This post was inspired by a quote in the Virtuous Pedophiles support group:
"I've hear MANY people (who didn't know they were talking to a pedophile at the time) say that pedophiles being able to talk about their attractions among one another will only lead to us all feeding into each other's desires. They think it will snowball more and more if pedophiles have a space where we can anonymously talk to each other, and will make us certain to offend because it'll normalize the thoughts and behaviors for us."
I've heard this argument many times myself, and I'm not sure if I've addressed it directly in this blog (and if I have, perhaps there's little harm in doing so again -- imagine a blogger raising the same issue twice!)
The argument is remarkably similar to the idea that providing sex education to young people will make them go out and have sex. The idea that teenagers live in a state of purity where they know to resist any urges they may feel and finding out more about sex in practical terms will only encourage them to act on them. I believe the actual results are that those without sex education have sex just as often but not safe sex so the rates of unintended pregnancy and STIs are higher. The progressive policies of the Netherlands are contrasted with those of other countries such as the US, for instance.
On the other hand, you could argue that going to meetings of white supremacists and seeking out the ideology does make a person more likely to accept those beliefs and perhaps even do bad things. There is a legitimate reason to discourage people from attending such meetings.
So which is pedophilia more like, white supremacism (?) or ordinary vanilla sexuality?
Those who post in Virtuous Pedophiles overwhelmingly believe that it is far more like ordinary sexuality -- the desires are there, the thoughts will not be suppressed by force of will, and the question is how to deal with them appropriately. A thoughtful defense of the "by talking they will enable each other" relies on the idea that in fact pedophilic desires are just chosen and if we don't talk about them with each other they will not grow. Allegedly it is just like white supremacism, which is not a force within us dying to find expression. Feeding that ideology is likely to make it grow.
Drawing a parallel between pedophilia and ordinary sex education may strike people as alarming. But you can calm your alarm. In ordinary sex education, people learn of the absolute requirement to find partners who are conscious and willing and not subject to coercion -- and legal. We learn the same in a VP-style group, it's just that the set of partners available to us is -- the empty set. There are none.
In progressive sex education there is a pro-sex part -- how to do sex safely if you decide to do it. There is also a negative part. People should feel free to abstain if their own religious or moral code requires it. And people learn to honor the strength of their desires but to make sure not to coerce partners and not engage in sex if either party is drunk or otherwise impaired in judgement. We in VP-style groups can learn the same negative messages. We learn that minors and especially prepubescents are always impaired in judgement on such matters.
The effect of pedophiles talking to each other in groups where pro-legalization opinions -- maybe even pro-contact opinions -- are common is not clear. I'm not aware of any studies. On the one hand they should feel less alone and more supported and so less likely to do things they know are illegal -- and avoid coercive relationships that they also believe are wrong. On the other I suppose some might be emboldened to act with willing children -- you hear stories. Yet the control group there is those who aren't in any such group -- did the group embolden them to act or would they have acted anyway? In any case, such groups where pro-legalization opinions are common have been with us for 15 years or more and are not going away.
The answer to the question regarding the Virtuous Pedophiles group is clear to me: when we talk online it is a way to keep children safe as well as to make pedophiles more content with their lives.