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From an evolutionary perspective, why would anyone ever be sexually exited by small children who could not possibly have started puberty?
Is it a confusion between some combination of sexual and non-sexual systems?
Is it a evolutionary imperfection?
Or is Darwinian thinking not necessarily applicable to human behaviour?
I am guessing on this one, and there may be some good research on it, but I do know that there can be combinations of genes acting on different behaviors, such that if you have a certain combination of 5 genes, you are a nurturing parent (which would be selected for), but when you accumulate more of these tangentially related genes past some threshold, you end up with non-selected behavior. For example, for homosexuality, which has been shown to be genetically heritable, it may be that 5 genes in a suite make you super attractive to women (thus these genes stick around), while 10 genes combine to make you gay. (Note, I am NOT equating homosexuality with pedophilia in ANY sense. Homosexuality if a healthy normal trait for humans. I am just saying that this is a theory about how suites of genes can be individually selected for while some combination of them is non-selective. Similarly, heterozygous sickle-cell genotype produces resistance to malaria, which is adaptive enough to keep the gene around, which is non-adaptive in the homozygous condition.) In answer to the other parts of your question, humans are absolutely subject to natural selection. Darwin was dead-on correct about virtually everything he said, to the point where it is frustrating for evolutionary biologists today to work in his shadow, because he pretty much got it all right in 1859. "Theory" is the strongest conclusion that science can ever come to, and people have been trying to tear down Darwin's theory for 160 years without being able to put a single dent in it.
Pedophilia is a paraphilia that involves an abnormal interest in children. A paraphilia is a disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving: nonhuman objects the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner (not merely simulated) or animals, children, or other nonconsenting persons. Pedophilia is also a psychosexual disorder in which the fantasy or actual act of engaging in sexual activity with prepubertal children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement and gratification. It may be directed toward children of the same sex or children of the other sex. Some pedophiles are attracted to both boys and girls. Some are attracted only to children, while others are attracted to adults as well as to children.
Pedophilia is defined by mental health professionals as a mental disorder, but the American legal system defines acting on a pedophilic urge as a criminal act.
Is pedophilia a sexual orientation?
Pedophilia has been widely viewed as a psychological disorder triggered by early childhood trauma.
Now, many experts see it as a biologically rooted condition that does not change — like a sexual orientation — thanks largely to a decade of research by Dr. James Cantor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Cantor’s team has found that pedophiles share a number of physical characteristics, including differences in brain wiring. It’s now thought that about 1 to 5 per cent of men are pedophiles, meaning they are primarily attracted to children.
These findings have been widely accepted among scientists, but have had little impact on social attitudes or law. However, we are left with the alarming question: if some men are born pedophiles, what should society do with them?
Bolstered by this research, pedophiles who have never molested children are seeking social acceptance.
Ethan Edwards has always loved little girls.
For years, he told himself his feelings were protective and loving, nothing more. But when he hit 50, he found he couldn’t stifle his desires any longer.
“I realized that young girls certainly took my breath away, more than grown-ups are usually charmed by kids,” he says.
Edwards, using a pseudonym, wrote about this realization on Virtuous Pedophiles, a website he co-founded for pedophiles who have never molested children. The group says their attraction is one they were born with and cannot change, but can control.
Edwards says the goal of Virtuous Pedophiles is to prevent child abuse, by reducing the stigma against non-offender pedophiles.
“We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away,” reads the website, which has about 200 members.
𠇋ut we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever. Yet we are despised for having a sexual attraction that we did not choose, cannot change, and successfully resist.”
The biology of pedophiles
Sitting inside his office at the College St. research hospital, Cantor is surrounded by books on sexology and eccentric decor — a framed sign that reads ta Is My Porn,” a throw pillow that spells “penis” in Braille.
Down the hall at the Kurt Freund Phallometric Lab, Cantor’s research team conducts experiments on convicted sex offenders. The men view nude images of children and adults of both sexes, while a device measures blood flow to their penises.
The method, called phallometry and invented by Freund in the 1950s, accurately measures sexual interests in 90 per cent of men, Cantor says.
“It’s the most obvious test in the world,” he says. “The procedure gives us a relative measure of how he reacts to the adult categories versus the child categories.”
His team has found that pedophiles share many physical characteristics. They are shorter, on average, than other men. They are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous. Their IQs are about 10 to 15 points lower. Finally, they are more prone to childhood head injuries — which Cantor chalks up to a natural clumsiness.
These physical characteristics are determined before birth, so the explanation for pedophilia must be in part prenatal, Cantor says.
“It’s become harder and harder to explain pedophilia on just (early childhood events). It’s either purely biological or a mix of biological and experiential. But pure experience can’t explain these data.”
Cantor, an internationally respected clinical psychologist, has also conducted studies with sex offenders using MRIs. He has found they have less white matter — the connective tissue that carries messages to other parts of the brain — than other types of criminal offenders.
The evidence suggests pedophilia results from atypical wiring in the brain. Cantor calls it 𠇌ross-wiring”: the stimuli that usually evoke nurturing and protective reactions in adults is instead evoking sexual reactions in pedophiles.
Similar experiments are being conducted across the globe, most notably at Berlin’s Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, but Cantor’s research has greatly influenced the view among researchers that pedophilia has a biological basis.
Pedophiles are thought to be overwhelmingly men. About a third of those men prefer boys, about a third prefer girls, and a third will be attracted to both.
Although female sex offenders exist, they are rare and it is more difficult to test their desires. Queen’s University sexologist Dr. Meredith Chiversconducted a similar genital-based test on women, but found, curiously, that females respond to everything — including images of bonobos copulating. (One theory is that during evolution, women developed this response as an automatic defence mechanism for rape.)
Some researchers disagree on whether the brain differences in pedophiles occurred before birth or in early development. Regardless, many are coming around to the view that pedophiles cannot be 𠇌ured” — but some can be stopped from molesting children.
“Not all sex offenders who target children are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are sex offenders,” says Dr. Michael Seto, a pedophilia expert and forensic researcher with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
Seto, a former colleague of Cantor’s at CAMH, has found that only 50 to 60 per cent of convicted sex offenders are pedophiles. The rest have sexually abused children for reasons beyond attraction — personality disorders, chaotic households or violent impulses.
His research has focused on psychological traits shared by sex offenders, potentially providing insight into why some pedophiles molest children, while other “virtuous” pedophiles like Edwards are apparently able to control their urges.
Seto has found that sex offenders are much more likely to have a sexual abuse history than other types of criminal offenders. Certain traits, including impulsiveness, risk-taking behaviour, sexual preoccupation and lack of empathy, are also shared by sex offenders.
He has argued forcefully for pedophilia to be thought of as a sexual orientation — an idea he acknowledges is controversial, but hopes will actually help prevent child abuse.
