Monday, September 8, 2014

Pedophilia and Asperger Syndrome

I've occasionally heard the accusation that pedophiles are attracted to children because they can't make it with grown women. The implication is that they have a sense of entitlement that they deserve partners, and they abuse children because they can. Perhaps the criminal justice system has encountered such people. It's no great surprise that I haven't, since entitled child abusers rarely contact us at Virtuous Pedophiles.

Yet I do see a version of this basic claim that might be true.

One observation at Virtuous Pedophiles is that far more people report having Asperger Syndrome than I would expect in a group of that size. Science has found that pedophiles are on average shorter, less intelligent, and far more likely to be left-handed than the general population. Asperger Syndrome could be taken as another characteristic in the list of those resulting at least in part from prenatal stress, though to my knowledge its relationship to pedophilia has not been systematically studied. But I think there may be more to it than that.

As I've noted previously, many pedophiles are non-exclusive. They are attracted to children but also have some attraction to adults. Let's consider for the sake of argument someone who is equally attracted to adult women and to prepubescent girls. The large majority of adult men are attracted to adult women (teleiophiles). One would expect that small deviations from that pattern will be more common than large deviations. So we would expect non-exclusive pedophiles to be more common than exclusives.

I expect that the socially well-adjusted person with this attraction pattern would be inclined to date women, sleep with women, and possibly marry women. They are free to think of their attraction to children as a curiosity and downplay its significance -- and they have a strong motivation to do so if they do not want to feel like they are keeping an important secret from their partners. But a person with Asperger Syndrome has trouble with subtle social clues and is likely to have difficulty successfully dating women. He might find women not just unresponsive to his attentions but actually puzzling in a way that would get in the way of the romantic attraction itself. The social rules that govern interactions among children are quite a bit simpler. A pedophile might find himself attracted to girls because he understands them and feels more confident interacting with them socially. This does not mean he will become a child molester, but it means he will be more aware of his pedophilic attraction than a man who dates, sleeps with, and marries women.

Since most people are teleiophiles, we should assume that most people with Asperger Syndrome are teleiophiles too. They may still have difficulty with relationships with women but the syndrome will not cause them to be fascinated with children in a romantic or sexual way.

If I'm correct, we will see a disproportionate number of Asperger Syndrome men self-identifying as pedophiles. But it's not because of any cynical desire to score with someone if they can't score with women. It's just that with an underlying attraction to both adult women and girls, their thoughts will focus on the ones they understand and can communicate with better.

I think this also may apply to men who are socially awkward but don't merit a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Negotiating romantic relationships is one of the most demanding social tasks I can think of, one that ordinary people expend a lot of time agonizing over.

We should assume until proven otherwise that most of them will not sexually abuse children, just as we assume for pedophiles as a whole.


  1. "Science has found that pedophiles are on average shorter, less intelligent, and far more likely to be left-handed than the general population."

    Actually James Cantor found this. I can think of some epithets for Dr Cantor, but 'science' isn't one of them. :D

    Junk science aside, I can see where you're going with this post, but you're wrong. Development is not the same as progress. Children's minds, simply because they precede adulthood, are not inferior to adult minds. Nor is it necessary to be oblivious to social cues to relate easily to children.

    A more likely scenario is that immersion in adult concerns makes adults oblivious to the concerns that dominate children's lives. Consequently, barriers to full engagement in the adult world (such as Asbergers) slow the brain wasting advance of 'adulthood'. That is why outsiders relate to children. It is not because children have cognitive deficits, it is because most adults lose an essential part of themselves on the bruising path to adulthood.



  2. There was a case I didn't address. There are surely people who are exclusively attracted to children and who have Asperger's. I don't have any relevant observations to make about that case. Just saying that Asperger's does not imply nonexclusivity.

  3. I don't know. I am attracted to women, but I am not uncomfortable around them. In fact, I feel more comfortable around them because, in my experience, they tend to be more understanding of my autism than others.

    I tend to be attracted to children that are empathetic like that, and understanding of my autism, because they make me feel safe in their presence. They remind me of my mother...That's the kind of person I am attracted to, whether she's a woman or a girl.

    As an autistic person, I would not agree with your assessment. I feel pretty safe around women, and they seem like safe people to be around. I tend to be more empathetic towards them than many other men. So no, my autism and my pedophilia are separate.