Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Compare: subway molesters and CP viewers


Anyone who looks at child pornography is going to make people uneasy, to say the least. It engenders in most people anger and disgust, which has in turn led to harsh penalties for simply possessing any such material. But as I have <written before>, men who just look at it -- never creating, distributing, buying or even commenting -- are an interesting case. The harm they do is hard to detect.

What do we expect ordinary men to do who have a strong sex drive? Try to fulfill it with a willing partner is the first choice. But if they cannot find one, we expect them to masturbate while looking at pornography. What do we expect a pedophile to do -- a man who knows he cannot possibly find a truly consenting partner? Much of society assumes he will just molest a child. Barbra Streisand's controversial remarks suggest <that was her assumption>. Yet we know that a great many of us pedophiles do. Some of us strive hard not to fantasize at all. Others make a strict point of fantasizing only to freely offered, innocent images. But others look at pornography, just like ordinary men -- except in their case this is highly illegal. A child was harmed when it was made, but it is very difficult to trace any direct harm to a man who is all alone in his bedroom bringing up a video made ten years before and viewed thousands of times.

A pedophile who looks at child porn is nowhere near as bad as a hands-on child molester, but he is also not a "virtuous pedophiles" poster child. His viewing is highly disrespectful to the children involved, and he is a part (if a very small part) of victims feeling upset knowing their images are being used again and again for erotic purposes.

With this background in mind, I'm always on the lookout for ordinary guys who get in trouble expressing their sex drive in inappropriate ways without being out-and-out rapists.

So we have this <recent story>, titled "Serial Sex Offenders Are a Big Problem on Subways. Should They Be Banned for Life?"

Authorities in New York are frustrated because there are men who "grope, grind, molest or indecently expose themselves" on subways, and repeat the crime over and over again. Since the crime is only a misdemeanor, they rarely serve significant prison time.

The women and girls who are the victims of these crimes are suffering a direct sexual assault. There are people who would like to punish the men more harshly, but so far the penalties are only modest. Why the lenient treatment? Some people seem to feel that these subway offenses just aren't that serious. They are expressions of a sex drive -- unacceptable expressions, but the motive of the men involved is not mysterious. On the other hand, the behavior is common. Authorities reasonably fear that if they gave out significant prison terms for such crimes, the prisons would soon fill up and overflow.

These crimes are against adult women, and on balance society has so far reluctantly concluded there are just too many offenders to punish them harshly. It makes total sense that when such crimes are committed against children instead of adults, harsh punishment is appropriate. But what about when the crime is against not children but just the images of children? At present, harsh punishment is still seen to be appropriate. We pedophiles do not choose who we are attracted to, but we do have control over what we do about it. In the case of viewing child porn, they have made a choice that most people find uncomfortable -- but it is a choice not to harm real flesh-and-blood children.

I don't have a strong opinion about how harsh a sentence New York should hand down to its subway sex offenders. My concern is the relative penalties given for CP viewing as compared to groping, grinding, molesting and indecent exposure. The harm from the first is indirect and elusive, while each instance of the second upsets an actual woman directly, right as it happens. Remember too that some of those females on the subway are themselves minors. Some who developed early are probably 10 or 11 years old.

Aside from the flimsy idea of each viewing of CP actually harming the original victim all over again, the main justification offered for harsh CP penalties has been that its viewing is a stand-in crime for harder-to-prove hands-on sexual abuse. Recent studies all show that this is nonsense -- a great many men who view child porn never molest children.

CP viewing is not a good thing to do. But it is not just to punish CP viewers who hurt no one more harshly than men who hurt real women with their groping, grinding, molesting, and indecently exposing themselves.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pedophiles watching YouTube videos of young girls




Recently YouTube <has come under attack> for <allowing pedophiles to openly watch> and comment on the videos of young girls.In response, YouTube has eliminated many comments, banned repeat commenters, and removed many of the videos too.

