Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To tell or not to tell? Pedophiles and marriage

Most people like the idea of a long-term loving relationship, and pedophiles are no exception. Children can never be appropriate partners, but for many pedophiles a relationship with an adult is possible. Many of us are non-exclusive -- we do have some attraction to adults.

Instead of thinking of pedophilia as a single thing or even a single dimension, here's another framework: People have two knobs of sexual (and romantic) interest, one pertaining to children and one pertaining to adults. (I addressed this basic issue in <this post>.)

If the interest in children is above zero but low and the interest in adults is high, a man (or woman) can lead a normal life. They might be unaware of their interest in children or consider it an unimportant curiosity.

If interest in adults is on the low side, sexual passion may be an issue. Today most couples have sex before they commit to each other. It's easy enough for potential partners to judge whether they can find a sex life that suits them. Is it dishonest if a pedophile is faking his interest a little bit? It's not ideal, but I think it is similar in kind to doubts ordinary people may have about their partner's attractiveness. A great many people who are well below average in attractiveness nonetheless get married, and their partners make do. Emotional bonds hopefully grow and become more important than the physical in any case.

The more complicated issues arise here for the pedophile depending on the level of the child-attraction knob. If a man (or woman) identifies as a pedophile, there is one huge question they must confront in considering an adult relationship: should they tell or keep a big secret?

If child attraction is just a curiosity for a man that he doesn't think about much, he could keep it secret the same way an ordinary person might not share some of the more embarrassing moments of their life or the identity of other people who they find really hot. For some middling levels of attraction, this can be a matter of attitude. When young teens write to Virtuous Pedophiles reporting an interest in children, we advise them to first look at the attraction they have to peers and grow it however much it can be grown. A happier life awaits if the attraction to children is just a curiosity rather than an obsession -- and one reason is the ability to enter into an adult relationship without keeping what feels like a big secret.

But of course for many pedophiles the level of attraction to children is high and unmistakable, and there is no option of spinning it as something unimportant in their mental lives.

In a dating situation, it's a fair bet that the common response to, "Uh, you ought to know, I'm a pedophile" is an abrupt end to a budding relationship. An enlightened partner would be quite the rarity. The alternative is to keep it a secret. A hybrid option is to keep a secret for a while but raise the question before a decision about marriage.

Lest you immediately scream that any delay in mentioning this shows despicable character, I'd first note that a great many pedophiles agree with you, and they simply will not consider adult relationships at all because of this. As for the others, I'd ask you to think about human frailty here. Have some gay men and lesbians entered into heterosexual marriages and stayed closeted to their spouse, especially in earlier times when coming out was far more dangerous than it is today? Have people hidden unflattering aspects of their past relationships, legal status, medical conditions or family background?

Some pedophiles might think that it's morally OK to enter a relationship with this secret, but that keeping the secret would limit their own satisfaction and trust too much. Others might think it's morally OK if they really could keep the secret, but have doubts about whether they could keep their attraction hidden for decades. Both these groups of pedophiles too will remain single.

But with all those other cases excluded, the end result is that a fair number of pedophiles do end up married. Aside from an explicit willingness to keep a big secret, another way they can end up in this situation is to have a dim awareness of pedophilia in the early stages of a relationship, but then find it growing in importance in their minds after they are married. The more that has been invested, the more appealing the option becomes of keeping a secret (I also think ethical concerns go down proportionately). I personally thought a soft spot for young girls was just a curiosity when I got married, and when I entered a long-term relationship at the age of 50, I was more aware of that attraction but still thought of it as a harmless curiosity and didn't label it as pedophilia. Both relationships ended for other reasons, and the attraction was never an issue.

Occasionally we get inquiries at Virtuous Pedophiles from girlfriends or wives who have just discovered their man is a pedophile -- usually because child pornography is discovered. Should they stay together? First, I know full well these women are a heavily biased sample. I suspect a lot of women wouldn't even consider staying and would never write to an organization called "Virtuous Pedophiles" seeking an opinion. But I note that some of them do seriously consider staying -- they know the good qualities of these men and do not see as an outsider does only a faceless image of a man with a "pedophile" sign around his neck. Several Virtuous Pedophiles members are married and their partners know of their attraction.

I hope I've conveyed some of the complexity of the situation pedophiles face in considering adult relationships. On the one hand, a great many pedophiles will not form adult relationships even if they have a sizable attraction to adults. On the other hand, some pedophiles do end up married (or otherwise partnered). In some cases their partner knows of their attraction, and in some cases he or she doesn't.


  1. My suggestion here, based on personal experience, is to avoid putting labels on yourself. Don't suddenly blurt out: "By the way, I'm a paedophile!". This is the mistake that has cost me two relationships.

