Author: has written 217 posts for this blog.

Guest Bloggers are most welcome to diversify the range of views and experiences presented on this blog. The opinions of Guest Bloggers do not necessarily represent other bloggers on Feministe: differing voices are important to us. Readers are cordially invited to follow our guidelines to submit a Guest Post pitch for consideration.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

266 Responses

  1. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 18, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    The author claims that “there is a general consensus within the medical community that pedophilia is a sexual orientation” without unpacking what this actually means—that is, that pedophilia tends not to go away, that people who are sexually attracted to children do not generally get over this attraction.

    I don’t understand why it’s so easy/convenient for people to forget that pedophilia involves sexual attraction to CHILDREN. Who are NOT, under any circumstances, able to consent.

    Just because you inherently WANT to do something doesn’t mean you can or should. I think Amanda Marcotte’s statement of “You are not entitled to a relationship with the person of your choosing,” is just a blanket statement that should be repeated early, often, and without exception to pedophiles.

  2. Esti
    Esti August 18, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    I really don’t agree that this Salon article was uncritical of either pedophiles or of the support/treatment groups aimed at them. I agree that many of those groups (or at least some of their participants) offering support and services for pedophiles are encouraging/affirming those desires or are otherwise deeply problematic (and obviously the comparison to homosexuality is out of line). But I thought that the Salon piece did a good job of teasing out some of the very problematic aspects of that movement. For example, the quote above about the guy wanting to get close to his landlady’s children was in the Salon piece, used as an example of why the author found “dubious” claims that many pedophiles don’t act on their desires.

    What the Salon piece did well, in my view, was to highlight that “person sexually attracted to a minor=TERRIBLE BAD PEDOPHILE, SHUN SHUN” is not actually helping to prevent victimization or to further our understanding of why it happens. The reason that the conference in Boston is happening, which I notice you didn’t discuss in this post, is because the new DSM definition proposes lumping an attraction to pre-pubescent minors together with an attraction to pubescent minors — a change that would mean that people attracted to minors who are over the age of consent in Canada and many European countries (where the age of consent is 16) would nonetheless be diagnosed as mentally ill in the same way as people attracted to very young children. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and I think it’s something that we *should* be questioning and discussing.

    However terrible many of the people involved in the movement are, there is clearly a need for dialogue. In this post, you said both that pedophilia shouldn’t be viewed as simply a mental illness (as that’s offensive to non-NT people) but also that it isn’t a sexual orientation (as that’s offensive to the GLBT community). So… what is it, then? There are definitional questions that need to be answered if we as a society want to find the most effective ways of identifying addressing pedophilia.
    And while I have no desire to affirm or encourage pedophilia, I certainly agree with the idea that reflexively demonizing everyone who has those desires — whether or not they have acted on them — is just decreasing the availability of treatment as well as the number of people who feel comfortable seeking it. And that has the real potential to increase the number of people who *do* act on it.

  3. Esti
    Esti August 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: I don’t understand why it’s so easy/convenient for people to forget that pedophilia involves sexual attraction to CHILDREN. Who are NOT, under any circumstances, able to consent.Just because you inherently WANT to do something doesn’t mean you can or should. I think Amanda Marcotte’s statement of “You are not entitled to a relationship with the person of your choosing,” is just a blanket statement that should be repeated early, often, and without exception to pedophiles.

    I really don’t think anyone (or at least, any of the doctors or the author of the Salon piece) is saying that labelling pedophilia a sexual orientation means that we accept that it’s okay to act on it. We’re used to seeing sexual orientation as automatically valid and worth affirming because that is how it has (rightly) been used as a shorthand in the fight for GLBT rights. But the use of orientation in *this* context is descriptive, not normative. It sounds like medical professionals believe that the attraction some pedophiles feel for children works the same way as the attraction I feel towards men or the attraction a lesbian feels towards women. That IN NO WAY means that they get to act on it, just as my attraction to men doesn’t mean I get to jump on any guy I decide I like. But by describing how the attraction to children works for pedophiles, we may get closer to figuring out how to make counseling and other treatment services that teach people how to resist those desires as effective as they can possibly be — which can only be a good thing.

  4. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |

    I agree with I what I interpret Esti to be saying: having a sexual attraction to children is not, in and of itself, evil. Covering people who openly confess to such attractions, but who are not known or suspected to have acted on them as evil is only likely to make them less likely to be open, less likely to seek treatment, and more likely to seek truly underground communities that are harder to identify and monitor.

    To be clear, though, acting on a sexual attraction to children, either by consuming child pornography or by abusing children, is evil. We shouldn’t let pedophiles use the “sexual orientation” label to normalize actual child sexual abuse, and we shouldn’t let right wing shitheads use that label to demonize gay people, whose desires are normal, healthy, and absolutely ok to act upon. For that reason, it’s perfectly fine to pathologize pedophilia, and to resist or deny the use of the “sexual orientation” label, which has a very different meaning than “mental disorder.” (Nor do I think it’s unfair to non-neurotypical people to label pedophilia a “mental disorder.” Mental disorders come in many varieties, and some of them really are linked to serious criminality; it’s not unfair to accurately point that out, while steadfastly resisting the idea that everyone with a mental disorder is a potential criminal.) But again, what I think is counterproductive and even wrong is to assert that pedophiles have some sort of moral failing if they express these desires without attempting to act on them. Presumably, these people didn’t ask to have such terrible, destructive sexual urges, and compassion is in order even as we take a firm line on controlling behavior.

  5. Feyline
    Feyline August 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm |

    I agree that it was sketchy of Salon to assign their “sex, love and relationships” reporter to this, but beyond that I got a very different message from the article. It seemed to me to focus on the fact that pedophiles exist who aren’t molesters, and the problem of automatically lumping in those who are attracted to children with those who hurt them.

    It shouldn’t be news to anyone in the feminist community that there are those who commit sexual assault solely as a way to exert power over another person; I have no trouble believing that there are child molesters that fall squarely into that category without feeling any significant lust for children, and so are separate from pedophiles in that, were they in some alternate universe where children were capable of giving fully informed consent and establishing their own boundaries to the extent of a full-grown person, the molester wouldn’t target kids. At the other end of the spectrum are those who commit sexual assault partly out of lust, and out of the fact that they’re wicked enough to not give a shit about the other person’s autonomy and right to who does what to their body. I can see pedophiles falling into the latter category as well, but that doesn’t mean that every pedophile out there is necessarily out to rape kids at the nearest opportunity.

    There are ‘good’ pedophiles out there who make an effort to ignore their urges because they know it’s wrong. Pedophilia has the potential to be harmful, but nobody’s helping by encouraging a culture that shuns them for merely coming forward. As Berlin was quoted saying in the article, it’s important to help those who suffer from pedophilia learn to resist and repress those urges so they won’t harm others. We can’t do that if they get shunned just for asking for help.

  6. Dawn
    Dawn August 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm |

    It can be called a paraphilia and is indeed already listed under that commonly, that term carrys neither connotation. A paraphilia is an abnormal sexual attraction to something not considering to be a normal part of sexual attraction and which can cause distress to the sufferer or to others around them.

  7. Raja
    Raja August 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Just gross…..

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer August 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    Esti, everything you wrote was just… perfect. You said everything I wanted to say, but couldn’t articulate and/or was to frustrated to attempt. Thank you.

  9. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I just want to know why it even exists. What purpose could it possibly serve?

  10. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    Comrade Kevin:
    I just want to know why it even exists.What purpose could it possibly serve?

    I guess, the same purpose as any gathering of likeminded people: commiseration, support, and communication? It’s like asking why you’d have a gathering of alcoholics or something like that.

  11. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm |

    Anon21: I guess, the same purpose as any gathering of likeminded people: commiseration, support, and communication? It’s like asking why you’d have a gathering of alcoholics or something like that.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean “likeminded.” I meant, perhaps, “people in similarly unfortunate circumstances.”

  12. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

    The idea that pedophilia should be considered a sexual orientation sounds wrong to me. I don’t know what you would call it, but evil, disgusting, and harmful to society is a good place to start. These people are predators in a way that most people aren’t. I’m attracted to men, but I don’t prey upon them and rape them.

    There’s no treatment for this. It’s not really something you do as much as it something you are. I know people who were victims of child sexual abuse and those scars never really go away.

  13. Esti
    Esti August 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    Miss S: The idea that pedophilia should be considered a sexual orientation sounds wrong to me. I don’t know what you would call it, but evil, disgusting, and harmful to society is a good place to start. These people are predators in a way that most people aren’t. I’m attracted to men, but I don’t prey upon them and rape them. There’s no treatment for this. It’s not really something you do as much as it something you are. I know people who were victims of child sexual abuse and those scars never really go away.

    Preying on children is never, never okay — there is no debate on that.

    But if some people have sexual desire for children — whether because it’s innate for them, or because they themself were abused as a child (something that is true for a huge number of people who go on to sexually assault children), or for whatever other reason — I just don’t think the conversation can stop at “these people are evil and can never get better.” Because where does that leave us? Anyone who ever expresses desire for a child is locked up for life? That’s not going to make it easier for people to seek help in controlling those desires. And rare as it may be (some of which is undoubtedly linked to how difficult it is for people to find treatment or to admit they need it), some people do seem to be able to refrain from acting on those desires. If the success rate of treatment is low, I think we need to talk *more* about how to get better at treating people in these situations, not less.

    Every time I read something about pedophilia, I think of a client I once had at a public defender’s office. He had been arrested for forcing his 7 year old cousin, one more than one occasion, to perform oral sex on him. And if that’s all you knew about him, you might think that he was evil and disgusting and that the only thing to do was to lock him up forever. But then you learn that he was only just turned 18, and that he had been repeatedly and viciously physically and sexually assaulted throughout his childhood, and that he didn’t fully appreciate what he was doing to his cousin — it’s hard to fully explain it, but even though rationally he knew what he was doing wasn’t okay, it didn’t seem that weird or disgusting or out of line to him in the moment because that was the only way he had ever experienced sexuality before.

    NONE OF THAT DIMINISHES THE SUFFERING OF HIS VICTIM. NONE OF THAT MAKES WHAT HE DID OKAY OR JUSTIFIABLE. But it does make him a human being, not a monster.

    I don’t mean to single you out, Miss S, because I think your view is a very, very common one in society. But when you say pedophiles are evil and can’t be helped, it means that you have abandoned that man and every person like him. You’ve told them that they are inherently bad, that they can never be anything less than destructive and harmful to other people, and that no amount of effort on their part can change that. And then people wonder why so few people with pedophiliac tendencies manage to suppress them.

  14. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm |

    The term “paraphilia” is not useful. It is a relic of the time, which has not entirely passed, when clinicians arrogated to themselves the right to decide which kinks were okay and which were pathological. A few versions of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual ago, they thought gays, lesbians and bisexuals were pathological, and then they thought BDSMers, crossdressers and object fetishists were pathological. They still want to tell trans folks and gender nonconformists and trans folks that they are pathological, and because of fucked up healthcare since many people need a diagnosis to get access to transition care and other things, doing away with that isn’t a straighforward matter (my limited understanding). But nobody ever said that an attraction to busty blond white women, even if exclusive or obsessive, was pathological because … well, the doctors know what’s best for us and they tell us what’s normal.

    I don’t want to derail, just noting that the term “paraphilia” doesn’t actually add any analysis, it just imports the views of powerful people with letters after their names.

  15. Miriam
    Miriam August 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    I was just about to post that Salon article on my Tumblr with some angry commentary, but you basically did it for me.

    The label “sexual orientation” is what offends me most. Are we going to start talking about pedophile rights like we currently talk about LGBT rights? Sounds sort of like what this conference is aiming at. Except, of course, there’s one major difference–LGBT relationships involve two consenting people and harm nobody. Pedophilic relationships do not involve two consenting people.

  16. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |

    I’m probably not going to read the article because it’s probably too personal and upsetting for me, but I will say that as a CSA survivor, I have always despised Fred Berlin. An apologist of the lowest order.

  17. glitterary
    glitterary August 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |

    I agree with everything Esti’s said. People who for whatever reason are attracted to children are not inherently evil. Only if they act on those desires are they sex offenders (and quite rightly should be punished for the harm they have done).

    The knee-jerk reaction is understandable, but it doesn’t help to stop abuse. There’s an outreach program I’ve heard of which aims to help convicted paedophiles control their desires by acknowledging they exist, and focusing not on condemnation but ways of preventing people from acting on those desires in future. Which is far more important than making ourselves comfortable by pretending they’re all monsters.

  18. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    No Esti, I see where you’re coming from. I’m just of the opinion that some people aren’t worth taking a chance on. People who rape or sexually abuse children fall in this category for me. I would rather someone who’s committed sex crimes against children be imprisoned for life than risk another child being sexually abused.

    I don’t really care why someone thinks raping children is fun, any more than I care why something thinks raping women is fun.

    Pedophilia puts people in danger in way that normal sexual orientations do not. i define normal sexual orientation as having sexual attraction to someone who is an adult and someone who is consenting. That can be a man, woman, multiple people at one time, it can involve whips and chains…whatever. As long as those people are adults and consenting.

    If you’re a pedophile, rape is pretty much all you can do, because children can’t consent. And if rape is all you can do…. well I don’t think you’re worth taking a chance on. This is just my opinion.

  19. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm |

    I know I sound cynical, but I used to read alot of true crime stories and blogs. I can’t tell you how many times men who have prior convictions for raping women or children keep do it again. And again. And again. It makes me sick that our justice system keeps letting them out.

  20. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Miss S:
    I know I sound cynical, but I used to read alot of true crime stories and blogs. I can’t tell you how many times men who have prior convictions for raping women or children keep do it again. And again. And again. It makes me sick that our justice system keeps letting them out.

    I don’t know if he still does this, but Fred Berlin used to promote the idea that predators that undergo chemical castration can and should be released. Of course, there’s one major reason why that’s not at all true, but I don’t really want to mention it here because I don’t want to trigger fellow survivors. But if you use your imagination…you can probably figure out what I’m getting at.

  21. glitterary
    glitterary August 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Miss S:
    No Esti, I see where you’re coming from. I’m just of the opinion that some people aren’t worth taking a chance on. People who rape or sexually abuse children fall in this category for me. I would rather someone who’s committed sex crimes against children be imprisoned for life than risk another child being sexually abused.

    I don’t really care why someone thinks raping children is fun, any more than I care why something thinks raping women is fun.

    Pedophilia puts people in danger in way that normal sexual orientations do not. i define normal sexual orientation as having sexual attraction to someone who is an adult and someone who is consenting. That can be a man, woman, multiple people at one time, it can involve whips and chains…whatever. As long as those people are adults and consenting.

    If you’re a pedophile, rape is pretty much all you can do, because children can’t consent. And if rape is all you can do…. well I don’t think you’re worth taking a chance on. This is just my opinion.

    Right, what about people who DON’T rape or sexually abuse children, but still feel attracted to them? I’m not saying we should celebrate that attraction, but assuming that they absolutely WILL rape or assault a child is like assuming a man who can’t get a girlfriend WILL necessarily rape a woman at some point.

    I find your attitude quite unsettling. This isn’t a comfortable topic to discuss, and as others have pointed out, the comparison with homosexuality sits very uneasily, but but castigating people for urges they don’t even act on is sounds like the “gay panic” excuse sometimes cited by homophobes who beat up gay people.

  22. annalouise
    annalouise August 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Is there any actual real convincing evidence that people who rape children can be more accurately grouped as “people with a sexual attraction to children” rather than “rapists who derive pleasure from harming others” who happen to prefer victims who are children?
    I’ve yet to see it and I’m really really skeptical about there being even the slightest amount of truth to it. I think it’s a dangerous way that people who rape children, and empathetic, well-meaning mental health advocates, have twisted the terms of the debate to redefine these people as “pedophiles” and victims of a difficult-to-change mental defect.
    To the point where we talk about the urge to rape children as some curse that can fall upon the unsuspecting and try to support people to keep them from acting upon that monstrous urge. Instead of the monstrous chosen act of a monstrous immoral person.

  23. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm |

    annalouise:
    Is there any actual real convincing evidence that people who rape children can be more accurately grouped as “people with a sexual attraction to children”rather than “rapists who derive pleasure from harming others” who happen to prefer victims who are children?
    I’ve yet to see it and I’m really really skeptical about there being even the slightest amount of truth to it.I think it’s a dangerous way that people who rape children, and empathetic, well-meaning mental health advocates, have twisted the terms of the debate to redefine these people as “pedophiles” and victims of a difficult-to-change mental defect.
    To the point where we talk about the urge to rape children as some curse that can fall upon the unsuspecting and try to support people to keep them from acting upon that monstrous urge. Instead of the monstrous chosen act of a monstrous immoral person.

    How would you account for the existence of child pornography, on this theory? Although consuming child porn does incentivize the exploitation of actual children, it doesn’t involve the “consumer” in actually raping or abusing children, so your posited motivation doesn’t seem to apply.