How can we fit this into a broader context? The classic case of pedophiles getting sexual satisfaction from images is child porn. The case that comes most readily to mind is some crying child being forced into oral, anal or vaginal intercourse. It gets distributed widely. Most people abhor that, including a great many pedophiles.

Here we have more complexity. No one alleges the girls posting videos are being forced into anything. Their intentions are innocent. They are the ones who choose to distribute their videos and hope lots of people will view them.

What sparks the most outrage here and fuels calls for action is what pedophiles do to make their presence known, by way of suggestive comments or timestamps pointing to revealing moments in the videos. Most pedophiles I've read online roundly condemn such behavior. They agree that children shouldn't have to read those things. They have no objection to removing the comments and banning frequent commenters.

However, the other aspect of the situation is that the popular videos got thousands or millions of views in comparison to a few hundred a video would get if it didn't have any revealing content. As with most videos, those who comment are a tiny portion of those who watch. Even if the only trace they leave is an increment on a view counter, these pedophiles outrage people too.

YouTube algorithms are inherently value-neutral, and those algorithms detect groups of people and the videos they would like to watch. Here they have correctly identified a group of pedophiles.

Part of YouTube's response has been to delete many innocently offered videos that have revealing moments in them, not just to disable comments. But you can be sure they have missed a great many and that girls will post new ones. What should we think of those pedophiles who now and in the future will watch and never comment?

Large segments of society hate pedophiles just for existing, and nothing I could say would move them. However, there are also social liberals, who are guided by the idea that as long as no one is being harmed, people should be left alone to think, write, watch videos, and fantasize as they please. I say they should not be disturbed by the men who watch girls on YouTube and make no comments. Maybe they should even welcome it.

Science suggests maybe 1% of men are pedophiles. What do we actually expect them to do? Sit home, miserable, hating themselves, never going out in public where children might be present, never even looking at Hollywood movies with attractive kids in them?

We expect that ordinary men will go out and date and have sex with the people they are attracted to. That is the last thing anyone wants to tell pedophiles to do. When they do, police are on the case as best they are able.

Aside from pursuing women, we know what else ordinary men to do. They will look at lots of porn. Before the age of readily available adult porn, men had calendar girls, swimsuit editions, and cheerleaders. No one doubts that attractive women help sell things.

Some pedophiles do find child porn on the dark web. Children are harmed when the porn is made, and law enforcement is on the case as best they are able. But as the rough equivalent of adult cheerleaders, we now have pedophiles thinking sexual thoughts about videos posted by young girls doing things young girls are generally happy to do. This should surprise no one.

Conceivably watching such things would incite pedophiles to go out and molest real girls. But the truth is that most pedophiles don't want to harm anyone. A great many would never come close. But even for those who may be at risk, if they can satisfy their sexual desires without harming anyone, the vast majority will. They will outnumber those few who will be motivated to do worse.

This isn't just speculation. The <series of studies> by Diamond and his colleagues looked at a series of situations where child porn was very difficult to obtain and suddenly became easily available. You might expect this would lead to a big increase in child sex abuse. But in case after case, child sex abuse either stayed the same or actually went down. However bad watching child porn is, abusing a child in person is worse. In the present case we are not talking about child pornography, but girls making YouTube videos, doing things girls like to do, and hoping for attention and views.

We should also consider the rights of the girls (with their parents' consent) to make and post videos with innocent intentions. Their freedom should not be curtailed because of what some men might think while watching them.

Most people would rather not think about pedophilia at all. They are rightly moved to take action when pedophiles harm people, and we can include here leaving rude or sexually explicit comments on videos. But even if all comments were disabled, girls' innocent YouTube videos will leave us with indirect but strong evidence of the existence of pedophiles satisfying their sexual desires by looking at pictures of girls. Nothing could eliminate this entirely, and girls who don't like the possibility can elect not to post. Others may decide they won't let other people's fantasies deter them from doing what they want. Others may not even care, or even figure that if they happen to improve someone's private fantasy life, so much the better.


