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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". Exclusive pedophiles are attracted only to children, while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both children and adults.
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.
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.
There is very little data about the proportion of pedophiles who commit sex offenses. Some differences between pedophilic and non-pedophilic child molestors are that the nonpedophiles score as significantly more psychopathic, and the pedophiles tend to have more victims, respond more poorly to treatment, and are more likely to reoffend.
At least one study has suggested that pedophilia is probably a sexual orientation (a person's inborn and unalterable sexual preference, irrespective of whether that preference is harmful to others or not). This type of suggestion tends to cause a firestorm of controversy, 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. As with heterosexuality or homosexuality, people tend to realize their pedophilia during adolescence, which can contribute to the confusing feelings of that period of life.
Several studies show that only a minority of men, and a very small minority of women, are sexually aroused by children. Women pedophiles can do serious harm and the extent of the problem is hard to determine. Men are reluctant to admit they were abused as boys since this challenges their masculinity. Also suspicions of female child abusers are frequently not taken seriously since investigators expect abusers to be male. A 1980's US study cited by the BBC suggested women did 20% of offences against boys and 5% against girls. In the UK it is estimated that women commit between 5% and 10% of offenses to prepubescent 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. In another sample with 100 male and 180 female undergraduate students, 22% of males and 3% of females reported sexual attraction to a child.
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. In a control group of 66 males recruited from hospital staff and the community, 17% showed a penile response that was pedophilic.
An estimate of 1 percent of the male population has pedophilic disorder, and it is assumed that a much smaller proportion of the female population has it.
 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."
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.
Masturbatory reconditioning, social skills learning, and cognitive redirection are treatments for pedophilia, that pedophiles are sometimes encouraged to practice on their own if they are afraid to reveal their desires to a therapist. Some of the more cutting edge treatments would use virtual reality to teach control of pedophilic urges. There is no known cure for pedophilia, though.
- ↑ http://behavenet.com/node/21512
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 http://neuroanthropology.net/2010/05/10/inside-the-mind-of-a-pedophile/
- ↑ 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)
- ↑ Can you stop a paedophile before they even start?
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/10/06/pedophilia-not-a-crime-rutgers-margo-kaplan/
- ↑ Donald S. Strassberga, Angela Eastvoldb, J. Wilson Kenneyc, Yana Suchya (April 2012). "Psychopathy among pedophilic and nonpedophilic child molesters". Child Abuse & Neglect 36 (4): 379-382. Template:Citation error.
- ↑ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10508-011-9882-6
- ↑ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/pedophilia-sexual-orientation_n_4183482.html
- ↑ http://gawker.com/5941037/born-this-way-sympathy-and-science-for-those-who--want-to-have-sex-with-children
- ↑ Are there women paedophiles?
- ↑ 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
- ↑ 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
- ↑ 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
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ Phillipe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (New York: Vintage Books, 1962)
- ↑ http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/pedophilia-seeking-help
- ↑ http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/11/can-virtual-reality-treat-pedophiles.html