    If you have a relationship worth pursuing, you can gradually reveal this aspect of yourself simply by not hiding it. If there are kids around, she'll notice that you like them and have a gift for relating to them. Maybe then you can tell her about a child you had a particular friendship with. If the question of sexual attraction comes up, be honest but say as little as possible. If 'paedophilia' doesn't come across as a defining aspect of your life, it won't seem like an insuperable barrier. If you come at her out of the blue with a bald statements that eliminates all scope for interpretation, you're probably fucked. You need to put this information firmly in the context of -your- situation, not that of tabloid sensation and moral panic.

    Also, remember that a woman who stays with you despite this knowledge exposes herself to significant criticism. If she has kids, it may be more than criticism. You need to give her some wriggle room.

    Women understand paedophilia far more intuitively than men do because, by nature, they are also attracted to children (sorry feminists, but it's true). Don't be afraid to reveal the truth, but don't make it a big deal.

    I would compare this advice to that often heard regarding sex education and "the talk". Sexuality educators almost all say "the talk" is a bad idea. They say to communicate with children about sexuality by not hiding things, by not avoiding conversations about sex and by using occasional opportunities to fill in some of the blanks in a natural way.

    Sexuality is a rich and broad landscape, not a single, frightening fact. Be patient!


    1. Thanks for this comment. I take this as an elaboration of "how to tell if you decide to tell". The idea of letting a woman know while having "plausible deniability" that she knows isn't an area I've thought about much, but it makes me uneasy. "Parenthood" is the subject of my next post.

    2. =The idea of letting a woman know while having "plausible deniability" that she knows isn't an area I've thought about much, but it makes me uneasy.=

      Why uneasy? Think about the word "know". What exactly does she know?

      If you tell her you're a 'paedophile', she knows you're a 'paedophile', but does she have any idea what that means to you? She'll probably interpret the information just as the public do, and assume you're telling her you are a compulsive child molester and child porn addict.

      If you relate your life experience honestly, she might draw the conclusion that you're a paedophile, or she might simply think that you love kids and occasionally fall in love with them. She might suspect you fantasize about sex with them, but are you really morally obliged to tell her that?

      I had a long term relationship, over 15 years, with someone who remains one of my best friends. She knew all this about me, including my fantasy life, and never once criticised me for it. Actually she used to tease me about it. I really regret I never took the step of talking to her seriously about my orientation when we were together, rather than letting it remain not much more than a joke between us.

      We talk about it seriously now and she has NEVER applied the word 'paedophile' to me. I use it to describe myself sometimes, but there's a sense that I'm reclaiming it, much as the words 'nigger' and 'queer' have been reclaimed by the populations that have been stigmatized by them. I would not be comfortable being called a 'paedophile' by somebody else, unless maybe they are one their self.


  2. I put up a piece on my blog recently titled "Do Sally and James Have Your Support?" It opens up a very similar discussion to the one you open here Ethan. I was especially interested in how the woman would be positioned socially where she decides to remain with her male partner after she becomes aware he is minor attracted, and in this case, he has acted on that desire. (Link: http://takearisknz.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/do-sally-and-james-have-your-support/)

  3. Hi Peter,

    no criticism of your excellent blog here, but I think this is a separate issue. It is related tho, very closely. Here's what I mean...

    Ethan's blog focuses on a minor attracted person's dilemma as to whether he should divulge his orientation to a partner, whereas your blog refers to a (possibly) minor attracted person who has been involuntarily outed as a consequence of a disclosure of abuse.

    I say 'closely' because many minor attracted people, including myself actually, have resolved this dilemma by unconsciously bringing some kind of arbitrary crisis to a head and forcing a disclosure or outing, rather than acting on their own initiative.

    This is one reason why I STRONGLY encourage minor attracted people to find some kind of confidante who they can pour hearts their out to. While there are obvious risks attached to finding a trustworthy counselor, their are even greater risks attached to the suppression of inner turmoil, especially if it ultimately erupts in barely thought out revelations to the wrong people (or worse).


  4. Thanks for your post, Ethan.

    I was married for years, convinced I had a secret I could never tell. When I found my wife was cheating on me, I knew that it was because of the distance we had created between ourselves, but I also knew that the root of this distance started the first time I asked her to wear pigtails for me and she got creeped out.

    Somehow, I felt as if she should know. It.... didn't go over too well. However, I'm happy I did it. She now knows it wasn't 'her' specifically. I think it was helpful for her in some way. I do think (hope!) it was for the best, but it's not anything I can change now.

    And then I fell in love with a woman who knows exactly who I am and shares my love for them in her own way.

    That's all I really needed... a woman to accept the weird self that I am. Children never minded that I was weird. Adults... well, adults care about strange things sometimes (myself included, lol).

    Sammy Jenkis

  5. And you aren't perfectly satisfied with this new woman who accepts you for who you are? Sexually, mentally, emotionally? Have you guys talked about marriage and kids since both of you are now on the same page? You, personally, do you think you'll ever have kids? jenny4shopping@hotmail.com please respond on my email if you can. Thank you