• Pedophilia: Challenging the Tolerance of a Progressive Audience

    When championing the rights of sexual minorities, one is unlikely to challenge the tolerance of a progressive audience. For reasons that may at first appear obvious, this attitude does not generally extend to pedophiles. Then again, why should it? In light of sensationalistic media portrayals, even a sophisticated theory of mind is liable to malfunction when applied to so maligned a group.

    The truth is that pedophilia is significantly more complex than most people realise, or are perhaps willing to admit. Our current understanding, even among many experts, borders on pseudoscience. But before going any further, we should try to establish what pedophilia is and what it isn’t.

    Pedophilia is often framed as an adult mental disorder and, in simple terms, can be defined as a primary or exclusive sexual preference for prepubescent children. It is frequently conflated with hebephilia (primary or exclusive adult sexual interest in pubescent 11-14 year olds) and ephebophilia (primary or exclusive adult sexual interest in mid-to-late adolescents), but attempts to create a more precise definition have led to less than satisfying results.

    For example, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM-5), defines the diagnostic criteria for “Pedophilic Disorder” as follows:

    1. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
    2. The individual has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
    3. The individual is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

    The number of problems with the above criteria defies a reasonable word limit, but their vagueness and arbitrariness raise an immediate red flag. Perhaps most troubling is the lack of a clear distinction between “pedophile” and “child molester.” This is particularly egregious because it reinforces the already pervasive myth that the terms can be used interchangeably. Dispelling such damaging misconceptions becomes even more difficult when the major authority on psychiatric diagnosis aids in their perpetuation.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but a significant percentage of child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims, nor are they necessarily attracted to their victims’ gender. As is the case with adult rape, factors that go beyond sexual gratification are often at play, such as personality disorders, alcoholism, poor self-esteem, intimacy issues, etc. Much of our current knowledge about pedophilia is the result of an unfortunate sampling bias. Studies have largely focused on convicted child sex offenders, which has all the epistemic value of basing our understanding of heterosexuals on studies of convicted rapists. That caveat aside, the number of pedophiles who do sexually abuse children undoubtedly remains a significant issue. The problem we face is that the current social and moral climate makes these offences infinitely more likely to occur.

    The tabloid media, especially in the United Kingdom, is largely responsible for engineering the toxic discourse surrounding pedophilia. Publications like The Sun and The News of the World effectively turned the issue of child sexual abuse into a moral panic, whipping the British public into a state of paranoid hysteria at various points throughout the 1990s and 2000s—particularly after the murder of 8-year-old Sarah Payne and the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann.

    Pedophilia seemingly came to be associated with every crime involving a minor. Words like “monster”, “beast”, “sicko”, “vile” and “evil” were casually thrown around in the tabloids. One would be foolish to expect an overabundance of nuance from the mainstream media, but the bewildering extent of their disseminated ignorance meant that even pediatricians were being targeted by packs of marauding ignoramuses.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that few pedophiles are eager to volunteer this information on their Tinder and OKCupid profiles. An individual could boast the looks of Zac Efron, the charm of George Clooney, the wealth of Bill Gates, and perfect impulse control, yet public knowledge of his pedophilia would almost certainly doom him to a life of infamy and relative social isolation. As a consequence, revelations of this sort tend to come hand in hand with a victim. Circumstance dictates that those with a well-calibrated moral compass suffer in silence, managing their urges and attempting to live as normal a life as can be expected. Unburdening themselves and opening up to someone is a potentially life-destroying gamble. In many countries, even psychiatrists cannot guarantee privacy if they suspect that their patient may harm a child—a legitimate concern that cannot be easily dismissed nor remedied.

    Some of you may have felt the strong urge to pelt the screen with assorted fruits and vegetables when I categorized pedophiles as a sexual minority earlier in the piece, perhaps fearing that such language is legitimizing. However, there is increasing support for the idea that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, and not a mental illness. Unlike hebephilia, the relative lack of ambiguity certainly makes it much easier to pathologize—few prepubescent children look like they meet age of consent laws, after all—but the notion that a sexual preference can suddenly be defined as a symptom once an individual reaches a certain age reveals a startling lack of nuance in our understanding. In fact, it is debatable whether pedophilia even meets the DSM-5’s own definition of a mental disorder, given that the mental distress it imposes on the individual is not independent of his cultural context.

