The P Word
Every once in a while I have this conversation and I feel so much emotion bubble up inside of me that it makes it hard to focus and to put words together. The reality is that there are so many strong emotions that come up with these subjects that we can’t actually have conversations about it. We can’t actually understand new information. We can’t try to indulge in a new idea. Our entire world has created a paradoxical relationship to this that not only forbids it from being discussed, but forces it to be taboo for the perpetrator
- further endangering our children. I will attempt here to break down the basic narrative surrounding this subject in a way that is calm, helpful and productive. To do so, I will list the ideas in a format that breaks this down for easy commentary later.
I am saddened that I must preface with the mandatory “I don’t condone child abuse” and “I don’t think children are sexy”, lest I be black-listed like the incomparable Dr. James Cantor, recently exiled from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality for, in essence, avoiding the trigger pacifying phrases that everyone demands.
1.- Pedophilia is not the same thing as child abuse.
It is a (sadly, not widely) studied sexual orientation (more on this in point 2) to pre-pubescent children. The most common age for child sexual abuse offenders is 14. The most common place it occurs is in siblings. The attraction is typically discovered around age 11, at the onset of sexual emotions, and then the realization that the age of the attraction subject tends to stay the same, even as the person gets older. Child abusers tend to be people who want to exert power, not “love them”, like a pedophile would in theory (yes, I know, barf). Most children are molested and abused by a predator with a different agenda, NOT PEDOPHILES. Most children are kidnapped by people wanting to make money, not people who are attracted to children. One does not have to watch child pornography, or abuse children, to be a pedophile. It is only the state of attraction. Regardless of how uncomfortable this makes you, we do not currently have the technology or the want to police people’s thoughts. IF you advocate for this, there are probably groups you can join and I am officially scared of you.
2.- Very few researchers study pedophilia.
If you have ever seen an online post about pedophilia, you can understand why people tend to not want to work with pedophiles. The researchers that DO study them, tend to be ostracized by communities, shamed by even doctoral-level peers and silences by sensationalized journalism. If you have ever tried to correct a post about “shooting all pedophiles”, you know what I’m talking about. But odds are, you haven’t. If we can’t encourage the people who know what they are saying to talk loudly and publicly, and then take in what they are saying, why do even have education?
3.- Pedophiles have visibly different brain structure.
Similar to the way serial killers have been found to have unique brains, though their likelihood of actually engaging in murder is related to upbringing, pedophiles have shown to have different ratios of gray-to-white brain matter. This shows a structural propensity that we tend to erase when we make comments online about pedophiles. As we would not deny the effect of an extra chromosome on our propensity for behaving in certain ways, we should not negate that this is important to know. May I add, as a critical theory fanatic, that we don’t actually know which one happens first, but valid nonetheless.
4.- An estimated 1% of all men are pedophiles.
People who study pedophiles, treatment and behavior have estimated that about 1% of all men are pedophiles. The number is vastly different for women (.1%) but to give you an idea, that is about the same number of people who are schizophrenic. We cannot simply “kill off” 1% of the population. We must create active treatments and solutions to prevent these attractions becoming actions. Ideally, we could learn more about how attractions are created to help curb attractions that are not socially acceptable. NOTE: in some cultures, children are allowed and encouraged to engage in sexual activities; interestingly not resulting in the type of trauma we see in our culture when abuse occurs. (oh my fucking god, is this where I have to say I don’t want to encourage kids fucking?!)
5.- A tiny bit about how sexual attractions are created:
In your brain, the insula and the amygdala are responsible for disgust and arousal. To put it simply, like in the movie Inside Out, it is one of the first emotions children start having because disgust is important for safety: “ewww I’m not putting that in my mouth”. Arousal: to stimulate to action or to bodily readiness for activity (Merriam-Webster), is also critically important because it triggers our fight or flight response. As we grow, disgust awakens the part in our brain that feels excited (read: aroused). A connection between things that make us feel uncomfortable and things that make us feel aroused starts to develop. Imagine the emotion of a suspense movie, or someone playing peek-a-boo. Typically during childhood, we start to see things that we deem as arousing. We don’t see them as sexual yet, but they easily certainly become sexual later. After all, kids are humans, and humans are sexual beings. LONNNNG before it is acceptable or identifiable, kids have attractions.
