Friday, September 12, 2014

Coming out voluntarily

One way pedophiles become known is if they are investigated by law enforcement. Some of those cases make the news, accompanied by uniformly creepy-looking mug shots. The stories are carried far and wide, and those are the pedophiles who shape the public's impression: criminals.

Other stories may not make the news, but if the police raid a person's home, the raid and its motivation are likely to spread to neighbors.

One issue that comes up fairly frequently with families or partners is the discovery of images that strongly suggest a sexual attraction to children. Sometimes they are illegal images, other times they are legal. Since even the illegal ones have not come to the attention of law enforcement, it remains a private affair. I haven't heard of any cases of parents actively disowning a child or kicking him out of the house for an attraction to children -- though occasionally the possession of illegal images causes difficulties. There are occasional news stories of parents who call the police on their children for CP possession, though my impression (and hope) is that these are news stories because they are rare.

Occasionally a woman will write to Virtuous Pedophiles, distressed at discovering that her man is a pedophile. These women seem genuinely uncertain what to do and are seeking advice. I speculate that many women will quickly leave a partner when such a revelation arises.

In addition to the cases above where a pedophile is found out, there are pedophiles who voluntarily reveal their secret.

Sometimes they choose to tell family. Family ties are not broken lightly, and my impression is that most pedophiles retain some relationship with their family after a revelation, even if it is strained.

To me some of the most interesting cases are friends, since there are few consequences to walking away from a friendship. There is a wide range of reactions to coming out to friends. In a few cases, a friend will take it as their duty to inform everyone in the pedophile's life they can find, warning of the danger this man poses based solely on his attraction. In a few cases I've heard of where a pedophile's job involves working with children, the friend will insist that they give up that job as a condition for keeping the secret. In other cases all contact will end abruptly, or grow cold enough that it is no longer a friendship. I don't know how often the secret is kept in these cases or whether it is shared more widely but short of a public announcement. Sometimes the issue is never raised again -- it seems the friend assumes that the pedophile was mistaken or joking or the friend just doesn't want to think about it. In other cases there are awkward moments and a reserve comes into the friendship. Then there are the cases pedophiles hope for -- the friend faces the revelation and accepts the pedophile's attraction. In all the cases I've heard of, the friend wants assurances the pedophile is not going to abuse any children, but once that is settled, the friendship continues.

These cases can make a pedophile feel a lot better. Gone are the questions about why the pedophile (if he is exclusive) doesn't have an adult girlfriend or boyfriend, and why he doesn't date. He can talk about how hard it is to live with his secret. He might be able to confide that he thought that young girl who just walked by was really attractive.

We pedophiles discuss this range of experiences online. Some ask advice about whether they should reveal their secret to anyone or not. One recommendation is to think carefully about getting drunk with friends and be aware of the temptation to reveal the secret when inhibitions are lowered. Some seem resigned to keeping a secret. Others desperately want someone to confide in, but realize the risks. And others just tell someone -- and if they report what happened, we add their experience to others we have heard of to shape our imperfect knowledge on the subject.

These observations are based only on my experience of pedophiles conversing online. Possible biases in this sample cannot be discounted.

Since a fair number of pedophiles do confide their secret, a fair number of ordinary people in the world know a pedophile. Even if they terminated the friendship, they still know their former friend as a complicated person with strengths and weaknesses. They no longer want to be his friend but may still believe that he is not going to actually abuse a child. Others who were more accepting know they know a decent pedophile. But what is the overall effect? These people know of hundreds of criminal pedophiles from the news, and what a coincidence that they happen to know one of the rare decent pedophiles! If (as I believe) decent pedophiles predominate, there is no way to discover this as long as knowledge of any given decent pedophile is limited to one or a very few people.

I would be very interested in an anonymous survey of the population asking how many know personally of someone who is attracted to children and what they think about whether he is law-abiding. The results of such a survey could reveal in aggregate form what cannot today be shared through normal social discourse.