    One hesitates to make the comparison for fear of being misinterpreted or misrepresented, but parallels between homosexuality and pedophilia can clearly be drawn. Indeed, as recently as the 1960s homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness within psychology, and it was clearly defined as such in the first and second editions of the DSM.  Of course, the crucial difference between homosexuality and pedophilia is that non-consent is implicit in the physical expression of the latter. Pedophilia cannot be physically expressed legally or ethically, but this does not necessarily mean that it is pathological.  Bizarrely, a sexual attraction to prepubescent children in absence of the mental distress this would cause most individuals with a sound moral framework has been omitted as a mental disorder from the DSM-5. The irony is that a lack of inner moral turmoil in such an aberrant context is much more suggestive of underlying pathology. But I digress.

    It is often argued by anti-gay campaigners that homosexuality is a choice. Even if this argument had any moral relevance, it has been thoroughly debunked. One no more chooses to be gay than one chooses to be straight. Inconveniently for many people, this fact applies equally to pedophilia. Most of us are simply fortunate not to be pedophiles. The absence of a sexual attraction towards prepubescent children is not an achievement you or I deserve credit for, nor is the existence of that attraction something a pedophile can be blamed for. We should instead be judged on that which we do control: our actions—let’s avoid the rabbit hole of free will and determinism for simplicity’s sake.

    Unfortunately, if child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has taught us anything it is that the repression of one’s sexuality in combination with mental isolation is a recipe for a ticking time bomb. Impulse control is not infinitely elastic, and so some percentage of these individuals will eventually tap out and give in to their impulses. Our need to demonize pedophiles, irrespective of their actions, has made us complicit in creating the mental isolation that makes child molestation more tempting than self-restraint. It is cruelly ironic that society’s contempt and intolerance for these individuals only serves to create more victims.

    A fuller understanding of what pedophilia is, rather than what it has been portrayed to be, does provide the room we need for tolerance—and even some degree of sympathy. One need only grasp the implications of our continued ignorance to understand that tolerance is not only right but necessary.


    A version of this article first appeared on The Psyched Blog. You can view it here.

    Category: FeaturedSexualitySkepticismUncategorized

    Article by: James MacDonald

    James MacDonald is a freelance writer and featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. In addition to sports writing, James holds masters degrees in both Psychology and Social Sciences and covers subjects including sex, gender, secularism, media, and gaming, among others.
    • Hi Jim.

      I touched on this topic earlier, but it was not as detailed as your post. In case you’re interested: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/08/20/pedophilia-pederasty/

      Nice one,



    • jjramsey

      Pedophilia cannot be physically expressed legally or ethically, but this does not necessarily mean that it is pathological

      That seems an odd thing to say. I would think that the fact that a pedophile acting on his/her urges with a child is destructive is the very reason why it’s pathological.

      • It’s like anyone going through life unable to express their sexuality. Let’s assume you are heterosexual for the sake of argument. Attempting to contain your sexuality would most likely be torturous. That doesn’t mean heterosexuality is pathological, though.

        • jjramsey

          But heterosexuals can at least potentially express their sexuality fully without being destructive, via relationships with partners who are mature enough to properly consent. Indeed, homosexuals can potentially do the same. But pedophiles? Not so much.

          • I actually addressed that point in the article. The main reason pedophilia is destructive/causes the individual distress is because of his cultural context. That rules it out as a mental illness by the DSM’s own standards.

            I’ll quote the relevant part:

            “…4. Must not be merely an expectable response to common stressors and losses or a culturally sanctioned response to a particular event. 5. That is not primarily a result of social deviance or conflicts with society.”

            • Ann

              I think the idea is that adult sexual contact with small children is objectively harmful to the child — not just a social faux pas.

              Possibly that assertion is yet to be demonstrated as objectively true, and not just a moral fad.

              Do you know of any society, past or present, that accepted adult sexual behavior with preadolescent children? If so, we could see if the practice did cause harm.

              But of course, the inescapable problem is the utter inability of the child to consent.

            • Its acceptance (to varying degrees) was fairly widespread until quite recently. In terms of its damage to the child, I have no doubt it has always been very physically damaging. How mentally damaging it was is up for debate, as one major salient factor is our shifting cultural attitudes towards sex.

              Of course, we’re talking about child molestation here, as opposed to pedophilia.

            • Ann

              Can you be more specific about the widespread practice of allowing adult men to engage in sex with prepubescent boys?
              I never knew of any such society.