    And look, I’m sure there are both types of people in the world–people whose motivations are primarily predatory, and people whose motives are primarily shaped by a powerful sexual attraction to children. You may have different policy or treatment responses to those two groups, although both obviously must be punished for raping children. But frankly, your theory would go against a lot of what psychologists and law enforcement officials have observed about the population of offenders.

  24. Ismone
    Ismone August 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    I think it is absolutely acceptable and important for people who might potentially abuse children and who know it and accept responsibility for it to have treatment options. That does not mean that everyone involved in those movements are good people or are going about it the right way, but it should and must be addressed, in order to prevent victimization of more children.

  25. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |

    I just wanted to step in to say that my post made no reference to the existence of human evil (or lack thereof). That’s a problem that is wholly irrelevant to the irresponsible reporting I highlighted–and not a debate I’m interested in having. So, yes, Esti, I understand your point, but the post wasn’t about that.

    The purpose of this conference, as I read the article, is to position pedophiles as a marginalized sexual minority. Which brings me to the other major point of the post–that, you know, LGBT people have already been harmed enough by the dominant culture’s insistence on associating them with pedophilia. And attempts at blurring the distinctions need to be resisted.

  26. Bushfire
    Bushfire August 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    I am not buying into the idea that an adult can be sexually attracted to a child. Humans are only sexually attracted to beings that we can have sex with. We’re not sexually attracted to furniture, trees, or buildings. You can’t have sex with a child, you can only abuse one. There’s no legitimate reason to be attracted to a child, and if someone desires abusing a child, it’s a maladaptive urge similar to wanting to bully or harm others. Some people want to harm others- there is evil in the world- but pretending a desire to abuse is some sort of legitimate orientation is just wrong. I am a lesbian, and if something thinks their sexual orientation involves abuse, they need a fucking wake-up call. My desire to have consensual sex with other human beings has absolutely nothing to do with their desire to ruin a child’s life.

  27. Bushfire
    Bushfire August 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    *something = someone

  28. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    Thanks for writing this post and taking apart that horrible Salon piece. Someone needed to do it. I hate how much traction this idea of “pedophilia as sexual orientation” has gained–even among some Feministe commenters it would seem. It’s dangerous, ludicrous, and insulting to actual queer people.

  29. Esti
    Esti August 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    Miss S: No Esti, I see where you’re coming from. I’m just of the opinion that some people aren’t worth taking a chance on. People who rape or sexually abuse children fall in this category for me. I would rather someone who’s committed sex crimes against children be imprisoned for life than risk another child being sexually abused.I don’t really care why someone thinks raping children is fun, any more than I care why something thinks raping women is fun.

    Where does that leave someone who is convicted of possessing child porn? They’ve clearly demonstrated a sexual interest in children, but they haven’t directly assaulted a child. We’re not going to lock them up for life, but if we don’t create a space to discuss the causes of their desires and ways to address them, then they’re likely to continue consuming child porn (or, worst case scenario, progress to actually assaulting children). What about someone who has exposed their genitals to a child but hasn’t touched the child? I don’t think it would be just to give them a life sentence for that crime, but they’ve still done something very wrong and damaging to that child and we need to look for ways to prevent them from continuing to do that in the future. And the former client I mentioned above: do we really think that life in prison is the correct response to that crime? I think some prison time (which he got) is absolutely warranted, but do we really think that the (very, very terrible) thing he did is enough to say that at this 18 year old is beyond repair and should never be released? What if his victim repeats the cycle in 10 years’ time — now do we send him to jail for the rest of his life?

    And I, for one, am fascinated by why men rape women. That doesn’t mean that I think any reason they might have makes it okay or excusable, but the “this person is just evil and bad” response really hasn’t been all that effective so far. The reasons that people commit these crimes are really crucial to reducing how often they happen in the future.

  30. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |

    Bushfire:
    I am not buying into the idea that an adult can be sexually attracted to a child.Humans are only sexually attracted to beings that we can have sex with.We’re not sexually attracted to furniture, trees, or buildings.You can’t have sex with a child, you can only abuse one.There’s no legitimate reason to be attracted to a child, and if someone desires abusing a child, it’s a maladaptive urge similar to wanting to bully or harm others.Some people want to harm others- there is evil in the world- but pretending a desire to abuse is some sort of legitimate orientation is just wrong.I am a lesbian, and if something thinks their sexual orientation involves abuse, they need a fucking wake-up call.My desire to have consensual sex with other human beings has absolutely nothing to do with their desire to ruin a child’s life.

    QFT. Pedophiles are bullies. They can’t play fair with people their own size, so they prey on those who are weaker and less able to resist. Maladaptive and sick, not at all a variation on normal. And I don’t buy for a second that anyone is born or “hard-wired” that way.

  31. glitterary
    glitterary August 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Bushfire:
    I am not buying into the idea that an adult can be sexually attracted to a child.Humans are only sexually attracted to beings that we can have sex with.We’re not sexually attracted to furniture, trees, or buildings.You can’t have sex with a child, you can only abuse one.There’s no legitimate reason to be attracted to a child, and if someone desires abusing a child, it’s a maladaptive urge similar to wanting to bully or harm others.Some people want to harm others- there is evil in the world- but pretending a desire to abuse is some sort of legitimate orientation is just wrong.I am a lesbian, and if something thinks their sexual orientation involves abuse, they need a fucking wake-up call.My desire to have consensual sex with other human beings has absolutely nothing to do with their desire to ruin a child’s life.

    O RLY?

    People are attracted to all sorts of odd things. The modern construct of childhood is relatively new. Juliet in Romeo and Juliet is 13; just a few hundred years ago that was seen as fair game. Doesn’t make it okay now, but it’s clear that what is acceptable changes far more quickly than humans evolve to be turned on/off by something.

    While it is absolutely not appropriate to have sexual relations with someone who does not or cannot consent, denying the attraction altogether doesn’t help. Villifying people who feel attracted to children but know it is wrong when they haven’t even acted on their desires is only likely to force them to deal with their feelings on their own, when support could prevent them from acting on them.

  32. BlackHumor
    BlackHumor August 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    I seriously doubt there’s much overlap between child molestors and pedophiles. Why do I think that? Because I know there’s not much overlap between men who rape men, and gay men.

    When we say “rape is about power, not sex”, we really ought to believe ourselves.

  33. Esti
    Esti August 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    Bushfire: I am not buying into the idea that an adult can be sexually attracted to a child. Humans are only sexually attracted to beings that we can have sex with. We’re not sexually attracted to furniture, trees, or buildings.

    Some people actually are attracted to inanimate objects: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_sexuality

    But more importantly — I think the reason the two sides of this discussion are kind of talking past each other is summed up really nicely by this sentence:

    Bushfire: Some people want to harm others- there is evil in the world- but pretending a desire to abuse is some sort of legitimate orientation is just wrong.

    The word “legitimate” in that sentence is doing a whole lot of work. I am certainly not saying that pedophilia is a legitimate orientation, in that I don’t think it’s something people should ever act on or that we should embrace. But I think for some people it probably is an orientation, in that they have sexual desires for children, potentially to the exclusion of other types of sexual desires.

    That does not mean that pedophilia is equivalent to being gay or lesbian. I know that there is a long and terrible history of equating homosexuality to pedophilia as a means of legitimizing the denial of gay rights and making hateful, bigoted judgments about homosexuality, and I understand why people have a strong reaction to seeing “sexual orientation” and “pedophilia” in the same sentence. But I think the most accurate distinction is not between “things that are a sexual orientation” and “sexual assault”, but rather between “consensual sexual practices” and “sexual assault.”

    That may mean that all of the potential sexual practices for a particular sexual orientation are in fact assaultive, and thus that individuals of that orientation can’t engage in any of the sex acts they are oriented to. But if some people are only attracted to inanimate objects, and some are only attracted to animals (which should also never be acted on or legitimized, because it’s abuse as well), and some are only attracted to children — what are those, if not sexual orientations?

  34. Cheshire
    Cheshire August 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    I’m ok with pedophilia being seen as a Sexual orenintation as long as it is a sexual orientation that can’t be ethically acted on.

    I think this group goes way pass that, the rights of kids not to be abused needs to centered in any conversation

  35. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |

    Juliet was 13, but Romeo was 14. It is still considered just fine by many people in the mainstream for young teenagers to “go out” or have infatuations with each other (though I think most of us wish they would wait until they are a little more mature before consummating that relationship, and all of us hope they won’t stab themselves or ingest poison.) This is not an example of how the “age of consent” used to be lower, or that it was ever widely acceptable for grownassed men to prey on young girls.

  36. Bushfire
    Bushfire August 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    Some people actually are attracted to inanimate objects: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_sexuality”

    I’m not buying it. There’s being open-minded and then there’s lacking common sense.

    Esti, I think I know what you mean by “an orientation”, but still, we use the word “orientation” to signify a legitimate sexual preference, so if we also use that word to signify a tendency to abuse people, it indirectly equates the two. I’m not okay with equating a sexual orientation with a desire to abuse, even if it’s an indirect, subtle correlation.

  37. Baldur
    Baldur August 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm |

    Comrade Kevin:
    I just want to know why it even exists.What purpose could it possibly serve?

    Anything as common as pedophilia doubtless has evolutionary advantages. In this case, attraction to juvenile traits is doubtless part of the trend that has led to neoteny in human beings, which of course is responsible for humanity’s gradual movement towards lower aggression, greater cooperation, higher intelligence, and greater plasticity of mind than our closest ape relatives. Humans are known as neotenous apes for a reason.

    When these traits are common, and combined with the traits that allow men to be especially good fathers, there will doubtless be some individuals where these traits are concentrated to the point that they have little attraction to non-juvenile traits. These will be the exclusive pedophiles. In others, there will be just enough attraction to non-juvenile traits that they are able to mate with adult females and have children. These make up the majority of the human population, with varying degrees of the pedophilic traits that include gentleness, cooperation, intelligence, and creativity.

    It may seem that these traits would be evolutionarily disadvantageous to pedophilia, but it is useful to keep in mind that humans are far weaker and far less aggressive than chimpanzees, but apart from silly Hollywood films no one is really concerned about rivalry from chimpanzees. We are presently in a contested age in which these new traits are crowding out the old, and the current persecution is to be expected as the more aggressive and less intelligent elements of humanity vigorously oppose the obsolescence of their genetic traits, spurred on by the obsolete memes that are likewise attempting to preserve themselves. Although the organisms in question might be expected to rationally act to preserve those genes and memes that might be expected to have a future, the fact is that those particular genes and memes already have a future regardless of the victor in the present contest. Therefore, as genes destined for obsolescence struggle for survival, they will influence those individuals where these genetic traits are expressed (as low intelligence, aggressiveness, over-competitiveness, and the like) to act against this gradual change in the human genome and human belief systems. This naturally leads to the current persecution of pedophiles.

    Of course, it may do well to remember that although gentleness and cooperation may seem like evolutionary weaknesses, they are actually evolutionary strengths. This is because the emergent human superorganism is far stronger than the isolated pockets of competitors that oppose its growth. Gentleness and cooperation do not make an organism suicidal, and we can be sure that one way or another these new traits will find a way to eradicate or incorporate all competition: whether by choking out new growth, destroying old growth, or employing some aggressive elements with sufficient cooperative traits to act as a sort of immune system.

    I have tried to keep this brief while addressing the chief points, but that is how pedophilia has survived, and that is why it is the portent of the future.

  38. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    Cheshire: Right, the group in question does go way past that. As I said, they are looking for recognition as a “marginalized sexual minority.”

  39. Silver
    Silver August 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    A few years ago there was a short piece on Australian television about this topic. Many of the comments are quite powerful too.

    http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/stories/treating-paedophiles-they-offend

  40. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm |

    But Esti, seriously… I’m not sure whom you are arguing with here. No one has said that pedophiles shouldn’t have access to good psychological care. Could you please try to separate this issue from the story that the piece discusses? This isn’t a mainstream group, as others who have discussed Fred Berlin here have attested. And again, we should resist attempts to reframe pedophilia as a marginalized sexual minority–and those who make simplistic comparisons (e.g., Fred Berlin’s quote in the OP).

  41. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm |

    oops, I meant pedophiles, not pedophilia

  42. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm |

    Look, I’m really uncomfortable with the framing some people (miss s for instance) of “rapist” as some kind of essential quality of people rather than as a descriptor of people’s actual behaviour. A rapist is someone who has raped or attempted to rape someone/several someones. People have fucked up thoughts and desires all the time. For me, sometimes I have totally fucked up and extreme angry desires/dreams in which I hurt people, but that doesn’t make me a perpetrator of violence. There is a substantive difference between people who have pedophilic desires and people who engage in pedophilic behaviour on top of those desires, and that difference lies in people’s actual behaviour and the fact that for one of those groups there is actual sexual violence involved. I think esti has said a lot of what I want to say and more coherently, but I just think that what we know about anti-sexual assault work in a wider context (which is that rapists are not bogeymen but rather anyone who rapes or tries to rape) should inform how we think about child sexual assault and pedophilia. I think that telling people that desire = rapist means that there’s no way to help people not engage in sexual violence, because if you’re already a rapist because of what you feel, why not just be a rapist because of your behaviour?

  43. Super Anon For This
    Super Anon For This August 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm |

    Nope. I’m with Bushfire and Ms. S. When your kid has been repeatedly sexually exploited and/or abused by a man 65 years his senior, and also by that man’s son, who obviously learned from his progenitor, THEN you come tell me about how these poor, poor adults who just happen to want to rape children need love and understanding, too!

    And if you think that people who use child porn aren’t “hurting anyone,” think again. Who the HELL do you think the porn comprises? Yeah. CHILDREN.

    No tolerance. No understanding. No way. You rape kids, you wanna rape kids? You’re an evil excuse for a human being.

  44. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    I’m ok with pedophilia being seen as a Sexual orenintation as long as it is a sexual orientation that can’t be ethically acted on.

    Nicely put, Cheshire. I think a lot of people here are conflating “sexually attracted to children” with “actively sexually abusing children” and that’s not helpful. Acknowledging the (sometimes horrifying) realities of the human brain doesn’t mean we’re saying it’s okay, it means we’re trying to be honest about how some people experience the world. It certainly seems like a more effective way of protecting children (or even helping non-offender pedophiles) than just screaming “icky!” and refusing to put any more thought into it.

    Maybe I’m being too sympathetic by looking at it from the OCD point of view of “intrusive thoughts” — someone with OCD can obsess over really horrible ideas (in my case: which little sister of mine would I choose to have die, if I had to pick one?) without ever acting on them, or even ever wanting to act on them. So I don’t think it’s impossible for someone to have some idea or attraction they don’t want that is still in their head, even if it’s a pedophilic one. I just don’t think people have that much control over their brains (although they do generally control their actions.)

  45. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    Here’s a transcript of an episode of 20/20 which discussed Fred Berlin’s chemical castration program and one of it’s very awful failures. Someone Fred Berlin treated went on to hurt many more people, mostly children, after he (the pedophile) stopped taking the Depo-Provera so that he could have children with his wife (he married a nurse who worked for Dr. Berlin).

  46. Bushfire
    Bushfire August 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm |

    I think that telling people that desire = rapist means that there’s no way to help people not engage in sexual violence, because if you’re already a rapist because of what you feel, why not just be a rapist because of your behaviour?

    But did anyone say that desire=rapist? I know I didn’t intend to.

  47. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm |

    Crap. I should have trigger marked that link. Sorry, people.

  48. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm |

    Also, Esti, the conflation of LGBT people with pedophilia is not “history.” It’s not in the past, not even close. B4U-ACT is trying to bring into the mainstream what LGBT groups have been fighting against NAMBLA over for years. NAMBLA is not a legitimate gay organization, but it has done a lot of damage to gay people. Any cursory perusal of Right Wing Watch will show you that the conservative mainstream in the United States continues to conflate the two. This isn’t just annoying or offensive. It’s why people commit hate crimes. It’s why gay parents often can’t adopt children.

    If you are not aware of this long struggle–or have not been personally hurt by it–then I can understand why you would call it “history.” Not unlike some people I’ve met who speak of racism as ancient history. Except they’re not.

  49. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    Obviously, it’s not the sole reason that people commit hate crimes, but it frequently comes up in any “gay panic” defense.

  50. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm |

    So I suppose I actually have no problem “pathologizing” pedophilia, but I think yelling “evil!” is useless… also I’m an atheist so it’s not really a meaningful term. :p

    Whether or not it can be considered a sexuality, I don’t know… it involves sexual attraction but a lot of people seem to think that’s not sufficient, because “sexuality” to them implies legitimate or potentially-consensual sexual attraction (the latter at least which pedophilia can never be.) So not actually decided on that. However I do think “but the fundies will use this to hate gays more!” isn’t a great reason to shut down about the topic, ’cause since when do we let fundies control the debate here (and since when do they care what we think anyways)?