“Right now, it’s really slanted so that the treatment services are for people who have gotten into trouble,” he says. “Obviously, we need that, but I think where there is a big gap is in terms of prevention. How do we reach people who are sexually attracted to children and are aware of it?”
One of the concerns with labelling pedophilia a sexual orientation is the potential for parallels to be drawn with homosexuality. Seto is quick to point out the difference between orientation based on age, and orientation based on gender.
However, if pedophilia was widely viewed as a sexual orientation, effective treatment could focus on self-regulation skills — avoiding acting on one’s urges — rather than trying in vain to change sexual preferences, he wrote in a research paper last year.
“Pedophiles will remain hidden if they continue to be hated and feared, which would impede efforts to better understand this sexual orientation and thereby prevent child sexual exploitation,” he wrote.
Mandatory reporting laws make it incredibly risky for pedophiles to tell therapists about their desires. In Canada, one is only required to report to the police if a specific child is at risk, but the laws can be misunderstood by mental health professionals, says Seto.
The Harper government recently announced tougher measures against child predators, including a public sex offender registry. Seto says this is misguided, given that the recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders is actually quite low, at about 10 to 15 per cent.
“One of the worries would be that would further drive individuals underground,” he says. “It could also lead to problems that decrease the likelihood they can successfully be integrated.”
Ironically, Cantor says the idea that pedophiles are born, not made, can be used to support opposing political views — some will say “lock 𠆞m up and throw away the key,” while others will call for sympathy and therapy.
Cantor often receives emails from distraught men seeking guidance on controlling their desires. The side effect of strict mandatory reporting laws is that people don’t come in for help, he says.
To the unassuming onlooker, Ethan Edwards leads an ordinary life in Pennsylvania. He is in his mid-50s and works as a software developer. He was married for more than a decade and raised three daughters. He is well-respected in his community.
But Edwards harbours a secret that, if exposed, threatens his entire livelihood and reputation. He is attracted to girls as young as 4 — and although he says he has never molested a child, his desire is enough to make him a monster in most people’s eyes.
𠇏or me, the biggest problem with this is the isolation,” he says in an interview over Google Chat. 𠇎veryone else thinks I’m sick and dangerous. Well, not everyone, but most of society.”
Edwards is actually a rarity among pedophiles, in that he managed to suppress his desires until he was middle-aged. Most pedophiles become aware of their urges at puberty or by the time they are young adults many will describe their desires as romantic, not just sexual.
He is also able to maintain relationships with adult women — he says he was attracted to his wife while they were married. Perhaps surprisingly to some, he says he was never attracted to his daughters, citing an innate repulsion to incest.
Even now that he has accepted he is attracted to children, he swears that he will never act on his urges.
“I think it’s because my protective instinct towards children is so strong,” he says.
Edwards says he has never seen any child pornography. Instead he looks at seemingly innocuous photos of children — almost always wearing clothes, at least bathing suits. Cantor calls it “victimless,” although some might dispute that.
He launched his website with Nick Devin, also a middle-aged professional using a pseudonym, after meeting him on another support group, b4uact.org. Both felt sex with children was inherently wrong, and they wanted to create a website for other pedophiles with that view.
On Virtuous Pedophiles’s 𠇏irst Words” page, pedophiles — many of them teenagers or young adults — describe their relief at finding the group.
“I am in my late 20s and have been dealing with unwanted attraction to young boys since I was a teenager,” writes one member. “Though I have never acted on these attractions with anyone, this is my primary sexual attraction, and it bothers me greatly. I have considered suicide many times.”
Many pedophiles online do not share the viewpoint of Edwards and Devin.
On some sites, anonymous writers advocate for lowering the age of consent.
“It should be clear to anyone with any grey matter that pedophilia is just another oppressed sexual orientation or interest, and age doesn’t somehow magically make consensual sex between two people into something evil,” writes one user.
Another writes: “Nobody will ever quite understand the pain that we feel . . . seeing and longing for something we love but cannot have . . . and if we reach for it . . . we are accused of being sadistic monsters who only want to hurt kids. It will not last forever. Things will change.”
Edwards says he is disturbed by the activists that are “pro-contact” and hopes that young, struggling pedophiles find his group first.
The biology of paedophilia, or why there might not be one
James Cantor says there is not much research to support the abused/abuser theory, where a victim also becomes an abuser in adulthood.
James Cantor says there is not much research to support the abused/abuser theory, where a victim also becomes an abuser in adulthood.
For many of us, sexual attraction to children is difficult to understand—let alone the disregard child-sex offenders have for the physical and emotional harm they can cause. Lynne Malcolm examines the emotional psychology of paedophilia and explores if the brains of paedophiles make them a biologically different class of person.
Chrissie Foster remembers only simple things about the Catholic priest Father Kevin O’Donnell and the type of person that he appeared to be before she knew about the crimes that he was committing.
‘He was a grumpy old man but he didn’t have to impress any of us or groom any of us,’ she says. ‘We’d take in our children, drop them off safely five days a week, pick them up and he had access to them.’
Chrissie’s husband Anthony says there was nothing about Father O'Donnell that ever gave him a window into the man's true nature.
‘We’ve experienced what it does and I can’t possibly ever come to understand or comprehend how anyone at all can assault or abuse a young child,’ he says.
Two of Anthony and Chrissie Foster’s three daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused when they were in primary school by the late Melbourne priest Father O’Donnell.
Anthony and Chrissie Foster didn’t find out about the abuse of their daughters until they were in their teens but the effects were already being felt.
Human societies up until recently have regarded the onset of puberty and not the end of puberty as the signal for sexual maturity. 150 years ago the age of consent in England was 10, so as a society our concern about protecting children from sexual exploitation is a relatively new thing
‘Emma seemed to turn all the anger that she had back in on herself, she didn’t feel as though she could tell us what had happened to her earlier on and when she reached puberty she just started taking it out on herself,’ Anthony says. ‘And seeing a child with blood pouring out of their wrists because they’ve attacked their wrists with a piece of glass because that’s the level of pain and anguish that’s inside—it’s just horrific.’
Emma took her own life at the age of 25.
‘She was discharged from a Catholic church run rehab institution and the next day took all the medication that she’d been discharged with and died a short time later,' Chrissie says.
Katie, on the other hand, seemed to manage better, at least at first. But she suffered depression, and eventually turned to alcohol.
‘That seemed to be her out, but then she went out to a friend’s house and was drunk and ran across the road and got hit by a car,’ Chrissie says. ‘She actually died at the scene but was resuscitated, but there was a lot of damage done to her brain and she still has 24-hour care. That was 15 years ago this month.’
Chrissie and Anthony Foster continue to fight for justice for victims of child sexual assault through the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse.
