Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Keeping children safe

Preventing child sex abuse is my top priority. There are many aspects to such prevention. One is awareness on the part of children, parents, teachers, or anyone else involved in a child's life. Another is dealing with men who are being investigated or prosecuted for a crime, which is primarily the province of law enforcement and mental health professionals. I am situated in a different spot, which is communicating online with pedophiles.

The first thing to note is that a great deal of child sex abuse is not perpetrated by pedophiles, but instead by people who are more strongly attracted to adults. A child is available and accessible to them, and they give in to their impulses. Estimates vary wildly, but perhaps half of child sex abuse is committed by these 'opportunistic offenders' (I know that estimate is not off by more than 50%, you see). They are unlikely to seek out an online pedophile organization.

Researchers have found that men who act sexually with children are like most criminals in scoring higher on measures of antisocial behavior. They show poorer self-control, less willingness to take responsibility for their actions, and less empathy. (In contrast, those whose only offense is child pornography possession are more like the population at large, which would strongly suggest that pedophiles who are totally law-abiding would also be lower on those measures.)

I have run across a handful of ex-offenders online who are interested in Virtuous Pedophiles. Some seem genuinely remorseful and come across the way I expect I would if I had committed a serious crime. Others show some of those antisocial traits. They aren't sure they really did anything wrong, or argue it wasn't really their fault, or don't like the idea that people might judge them negatively for what they did. When I detect such tendencies in people, I am especially likely to advise them to stay away from children.

In other rare cases, men post who are genuinely struggling with situations involving moral risk, approaching it the way ordinary people do. They are strongly attracted to some specific boy or girl they have an existing positive connection with, and circumstances are such that they will shortly be spending some time with them. I and the others in the group ask probing questions, urge great caution and often recommend they avoid the situation entirely. We also sometimes think these situations are devised by trolls who want to test our reaction.

That's how I deal with cases where I perceive any danger.

I'm sure many in society would be very uncomfortable that I continue to engage with people who seem at risk of offending. They would suggest I condemn them as monsters and refuse to speak to them any further. That might make someone feel clean and righteous, but it would not be a service to those particular boys and girls that the men are attracted to. It's a fine line that therapists (and hostage negotiators and international diplomats) must face all the time -- trying to persuade while maintaining some rapport and not breaking the connection entirely. There is no member of our group who I believe to be molesting children. I can't rule out that one or two might be -- but then it would be hard to rule that out in any group of over 300 people.

If avoiding any chance of child sex abuse was infinitely more important than anything else, it would follow that anyone with an attraction to children should kill themselves. There are angry people online who think all pedophiles should be executed. I hope that for most of them it is a way of expressing rage and not a position they would actually adopt if they made policy.

Life always has some risk, and the best we can do is take reasonable steps to minimize it.

But in the Virtuous Pedophiles group we actually spend very little time talking about how to avoid abusing children. A remarkably common view men express in their first email is that if they thought they would abuse a child, they would kill themselves first. That's a pretty firm ethical footing for avoiding abuse. Most of our members go out of their way to avoid any situations with a risk of abuse. One common rule many of us observe is to never be alone with a child we find attractive.

So while the first priority is keeping children safe, in the bulk of my online interactions it's not a consideration in the choices pedophiles face. In that case, my thinking goes to my second priority: helping them live a happier life -- or, all too often, a less miserable one.  


  1. Ethan, I appreciate your bravery in regards to rationally discussing such a sensitive issue.

    The truth is that there are pedophiles that are around children a lot. There are pedophiles that even work with children. Generally the reason this is the case is because they love children. I believe that the vast majority of pedophiles that come in contact with children are celibate. I also believe that grooming the children is not usually intended goal when a pedophile befriends a child.

    As a pedophile myself, I am naturally drawn to children. I have dedicated my life to a deep level of introspection. I am fully cognizant of any potential triggers and avoid them like the plague. I do not work with children or see them regularly, but when I do interact with them, I genuinely seek a warm and compassionate exchange within appropriate social boundaries, of course.

    Think of not being able to be around adults ever. For being forbidden to see them, or interact with them. If you've committed no crimes against adults, this would be cruel. I love children deeply, and I would never allow myself to do anything to hurt them.

    I can understand how people may think that I am putting someone at risk unnecessarily, and I can appreciate the concern. Children are our most vulnerable members of society, after all. I know it will be hard to take on faith, but believe me when I say that I am far more concerned and cautious about it then you can possibly imagine.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I know there must be a lot more pedophiles like you out there. It's interesting that pedophiles would like to be able to come out to friends and family, but the price of acceptance will likely be not being around children, even if your friends are fairly open-minded. It's a sad truth.

  3. I appreciate the good work you are doing to help pedophiles remain celibate. I have been sexually attracted to little girls for fifty years, but choose not to act on it. I always feared that I would someday abuse a child--until I became a member of VirPed and came out to my wife and family and many others.

  4. "The truth is that there are pedophiles that are around children a lot. There are pedophiles that even work with children."

    Here here.

    "I appreciate the good work you are doing to help pedophiles remain celibate. I have been sexually attracted to little girls for fifty years, but choose not to act on it."

    Me too!

    Ethan, you say "Preventing child sex abuse is my top priority", but do you mean that you would still make it your priority if you weren't attracted to children, or do you, as a minor attracted person, feel a greater responsibility toward children than you might otherwise?

    I know for myself that my protective instincts turn out to be a very powerful regulating factor in my conduct with kids. Even tho I don't subscribe wholesale to the 'dogma of harm', I'm not so impervious to reason that I underestimate the potential for harm, especially in the prevailing context.

    That's not the end of it though. I'm fiercely protective of kids I've bonded with, I'm extremely conscientious as a carer and I contribute regularly to a children's charity.

    I'm not saying this to blow my own trumpet, I just want to make it clear that I consider all of this to be integral to my paedophilia, just as I've suggested your protective instinct might be (although, your being a parent must also have influenced your perspective). I reject the common perception that paedophilia implies a predisposition to maltreat children.

    I strongly believe that channeling my stronger feelings for children, my romantic feelings, into a passion for children's welfare is an authentic and effective means of expressing those feelings. I'm no longer afraid of falling in love (and having my heart broken, as has happened before) because falling in love makes me want to serve and protect and care, and those are impulses I don't have to hide.

    Between you and me, it's still an erotic love, but it's also a nurturing one. I think of it as a kind of chivalry and I'm sure it's what the troubadours were singing about back in the 13th century.

    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks for those reflections. The idea of using a romantic love for children to work for their welfare may be odd (or scary) to non-pedophiles, but I have heard that perspective a great many times.

      When I say keeping kids safe is my highest priority, I actually am speaking about within the realm of pedophilia. When the welfare of pedophiles conflicts with the safety of children, the children's needs take precedence. We contribute to the world based on who we are. I'm a pedophile, which is the spot from which I can contribute most to children's welfare.