With the exception of sexual abuse, most of my posts can be seen as arguing society should be more tolerant of pedophiles and everything to do with pedophiles.
But this one is a little different. In my previous post I argued that men as a class are under suspicion of being molesters whenever they relate to children.
A society sends its messages, both explicit and implicit, that men are being watched when they are with children. They are under suspicion. A child's allegation of abuse, perhaps encouraged or created by a suspicious parent, can have devastating effects on their lives. A great many men get the hint, and strictly limit their activities with children. Fewer men serve as coaches, scout troop leaders, chaperones at kids' events, or classroom volunteers.
What kinds of men won't limit their activities?
One group is surely men who are dedicated to children and willing to take on the added risk. Hats off to them, brave souls. Fathers whose own children are involved are likely to serve as their duty.
A second group is potential child molesters. They want sexual activity with children enough that they are willing to risk suspicion so they can still get what they want. The danger they pose to children is obvious.
A third group is men who would never molest children, but they either don't get that society is viewing them with suspicion, or else they don't care what other people think of them. There is a social ineptitude here, an inability to notice hostile stares or a shrug of indifference if they are detected. Their negative effect on children is more subtle. The men's insensitivity by itself is less than ideal as they relate to the children. Their presence also sends the message that men are by nature insensitive. Among children whose own parents may be less than ideal, they are deficient as role models for boys and models for girls as to what they can expect from men.
I have no studies to cite on this phenomenon. I do not expect it is a huge effect. Maybe there are among these volunteers twice as many potential molesters or insensitive men as there were 30 years ago?
But 'coach' and 'troop leader' and 'chaperone' are defined roles that need filling. Let's consider other cases where relating to children is less structured.
A 25-year-old man sees three 10-year-old boys playing football in a park in a suburban area, with no adult anywhere around, and he debates joining them. Fifty years ago, he would have been far more likely to join in. Today, many such men will just move along, aware of how they might be perceived. So the man who actually does join in is far more likely to be a molester or socially inept. To a certain extent, anti-pedophile hysteria makes stranger danger come true.
A woman once told me of an incident in the mid-1960s where she as a girl of 10 was running on the sidewalk, late for an appointment. A man drove up in a car and asked if she wanted a ride. She took the ride, and was on time instead of late. What are the chances today a man would do that as a favor? It raised eyebrows even then. Today, if she later reported this innocent ride, would the parents and police nonetheless try to track him down as a suspicious person or even a kidnapper? The population of men offering innocent rides surely has dropped dramatically. Although 99% or more of a random set of men chosen for the task would deliver the girl safely without a hint of innuendo, the percentage among those who would actually offer a ride today is much, much less. In a middle-class suburb, under 50% I might guess? Refusing a ride was a good idea then, but it's an even better idea now.
Society has changed in many other ways as well. Overall, child sex abuse is down about 50% in the past 20 years, which might mask these trends. But I suspect this winnowing of honorable men out of the lives of children is real and significant.