Like the Fosters, many of us find the behaviour of child-sex offenders difficult to understand and especially if you have been a victim, deeply traumatic. But there are efforts going on to try and understand the paedophilic mind in the hope that these damaging offences can be prevented in the future. This is the work of psychologist, senior scientist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto James Cantor.
‘There have been several different researchers, there’s my young team in Toronto and there are three teams in Germany that have been using MRIs to compare paedophiles with non-paedophiles,’ he says. ‘Although our findings are disagreeing a little bit over where in the brain paedophiles seem to be different from non-paedophiles. all of us are finding significant differences between the two types.’
Assoc Professor Cantor’s research has narrowed down on the white matter in the brain—those parts of brain that facilitate connectivity.
‘It struck me then that what might be going on is a literal cross-wiring in the brain. Humans and several of the other upper primates had very natural social instincts. When we see something aggressive we automatically either aggress back or run away. When we see something sexy we very naturally begin to flirt with it. When we see a child it evokes very avuncular or parental or protective instincts. It’s almost as if, and again I mean this only as an analogy, it’s almost as if when a paedophile sees a child, instead of that stimulus automatically eliciting an avuncular or parental instinct it’s instead triggering the sexual instincts. As if these two parts of the brain are quite literally cross-wired, the wrong stimulus is eliciting the wrong response.’
The psychology of paedophilia
Stream or download the full program on the psychology of paedophilia.
But despite his theory around the unusual white matter makeup of a paedophile’s brain, Assoc Professor Cantor admits he has very little idea how the abnormalities might occur. A major problem is monitoring people before and after they offend—all of his studies involve those who have already committed crimes.
‘But the brain develops of course long, long before any of these kinds of behaviours happen, so I had to ask questions about what was going on in their lives, sometimes 20 and 30 years before,’ he says. ‘And it turns out they were more likely to fail school grades, they were more likely to have suffered head injuries before age 13 but not after age 13—again giving me a clue that whatever went off started earlier in life.’
Paedophiles, it turns out, are also three times more likely than the rest of the population to be left handed.
‘Now there’s only one thing that determines a person’s handedness and that’s brain organisation and it happens before birth. So the only way that there could be a difference in handedness among the paedophiles is if whatever the chain of events was, the first link of that chain also had to be before birth.’
The idea of people being born paedophiles, however, contradicts many of the common developmental psychology theories about sex abusers, particularly the often stated abused/abuser theory—the idea that the victim of sexual abuse will make a person more likely to become a paedophile. But Assoc Professor Cantor says there is scant evidence to support the abused/abuser theory.
‘Practically all paedophiles are male but the majority of the victims are female. If there was a very simple like-makes-like mechanism we wouldn’t see such a large sex difference between the victims and the perpetrators. The other big clue is that the association seems not to be specific to sex, rather it seems to be experiencing just about any kind of adversity in childhood whether that’s sexual abuse, physical or environment abuse, neglect, all of those seem to cause a great many kind of problems later in life including general criminality.’
‘So the paedophilia seems to be biological but the willingness to break the law and to act on that paedophilia seems to be the result of early environment.’
But there are many who violently disagree with Assoc Professor Cantor's attempts to pin down a mechanism for paedophilia in the brain.
Professor Stephen Smallbone from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University in Queensland has treated hundreds of child-sex offenders and he doesn’t agree that paedophilia is a mental illness he even takes exception to the use of the word paedophilia.
‘It’s really the social rules that have changed not the potential of sexual interest in children,’ he says. ‘If we take a broad perspective across human history we see example after example after example of human societies where sexual contact with children has been normal. Human societies up until recently have regarded the onset of puberty and not the end of puberty as the signal for sexual maturity. A hundred and fifty years ago the age of consent in England was 10, so as a society our concern about protecting children from sexual exploitation is a relatively new thing.’
Professor Smallbone believes that any biological predisposition to be attracted to children would have to be universal, because 150 years of legal protection to stop the sexual exploitation of children ‘is by no means long enough to have had a kind of evolutionary or biological effect on humans’.
Instead, Professor Smallbone says that ‘acting on a sexual interest in a child is really a failure of restraint’.
If that is the case, then how do we recognise someone with that ‘failure of restraint’, or at least recognise the signs that abuse is happening?
For Anthony and Chrissie Foster, there were very few indications either from Father O’Donnell or from Emma and Katie that abuse was taking place.
‘Emma—she used to speak about coke making her drunk, it was something I overheard,’ Chrissie says. ‘I suppose it left a question mark there because it was strange and we never gave her coke but I was later to find out that she’d actually been given coke by O’Donnell the priest, he drugged this coke.’
Father O’Donnell was also ‘very good at spoiling certain children’, Anthony says. He threw coins to the children in the playground, and let them play with firearms he kept stored in the presbytery, or on occasion let them drive his car.
Professor Smallbone says that in his years studying paedophiles he’s observed two broad circumstances in which abuse occurs.
‘One of them is a kind of aggressive behaviour, the offender is simply gratifying their own urges at the complete expense of the victim involved. But there’s another category which possibly is even more common where the abuse arises from a kind of nurturing context. We know that most sexual abuse occurs within home settings for example. It’s usually not in fact a biological father but often a stepfather, or an uncle, or a visitor to the home and so on but they’re often involved in child-care activities with the child. This is similar to I think to how a lot of the abuse occurs in institutional settings as well, including church organisations, where the original relationship prior to the abuse occurring is really based on an effort by the would-be offender to take a care taking and nurturing role in respect to the child.’
The awkward fact, Professor Smallbone says, is that this nurturing relationship is also the basis of perfectly healthy adult relationships.
‘This is not by any means behaviour that ought to be condoned but a lot of ordinary sexual behaviour occurs in this way as well. Mostly when adults are having sexual relationships with one another, they’re also involved in care-taking of each other and nurturing one another. So I don’t think that’s a big surprise.’
Assoc Professor Cantor agrees that the majority of paedophiles are ‘regular everyday people.’
‘A large chunk of them are aware of their paedophilia, do their best to suppress it, they try to get help for it when they can and they do the best that they can to lead a celibate life,’ he says. ‘Then there are also people who are aware of their sexual interest in children but fool themselves, they talk themselves into well it’s not such a bad idea, well maybe this particular kid is more developed, and oh, that kind of looks like flirting to me and they slowly talk themselves into believing that the interaction that they’re having with whatever kid is a relatively mutual interaction.’
But the impact on people’s lives who’ve been victims of paedophilic behaviour is the total opposite of a mutual, nurturing interaction—it’s devastating. Although it's a challenge to discuss paedophilia in scientific terms, Professor Cantor says if researchers focus only on the emotional side of abuse then ‘we can’t help anyone’.