I wonder if there was a similar time when most people knew a gay man or lesbian but didn't know that anyone else did. Did there come a time when people could share this news with their closest friends, then more casual acquaintances, and finally come to realize that the world was full of gay men and lesbians who were (imagine that!) lovable, decent people who were quite ordinary in other respects.

I can hope for a comparable process for pedophiles. It will always be complicated by that extra question that gays and lesbians should not have to face -- are we confident this pedophile is not going to abuse children?



7 comments:

  1. I have two coming out experiences I'd like to relate in response to this post:

    The first was around the turn of this century. I'd sought the help of a psychotherapist, which was a turning point in my understanding of my sexuality. One of the key outcomes was a new found determination to develop confidence in my essential decency. I decided to enjoy my friendships with children without agonizing over my 'true' motives.

    As a consequence I cultivated a friendship with a young girl, B, who I'd known from infancy. One day I called her out of the blue and suggested we spend time together. Over the years and with her parent's blessing, we became constant companions. I framed our intimacy in terms of mentoring and avuncular attachment while she simply returned my affection without much analysis. I cared about her very much and I still do.

    As she entered her tween years I fell ever more in love. I felt deeply privileged when she shared moments of awareness of her impending womanhood and I felt a heavy burden of responsibility, as a man, that she should not come to distrust or fear my kind. Although I wanted her to know I loved her, I didn't want her to sense the sexual aspect of it --a situation I found very difficult. I didn't want to put our friendship at risk by blurring boundaries but I wanted her to understand that the sacrifices I made for her were rewarding for me and not really sacrifices but pleasures. Also, I wanted her parents to know far more about my orientation than I had told them, which was virtually nothing. I felt as if I were deceiving them. Making things even more difficult for me at the time was my young friend's inclination to theatrical displays of affection -- such as clinging to me like a vine and wetting my face with kisses.

    So, of course, there was an erotic aspect to my love, but my view of that now is 'so what'? There's an erotic aspect to just about everything. It's certain there's an erotic aspect to parenting and, if anything, I was in a nurturing relationship.

    So, prompted by certain events of this kind, I made a panicked disclosure to her parents. I basically said "I'm a paedophile and I've fallen in in love with B". Naturally they picked up on my alarm and panicked in turn. It was a disaster. To both our great mortification they cross examined B about my conduct with her. Despite their insistence that it would not be the end of our friendship, it was the end of our togetherness. Now she is an adult, B and I remain good friends but it was devastating for me at the time and my devastation was compounded when these events persuaded me to abandon my plans to train as a primary school teacher.

    I still count these people as among a handful of closest friends, like family, and our friendship has not suffered in the long term. They, B included, are people who don't just 'know' about my nature but understand it in some depth. Coming out was a difficult thing for me to do, it was difficult for them to deal with, it was embarrassing for B, but I have no regrets. I treasure the fact that a child I loved is now an adult with some understanding of my love and that her faith in my love underpins my right to to express it.

    Bloom (to be continued..)

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  2. The second coming out was a few years later.

    Although I was closest to B when she was eleven or twelve, my heart beats strongest for -little- girls. As an adult, a decade before any of this, the first child I fell in love with was a girl of six. My grief on losing contact with her was profound and remains with me still. This is one of the harshest lessons of paedophilia: having no basis on which to maintain contact with beloved children who move away and having to grieve, alone and in secret, for lost friendships.

    So I was surprised and delighted years later to discover some of the same charm in other little girls and even more surprised to find myself in a genuine friendship with a four year old. Four! A preschooler! Not only that, I seemed to be surrounded by kindy kids. For a dizzying couple of years, life conspired to offer opportunities to spend time with not one but five loquacious, assertive, bespangled and messily magical girls of similar age. I loved them all, but especially T. I was head over heels with her.