              How soon after infancy was it accepted — the youngest age?

              Is it possible that a child can be physically damaged by an adult’s sexual behavior (before the child’s hormones have kindled his own sexual feelings) — and not have any negative emotional or psychological effects?

              I would have assumed that ANY physical damage by an adult for ANY reason would have negative emotional consequences — never mind sexual damage.

              I wonder if you can draw out this comment a little.
              I didn’t understand it, or follow the point.
              “Of course, we’re talking about child molestation here, as opposed to pedophilia.”

            • I assumed you meant attitudes towards child molestation. I have no idea whether the practice was widespread in any society, but attitudes have certainly changed significantly. Even in just the past 20-30 years.
              I don’t think that’s necessarily true. In fact, we know it isn’t. Not everyone who suffers from sexual abuse is thereafter emotionally damaged. This doesn’t really speak to my argument, though. You’re not going to get any significant disagreement from me on the subject of child molestation.
              Your points refer to child molestation. That is distinct from pedophilia, as I described in the article. I just assumed you knew that, but I get the awful feeling you think I’m advocating for acceptance of child sexual abuse.

            • Ann

              Well, your remarks did strongly remind me of NAMBLA’s position.

              I wonder in what sense various societies have widely different attitudes about pedophilia WITHOUT widely different behaviors to go along with it.
              Would it not be the case that in societies that are fine with pedophilia, that then sexual behavior between men and children would naturally ensue?

              Can you give an example of attitudes from 1995 that were significantly different from attitudes today?

              Well, you went further than to say “sexual abuse.” You referenced “physical damage.”
              I think I would have negative emotional sequelae if I were physically damaged at age 9 by an adult in ANY way (sexual or not) –beaten up in a boxing match against a man of 25, say … or set on fire by a woman of 42.

              What do you mean by “sexual abuse”?
              If it is “abuse,” is it not automatically harmful?

            • Suggesting we shouldn’t demonize people over something they had no control over makes you think I want to abolish age of consent laws? You are utterly confused on this issue if that was what you took away from the article. I assure you, I’m as opposed to abolishing those laws as you are.

              What did I say that makes you think I’m for legalizing child sexual abuse? Please, do your best to be intellectually honest and not misrepresent me.

              There’s a spectrum. A society needn’t be “fine” with sexual abuse. It’s about levels of acceptance. Consider how attitudes towards racism have evolved. It does suddenly go from accepted to not accepted.

              As for your other point, consider the abuse of children by various British celebrities in the 1970s. It was widespread. Can you imagine celebrities creating a CSA ring today? Then there’s the long history of pederasty, and its acceptance to various degrees in certain cultures. Heck, child marriage remains part of some cultures today.

              But again, this has nothing to do with the point of the article. You seem determined to discuss child molestation.
              You might well have a “negative emotional sequelae”, but not everyone has that reaction to abuse, sexual or otherwise. I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse. When did I say that abuse isn’t harmful? I said it doesn’t emotionally damage everyone.

              It is exhausting having a discussion with someone who seems intent on digging for some kind of “gotcha!” moment. About five percent of this discussion actually relates to my article, and you have already demonstrated that you didn’t understand it by comparing me to NAMBLA.

              Let me ask you a question that actually relates to my views.

              A woman happens to be attracted to children. She doesn’t act on it. Should we hate her nevertheless?

            • Ann

              No, James, I didn’t think that you were suggesting abolishing the age of consent laws.
              It did cross my mind that this approach — oh so reasonable, oh so nudging toward one desired view — was just the approach that NAMBLA takes.
              I didn’t post the link because of its content — just the “Sweet sweet reason” of its tone.

              Let me repeat that I found this remark odd — “Very damaging” but not necessarily psychologically harmful.
              You keep on trying to walk your remarks back and make them about “abuse” (undefined). But if you no longer want to own the remarks I am pointing out (about physical DAMAGE), that’s fine. Just say so.

              Here is the quote that arrested my attention:
              “In terms of its damage to the child, I have no doubt it has always been
              very physically damaging.”

              I don’t see how that first idea matches your next one:
              “How mentally damaging it was is up for debate … ”

              The point of my observations is that it is hard for me to picture myself as a child being “very physically damaged” by an adult’s sexual behavior against me — but not experience negative emotional consequences.
              As I said, even if I were “very physically damaged” by an adult as a result of ANY activity, I think I would have negative emotional sequelae.