‘Really what it boils down to is the reward for keeping our emotions down,' he says. 'We can actually help this person never to commit another offence. And that’s a pretty high reward.’
The Fosters’ disturbing but brave account of their family’s experience is documented in the book Hell on the way to Heaven by Chrissie Foster with Paul Kennedy. If this article has raised difficult emotions for you call the LifeLine helpline on 131 114. Find out more at All in the Mind.
Facing Disturbing Truths About Pedophilia Could Help Us Keep Kids Safer
A guy I know was recently arrested for possessing child porn. We used to be friends but had a falling out years ago. Later he became kind of a big deal locally, a city councilor and the publisher of a magazine. Not surprisingly his being arrested got some attention in the media.
You might imagine I enjoyed some schadenfreude at the moment I saw his name in the paper, but as a sex addict I just felt bad for him. While I am lucky enough to not share in this type of attraction, I know what it is like to be unable to control myself sexually, and to do things that are shaming𠅊nd harmful—to myself and those around me.
When I was in rehab for sex addiction there were a few guys who were into kids, although they did their best to deny it. The staff at the rehab gave certain guys a psychological test. From what I heard, it’s kind of a stimulus-response test: They would put the guy in a room and show him photos of a six-year-old boy and a hot 25-year-old woman until the guy would finally prove to them and himself what we all suspected: that the guy wanted to molest kids. Even after the test, he still would not want to admit to the rest of us the nature of his true attractions. He would wander around for days moaning that the test was wrong, the staff was wrong, and he didn’t, he really didn’t, want to fuck kids at all.
Pedophiliaing attracted to a prepubescent or early pubescent kid—is defined by the DSM-5 as a sexual “interest.” (The DSM-5, released in 2013, originally revised its old definition of pedophilia to “sexual orientation”—meaning you were born that way𠅋ut there was such a public outcry against this attempt to de-stigmatize it that the brave psychiatrists said that “orientation” was a “typo” and was supposed to be “interest.”) It’s estimated that about one percent of men are, in fact, born this way.
You aren’t going to tell your wife about it. You aren’t going to tell your friends or go out for some beers with the guys at work and say, “I have to tell you, Joe, I find children extremely erotic, and I feel really bad about it.” You aren’t going to tell anyone.
Pedophilia is not a sexual addiction, although pedophiles can be addicted to their form of sexual behavior and some of the most prolific child sex offenders have undoubtedly been sex addicts. The traditional treatment for pedophilia is Relapse Prevention, which is based on helping people with addiction identify𠅊nd develop coping skills for—high-risk situations.
The DSM-5 says that pedophilia is only a sexual disorder if it causes “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty”—or if you act on it. It is a “paraphilia,” a “sexual impulse disorder characterized by intensely arousing, recurrent sexual fantasies, urges ਊnd behaviors that are considered deviant with respect to cultural norms and that produce clinically significant distress or impairment.”
Other familiar paraphilias include exhibitionism, sadism, voyeurism, and frottereurism (a fancy name for the guy who rubs his dick against other people on the subway). There are hundreds of different types of paraphilias ranging from abasiophilia (being sexually attracted to people with impaired mobility) to zoosadism (being turned on by torturing animals). It’s a weird world out there sexually, and all sorts of people are into all sorts of things that are not of their choosing.
“One cannot choose to not be a pedophile, but one can choose to not be a child molester,” Dr. James Cantor, a professor at the University of Toronto medical school and a leading expert on pedophilia, wrote in a CNN op-ed in 2012. He also said that pedophiles are most likely to abuse when they are most desperate and feel they have nothing to lose.
Imagine that your sex drive is all about fooling around with 10-year-old boys or girls. How do you learn to live for the rest of your life with𠅋ut never act on—this burning sexual need without going crazy? You go to a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional, right? Probably not. Mandatory reporting laws require them to report anyone who comes for therapy or counseling and who is “suspected of,” which could be interpreted as 𠇊t risk for,” molesting a child.
You aren’t going to tell your wife about it. You aren’t going to tell your friends or go out for some beers with the guys at work and say, “I have to tell you, Joe, I find children extremely erotic, and I feel really bad about it.” You aren’t going to tell anyone. You’re going to remain silent, you’re going to hate yourself, and you’re going to suffer.
These conditions seem almost created to make you feel desperate and therefore most likely to sexually abuse a kid.
When it comes to pedophiles and other people with weird sexual urges, our society is all about punishment, not prevention. We don’t want to help people who we think could mess with our kids. We want to pretend they don’t exist until they do mess with our kids, and then we want to punish and make an example of them. Even saying the words help and pedophile in the same sentence pisses people off. But this is likely the best path to reducing child sex abuse.
“If you even mention something that sounds empathetic to the mental disorder of pedophilia, people might incorrectly think you are excusing child sexual abuse,” Margo Kaplan, a law professor at Rutgers University, told the New York Times. “It combines our discomfort with mental disorders and our disgust with sexual deviance—it really hits the jackpot of social animosity.”
Most of us do not understand that pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same thing. On the one hand, many guys who have a sexual attraction to kids do not act on it. On the other hand, studies show that about half of all child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims they do it because the have a personality disorder or other serious mental health problem.
When it comes to people with weird sexual urges, our society is all about punishment, not prevention. Even saying the words "help" and "pedophile" in the same sentence pisses people off. But this is likely the best path to reducing child sex abuse.
But the biggest misconception is, again, that guys choose to be totally turned on by six-year-olds and that therefore they have a moral problem. Being stigmatized in this way is like sex addiction—or any addiction, for that matter. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re not all morally responsible for the consequences of our actions.
There are websites that try to help people who are attracted to kids and wish not to act on it. One is Virtuous Pedophiles. Another is Celibate Pedophiles, run by Ethan Edwards (a pseudonym). His out me” reads:
I am a pedophile, always celibate, and I have never seen child pornography. My attraction is strongest to girls around 4 years old, but I am also attracted to girls and women up through their 30s or beyond. Now in my late 50s, I’m divorced and living alone. I was married for over 10 years and was heavily involved with raising my 3 daughters. Before retirement I was a highly successful software engineer. I am very unusual for a pedophile in that I didn’t realize the full nature of my attraction until I was in my 50s𠅋ut it was there all along. I am disturbed that I cannot tell people who I really am, and that if anyone finds out, I risk losing everything. I have come to care very much about the terror of the typical pedophile who realizes as a teenager that his attraction isn’t going to go away, who has nowhere to turn for help.
Weird, right? Does it make you uncomfortable? There is a lot about sex and sexual desires, disorders, and addiction that should make you feel uncomfortable. All of it pushes you outside your bubble of what you thought sex was supposed to be. I know that a lot of the sexual things I have done would seem very odd to most people.
