Saturday, August 9, 2014

Those other pedophiles

This blog is called "Celibate Pedophiles". The core message is that many pedophiles never engage in any illegal activity and pose no danger to children. As a result we deserve civil liberties and respect -- and if we dare to hope for more, compassion and assistance.

But then there are the other pedophiles, the ones who are not celibate. If I took a narrow view, I could distinguish us as vigorously as possible from them. Perhaps I could win favor by suggesting even more draconian punishments. We are OK, but they are evil monsters.

I can't do that because I don't think it's true.

Yes, there is the occasional horrific pedophile who does unspeakable things to a Jeff or an Amber or a Megan. The best way to think about those men is as psychopaths who also happen to be pedophiles. Similarly horrific crimes against adult women are far more common, and we do not focus on the perpetrator's sexual attraction to adults as the key factor.

There are also plenty of pedophiles who commit crimes that are less serious -- though still serious. If you think pedophilia is an evil, alien force that robs a person of his essential humanity, then there is no limit to how harsh a punishment is appropriate. Our ancestors burned witches -- and if all the facts and theology had been as they thought, it made sense. But once you know that pedophilia is a sexual attraction that is set early in life and cannot be changed, and that the people who have it are essentially normal in all other respects, then it is no longer evil and alien. If you actually know what it is like to be sexually attracted to a young child, as I do, then you naturally feel compassion for a pedophile offender in one key respect -- you get the fundamental motivation. You see them as people who made bad choices, just like other criminals. And you then want society and the legal system to treat them by the same standards as they treat any other criminals.

I am opposed to sex offender mandatory minimum sentences, civil commitment, sex offender registries, and post-release restrictions on residency. I think criminal penalties for many sex offenses against children are too harsh. I'll probably get to all those topics in time, and more as well.

In addressing such topics, I take the risk of diluting my fundamental message -- that lots of pedophiles never break the law. But a sexual attraction is something important I share with pedophiles who break the law, and I can't just ignore them or demonize them.


  1. Well put Ethan.

    Sometimes, when I read court reports about an adult treating a child as a sexual plaything (or worse) and acting with utter indifference to her suffering, I feel angry but also a bit relieved. I may be attracted to kids, but I'm not that person. Not any way in hell. I hate that person.

    Other times... It's not so clear. Where there was a friendship, trust, intimacy, I can imagine the way things might have gone. "That could be me" I think. Or sometimes "I wish that was me".

    But I've made my decision. I don't get sexually involved with children. But my reasoning is not my internalizing a compulsive morality, its a free choice based on care and pragmatism.

    I don't expect any accolades, but nor do accept that I should be condemned or stigmatized for my orientation. In fact, I don't care if people splutter with indignation when I call it an orientation. Call it what you like, it's my business and my conscience is clear.


  2. You are so right that this issue needs to come back out of the fantasy realm (monsters, etc) and down to earth. A pedophile is a person (usually a man) who finds children sexually attractive. It is not a choice, it part of that person's individual human nature.

    If someone has psychopathy, it is part of their human nature. Sometimes psychopaths become child molesters and sometimes they become the bosses of big international firms. Being neuropsychologically limited in the ability to have a conscience is not chosen any more than being a pedophile is chosen.

    It would make sense that those two characteristics may occasionally intersect with opportunity in the same person. That would be a rare event.

    While this may result in a horrible crime, the worse crime is lump every pedophile into that particular basket. What few people really understand is that any decent person, who is led to believe they are a monster, will hold and suppress their desires to the point of misery.

    Should an opportunity occur when that person is feeling particularly low and damaged, they may be at a greater risk of making a mistake. Life just puts those kinds of situations in front of us all on occasion.

    What if, however, that person, instead of responding to life's situations, were to have the self awareness and coping skills available through therapeutic intervention to resist the opportunity?

    What if that kind of intervention were available before something was done to harm another person?

    What kind of society puts their children in harms way by failing to deal with a known problem with compassion and dignity, but instead, waits until someone is harmed then metes out the most devastating punishment possible...a punishment that harms not just the offender, but the family and the child themself?

    What kind of society does this? What kind of society?