              I think even adults have negative psychological responses to being “very physically damaged” — shot, or broken in car crashes, or burned in a fire, etc.

              And I don’t know how you define “abuse” so that it is not necessarily harmful to everyone — adult or child, male or female.
              Maybe you are defining “abuse” in some more benign way than the word usually implies?
              I know that an “abused” dog has negative emotional consequences. I’d be shocked to find a child who didn’t.

              I never said (or thought) a single word about “hate.”

              Here is information that you may not be considering:
              Adults who are principally attracted to pre-adolescent children usually have failed to establish an attraction to any adult of any gender.
              Instead of being “straight,” or “gay” or “bi” — they are not interested in adults at all, and are sexually aroused by children.

              It is impossible to know how many people sexually desire little children. Many or most never act on this feeling, not even in private. Of the ones who do act on it (collect porn, sexually engage children), many or most are not caught.

              But if I did know that a woman was sexually aroused by children, I would not let her babysit mine.

              As all the world knows, the sexual drive is strong and persistent, and the rational mind is no more than a machine for churning out justifications for doing what you want to do.

              In early editions of his Baby and Child Care, Dr Spock recommended that boys not be employed as babysitters on the grounds that their sexual drives were stronger and more persistent than those of girls — and that ups the odds that some expression of those drives may break out.

              Political correctness drove those remarks off the pages of the subsequent editions, but I owned an early edition, and I read his advice with my own two eyes.

              And when it comes to the well-being of my own children (which I do not have yet), I don’t give a damn about political correctness or equal opportunity to adults who sexually lust after my child.

              No, I would not hate a person who never did anything wrong, and I can’t think of anything I said that made you think I might.

              The thought that did drift through my mind was that this was a false flag post, disguised as Sweet Reason, but actually a softening up of the readers for an attitude adjustment, where they will gently be persuaded that mere pedophilia should be on the “Pro” side of that spectrum.

              I am not claiming I am correct. I am giving you information about the thoughts that crossed my mind.

            • That’s precisely why discussing this issue is so difficult. Someone like you is determined to establish sinister intent irrespective of an argument’s content.
              This is already frustrating. It’s going to be that much more frustrating if you refuse to read what I post.

              I’m not walking any remarks back. Not everyone is emotionally damaged by abuse. We’re talking about sexual abuse, so how much more specific do I need to be?

              Not everyone who is sexually abused suffers emotionally over the long term. That’s a pretty uncontroversial statement to make. The fact that you can’t personally imagine it is irrelevant. We know that victims of rape or CSA are not always emotionally damaged over the long term. I know plenty of examples. Many are affected long term, but not all.
              You have pulled that out of thin air. Moreover, your next point contradicts it. We don’t know how many people are sexually attracted to children, so making a blanket statement like that is silly.

              And if you’re basing it on convicted child molesters, that’s an extraordinary sampling bias. Additionally, not all child molesters are pedophiles, so that is another problem with your claim.
              I’m sorry, where did I suggest that our tolerance should extend to allowing pedophiles to babysit our children? Believe it or not, there is a middle ground between foaming-at-the-mouth hatred and “look after my kid”.
              Of course that’s the thought that drifted through your mind. Don’t address the content of the article. Instead, ask a variety of questions that are scarcely relevant and just assume sinister intent.

              Let me sum up the point of the article.

              “The widespread hatred of pedophiles (distinct from child molesters) creates emotional isolation and leads to more victims. They didn’t choose to be attracted to children, our hatred isn’t justified. Tolerance is not only right, but will likely lead to fewer victims.”

              The point you took from it:

              “I want to have sex with children.”

              So yeah, I’m probably done here. The discussion was initiated in bad faith and continued in that fashion.

            • Ann

              You said:
              “Someone like you is determined to establish sinister intent irrespective of an argument’s content.”

              My reply:
              I am not so intent. In the spirit of full disclosure, I informed you that your post reminded me of the identical TONE that NAMBLA uses.
              I did not make any comments about your intent.
              I was giving you information that I deduced you did not know.

              You said:
              “I’m not walking any remarks back. Not everyone is emotionally damaged by abuse. We’re talking about sexual abuse, so how much more specific do I need to be?”