My former friend was indicted for 10 counts of possession of sexually explicit materials and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. He will almost certainly go to prison. And the thing is, he should.
When I was fresh out of college I got a job with the American Civil Liberties Union working with prisoners. There was a guy who was in prison for molesting a kid. He told me that he had had his paperwork forged so it looked like he was in there for manslaughter: He did something sexually with a kid, but he made it appear as if he was in there for killing someone. It’s an interesting concept. If you are in prison for killing someone you can get some slaps on the back and some cigs. If you are in there for messing with a kid, you get fucked up.
No one likes thinking about pedophilia. I know I don’t. But I also know that my former friend didn’t choose what turns him on, and I know he probably has been living in fear and with pain his entire life. If he and other pedophiles had safe places to go to get help before they commit crimes, both they and our kids would be in a much better place.
This post originally appeared on Substance, a Pacific Standard partner site, as ing Disturbing Truths About Pedophilia Could Help Us Keep Kids Safer.”
Not A Monster
This post has been a long time in coming. There is an ongoing debate about the status of pedophilia as a socio-cultural entity. Is it a sexual orientation, a fetish, or a mental illness? Is it like homosexuality or different? These questions are important, because the answers will determine how we as a society treat the issue going forward. While I am not a scientist, a sociologist or a political expert, I am a pedophile so this certainly has a direct impact on me, and I have some unique insight to offer here. Beyond that, I am fairly well-read on matters pertinent to pedophilia, including keeping up with the latest science from experts in the field.
Before I get started, I would like to point out that my friend and fellow virped Ender has already covered this topic pretty well, and I will no doubt be touching on some of the same points he made. I do want to go a bit beyond his article though and get a little more in-depth with the topic. Alright, so the title of this article should make it fairly obvious where I stand on this issue, and now I will spend some time explaining why I have come to this conclusion. I have discerned seven valid reasons why pedophilia should be regarded as a sexual orientation and will outline them all here. So let’s get to it.
(1) Experts mostly agree that pedophilia is a sexual orientation – It’s no accident that the majority of scientific experts who study pedophilia have come to the conclusion that it is a sexual orientation or something very close to it. In a 2011 Canadian parliamentary session, Dr. Vernon Quinsey and Dr. Hubert Van Gijseghem, when consulting lawmakers on the matter, both concluded that pedophilia was, like heterosexuality and homosexuality, something essentially immutable. And shortly after my Salon articles came out, an anonymous expert in criminal psychology made similar comments on Reddit. Among the most prominent of experts on pedophilia—people like Michael Seto, James Cantor and Klaus Beier—have also come out on record as describing pedophilia as a sexual orientation or tantamount to one. All of these experts did not come to this conclusion willy-nilly. I know it’s trendy for people of a certain political stripe to deny science that doesn’t accord with their beliefs, but unfortunately for them, that’s not how reality works. These are legitimate experts, and their opinions have merit.
(2) There are compelling genetic reasons for pedophilia – Setting aside the current lack of definitive genetic evidence for pedophilia (or homosexuality for that matter), there are some pretty solid reasons why a genetic mutation for pedophilia would almost certainly occur in some humans. In all societies up to about the late nineteenth century, children rarely survived into adulthood. If a child was orphaned, its chances of survival decreased even more. Thus, it would have been quite beneficial to those children for an unrelated adult to take them in. Given the costs of raising and caring for a child in societies where resources were scarce, it would’ve been unlikely for that to occur. Barring a desire to do good at their own expense, there are only three basic reasons why an adult would take on the costs of caring for a dependent child that was not their own. One, the adult wanted a surrogate for children they couldn’t have (the main reason people adopt children today), two, the adult wanted a cheap source of labor, and three, the adult wanted a youthful sexual partner.
Now, I am not suggesting that this justifies sex with children. But let’s be honest: genes are not compelled to behave according to human morality. Indeed, nature is, if anything, inherently amoral. Morality is a human invention, which helps explain why it varies from culture to culture and mutates over time. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that nature might have its own reasons for the development of pedophilia. Given what we know about the low chances of children making it to full adulthood in the past, it makes sense that a small percentage of pedophiles would appear in any society of a significant size. It also explains why sexual abuse was not much of a moral issue in past societies. In fact, their genes often had a better chance of being propagated if humans—girls especially—began to procreate early, because even if they survived into adulthood they tended to live much shorter lives on average than adults do today.
There is also another factor of relevance here: neoteny. This is the retention of juvenile traits in a species for a certain period of time. Humans maintain neotenic traits far longer than most other species. In fact, humans maintain some neotenic traits indefinitely (examples include smaller females compared to males and flattened facial features in both sexes), and these traits are often considered to enhance sexual desirability. There are a variety of reasons for this, but ultimately, with respect to pedophilia, it is really no wonder that sexual attraction to children would develop among some human adults. It’s likely a rather small mutation in a species prone to pedomorphism.
(3) Pedophilia has an emotional component – It is commonly understood that teleiophiles, straight or gay, frequently fall in love with their desired partner, but the same thing occurs with pedophiles as well. There is a grave misunderstanding amongst non-pedophiles that pedophilia is only about sex, but this is not true. Yes, there are pedophiles who don’t give a fig about children beyond their sexual attractiveness, just as there are adults who simply are out to get laid and have no emotional investment in their partners. But not all pedophiles are like this. Having encountered hundreds of pedophiles online over the twelve or so years I’ve been active on the internet, I can say that the vast majority of them have confessed to an emotional attraction as well as a sexual one.
I would even go so far as to say that it is the emotional connection more than anything else that keep virpeds like myself from acting on our desires. It may seem ironic, but it is nevertheless true that the presence of real children in their lives has the most desexualizing effect for many pedophiles. It’s much easier to romanticize and objectify kids when you only see the clean, groomed, snappily dressed, well-behaved, pleasant, quiet kids in advertisements and TV shows, but real kids tend to be messy, cranky, hyper, obstinate and so on. Also, forming a real-life relationship with a child assures that pedophiles are more invested in that child’s welfare and less likely to want to cause him or her harm.
(4) Pedophilia usually begins at the onset of adolescence – As with heterosexuality and homosexuality, pedophilia begins for most pedophiles when they hit puberty and first begin to experience sexual feelings. Some young pedophiles may not immediately notice anything unusual if they are attracted to same-aged peers, but they will begin to notice as they age and their preference does not age with them. In my case, I had the first uncomfortable taste of my sexuality at age twelve when a group of my sixth grade peers and I were talking about the girls in our class that we found attractive. The other boys pointed out how pretty the most developed girl in class was and I clammed up because the girl I happened to like was the least developed girl in class. But my real sexual awakening was about a year later when I saw a seven-year-old neighbor girl at my grandparents’ place and realized my preference was for significantly younger girls than I had first imagined.
