Sunday, August 3, 2014

What are celibate pedophiles like?

Celibate pedophiles generally stay hidden, all too aware of the hatred and prejudice they are likely to encounter if they reveal themselves. Some of us appear in discussion forums online, and I posted some anecdotes of <the things we do>.

There is a natural tendency among those of us conversing online to think that we represent all celibate pedophiles. But it's not a random group of us who show up. Requirements for participation are access to internet technology and a willingness to read lots of text. These could in turn be correlated with economic status and education. Another requirement is the desire to come online and make oneself known. If celibate pedophiles are content with their situation and don't consider their attraction as a strong part of their identity, they would have little incentive to show up, even anonymously. Desire aside, another requirement is a willingness to come online. Nervous pedophiles may understand that the apparent anonymity provided by an anonymous email isn't great protection. Law enforcement could quite plausibly track them down with a warrant, or the ISPs could be storing that information for use later if laws or police procedures change. These hurdles a pedophile has to pass before speaking up online could be correlated with other important differences.

Anonymous surveys of college students have provided interesting data on the prevalence of pedophilia in the population, but I am not aware of any correlations with other interesting traits -- except maleness. Far more men than women report a sexual interest in children.

There have also been studies considering sex offenders against adults in comparison with pedophilic sex offenders against children. Several interesting differences have been found. Of course these are not studies of celibate pedophiles, but it is a reasonable scientific inference that if sex offenders against children differ from offenders against adults in certain ways, celibate pedophiles and law-abiding teleiophiles (ordinary folks) would also differ in those ways. Those studies indicate that pedophiles are on average shorter, less intelligent, and much more likely to be left-handed.

The only celibate pedophile I really know is me. What I want to know most about others are not such incidental matters as whether they are short or left-handed. I want to know most of all whether they are good people. I'm also interested in whether they are outgoing or reserved, kind or selfish, trustworthy or devious, impulsive or more controlled. Intelligence may be correlated with some of those things, but only weakly. (The correlation of pedophilia with intelligence is itself not very strong, so the result of combining the two is an even weaker relationship.)

And now I get to the point of the post. Except where we have evidence to the contrary, the most sensible conclusion is that pedophiles are just like everybody else. Do they tend to be unkind? It is just as likely that they tend to be kinder. In particular, there is no reason to think that pedophiles are more devious, less ethical, or less in control of their behavior than other people.

There is another point. Ordinary people cover a certain range on just about any trait you can think of. The assumption ought to be that pedophiles cover the same range. This idea of great variability within a group is one we should be familiar with. If you've never met anyone from some ethnic group, you may begin with certain stereotypes, but as you get to know several of them you will see that they are quite different from each other. In the case of pedophiles, it may be a long time before you get to know very many, but you should still assume that we are a group with the same diversity as any other.

Lastly, a very small percentage of teleiophiles commit sex crimes. The assumption we should start with is that only a tiny percentage of pedophiles commit sex crimes. There may be reasons to alter that assessment, but the baseline from which we should start is that just as few pedophiles commit sex crimes as teleiophiles.


  1. Male teleophiles have all stepped over the line at some time in their life. About half of teenagers have some sexual experience with another teenager under the age of 18, which by current definition means they cannot consent. Every married man has at some time cajoled his wife into sex when she at first said "No." Those who drink have at some point had sex with someone who was under the influence of alcohol, which by current definition means they could not consent. Some have even had sex with a partner who had fallen asleep, which most certainly means they did not have the ability to consent.

    Stepping over the line is just as confusing for a pedophile, depending upon the definitions. Many people consider a pedophile guilty for sexual thoughts about a child. He would certainly be considered over the line if he masturbated to (even clothed) images of a child. Appropriate actions (such as a hug) quickly become viewed as inappropriate if it lasts too long or too tight. I think that is why so many people assume there are no virtuous pedophiles.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts. The examples you cite cover a lot of ground and raise a bunch of issues. On the hug, my sense is that's how people view ordinary men -- if it's a known pedophile who comes within 10 feet of a child then he's inappropriate. Maybe letting a child cross his field of vision is inappropriate.