    People couldn't fail to recognize that I preferred, indeed cultivated the company of little girls. I thought of myself as a Charles Dodgson figure, openly paedophilic but above reproach; humoured by undulgent matrons who understood, if nothing else, the love of children. I was much in demand as a baby sitter and I took my responsibilities seriously. I loved to entertain my little girl friends (and their noisy little brothers). I taught them parlour games and to draw and paint and make papier mache puppets and there's nothing that gives me so much pleasure as reading to kids. I even sang to them, and I have no talent for singing at all.

    So this was great, except the old doubts were still with me. I longed to be open about my true feelings. I wasn't so bothered about disclosing the sexual side, but I wanted to lay my romantic cards on the table. I was in love with these kids and nobody could make allowances for that if they didn't know. Also, the sexual aspect remained a part of my private understanding. I was (and still am) very careful not to use friendship as an opportunity for voyeuristic pleasure, but kids by nature are uninhibited and frankly sensual and I'm not made of stone.

    Also, there was a tendency on my part to overestimate other's comprehension of my paedophilia. In fact, although I was very frank with a number of parents about this side of my nature, even using the 'p' word, it became apparent that they had either assumed I was joking or had not really listened. I'd mistaken silence for benign tolerance but it was really a veil of ignorance.

    So, against that background, in an unguarded moment, I divulged my pent up feelings to absolutely the last person I should have, an adult friend who'd been sexually abused for years by her father and uncle. She went into action immediately, gathering the parents of all these kids and informing them of my inappropriate interest. In her eyes, the most dangerous person of all was a man who loved kids and I was that man.

    The proverbial shit hit the fan. I was summarily banished from two households that had been like second homes, outed to my family and a wider circle of friends, pressured to seek professional help and, of course, cut off from all contact with 'my' beloved kids. They, of course, were questioned intensively about my conduct with them, embarrassed and made prematurely conscious of the negative valence of sex in our culture and it's potential to be a locus of harm rather than pleasure (which the thing I regret most about these developments).

    Bloom (continued..)

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  3. (...continued from above)

    I believe it's a testament to my respect for the personhood of my child friends that I have never once, in either of these crises, been accused of any kind of indecency or even of testing boundaries. I put that down to the openness and honesty I've practiced in my dealings with kids, in that the children themselves have never felt confused about what they should say about me, because I have never suggested they should hide any aspect about my relations with them. The bottom line for me is to be open in everything, and that is what guides my conduct.

    I lost a few friends for good. I moved cities. I've also had some friends offer very specific support, suggesting that I'd been treated shabbily and with bigotry. I was pressured to talk to someone from Stop Trust, an organization that treats sexual abusers. They said I sounded ok and referred me to a sex therapist who turned out to be a warm, compassionate, stimulating, challenging presence in my life for a couple of years. It took a while to convince her that she wasn't going to erase my paedophilia with CBT, but once we got over that, we traversed some very useful terrain and I owe her a lot.

    I now have my parents and siblings and several close friends who understand that I'm more interested in relationships with children than I am in sexual/romantic relationships with adults. But exactly what kind of relationships with children am I interested in? I find this a very difficult question but I do know that there isn't a simple translation from adult romantic/sexual love to child love. I have no desire to 'fuck' kids. There is an erotic aspect, but it is an erotic nurturing, if that makes sense. Although the events around my self inflicted but involuntary second outing were deeply traumatic, and although I lost years of friendship with children I loved, my regrets are balanced by the fact I am a step closer to living an authentic life, as the person I really am.

    I have another special little girl in my life (where do they come from?). She trusts me. She tricks me. she pokes her fingers in my ears. If I have a single wish it's this: that when she grows up she'll find it easy and natural to love without fear and expect the same in return. I want to set a high bar for the kind of man she'll accept into her life.

    Bloom

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  4. The previous 3 responses together constitute a fairly long story of a pedophile who sought out and developed friendships with little girls. He felt a great deal of romantic (and sexual) attraction, and always refrained from sexual behavior. I have heard similar stories from others, so I take this as one common pedophile experience. In this case he was uncomfortable enough to impulsively admit his pedophilia to nearby adults -- also something I've heard before.

