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Book Reviews   |    
Sexual Deviance: Issues and Controversies
Reviewed by Emily Coleman, M.A.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.4.496
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edited by Tony Ward, D. Richard Laws, and Stephen M. Hudson; Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, 2003, 400 pages, $69.95

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Sexual Deviance: Issues and Controversies certainly lives up to its title. The most current and hotly debated controversies in the sexual deviance field are tackled from a comprehensive, research-based, fair, and balanced perspective. The book is aptly dedicated to one of the editors, Stephen Hudson, who died in November 2001 from cancer. I suspect that Hudson would, justifiably, have been quite proud of this work.

The book is well organized, with the first ten chapters focused primarily on conceptual issues and the second nine chapters addressing therapeutic responses to sexual deviance. Part 1, "Explanations of Sexual Deviance," is particularly comprehensive, considering integrative theoretical, behavioral, economic, evolutionary, developmental, cultural, and cognitive explanations of sexual deviance. The second part includes compelling chapters on responsivity issues (that is, the interaction of offender characteristics with service style and mode), risk assessment, and pharmacologic treatments, among others.

The first chapter, "Explaining Child Sexual Abuse: Integration and Elaboration," sets the tone. In the first paragraph, the authors state "We show our colleagues enormous respect by taking their theories and research seriously enough to criticize them, and also by then attempting to extend their work in new directions." The book then goes on to do just that.

The back cover describes the book as being tailored for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in psychology courses. Although this is certainly true, professional old-timers such as myself will find the book particularly useful and provocative as it systematically questions many of the most cherished beliefs in our field. For example, suggesting that the major aim of rehabilitation of sex offenders be a good life for the offender rather than simply risk reduction can quickly raise hackles in a drawing room discussion of sex offender therapists, mental health professionals, or the general public. Warning about the limitations of sexual risk assessments, in particular questioning the accepted superiority of actuarial risk measurements, certainly goes against today's flow as professionals whip out the latest actuarial test in civil commitment hearings. Yet the arguments are well founded and well articulated. In each chapter, the relevant research is thoroughly reviewed. Equally important, the authors move beyond the current research with queries and suggestions born of wisdom and flexibility. One does not need to agree with the authors' conclusions to appreciate the book.

After reading Sexual Deviance: Issues and Controversies, one is faced with the classic half-full, half-empty glass dilemma. Are we to feel discouraged that research is lacking or inadequate, that we have been barking up the wrong tree? Or should we feel proud that we keep asking new questions and staying open to change? Being an optimist by nature (as I think many who remain in this field are), I will happily go with the latter perspective.

Ms. Coleman is affiliated with the Carson Center for Adults and Families in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

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