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Pedophilia is sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders calls it "pedophilic disorder" when it meets certain criteria, including that "The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty".[1]


[edit] Semantics

Whenever any discussion of child sexual abuse comes up and people denounce pedophiles, inevitably someone will proclaim the truism "Not all pedophiles are child abusers/molesters!"

But the truth may be more pedophile-friendly than one might guess. Many child sexual abusers are in fact not prominently or exclusively pedophilic; their main attraction may be to adults, but they molest children if it is easier to gain sexual access to children. Since children are often intellectually, physically, financially, and politically weaker than adults, they may be easier targets for abuse. For example, an 18-year-old daughter may be able to get in a car and drive away from an abusive father to go live somewhere else, while a 6-year-old daughter whose stories of abuse are not believed may be stuck with him. Only 40% to 50% of convicted child molesters meet the diagnostic classification of pedophilia.[2]

The problem is, there is no word for "a person who would abuse children if given the opportunity, but may not have done so yet." Some pedophiles refrain from child abuse for ethical or practical reasons, and thus might be offended by the implication that the only thing that has stopped them from molesting children is that they haven't had the chance, or it was too risky. From their perspective, they are just trying to make the best of a situation they were born into, and don't deserve to be hated for desires they can't change, but which they choose not to act upon. A counter-argument is that if they were to keep quiet about their sexual attractions, they wouldn't be discriminated against.

[edit] Orientation

At least one study has suggested that pedophilia is probably a sexual orientation.[3] This type of suggestion tends to cause a firestorm of controversy,[4] as some people figure that since homosexuality is a sexual orientation, that means that if pedophilia were to be regarded as a sexual orientation, society would have to condone child sexual abuse in the same way as it accepts sexual intercourse between consenting adults of the same sex.

[edit] Abnormality

Several studies show that only a minority of men, and a very small minority of women, are sexually aroused by children. In a sample of nearly 200 university males, 21% reported some sexual attraction to small children, 9% described sexual fantasies involving children, 5% admitted to having masturbated to sexual fantasies of children, and 7% indicated they might have sex with a child if not caught.[5] In another sample with 100 male and 180 female undergraduate students, 22% of males and 3% of females reported sexual attraction to a child.[6]

In a sample of 80 volunteers, about 25% self-reported some pedophilic interest or in the plethysmographic phase exhibited penile arousal to a child that equaled or exceeded arousal to an adult.[7] In a control group of 66 males recruited from hospital staff and the community, 17% showed a penile response that was pedophilic.[8]

[edit] Cultural influences

In Erotic Innocence, Richard Kincaid traces the evolution of popular Western conceptions of sexuality and children over the past two or three centuries. Kincaid argues that the notion that children are pure, chaste and innocent was first formulated in England during the Victorian era. Historians such as Phillipe Aries have argued that before the seventeenth century children were essentially viewed as miniature adults, and were therefore given the freedom to fight, steal, study, have sex, travel, find homes and work, with little protection or interference from adults. The idea of childhood as a state of innocence, according to Aries, was a creation of Victorian British society in the nineteenth century. At the same time, the Victorians concocted a new ideal of the sexually desirable object. Unfortunately, the "new" child and the sexually desirable object had identical characteristics, including "softness, cuteness, docility, and passivity." According to Kincaid, "[w]e've been living, not so happily, with the results of [the Victorians'] bungling ever since."[9]

[edit] Online

In most online forums, confessing to being a pedophile is considered trolling because the implication is that the person may be a danger to any youngsters who use the site, and therefore could expose the site to legal risk. In particular, Wikipedia has banned self-identified pedophiles.

The same problem arises, when self-identified pedophiles start editing articles about pedophilia, that would arise if, say, self-identified atheists start editing articles on atheism. It opens up the user to accusations of being motivated by a personal bias.

[edit] References

  2. Neil Malamuth & Mark Huppin, Drawing the Line on Virtual Child Pornography: Bringing the Law in Line with the Research Evidence, 31 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 773, 789 (2007)
  5. Briere, J., & Runtz, M. (1989). University males' sexual interest in children: Predicting potential indices of "pedophilia" in a non-forensic sample. Child Abuse and Neglect, 13, 65-75
  6. Smiljanich, K., & Briere, J. (1996). Self-reported sexual interest in children: Sex differences and psychosocial correlates in a university sample. Violence and Victims, 11, 39-50
  7. Hall, G. C. N., Hirschman, R., & Oliver, L. L. (1995). Sexual arousal and arousability to pedophilic stimuli in a community sample of normal men. Behavior Therapy, 26, 681-694
  8. Fedora, O., Reddon, J. R., Morrison, J. W., Fedora, S. K., Pascoe, H., & Yeudall, L. T. (1992). Sadism and other paraphilias in normal controls and aggressive and nonaggressive sex offenders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 21, 1-15.
  9. Phillipe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (New York: Vintage Books, 1962)
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