(5) Pedophilia is not a choice – Like heterosexuals and homosexuals, pedophiles don’t choose to be attracted to children. It’s a truism with gays and lesbians that, given the stigma they face, no one would willingly choose that sexuality for themselves. Well, increase that stigma a hundred-fold at least for pedophilia. We are basically the least popular people in the world. Even serial killers have their fans, and they torture and murder people. You would have to be the worst sort of masochist to be 12 or 13 years old and say to yourself, “Hmm, I think I’m gonna choose to find 5-year-olds attractive. That will make me soooo cool with all my friends.”
Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, I spent a long time in denial of my sexuality. As a teen in the nineties I even modeled myself on a popular anti-child abuse activist, Andrew Vachss. To be sure, I was also pretty horrified by what I knew of sexual abuse, so it wasn’t really much of a stretch. In fact, I could’ve easily continued down that road if I had been better at self-denial, but I’ve never been much good at lying to myself for long. But that experience taught me something. It is my hunch that many of the most extreme anti-pedophile activists are really just insecure, self-hating pedophiles who hide their sexual insecurities by projecting them outward. I’m certain that some of them are, because I almost became one of those guys myself.
(6) Pedophilia is very likely immutable – The evidence isn’t quite definitive yet, but as the experts mentioned above have pointed out, pedophilia, as with other sexualities, tends to be fixed for life. So one cannot be cured of pedophilia since it is not a disease. Yes, in practice it is incompatible with laws and social mores, but the average pedophile is no more prone to attacking children than the average peer-attracted male is prone to attacking the adults he prefers. This myth has persisted for a long time, and it’s easy to understand why: the only time people really hear about pedophiles is when they have broken the law. So naturally there is an assumption that every pedophile can and will act out at some point. But this is nonsense. Most pedophiles can control themselves just fine and often do, which means they frequently go undetected for the entirety of their lives.
(7) Logic suggests pedophilia is a sexual orientation – Here’s where we get into the essence of the debate, I think. Bear with me because this segment will be long. When we consider what a sexual orientation is, there are at least two different factors that are at play, and where you come down on pedophilia’s designation likely depends on how you feel about those two factors. One of the factors is science the other is politics. It’s important to recognize that homosexuals have fought a long, hard political battle to get the recognition, rights and respect they enjoy today. It’s remarkable that they have made such headway. Even so, their fight is not over by a long shot, and the critics of gays and lesbians, particularly on the political right, continue to try their damnedest to roll back everything the LGBT community has accomplished. One of the ways they do this is by linking the current fight by pedophiles for their own rights to the LGBT movement and to blame it for what the naysayers see as a future in which child sexual abuse has been “normalized”, to use their term.
To be sure, this fear is not an entirely invalid one. Given that homosexuals ultimately demanded and received the right to sex without legal interference, it is understandable that people might fear something similar happening in the future with pedophiles. However, there are some important distinctions to be made here. First and foremost, gays fought for the right to love each other. For those pedophiles who seek the lowering or removal of age of consent laws, the fight is entirely one-sided. Children are not organizing and demanding the right to love pedophiles in turn. If they were, this discussion would be a very different one. But that is never going to happen. Why? Because children, when they are even aware of it, by-and-large neither desire nor enjoy sex, and furthermore, they lack the psychological development to understand what such activism would even mean.
Which leads naturally to the other important distinction between the gay and pedophile movements: kids are unable to meaningfully consent to sex or romantic relationships. They cannot sign contracts, or vote, or drive either. These are not cruelties inflicted on kids (as pro-contacters will often argue), nor are these restrictions imposed for moral reasons the way laws against gay sex used to be. These laws and rules are in place to protect a highly vulnerable and naive segment of society from being manipulated by people who generally do not have their best interest at heart.
Thus, from a purely political standpoint, it makes sense that some would oppose the designation of pedophilia as a sexual orientation. But the term ‘sexual orientation’ is not merely a political distinction it is also a medical/scientific one, and for me at least, science always trumps politics. Science has long been considered immune from politics, as it is a way of discerning reality as it is, not as we want it to be, and the scientific method has been perfected over time to be foolproof. It is only quite recently that well-established scientific truths have come under major attack from political factions, particularly from the right but also in some cases from the left. As the science of sexuality continues to be refined, it is important for all of us, no matter where we stand on these issues morally, that we use the correct terminology and understand the difference between a scientific designation and a political one.
Barring a definition which artificially restricts the concept of sexual orientation to refer only to gender preferences, pedophilia ticks off all the boxes that scientists have traditionally used to determine a long-term, fixed sexual preference. That this was initially limited to the single dimension of gender preference does not mean that that tradition is correct. Sexuality is a complex tapestry to which there are several dimensions, including age preferences (chronophilias), and age preference is not limited to pedophiles it applies to all sexualities. It’s just that in the past, a preference for adults was assumed. But ask yourself this: does my sexual preference have an age dimension? The answer is, of course it does. Your preference for males and/or females, whichever it may be, does not begin at birth and end at death—your preference is almost certainly limited to a particular age range, say 20 to 40 or thereabouts. It may extend up or down a few years depending on the maturity/youthfulness of individuals, but it is not indefinite. For pedophiles it’s the same, only our preference tends to be fixed in the prepubescent years.
Logically speaking, a sexual orientation is best defined as who or what one is sexually oriented towards, and that preference is a multidimensional spectrum. Suggesting that one is simply gay or straight is not really enough information for a full picture of what one’s preferences are. You could be a gay or straight teleiophile (meaning you prefer adults in their prime), a gay or straight pedophile, or even a gay or straight gerontophile (meaning you prefer older people—yes, those do exist too). Ergo, it makes far more sense to recognize age preference as a dimension of sexual orientation since it is built into it anyway rather than designate it as something else. It may be politically inconvenient, but it is nevertheless scientifically accurate, and science trumps politics. Anyway, the moral issues surrounding sex with children are in no way impacted by recognizing pedophilia for what it is, and that is the most important point to take away from this.
Addressing Some of the Fallacies Used by Opponents of the Designation
Now that we’ve looked at the reasons why pedophilia should be labeled a sexual orientation, let’s examine some of the fallacious arguments used by opponents of the designation.
Pedophilia isn’t a sexual orientation because children are not a gender – This one goes right back to my last point, and it is ultimately a fallacy of irrelevance. (There are a lot of those in this debate.) Again, there is nothing inherent to the concept of sexual orientation which requires that it only apply to gender preferences, and there is a solid logical argument for designating sexual orientation as anyone or anything to which a person is sexually oriented.
