The internet has provided opportunities for people with pedophilia to interact anonymously. There are a number of online groups that do not take a stand against adult-child sex, such as B4U-ACT. In June of 2012, two members, using the pseudonyms Ethan Edwards and Nick Devin, spun off a new support group called Virtuous Pedophiles (VirPed.org), which grew to more than 2,000 members in less than five years. At first there was a lot of discussion about the name Virtuous Pedophiles. Some members wanted to use the term, minor attracted person (MAP), even though the term “minor” is rather nebulous. Ethan* responded:
- There are a great many pedophiles who use "MAP," trying to avoid the stigma of pedophilia…. We thought the main reaction to using "MAP" would be "You're just being devious and trying to hide with that term!"
The group takes a strong stand against sexual interaction with a child, although Virtuous Pedophiles are not “perfect pedophiles.” Convicted offenders are allowed to participate as long as they are committed to never abuse again. Sharing about non-adjudicated, illegal sexual activity is not allowed. Pro-contact pedophiles must not promote the legalization of adult-child sex. VirPed consists primarily of men and women who recognize they are sexually attracted to minors. Some family members and a few researcher scientists occasionally participate.
Those who join are usually comfortable saying something about themselves without revealing too much personal identifiable information. Abby* was surprised to find so many other females. “Hi, everyone! Didn't know there were so many women active here.”
Trash* is typical of many new members:
- Hey, I'm new around here, but not new to hating myself. My psychiatrist suggested I give this a shot so here I am. I'm male, in my early 20s, AoA [age of attraction] 5-11 female, 18+ male. I experience depression, self-harm and self-hate.
Joseph* said he does not think of himself as a pedophile, but prefers to introduce himself this way:
- I have been sexually attracted to little girls for more than 60 years, but choose not to act on it. I am not exclusive and have been able to experience a fairly normal married life. I have three children and ten grandchildren.
Like most new members, Anton* was delighted to find VirPed:
- It is nice to be in a forum of people who do NOT want to engage in sexual relationships with children. I liked boys younger than me since I was 11 years old, and to this day I've never abused anyone, and never will.
The profile of a pedophile as a homeless man wearing a trench coat and passing out candy to kids at the park in order to seduce a child in his white cargo van is rarely accurate. Wise parents who are concerned about protecting their children no longer focus on “stranger danger” or the registry of convicted sex offenders but realize that the greatest danger may be right in their own home. Pedophiles are not monsters from another planet, although there are a few psychopathic pedophiles who do not care about what society thinks or the harm they cause to children. The vast majority of pedophiles know it is wrong to have any sexual contact with a child and do not want to harm children. While many pedophiles do step over the line, research found that 75% of those who had sexual fantasies involving children had never had any sexual contact with a child.
Virtuous pedophiles exist in all areas of society, oftentimes working with children, indistinguishable from other members of the community. There is no accurate profile of a pedophile, since they may look and act like anyone else. They are just as likely to be educated, employed, married and religious as any corresponding person in society at large.
Pedophilia is an attraction to children.
Child sexual abuse is a criminal action.
We must recognize the difference between attraction and action—between a pedophile and a child molester. We are not responsible for our attraction but we are accountable for our actions. The kind of people we find ourselves attracted to is not a matter of choice, but we can choose whether or not we will act on that attraction. Nobody ever woke up on their thirteenth birthday and said, “I want to be gay,” and certainly nobody would choose to be a pedophile. In most situations, people discover their sexual orientation sometime around puberty.
A pedophile is sexually attracted to children whether or not he or she has molested a child, whereas a child molester has sexually abused at least one child, whether or not he or she is sexually attracted to children. Heterosexuals know they are attracted to the opposite gender even before they become sexually active. Homosexuals are attracted to people of the same gender, yet most of them manifest self-control and are at no greater risk of raping anyone just because it may be difficult for them to find a sex partner. Those who have never met a virtuous pedophile may wrongly assume that anyone with pedophilia has already abused a child or is a ticking time bomb who will inevitably offend.
Arousal happens somewhere between the attraction and action. There is a difference of opinion among both mental health professionals and minor attracted individuals in regard to fantasies that involve children. Classical conditioning is the basis for the idea that such fantasies will increase the likelihood of acting out in real life.
Others maintain that the fantasies actually relieve the sexual tension so they are less likely to act out with a real child.
Not all pedophiles are child molesters.
Not all child molesters are pedophiles.
The majority of those who have a limited sexual interest in children will never abuse a child. Among both anti-contact pedophiles (who believe that it is always wrong for an adult to sexually interact with a child) and pro-contact pedophiles (who would like to make it legal for an adult to have sex with a “willing” minor), the majority are able to exercise enough self-control in order to live within the law and avoid sexual contact with a child.