Shocking as it may seem, the enlightened conclusion should be that there is no need to be upset by pedophiles thinking sexual thoughts about girls in innocent YouTube videos.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Perfect Pedophile


What would a perfect pedophile look like? Of course I'm talking about a perfectly ethical pedophile, not "the perfect child molester" on the model of "the perfect criminal". Also, all humans are imperfect in countless ways, so a more accurate description of the goal would be a person who handles his pedophilia perfectly. And let's assume a male pedophile attracted to girls, to keep things simple, and an exclusive pedophile, to keep this challenging -- no sexual attraction to adults. Enough with the preliminaries.

The perfect pedophile would be at peace with his sexual attractions. He would feel no self-hate based on something he did not choose. He would not struggle to change what cannot be changed.

He would realize that his only sexual outlets are solitary ones. Since sexual satisfaction is a good thing and unresolved sexual tension is stressful, he would masturbate fairly often to thoughts of the small girls who he is attracted to. He might also use some visual aids. He would strictly avoid child pornography, but would understand that mainstream child actresses and fashion models are freely offering their images to the world with no sexual overtones. The fact that he finds the innocent pictures alluring poses no ethical problem.

As regards real children, it goes without saying he would not molest them. His goal would be to never act in any way differently than a friendly adult who had no sexual interest in children. He might form a friendship with a small girl if she was interested and her parents approved, but there would be no secrets, and he would scrupulously follow the rule that he would do nothing he would not do if the parents were there watching every interaction.

The perfect pedophile described above violates no laws. But he also violates no social norms and causes no waves. He is undetectable.

The perfect pedophile might also decide that he would for his own peace of mind rather avoid children in his life as much as possible. Even diabetics with complete self-control might elect not to hang out in candy shops.

Even if his pedophilia remains undetectable, there could be imperfections behind the scenes.

A perfect pedophile would not seek out child pornography. If nothing else, it poses a very serious legal risk to him. My impression is that this is the most common way that pedophiles in the internet age are imperfect.

Another way a pedophile could fall short of perfection is in feeling some temptation to act, including simply acting in ways that could make others uncomfortable. This nearly perfect pedophile would be aware of his feelings and make sure that if they seemed to be going in a direction inconsistent with his friendly, innocent presence he would do his best to stay out of any such situations. He might decide to limit his participation in family activities with nieces and nephews, even if other adults pressure him to keep participating.

A pedophile who refrains from sexual activity with children is meeting the most important requirement of handling his pedophilia well. He is virtuous. How realistic a goal is this? For an exclusive pedophile, this means lifelong celibacy. The idea in certain circles today that this is a nearly impossible goal is a recent one. Most religious traditions recognize a class of people who choose celibacy to focus exclusively on service or contemplation. Notable examples are Buddhist or Hindu monks and Catholic priests and monks. Pedophiles are forced into this condition instead of choosing it freely, but there are analogs among ordinary people too. Some people are physically or emotionally unable to engage in satisfactory sex with a willing adult partner, and somehow they manage. Very few become rapists.

A less obvious cost to exclusive pedophilia than celibacy is loneliness -- being without a partner to share a life with. Adult relationships are often possible. One typical way is with a partner who is not very interested in sex, and the pedophile can make the sex work even though his attraction is minimal. However, many pedophiles -- including those who are non-exclusive and feel genuine sexual attraction to an adult partner -- are uncomfortable feeling like they are keeping a big secret from their partner, so they feel a relationship is not possible for that reason. Others confide their pedophilia to potential partners, and the great majority of the time that is the end of a budding relationship. In the end, many pedophiles are unable to have a life partner.

Of course good lives have far more to them than sex and partnership. Career, friends, extended family, service to others, sports, hobbies -- all are open to the perfect pedophile as they are to anyone else. It's a fair guess that there are many men out there who could have sex with women if they wanted to, but are so busy and engrossed with other things that they don't get around to it.

I have been close to a perfect pedophile, but I am not exclusive. I was also aided greatly by not realizing it until I was over 50, and had already been married and raised three daughters. (The idea of a pedophile being perfect by never at any point realizing his condition is an intriguing one, but not of much practical importance.)

