B4U-ACT. So, for people that are minor-attracted, if they are having difficulty finding a therapist, or they need to see somebody, they can contact B4U-ACT and they can get a list of therapists that they’ve vetted specifically that they’re comfortable with. And some people are doing telehealth now.

In terms of therapists, B4U-ACT also has a guide to things that go on in therapy. But also, some recent research by Levinson and Grady that has looked at the themes that come up in therapy for minor-attracted people; what things were dealt with and what things weren’t, and what they were unhappy with. I think it’s eye opening for therapists to see that most of it is not related to minor-attraction. It’s mostly related to mental health, same as anybody else that’s coming in.

Ash Masen:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and also for taking the time to include the community in your research and findings. I think having these kinds of conversations, in a way that respects and includes the input of minor-attracted people, is ultimately going to lead to the advancement of science. So much is being done in isolation. For so long, the scientific community explored health and sexuality without the input of women, and other minority perspectives, and achieved less holistic outcomes.

Crystal Mundy:

I think we already know that is the case. We know that when we don’t include people, it doesn’t go as well. Let’s just not make that mistake and skip that and get to the front of it! History is there for a reason.