Pedophilia may be one of the most used and feared words of our time. Left and right from us we see child abuse victims and abusers popping up frequently. The media reports about the increased sharing of child porn and sexual harassment of minors. Collectively, we categorize these heinous acts under Pedophilia, yet we mostly lack understanding of what it means.
Are all pedophiles automatically sexual predators? How dangerous are they? Where does all this come from and where could it potentially lead us as a society?
Child sexual abuse in families or religious institutions, sex tourism, child pornography – they all share similar characteristics. We have a victim that is considered underage, an adult offender that uses his influence and power to engage in sexual contact and we often use the same word to describe it – Pedophilia. Granted, it’s a topic that is hard to comprehend and to hear, but given the times we live in, it is essential that we spend time understanding what sexual abuse and Pedophilia means.
How we approach these crimes and sexual orientations is what will define if and how we can protect the children in our society going forward. It is comfortable and convenient to judge Pedophilia, but as it turns out, the terminology we use to label anything remotely affiliated with sexual crimes against minors is too broad, inaccurate and may create more victims. But before talking about the specifics, we first must define what Pedophilia is, as well as if and how it’s connected to sexual crimes against children.
Pedophilia Throughout History
Pedophilia is not a new concept, many cultures before our advanced western civilization had expressions describing sexual interactions with children or young adults under what we define as the age of consent. Then again, the importance of age itself has changed significantly throughout the ages.
Going back as far as the stone age, life expectancy was about 30 years, in later times sometimes even significantly lower than that. Sexual relationships then were naturally formed earlier than today to guarantee healthy and sizeable offspring. As soon as the parties involved were able to conceive, they’d engage in sexual interactions.
While our life expectancy has changed, biologically speaking, there are scientific studies that suggest that men can find women attractive that are as young as 15/16 years old without being considered wrong by any means. The deciding factor here is the pure attraction and not any crime or actual sexual interaction.
The prime age most people nowadays find attractive is the early 20s, which never changes by the way. We are never just attracted to people our age range but can and mostly always will be drawn to younger adults, as those are biologically engraved in our brain as being especially fertile for reproductive reasons. We don’t stop to find younger ages attractive, our scale of attractiveness simply expands with age, if at all.
Moving on from the Stone Age, two of the most advanced civilizations that came after, actually embraced sexual contact with adolescents. The term Pederasty described homosexual relations of an adult to an adolescent boy in Ancient Greece. This practice is also known to have existed in Ancient Rome and Japan, being integrated and accepted in society. The age of the adolescent usually ranged from very early to late teens.
The Term Pedophilia
While the preceding section was titled “Pedophilia Throughout History,” we just discussed some of its sub-movements. The actual definition of Pedophilia is wildly different (and not standardized). In today’s society, we’ve grown comfortable in using the term for everything describing sexual relations between an adult and a child or teenager under the local age of consent. The age of consent can differ wildly from country to country, mostly between 14 and 18 years of age. This very general definition is false and flawed, however, as the actual term Pedophilia describes a particular sexual attraction disconnected from any actions.
Pedophilia in itself only describes the fact a person is attracted to a pre-pubescent child. As puberty is not a procedure every teenager goes through at the exact same age and time, the exact definition might vary. Pedophilia mostly refers to being sexually attracted to children under the age of 13, though this age range might be extended to 14. Anyone attracted to teenagers between that and 19 years of age can be considered an Ephebophile, though as mentioned earlier, being attracted to this age range (non-exclusively) is not necessarily considered a condition, though it can be, given the circumstances.
It is important to note that all those terms never imply or include performing sexual acts with minors or acting out on the own sexuality. Pedophilia comes from the Greek words “child” and “love” and only describes being attracted to children, nothing beyond that. It is also important to bear in mind that even people with pedophilic tendencies can be divided as exclusive and non-exclusive. A Pedophile is not necessarily only attracted to children but may be attracted to people in his age range or above the age of consent as well.
Broad Strokes – Who We Consider a Sex Offender
That’s all well you may think. Why should you be concerned about terminologies when all you care about is the safety of your children? That’s a valid point and the overall issue we’re facing at the same time. Even though we are very fond of labeling things and put people into boxes, it is often a dangerously broad approach that hurts more and helps fewer people.
You see, we have grown comfortable to label all people that sexually hurt children as pedophiles. The reality is different. Not all sexual offenders against children are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles ever touch a kid.
And it is, by realizing that, that we can attempt to reduce the harm done to children. We have created an atmosphere where not only offenders but pedophiles in general and, in fact, all men are at risk to get accused of Pedophilia or sexual assault by contact with kids. That is one particular reason why men are unlikely to be found in jobs that work with underage children. There is a general stigma here that is based on gender and sexual stereotypes.
This is not meant to downplay actual sexual harassment and assault, but we are nowadays developing a sensitivity to sexuality that has been unknown in the past. We have gone from almost not talking about anything sexual 70 years ago to dwell on all its details in 2017. When we talk about sexual offenders, we don’t bother to separate them by the degree and kind of their crimes. We all just label them sex offenders. That means one thing – we alienate those that aren’t necessarily a permanent danger to us at the expense of hiding severe offenders in an unordered bulk of sometimes even unrelated crimes.