              My reply:
              I don’t know who you mean by saying “WE are talking about sexual ABUSE.” *I* am talking about sexual DAMAGE — which is what YOU were talking about originally.

              How about being emotionally damaged by sexual DAMAGE?

              I’d like to hear more about how a child can be sexually DAMAGED by an adult yet suffer no consequences (besides the physical injuries, scars, infertility, or whatever the DAMAGE was — and yet have no psychological damage..

              You wrote: “I have no doubt it has always been very physically damaging.

              Not only do I think that sexual DAMAGE must always be emotionally damaging, I also think:

              > That ANY physical damage inflicted on a child is bound to be damaging emotionally

              > And that if sexual abuse [quote] “has always been very physically damaging” [end quote], then sexual abuse must always first be “very physically damaging” and then as a result, must always end up psychologically damaging.

              You said:
              “I’m not walking any remarks back. Not everyone is emotionally damaged by abuse.”

              My reply:
              But first you say that it it is ALWAYS VERY PHYSICALLY DAMAGING.
              (“In terms of its [adult sexual behavior with children] damage to the child, I have no doubt it has always been very physically damaging.

              Then you say that this experience of being very physically damaged is not necessarily a negative event “in the long term.”

              1) What do you mean by “sexual abuse”?
              Can you give an example?
              Is it “always very physically damaging”?
              If it is harmless, is it “abuse”?

              2) What do you mean by “the long term”?
              More than 20 years?
              Less than 20 hours?
              How long would you anticipate until the sturdiest child becomes free of psychological harm after being sexually DAMAGED by an adult?

              If all children are psychologically damaged even for a short time, is that more acceptable than if they were all damaged for a long time?

              I hope you will forgive me if I harbor doubts that you know “plenty” of cases of child rape and CSA.

              The babysitting example was a refutation that I might “hate” a person who has never done any harm to anyone.

              I denied that I hated any such person (or people much worse.)

              But even so, they don’t get to babysit my kids — whether that makes me a hater or not.

              Sorry if that hurts their feelings.

              You said:

              “Let me sum up the point of the article.
              “The widespread hatred of pedophiles (distinct from child molesters) creates emotional isolation and leads to more victims. They didn’t choose to be attracted to children, our hatred isn’t justified. Tolerance is not only right, but will likely lead to fewer victims.”
              Let me respond in pieces, if you will.

              “The widespread hatred of pedophiles (distinct from child molesters) …

              > There can be no such hate. Inactive pedophiles are unrecognizable, so they are under the Hate Radar.
              … creates emotional isolation…
              Well they can hardly expect a warm welcome. Sorry they’re isolated, but after all, most people will want to keep their distance. Like a strong desire (never acted on) to have sex with the dead, or in surgical openings … some tastes are bound to make you unpopular.
              ” … and leads to more victims.
              How so?
              How does keeping your abnormal sexual fascinations a deep dark secret lead to more victims?

              “They didn’t choose to be attracted to children, … ”
              No one thinks that deviants chose it.
              No one thinks that deviants and criminals choose their aberrations. It may not make them any more acceptable.
              Must we all be tolerant of the jihadists or the “God Hates Fags” folks because they didn’t choose those feelings — they were brought up that way.

              ” … our hatred isn’t justified.”
              I imagine there are people who hate pedophiles who have never done anything about it. They have a derogatory nickname among those who know their little secret (They are called “Low eyes.”)

              I am not one of them, and I don’t know any.

              “Tolerance is not only right, … “

              I’m fine with tolerance as long as it does not extend to allowing them unsupervised contact with my children. That is too tolerant for me.

              ” … but will likely lead to fewer victims.”
              How so?
              I thought we were talking about a population that doesn’t have any victims.
              How does tolerance of deviance make them do it all the less?

            • As I said, I’m pretty much done indulging you. However, I will respond to one point that illustrates your inability to follow an argument.

              “How so?
              I thought we were talking about a population that doesn’t have any victims.
              How does tolerance of deviance make them do it all the less?”

              Not all child molesters are pedophiles. That doesn’t mean none of them are. Again, I pointed this out in the article, but it’s absurd that I actually need to explain that pedophiles can also be child molesters. You’re either trolling or willfully ignorant.

              Have a good day, Ann.

            • Ann

              Ahh now, my dear old James ~

              You are projecting.
              I’m not hostile to your points, even if I think some of them are wrong.

              So I am disappointed but not surprised that you are unable to respond to my last post.

