Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Door slammed in face

So far I have never looked at someone's face when I told them I was a pedophile (well, I did once, with a long-time friend, but that's an N of 1. It went fine). All of my other experience with first impressions is online, and it is necessarily indirect and speculative.

So I introduce myself online as a pedophile. The word is recognized and all subtlety is gone. Using <Daniel Kahneman's terminology>, the mind's quick-thinking judgmental System 1 takes complete control, and the logical System 2 will be a long time reviving.

Part of the problem might be the assumption that all pedophiles are child molesters. To try to counter that, my favorite introduction now is "celibate pedophile". But I don't think that helps much. It's as if a person choosing to label himself that way must be up to no good.

I struggle for analogies. If I favored the basic ideas of national socialism, but without the wars of conquest or the genocide, I would not introduce myself as a "Nazi" or a "Hitler fan". I'm not sure exactly what terms I would use, but things like "proud nationalist", "law and order", and "anti-immigrant" pop to mind. If someone introduces himself as a Nazi, he knows he is linking himself to all the horrors of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. And knowing that a person wants to be perceived that way is by itself enough to warrant a strong negative reaction, independent of the merits of the political views the person holds. (I hold no such views myself.)

I sense that self-labeling as "pedophile" invokes that same reaction. It's not just that I'm assumed to be a child molester -- maybe the preceding "celibate" would counter that -- but that I'm making a statement. Like I'm saying, "I'm a hated person. Get that? So what do you say to that? Huh?" Perhaps they imagine me smirking. How can a pedophile possibly avoid that reaction?

You can search for other terms. But boy lover, girl lover, minor-attracted person, pedosexual, or proponent of intergenerational relationships -- none of them seems to help. In fact all those terms tend to imply not just an attraction to children but the idea that acting on that attraction ought to be OK. "Theoretical pedophile" is a label I read that James Kincaid (who wrote "Erotic Innocence") applied to himself, and I find it intriguing, but I still doubt it's enough to combat the weight of "pedophile", a word far denser than lead -- like spent uranium, perhaps.

So what can a person possibly say? Here I'll imagine there's the luxury of time for a conversation -- in person, on the phone, or in a chat room perhaps.

"I think kids are really great. Don't you?"


"I'm one of those people who really likes them."

"Glad to hear it. What's your point?"

"Well, I think they're great in a different way. How can I put this? They kind of make my heart beat a little differently, you know?"


"Well, I even get some of those same feelings you might get in 8th grade for your classmates when your hormones kick in?"

"So, you mean like you feel that way about high school girls now?"

"No, I mean, they're nice too, but... Like 6th grade girls."


"Or 5th grade girls? Or, um..."

Light bulb goes on. "Wait. You're a goddamned PEDOPHILE?"

Game over.

Or perhaps this:

"I have some weird sexual fantasies."

"Cool. Me too."

"Like S&M, or B&D, gay."


"Or rape. Violent rape."


"Or sometimes different ages. I mean they're just fantasies, right?"

"Right, yeah, fantasies are great. So you like the barely legal ones?"

"Yeah! Definitely. Yes, they're hot."

"I even imagine sometimes the ones a little younger than that, like 15 or something."

"You do? That's amazing! I do too! But I don't know, mine sometimes go a little lower than that even."

"Like 13 even I can imagine maybe, if she's got nice curves already."

"Um, yeah. But when I'm looking at adult porn, I really like the ones who are small, or flat-chested."

"Hmmm, OK."

"And if the 13-year-olds were small, or flat-chested, that would be even better."


"Or maybe if they were 12. Just fantasy, though, just fantasy!"

Light bulb goes off. "Wait! You're a friggin' PEDOPHILE!"

Game over.

"Say, do you remember when you were in like 4th grade? Did you have crushes on any of the girls?"

"I guess, maybe. Maybe one, Anne was her name."

"I did. I had lots of crushes. And I still had them as I got older."

"Crushes? Who doesn't?"

"Well, yeah, when you're in 7th grade you have crushes on 7th graders, right? Or maybe when you're in 10th grade you have a crush on an 8th grader -- maybe."

"Well, yeah, I can see that."

"The thing is, I had a crush on a 4th grader in 5th grade too. And in 6th grade."

"I don't get it. If you were in the 5th grade she was too, right? Or did she stay back a year?"

"No, no, it was a different girl."

"A crush on a 4th grader when you're in 6th grade?"

"Um, yeah. And when I was in 7th grade too!"

"Huh, so when did you get over it?"

"Well, um, it was still going in 8th grade, and, um..."

Light bulb goes off. "Wait. You're a stinkin' PEDOPHILE!"

Game over.

I speculate in posts sometimes. In these examples, I fear I may be speculating wildly, drawing on values of my particular corner of America, my particular social class, in the 1960s or 1970s, or my own idiosyncratic perceptions... But does the general situation strike a chord? I welcome feedback.


  1. I've revealed my orientation to quite a few people now. I never build up to it as you suggest, I just say, you know... "I'm attracted to children. I fall in love with little girls and 99% of my sexual fantasies are about them."

    I've had mixed responses, but so far nobody has reacted with overt anger. The most common negative reaction has been quiet condemnation and suspicion, and then talk behind my back. At that point my friendships with kids come under intense scrutiny and often I'm not allowed to see them any more, which has been painful.

    On the other hand I have several friends, including parents, who have offered their support and continued trust. Sometimes their response is negative (as described above) but then their attitude changes as they weigh what they know about me against received prejudices.

    So far I've found more benefits than risks in coming out, however I'd emphasize that the risks are real and there can be some very painful fallout.


    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. There is the occasional story of someone who not only reacts negatively and withdraws, but feels compelled to share the news with the person's employer, neighbors, and broader community. But what I'm trying to get at in the post is not a practical guide, but trying to see how a person could convey celibate pedophilia without triggering that strong emotional triggering of "yuck, awful, go away, ewww".

  2. These examples are unfortunately true. A vast majority of people consider all pedophiles to be evil even celibate ones. They probably don't know that pedophilia is imposed on us, they believe that if someone is aroused by kids, they must be evil. I don't know why even in the modern world people still held such a grudge to us, why do they loathe us... Imagine a family meeting. If I said, " I have never hurt a child but I'm sexually attracted to kids" or even used the word "pedophile", they'd be probably filled with hatred, fear and disgust. I could say "I'm a murderer" and it would do the same.
    Paweł C, celibate pedophile from Poland