  51. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    Begelsan: No, pedophilia is the desire to rape children.

    It’s not the same as OCD, which of course involves obsessions that people would never choose to act on–because they don’t want to. Pedophiles, by definition, want to.

  52. Ismone
    Ismone August 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    Bushfire,

    It doesn’t matter whether or not you buy it. It happens to be true. Some people are only aroused by certain other things or people. What arouses you tells you what your sexual orientation is.

    Again, as Esti has pointed out, that does not mean it is a legitimate sexual orientation, nor does it mean that it is an orientation that forms like healthy sexual orientations form.

  53. Baldur
    Baldur August 18, 2011 at 8:44 pm |

    And rare as it may be … some people do seem to be able to refrain from acting on those desires.

    I appreciate your comments, Esti, and you are obviously familiar with treating sex offenders. However, you seem to have missed the fact that the reliable estimates are that 20-30% of men prefer girls to women, and at least 90% of men have some attraction to girls. These are not “rare” traits at all, which suggests that either self-control is very common, or non-violent pedophilic acts are so innocuous that most “victims” protect their “abusers”.

    As you note, no one condones child abuse, and this is especially true in the pedophile community. There is also solid evidence that most abusers are not attracted to children at all – which suggests that pedophilic traits actually reduce the likelihood that someone will abuse a child – although, due to differences in methodologies in the various studies, all that can be stated with certainty is that a pedophile is no more likely to sexually abuse a child than a non-pedophile. This should not be terribly surprising: what healthy person goes around hurting the people they love?

    It is also noteworthy that sexual abuse is only a small fraction of child abuse. Physical abuse and emotional abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect, are all quite harmful and common – yet they tend to be ignored as they are not so “glamorous” as sexual abuse. Our cultural priorities clearly need adjustment.

  54. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 8:47 pm |

    Bushfire: But did anyone say that desire=rapist? I know I didn’t intend to.

    Miss S’s comment that “It’s not really something you do as much as it something you are.” comes pretty close for me. The rape of children is, for me, most defs something that is an action and not an essential quality.

    And look, to be honest, I’m actually largely uninterested in the feelings of people who experience attraction to children. But we’ve been trying the “push pedophilia and pedophilic communities underground through extreme social stigma” strat for a while now, and I just don’t think it’s working to protect children and I think, frankly, that we need to find better solutions to child sexual violence. Maybe interventions into people who experience pedophilic desire before they become perpetrators of violence is a tool we need to start using, and maybe that requires some allowance on our part for the darkness of some people’s desire while remaining absolutely against them enacting those desires.

  55. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Annaleigh: *How* is this doctor still licensed and at Hopkins??

  56. Baldur
    Baldur August 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    I’m just of the opinion that some people aren’t worth taking a chance on.

    Funny, I could say the same thing about ageists who forcibly foist their own opinions on non-consenting children.

  57. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 8:59 pm |

    Kristin Rawls:
    Annaleigh: *How* is this doctor still licensed and at Hopkins??

    I honestly have no idea. I wonder if anyone has made complaints about him to the appropriate medical board…

  58. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Bagelsan: No, pedophilia is the desire to rape children.

    It’s not the same as OCD, which of course involves obsessions that people would never choose to act on–because they don’t want to. Pedophiles, by definition, want to.

    I’m just not convinced that’s true, though. I have no idea if this is the case with many (or even any) pedophiles, but I can at least imagine a scenario in which someone is disgusted by their own desires or refuses to act on them, or at least realizes they are damaging and inappropriate in the real world. I’m not comfortable saying that just having those desires makes someone a bad person, because I don’t think people have a lot of control over their brains like that.

    I just know that for me (in not-at-all-pedophilia-related mental health situations) I’ve found it valuable to allow a separation between “[bad] things I think or feel” and “the kind of person I am.” If a model like that could prevent non-abusing pedophiles from being unfairly demonized (or acting on their bad thoughts/feelings) then I’d support that.

  59. annalouise
    annalouise August 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    I think a lot of people here are conflating “sexually attracted to children” with “actively sexually abusing children” and that’s not helpful.

    Again, I ask, is there any actual evidence that there actually *is* a difference between the two? Do we have any source for the belief that there are a significant number of people who are plagued by the desire to have sex with children but who fight that desire and know that it is wrong? Specifically, do we have any source for this belief that isn’t primarily coming from the people who claim to have those desires. In which case, why the fuck should we believe them?
    And specifically, why on earth should we believe such a self-serving story coming from sexual predators who are known for their skills at manipulation?

    I realize that there’s a compassionate urge to want to see the humanity in people who do terrible things. I do.

    But I think it’s foul beyond belief that, for some reason, all the feminist truism about sexual violence somehow go out the window when the victims of sexual violence are children and the perpetrators of that violence start self-identifying as “pedophiles” as opposed people who rape children.

    I thought we all acknowledged that rape was a crime of violence, rooted in a desire to dominate and harm, rather than a crime of overwhelming sexual desire. I thought we acknowledged that awful attempts to blame clergy sexual abuse on the 1960s, because the sexual abuse of children is predatory behavior, not just a example of sexual liberation gone too far.

    And yet, through constant repetition and appeal to our better natures, a group of rapists has managed to convince a lot of people that know better that they are somehow a different, special, kind of rapist. That we shouldn’t be so closed minded or just be “screaming, ‘that’s icky” like judgemental prudes.

  60. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    But I think the most accurate distinction is not between “things that are a sexual orientation” and “sexual assault”, but rather between “consensual sexual practices” and “sexual assault.”

    Honestly, I think you have a point here. As a heterosexual woman, I can see the distinction and would be fine using it. I can, however, understand why someone who is gay, lesbian, etc would feel very uncomfortable with that.

  61. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    Given that most child molesters do it repeatedly, including after jail time, I feel no guilt in suggesting they be locked up for life. They pose a real threat to society. Lot’s of things deserve a second chance, but to me, this isn’t one of them. Like serial killers. They aren’t good people. Most of them have some type of defect which causes them to lack empathy. There is also no cure for this. These are also people that don’t deserve a second chance.

    Also, people use evil in different ways. I think some people mean ‘like Satan’ and other people mean ‘really bad.’

  62. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm |

    annalouise:

    Again, I ask, is there any actual evidence that there actually *is* a difference between the two?

    The difference is substantive and definitional. Having a desire to do something and actually doing something are self-evidently different things, regardless of how much they correlate (and there is obviously a causal relationship here too). And, you know, I’d take the substantial number of people found to possess child porn for whom there is no presence of other (detected) predatory behaviour as evidence that people with pedophilic desires are not responding to every single instance of desire with sexual assault. (And, to be clear, I think the consumption of child pornography [with the potential exception of child porn that is computer generated/animated/written fiction] is profoundly unethical regardless of the relation between the consumer and its production).

  63. Leo Salloum
    Leo Salloum August 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm |

    Is ‘The Pedophile’ a type? Is it a particular person, who has particular characteristics? If so, and if ‘The Pedophile’ can be removed from society through imprisonment, execution, lobotomy, or some other means, then fine. Doing so is the only legitimate course of action.

    Frankly, though, this whole line of discussion seems unrealistic. If this type of person exists, from where did it come? What is the origin of ‘The Pedophile’ and why does it seem to have arrived so recently? There is no word for this type of person until the late Victorian period. Where was ‘The Pedophile’ in feudal Japan, or in Mayan society, or in ancient Rome? All of those cultures have words for ‘murderer’ and for ‘rapist’ and for ‘thief’ (or at least for their verb forms) but not for ‘pedophile.’

    The more we encourage an attitude that there is a particular type of person called ‘The Pedophile,’ the less we will be able to engage with the actual nature of rape culture. Rape culture is toxic to children in the same way that it’s toxic to women and to men. There is no ‘type’ of bad actor within rape culture. There is a type of bad act.

    Any attempt to seize a body and use it, as if sexual desire was about the use of another person and not mutual excitement, is fundamentally wrong behavior. It is wrong to use men for sex, it is wrong to use women for sex, it is wrong to use animals for sex and it is wrong to use children for sex. The use of another person’s body is not ‘sex’, it is abuse.

    The nature of rape culture is this: we are constantly being told to confuse abuse and sex. Sex is a mutual act. Abuse is not. Pedophiles are not a special category of rapist, they are normal rapists.

    If someone is attracted to children (who can never properly engage in mutual sex), that is no different from a straight man believing that women never want sex, but will trade it for money. It is a deeply warped idea of what sex is.

    Still, this is a person with a misunderstanding, and that misunderstanding is a result of rape culture. Fighting rape culture, rather than did-Boston-citizens-know-that-monsters-were-in-their-town-style histrionics, is the appropriate response.

  64. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    Miss S: Given that most child molesters do it repeatedly, including after jail time, I feel no guilt in suggesting they be locked up for life. They pose a real threat to society.

    Look, this is an important point. Rehabilitation of CSA is really fucking difficult and largely ineffective. But my interest actually isn’t really in talking about rehabilitation work, but in interventions before people have gone through the self-justification necessary for them to offend in the first place. And this I think is one of the problems in how pedophilia is currently dealt with. There is just so little access to people before they offend/enter the criminal justice system.

  65. annalouise
    annalouise August 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    Is there any evidence that the difference is “substantive”? really? Are there *really* any actually people who have genuinely never harmed a child but feel the child to have sex with a child? I don’t believe it.

    The fact that your argument is that someone who pays to watch someone else rape someone is “substantially and “definitionaly” different from a person who commits the rape himself is both horrible from a moral standpoint, but also doesn’t make any sense as an argument. Why should we think that a person who is paying to watch rape, knowing that it is easier to do that than to do all the “work” of actually raping someone and not getting caught, is somehow making a moral choice as opposed to a choice of convenience?

    Why are we so willing to believe sexual predators when they try to get us to reclassify them as people who struggle with difficult urge? You know what i think when I hear a rapist say that he struggles to control his inate sexual desires that aren’t his fault, and that he shouldn’t be stigmatized? I THINK HE’S LYING.

  66. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    That should read “perpetrators of CSA”.

  67. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    Well, one, most child porn is distributed through networks and has no financial element. I’m not making any kind of moral or ethical implication here, but it is factually incorrect to refer to consumption of child porn as something people are generally paying for. They are not. Secondly, did you miss the part where I said consumption of child porn is profoundly unethical? It is profoundly unethical. It is not a moral/more moral choice that assaulting a child. But it is also not the same behaviour as physically assaulting a child yourself.

    And look, presumably at some point all pedophiles would have wanted to assault a child and would not have done it yet. Desire and behaviour do not miraculously arise at the same time. And, you know, I’ve already flagged that there is a giant correlation between these two things. But like, you can point at a point in a pedophile’s life where they had not sexually assaulted anyone ie the entire period before the first instance of sexual assault. And you can probably also point to a part of a pedophile’s life when they experienced either a desire to assault someone or more general sexual attraction to a child. And these are probably at least slightly different points in time.

  68. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    annalouise:
    Why are we so willing to believe sexual predators when they try to get us to reclassify them as people who struggle with difficult urge?You know what i think when I heara rapist say that he struggles to control his inate sexual desires that aren’t his fault, and that he shouldn’t be stigmatized? I THINK HE’S LYING.

    Exactly. Lying and manipulation (and a cynical belief that women are easily deceived through our emotions) are part and parcel of the rapist’s MO and personality.

  69. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm |

    Why are we so willing to believe sexual predators when they try to get us to reclassify them as people who struggle with difficult urge?You know what i think when I heara rapist say that he struggles to control his inate sexual desires that aren’t his fault, and that he shouldn’t be stigmatized? I THINK HE’S LYING.

    Exactly. Lying and manipulation (and a cynical belief that women are easily deceived through our emotions) are part and parcel of the rapist’s MO and personality.

    If they haven’t actually offended yet then they aren’t rapists. So only talking about the rapists is not helpful in addressing the people who haven’t raped anyone. Which, yes, is a separate thing from being attracted to someone they might rape in the future.

  70. Super Anon for This
    Super Anon for This August 18, 2011 at 10:04 pm |

    Annalouise, you are the main reason I’m not throwing my computer across the room right now.

    Li, you’re sounding a lot like an apologist for child rapists. No “financial” element to child porn? Well, then – hell! Let’s all cheer! And child porn is “unethical”? Unethical? No. It’s immoral, depraved, evil, predatory, and it’s CHILD RAPE.

    (By the way, religious people don’t have some sort of prior claim on the word, “evil.” I’m not religious at all. Child rapists are EVIL, period.)

    Nor am I at ALL interested in people who just WANT to rape children but haven’t done so. I would say, “haven’t done so YET.”

    This an appalling, horrifying thread. As the parent of a victim of child molestation, I am sick to my stomach reading it. I won’t be back for this thread. But I can’t let these blithe “Some Child Rapists Are Nice Guys!” theme go unremarked upon.

  71. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    Bagelsan: If they haven’t actually offended yet then they aren’t rapists. So only talking about the rapists is not helpful in addressing the people who haven’t raped anyone. Which, yes, is a separate thing from being attracted to someone they might rape in the future.

    If we were talking about men who repeatedly and strongly stated that they desired to rape adult women–in fact, that it was the only kind of “sex” they desired and that they couldn’t stop thinking about it–would this distinction be so important to you?

  72. annalouise
    annalouise August 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

    That’s really the problem though, right, Bagelsan? Are there really any pedophiles out there who have never offended and are really focused on getting help and stopping themselves from offending. I don’t believe it. I believe that any man who claims that this is true of him, is a liar. He just has been lucky enough not to get caught.

    I don’t believe that the phenomenon of the non-offending, non-predatory pedophile is real. It’s just a con run by dangerous sexual predators.

  73. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm |

    Li: Secondly, did you miss the part where I said consumption of child porn is profoundly unethical? It is profoundly unethical. It is not a moral/more moral choice that assaulting a child. But it is also not the same behaviour as physically assaulting a child yourself.

    I have a nagging suspicion that the people I have met through CSA recovery circles whose experience of CSA included being used to make child pornography would heartily disagree with you.

  74. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    Super Anon for This: Li, you’re sounding a lot like an apologist for child rapists. No “financial” element to child porn? Well, then – hell! Let’s all cheer! And child porn is “unethical”? Unethical? No. It’s immoral, depraved, evil, predatory, and it’s CHILD RAPE.

    Here is me on child porn and money.

    Li: I’m not making any kind of moral or ethical implication here, but it is factually incorrect to refer to consumption of child porn as something people are generally paying for.

    Note in particular “I’m not making any kind of moral or ethical implication here” (and by here i meant on whether or not people paid for porn). I’m not putting these words here arbitrarily. I don’t care whether people paid for their child porn or not, it’s still absolutely immoral, depraved, evil, and predatory. But it’s still important to note that people are largely not paying for child porn, because the fact that the distribution of child pornography is occurring on a communitarian rather than commercial basis has major implications for detecting and combating consumption, distribution and production. I’d really appreciate it if people tried not to read me as saying things that are the opposite of what I have clearly stated.

  75. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm |

    If we were talking about men who repeatedly and strongly stated that they desired to rape adult women–in fact, that it was the only kind of “sex” they desired and that they couldn’t stop thinking about it–would this distinction be so important to you?

    Not sure if this is supposed to be a “gotcha” but yes, yes it would be an important distinction to me. If someone hasn’t raped anyone they haven’t raped anyone, even if they’d like to. That’s a pretty basic fact. Whether or not they will is another story, and an important one, but that still doesn’t mean we can start prosecuting thought crimes.

  76. Li
    Li August 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    Annaleigh: I have a nagging suspicion that the people I have met through CSA recovery circles whose experience of CSA included being used to make child pornography would heartily disagree with you.

    That’s a fair call.

  77. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm |

    Are there really any pedophiles out there who have never offended and are really focused on getting help and stopping themselves from offending. I don’t believe it. I believe that any man who claims that this is true of him, is a liar. He just has been lucky enough not to get caught.

    Then why in the world would he (or she) publicly identify as a pedophile? Just to make the police take a harder look at them? Also, how are you going to prove this negative, that no such person exists? I’ve not heard any evidence from people either way — and if all the personal accounts of self-identified pedophiles are being dismissed as lies then we really could use some evidence to support that conclusion.

  78. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

    Bagelsan:
    Are there really any pedophiles out there who have never offended and are really focused on getting help and stopping themselves from offending. I don’t believe it. I believe that any man who claims that this is true of him, is a liar. He just has been lucky enough not to get caught.

    Then why in the world would he (or she) publicly identify as a pedophile? Just to make the police take a harder look at them? Also, how are you going to prove this negative, that no such person exists? I’ve not heard any evidence from people either way — and if all the personal accounts of self-identified pedophiles are being dismissed as lies then we really could use some evidence to support that conclusion.

    Because they have a persecution complex. (“They just don’t understand us!”) Because they are arrogant and think they are above the law. Because they don’t think anything is really wrong with doing what they want. Because this is how sociopathic rapists behave and it’s really not rare.

