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Pedophilia (a.k.a. paedophilia or pædophilia, if you're British) is the common term for sexual attraction to a minor (if you're an adult). In technical medical contexts, it has the narrower definition of the sexual attraction to prepubescents only. The counterpart technical terms for sexual attraction to older minors are "hebephilia" (11–14) and "ephebophilia" (15–19), although an insistence on their use in a discussion of pedophilia is generally a strong indicator that pedophilia apologetics and 'justifications' for statutory rape are inbound. There has been an increase in media reports covering pedophilic acts between female teachers and tween or young teen students, especially male pupils.
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". Pedophiles have to be at least 16 to be diagnosed with the disorder, but in the case of adolescent (16-17 year old) pedophiles the child has to be at least 5 years younger for the attraction to be termed pedophilia.
While not all pedophiles act upon their desires, more than one-third of child sexual abuse offenders were phallometrically identified as pedophiles compared to almost two-thirds of those convicted of the possession of child pornography. Phallometry is not exactly a robust indicator of sexual interest in general, although a phallometric response to images of children is an effective diagnostic. Pedophilic sexual abusers of children are, in general, less neurologically impaired than non-pedophilic sexual abusers of children, making the pedophile's abuse more horrifying.
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 is, 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 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.
There is very little data about the proportion of pedophiles who commit sex offenses. Some differences between pedophilic and non-pedophilic child molesters are that the non-pedophiles score as significantly more psychopathic, and the pedophiles tend to have more victims, respond more poorly to treatment, and are more likely to re-offend. A woman who is mainly attracted to underage girls is called a korephile.
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.
A study of 1,312 Finnish male twins found that childhood sexual interactions with other children are associated with lower preferred age of sexual partners including sexual interest in children in adulthood. This suggests a role of conditioning in the development of sexual age preferences.
A common misconception related to pedophilia is the idea that victims of pedophiles become pedophiles themselves, but this has been disputed. Evidence on the matter is inconclusive. A study by the US Government Accountability Office, Research Inconclusive About Whether Child Victims Become Adult Abusers, found that:
“” (1) there was no consensus among the 23 retrospective and 2 prospective studies reviewed that childhood sexual abuse led directly to the victim becoming an adult sexual abuser; (2) the retrospective studies, which sought to determine whether a sample of known sex offenders had been sexually abused as children, differed considerably in the types of offenders studied, use of control or comparison groups, and definition and reporting of childhood sexual abuse; (3) although some of the retrospective studies concluded that childhood sexual abuse may increase the risk that victims will commit sexual abuse later, most of the studies noted that the majority of sex offenders had not been sexually abused as children; (4) the prospective studies, which tracked sexually abused children into adulthood to determine how many became sex offenders, studied sample populations that may not be representative of the entire population of childhood sexual abuse victims; and (5) the prospective studies found that victims of childhood sexual abuse were not more likely than nonvictims to be arrested for sex offenses.
The 2011 Australian Institute of Criminology study Misperceptions about child sex offenders lists as a misperception, "All child sex offenders were victims of sexual abuse themselves," arguing that evidence is inconclusive. The Darkness2Light Foundation mentions proclivity of sexual abuse survivors to engage in criminal activities of all sorts as a statistical fact, but clarifies that they are not the majority of survivors nor should this be used to stigmatize survivors.
The origin of the myth might come from the fact that some rapists, serial killers and other criminals claim after capture to have abusive backgrounds as a way to invoke sympathy among the jury, authorities and the general public (sometimes called "the Menendez Defense") but most of these claims have not been confirmed, and correlation does not imply causation. That said, there are scholars who do consider this to be true and that the propensity to act upon it by engaging in child sexual abuse is increased by being the victim of a pedophile.
Sexual abuse survivors’ advocate groups often mention this myth as one factor helping the culture of silence behind sexual abuse, as abuse survivors may feel that speaking about their abuse may make them suspects of being potential abusers.