No one can be perfect. But handling pedophilia with near perfection is entirely feasible, and a great many pedophiles do it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Twitter Pedophile Debate


Breitbart ran an article yesterday trying to get Twitter to ban pedophiles, and without any regard even for what we actually say. As a result, the virpeds Twitter account has gotten a flood of notifications in the past day. Of course Twitter is not a place to resolve much of anything in the brief messages allowed. So I'll try to make sense of the parts I've read.

First, the off-the-deep-end pedophiles who say sex with kids is just fine. From a distance, pedophile haters might see this as part of what "all those pedophiles" want. It isn't, and it's a vital distinction. The vast majority of the pro-pedophile people making tweets are completely clear that we do not seek to legalize or normalize having sex with kids. We're often just as horrified by the consequences of child sex abuse as anyone else.

Next, the off-the-deep-end anti-pedophiles who say all pedophiles should be killed. Child sex abuse naturally enrages people, and I'm sure it feels good to say we should all be killed, especially if you don't understand the distinction above. I think more moderate anti-pedophile voices recognize you can't actually go around killing people who may well never do anything wrong.

So the next anti-pedophile message is, "You're disgusting, so be quiet!" This is an understandable reaction. We were all raised with the idea of sexual attraction to children is disgusting. Many non-offending pedophiles feel the same way, and we hate ourselves deeply. Contemplating suicide isn't exactly universal, but it is very common. Some of the anti-pedophiles get to the point of grudgingly accepting our existence as long as we hate ourselves and empty our lives of any goal other than making sure we don't offend. We accept that the need not to offend is the keystone on which everything else depends, but with that firmly in place we do have lives to live.

Another reaction is, "Stop being that way! Go see a therapist and fix yourselves -- make your attraction to children go away!" Here the vast majority of scientists will agree that it can't be done. Highly motivated child sex offenders have been working with highly motivated therapists for decades now, and the fundamental attraction does not go away. In this one respect it is like homosexuality -- it is set early in life and can't be changed.

Another reason offered for keeping quiet is to not "recruit" pedophiles. No one wants people saying, "Hey, pedophilia -- that sounds new and edgy -- I think I'll try that identity on for size. Thanks for showing me a new option!" If it's ever happened I've never heard of it, and it must be extraordinarily rare. Sexual and romantic attraction is a powerful force, and around puberty all people become aware of who they are attracted to: straight men and women, gays, lesbians, and pedophiles too. All but the most extreme social conservatives recognize that sex education is not the cause of kids thinking about sex. They also know that gay men and lesbians are not recruited by publicity about the existence of gays and lesbians -- but they might recognize what has always been there and feel great relief and empowerment.

One main hope we have is that pedophiles will similarly hear a Virtuous Pedophiles message, recognize themselves and that they are not alone, and feel relief and empowerment. Email to VP reveals this every day. It is not the empowerment to have sex with children -- for many that is a rock our lives are built on, far more certain than who we discover we're attracted to. Instead it's the empowerment to recognize our attractions, recognize that others feel them too, and learn from others how to live a decent life.

Scientists and clinicians have observed that pedophiles are likely to offend for the first time when they are desperate, isolated, and feel they have nothing to lose. Loud, angry anti-pedophile voices suggest society will despise them for finding kids attractive. There is no room left for being further despised if they molest children, so why not give in to temptation? Protecting children requires that pedophiles know society does care -- that they are accepted if they do not molest children, and condemned if they do.

Pedophilia is a condition that is never chosen and that cannot be changed; that is beyond our control. But we do have control over our actions, and take in dead earnest our obligation never to offend against children. But then we also have lives to live, and a path out of self-hatred is a good start.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Lessons from mass shootings for CP viewing


A matter of great concern to many people in the US is the string of mass shootings that goes on year after year. They garner media attention. They shake people's confidence that they live in a good society if such things happen. They motivate calls for more restrictions on firearms.