  79. SarahCost
    SarahCost August 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm |

    Long time reader, almost never commenter here. Had to de-lurk to chime in with Super Anon for This that I find this thread deeply, deeply disturbing.

    Sex, by the definition that we preach as feminists, is an act that requires the consent of both parties. Being “sexually attracted to children” is not possible because you can’t have sex with them.You can rape, abuse, molest children, but you CANNOT have sex with them.

    Annalouise:
    I don’t believe that the phenomenon of the non-offending, non-predatory pedophile is real. It’s just a con run by dangerous sexual predators.

    THIS. This soooo much.

  80. Ferentes
    Ferentes August 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm |

    annalouise: I don’t believe that the phenomenon of the non-offending, non-predatory pedophile is real. It’s just a con run by dangerous sexual predators.

    With all respect, you do realize that you are arguing that celibacy is not a possibility for people who are, for whatever reason, unwilling to act on their sexual desires? Because people in general may find celibacy difficult, but there are those who manage it. For that matter, there are those who manage to perform sexually with partners to whose bodies they are not primarily oriented.

    Why is this so much harder to understand than it is to understand how a person might go a lifetime without engaging in other evil acts they might find tempting, if society and their own sense of morality didn’t prevent it?

  81. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    Being “sexually attracted to children” is not possible because you can’t have sex with them.

    What would you prefer as a descriptor of pedophilia, then? People can also be described as “sexually attracted” to footstools and chickens, even though neither of those can consent either, so I’m not sure what better wording for these types of one-sided attractions would be.

  82. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    Annaleigh: I have a nagging suspicion that the people I have met through CSA recovery circles whose experience of CSA included being used to make child pornography would heartily disagree with you.

    THIS.

    Holy fuck I can’t even.

  83. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    annalouise:
    That’s really the problem though, right, Bagelsan?Are there really any pedophiles out there who have never offended and are really focused on getting help and stopping themselves from offending.I don’t believe it.I believe that any man who claims that this is true of him, is a liar.He just has been lucky enough not to get caught.

    I don’t believe that the phenomenon of the non-offending, non-predatory pedophile is real.It’s just a con run by dangerous sexual predators.

    Look, this is obviously possible. The problem with asserting it as a matter of fact is that there has been little empirical research done to establish whether there is a population of people out there who are predominantly sexually attracted to young children, but who have not consumed (real) child pornography, sexually abused children, or done both. And if there is such a population, we don’t know what their characteristics are. We don’t know whether they have traits that make them less likely to offend, or whether they are actually all just ticking time bombs. There are multiple possible reasons why the research isn’t there. One would be your theory, which is that there is no significant group of people who fit this profile; everyone who experiences a predominant or exclusive sexual attraction either has offended or is just waiting for an opportunity to offend. An alternative possibility would be that such people (pedophiles who haven’t offended and aren’t likely to offend) do exist, but that they are reluctant to identify themselves, because pedophilia is probably the most toxic, stigmatized characteristic a person can have. (With good reason.)

    If the latter possibility is in fact true, it would be useful to know something about non-offending pedophiles, for various reasons. These include identifying correlations and signs that might be usefully applied to identifying uncaught offenders, as well as persons who have not offended but who are likely to offend. It might also include techniques for staging mental health interventions for people who haven’t offended, or who have offended in relatively less severe ways (e.g., exposing themselves to young children). I don’t know that there’s a social or policy point to take away here, except that dismissing the possible existence of such people out of hand, and declaiming that anyone who is sexually attracted to young children has already raped or is just waiting for the opportunity to do so makes it more likely that the non-offenders (again, assuming they exist) will refuse to admit their abnormal, destructive desires to themselves or others, will refuse to seek treatment, and will refuse to make themselves available for potentially useful research.

  84. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    Funny, I could say the same thing about ageists who forcibly foist their own opinions on non-consenting children.

    What the hell does this even mean?

    Also agree a million times over with this:
    I don’t believe that the phenomenon of the non-offending, non-predatory pedophile is real. It’s just a con run by dangerous sexual predators.

    As Sarahcost said, having a sexual attraction to children means having an attraction to rape. You can’t, under any circumstances, have consensual sex with a child. By default, any sexual interaction that involves a child is rape. Anyone fantasizing about sexual interactions with children are fantasizing about rape. There’s no way around that.

    You don’t get props for not raping someone, even though you really wanted to. I’m not giving out cookies to the men who are like “oh I’m such a nice guy cuz I totally wanted to rape that kid but I didn’t.” That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Again, if every pedophile disappeared off the face of the earth, I would feel no remorse. What value do they add to society??

    Wanting to have sex with children is wanting to rape. These are wanna be rapists, if not already rapists.

  85. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    Children are not things. They are not footstools or objects. They are human beings, ones who are still developing and quite vulnerable, and for everyone going on and on about how of course abuse is bad and no one is excusing it, there seems to be a fuck of a lot of erasure going on.

    Jesus. I . . . wow.

  86. Miss S
    Miss S August 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm |

    What would you prefer as a descriptor of pedophilia, then? People can also be described as “sexually attracted” to footstools and chickens, even though neither of those can consent either, so I’m not sure what better wording for these types of one-sided attractions would be.

    If your sexual attraction involves someone non consenting, I’m going to call you a rapist. That’s what I call people who get off on non consensual sex.

    They have their own little cliques and shit anyway. I read somewhere that men who like little boys wear jewelry or shirts with a symbol on it so that other pedophiles can know and they can connect. These people are sick bastards who have no remorse. I think most of them would fit under the sociopath/pyschopath category as they have no remorse whatsoever.

  87. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm |

    Sheelzebub:
    Children are not things. They are not footstools or objects.They are human beings, ones who are still developing and quite vulnerable, and for everyone going on and on about how of course abuse is bad and no one is excusing it, there seems to be a fuck of a lot of erasure going on.

    Jesus.I . . . wow.

    Co-sign. There is a lot of fuckery in this thread…

  88. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 11:06 pm |

    Miss S: I read somewhere that men who like little boys wear jewelry or shirts with a symbol on it so that other pedophiles can know and they can connect.

    Yep, they call themselves “childlovers” and they have symbols they wear which indicate whether they prefer to abuse boys, or girls, or both genders. There’s a “holiday” for pedophiles who abuse little girls, it’s tied into Lewis Carroll’s interest in a little girl named Alice who inspired the Wonderland books.

    It’s a whole sick subculture.

  89. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 11:08 pm |

    Miss S: If your sexual attraction involves someone non consenting, I’m going to call you a rapist. That’s what I call people who get off on non consensual sex.

    The distinction between a person who is sexually aroused by the thought of raping someone but does not rape anyone and a person who actually rapes someone seems to me to be a useful one. (Certainly, it’s necessary for legal purposes.) You’re free to repurpose the word rapist to mean the former while including the latter, but it strikes me that it’s useful to have a word that means just a person who nonconsensually uses the body of another for sexual purposes, while excluding people who haven’t behaved in that way.

  90. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 11:09 pm |

    Whoops, I wish I had

    Annaleigh: they have symbols they wear which indicate whether they prefer to abuse boys, or girls, or both genders.

    This should read “boys, girls, or any gender.” I don’t want to erase trans or genderqueer people. Sorry.

  91. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm |

    And really, I call bullshit on the whole “orientation” con. These guys have been trying to pull this for ages, but miss one crucial thing: their sexual attraction is based on a huge power imbalance–a real power imbalance, and it is focused on people (children) who are still developing and who are very vulnerable. They aren’t attracted to kids per se, they are attracted to holding a lot of power over someone and abusing them. We aren’t talking about liking members of the same sex or any gender. We aren’t talking about preferring a type of partner who is an equal, and consenting, and has as much power as you.

    1. Jill
      Jill August 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm | *

      And really, I call bullshit on the whole “orientation” con. These guys have been trying to pull this for ages, but miss one crucial thing: their sexual attraction is based on a huge power imbalance–a real power imbalance, and it is focused on people (children) who are still developing and who are very vulnerable. They aren’t attracted to kids per se, they are attracted to holding a lot of power over someone and abusing them. We aren’t talking about liking members of the same sex or any gender. We aren’t talking about preferring a type of partner who is an equal, and consenting, and has as much power as you.

      Right. It’s like saying that exclusively having rape fantasies is a sexual orientation. It’s an attraction to a certain act for sure, but it’s not an “orientation.” And the use of the term “orientation” from pedophilia groups is a deliberate attempt to put pedophilia on par with being gay or lesbian, in a political climate where gays and lesbians have gained increasing social acceptance premised on the notion that they are who they are because they were born and naturally oriented that way. It’s really dangerous to allow pedophiles the same rights to orientation language.

      None of which is to say that pedophiles who don’t act on their desires should all be locked up for life, or shouldn’t seek treatment, or are inherently evil. It is to say, though, that desire to commit sexual assault is not a sexual orientation.

      1. Jill
        Jill August 18, 2011 at 11:32 pm | *

        …and, sorry to serial-comment, but it’s worth pointing out that while we can have an academic discussion on whether or not it’s accurate to describe pedophilia as an orientation — which is something I think people can disagree about in good faith — in the real world, outside of feminist blog comments, pedophiles are focusing in on orientation language not because it’s an intellectually stimulating debate, but because they see an opening for increased power and for social acceptance of child rape. And by taking that opening, they also imply that gay, lesbian and queer people are no different than pedophiles. Those are the stakes in the real world. That’s part of why people here are getting pissed off at purely academic debates over the use of the term “orientation.”

  92. Anon21
    Anon21 August 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm |

    Sheelzebub: Children are not things. They are not footstools or objects.

    You’re just taking this ridiculously out of context. No one is saying or implying that children or objects, and that there’s no moral difference between indulging a sexual desire for children and a sexual desire for footstools. SarahCost made the semantic argument that we shouldn’t describe sexual attraction to children as “sexual attraction” because “sex” inherently encodes the idea of consent, and children can’t consent. Bagelsan pointed out a reason why s/he felt that point doesn’t hold, using examples from a less loaded context. That is not creating an equivalence between children and inanimate objects, or even between sexual attraction to children and sexual attraction to inanimate objects, and I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that that’s what was going on.

    1. Jill
      Jill August 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm | *

      +500 to everything Annaleigh and Annalouise have said on this thread. And um, is anyone else getting a little creeped out by Baldur’s comments? Maybe I’m misreading, but, uh, this?:

      As you note, no one condones child abuse, and this is especially true in the pedophile community. There is also solid evidence that most abusers are not attracted to children at all – which suggests that pedophilic traits actually reduce the likelihood that someone will abuse a child – although, due to differences in methodologies in the various studies, all that can be stated with certainty is that a pedophile is no more likely to sexually abuse a child than a non-pedophile. This should not be terribly surprising: what healthy person goes around hurting the people they love?

      Pedophiles do not “love” children, Baldur. Whether or not they act on it, they have fantasies of raping children. And evidence that most abusers are not pedophiles does not in any way suggest that “pedophillic traits actually reduce the likelihood that someone will abuse a child.” And if you can point to a credible study that demonstrates that a pedophile is no more likely to sexually abuse a child than a non-pedophile, I will give you a cookie. Because people who sexually abuse children are by definition behaving in “pedophillic” ways.

      Although I get the sense that your definition of “abuse” is a whole lot different than mine. Having sex with someone who cannot consent is by definition abusive.

  93. SarahCost
    SarahCost August 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    Bagelsan:
    What would you prefer as a descriptor of pedophilia, then? People can also be described as “sexually attracted” to footstools and chickens, even though neither of those can consent either, so I’m not sure what better wording for these types of one-sided attractions would be.

    People can masturbate with whatever they want. I don’t require the enthusiastic consent of my vibrator. Know why? Because it’s not a person!

    Know who are people? CHILDREN. What do I call a “one-sided attraction” to children? I would call that the desire to rape children. Which I would also call seriously fucked up.

  94. Sarah
    Sarah August 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm |

    I don’t think it’s right to compare pedophilia to other sexual orientations, not because it isn’t or couldn’t be reasonably defined as one, but because of the difference in how that applies: a lesbian should not be kept away from women, a gay man should not be kept away from men, but a pedophile SHOULD be kept away from children. Pedophilia is more than just being sexually attracted to a child, it also means wanting to fulfill a desire requires specifically trying to gain the trust of a parent or guardian in order to pursue a “relationship” once they’re gone, it means intimidating a “lover” into silence and shame. It can’t be anything but abuse. It’s no less ridiculous than a community of people who can’t become sexually aroused unless their partner is completely unwilling or unable to consent saying, “We prefer the term ‘rape-o-philes’ and we’d like to be recognized in the queer community.”

    There’s nothing specifically criminal about being attracted to children, but to try to give it the same legitimacy as homosexuality/bisexuality/etc, which are at least assumed to refer to desire for a consenting adult partner, not only diminishes the struggles of the queer community for acceptance and recognition and pulls it into a group with which it does not share its most important traits (for instance, that what they do in the bedroom is harmless and between consenting parties and therefore no one else’s business), but attempts to normalize and redefine it as acceptable. Even if someone who is attracted to children recognizes that this desire is at the very least going to land him in jail if he acts on it, wouldn’t they recognize that being in a club for pedophiles, united under a banner like ‘it’s the same as being gay’, is going to be the WORST thing he can do for him/herself in terms of self control?

    The whole thing sounds pretty awful, if you ask me.

  95. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm |

    I used to volunteer with the Petra Luna Foundation‘s online activism, where people gathered intelligence on movement pedophiles and reported websites to the FBI and other authorities where appropriate.

    In one summer alone the foundation battled a movement pedophile who had a pretty trafficked website about “girllove” which had pictures of Malia & Sasha Obama, little girls who had gone missing, and the webmaster gave an interview to Petra where he told her that 6 month old infants can consent to sex.

    That same summer an attorney with the foundation took a restraining order out on a movement pedophile who was photographing girls, putting their photos online, and rating them.

    Another movement pedo site went nuclear and posted photos of and rape threads against the foundation attorney’s teenage daughter, causing him to quit his work with the P. Luna Foundation.

    These are the people in the pedophile movement. They are not suffering souls begging for help, they are abusers and rapists looking for society to accept their actions.

  96. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 18, 2011 at 11:39 pm |

    Jill: And by taking that opening, they also imply that gay, lesbian and queer people are no different than pedophiles. Those are the stakes in the real world. That’s part of why people here are getting pissed off at purely academic debates over the use of the term “orientation.”

    Yep, and as a bisexual CSA survivor, it cheeses me right off.

  97. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm |

    Why should we think that a person who is paying to watch rape, knowing that it is easier to do that than to do all the “work” of actually raping someone and not getting caught, is somehow making a moral choice as opposed to a choice of convenience?

    Not all child pornography is purchased or paid for. And not all child pornography involves the depiction of actual rape or actual children. Sometimes it involves adults who look like minors or are made to look like minors. Sometimes it is virtual or animated and did not involve any actual persons in its production. And some of it is entirely written. Ohio once tried to imprison a sex offender for writing a journal which described fictional accounts of abducting and raping children.
    http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/10/2003/2003-ohio-3813.pdf

    And sometimes pedophiles do not utilize pornography at all. They might simply go to the beach to view the children there or go to some public event that involves children, like a sporting event. Or they may simply read Lolita.

    Is there any evidence that the difference is “substantive”? really? Are there *really* any actually people who have genuinely never harmed a child but feel the child to have sex with a child? I don’t believe it.

    If somebody claims to enjoy reading snuff pornography stories, does that necessarily mean that that person is murderer? Does his/her stated gratification in reading stories of rape and murder constitute proof positive?

  98. annalouise
    annalouise August 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm |

    With all respect, you do realize that you are arguing that celibacy is not a possibility for people who are, for whatever reason, unwilling to act on their sexual desires?

    To clarify, what I’m calling bullshit on is the whole notion that “pedophile” is a distinct catagory with no inherent overlap with “sociopath”. Or, to put it another way, I call bullshit on the idea that what motivates people who rape children is a sexual attraction to children, as opposed to lack of empathy, a desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.

    I also think that any argument about how maybe it’s a sexual orientation, or maybe they don’t mean to hurt people, or any of the nonsense said in this post, only is possible if refuse to center survivors of child sexual abuse.

    1. Jill
      Jill August 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm | *

      Or, to put it another way, I call bullshit on the idea that what motivates people who rape children is a sexual attraction to children, as opposed to lack of empathy, a desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.

      YES.

  99. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm |

    Jill:
    in the real world, outside of feminist blog comments, pedophiles are focusing in on orientation language not because it’s an intellectually stimulating debate, but because they see an opening for increased power and for social acceptance of child rape. And by taking that opening, they also imply that gay, lesbian and queer people are no different than pedophiles. Those are the stakes in the real world. That’s part of why people here are getting pissed off at purely academic debates over the use of the term “orientation.”