              I’m especially interested in how an adult’s SEXUALLY DAMAGING a little boy can leave him free of negative psychological effects “long term.”

              Just so you know, you may not realize that an assertion like that sounds more like “wishful thinking” than anything real.

            • Because not everyone who suffers harm ends up emotionally scarred. Many do, and some don’t. This is irrelevant to anything in my argument, anyway. Now, please move along and troll someone else.

            • Ann

              Does every young child who is “SEXUALLY VERY DAMAGED” by an adult end up emotionally damaged?

              I think that the belief that this is so is what drives the adult interest in preventing small children from being “very damaged” sexually.

              Your insistence that when an adult severely sexually damages a young child, there is not necessarily any harm in that … well, that is such a strange position that I wonder what you are thinking.

              It did occur to me that it was just an error — that you merely misspoke. But you’ve had so many chances to rectify the error, and instead you keep on insisting that adult men can successfully damage very young children, and that you have known “many” cases where man-boy sexual DAMAGE left the child free of long-term harm.

              You can see for yourself that this looks like a strange position for you to take, right?

              I’m not surprised that you don’t want to keep on trying to defend this unusual position.
              But I am surprised that you don’t retract it.

            • Thanks for revealing yourself as a troll. 🙂

            • Ann

              Is there any hope that you will respond to any of my points?

              Even if you admit that you don’t want to own them, that would be something.

              Y’know, James, I wonder if you have trouble with definitions.

              A troll is someone who posts without substance and who won’t give responsive replies to sincere posts, and relies on name-calling.

              That’s how YOU post, my friend.

              But maybe you should have anticipated that writing a plea in behalf of pedophiles, and insisting that child molesters (all of whom are pedophiles) severely sexually damage small children, and pedophiles should not be hired as babysitters…

              … but it all works out fine in the end, because according to the many victims you have known (How did you come to know so many victims?), in the long run, the SEVERE SEXUAL DAMAGE they suffered didn’t hurt them any.

              Possibly you can see how some of the elements of your position are going to attract questions and requests for more information.

              Not that you intend to answer — not when you can post unresponsively and call people names like some kind of troll or something.

              Meanwhile I will keep hope alive that you might respond some time when you are more relaxed.

            • Keep writing essays, Ann.

            • Ann


              I don’t want to exhaust your patience when it comes to reading a lot of big words and long sentences.

              You probably have other things to do that are more important than just explaining your posts, even if they do sound pretty strange.

              Can you at least answer one single question before you have to hit and run?

              How does it happen that you know “many” child victims of physically sexually damaging child molestation by adult male pedophiles?

              As far as I know, I don’t know any.

              (I hope this is short enough for you to get your busy head around!)

            • WampusKat

              You’re an idiot:

              “Libertarian Presidential Front-Runner Defends Child Porn”

              Fri Apr 25, 2008 by Adam Dyck

              “Mary Ruwart, research scientist, perrenial Libertarian Senatorial candidate and front runner for this year’s Libertarian Presidential ticket is being taken to task for comments she made in her book, Short Answers to Tough Questions.

              When discussing self choice in relation to child porn, she had this
              to say: “Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the
              right to make that decision as well, even if it’s distasteful to us
              personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.”


              The same argument pedophile priests make: “The kid wanted it.”

            • Children can’t consent, so they cannot willingly participate in sexual acts. Once again, you are not engaging with my argument. I’m rapidly losing patience.

              Did you just read the headline and skip straight to the comments? I’m not a libertarian, don’t know who Mary Ruwart is, and I don’t agree with her claim. Scroll up and read what I actually wrote.

            • WampusKat

              It is not irrelevant. Whether a childhood victim of sexual abuse learns to cope with trauma or not is not a justification for victimization/exploitation.

            • Hence why I said that it isn’t relevant to my argument. I was responding to someone who, like you, doesn’t like that there is a distinction between pedophilia and child molestation.

              Almost nothing in this thread relates to my argument. Either learn to read or go away. I’m tired of correcting your inability to comprehend my argument.

            • WampusKat

              Pretty much everyone with two brain cells to rub together is done indulging you and the ridiculous argument, presented by Salon, that pedophiles are to be appeased.

            • WampusKat

              There IS sinister intent behind this BS discussion, but perhaps you’re too ignorant to realize it.