Pedophile Witch Hunt
Especially in the US, sex offender lists and registries are common and, if used correctly, can improve safety. However, people on that list are all treated equal, though their offenses vary significantly. In some states, visually urinating near a playground can potentially land you on the same directory as a serial sex predator seriously and consistently harming children. This is not to say that public urination near a playground is a grand gesture, it just distorts the meaning of “sexual offender.”
We distort the word pedophilia in the same way. A lot of us, myself included until recently, were under the firm belief that the thought and sexual preference by themselves are enough to condemn a person. The hard truth is that pedophilia is not a choice and most pedophiles suffer under it, as they are faced with a life without being able to satisfy their sexual urges. And still, many may be attracted to children but have an intact moral compass that enables them to live without ever harming anyone.
Condemn Offenders, Not the Rest
The key here is not to condemn people for what they cannot control, but to help those that are at risk harming our children because of it. Hate, generalization and condemning people for acts they have not committed can, in fact, cause more damage to children than trying to understand and better the state of non-offending pedophiles.
Unrelated to pedophiles, males, in general, are often subject to over-interpretation around children. There is a gender-based bias in that women are not considered to show exploitative sexual behavior around kids, though they exist. Women are always perceived as gentle and caring beings around children, while males have to tread very carefully handling children in any capacity. That generates issues that go way beyond the problem we have with non-offending pedophiles.
The Twisted Logic of Offending Pedophiles
That being said, there are offending pedophiles, and they pose a consistent threat to society. They have the undeniable sexual urge for children and some lack the moral maturity and responsibility to not act on it. Worse yet, they sometimes cannot comprehend why what they’re doing is wrong.
It is not seldom that offending pedophiles will defend their actions by the notion that children are capable of feeling sexual pleasures. Some may even excuse their sexual behavior by claiming it would further the sexual development of minors. It usually is a mixture of the two with remarks of historical context like pederasty, as mentioned earlier. They sometimes even cite some “research” to back up their claims.
One of the more influential sexologists in the past 100 years, Alfred Charles Kinsey, caused ripples in the post-WWII era with the release of his writing Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948). It was the first comprehensive study laying out the sexuality of the public and was an instant bestseller at the time. One of the chapters depicted the sexual behavior of children.
Although overlooked at the time, the chapter “Early Sexual Growth and Activity” depicted “scientific” observations of children in a sexual context such as the ability to have an orgasm. It only emerged later that those numbers, in fact, were taken from the diary from a lone pedophile that had raped and assaulted more than three hundred children in over 40 years, and wrote down his subjective findings. Alfred Kinsey put them down as facts, though they are from the twisted and distorted mind of a vicious serial predator. It is likely that Kinsey’s research even motivated the pedophile to engage in more sexual contact with minors to gain insights into children sexuality, molesting and raping children as young as two months old.
These findings claimed that, based on the pedophile, children as young as five months of age could reach an orgasm and much more highly immoral claims and depicted crimes. Even though the factual bases may be easy for us to dismiss, for a pedophile they can, in fact, be the reality.
As pedophiles sexualize children, they may, in severe cases, misjudge typical behavior of children as sexual advances. Advances innocent kids are not capable off, but a pedophile’s brain is, in fact, wired in a way that it is prone to misinterpret that behavior on occasions. The fact that our society has increasingly sexualized minors in recent times doesn’t make this any easier.
Sexualization of Minors
Looking at underage children depicted in the media, we can see that there’s demand for just that – underage girls. It sounds twisted just stating that out loud, but that’s how it is. Going back to the definitions at the beginning of the article, it is somewhat natural to see a general attraction in teens as young as 16. This is enforced however by the way teenagers at this age are depicted in society. The keyword “teen” consistently ranks in the top 5 searches on porn sites, models are consistently underage when they start working in the fashion industry and young celebrities mostly enforce a heavily sexualized image of minors in public.
While that’s not necessarily prohibited, it undermines the laws and the artificial moral standards we lay down as a society, more specifically the age of consent we have in place. A survey in 2011 found that more than half of the people surveyed in the fashion industry started to work at or under 16 years of age. This can blur the image of what’s legal or not. While many people can tell right from wrong – at the end of the day, a biological predisposition and poor moral judgment of situations can create an issue in a situation where none should be present. This is not an issue of pedophilia but a general one.
The Perfect Future?!
Like it or not, pedophiles and sexual predators are and always will be part of our society. It is a scary thought, but the only logical conclusion. However, we can better the situation we are in. It will be a tough road to take, but we seriously have to consider not to condemn pedophiles that are proven to have not yet offended to help them. It comes down to judging people by what they can control and not by what they can’t.
Offending sexual predators need to be punished, but it has to be made clear which person is a genuine and continuing threat. We have grown tremendously comfortable just to condemn everyone, especially if they’re male. Unfortunately, that won’t fix the situation we’re in. It’ll inevitably make it worse. We don’t necessarily need to find sympathy or pity for non-offending pedophiles. What we do need to do is make an effort to understand what’s going on to find countermeasures instead of using a brute force approach that hurts innocent people and puts more children at risk of becoming victims.
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