    Worth saying at least twice.

  100. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 12:43 am |

    I don’t think it’s right to compare pedophilia to other sexual orientations, not because it isn’t or couldn’t be reasonably defined as one, but because of the difference in how that applies

    The Salon article said

    There is a general consensus within the medical community that pedophilia is a sexual orientation and as such is unlikely to change, so treatment focuses on helping them to suppress their desires through psychotherapy and medication.

    I don’t know how widespread the use of “orientation” is to describe pedophilia in psychology or psychiatry. But the clinicians who call it such usually base their terminology on evidence that pedophiliac preferences seem to develop around puberty, appear to be fixed and stable during that person’s life, and are not susceptible to removal or change.

    If “orientation” should only be reserved for sexual preferences that are morally and socially acceptable, then should we make up a different term for unacceptable (but probably unchangeable) sexual preferences? Do we just call it “predilection” or “perversion” or “paraphilia”?

  101. Li
    Li August 19, 2011 at 1:06 am |

    annalouise: To clarify, what I’m calling bullshit on is the whole notion that “pedophile” is a distinct catagory with no inherent overlap with “sociopath”. Or, to put it another way, I call bullshit on the idea that what motivates people who rape children is a sexual attraction to children, as opposed to lack of empathy, a desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.

    and this:

    Jill: Right. It’s like saying that exclusively having rape fantasies is a sexual orientation. It’s an attraction to a certain act for sure, but it’s not an “orientation.” And the use of the term “orientation” from pedophilia groups is a deliberate attempt to put pedophilia on par with being gay or lesbian, in a political climate where gays and lesbians have gained increasing social acceptance premised on the notion that they are who they are because they were born and naturally oriented that way. It’s really dangerous to allow pedophiles the same rights to orientation language.

    Are I think really important. I’m deeply uncomfortable with people developing a sexual identity around experience sexual thoughts about children, regardless of any clinical use of orientation to describe them. And I think pedophile communities need to be disrupted as much as possible, and I’m unsure what the best framework for doing that is. But, I don’t think pushing pedophile communities underground is working. I think we need them to push out into the open so we can call bullshit on their community building. I think that means distinguishing between sexual feelings about children (which, we should remember, can sometimes be a result of child sexual trauma), sexual assault and consumption of child pornography of actual children, and false orientation rhetoric. I think telling people that if they have sexual thoughts about children, of whatever consistency, they are pedophiles and inately part of a category rather than just people who are having dark, black thoughts then that constructs the possibility of a pedophile community.

    I think the response should be “You know what? Being a pedophile isn’t even a thing. You’re a group of convicted rapists. That’s what you share. Sure, people have sexual thoughts about kids. That happens. But by managing not to enact that through assault, they avoid becoming pedophiles. You want clinical help managing the shit inside your head? Sure. You want to find ethical management strategies? Lets actually fix the mental health support system to make that happen. But what matters here is behaviour, not orientation or what’s in your head, and your behaviour is evil, not an orientation and sure as hell not something to build a community around.”

  102. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 2:59 am |

    “Funny, I could say the same thing about ageists who forcibly foist their own opinions on non-consenting children.”

    “What the hell does this even mean?”

    I think it means that we are conversing with a pedophile. One who’s somehow twisted the concept of neoteny in such a way that qualities such as empathy and cooperation are “pedophilic traits”.

    I’m glad Jill finally picked up on them, um, problematic aspects of Baldur’s comments, because I was reading through the thread and wondering why no one had responded to any of the “empathy is a pedophilic trait” comments yet.

  103. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 3:13 am |

    “I’m deeply uncomfortable with people developing a sexual identity around experience sexual thoughts about children, regardless of any clinical use of orientation to describe them. And I think pedophile communities need to be disrupted as much as possible, and I’m unsure what the best framework for doing that is. But, I don’t think pushing pedophile communities underground is working. I think we need them to push out into the open so we can call bullshit on their community building. I think that means distinguishing between sexual feelings about children (which, we should remember, can sometimes be a result of child sexual trauma), sexual assault and consumption of child pornography of actual children, and false orientation rhetoric. I think telling people that if they have sexual thoughts about children, of whatever consistency, they are pedophiles and inately part of a category rather than just people who are having dark, black thoughts then that constructs the possibility of a pedophile community. ”

    I agree with this. As several commenters alluded to above, there are well established pedophile communities, and there are people in those communities actively constructing an identity around their desire to rape children. The internet has been a huge boon to these people, and has allowed for a higher level of organisation involving larger numbers of people than before. I’ve run into those people in random internet forums before – the communities they participate in are helping them to normalise child abuse in their own minds. They provide a supportive framework in which people who want to rape children can state that desire and receive positive affirmation, assurances that their desire to harm children is OK, and assurances that the children they abuse are consenting. I’m not inclined to hysteria about internet communities that normalise unusual sexual interests in general – I think furries are rather comical and often a bit creepy, but I have no interest in shutting down their communities, because they’re not hurting anyone. But pedophile communities are different. They’re a special case, because there is no non-harmful way to act out the desires that they are designed to reassure their members that it’s OK to have.

    I have no idea how to go about stamping out those communities, because it seems like playing Whack-a-mole with sociopaths – if you stamp out one pedophile community, another one will probably spring up to replace it. But they do need to be stamped out, because they exist in order to normalise something that should not be normalised.

  104. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 5:02 am |

    Thank you, Anon21 @ 92. Amazing how quickly context goes out the window when it allows for more drama.

    And I think Li @ 105 is exactly right. Sure it feels fantastic to tell people they are irredeemable monsters based on simple criteria, but it’s also fucking stupid and unhelpful. Really difficult disgusting complex social problems need research beyond “omg those thoughts are gross so I’m gonna call that person a rapist” if we want to actually fix them.

    If someone has thoughts about hurting a child, do you honestly want the most supportive community they can turn to to be a bunch of child rapists? I don’t. I want them to have access to people who will — as is often done for other destructive urges or desires — tell them “that’s not acceptable” and give them tools to avoid harming anyone, rather than say “well, you’re practically a rapist anyway, so I guess it’s inevitable that a child will be hurt!” and doing exactly fuck all to prevent it. I want us to keep a line between people who might have sexual thoughts about children and people who act on those thoughts, and I want to address each group appropriately (“keep them away from kids” and “keep them in the nastiest cell imaginable” respectively.)

  105. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines August 19, 2011 at 5:29 am |

    Eeeeee. There’s a fair few comments here that are very creepy indeed.

    I’m also finding the idea that viewing child porn isn’t so harmful to be very dubious.

    Child sex abusers are evil and they should be locked up. Very illiberal of me, but I don’t think our children deserve anything less and I don’t want to hear any crap about orientation or sickening evo psych justification bollocks.

    Women are contantly fed bullshit about how rapists can be cured, they had such hard lives, boo hoo and now we’re getting the same crap about those who abuse children.

    Fuck that. They harm us and they cannot live with us. There should be less understanding and a lot more locking up.

  106. chava
    chava August 19, 2011 at 5:33 am |

    OK, I’m not super fond of the banhammer. But could we please ban Baldur? I just…agggggh. My parents are CSA survivors, and the apologism is sickening.

    Men are not overwhelmingly attracted to “juvenile traits,” ffs. Adolescent traits, to some extent, yes. But not pre-pubescent traits. Even in Baldur’s completely fucked evo-psych argument, there is NO ADVANTAGE to desiring pre-pubescent traits because children cannot reproduce.

  107. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 19, 2011 at 6:13 am |

    Oh, holy fucking shit. What’s disingenous and adds more “drama” (nice misogynist dogwhistle, BTW, would you like to call us hysterical next?) is to get outraged when we point out that children are not the same thing as an object in a goddamn thread where CSA survivors have been routinely ignored and their trauma minimized (and no, saying, “Of course this doesn’t excuse what these abusers did! Sex with children is terrible BUT” isn’t exactly showing much empathy for the fucking CSA survivors ON THIS THREAD). Calling pedophilia an “orientation” is fucking disingenuous as alll hell.

    That “orientation” is profoundly different from a so-called “orientation” towards an inanimate object because it entails manipulating and bullying a child into sex, or raping them. Which is vastly different from using a goddamn vibrator FFS.

    Oddly enough, I didn’t call pedophiles evil or monsters, but I did call the people in those communities who insisted it was an orientation–much like being gay, lesbian, or bisexual–liars and think they have a specific agenda that is geared towards normalizing child rape and shaming people who have the gall to say that sex with children is rape. Because here’s the thing–while this is a nice little intellectual exersize for some people on this thread, for others it actually impacted them in horrific and unspeakable ways. I am not about to give credence to this bullshit argument that is very often employed to erase the actual abuse survivors.

    And frankly, if someone has sexual thoughts about children and really doesn’t want to hurt them, I think the normal and the rational thing to do at the very least is to not allow yourself to be in situations where you are alone with them or where you have access and oh, I don’t know, maybe get help. And I don’t think people who have a shred of empathy for kids or minors are about to go around complaining that they have an orienation like the LBGT community and that they’re somehow fucking oppressed.

    When someone is contacting these pro-pedophile internet communites, they aren’t looking for help, they’re looking for justification. And they’re getting it in spades, from their cohorts and from well-meaning people who don’t seem to understand just what their rhetoric does to abuse survivors.

  108. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 6:41 am |

    “When someone is contacting these pro-pedophile internet communites, they aren’t looking for help, they’re looking for justification.”

    No shit. Look, folks, I’ve run into people who participate in these communities often online. These communities do exist to provide support, but it’s not “how do I deal with these urges and learn how to suppress them so as not to hurt anyone?” help, it’s “how do I stop feeling ashamed and embrace my love for children, which totally should be OK, and I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed because children have sexual needs too and I’m just helping to draw them out, that 5 year old totally came on to me first” help. Those communities also help to connect people who collude to abuse kids offline, and serve as a venue for trading child porn.

    It’s like saying that there should be a supportive community for people who have thoughts about torturing pets. Except instead of whatever theraputic function some people here seem to be imagining, it would be full of threads in which commenters were going “no, don’t feel bad, it’s OK, that cat totally wanted you to put it in boiling water, and people who tell you that wanting to do that is bad are just narrow minded”.

    When you create communities for pedophiles to discuss their feelings, what you tend to get is the kind of shit that Baldur was spouting upthread. Why does anyone think that more of this would be a good idea?

  109. matlun
    matlun August 19, 2011 at 6:45 am |

    Wow. There has been a lot of strawmen being fought in this thread. Perhaps the subject is too emotionally loaded to be able to discuss reasonably?

    chava: Men are not overwhelmingly attracted to “juvenile traits,” ffs. Adolescent traits, to some extent, yes. But not pre-pubescent traits.

    “Hebephilia” or “Ephebephila” are not seen as distinct from “Pedophilia” in many debates. In fact, if the object of sexual attraction is below the age of consent, then this is pedophilia according to many.

    How do the posters in this thread use the word? Just referring to pre-pubescent children?

  110. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 7:29 am |

    (nice misogynist dogwhistle, BTW, would you like to call us hysterical next?)

    Sigh. I’m a woman, but please feel free to continue not addressing the context or content of my posts, and instead make assumptions about my gender and put words in my mouth. That kind of lashing out has truly enriched the discussion so far, hasn’t it.

    It’s like saying that there should be a supportive community for people who have thoughts about torturing pets. Except instead of whatever theraputic function some people here seem to be imagining, it would be full of threads in which commenters were going “no, don’t feel bad, it’s OK, that cat totally wanted you to put it in boiling water, and people who tell you that wanting to do that is bad are just narrow minded”.

    When you create communities for pedophiles to discuss their feelings, what you tend to get is the kind of shit that Baldur was spouting upthread. Why does anyone think that more of this would be a good idea?

    You’re right. When I talk about help I obviously mean internet discussion boards populated by rapists, not — oh I dunno — actual professional therapy. Because that’s a totally rational conclusion to come to after reading all my comments about mental illness, pathology, and punishment. FFS. Maybe I should just prop my feet up on a couple of babies and offer my harddrive to store mysterious files for pedophiles; god knows I’m apparently both evil and an idiot.

  111. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 7:30 am |

    Perhaps the subject is too emotionally loaded to be able to discuss reasonably?

    Apparently.

  112. annalouise
    annalouise August 19, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    There are two dangerous arguments that child rapists like to use to justify themselves. Notice once again that these arguments aren’t not any way different from any other sexual predator or supporter of rape culture, *again*, contradicting the nonsense that pedophiles are special and driven by sexual urges as opposed to sociopathic desires.

    1)You are prudes (or you are close-minded, or you are judgmental or you think pedophilia is “icky”)
    2)You are too emotional.

    Nice feminist girls don’t want to think of themselves as histrionic prudes, because for even nice feminist girls, we’re not very good at challenging the misogynistic subtext in those terms. I get it. I like to think of myself as open-minded and intelligent and so a lot of us have knee-jerk reaction where we don’t want to be that screeching spinster yelling, “won’t you think of the children?”

    And that’s how men who think the rape of children is nbd get us to shut up and go along with them.

    And that’s what the apologists for child rape are doing in this thread.

    So let’s not buy into it, okay?

  113. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    Jill: No, *thank you* for making serial comments. This thread has become really appalling. Let me second the call for banning Baldur.

    And Sheelzebub, CassandraSays, Annaleigh, annalouise: Yes to everything you’ve said. I just… Wow… I can’t believe the erasure and apologism happening here–or the number of times people have said, “Well, of *course* raping children is bad…”

  114. Super Anon For This
    Super Anon For This August 19, 2011 at 8:01 am |

    I dipped a toe back in here, and I’m glad I did – because there are so many more comments validating the truth about this.

    Li, Bagelsan, and Baldur (I hope you’ve been banned, so this is rhetorical), I am curious: why are you so invested in protecting a most-likely-fictional group of people who “just” fantasize about raping children but would never, ever REALLY hurt any? If such people exist, they are few and far between. Your defense of this pile of straw really makes me wonder about your motivation.

    Yes, this subject IS way too emotionally loaded for CSA survivors and parents/children/sibs/friends of CSA survivors to listen politely to “but what if this one person, or these two or three people, just have fantasies about raping children – oops, I mean ‘being sexually attracted to children,’ but they never ever ever would ACTUALLY hurt these children – what about those poor, poor maligned lost souls who need our help?

    How about instead of pretending this is an actual, large subset of society, we face the TRUTH and STOP ignoring the real, lived experiences of the survivors of CSA and loved ones of CSA survivors? The only “reasonable” way to discuss this subject is to discuss the truth about the horrors of CSA instead of concocting elaborate fantasies about who is a pedophile and why they need protection.

    There’s no such thing as “love of” children OF ANY AGE when said “love” involves WANTING TO RAPE AND MOLEST THEM. Why do people on a FEMINIST website not see this? Anyone defending this is complicit in child-rape apologia.

  115. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 19, 2011 at 8:17 am |

    Perhaps the subject is too emotionally loaded to be able to discuss reasonably?

    Or perhaps this conversation is merely an academic exercise for some people, who have never experienced sexual abuse themselves, and who feel reasonably protected against the possibility of sexual assault for both themselves and their loved ones. Also, perhaps there is an inadequate level of compassion for the survivors of sexual abuse, or for people who have a very realistic threat of of possible sexual abuse in their lives. Perhaps we live in a society that contains a hierarchy of “winners” and “losers”, a society that values the concept of “might makes right” on many levels, and society that privileges people who are able to converse in academese and keep emotion out of their equations.

    You know what really separates the people who fantasize about child rape from those who have raped children?

    Opportunity.

    Speaking of opportunity, my kid starts sixth grade on Monday. She’s going to middle school, which means she gets to take the bus. Where does she get to stand and wait for the bus? Right outside of a convicted child rapist’s residence. Next door is another child rapist. Another house down the east corner a third child rapist can check out his next victims from his kitchen window. My neighborhood is child rapist central, and that’s not a fucking exaggeration. It’s not the only neighborhood in town like that, either—-but what all those neighborhoods have in common is a lack of class privilege. The wealthy neighborhoods surely have some sex offenders that haven’t been caught yet, but as a rule do not have a concentration of them as the poor and working class neighborhoods do.

    So. Not an academic exercise for me. I’m not really fucking interested in parsing out the difference between “hebephilia”, “ephebephilia” or “pedophilia” either. I’ll cop to an emotional reaction to that as a former grade-schooler whose routine consisted of rebuffing perverts whose behavior didn’t vary depending on their microidentity of age-attraction—they were all sociopaths.

    My question is….why isn’t there any acknowledgement that we aren’t all standing in the same place? That a strong emotional reaction is a very sensible and rational reaction to a clear and present threat?

  116. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 19, 2011 at 8:27 am |

    Perhaps the subject is too emotionally loaded to be able to discuss reasonably?

    Apparently.