            • WampusKat

              As adults, we have control over our actions and if one targets helpless children for exploitation, then demonization is warranted.

            • Agreed. Now, point out where I said otherwise. Try reading what I wrote.

            • WampusKat

              Interesting… would this be the equivalent of “women fantasize about being raped?” as a justification for deviant behavior? The issue here is lack of consent. No child appreciates being sexually molested, even if they do learn to cope with the trauma.

              “Sexual abuse is a particularly sinister type of trauma because of the shame it instills in the victim. With childhood
              sexual abuse, victims are often too young to know how to express what is happening and seek out help. When not properly treated, this can result in a lifetime of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

              The trauma that results from sexual abuse is a syndrome that affects
              not just the victim and their family, but all of our society. Because
              sexual abuse, molestation and rape are such shame-filled concepts, our culture tends to suppress information about them.”


            • Bertha

              TomAto, TomOTTo, why are people so hell bent on rationalizing this sickness as if the two are different. They are not. It’s just humans have come up with a name for it, versus the act committed against children by adults is called. Same thing?
              “Of course, we’re talking about child molestation here, as opposed to pedophilia.”

              Same. Stop doing this, to your mind and others. It’s just sick.

            • WampusKat

              “How mentally damaging it was is up for debate”

              No it isn’t: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse

              “Of course, we’re talking about child molestation here, as opposed to pedophilia.” There is no distinction to be made. Pedophilia drives demand for child pornography resulting in exploitation and often outright sexual abuse/human trafficking. The pedo sitting at his computer consuming said pornography need never touch a child directly, not that too many people are going to buy into that argument.

            • I didn’t say *whether* it was mentally damaging is up for debate. Of course it’s mentally damaging. I said *how* mentally damaging, as the psychological response to abuse isn’t the same for everyone.

              And yes, there is a distinction to be made. It’s just a fact. Your feelings don’t dictate reality.

            • Shatterface

              Do you know of any society, past or present, that accepted adult sexual behavior with preadolescent children? If so, we could see if the practice did cause harm.

              If I remember correctly, Jesse Bering’s book Perv includes a tribe in Papua New Guinea where young boys perform oral sex on the adult males.

            • Ann

              Thanks, Shatterface

              Good reference.
              I was unable to find any data debunking this claim.

              I think there was no specific harm done to the boys.

              It was characterized by some expert I read as “always non-consensual,” but the worst it seems to have done is to make the boys into adults who did the same — which is only natural because of the beliefs surrounding the custom.

              I do think that humans are highly elastic in their behavior, and use cultural modifications about important life activities all the time (what and how to eat, to obtain food, to procreate, to build shelters, etc.)

            • Bertha

              You might want to read testimony of adults who were molested and raped as children even in the context of say, the custom of the culture (cult, religion etc). They probably don’t have a lot of real choice in the matter much less positive things to add about those experiences and would say that it did damage them.
              Amazing the lengths people go to rationalize things.

            • Bertha

              Same culture that was going mad for eating each other’s brains.

            • WampusKat

              “Conflicts with society”? Try conflicts with a child’s right not to be exploited by adults. I believe the evidence concerning psychological harm to the child (including suicide) is fairly conclusive. It’s child abuse/exploitation with lasting harmful psychological effects for the victim. What the hell do you think the uproar over the Catholic church has been about? Victims seeking redress. Not to mention, pedophiles (even if they supposedly have never acted on their impulse, which I do not buy for a second) are creating the demand for child pornography resulting in exploitation and human trafficking. Perhaps it’s Libertarians and their “progressive” cohorts who are mentally ill and in need of being removed to a secure location? Ever heard the term “mean between extremes” or do you all intend to go completely off the deep end?

            • It’s irrelevant what you “buy”. You’re not actually engaging with my argument. For example, when did I claim that CSA is not psychologically harmful?

              If you want to discuss this, I’m happy to. What I won’t do is deal with army of strawmen.

            • Bertha

              Sounds like you are rationalizing pedophilia as normal and only destructive because of societies constraints rather than the destruction it causes to the child, which is the most important element of concern.

        • WampusKat

          You can stop trying to normalize pedophilia. Children are not fair game on the “free sex” menu. Children require the state’s protection from sexual predators, not the other way around, regardless of claims made by pedophiles of never having touched a child. Keep this up and we’ll quickly discover a backlash against the entire notion of free sexual association among consenting adults just as we’ve made decent strides on the gay rights front. As mentioned above, homosexuality was once listed as a metal illness and we no longer accept that, so there is no reason to accept that pedophilia can suddenly be accepted as such.

