I made my two previous posts <Pedophilia isn't chosen and can't be changed> and <Celibate pedophiles are common> when I did because of the support they give to this post.
Some people's ideas of right and wrong are based on their religion, and they believe those ideas apply to everyone else. Islamist governments are based on this principle. In contrast, there is a broader understanding in the US and other western democracies, recognizing that reasonable people will differ in their religious views, their political views, and their tastes and habits. Limits on freedom are justified only when they impinge on the liberties of others. I think of this as part of <liberalism>, but perhaps <civil liberties> is the more precise match. People are free to think and feel and believe anything they want, as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. It is the idea behind the 10th amendment to the US constitution, that any powers not explicitly granted to the government are reserved to the people -- the burden of proof on curtailing freedom falls on the government. These freedoms are vital to the political process. They are vital to the practice of minority religions. They are vital to artistic expression.
The ideal has never been realized perfectly, and some recent US struggles can be seen as extending this principle. Civil rights for blacks was one clear case. Equal rights for women is another. The movement that counts the Americans With Disabilities Act as an achievement is another. The struggle for gay and lesbian rights has been making good progress lately but is far from complete, with transgender rights more recently receiving widespread attention.
In the realm of sexuality, the movement has largely gotten the government out of people's bedrooms. Anti-sodomy laws are largely off the books. One can freely engage in S&M, B&D, and many other sexual expressions. In these common alternative sexualities, the full realization is an act between consenting adults. But in others, its full expression impinges on the rights of others -- notably bestiality, necrophilia, and <erotophonophilia> -- a term I'd never heard of before, but Wikipedia assures me it covers sexual arousal from murder. Here there is a clear distinction. You can talk about those desires or write fiction about them or make drawings depicting them, but you can't actually do them.
In pedophilia, the same distinction applies. Its full unfettered expression is known as child sexual abuse, rightfully reviled by all and punished by strict laws. The laws do not run afoul of civil liberties principles, as the state has a powerful interest in protecting children.
But pedophilia itself is an interest -- a state of mind. Many pedophiles are celibate -- <they never express it with children>.
And I say therefore that anyone who is seriously committed to civil liberties must ultimately accept celibate pedophilia. It may nauseate you or disgust you, but you are committed to its acceptance. You are committed to the right of celibate pedophiles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- which of course does not extend to sexual activity with children.
Yes, there is a correlation between pedophilia and child sex abuse. No one knows how closely the two are linked, but without strong evidence of a high correlation, civil liberties requires the presumption of innocence. I personally would be surprised if as many as 50% of pedophiles abuse children, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was as low as 5%. Mild correlations have no place when considering civil liberties. Suppose violent video games were correlated with violent behavior in the real world -- the evidence is flimsy, but suppose it were true. A civil libertarian does not therefore support the banning of violent video games. Muslims are far more likely to engage in terrorism than others, but a civil libertarian does not support profiling -- and he or she would be horrified at the thought of banning Muslims from flying. In some urban neighborhoods, a very high percentage of the young men become involved in criminal activity. The civil libertarian would be outraged at the idea of such young men being restricted in their movements or limited in their rights unless they are actually guilty of a crime.
I will explore the subtleties of accepting celibate pedophilia in future posts. For now, the goal might be to try to always ask yourself a question when you hear someone is a pedophile. Is there strong evidence that he is a child sex abuser? If not, he should be assumed to be a celibate pedophile.
Emotionally, this may be very difficult. Child sex abuse is despicable, and it is often perpetrated by pedophiles. You have been taught that thoughts of adult sex with children are monstrous. You have never met a celibate pedophile to see all the ways he's just like any other person. Perhaps knowing that <pedophilia isn't chosen and can't be changed> will help a little.
But if you accept that large numbers of pedophiles are forever celibate, then your stance as a civil libertarian tells you what you must eventually believe. Try it on for size now and then.