    And perhaps some of that “emotion” is coming from people who unquestioningly demand compassion for abusers, who insist on the existence of pedophiles who’ve never hurt children (perhaps unicorns as well) and who dismiss those who have had a much closer experience with this as emotional and unreasonable.

    Just sayin’.

  117. matlun
    matlun August 19, 2011 at 8:28 am |

    La Lubu: My question is….why isn’t there any acknowledgement that we aren’t all standing in the same place? That a strong emotional reaction is a very sensible and rational reaction to a clear and present threat?

    (Not specifically @La Lubu)

    I did not say that it is surprising or wrong that this is a very emotionally loaded issue. It obviously is and this is very natural.

    I was asking: Does this extreme emotional load make a reasoned discussion impossible? And if so, is it meaningful trying to have this discussion?

    My provisional answers after reading this thread: Yes. No.

  118. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 19, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    Sigh. I’m a woman,

    I didn’t call you a man. I pointed out that you were using a misogynist dogwhistle. But nice try. BTW, women are very capable of being misogynists and rape apologists, but you feel free to not address the actual substance of my posts or anyone else’s here, and act like a condescending asshole. That has *certainly* added to the tenor of the discussion.

  119. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 19, 2011 at 8:47 am |

    Does this extreme emotional load make a reasoned discussion impossible? And if so, is it meaningful trying to have this discussion?

    Define “extreme”. That’s a loaded word, historically used against marginalized people, particularly in instances where they are seeking redress for wrongs committed against them.

    Further, it’s a very loaded concept that “emotion” and “reason” are considered parenthetically opposed to one another, and that “emotional” people (those who haven’t yet learned the pantomime of covering their emotion) are incapable or unwilling to “reason”. There’s a whole helluva lot of unquestioned assumptions here, and they aren’t just coming from the folks here who openly acknowledge their emotional reaction.

  120. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 19, 2011 at 8:50 am |

    La Lubu: Does this extreme emotional load make a reasoned discussion impossible? And if so, is it meaningful trying to have this discussion?Define “extreme”. That’s a loaded word, historically used against marginalized people, particularly in instances where they are seeking redress for wrongs committed against them.Further, it’s a very loaded concept that “emotion” and “reason” are considered parenthetically opposed to one another, and that “emotional” people (those who haven’t yet learned the pantomime of covering their emotion) are incapable or unwilling to “reason”. There’s a whole helluva lot of unquestioned assumptions here, and they aren’t just coming from the folks here who openly acknowledge their emotional reaction.

    This. I’m struck by how the assumption is that only CSA survivors and their allies are being emotional and unreasonable, and that those who unquestioningly buy the snowjob argument of pedophilia being an orienation, and that it’s beyond cruel to think of someone who rapes a child as a monster is somehow being a rational Vulcan.

  121. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    Or, to put it another way, I call bullshit on the idea that what motivates people who rape children is a sexual attraction to children, as opposed to lack of empathy, a desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.

    Big trigger warning here for a discussion of the mindset of a specific and very scary pedophile.

    Heres the thing about that: human sexuality is weird. I’ve worked with patients who could only be sexually aroused by fire, electrical shocks, men in high heels, being bound in latex and left alone. For those four examples, at least, I’m as certain as I can be that there was no abuse in the histories of those patients. I’m not a biological determinist, but whatever was behind that pattern of arousal was not easily identifiable in the history and I didn’t get an inkling of it over the course of psychodynamic treatment.

    Some pedophiles are the same way and, for me, thats whats really scary. A rapist who simply prefers raping children, while horrifying, is just a rapist. You can work with the trauma that led to that specific kind of sadism, you can attempt treatment, and you can segregate that individual from society while you see if they can be healed (theoretically, at least, as a survivor I’d be too worried that I’d end up unconsciously manipulating a patient like that into suicide to not refer them out).

    Someone who is legitimately attracted to children, who believes that they love children, who believes that children desire sex, who grooms their victims and takes natural physical responses and a lack of resistance as evidence of affirmative and enthusiastic consent is a much more difficult thing to handle. People like that are out there. My abuser was one of them, I encountered two during my training, I have been present in case presentations for several more and discussed others. It is certainly possible to have a sexual attraction towards children I think that is far more worrying that mere sadism directed at children because you have someone who is a true believer. Human beings can have legitimate sexual orientations towards almost anything, children are no exception.

    I don’t mean to excuse pedophilia at all or suggest that somehow a pedophile isn’t a rapist waiting to happen, but I think it is vitally important for us to understand what we’re actually talking about. Within the larger group of child rapists there are both sadists and fetishists. Containing, identifying, and managing these different kinds of pedophiles requires different tools. Thats especially true if we want to prevent children from being abused rather than merely arresting/hospitalizing/lynching child rapists after a child has been victimized.

  122. Li
    Li August 19, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    Super Anon For This: Li, Bagelsan, and Baldur (I hope you’ve been banned, so this is rhetorical), I am curious: why are you so invested in protecting a most-likely-fictional group of people who “just” fantasize about raping children but would never, ever REALLY hurt any? If such people exist, they are few and far between. Your defense of this pile of straw really makes me wonder about your motivation.

    I’m not invested in that at all, as this is absolutely not my position. As I have stated repeatedly.

    I disagree with Matlun that people’s emotional reactions are getting in the way of this discussion, and I think using emotionality as a critique of people on a thread about child sexual assault is 1. sexist and 2. fucking bullshit to survivors.

    I am using my usual commenting name for this discussion, so I’m sure people will appreciate that I don’t want to disclose exactly what my relationship to real life CSA is, but I want to state that this discussion is in no way theoretical for me and I’m going to ask that people avoid referring to me as someone with no personal involvement in the issue or as someone who isn’t close enough to the issue.

    La Lubu:

    You know what really separates the people who fantasize about child rape from those who have raped children?

    Opportunity.

    You know what? This is potentially exactly what the case is. But the possibility that it is, that there no intervention point apart from addressing that opportunity terrifies the fuck out of me because I don’t think we can ever eliminate the opportunity for people to sexually offend.

    I have much longer thoughts on where intervention into potential/likely perpetrators of sexual assault (and I think that all people who have sexual thoughts about children fall into this category) might happen, and how that fits into what we know about the self-justificatory process that tends to precede CSA, and in particular how this fits with pedophile communities, but I’m sure people will forgive me if I hold that off until I feel more coherent. But I still hope, unreasonably as it may be, that there is a short moment before someone who is highly likely to perpetrate sexual assault has completed the process in which they convince themselves that their behaviour is justified in which we might actually stop them from assaulting a child. This is what I’ve been talking about all thread. The possibility of stopping someone becoming a rapist of children, because that by definition involves a child being raped. I need that possibility to exist.

    As a final note, I know I’ve been using pretty non-emotional language in my posts in this discussion. I want to flag that I am aware of what that means for my tone and how I am read (that I seem disinvolved or clinical) but that writing this way is a result of my emotionality and how I personally am managing it in this thread.

  123. Li
    Li August 19, 2011 at 9:13 am |

    William: Containing, identifying, and managing these different kinds of pedophiles requires different tools. Thats especially true if we want to prevent children from being abused rather than merely arresting/hospitalizing/lynching child rapists after a child has been victimized.

    This.

  124. Doc G
    Doc G August 19, 2011 at 9:29 am |

    I have to admit that on the face of it I see where people are coming from. The simple definition “person with an inborn desire that is not condoned by society” fits a lot of people with whom we are now sympathetic, and you don’t want to be the guy who is on the wrong side of history, too close-minded to accept the next freedom that’s waiting in the wings.

    The idea that such a person could even exist depends on believing something like the following: that a person’s sexuality is made of two parts: their sexual orientation (who they are attracted to), and the sexual actions they take. The person is happy when the two line up – i.e. a person who is attracted to men in a relationship with a man. For a while, it became the prevalent assumption that the only “natural” attraction was between one man and one woman. Under that assumption, any non heterosexual actions were morally wrong because they could be defined as choices of the actors.

    Much of the work towards making gay relationships acceptable has turned on convincing people that the first part isn’t fixed. That is, a person has a sexual orientation they are born with and have no control over. Since people accept that a person is only happy when their orientation lines up with their actions, the acceptance movement of all non-hetero, non-cis lifestyles has basically followed the same line: if you can get people in general to believe that a legitimate, inborn, “orientation” exists, then the actions taken to follow that orientation become justified.

    Example: if I believe that gender is determined by genetic makeup only, then if I see a person who is genetically female but chooses to live life as a man, that seems “wrong” because it’s a choice that goes against that person’s inborn “orientation”. BUT if I believe that people can be born into any gender, independent of their genes, and that this person really was born a male, independent of his own choice, into a genetically female body, then I will see them as justified in taking actions that agree with that orientation (like surgery).

    Most of us agree that taking actions in line with your orientation has limits. You aren’t allowed to limit other people’s freedoms to life and happiness, and that includes freedom to not be raped. So if you are into sadism, for instance, you better take specific actions to make sure that you are only engaging in that type of play with consenting adults that have a complementary orientation.

    In the case of a possible pedophilic orientation, the corresponding action is ALWAYS unacceptable, because a child is incapable of consent. So under our two-part sexuality conception, (orientation + actions) we have a problem of how to deal with this. We can deny that the orientation itself is real, but that puts us in the same position as people who want to deny that homosexual or transgender people actually feel the way they do, and that makes us uncomfortable (or it should, if we’re being intellectually honest). Or we can insist that the orientation, hateful though it is, be accepted, and come up with programs to help these people deal with the fact that they will never be truly happy because their sexual actions must never be allowed to line up with their orientations.

    The sexual dualism that brings us to this conclusion is very logical, abstract, and Western, and as the above discussion shows, absurd. The idea that attraction can always be abstracted from the act itself is nonsensical and a tool that child rapist organizations use to attempt to get public opinion off their back long enough to continue to trade pictures, strategies, and information. You can’t be attracted to something without the intent to act on that attraction: accepting that you have the attraction is the first step towards acting on that attraction, and the only healthy, acceptable sexual act is between consenting partners (with consent carrying all the rich meanings of being able to consent, excluding children, among other things). So yeah, you find yourself wanting to do something that you know is wrong, make yourself stop wanting that. The abstract idea of attraction that only exists in your head is a Cartesian chimaera, and it’s only the first step towards doing it in real life.

    I agree with the people in this discussion that are going about this from the standpoint that child rape is real, it’s a problem, and we can’t take any actions or positions that allow people to justify their actions at all. Pedophilia is not an orientation (though as you can see, I think the idea of orientation itself is a problem).

    Since I wrote the top part of this Sheelzebub pointed out that only the survivors here are accused of being emotional, and the ones defending pedophiles are assumed to be rational Vulcans. I think that assessment of the situation isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the survivors, because being a rational Vulcan doesn’t mean you’re right – as I hope I showed above being completely rational about this leads you to give pedophiles way too much leeway. Only our emotional understanding of the situation can clue us into the truth here, which is that the idea of a pedophile sexual orientation is just nonsense.

  125. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 19, 2011 at 9:36 am |

    William: Within the larger group of child rapists there are both sadists and fetishists. Containing, identifying, and managing these different kinds of pedophiles requires different tools. Thats especially true if we want to prevent children from being abused rather than merely arresting/hospitalizing/lynching child rapists after a child has been victimized.

    And why that’s so hard for me to hear: I don’t believe that the society I live in has any interest in preventing children from being abused. Only certain children. The children of the privileged. The society I live in is more than willing to concentrate child sex offenders in my neighborhood, perhaps hoping that they will assuage themselves sexually with the children of this neighborhood and thus leave the children of higher rank alone, “culling the herd” as it were.

    This isn’t happening in a vacuum. Christ, we have another thread here that details just how ignored and disrespected raped children can be—especially if they are disabled. Call me cynical–I’ll cop to that too. But. I have zero faith that a conversation situating child sexual abuse as a sexual orientation is going to result in the development of effective treatment programs for pedophiles who haven’t yet acted upon their fantasies.

  126. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 9:45 am |

    Only our emotional understanding of the situation can clue us into the truth here, which is that the idea of a pedophile sexual orientation is just nonsense.

    I think that calling the concept of pedophilia being a sexual orientation “nonsense” is just lying to ourselves in order to make this conversation less uncomfortable. Human beings are sexual creatures, we’re also kinky creatures. The things which make some of us identify as heterosexual or homosexual, which make some of top while others bottom and still others switch, the things which allow some of us to get off on oral sex while others want to be spanked, that great diversity of human sexual experience doesn’t ultimately break down into comfortable socially acceptable boundaries. Out on the tails of the normal distribution will be people who want to fuck kids and they exist as part of the same distribution as men who have sex with men and people who have sex with people of the opposite gender.

    Pedophilia, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, is a sexual orientation. Thats a descriptive category. All it really means is that you’re dealing with people who have a sexual attraction towards children. There are political problems with the language, and a lot of reasons (I’d argue generally defensive in nature) why we would want to argue that pedophiles aren’t actually attracted to children, but at the end of the day some people want to have sex with children just as some people want to be tied up or have missionary sex in the dark.

    That doesn’t mean that wanting to have sex with children is acceptable, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t always rape in every circumstance because children cannot meaningfully consent to sex with an adult, all it means is that those people exist. Recognizing that existence is a necessary prerequisite for managing and controlling it. Yes, if we want to protect children from being raped we need to make value judgement and use coercive power to prevent people who want to have sex with children from committing an act which we have subjectively judged to be rape. Hell, I’m a survivor who has been pretty open about my belief that violence against abusers is morally acceptable. None of that changes the fact that if we’re going to actually try to do something useful we need to honestly examine what we’re looking at even if it’s proximity to thing we value makes us uncomfortable.

  127. matlun
    matlun August 19, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    La Lubu: Define “extreme”. That’s a loaded word, historically used against marginalized people, particularly in instances where they are seeking redress for wrongs committed against them.

    “Extreme” as in relatively speaking. Pedophilia discussions tend to be much more emotionally loaded than even discussions about “normal” rape, racism, or other very ugly phenomena that we need to address as a society.

  128. matlun
    matlun August 19, 2011 at 9:57 am |

    matlun: I disagree with Matlun that people’s emotional reactions are getting in the way of this discussion, and I think using emotionality as a critique of people on a thread about child sexual assault is 1. sexist and 2. fucking bullshit to survivors.

    You do not think that people’s emotional reactions are getting in the way? There has been a lot of wilful misreadings above and I do not see any kind of progress. Perhaps I am being overly negative in my view of the quality of this thread, but I do not think so.

    This is a very general problem in society.

    For example: If we can not have a reasonable discussion of child pornography, how will we create good laws addressing this problem? As it is now, moral panic often rules the day and you get laws that classify as child pornographers and sex offenders such persons as sexting teens or manga translators (that had hentai at home).

    As for this specific thread, perhaps this type of rational discussion is not the goal? A space to emote and vent might be psychologically useful also…

    1. Jill
      Jill August 19, 2011 at 10:17 am | *

      Matlun, i don’t see where people are being unreasonable. Yes, people have shared their personal experiences and are using language that conveys how they emotionally feel about this issue, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being “reasonable.” I see folks being perfectly reasonable, just disagreeing with you, and also expressing their feelings.

  129. Li
    Li August 19, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    La Lubu: I have zero faith that a conversation situating child sexual abuse as a sexual orientation is going to result in the development of effective treatment programs for pedophiles who haven’t yet acted upon their fantasies.

    Yeah, so I don’t buy that child sexual abuse is an orientation at all. At. All. Also I tend towards the view that arguing that child sexual abuse is something a perpetrator is rather than something they do, that is, not specifically parsing out action, actually feeds into orientation arguments. Not because it buys the legitimation implicit in orientation arguments but because it cedes the possibility that pedophiles have an essential characteristic about themselves. You start to essentialise perpetration of sexual assault and that feeds people wanting to form sexual identity and community around that essential characteristic.

    We’ve talked a bit about orientation and homosexuality, but I don’t think we’ve really considered the role, for instance, that medicine, orientation frameworks and essentialism had in actually constructing gay/lesbian as identities. Gay and lesbian people didn’t just use orientation frameworks as a way to argue for rights, but to a large extent they were made by those frameworks.

  130. Li
    Li August 19, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    matlun:

    You do not think that people’s emotional reactions are getting in the way? There has been a lot of wilful misreadings above and I do not see any kind of progress. Perhaps I am being overly negative in my view of the quality of this thread, but I do not think so.

    I don’t conflate the misreadings with people’s emotions. I think that misreadings (many of which have been of my comments, and not just misreadings, but readings that are directly contrary to what I have said) are an issue in this thread, but that’s not the same as people being emotional, even extremely emotional, in the thread. It’s also not my call to decide if people are too emotional to participate, it’s theirs. I don’t have the knowledge to decide that for them.

    Also, matlun, I can’t remember if you are a native English speaker or not, but “rational” is so heavily loaded in the context of discussions about sexual violence and women’s rights that my general position is to keep it out of these kinds of discussion entirely, because its loaded meaning makes it impossible to convey functional meaning.