          At this point I’m fairly confident that so-called “progressives” will swallow just about any Libertarian claptrap presented them:

          “Some libertarians have concluded that the anti-paternalist argument does indeed apply to children, and maintain that it is wrong to restrain children in any way as long as the children aren’t hurting anybody else; such libertarians maintain that children should have full rights to sign contracts or have sex with adults.”

          • Did you even bother to try and understand what I wrote? OK, here are some questions for you:

            Do you support the idea of thought crime?
            Do you think hating pedophiles (the attraction, not the associated CSA) does anything other than create more victims?

    • jg29a

      In support of the “sexual orientation” argument, you might also mention the fairly strong evolutionary explanation for some number of pedophiles to emerge in a population, namely that many of the features which tend to make an adolescent or young adult a more attractive mate than an older adult, are expressed even more strongly in young children. A typical sexual attraction involves the interaction of this “youthful” subset with another “sexually mature” subset (waist-hip ratio, breasts, adult facial features, etc). It’s a stronger explanation when you can explain some behavior in terms of one evolved mechanism breaking (the attraction to secondary sexual characteristics) while another evolved mechanism continues to be strongly expressed.

      • Thanks for that little note. I hadn’t actually done much reading into its evolutionary basis, so I’ll have to dig into that particular area.

    • WampusKat

      Once upon a time homosexuality was listed as a mental illness by the psychiatric profession. If we no longer accept that, then there is no reason to accept the notion that pedophilia is a mental disorder. The former claims no victims. The latter does and there is no reason on earth that liberals should be defending sexual predators. Claiming that one has never touched a child does not preclude these individuals from seeking out and sharing child pornography, creating demand for the exploitation of children. Children are off limits. Period.

      • How does any of that contradict my argument? If a pedophile is watching and/or distributing child porn, he or she is helping perpetuate child abuse. Everything I wrote applies to pedophiles who don’t abuse children either directly or indirectly.

        Again, nothing you said actually contradicts my argument.

    • Lana

      Overblown and sanctomonious twaddle, say what you llike, if I knew you even wanted to shag my nine year old son my protective instinct would kick in and I would want to kill you. I am a mum, it may be a sound moral framework or I may have a disorder, who knows. I think the protective instinct was built in, over millenia like, as we got better at hunting predetors.

    • christopher V.

      While I can appreciate your argument in terms of growth in social/political perspectives, I have to take issue with your reasoning at several points:

      1- What logical basis is there for moral condemnation of a behavior? Why does someone deserve to be demonized for anything? If the only answer is a variation of “Because that is how I feel”, than this reveals a serious lack of ability to think and express critically, which in turn suggests an inherent disability when it comes to rational discussion on any matter (let alone moral/political matters).

      More specifically, you suggest that determinism should be pushed aside in favor of a more simplistic perspective, but if there is no logical evidence for the existence of choice then what is the basis for arguments concerning consent, demonizing or punishing, beyond robotic response? If there is any evidence for determinism in human behavior than your simplifying makes your argument critically suspect.

      “We may not have freewill and, therefore, no one is actually responsible for what they do, but that isn’t convent to my argument and so we shall just ignore it”?

      2- Pathology is a term for disease, which is not a sign of something good or bad, but rather something that causes disturbance or suffering. Why does it matter if pedophilia can be categorized as ‘pathological’ if your argument is one for tolerance and understanding? Should human beings only ever be intolerant of behavior deemed pathologic? Is this is a semantic issue, or a moral one?

      3- Is society meant to be? If we can provide no evidence for this belief than arguments for functionality being the way we ‘should’ be are based on blind faith as opposed to any critically arguable position, and arguments against dysfunction (in proportion to the abstract idea of functionality being righteousness) are not cogent or strong.

      Personally I find it problematic (but understandable) that pedophilia is often irrationally distanced from homosexuality when it comes to social tolerance of sexual preferences and I think that you are on the path of reason with your argumentation, but I also think that reason cannot function if it is compromised, even a little bit.


      PS: “Society” doesn’t ‘say’ or ‘believe’ anything; were you referring to ‘majority’?

      A pet peeve to be sure, but then I don’t happen to believe in freewill, so you will take as you must.