Debra W. Soh

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Debra W. Soh
Alma mater
Known for
AwardsMichael Smith Foreign Research Award
Scientific career
ThesisFunctional and Structural Neuroimaging of Paraphilic Hypersexuality in Men
Doctoral advisorKeith A. Schneider[1]

Debra W. Soh is a Canadian science columnist, political commentator, and former sex researcher.[2]


Soh holds a Ph.D. in psychology from York University in Toronto. Her dissertation was titled Functional and Structural Neuroimaging of Paraphilic Hypersexuality in Men, and her committee included Keith Schneider of York University and James Cantor of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.[3] During her graduate studies, Soh received the Michael Smith Foreign Research Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and York's Provost Dissertation Scholarship.[4] In 2016, Soh spent a weekend documenting the furry fandom in order to dispel myths about the subculture being primarily sexual in nature.[5]

While at York, she studied paraphilias which are abnormal sexual preferences. Her research indicates that these are neurological conditions rather than learned behaviours.[6] Soh has emphasized that paraphilia is broad enough to encompass consensual activities — she reserves the term "paraphilic disorder" for the types that predispose one to harm others such as sadism or paedophilia.[7] A 2016 Cosmopolitan article highlighted some of Soh's findings and their implications for determining which men are likely to commit rape.[8]


Soh has written articles for Quillette, The Globe and Mail, New York Magazine, Playboy, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal.[4] She began hosting Quillette's Wrongspeak podcast with Jonathan Kay in May 2018.[2] Soh describes herself as a former feminist who later became disillusioned with the term.[9]

In a 2015 editorial, Soh criticized the prevalence of childhood gender transitions, advising parents and doctors to wait "until a child has reached cognitive maturity".[10] Soh's essay, which referenced gender non-conforming aspects of her own childhood, argued that "a social transition back to one’s original gender role can be an emotionally difficult experience". David A. French characterized this as "an understatement".[11] Backlash that Soh received influenced her decision not to continue in academia.[12] Soh has also written against anti-conversion therapy laws which include both sexual orientation and gender identity, believing that such laws conflate the two and prevent legitimate therapeutic counselling for individuals with gender dysphoria.[13] She believes that the current societal view to allow for gender transition in childhood is mostly based on homophobia due to studies which show that many transgender children will desist and detransition in adolescent and early adulthood and come out as gay.[14] Fellow Canadian academics Florence Ashley and Alexandre Baril disputed Soh's interpretation of these studies.[15]

Soh opposed the 2015 decision to close Toronto's gender identity clinic which was known for beginning treatment after or during puberty in most cases.[16][17] A previous inquiry had put the clinic's chief physician, Kenneth Zucker, at odds with other gender dysphoria specialists who encourage social transitions at ages as young as 3.[18] Critics of Soh on this matter have pointed out that hormones are nevertheless prescribed after puberty according to the Endocrine Society guidelines.[19] The following year, Soh wrote an editorial which criticized CBC News for cancelling its airing of a British documentary that featured Zucker.[20]

In August 2017, Soh wrote a column for The Globe and Mail and contributed to an article at Quillette defending engineer James Damore's memo "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber".[21][22] She continued to give interviews on the topic over the following year.[23] Soh was described as a member of the "intellectual dark web" by New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss.[24]

In April 2019, Soh supported a lawsuit by Nova Scotia resident Lorne Grabher against the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. The suit was filed to reinstate a license plate bearing Grabher's last name whose similarity to the phrase "grab her" had made it the subject of a complaint. Soh testified that the plate would not encourage any socially adjusted person to commit a violent act and opined that the government was "overreaching".[25][26]


  1. ^ "Keith A. Schneider CV" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  2. ^ a b Herzog, Katie (May 31, 2018). "Wrongspeak Is a Safe Space for Dangerous Ideas". The Stranger. Seattle, Wa.
  3. ^ "Past Oral Defences". Graduate Program in Psychology, York University. n.d. Archived from the original on November 1, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Aaron, Michael (September 25, 2017). "Sex Researcher Turned Journalist Challenges Sexual Dogmas: Sexologist Debra Soh's work challenges sexual dogmas and political correctness". Psychology Today.
  5. ^ Connor, Kevin (2016-03-19). "No sex in suits and other facts about Furries". The Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  6. ^ Rense, Sarah (January 26, 2017). "Why It's So Hard to Figure Out How Our Brains Process Sex: From excessive masturbation to gender equality". Esquire. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  7. ^ Gander, Kashmira (February 23, 2017). "Paraphilias: When sexual fetishes become a medical issue: 'Lesser known paraphilias include the sexual fantasy of being swallowed alive'". The Independent. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  8. ^ Smothers, Hannah (March 31, 2016). "5 Warning Signs He'll Be Dangerous in Bed: This is a good case against dating 'bad boys.'". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  9. ^ Thobo-Carlsen, Jesper (2017-03-08). "Derfor har Debra Soh vendt feminismen ryggen". Politiken. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  10. ^ Soh, Debra (Sep 1, 2015). "Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition". Pacific Standard.
  11. ^ French, David (2015-09-02). "Not every sex researcher thinks young kids should 'transition'". National Review. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  12. ^ Saletan, William (May 10, 2018). "No, Bari Weiss Isn't Glorifying the 'Dark Web'". Slate.
  13. ^ Soh, Debra (Jun 17, 2017). "Why bans on conversion therapy are misguided". Newsday.
  14. ^ Soh, Debra (Oct 23, 2018). "The Unspoken Homophobia Propelling the Transgender Movement in Children". Quillette.
  15. ^ Ashley, Florence; Baril, Alexandre (2018-03-23). "Why 'rapid onset gender dysphoria' is bad science". The National Post. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  16. ^ Levenson, Claire (2018-10-15). "Transition des jeunes trans*, quand science et militants divergent". Slate. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  17. ^ Heyer, Walt (2016-01-06). "Politicians' response to transgenders is likely to increase suicides". The Federalist. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  18. ^ Reynolds, Christopher (2016-02-14). "Closing of CAMH clinic fans controversy over gender-questioning children". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  19. ^ Turban, Jack (2017-02-16). "No, it isn't 'undermining science' to say gender identity is influenced by culture". The LA Times. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  20. ^ Harding, Lee (2019-08-27). "How cowardice kills free speech". The Epoch Times. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  21. ^ Soh, Debra (August 8, 2017). "No, the Google manifesto isn't sexist or anti-diversity. It's science". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on October 24, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  22. ^ Jussim, Lee; Schmitt, David P.; Miller, Geoffrey; Soh, Debra W. (July 29, 2018). "The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond". Quillette. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  23. ^ Marcus, David (2018-10-26). "YouTube bans 'dangerous' ad for video critiquing transgenderism". The Federalist. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  24. ^ Weiss, Bari (May 8, 2018). "Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 20, 2018.
  25. ^ "'Grabher' license plate not dangerous, former sex researcher tells N.S. court". The Canadian Press. 2019-04-24. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  26. ^ MacDonald, Michael (2019-04-24). "Personalized 'Grabher' licence plate won't incite sexual violence, former researcher tells Nova Scotia Supreme Court". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2019-05-09.