There have been a number of studies which have come up with wildly varying percentages for the proportion of society aroused by children. There is also a noticeable lack of studies regarding females who are sexually aroused by children, which may be because suspicions of female child abusers are frequently not taken seriously since investigators expect abusers to be male. A 1980s 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 estimated 1% of the male population has pedophilic disorder, and it is estimated that a similar proportion of the female population has it.
In Erotic Innocence, James Russell 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."
“”The ideology that they pushed is very much still, alive, and is pretty much everywhere I've argued with these people [pro offending pedophiles] for twenty years. I've gotten to the point where I know I'm just beating my head against the wall."
|—Brett Matthews, |
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. Despite this, there are many websites that have engaged in activism in favor of pedophilia, which included the abolition of the age of consent and argue that pedophilia is just another sexual orientation, such as homosexuality or heterosexuality. These groups have largely disappeared. Recent pro offending pedophiles groups post and may even make child porn of their own children. There are also discussions on how to sexually abuse children. Some pedophiles say that they are in a loving relationship with a child while others skip the lying and go straight to raping children.
Minor-attracted persons (MAPs): an alternative phrase for pedophiles, hebephiles, and ephebophiles; used by some pedophiles.
Non-Offending Minor-attracted persons (NOMAPs): The Paedophiles, Hebephiles, Ephebophiles, etc; who are strongly against the sexual harassment of children.
Anti-contact: a phrase referring to pedophiles who don't offend.
Pro-contact: a phrase referring to pedophiles who are pro-child rape.
Girllove (GL): korephilia; referring to korerasts or korephiles who target female minors.
Hebo: an informal term for hebephiles or heborasts / heberasts.
Ephebo: an informal term for ephebophiles or epheborasts.
Masturbatory reconditioning, social skills learning, and cognitive redirection are treatments for pedophilia, which 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. Another possibility is a reduction or elimination of sex drive through hormone replacement therapy using antiandrogens, popularly known as "chemical castration" (which also some trans women and nonbinary people undergo as part of their hormonal transition). There is no known cure for pedophilia, though.
- 44% believe pedophilia is something that one can choose
- 49% believe that people with pedophilia have taken a deliberate decision to have these interests
- 48% believe that people have the choice whether they have pedophilia or not
- 94% believe pedophilia poses a danger for children
- 83% believe pedophilia poses a danger for adolescents
- 39% believe pedophilia poses a danger for adults
- 59% feel afraid when they think of pedophiles
- 40% feel pity when they think of pedophiles
- 84% feel anger when they think of pedophiles
When asked, "How do you feel about interacting with people who are dominantly sexually interested in children, but have never committed a crime?":
- 5% would have such a person as a friend
- 6% would accept such a person in their neighborhood
- 11% would accept such a person as a work colleague
- 15% would talk to such a person
- 49% would prefer such a person to be incarcerated
- 27% would prefer such a person to be dead.
By comparison, only 21% favored incarceration of psychopaths who have never committed a crime, and only 8% favored death for psychopaths who have never committed a crime.
Baselessly accusing people or groups of pedophilia has become an almost mainstream part of right-wing and far-right discourse. This goes back at least to the American civil rights struggle of the 1970s around the Equal Rights Amendment when gays were claimed to pose a threat to children, a slander which has repeatedly resurfaced. Other examples include:
- QAnon an insane, pro-Trump conspiracy theory claiming most of the political establishment is part of a vast Washington, DC pedophile network.
- Graham Linehan, prominent English-based TERF who has accused several trans rights activists of trying to groom and abuse children.
- Laurence Fox, British populist politician who falsely accused several of his opponents of being pedophiles.
- Tommy Robinson, British far-right agitator has used reports of ethnically-Muslim pedophile gangs to stir up racist sentiment.
- Slanders about the LGBT community persist, including a false 2020 story that they were to add "P" for "Pedosexual" to the acronym.