Surely a key motivation for these shootings is the knowledge by the shooter that they will get attention. Call it fame or call it infamy -- people will notice them. The news stories and gruesome images resonate with certain angry men who realize that it could be their mug shot appearing all over the national news. News organizations give lurid details because they get attention and generate revenue when people view them. What motivates those viewers? Surely it's largely the thrill and horror of it -- a sort of prurient interest in violence.

One vital step we could take to prevent such shootings is to give them less publicity. We don't want to literally suppress the news, but a brief story giving just the location, the weapons, the count of those killed and wounded would convey what the public needs to know. No footage of the scene, no interviews with survivors or bereaved relatives, no mug shot of the perpetrator.

I think it's time to appreciate the gravity of the situation and apportion the blame. People who make such videos or decide to release them are directly responsible for future deaths. But they only do this because it makes them money. So the ultimate moral responsibility falls on each and every person who consumes such videos -- their viewing of it motivates the coverage, and the coverage motivates more perpetrators. The fact that there are millions of other viewers makes no difference -- each one should view it as their personal moral responsibility.

But we need to go beyond moral responsibility to decisive legal action. We should also make it illegal to make such stories, and illegal to view them. Even for viewers, a fine is not enough. A prison term of several years would be a fitting punishment for each act of viewing. Yes, you heard me right -- several years of prison for viewing sensational coverage of mass shootings. Surely I have lost my mind?

Consider for comparison the crime of simple viewing of child pornography. Society treats the viewing of such material as a serious crime calling for years in prison. This sentence is called for even when the viewer hasn't paid anybody, hasn't made anything, hasn't sent anything to others, hasn't made any comments encouraging the production of more, and even if the images in question have been viewed thousands of times by other people. The key rationale is that the viewing fuels a market for making more child pornography. But if you accept this rationale, the justification for similar penalties in the case of mass shootings is stronger.

Most child pornography is made to be traded within a small group of despicable people for their own purposes. Wider attention is irrelevant and often unwelcome, as it increases the chance that someone might recognize the children and get the makers in serious trouble. In contrast, mass shooters are directly motivated by the prospect that they will be famous. The news organizations that would make them famous are directly motivated by the revenue from the views of those who want to see it.

In an open, free society, the government does not interfere in people's lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so. The most common reason is that they are harming others.

Making child pornography is an example of child sex abuse and is rightly criminal for that reason. But the harm caused by viewing it is much less clear. Average people hate the idea of child pornography at a gut level and want to find justifications for stamping it out in any way they can. But if they are committed to civil liberties, they have to find a justification based in harm. People will often say that viewing child porn creates a market for more. The comparison with viewing news video of mass shootings makes it clear how flimsy and preposterous this is.

Other justifications offered for draconian punishment for child porn possession: Victims are harmed every time someone views a video -- this requires spooky action at a distance, as no one can draw a line from an act of private viewing to the head of the victim. Viewing child porn stands in for the crime of child sex abuse -- in fact, the correlation is not that strong and a free society does not punish people for things that are merely correlated with crimes. Viewing child porn will cause people to go on to molest children -- the relationship is far from clear and there is <some evidence in the opposite direction>. In any case, a free society does not punish people for reading or viewing things that might lead them to commit a crime.

There is no justification for the viewing of child pornography being a crime in a free society. It is a crime only because people hate pedophiles. A free society does not punish people it disapproves of if they aren't harming anyone else.

There is legitimate moral concern -- I tend to agree that viewing child porn for sexual gratification is a morally repulsive and disrespectful thing to do.

But there is also a legitimate moral concern about viewing sensational footage of mass shootings -- there a causal link with future violence is clear. Perhaps those who condemn pedophiles for viewing child porn should first look at their own moral failings. Individual citizens who want to prevent mass shootings could organize and lobby the news organizations, threatening to cancel subscriptions and shun the advertisers unless they stop giving such detailed attention to these stories. How many people do?