Children cannot consent to sex, so pedophilia is not a sexual orientation – Yep, another fallacy of irrelevance. While it is relevant to the moral and legal aspects of adult-child sex, whether preferred partners can consent or not is irrelevant to the concept of sexual orientation. These are very distinct things. A sexual orientation is, or should be at any rate, a scientific/medical designation based on a number of criteria involving the person who experiences it. External moral, legal and political factors should have no impact on the accuracy of a medical diagnosis.
Pedophilia is not found in nature – Actually, this is quite untrue. In fact, our closest genetic cousins the bonobos have been observed engaging in all sorts of sexual practices, including with juvenile females. Another interesting species that has recently been observed engaging in pedophilic sex is the black widow spider. Adult male spiders have learned to mate with juvenile females in order to avoid being cannibalized. They engage in intercourse with the young spider, planting their seed in the juvenile female, where it will remain until the female reaches maturity, at which point the female will then become impregnated.
But even if it was true, setting aside the fact that humans are still part of nature, this would still be a fallacy of irrelevance, not to mention a naturalistic fallacy. It is wholly irrelevant whether other species practice behaviors that we wish to recognize as part of that designated spectrum of human sexuality.
Pedophilia is a fetish, not a sexual orientation – Um, no. The American Psychological Association defines fetishism as a sexual fixation on a nonliving object or nongenital body part (Wikipedia). Maybe you define children as objects or body parts (at which point I must ask, who is the sick one here?) but children are, in fact, a distinct class of people, just like men and women. And, as with males and females, children have appeared in every society since the beginning of our species, so there is every reason to see them as a dedicated group to which a sexual orientation would naturally develop, and that designation would apply and be understood in every society under the sun. Contrast that with, say, an attraction to people with pink hair. Pink hair is neither naturally occurring nor universal to human societies, and an attraction fixated on pink-haired people could be viewed as fetishistic, since it is a nongenital body part (pink hair) that is the turn-on there.
Pedophilia should not be normalized – This is one of the major criticisms used not only against the recognition of pedophilia as a sexual orientation but for pretty much any sort of discussion or research of the pertinent issues that is even remotely sympathetic to pedophiles, even the non-offending sort. It’s essentially a slippery slope argument based on fears of child sexual abuse somehow gaining the same protected status as gay and lesbian sex. While that fear is understandable on some level, once you take into account all the facts, it should be fairly clear that this is never going to happen. The points laid out in reason seven above for why pedophilia is different from homosexuality are quite sound and should be convincing enough to allay those fears.
The problem is, many people are quite cynical and believe that as soon as honest and open-minded discussion of these issues is allowed, it will fling open a Pandora’s Box and we will quickly slide into a society where anything goes, including the rape of children. But there’s a vast difference between presenting an issue fairly and accurately and condoning horrific behaviors. Recognizing pedophilia as a sexual orientation does not automatically imply allowing or excusing the abuse of children. It simply means viewing it in a way that can be understood and classified in an existing medico-scientific model. The criminal and moral status of adult-child sex still would remain quite separate from that.
Indeed, such a classification would likely contribute to the lessening of abuse in the long run, primarily by destigmatizing the concept of attraction itself and making it more likely for those who fit this sexuality to come forward and seek help if needed, or to seek out communities like VirPed where they will have companionship and support in living a legal and ethical lifestyle. Destigmatizing and accurately classifying pedophilic attraction does NOT mean legalizing sex with kids. I know in this current time of “alternate facts” it is easy to be skeptical about truth and accuracy even in the sciences, but society has never morally devolved from a better understanding of an issue. If anything, it is much easier to manipulate a society’s mores and values when fear, inaccuracy and suppression of honest debate take precedence over a clear and accurate attempt to understand a controversial issue.
Why Was Pedophilia Socially Acceptable In The Past?
In the middle age, the renaissance, etc. people didn't lived long so it was ok to marry younger since most people died at around 30s. Being 12 when you died in your 20s wasn't considered to be so young.
Too people that married so young was mostly the rich one (the princess, duchess, etc. this kind of people) and it was just for political affair or peace treaty, etc. For example in France when the Vikings invaded and stole a lot of stuff from France the king decided to give his daughter to marry to the vikings "leader'' as a peace treaty. Like "You get to marry my daughter, I give you a part of my country so now stop stealing and killing my people". His daughter was only 4 years old. That wasn't seen as pedophilia but only as a way to have peace. She was more considered as a tool to bring peace rather than a proper wife. There's no record of his wife having any children but there's records for his mistress to have given birth to many children.
Too back then most people (the common people) had their daughter married in their late teen (around 16 /17 in general) and the guy was in his early 20 in general. Some were older but it was mostly early 20s for guys (and even younger in their late teen if both family wanted to have good ties quickly).
Later on until the very early 20th family would plan on marrying their children since their birth for family ties, some were married to their cousins (the noble one) and others were married to family friends (a lot were married for business but it was generally decided later when they were in their teen). Their children weren't married as baby obviously they were married in their late teen.
Child getting married was only the really rich one (usually just the king daughter / son and some others really high in position) but even so it wasn't that common. I don't think it's pedophilia since at the time the wedding were planned by the parents and when child were wed it was for political reasons not because they thought children were sexy or anything. Too at this time men had multiple mistress it was considered normal and encouraged, the wife was there only to give a proper heir, most married couple weren't in love and loved somebody else than their spouse. wedding was a tools used for different political reasons such as peace treaty and such.
If I'm not mistaken the Catholic church was against children getting married so common people could only wed teenager and children wedding was only ok for king and such (but they needed a good reasons for doing so). The children didn't have a said in it, it was the parent that decided everything. Both spouse could be children or only one was.
The Cultural History of Pedophilia
Despite the lack of statistics, other sources indicate that sexual relations between adults and children have always existed. Attitudes toward this have changed over the course of history, and these relations have been condemned since late antiquity. Despite this we can find examples of prominent figures, including Saint Augustine (354), Muhammad (570), and Gandhi (1869), who publicly enjoyed the company of young children and may have had sexual relations with them.
In the strictly hierarchical society of classical Greece, sexual relations between an adult man and a boy were seen as contributing to the boy's education. In late antiquity this view was questioned by, among others, the poet Ovid and the philosopher Plutarch. They argued that such a relationship was not fulfilling for the adult, since the boy, due to his inferior social status, was not allowed to express his own desire. This devaluated the joy of his adult partner and so men were better served by having sexual relations with women.
With the rise of Christianity, approved sexuality came to be located within heterosexual marriage, with procreation as its sole purpose. This was reflected in medieval legislation that established minimum marriage ages and prohibitions against INCEST and homosexual relations. With the ENLIGHTENMENT and the French Revolution in the eighteenth century, morality was no longer the responsibility solely of the Church. The gatekeeper of public and private morals was to be the state, and nineteenth-century penal legislation built upon this base, adding sections on sexual offenses.
