Everyone wants to know how many pedophiles there are. Instead of starting with definitions and estimates, you should ask: What sort of discussion is it part of? How are you going to apply it? For instance: How many men are going to sexually abuse a child? How many are doomed to never having a satisfying sexual relationship with an adult? How unusual is it that a man feels a little stirring in his loins when he sees a naked 6-year-old? How many men think about their attraction to kids a lot?
The scientific definition of pedophilia is a strong and persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Since self-report is often not accurate, the way scientists measure it is to stick a gauge on a guy's penis and show him pictures of naked people and see how much it swells when he's looking at children. The scientists will also collect data on how much it swells when looking at adults.
Those aren't of any direct relevance to real social issues. When the attraction to children is high enough relative to the attraction to adults, they call him a pedophile, and that isn't relevant either.
It's worth remembering both component pieces, though. Along with the "pedophile" and "teleiophile" patterns, a man can have a high attraction to both adults and children, or a low attraction to both. These two can vary independently.
1. How likely is a man to sexually abuse a child?
This deserves its own post, or several pots. It's very complicated because half or more of sexual abuse is not committed by men with a primary attraction to children, and because pedophiles are constrained by opportunity, fear of consequences, the likely reaction of the child, self-control, and moral beliefs.
That might be the only question of much interest to the ordinary person in society who sees pedophiles as nothing but potential or actual child molesters. But if you're interested in the real lives of real men, there are others.
2. Is a man doomed to never having a satisfying sexual relationship?
People understand the pain of lifelong celibacy. But if a pedophile can have satisfying relationships with legal partners, he'll get less sympathy. Pedophiles with a strong attraction to children and a very weak attraction to adults might be in the 1-3% range.
3. How unusual is it that a man feels a little stirring in his loins when he sees a naked 6-year-old?
There are studies showing a small but real bit of arousal to young girls in something like 40-80% of men. This is far from making them pedophiles, but they could find it disturbing. It would help to know it isn't that unusual. Men who aren't in that 40-80% and women also might try to really take in the significance of this number to question their belief that an attraction to children is totally absent in a normal man and its presence a hideous abnormality.
4. How important to a man is his sexual attraction to children?
Sarah Goode, in <Understanding and addressing adult sexual attraction to children...> surveyed some studies asking college men about their attraction to children. About 10% gave some indication that it was of some interest and was on their minds -- a much higher number than the 1-3% estimate.
The strength of an attraction to children is only one variable determining how a man experiences it.
At the one extreme we have those suffering from pedophile OCD. If they're in that 40-80% and are prone to anxiety, that's a problem. If those fleeting feelings were the start of a progressive condition, that would be worrisome to anyone. Society says that such an attraction would make them monsters who are doomed to abuse children. (Getting rid of that myth would reduce pedophile OCD and have great benefits to true pedophiles as well.)
At the other extreme are men with a powerful, exclusive attraction to children. Of course this is going to be very important to them.
Beyond this point I feel less sure of my intuitions (and note that I'm not considering man-boy attractions as I have poor intuitions about them):
If children are more attractive to a guy but he has low sexual interest in general, then he could perhaps suppress a stigmatized attraction and define himself as "asexual".
Some men may have a strong attraction to women even if the attraction to children is stronger. If relationships with women are fully satisfying, it might be possible to suppress an awareness of the interest in children. This is my best guess as to where I fit -- though when I passed 50, I became acutely aware that women anywhere near my age were just not very attractive at all.
The cases in the middle are of interest.
Consider a guy who has a stronger attraction to children, but is attracted enough to women to have a relationship with one. What's more, his morality and self-control are in order, so avoiding sexual activity with a child is not a problem. There are sub-cases to consider. If he isn't too reflective or doesn't worry much about weird thoughts, then he might live his whole life unaware of his pedophilia. Perhaps he is aware of his thoughts but doesn't let society's prejudices get him down too much.
If a guy thinks he might offend, then the attraction that supports that possibility will be upsetting.
If a guy is attracted to women but for whatever reason has trouble initiating or maintaining a relationship with one, then the attraction to children will loom in importance.
I suspect there are other possibilities too. Ideas from other people?