Why society is always wrong about pedophilia.
Recently, an article was written in USA Today about the research being done to better understand pedophilia. It is a very well-thought-out article that you can find in their Health & Life department.
After publishing it, ignorant, despicable trolls began attacking the news outlet on Twitter. There are reports that someone even set fire to a building owned by the paper. USA Today was forced by the mob to take down the article and hide it behind a paywall. By forcing them to do this, these science-deniers effectively silenced the writer for publishing facts that don’t mesh with their reality. We cannot tolerate this kind of abhorrent behavior in a free society. In response to this smooth-brain terrorism, I have composed and written an editorial that is influenced by the original article and others like it. We will also be adapting this into a YouTube video in the very near future. All references for the article are at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!
Ignorance Is Bliss
Pedophilia is viewed by many (especially internet trolls) as among the most horrifying of modern society’s problems. The biggest drawback with that outlook, scientists who study the sexual “disorder” say, is that it is also among the most misunderstood.
When the public thinks of pedophilia, or even hears the word mentioned, they automatically assume it’s synonymous with child sexual abuse. Researchers who study pedophilia and hebephilia say the term describes an attraction, not an action, and using it interchangeably with “abuse” or rape, fuels the ignorance behind the hatred.
The APA’s (American Psychiatric Association) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists pedophilia as defined by
Recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children.
The key word here that everyone overlooks is prepubescent – or not having reached a state of puberty. That means no hormones pumping or secondary sexual characteristics – not simply “under 18.” That common age is arbitrary and varies from state to state. Does a child become an adult sooner in West Virginia as opposed to New York or California? For argument’s sake, prepubescent, and pedophilic age-related interest, usually refers to a very young child under the age of 12 or 13.
Scientists have, in recent decades, improved their understanding of pedophilia’s causes, prenatal and early childhood risk factors, as well as how pedophiles can better control their natural impulses. One of the most significant findings is that pedophilia is determined in the womb, though environmental factors may influence, naturally, whether someone acts on an urge to abuse: Proving the point once and for all, that pedophilia is an inborn sexual orientation, like homosexuality, for example, and not a learned behavior, fetish, or kink.
Pedophiles vs. Rapists
Not all people who sexually abuse children are pedophiles and not all pedophiles abuse children, experts say. Many of the people who do sexually abuse children do not sexually prefer them, but use them as a surrogate for an adult partner. They are likely to be anti-social with severe impulse control problems. Rapists will choose a victim regardless of sexual orientation. Does that mean that all adults are rapists? The assumption that all pedophiles are rapists is flawed and dangerous, and one of the contributing factors behind the extreme hatred.
Elizabeth Letourneau of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who studies child sexual abuse, agrees that even with red flags, people are notoriously unable to recognize child molesters or rapists because people they respect simply don’t fulfill the image they have of “monsters” or “predators.” There is no defining “look” of a person who will abuse a child – they come in all shapes and sizes.
All our attention is on known sex offenders and heaping on the punishment instead of trying to prevent abuse. This is said to be due to an interest in prevention, but it’s really about retribution. If people are really serious about preventing children from being molested or raped, it may very well necessitate the uncomfortable acknowledgement that some people are simply born as pedophiles.
Pedophilia Is Not A Choice…
Michael Seto, forensic research director at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in Canada, said there is more neuroscientific knowledge of pedophilia than ever before. MRI research is showing how sexual interests develop in the brain. Seto said pedophilia is something people are born with or at least have a predisposition to:
“I think as a field, we’ve accepted the idea that this is not something that people choose,” he said.
“The evidence suggests it is inborn. It’s neurological,” said James Cantor, a clinical psychologist, sex researcher and former editor-in-chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. “Pedophilia is the attraction to children, regardless of whether the person ever actually harms a child.”
So, while Cantor’s work has its roots in the data-driven scientific method, his findings are inescapably political to many people who read them. Nobody, says Cantor, should have a stigma for a sexual orientation they don’t choose. He is careful, however, to distinguish between pedophilia (which is a biological condition, and thus morally neutral) and the act of molesting a child (which is certainly not). “A culture that no longer demonizes pedophiles,” he argues, “may be one in which pedophiles themselves are more willing to seek help—and therefore one in which children are less likely to suffer abuse.”
Evidence shows men are more likely to have pedophilic urges than women. This aligns with research showing men are more likely to have other paraphilias, including exhibitionism, voyeurism and sadism. Men are also more likely than women to commit criminal acts. This aggressiveness could be a link to high levels of testosterone and the natural drive for males to satisfy their primal need to procreate.
…But Abuse Is
“There are child molesters and [there are] pedophiles. If you think of Venn diagrams, there’s a lot of overlap,” said Anna Salter, a psychologist, author, and internationally recognized expert who studies high-risk sex offenders. “There are the people who have a sexual attraction to children … [and then] there are some people who molest kids who are not pedophiles. They do it because of anger. They [choose children] because they’re scared of adult women or to get revenge, but they don’t actually have an age preference for prepubescent children.”