The penal code did not prevent adults from having sexual relations with children. The most severe sexual abuse can be detected in legal sources, from rape to sexually related child murder. Between 1830 and 1890, two-thirds of all documented sexual offenses in London had children as victims. Nineteenth-century institutional and educational sources show a less dramatic picture, with some ambiguity about the line between physical and sexual abuse of children by teachers or priests.
Discourse on the sexual abuse of children was renewed in France and England around 1850 as a result of the rise of the middle-class family, with its romantic concept of the child, as well as the establishment of the new scientific professions of psychiatry and forensic medicine. Two French physicians, Adolphe Toulmouche and Ambrose Tardieu, undertook the first forensic medical studies of child victims of sexual abuse.
But it was not until the publication of a series of articles entitled "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" in the British newspaper the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885 that sexual abuse of children became a topic for public discussion. The articles, written by the journalist W. T. Stead, dealt with CHILD PROSTITUTION. They had an enormous effect on a public that cultivated the image of the innocent girl-child as encountered in Alice in Wonderland and in the many contemporary photos and paintings of naked children. About a quarter of a million people marched in the streets of London demanding a higher AGE OF CONSENT for sexual acts. This
demand was echoed all over the Western world, and at the outbreak of World War I the age of consent had been raised in most countries from ten or twelve to fifteen, sixteen, or eighteen.
The people responsible for bringing sexual child abuse to the public's attention were not physicians. Despite the occurrence of sexually transmitted VENEREAL DISEASES amongchildren, both at ORPHANAGES and in families, physicians tended to profess belief in the so-called innocent explanation: that the children had caught the diseases after sharing sheets, sponges, or towels. The physicians were motivated not only by fear of losing customers if they interfered in the domain of the family. The epidemiology of venereal diseases was not completely known. Furthermore, it was not yet possible in their society to speak about children and SEXUALITY within the context of the innocent child. To the nineteenth-century child savers, the subject could not be mentioned without evoking the image of the masturbating boy and the precocious working-class girl.
In this situation, the subject was left to the women's movement, the philanthropic societies, and individual child savers. Due to their work, a new image–that of the sexually innocent child who was easy prey for sexually depraved adult men–was introduced into the culture.
Even though children were considered sexually innocent, however, they were not always trusted in court. The skepticism facing the child witness was great, and it was supported by new scientific studies of child witnesses and by a Freudian understanding of children's sexuality. This new knowledge could also be used to acquit the child of bad intentions, since it framed childhood sexuality as by its very nature innocent.
The moral panic about sexual child abuse at the end of the nineteenth century was followed by a series of media panics during the twentieth century. With a foundation in sexology, forensic medicine, and EUGENICS, the image of the sexual psychopath dominated the discourse of the 1930s through 1950s. This interpretation was gradually replaced by psychoanalysis, the sexual revolution, and an understanding of and belief in resocializing sexual criminals. In the late 1960s the picture changed again with the development of the women's movement and movements concerned with the rights of various groups. This period climaxed with the first accusations against preschool teachers. Among the first cases was the McMartin Preschool in California. The case opened in 1983. Seventeen years later all the accused were acquitted.
During the 1970s through 1990s, revelations of the existence of child pornography as well as pedophile chat groups on the Internet, in addition to a series of sensational child murders in the United States and Europe, resulted in a new moral panic, which led to an insistence on stronger punishments for child sexual abuse and a demand for national registers of sexual offenders. The first world conference on sexual child abuse, held in Stockholm in the summer of 1996, supported these. In the United States, thirty-five states implemented the so-called MEGAN'S LAWS during the years 1994 through 1996. These laws contain a community notification provision. Forty-nine states have introduced state registers. In the early twenty-first century a reaction to what came to be seen as a witch-hunt against pedophiles became visible. It produced a growing awareness of the legal rights of the accused.
Why pedophilia continues to exist online
Last year, the now infamous “SG Nasi Lemak” Telegram group was brought to the public’s attention which had over 44,000 members that commonly shared unsolicited and explicit images of women. Singapore has had an alarming history regarding pedophilia as the country was found to host nearly 12 percent of websites in the region that shared such content in 2017. Despite Singapore’s strict control of online content, it may seem suprising that such activity exists.
However, one of the many difficulties in limiting the activity is removing pedophilic content itself. While websites may be shutdown, this images are difficult to remove and continue to exist online. For example, such websites may be blocked by internet service providers which results in users being unable to access the content on the website. However, using third-party platforms that are able to fetch the data, one can still see such content.
While this may seem difficult, the reality is that platforms such as Google are more than enough to access this content and with the right keywords, it is easy to find child pornography. From there, users can download such images and keep them on their own personal hard drive or share it with others interested in such content such as telegram groups resulting in this imagery being harder to erase.
The true travesty is that for those who have their photos taken and shared unwillingly, it may be quite easy for these images to be traced to their own personal life. Revenge porn websites enable users to share photos of their victims with some going as far as putting the names of those in photos.
Even if images do not contain any nudity, online predators are still keen in sharing images they find from female students in the MRT to pictures taken from their Instagram or Facebook accounts. With many users preferring to keep their accounts public, it is easy for their photos to be shared with dubious lurkers.
However, the Media Development Authority continues to block and shutdown such websites but with platforms such as Whatsapp, Telegram and other independent online forums having more users, it is difficult to stop the spread of obscene content. Nonetheless, members of the public can still be alert of suspicious individuals taking pictures of women and report them if possible.
We would like the thank Mr. Alexander Pohl and Mr. Sebastian Mohnke for their insightful comments and expertise during revision, as well as the reviewers’ comments that helped improve our manuscript. Support for this manuscript was provided by a grant from the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) awarded to JP, MW, KB, BS, and TK (01KR1205A), and a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) awarded to BS and TK (Schi 1034/3-1). The funding sources played no further role in the manuscript design or preparation or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
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Keywords: pedophilia, child sexual abuse, functional and structural MRI, neuropsychology, neurodevelopment, etiology, epigenetic, neurobiology
Citation: Tenbergen G, Wittfoth M, Frieling H, Ponseti J, Walter M, Walter H, Beier KM, Schiffer B and Kruger THC (2015) The neurobiology and psychology of pedophilia: recent advances and challenges. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:344. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00344
Received: 15 August 2014 Accepted: 29 May 2015
Published: 24 June 2015
Hauke R. Heekeren, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Timm B. Poeppl, University of Regensburg, Germany
Stuart Brody, Charles University, Czech Republic
Copyright: © 2015 Tenbergen, Wittfoth, Frieling, Ponseti, Walter, Walter, Beier, Schiffer and Kruger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Tillmann H. C. Kruger, Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Strasse 1, Hannover D-30625, Germany, email@example.com
† Gilian Tenbergen and Matthias Wittfoth have contributed equally to this work.