- Carl Beech, a mentally-disturbed fantasist who claimed to have been sexually abused by a vast pedophile ring at the heart of the British establishment. Eventually after years of investigations he turned out to have made it all up, with allegations pushed by dodgy news agency Exaro and various journalists and politicians on the make such as Tom Watson (a rare instance of a centrist spurring a pedophile panic).
- Satanic Panic
- From our friends at Cracked:
- Jan Fleischhauer and Wiebke Hollersen. "The Sexual Revolution and Children: How the Left Took Things Too Far" Der Spiegel (English, 2 July 2010).
- "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition". American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
- SK Wurtele - Children and Youth Services Review, 2012 , Preventing the sexual exploitation of minors in youth-serving organizations
- "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia". behavenet.com. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- Child pornography offenses are a valid diagnostic indicator of pedophilia
- Simon, W. T., & Schouten, P. G. (1992). The plethysmograph reconsidered: Comments on Barker and Howell. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 20, 13-25.
- Hanson, R. K., & Bussière, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348–362.
- The Neuropsychology of Sexual Offenders: A Meta-Analysis
- 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?". BBC News. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- "Pedophilia Is Not a Crime, Says Rutgers Prof Margo Kaplan". Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- 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.
- Howell, James (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship, & Sexuality Through History: The modern world. p. 171.
- McKillop, Nadine (2011). The nature of child sexual assault. p. 9.
- "Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?". springer.com. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- "Whopping Pedophilia 'Sexual Orientation' Error Sparks Right-Wing Freakout". The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- Cord Jefferson. [Gawker.com: archive.is, web.archive.org "Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children"]. Gawker (Gawker Media). Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- Santtila, Pekka (30 January 2010). "Childhood sexual interactions with other children are associated with lower preferred age of sexual partners including sexual interest in children in adulthood.(Report)". Psychiatry research 175: 154.
- Handbook of Adolescent Behavioral Problems Thomas P. Gullotta,Robert W. Plant,Melanie A. Evan
- Cycle of Sexual Abuse: Research Inconclusive About Whether Child Victims Become Adult Abusers. GGD-96-178: Published: Sep 13, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1996.
- Misperceptions about child sex offenders Kelly Richards. ISSN 1836-2206. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, September 2011
- "Pedophilia". jamanetwork.com. 20 November 2002. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- "Are there women paedophiles?". BBC News. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- 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)
- James Russell Kincaid, Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998)
- Whatever Happened to NAMBLA? Vice Note: Brett Matthew is a pseudonym.
- See the Wikipedia article on Pro-pedophile activism.
- 5 Things I Learned by Infiltrating Deep Web Child Molesters Cracked.com
- Police Blotter: Pedophile loses spat over 'girl love' site Cnet
- "Pedophilia: Seeking Help: SexInfo Online". ucsb.edu. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- "Can Virtual Reality Treat Pedophiles?". Science of Us. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- "Inside the Mind of a Pedophile". Neuroanthropology. Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- Jahnke, Sara (January 2015). "Stigmatization of People with Pedophilia: Two Comparative Surveys". Archives of sexual behavior 44 (1): 21-34.
- Fact check: LGBTQ community rejects false association with pedophiles, USA Today, July 30, 2020
- Graham Linehan Should Be Kicked Off Substack, Grace Lavery, March 25, 2021
- Graham Linehan permanently banned from Twitter for ‘hateful conduct’, Pink News, June 27, 2020
- Graham Linehan: Trans activists ‘don’t realise the damage’ they do, Irish Times, Jan 21, 2019
- Laurence Fox sued for libel over 'paedophile' comments, BBC, April 7, 2021
- Tommy Robinson appointed as Ukip's 'grooming gangs adviser', The Guardian, Nov 22, 2018
- Fact check: The LGBTQ community is not adding “P” to their acronym , Reuters, May 29, 2020
- Revealed: how Carl Beech, the serial child abuse accuser, became the accused, The Guardian, July 22, 2019
- Tom Watson ‘must hang head in shame’ for whipping up panic over fake Westminster VIP paedophile ring, says Janner, The Independent, July 26, 2019
- See the Wikipedia article on Exaro.