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Sherkow, S.P. (1992). Response to Dr. Good's Letter. Bul. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 48:633-634.

(1992). Bulletin of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 48:633-634

Response to Dr. Good's Letter

Susan P. Sherkow, M.D.

January 21, 1991

Dr. Good is right in describing the issues of sexual abuse as complex, and the psychoanalyst's tools for diagnosing sexual trauma or for reconstructing traumatic events, imperfect. My own hope in describing Tina and Harriet and in drawing hypotheses based on my work with them and with other children, was to establish a basis for comparison of my cases with those of other analysts. I am very eager to know whether such play as I saw in the early sessions has been observed with children who have not been sexually molested.

Dr. Good raises the question of whether repeated exposure to pornographic material viewed through the medium of a television screen could account for Tina's behavior. It certainly seems possible. However, it is hard to imagine that the total presentation of Tina's history and clinical picture—her distorted ego development, her self-mutilating behavior, her self-penetrating behavior, her specific accusations of her father—could be explained on that basis alone. While Dr. Good's hypothesis raises interesting questions, there is little evidence in the case of Tina, and none in my other cases, to confirm his hypothesis. With regard to Tina, there was no history to substantiate such exposure; although her father had been involved in making and viewing pornographic movies, this activity preceded Tina's birth.

While latency-age children may be drawn to pornographic movies, videos, or literature for reasons that are often complex and multiply determined, one would have to be very careful about extrapolating one's understanding of such behavior to two- or three-year-old children. In what psychological setting would a two-year-old choose to watch pornography, and what would she understand of what she was watching? Some two-year-olds are riveted to some television shows, particularly commercials, but I am not aware of any data that support the contention that pornography as we know it is fascinating to a two-year-old. If a child chooses to watch pornography for any length of time, one would have to ask what predisposing factors exist to account for her interest.

In general, all else being equal, it is hard to imagine that exposure to pornographic movies can have the same impact on a child as molestation by a parent.

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