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Sexuality of Mr. Rogers


I recently watched "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", a documentary of the life of Fred Rogers, long-time producer and star of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". By all accounts, his earnest approach to childhood, with authentic loving messages directed straight at young children, was innovative. I am too old for it to have influenced my own childhood. As a young adult, I like most of my peers thought it was corny and dopey. When my own girls were little, I rapidly came to feel differently. Swimming against the cultural tide, he refused violence, irony, and slapstick. He was saying just what young children needed to hear and what I had never heard as a child. I strove to say the same things to my own girls when I could do so honestly.

It's agreed he was an unusual person, and his persona on TV meshed very well with how he was in real life. He was trained in the ministry, and saw his TV work as a form of ministry. His affection for children was strong and unusual.

Why not entertain the idea that he was a celibate pedophile? Most people will react with horror. Who would suggest such a thing except someone dedicated to smearing and vilifying him? What other purpose could there possibly be? Surely it's another version of fake news, an allegation made without any support. It's true that I don't have any strong support. I'm not saying he was a pedophile. But I ask the question, and the premise of my question is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to be a pedophile. We pedophiles cover the same range of goodness and badness as any other class of people. If Mr. Rogers was a pedophile, he was an outstandingly good pedophile. Pedophiles tend to have very low self-esteem. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could look to Mr. Rogers as a role model?

Another common narrative is that pedophiles seek to be close to children only so they can molest them, and that's a horrifying thought. (I can't say he never molested children, but I see no evidence of that, and I don't think *any* adult can fully convince us that he or she never molested a child.) Even if he never did molest them, all his good work would be tainted by his attractions. What a repulsive idea that he would later entertain sexual fantasies about the children he appeared to love genuinely? But he might not have. We can wonder if Fred Rogers ever masturbated -- some people who take their religion seriously never do. He could even have been a pedophile and not realized it. He might have been a pedophile like me -- I lived most of my adult life without realizing I was one, and speculate that if I had remarried I might never have discovered and labeled it as such. Yet I felt genuine affection for children, and my discovery did not make what I felt any less authentic. Perhaps he lived his whole life without making the discovery. I would actually suspect that if he was a pedophile, he did not know it, as it would have troubled him deeply and led to self-doubt and not his seemingly open and honest confidence. It would be a different world in which he could have been a pedophile with confidence and still done the work he did.

What evidence do we have?

The biggest piece is simply his highly unusual great affection for children.

In the movie the speculation is addressed that he was gay, and that notion is laid to rest. Still, there is something not-quite-typical in his sexuality that warranted the suspicion. His wife does not discuss their sex life in the film.

He did occasionally address the topic of sex. In the version of "Everybody's Fancy" that I can easily find on YouTube his demeanor seems entirely comfortable, but I swear I saw another version when my kids were little where he looked decidedly uncomfortable when telling his audience that boys are fancy on the outside and girls are fancy on the inside. (One adult woman told me that he was too elliptical and she as a young child didn't know what he was talking about -- she figured girls' fanciness was a matter of mind or personality). I myself judge that doesn't really bear on the question one way or the other. Plenty of people are uncomfortable talking about sex with children. His discomfort only stands out against his comfort in speaking about a whole range of other topics that lots of the rest of us could not address comfortably.

He did beget two sons, so he would not have been a completely exclusive pedophile. As we know, non-exclusive pedophilia is very common. Yet he might have been exclusive too. Many gay men through history have begotten children who would not label themselves as bisexual. Managing to perform is quite different from feeling an attraction. If he did feel a limited attraction to his wife, perhaps he viewed it as part of being a better person -- religious people often would feel proud of not being a slave to the passions.

I'm not saying Fred Rogers was a pedophile. But there is somewhat more evidence to support that guess than for the average person. There is no evidence he was a molester. Those (including many pedophiles) who view the idea that he was a pedophile with revulsion can reflect on whether that reflects prejudice on their part.

Why can't we celibate pedophiles entertain that maybe he was one of us and feel good about that possibility?


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Eeeeek! My son is a pedophile!


