Just as the PCL-R trait of ‘multiple short-term marriages’ doesn’t make sense to me, neither does the trait of ‘sexual promiscuity’.  This is not 1950.  Humans are sexual beings and society is slowly coming to grips with the fact that monogamy is not a prerequisite for morality.  To my knowledge, the instrument makes no difference between non-monogamy with consent and the  better understood non-monogamy without consent, cheating.  A person can be completely ethical with their sex life and register on the PCL-R.

The sex-positive moment is a recent movement that encourages people to be unashamed of their sexual needs and desires and to act on them in a consensual manner.  Many young adults are joining this cause and are acting ethically in the partners they have sex with.  Swingers, the polyamorous, the kinksters, and so on can be model citizens that just happen to have sex lives that are different than the norm that is propagated by religion and social conservatives.  Why would these people register as having psychopathic traits when they are acting morally and with consideration?  The key to polyamory, for example, is to have open and honest communication at all times in which all groups of partners have the consent of the groups not part of that subset of the polyamorous or non-monogamous relationship.  That seems highly ethical to me and is in great contrast with my approach to sex.

The problems with the PCL-R are many.  The definition of psychopathy, by this de facto standard, is heavily influenced by criminality and traditional morality.  For something as important as determining whether someone is a psychopath, should not the instrument take into account the latent mindset of the psychopath as well as the changing values of society?

Sex positive individuals, on the cusp of psychopathy, could test positive.  Homosexuals who exhibit psychopathic traits could test negative due to the marriages requirement.  I find it ironic that the instrument gauging morality and psychopathy could penalize a person for acting morally.  However, those practicing ethical, but non-monogamous, sex are penalized.  This antiquated view of humanity by the PCL-R is damaging and helps neither psychopath nor society.  It’s a crapshoot with no winners.  That said, the test itself still has worth for detecting larger differences.  However, with an arbitrary cutoff for diagnosis, it seems suspect for such antiquated views to be present.

Image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.  Use of this image should not imply endorsement by the image author, Wikipedia user Tuxyso.

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