*Anecdote time: I was a tiny child in a very lax culture and we had 3 VHS tapes to choose from when we visited my grandma: It, Child’s Play, and Easy Money. Child’s play was almost always the choice and, in fact, I don’t remember most about any of those. What I DO remember, is a scene in Easy Money when a guy (sleazy looking) pushed a chick against a wall and has her trapped with his arms on each side of her against the wall. He makes some suggestive comment and leans in to kiss her and she slips out around his arm. It drew all of my attention, pulled all of my focus. I would replay it. Look eagerly forward to it. It is what I now recognize as the first time that I was aroused.*
The point is, attractions are formed in seconds. While we don’t know the marked moment pedophiles become attracted to prepubescent children, one could argue that as a child, other little naked kids are the first naked other people you see. One could argue that the first time you saw genitals being “handled” would be watching a sibling get their diaper changed. There is so much that is absolutely unreasonable to expect to shield children from (in fact, harmful to shield them from) that there is virtually no way to prevent pedophillic attractions. The solution? I don’t know. I do know that there would be actual experts trying to find out if they had the right funding and the right support.
6.- Pedophile treatments work.
Most of the research on treatment of abuse is done on offenders already in the system because they have mandatory sex therapy as part of their release. The vast majority of these people are in jail originally on the basis of owning child pornography, one of the easiest-to-prove crimes against children that exists. What researchers working with these people find is that close to 80% of the offenders tried to seek out help from a professional before being caught. They report that professionals typically said something along the lines of “they don’t work with that type of people”. This is a critical break in the system that must be addressed. Non-offending pedophiles need a place to find and receive help. The reoccurrence rate for these crimes, with treatment is less than 2%. This shows it is one of the most effective treatments for mental disorders AND criminal behaviors known to exist today. THAT I trust you agree, also deserves the right funding and the right support.
7.- Pedophilia is a sexual orientation.
You don’t have to be comfortable with something for it to be in a category. You don’t have to approve of something to put it in a category. Actually, we categorize things every day to be able to study them better and to create better ways to analyze it. The same way there are romantic orientations and sexual orientations, there are age orientations (we call these “chronophilias”). While most people are attracted to people of prime reproductive age (post-pubescent), there are all types of different attractions. Note: realize that our society frowns upon adults having sex with teens but visually the body of a 14-17 year old could be the body of an adult (the term for this is ephebophilia). Other age attractions include nepiophilia (infants/toddlers), hebephilia (pubescent children), mesophilia (middle aged- think MILF) or gerontophilia (elderly). These last 2 have virtually no research on them because they tend not to break any laws- but be wry of consent breaches with compromised mental health. I’m tired of people saying it “shouldn’t be” a sexual orientation, we don’t get to choose how we categorize fruits and vegetables so it doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch to hear researchers who are simply labeling other aspects of our lives also.
8.- Calls for violence being shared helps no one.
Any person living with pedophilic thoughts knows the current attitudes about these tendencies, they live in shame and have no support system to seek help. If we truly want to keep our children safe from out of control pedophiles, we will fund and support researchers who are literally designing how to create tools that keep pedophiles in control of themselves. Secondly, we will learn how to be kind and helpful with our own children so they can identify and communicate their needs, their attractions and ways to safe navigate their own sexual emotions in a world that can so easily exploit them. Seeing posts about how every pedophile deserves to be shot in the head does not prevent the forming of pedophillic attractions, but it does prevent anyone with any of these attractions reaching out and receiving help. And ultimately puts our kids in danger.
If you are seeking support for your attraction, the following are support groups that can direct you to safe places to find help. https://www.virped.org/
That turned into a longer post than expected. If you feel compelled to, please share this post so that we may form a better world together. Did you learn anything you didn’t know? Do you think there is something I didn’t touch on that you would like more information about? Are you looking for more resources to form your own educated ideas? Let me know!