  131. matlun
    matlun August 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    Li: Also, matlun, I can’t remember if you are a native English speaker or not, but “rational” is so heavily loaded in the context of discussions about sexual violence and women’s rights that my general position is to keep it out of these kinds of discussion entirely, because its loaded meaning makes it impossible to convey functional meaning.

    Word choice here is obviously a bit fraught as are the comments on overly emotional posters. There is a long and ugly history of women being dismissed as overly emotional and hysterical, so of course it is sensitive.

    I do not think my (lack of) language skills should be used as an excuse, though. Judge my comments as they stand. It is my responsibility to choose my words, so if this was poorly done I should stand up for any mistakes.

  132. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    You can’t be attracted to something without the intent to act on that attraction: accepting that you have the attraction is the first step towards acting on that attraction, and the only healthy, acceptable sexual act is between consenting partners (with consent carrying all the rich meanings of being able to consent, excluding children, among other things). So yeah, you find yourself wanting to do something that you know is wrong, make yourself stop wanting that.

    Are you making a slippery slope argument about fucking? Because I know that people exist who have urges they don’t act on; in fact, that describes basically everyone at some point in their lives. And I can’t fathom how people with “wrong” attractions should “make [themselves] stop wanting that” if the entire narrative around pedophilia is that it’s impossible not to rape children. Kinda defeats the purpose of stopping potential child predators if you assume they’re unstoppable, and you certainly can’t start jailing people who haven’t raped (yet.)

    Maybe it’s true that all people sexually attracted to children or teenagers will inevitably try to rape them, but there is no evidence that that’s the case. And, as several commenters have said above, driving people with harmful urges underground and preemptively labeling them “rapists” won’t give us necessary evidence to help us develop a strategy to prevent harm to kids. Which is surely the ultimate goal (our moral repulsion aside)?

  133. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    Call me cynical–I’ll cop to that too. But. I have zero faith that a conversation situating child sexual abuse as a sexual orientation is going to result in the development of effective treatment programs for pedophiles who haven’t yet acted upon their fantasies.

    If you’re cynic than I am too because I have a similar lack of faith. At the same time, I feel like its a conversation worth having because I don’t think a lot of people really understand what pedophiles are and I think there is a mystique around them similar to the stranger-rapist myth that permeates and supports rape culture. Society might not have much of an interest in protecting children, especially the wrong kinds of children, but I think that individual members of communities can do a lot to help identify potential predators and protect children from them. I’ve no faith in top down solutions, but ultimately you and I and a lot of other people do care and can do a lot in our own communities. Its not perfect, its not ideal, but we shouldn’t underestimate our power to help protect the children around us. Understanding that not all child predators are delusion religious psychotics or violent sadists, discussing what pedophiles can look like and what can motivate them, figuring out what danger signs might be, all of these things can help us protect our communities when others have abandoned us.

  134. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |

    I think that calling the concept of pedophilia being a sexual orientation “nonsense” is just lying to ourselves in order to make this conversation less uncomfortable.

    Pedophilia, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, is a sexual orientation. Thats a descriptive category. All it really means is that you’re dealing with people who have a sexual attraction towards children.

    I appreciate your input, William, because I think this thread really needs a professional/mental health perspective. Everyone else (including myself) is mostly just wildly speculating about what kind of people do or don’t exist in the world, and that’s a pretty ridiculous way to have an informed discussion.

  135. Donna L
    Donna L August 19, 2011 at 11:53 am |

    Like many other people here, Baldur’s comments made me deeply uncomfortable. Including his apparent attempt to normalize pedophilia as just another “preference” by claiming (without any citation, not that I’d believe it anyway) that 20% to 30% of men “prefer” girls to women. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean, but I think it’s an outrageous statement. Yeah, OK, an 18-year old “man” can legitimately be attracted to a 16-year old “girl,” but that’s not what we’re talking about here. That kind of situation is why most statutory rape laws have exceptions for cases when the two people are within a couple of years of each other in age. Other than that, I think it’s a lie and I think it’s made in bad faith. Just about every single person I’ve ever talked to about that kind of thing (male or female, and given that I’ve been both in my life I’ve certainly talked to both) has shared my recollection that even teenagers start to look like children — babies, really — once you reach your 20’s, and that it’s impossible to see children as sexual objects. 20-30% of men disagree? I don’t buy it.

    I speak, by the way, as someone who was repeatedly sexually abused over a period of years, beginning when I was 11, by a physician. And, no, I didn’t “consent,” and it wasn’t an “orientation.” And when I saw the man’s obituary in the paper a few years ago (he lived to be in his 90’s), I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I was happy he was dead. (I don’t usually mention this aspect of my history, because there are too many people out there who believe nonsense about transness being caused by child sexual abuse. I knew I was trans years and years before any of this happened.)

    Donna

    PS: The idea that a guy like Fred Berlin would be welcome at Johns Hopkins doesn’t amaze me at all. Two words: Paul McHugh. One of the most vicious transphobes on the face of the Earth, who’s been there forever.

  136. Esti
    Esti August 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    William, your posts have been really interesting — thanks for sharing your perspective.

    The reason I was advocating for more dialogue on this issue is not because I think “child rape is bad, but…” It’s because I think “child rape is bad, so what can we do to try to reduce how often it happens?” We can definitely disagree about what things we should do to try to reach that goal (the comment someone made about how using the sexual orientation label entrenches pedophiles’ sense that they can’t change gave me some things to think about), but surely discussing why pedophiles offend is going to be necessary to figuring out how to reduce how often they do so.

    I mean, even on this thread, the people saying we shouldn’t even be having this discussion have taken the following positions:

    -people who are attracted to children just *are* pedophiliac criminals and can’t be changed
    -people attracted to children need to just stop themselves from having those feelings, because they are something that can be changed
    -no adults are attracted to children, “pedophiles” are just people who want to victimize others and have focused that in a certain way

    Which one of those you think is true (or whether you think all are true for at least some offenders) is going to be pretty important to what solutions you think society should pursue. And even if it isn’t clear whether we *can* reduce the propensity of some people to sexually assault children, surely it’s something we should keep trying to do?

    I don’t think that discussion has to detract from the revulsion and anger we feel about these crimes, nor do I think that discussing the causes of pedophilia means that we are erasing the victims. This discussion wasn’t a derail on a post about victims of sexual assault — which would have been absolutely offensive and erasing — it was a discussion on a post about the people perpetrating those crimes. You definitely can and should center this discussion around the suffering that CSA causes and the importance of protecting victims, but it seems like some people here think that any discussion of the motivations of sexual predators is necessarily justifying their actions or ignoring victims.

  137. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    To clarify, what I’m calling bullshit on is the whole notion that “pedophile” is a distinct catagory with no inherent overlap with “sociopath”. Or, to put it another way, I call bullshit on the idea that what motivates people who rape children is a sexual attraction to children, as opposed to lack of empathy, a desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.

    Sociopathy probably applies to lots of criminals of all categories, like rapists who rape adults, domestic abusers, organized crime members, hate criminals, robbers, generic murderers, serial killers, spree killers, white collar criminals, and the list goes on. Of course they may harm people just for the sadistic enjoyment of it, but usually their sociopathy is considered a mechanism for them to achieve some kind of interest or gratification, without worry of moral or legal scruples.

    A person wants money for his personal use, so he decides to break into a person’s home, robs that person, and because he does not want to be incarcerated, he kills the person so there is no witness to identify him. Maybe he enjoyed robbing and killing his victim, or maybe he felt neutral, because he thought it was just a way to protect his self-interest. If there were nobody home, he may have easily just taken money without killing anybody and been just as satisfied. Maybe an identity thief enjoys thinking of the harm and anguish he is inflicting on the people whose identities he steals, or he may not really care about that and just focuses on the stolen money he is accumulating, not caring about the means.

    You seem to be arguing that if a person’s conduct involves sociopathy and its attributes (lack of empathy, willingness to harm people, etc.), then sociopathy is the one and only motivating factor, and no other factor was involved. It’s like saying that greed had nothing to do with Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme, and he only did it because had a “desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.” Or it’s like saying that racism had nothing important to do with Daryl Dedmon murdering James Anderson in Mississippi. It was all out of some generic “desire to cause pain, a desire to exploit, dominate, control, traumatize.”

    For better or worse, we try to study and categorize human behaviors, especially the unacceptable, horrifying behaviors. Supposedly, there are different categories of rapist, like “power-reassurance” or “anger-excitation” which have different psychological motivations and attributes, though they probably share sociopathy. Serial killers supposedly have different psychological aspects and motivations than spree killers, though they both kill multiple people and probably have sociopathy. And even within the group of “serial killers,” there are all kinds of subdivisions, like “Angel of Death” or “Black Widow.”

    We try to discern things like what attributes such persons have, what attributes seem relevant to their behavior, whether they had certain attributes before they started engaging in their behavior, whether there is overlap between their attributes and those of other offenders, whether there is overlap between their attributes and those of non-offenders, if persons who share these attributes but have not offended are likely to offend, if some kind of change in their attributes might have changed their behavior.

    Sociopath has become the word of the choice to describe any person who commits horrible acts, whether or not that person has been analyzed. And even when sociopathy is present, it runs the gamut of all hosts of offenders. To just say “sociopath” is good enough and then shut down the discussion may be problematic. And doing that would seem to foreclose any chance of developing effective, preemptive methods for identifying such persons before they act, and for preventing them from offending, or making it less likely.

  138. Miss S
    Miss S August 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    I think it means that we are conversing with a pedophile. One who’s somehow twisted the concept of neoteny in such a way that qualities such as empathy and cooperation are “pedophilic traits”.

    Ewww, I think you’re right. He later compared pedophilia to ‘loving’ children. Pedophiles are sick and twisted like that.

    LaLubu, that’s terrifying. That’s why some of the discussions on here lately have been really getting under my skin. Intellectual exercises are fun, I guess, but it seems like alot of people forget that other people are living it. It’s not an intellectual exercise for us. When we lived in a low income neighborhood, I was shocked at how many child sex offenders there were. At the time, my little sisters were children. At that point, I didn’t care what anyone else called them, or what they called themselves. I personally, called them sick, perverted, and other names I won’t repeat here because my concern rested on the fact that they lived down the street. There were a ton of children in that neighborhood.

    Like I said, I’m not in the habit of giving out cookies to men who don’t rape, even if they really wanted too. Not being a rapist is like, the bare minimum. I don’t think anyone wants rapists or wanna be rapists in their neighborhood, which is why this is one group that I think should be locked up for life. That’s because I don’t see them as nice guys struggling with an urge. I see them as psychopaths/sociopaths who would like to manipulate the world into thinking they’re nice guys. I’m not fooled.

  139. Miss S
    Miss S August 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    To just say “sociopath” is good enough and then shut down the discussion may be problematic. And doing that would seem to foreclose any chance of developing effective, preemptive methods for identifying such persons before they act, and for preventing them from offending, or making it less likely.

    Based on everything I’ve ever read, there is no cure for sociopathy. It’s not like a mental disorder, but a personality disorder. No cure, no treatment, no nothing can help. They’re manipulative and cunning. They can manipulate people into thinking they’re cured, but they aren’t. There is no way to make a sociopath feel empathy. Plenty of research suggests that their brains aren’t like everyone else’s.

  140. Runar
    Runar August 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    You can argue amongst yourselves all you want. Yet here I am, a middle-aged man who has never had any sort of sexual intimacy in his whole life. Because I am sexually attracted ONLY to minor males (not small children).

    I grew up not knowing what the hell I was. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to go into one’s adolescent years in that state of terror. Later, and with good help from the online community I found, I was able to put my attractions into a larger context. I was always extremely opposed to anything even resembling child sexual abuse, but I was no longer afraid I’d some day simply drop my marbles and become the kind of person I was so against. In fact, I was able to formulate a well-founded system of ethics in which my opposition to abuse is an intricate part of the way I think. And my notion of abuse is the same as yours.

    Very few people in my life know what I am. I sorely wish I could be more open about it to my friends and family, but it’s simply impossible in the current climate, where many people are no longer equipped mentally to distinguish between a passive, involuntary pattern of attraction, and downright child rape.

    I live alone and I will die alone, but I will have lead a decent and ethical life. Many of you here have argued that I simply do not exist. I resent that with a passion. Here I am. I am not a saint by any means; in fact I am a deeply flawed person like most of us. But like most of us, I, too, know right from wrong.

  141. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm |

    These make up the majority of the human population, with varying degrees of the pedophilic traits that include gentleness, cooperation, intelligence, and creativity.

    Ew ew ew ew ew…. I just went back and read Baldur’s comment. HOW did this not get challenged until some dozens of comments later?

    1. Jill
      Jill August 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm | *

      Just FYI, I banned Baldur.

  142. Super Anon for This
    Super Anon for This August 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    Just because William is a “mental health professional” doesn’t make him the final word on whether “pedophilia” (a disgusting concept, even) is a “sexual” orientation (god that idea makes me PUKE), or whether the poor poor people who desire to rape children need our help, or whether in fact these twisted people can be “cured.”

    My extremely credentialed therapist, and the extremely credentialed therapist treating my child for CSA, hold a viewpoint that is diamterically opposed to the ones William has espoused here.

    @ La Lubu: I don’t believe that the society I live in has any interest in preventing children from being abused. Only certain children. The children of the privileged.

    For what it’s worth, the man who expoloited my child is a millionaire, living in a millionaire neighborhood several houses away from a millionaire registered child rapist/molester. I think we pretend this shit doesn’t happen to privileged people, and that privileged people are not perpetrators, but of course we know that’s total bullshit. It makes things so much easier to blame “the love of children” (puke, gag) on those Poor People Of Color Who Are Awful And Of Course They Do Those Terrible Things Because They Aren’t Like “Us.”

  143. Anon21
    Anon21 August 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    Kristin/144: It definitely didn’t appear in its current position during the original course of the discussion. I assumed it had been hung up in the moderation queue.

  144. Super Anon for This
    Super Anon for This August 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    PS: I don’t think we as a society actually give a crap about children at all.

  145. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm |

    Based on everything I’ve ever read, there is no cure for sociopathy. It’s not like a mental disorder, but a personality disorder. No cure, no treatment, no nothing can help. They’re manipulative and cunning. They can manipulate people into thinking they’re cured, but they aren’t. There is no way to make a sociopath feel empathy. Plenty of research suggests that their brains aren’t like everyone else’s.

    Probably true, but this may be assuming that sociopathy is an entirely inborn, hereditary trait. Even Hare and Lykken said sociological and environmental factors may factor importantly in causing sociopathy (they reserve the term “psychopath” for person whose conditions they think are more genetically, physiologically based). And environmental factors can affect brain and neural development.

    Not all pedophiles and child molesters may be sociopaths. Probably a lot are, but perhaps not all. And even if they all are, there may be probative psychological differences within them and between them and other sociopaths. A sociopath who molests children is probably psychologically different from a sociopath who murders adult hitchhikers.

    And anyway, identifying sociopaths and preventing them from offending does not require “curing” them.

  146. saurus
    saurus August 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    I do believe that there are probably many other people like Runar out there – who for whatever reason, are attracted to kids. I think, obviously, the difference is whether you act on that or not – whether you feel entitled to act on that or not. If you keep it under lock and key, I don’t think you’re a monster or an inherently bad person, I think you have a very unfortunate sense of attraction and I hope that one day that sense of attraction will change. I don’t know what I’d do if I woke up one morning with that sense of attraction. It would be devastating to know that I even had that capacity…I should certainly hope that if I did, I still wouldn’t have the capacity to act on it.

  147. wriggles
    wriggles August 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    William: I think that calling the concept of pedophilia being a sexual orientation “nonsense” is just lying to ourselves in order to make this conversation less uncomfortable.

    Rather presumptuous on your part, if you want discussion be prepared to be disagreed with, don’t assume its in bad faith because people don’t automatically agree with you.

    I think most people understand what you are getting at, its just the idea of describing pathology as “orientation” is contentious in part because you have not made a convincing case.

    Paedophilia is a desire to rape children, that makes it a pathology, it means something that has gone very wrong. The fact this cannot be reliably interrupted or stopped and therefore continues to be lifelong does not necessarily make orientation the best way of describing it.

    Orientatation is not usually used for something that has no real mutuality.

    It is a perversion. Probably it relates to something going wrong with the areas in the brain that deal with what is usually more affectionate and protective (or even aversive) feelings towards children.

    Instead those feelings are felt and/ or read as wanting to sexually violate, hence the sense of conviction about “loving” children.

    Your distinction between those who violently rape and those who seek to condition children to be accustomed to impending interference beforehand, describing the latter as “legitimately” attracted is odd.

    The latter’s strength of feeling means they project a receprocity (that doesn’t exist) on to their targets, which is the blueprint for their actions.

    They seek to create this appearance of false consent for their own need to quieten their conscience in order to enable their aims.