It is something a parent never expects. By now many parents are prepared for the idea that their son might reveal some day that he is gay. Lately some are perhaps setting aside a little bit of emotional reserve for the idea he'll reveal that he's actually a girl. But a pedophile? Never!

But it's happened. Here you are.

Rule one: Don't do anything hasty. Do not call the police. Do not tell your doctor or anyone at the school. Don't tell anyone at all, even trusted friends. Maybe later you'll want to do some of those things, but once you tell someone you can never "untell" them. There are often grave consequences to telling anyone, especially any professional. You want to think it through carefully.

So now you're not in any great hurry and you're trying to figure out what this means. If he really is a pedophile, it's not something anyone can change.

To get used to this, start with the best case. Maybe there's more to get used to as well, but let's take it one step at a time. This best case really is quite a common case.

Has my son abused children? No.

Is my son going to abuse children? No.

Is the only thing holding him back the fear he couldn't get away with it? No.

Does my son think that children would WANT to have sex with an adult or much older child? No.

Does my son want to change the laws so that it would be legal? No.

Does my son fantasize about raping children? No.

Has my son made friends with lots of other pedophiles? No.

Does my son think it's just fine to be a pedophile? No.

Is it going to get worse -- maybe losing self-control, unable to stop himself, unable to tell right from wrong? No.

Was he sexually abused when he was younger? No.

It is my fault he turned out like this? No.

If I'd done things differently could I have prevented it? No.

Does my son think about sex any time he's around a child? No.

Does he think about sex with his little sister (or brother, or niece, or nephew)? No.

So... Absorbing all that will take time. There's no guarantee all of those "no" answers apply in his case, but they might well, or all but one or two.

After going through what is NOT going on, what's left? What really IS going on?

Maybe you remember that when you got to a certain age, boys (or girls, depending on your preference) started looking really interesting. The right ones would make your heart beat faster and make you feel thrilled. This was a gut-level reaction. If you are straight the culture had told you it would happen, and your friends were going through the same thing. But it didn't happen because you thought it ought to happen or society said it should happen -- it just happened. This is how sexual attraction emerges in people. For your son it happened exactly the same way.

For some ordinary people this emerging attraction might be associated with a warmth between the legs or more obvious physical arousal, for others not. But even if the feelings were strong, you still had control over them. Maybe you got up the courage to approach one of these newly fascinating people, but you weren't seized by an uncontrollable desire to have sex with them. For your son it was the same.

Also notice that your emerging attraction did not contain within it the assumption that these interesting people were going to want to have sex with you. (You actually might not have wanted to have sex yet yourself, all things considered). That was a separate question. If you were straight maybe you figured it would be likely to happen in a few years, with the right partner -- one who you wanted and who wanted you. If you were gay or lesbian, there might be more anguish around it as you realized most of the people you liked just weren't attracted to your gender at all. Your son quite likely realized that not just most but ALL of the children he was attracted to would never be attracted to him in that way. He would never have sex with them. Quite likely the safety of children was never in doubt, even as his attraction flickered into existence and then became strong and clear. You are horrified by the prospect of teens or adults having sex with younger children. Quite likely he is just as horrified as you.

So far I've described the best case. The most common way the case might be worse is if your son has looked at child pornography. The simplest way to think about it is that your son had a strong sexual desire and was drawn to find ways to satisfy it that would not hurt anybody. Ordinary boys are drawn to find pornography involving women. Whether the women were exploited in making the material is unlikely to be of great concern to them. They are aware that looking at the video does not hurt the women. The exact same thing is likely true for your son. Society at large is horrified at child pornography, of course, and there are serious legal dangers. Children in child porn can be deeply harmed by it, and your son was likely deeply troubled by his fascination with it. But once you come to terms with the idea that an attraction to children emerged within your son through no fault of his own, there's nothing evil or monstrous there. A behavioral adjustment is required, but keep in mind all the ways that people hurt each other without meaning to, especially teenagers. With that in mind, it is an adolescent finding a way to satisfy sexual desire without hurting anyone.

There are of course other ways the situation could be worse. But start with the best case.
One step at a time.