Monday, August 18, 2014

Celibate pedophiles spending time with children

So you understand that not all pedophiles are molesters. You don't think all the pedophiles need to be shot because they might become molesters. You even think they deserve to be able to get mental health resources. Maybe you feel a little bit of sympathy for them as people. But -- for God's sake, keep them away from the children!

I think you have a lot of company. This is based on a common but flawed thought process, <the availability heuristic>. When you think of a pedophile, you think of a molester who is molesting. You imagine a man in the presence of a child about to molest him or her, and you want to interrupt it. Get the man away! But you do not bring to mind the thousands of times pedophiles interact with children and do not molest them.

The problem is that pedophiles live in the wide world, and children live in the wide world, and they're bound to be in the same place sometimes. Pedophiles have siblings, nieces and nephews, and next-door neighbors. They pass children in the street, at restaurants, in stores, at church.

One sort of person who isn't so completely overwhelmed by the availability heuristic is the probation officer supervising child molesters who are released back into the community. The programs to support these ex-offenders recognize that children are going to show up in a man's life. The German Dunkelfeld program (while dealing with undetected offenders) focuses on getting the man to recognize dangerous situations where one thing might lead to another and to interrupt those patterns -- not to avoid children completely. The people who have to deal with real molesters as real people handle this at a pragmatic level. They do not assume that an ex-offender is a danger to every child and realize they can't create a child-free zone.

Now shift focus to celibate pedophiles -- men who have never molested a child. Civil rights would suggest that there should be no legal restrictions on these men's activities at all. But should these men observe restrictions out of prudence and morality? It is worth considering, but what's immediately clear is that no blanket prohibition makes sense. If a man is only attracted to boys aged 9 to 15, why should he avoid spending time with 4-year-old girls? If some particular 12-year-old boy is not at all attractive to him, is there any need to avoid him? A sensible policy is also tailored to the reactions of the man in question. If he starts feeling light-headed in the presence of some 12-year-old boy or feels compulsions that he isn't sure he can resist, that is an excellent reason to get out of the situation and avoid it in the future. But if he is only aware of a positive warm regard for him and feels no sexual impulses at all, he should be fine.

There is a scientific hypothesis that pedophiles have crossed wires in their brains. As described by sex researcher James Cantor, whereas children bring out the protective instincts in most adults, they instead bring out the romantic and sexual interests in pedophiles. If your entire experience of pedophiles is molesters, this will make sense -- any man who molests a child is showing a notable deficiency in sound protective instincts. But based on the reports of celibate pedophiles online, what is far more common is that the sexual interest is in addition to the protective instinct. Pedophiles tend to genuinely like children, children frequently sense this genuine affection, and mutually rewarding friendships often result. Anyone who recalls from their childhood a favorite unmarried uncle or family friend might well be remembering a celibate pedophile.

Sometimes, in addition to running into children in the natural course of life, celibate pedophiles seek children out. Exclusive pedophiles are denied the warm and loving relationships that other people take for granted. For some of them, these non-sexual friendships with children are the closest they can get and are very rewarding. If they are confident that it can be kept entirely non-sexual, they should feel no need to stay away from these children.

One way to think about it is that if a man is the sort who is likely to abuse a child, he will ignore any advice about staying away from children. When the conscientious pedophile hears the advice, he may deprive himself of a chance at a little happiness in life that would harm no one. As often happens, policies intended to stop the guilty end up hurting the innocent.

I was once brainstorming with a woman who was planning a sympathetic documentary on pedophiles. I suggested perhaps a scene of a pedophile playing innocently with a child. She did not think that would go over well, and I trust her judgment-- maybe it's a step too far. But it happens all the time, all over the world, with closeted pedophiles.


3 comments:

  1. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that most paedophiles wouldn't prefer to spend time with the children they feel most attracted to. Isn't that the meaning of 'attraction'?

    I think there are conditions in which this isn't a good idea, as when a person feels incapable of moderating his feelings, but there are also benefits that make the risks reasonable. We all know stories about a gifted educator who seems to click with children of a certain age or gender, and we shouldn't be shocked to discover that some of these are paedophiles.

    I'm reading a wonderful book at the moment: "Far from the tree" by Andrew Solomon. I'm not far through it, but it's already given me a lot to think about. Solomon is gay, and he surprised me first by establishing that "gayness, an identity, could grow out of homosexuality, an illness". An illness!

    I've spent a lot of time over the past two decades telling myself that paedophilia is not an illness, but now, hearing a gay man describe homosexuality as an illness, I suddenly feel able to accept that perhaps paedophilia is disabling in some way. It's certainly made my life more challenging. While taking this perspective gives support to those who think that my condition ought to be treated, an attitude I reject, it may also be a liberating acceptance of reality. This is what the book is about, so go read it.

    Solomon elaborates in this theme, quoting Jesus in the gnostic gospel of St Thomas as saying: "If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you".

    I've seen this quote before and it describes my current philosophy very well. On the same page, Solomon discusses Gay Pride week, and says "I perceive those years of self loathing as a yawning void, and celebration needs to fill and overflow it". This is also exactly how I feel.

    I'm proud of my occasional friendships with little girls. From around four to six are my favourite ages. The most important thing in my life is that these children are safe and secure in my company and benefit from my pointless lessons in juggling and paper folding.

    Pride (not conceit) has allowed me to forge an identity from an illness and to create who I am from what I am. When my little girl friends run and throw their arms around my middle, I love being who I am.


    Bloom

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  2. ...in a nutshell, I could not be proud of my feelings if I felt I had to avoid the people I wanted to be with because of them. Nor could I be proud of my feelings if I were hurting those people or lying about my conduct with them.

    Bloom

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  3. I love this post. It's been very difficult in the past to admit to even my fellow celibate pedophiles on virped.org that I not only spend time around children, but have historically subconsciously sought them out. The reason for this reticence is due to the 'good name' of Virped. We have a great reputation. But, if Ethan is going to say it here, I may as well talk about it. I have never sexually abused any children of course, but playing with them, talking to them, putting on pretend plays with them, telling them stories, playing music with them, dancing with them, etc... is so joyous to me. I love it. The children love it. Adults watching on love it... perhaps it is their hearts that are filled with the most joy to see something which they perceive to be so innocent. It hurts me a great deal to think that those same adults would condemn me if they understood how much I really do love children. It is absolutely innocent though. Sexual thoughts do not even enter my mind at the time. For example, if you're an adult and you're spending time with someone you like, you're listening to music say and looking at them and singing the parts you know. You're not even thinking about sex at all right then are you? It's all just very sweet and cute. It is like this for me when I spend time around little girls.

    When I was a teen and was asked to babysit a girl or girls, it made me so happy. But I felt like I was getting away with something. There are girls I would have paid to babysit, lol, but I would have always done it for free at least.

    I imagine a future where rigorously screened celibate pedophiles are formed as a volunteer force (maybe even in pairs to prevent abuse, the buddy system) to befriend neglected children, to cook for them, buy them clothes, spend time with them, etc... It's a beautiful Utopian image, in my mind, but we are certainly very far from such a thing.

    Sammy Jenkis

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