    I have some question as to the wisdom of engaging in such friendships, but I approved the comments as the authentic, thought-provoking experience of a pedophile.

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  5. On the question of wisdom...

    I think it's obvious from my story that I made some mistakes. I don't regret my choices overall, but I regret the way knowledge of my orientation was revealed, the first time because I panicked and made a drama out of it and the second because I told the wrong person. In the first case, my biggest mistake was that in disclosing my feelings I put a label on myself and let it define me. In the second my biggest mistake was in allowing the people who had a right to know hear a distorted version of my story second hand.

    Remember however that I had made a real effort to be open about my orientation with these people, including stating very clearly that I was attracted to children and actually using the 'p' word to characterize my feelings. Why these initial attempts went over everybody's heads I don't know, but I put it down to the moral panic over this subject and the impossibility of having a rational discussion about it, even with close friends. They assumed I was joking.

    Also, I've probably given the impression that I feel hard done by and that the parents had no cause for complaint. It's true I never acted inappropriately with the children, but I do understand their anger. In spending time with their kids I was serving my own agenda: finding happiness and a way to live as a paedophile. The way I insinuated myself into their family life justifies their feeling used and they deserved better. I'm much more circumspect in my relationships with kids and parents since that time.

    Finally, it's interesting to me that one of the main criticisms of my conduct that followed these coming outs (comings out?) was that I was 'spoiling' the kids involved, putting them on a pedestal, etc. Perhaps, but I think this is a prejudice based on a stereotype and not a real reflection of the way I acted with them. I routinely challenge children to set and meet high standards for themselves and I always treated them as individual persons. Sometimes I think it's difficult even for parents to do that.

    So I think it's fair to say all this is a work in progress. I've made mistakes but I've also done my best to do the right things.

    Bloom

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    1. I think those are some interesting reflections. My reasons for caution include those you mention and a few more besides.

      Some pedophiles aren't so great at communicating openly with other adults about a sensitive subject like this. Some also might start out with good intentions but find they are led astray by temptation. As your story illustrates, feeling in love can change a person. It might lead some to abuse. I know in one case the man dealt with the strength of his feelings by suddenly becoming very cold to the girl. In others it has led to guilt tripping the girl for not spending more time with him. My conclusion is that if the child is going to experience the adult's interesting as anything other than avuncular, it's not a good idea. To an average pedophile I would have to recommend not to get into any such relationships.

      I would be very interested in hearing B's story from an insightful journalist, and those of other kids who were not victims of abuse but had relationships with pedophiles. Everyone of course writes about abuse survivors, but I think the subtleties of the experiences of children who knew their friends were pedophiles who kept the relationship celibate would be instructive.

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  6. "if the child is going to experience the adult's interest as anything other than avuncular, it's not a good idea."

    I'm not sure if I made this clear enough.

    If it's true, I let children know I love them, but I'm very careful NOT to put this in a context of romantic love. It is always understood as the love of an adult caring for a child. My sexual feelings are even further from the picture.

    I love to hold and cuddle children, but I rarely do it. I'm in the habit of maintaining a physical distance. I don't feel it's my place to be cuddling other people's kids unless they are really in need of comfort or specifically ask for or offer a hug. Even then, I don't exploit the opportunity (as readers of this blog may be assuming I would).

    My very greatest regret about the events related to my outings is that the children I had so scrupulously avoided treating as romantic partners were questioned in a way that cast our friendship very specifically in a sexual light. I felt genuine grief over this and it galls me that the children were embarrassed in this way. I have to accept responsibility for it, but it is a secondary responsibility, imho. It wasn't necessary.

    I agree that many paedophiles would have difficulty walking the line I have, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't. What it means is that we as a population ought to have more access to one another's experiences and learnings. We shouldn't be scuttling like roaches into cracks in the wall whenever a light is shined on us.

    Bloom

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