On the other hand, more than half of the individuals who molest children are not actually pedophiles. They do not have an ongoing sexual attraction to prepubescent children, but sexually interact with children for other reasons. “Thirty to fifty percent of those who sexually abuse a child are children or adolescents themselves.” Even though a person is not generally attracted to children, “criminal behavior such as child abuse or sexual molestation may be committed when the perpetrator is under the influence of a drug or alcohol.” Adults sometimes sexually abuse a child because they are not able to find an adult partner. Other people sexually abuse a child because they are obsessed with power and control, rather than because they have a sex drive directed toward children. Individuals who sexually abuse a child for some reason other than pedophilia may be referred to as situational offenders.
Pedophilia is any sexual interest in children.
Virtually all human beings began their sexual journey with an attraction to another child, rather than an attraction to a fully developed adult. Most men continue to be attracted to developed teenagers who are still minors. Hebephilia and ephebephilia were not included in the DSM-5, which also specifically excludes from diagnosis “an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.” Statutory rape is an issue that needs to be addressed separately. Most people find that the age of those to whom they are attracted increases as they age, but people with pedophilia experience an ongoing attraction to children, generally of a certain age range and gender. They did not choose this orientation and apparently cannot change it any more than gay or straight people can change their orientation.
It is difficult to determine what percent of the population are pedophiles because pedophilia appears on a spectrum from a short term interest in a specific child to an exclusive attraction to children. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders changed the name of the diagnosis to "pedophilic disorder," while continuing to use the general term "pedophilia" to describe any ongoing sexual interest in prepubescent children.
Sexual attraction to children is much more common than most of us would like to admit. In several studies that were conducted anonymously, “32% of community and college samples of men reported sexual attraction to children.” One British researcher concluded, “Paedophiles fall within the normal distribution curve for human males… [and] are more common than homosexuals.”
Orientation is a primary or exclusive attraction.
An estimated 10% of adult males experience pedophilia as a sexual orientation—that is, their sexual attraction to children is equal to or greater than their attraction to adults, even though they may not have acted on their attraction or be distressed by it. The printed edition of the DSM-5 stated:
- If they report an absence of feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety about these impulses and are not functionally limited by their paraphilic impulses (according to self-report, objective assessment, or both), and their self-reported and legally recorded histories indicate that they have never acted on their impulses, then these individuals have a pedophilic sexual orientation but not pedophilic disorder.
Within six months after the release of the print edition, the American Psychiatric Association was pressured by the gay community to remove the word "orientation" from the online DSM-5 and substitute the word "interest." Individuals who have a sexual interest in children but do not act on it and are not distressed by it are still excluded from a diagnosis of pedophilic disorder.
Historically, the expression "sexual orientation" came into use in the 1940s, when homosexuality was viewed as a disorder by most mental health professionals. Homosexual relationships were illegal in most jurisdictions at that time. With the onset of the AIDS epidemic, men who were sexually active with other men were at greater risk of harm and death than those who were sexually involved with women, even though such a correlation did not necessarily indicate causation. The use of the term “sexual orientation” did not mean that acting on the attraction was acceptable, legal or harmless. Scientists still recognize pedophilia as a sexual orientation in the sense that it is not chosen and there is no evidence that it can be eradicated.
According to the American Psychological Association:
- Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of attraction, behavior, emotion, identity, and social contacts. The term sexual orientation should be used rather than sexual preference.
In recent decades, many in the gay community have tried to distance themselves from pedophiles. Reasonable people recognize that there are some similarities and some differences between the two groups. Recognizing pedophilia as a sexual orientation will not diminish the rights of lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals.
Pedophilic disorder involves distress or action.
Three criteria are required for a diagnosis of pedophilic disorder:
- A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
- B. The individual has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
- C. The individual is at least 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “the highest possible prevalence for pedophilic disorder in the male population is approximately 3%-5%.” Therapists might seek to avoid giving a diagnosis of pedophilic disorder because people with pedophilia have become the most stigmatized pariahs in our society. Pedophilic disorder should not be confused with antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Research indicating the prevalence of pedophilia at 1% to 2% of the population is generally in reference to those who are exclusively attracted to prepubescent children. Therapists are expected to specify whether a client is the exclusive or nonexclusive type.
There is little research involving female pedophiles, but the Child Molestation Prevention Study found that one in 3,300 women sexually abuse a child, while one in 20 men do so. Females are less likely to be accused of abusing a child, even for the same behavior that would cause a male to be convicted. The number of those who abuse children may not be the same as the number who are sexually attracted to them, but all researchers agree that pedophilia is much more common among men than among women. However, female pedophiles may feel even more ostracized because there are so few of them.
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