Salter said when she conducts training seminars, she often asks the audience, “How many of you have ever had an inappropriate sexual thought or urge?” If no one raises their hand, which is often the case in such a public forum, she tells them they’re in denial.
“Of course, people have had inappropriate sexual thoughts. You may have an attraction to your wife’s sister. You may lust after a 16-year-old post-pubescent babysitter. It doesn’t mean you act on it and it doesn’t make you a bad person,” she said. “Pedophiles may not have control over the fact that they have an attraction to kids, but they are responsible for whether they do or don’t act on it.”
Check Your Brakes
Salter prefers to use the analogy of an engine and brakes when describing how the brain works. People have inappropriate thoughts (engine) but there are brakes (empathy, fear of punishment) to keep them from acting on them. Most people do not go out and rape, rob, or murder on a whim. Their brakes are working to keep the engine in check. Pedophiles are no different: They also experience inappropriate thoughts like anyone else but do not necessarily act on them.
Salter said we must do more research to understand why most pedophiles do not act on their attractions. Her clinical observations suggest some pedophiles with “bad brakes” have their early development in homes with mistreatment or neglect. A difficult upbringing can cause a host of problems in a developing mind – antisocial behavior being one of them. This can also cause non-pedophiles to abuse children.
Recently in the news, a professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, who talked about “destigmatizing pedophilia” and referred to pedophiles as “minor-attracted people” was forced to resign in November following an internet outcry over using the phrase. Allyn Walker argued, “destigmatizing the attraction would allow more people to seek help and ultimately prevent child sexual abuse.”
Think of the jobs and money that society will lose if, overnight, child sexual abuse suddenly decreases or ceases altogether. That begs a reasonable, valid question,
Does American society really want to prevent child sexual abuse?
There is growing support in the field and in online forums for Walker’s professional point of view. Cantor said there’s no treatment that can turn a pedophile into a non-pedophile. They can, however, exhibit self-control and use compensatory strategies. This is far more likely if they’re under the care of a professional. He argues that pedophiles need to be able to access therapy. That can be difficult since those afflicted may be ashamed to seek help. Some also worry that the counselors might report them for “thought crimes”. It’s also a matter of funding – private counseling is expensive and “pedophilia treatment” isn’t on most insurance providers’ checklists.
So where do you want the person? “Therapy is where he needs to be, and we make it incredibly difficult for him to get that,” Cantor said. “Which to me is insane. It makes the problem worse.” Many people would rather just lock them away and forget they exist.
Salter said that while pedophiles do not choose their attractions, she does not believe those who offend are being punished unfairly. We should encourage treatment but without minimizing the impact abuse has on victims’ lives.
A Long Road Ahead
American society has come a long way over the past several decades. It has seen a more inclusive population that has become more tolerant of each other’s differences. By the same measure, it has taken an enormous leap backwards when dealing with pedophiles.
SORNA, commonly referred to as the sex offender registry, has caused much devastation to a large section of the population while doing little to help pedophiles get the treatment they desperately deserve. It is a way to punish sex offenders, including pedophiles, for life, even if they never hurt anyone.
These people were born with a sexual orientation they can’t change, no different than a homosexual. The difference is how we treat them in our society. We no longer look at homosexuals as evil, immoral, sinners. This is, unfortunately, still the prevailing thought in some parts of the world. Instead, we focus our natural hatred for those who think differently on pedophiles and treat them as boogeymen.
It is a fact that most people born as pedophiles do not ever harm or abuse a child. They may have fantastical thoughts in their minds like everyone else, the only difference is the actors. Even this is too much for many folks to be comfortable with.
When will be stop demonizing these minor-attracted persons and let them get the help and belonging that they so desperately deserve? Do we not want to prevent child abuse? Isn’t that the goal of all this unbridled ignorance? If we really want to protect children and create a future where they can truly be safe, then we need stop letting our primitive emotions overrule our rational thinking. We must listen to, not ostracize, those dedicated to understanding this phenomenon and deal with just the facts, not fear.
I am aware of the emotional fragility of some folks. Those same people may see this post as controversial or in some way defending child abusers. Obviously, that is a ridiculous assertion, but we can’t expect much from people who can’t think rationally.
While none of the staff at Just Facts Not Fear are, or at least claim to be, pedophiles, surely we have followers or site members that may be. This post is a stand of solidarity for them and folks like them that are treated as outcasts and driven to the farthest reaches of society. No one deserves to live their life as a pariah for something they did not choose to be. Hopefully, this article will help shed some light on a dark subject and bring people closer to better understanding reality.
Dastagir, Alia E. (January 11, 2022). “The complicated research behind pedophilia”. USA TODAY/YAHOO.
Lewsen, Simon (November 18, 2019). “Why Would Someone Choose to Be a Monster?”. The Walrus.