    Violence would remind them of what they are doing and stop them.

    They are fully aware of what they are doing and want to do it, that is their “belief”.

    With respect to you, I think you are a little bit too taken in by their play acting. The best liars convince themselves first.

    Their essential connection is the same, they wish to rape children. The urges need to be reduced and/or unscrambled.

    I do think it is possible to have urges and not to act on them, though why would you be seeking out others who actually might/do want to?

    If most of those who are abusers were abused the best way to deal with this is to focus more on children who are abused and dealing with their trauma when it occurs so its not an either/or abused/abuser situation.

    Incidentally, what I call “extreme” emotion is people who get very excited about what they feel is “decontextualisation” and policing the tone of others, yet expect those who’ve encountered CSA to speak with hearts of stone.

  148. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    I don’t buy Runar’s confession here:

    Because I am sexually attracted ONLY to minor males (not small children).

    I grew up not knowing what the hell I was. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to go into one’s adolescent years in that state of terror.

    Why? When I was an adolescent, I was attracted to other adolescents. You’re saying that you were alarmed to the point of terror by your attraction to minors when you were a minor? Rings false to me.

  149. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm |

    Based on everything I’ve ever read, there is no cure for sociopathy. It’s not like a mental disorder, but a personality disorder. No cure, no treatment, no nothing can help. They’re manipulative and cunning. They can manipulate people into thinking they’re cured, but they aren’t. There is no way to make a sociopath feel empathy. Plenty of research suggests that their brains aren’t like everyone else’s.

    Caution: Bit of a clinical psych derail ahead.

    While there does appear to be the rare hardwired Antisocial (the kid who from the age of 3 is activated by the sight of blood, for instance), they are rare enough as to not be relevant to this discussion. You’re talking about bogeymen at the margins of a pretty sloppy diagnosis.

    I kind of feel like I need to hop in here because theres some dangerous ableism that I’m not sure you realize is lurking in your post. Personality disorders are a form of madness, just as depression or schizophrenia are. The difference is that they are more pervasive, thats why they are diagnosed on a different Axis. A big part of the distinction there has to do with personality disorders being expensive to treat. They don’t respond at all to drugs, therapy requires people with expertise and a lot of time, hospitalizations are ineffective, and generally (not always, but usually) personality disorders are historically based and rooted in trauma. That means they don’t usually respond to the cheaper, short term, manualized treatments that are preferred by the kinds of people who are in a position to decide what is and is not worth treating.

    Yes, Antisocial Personality is on that list of personality disorders. So is Borderline Personality Disorder (which, unsurprisingly, is disproportionately diagnosed in women and often used to silence, disregard, and place beyond the scope of treatment women who disturb others). People with Personality Disorders are not impossible to treat and the label of a Personality Disorder is not nearly as clean as most people not in clinical work are lead to believe. We need to be careful that we do not contribute to the incredible stigma that Axis II patients face through repeating by rote the idea that Antisocial patients are untreatable because Personality Disorders are untreatable. It hurts patients who are not rapists and it makes care that much more difficult to obtain for patients with the most distressing and severe of disorders.

  150. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    And then of course Runar’s “poor me, I’m so alone” act is pretty familiar coming from this community.

  151. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm |

    Super Anon For This

    Just because William is a “mental health professional” doesn’t make him the final word on whether “pedophilia” (a disgusting concept, even) is a “sexual” orientation (god that idea makes me PUKE), or whether the poor poor people who desire to rape children need our help, or whether in fact these twisted people can be “cured.”

    Scare quotes aside, if you go back and read my posts I’ve not suggested that pedophilia can be cured nor have I said that they need help. I’m a survivor myself and I have virtually no interest in fixing people so badly damaged that they would do what was done to me. What I do have an interest in is understanding the different kinds of predator which exist out in the world so that I can better defend those close to me from them. Some of these predators are sadists, some are fetishists. They use different methods and require different kinds of vigilance.

    The sadist can grab a child off the street and, much as it pains me, there is little I can do to protect the children in my life from them. Those with an actual attraction to children, however, tend to engage in grooming behaviors. Those I can recognize and interveine in. More importantly, when I’m sitting across from a survivor in my office the kind of work thats necessary to help someone who was groomed for abuse is likely to be different from the kind of work to help, say, a kidnapping victim.

  152. Kristen J
    Kristen J August 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | *

    I’m too close to this to comment without a level of rage that is probably not productive. But I have had one homeless teen client that committed suicide because of these types of feelings that he didn’t know if he could control. Even as angry as I am about giving any validity to orgs like NAMBLA, I do wish there had been some help for him. So I know at least one person exists, for what its worth.

  153. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm |

    Trigger warning for a raw discussion of survivor’s experience of sexual abuse.

    Rather presumptuous on your part, if you want discussion be prepared to be disagreed with, don’t assume its in bad faith because people don’t automatically agree with you.

    I’m not assuming bad faith, I’m suggesting that we aren’t all rational creatures and that sometimes we make mistakes because the alternative is fucking scary.

    Paedophilia is a desire to rape children, that makes it a pathology, it means something that has gone very wrong.

    I agree, but that doesn’t make it pathology. What we’re talking about is a moral distinction, not a clinical one. Pedophilia isn’t much different, clinically, from any other deviation from the mean. Its an attraction to something outside of what most people are attracted to. What makes pedophilia special, and repugnant, is that it produces survivors. I think its downright dangerous to call any kind of sexual attraction pathological because of the ways in which the language, technology, and power of the medical world have been (and continue to be) used to oppress. We shouldn’t be stopping pedophilia because its pathological, we should be stopping it because its fucking wrong because it hurts people.

    Orientatation is not usually used for something that has no real mutuality.

    Thats flat untrue. Asexuality, the object fetishism discussed by so many others in this thread, masturbatory fantasy, people can be sexually oriented in ways that don’t demand mutuality. What makes pedophilia special? It isn’t mutuality, its that there are survivors.

    It is a perversion.

    So was homosexuality, foot fetishism, BDSM. So is the entire range of trans* experience. Perversion is a word that has traditionally been used by the majority to oppress the minority. Thats what it does, its a way of describing something which is abnormal and thus wrong. Pedophilia needs to be confronted, I’m not arguing that at all. I’m arguing that we shouldn’t be confronting it using shorthand which supports the oppression of people who don’t hurt anyone. Thats what the invocation of words like perversion does, it marshalls the power that has oppressed sexual minorities in order to control rapists.

    The latter’s strength of feeling means they project a receprocity (that doesn’t exist) on to their targets, which is the blueprint for their actions.

    I’m going to have to disagree here. I’ve worked with a lot of patients who were groomed. One of the most damaging aspects of that particular kind of sexual abuse is that there is sometimes a reciprocity. Abusers will often be kind, they will often be someone their survivor loves, the abuse will not be wholly bad or painful, some survivors don’t realize its abuse until later and suffer terribly because of the guilt and shame they experience at the reciprocity that often results from grooming. Its monstrous precisely because it is an actual attraction, the abuse is designed to mimic love, to manufacture something which the abuser can recognize as consent, to feel like love. Sexual abuse isn’t just a physical violation but an emotional and psychological one too. Thats a different crime, with a very different profile, than a violent rapist who happens to target children.

    The question of abuse being an orientation is an important one because of the reality that some survivors face. An abuser is confronted, they have a sudden realization that what they thought was love is abuse, they feel enormous guilt and kill themselves with a suicide not thats full of sincere apology. Their survivor is left nearly suicidal, feeling like telling someone means that they murdered this person who they loved but who had also hurt them so badly. They can barely speak as they tell you about their first orgasm with someone they didn’t identify as a rapist until years after the fact. Constructs of sadism and control don’t fit the actual lived experiences of all survivors.

  154. Runar
    Runar August 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Kristin Rawls, I am sorry if you do not believe me. I have always known where my attractions lie. As an adolescent, I could never fathom being attracted to an adult; yet all my peers were constantly drooling over the latest supermodel. At 13 all my buddies were fawning over the women on BayWatch, and I was secretly admiring boys two years behind me. Trust me, I knew were my attractions lied, and it terrified me and I had nobody to talk to about it.

    Please tell me what interest I would have in lying about this. I already said as clearly as I can that I have always abhorred anything that involves child sexual abuse. I’m not asking for your sympathy, and you seem to have none to offer anyway. I’m saying that nobody should have to grow up like that. There should be somebody to talk to.

  155. chava
    chava August 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    So, I always assumed that there must be a type of pedophile who only desired children. However, all the cases of CSA in my immediate family have been of the sadistic/opportunistic kind perpetrated by family members or family friends who WERE capable of sexual relationships with adults.

    As far as what we can do with the knowledge that some pedophiles are “wired” to desire minors–I’m not sure. You could try public health outreach along the lines of “If you’ve thought about this, seek help.” You might be able to screen for it more effectively and design a better treatment protocol.

  156. Azalea
    Azalea August 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm |

    I think if we can agree that a pedaphile would be attracted to someone who LOOKED like a child who was not in fact a child and would enjoy sex with that person then we can agree that it is a sexual orientation. If there were any doubt about this, there is a LEGAL genre of porn dedicated to people who are sexually attracted to people who look like children which feature people who LOOK like children who are in fact over 18. Sometimes the images of these peole are digitally altered and othertimes ( I think may be rare) the person actually looks like a child. There is case law on this , that’s how I know about it(the cases try to decide whether or not this is obscene and whether or not it could legally be considered child pornography).

    I have a relative who looks 7 she has a “babyface” big round eyes a tiny nose and mouth with chubby cheeks, she’s about 4’10 and she weighs less than 100 pounds. There are LOTS of men who are attracted to her on sight. Do you call them pedaphiles because she looks young or heterosexual males because you know , despite the way she looks, that she is in fact an adult? Not all pedaphiles are raping toddlers some are raping prepubescent preteen boys and girls. There are many adults who look like prepubscent preteen boys and girls that other adults who look liek adults find sexually attractive on sight.

  157. chava
    chava August 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    OK, long block quote is long.
    But thank you, thank you, thank you. My mother is Axis II with a severe history of abuse and medication she’s tried just makes it worse. I refuse to accept that she can’t find some relief.

    William:

    I kind of feel like I need to hop in here because theres some dangerous ableism that I’m not sure you realize is lurking in your post. Personality disorders are a form of madness, just as depression or schizophrenia are. The difference is that they are more pervasive, thats why they are diagnosed on a different Axis. A big part of the distinction there has to do with personality disorders being expensive to treat. They don’t respond at all to drugs, therapy requires people with expertise and a lot of time, hospitalizations are ineffective, and generally (not always, but usually) personality disorders are historically based and rooted in trauma. That means they don’t usually respond to the cheaper, short term, manualized treatments that are preferred by the kinds of people who are in a position to decide what is and is not worth treating.

    Yes, Antisocial Personality is on that list of personality disorders. So is Borderline Personality Disorder (which, unsurprisingly, is disproportionately diagnosed in women and often used to silence, disregard, and place beyond the scope of treatment women who disturb others). People with Personality Disorders are not impossible to treat and the label of a Personality Disorder is not nearly as clean as most people not in clinical work are lead to believe. We need to be careful that we do not contribute to the incredible stigma that Axis II patients face through repeating by rote the idea that Antisocial patients are untreatable because Personality Disorders are untreatable. It hurts patients who are not rapists and it makes care that much more difficult to obtain for patients with the most distressing and severe of disorders.

  158. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    So here’s the thing. We now recognize that you cannot force a change in your sexual orientation from gay to straight or, presumably, straight to gay. Programs which claim to allow you to do this have been debunked as junk science, ineffective, and probably harmful. You cannot change your sexual orientation, and we understand orientation to be something that is inborn and predetermined to at least some degree.

    If this is the case, and IF pedophilia is a sexual orientation, then there is no point in them receiving “help” to change themselves. Because if it is an orientation, they cannot change. They could go to four hours of therapy every day for the rest of their lives and they would still want to rape children.

    This being the case, what should we do with them? They are a menace and will always be a menace, if this is an inborn sexual orientation. Perhaps they should be institutionalized for the good of society.

    Why would they want to argue for orientation if it results in people thinking “well then they should just be locked up”? Because the alternative is “since there’s no point in therapy, just let them be.” I think that covertly, that is the obvious goal of getting pedophilia declared “just another orientation.” It’s a way of convincing all us well-meaning liberals to just leave them alone to do their thing. And to of course take their word, like the miserable bastard who posted upthread, that they’ve never acted on their rapist fantasies. Right.

  159. Anon21
    Anon21 August 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    Anonoregonian: This being the case, what should we do with them? They are a menace and will always be a menace, if this is an inborn sexual orientation. Perhaps they should be institutionalized for the good of society.

    Chemical castration or hormone therapy is another option. Maybe some kind of behavioral therapy could also work, although given the dangers of a failed treatment strategy, perhaps that’s not a sufficient solution for individual cases.

  160. Super Anon For This
    Super Anon For This August 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    William, professional that you are, you must know that most abductions and molestations are committed by family member, step-family members, and persons otherwise known to the victim.

    Also, screw you pontificating about my using scare quotes.

  161. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    Anon21: Chemical castration or hormone therapy is another option. Maybe some kind of behavioral therapy could also work, although given the dangers of a failed treatment strategy, perhaps that’s not a sufficient solution for individual cases.

    Chemical castration doesn’t work either. It’s either upthread here or over in the Salon comments but someone posted a link with a really horrifying example of just how it doesn’t work. Not to put too fine a point on it, but just not being able to get erections is not going to stop men from raping.

    Behavioral therapy can’t change you from gay to straight or straight to gay. Why would it be able to change any other “sexual orientation”?

  162. Ismone
    Ismone August 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    Anoregonian,

    I think there is a difference between therapy to make a gay person straight and therapy to prevent someone from acting on sexual desires at all. Even if people cannot change their sexual orientation, they can be celibate. Also, just because we think that gay and straight people cannot change their sexual orientations does not mean that people oriented towards children cannot. I mean, it isn’t entirely unheard of for 13-year-olds to be attracted to other 13-year-olds, but most of them progress past that stage. Perhaps there is a way to do the same for people who have not progressed past that. Who knows.

    I did have a gay professor once tell me that it was dehumanizing to gay men to say that they had to have gay sex. He said that made gay men into animals with no self-control, and although we could not control who we were attracted to, nobody *had* to have sex. I thought it was an interesting perspective.

  163. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm |

    William, professional that you are, you must know that most abductions and molestations are committed by family member, step-family members, and persons otherwise known to the victim.

    Try as I might I’m having a lot of trouble finding where, exactly, I’ve suggested otherwise…

  164. james
    james August 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    “This being the case, what should we do with them? They are a menace and will always be a menace, if this is an inborn sexual orientation. Perhaps they should be institutionalized for the good of society.”

    I dunno. I was in the burn the lot of them camp at the top of the thread. But, thinking about it, there’s plenty of straight men and women who can legally have sex, and who really want sex, but who still can’t get laid. But it’s not like there’s an epidemic of beta males or fat chicks who suddenly find they can’t control their urges and go around raping people. The worst they do winge on blogs. I’m not sure it is the end of the world, I’m sure most people can get on easily enough without without hurting anyone. It’s kind of a Victorian view of sexuality that if people can’t satify their urges they start foaming at the mouth and turn into monsters.

  165. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    We now recognize that you cannot force a change in your sexual orientation from gay to straight or, presumably, straight to gay. Programs which claim to allow you to do this have been debunked as junk science, ineffective, and probably harmful. You cannot change your sexual orientation, and we understand orientation to be something that is inborn and predetermined to at least some degree.

    If this is the case, and IF pedophilia is a sexual orientation, then there is no point in them receiving “help” to change themselves. Because if it is an orientation, they cannot change. They could go to four hours of therapy every day for the rest of their lives and they would still want to rape children.

    The Salon article stated that there is no talk or hope of treatment to remove or “change” their “orientation” (or “predilection” or “preference” if orientation is not acceptable). Whatever “help” there is or will be “focuses on helping them to suppress their desires through psychotherapy and medication.” It would not be akin to conversion therapy, which tries to convinence homosexual people that they are really heterosexual. Such protocols would not try to convince pedophiles that they truly desire consensual sex with adults. Such “help” would concede that pedophiles want to harm children, that that desire probably cannot be changed, and they must repress it. Yes, they would still want to rape children, but supposedly there are psychological and pharmacalogical methods to reduce the likelihood of them acting on what they want to do.

    How effective current methods are at repressing sexual impulses, I do not know. But it is not implausible. Lots of people remained celibate throughout their lives, even though they may have wanted to engage in sexual activity. And some people never seek sexual contact with other persons and subsist on masturbation and fantasy.

  166. james
    james August 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    And plenty of gay guys did used to just get married and live a lie before liberation, didn’t they. Sure, some may have have gone on the down-low but others just repressed it. They may not have been happy, but they didn’t hurt anyone.

  167. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    I think there is a difference between therapy to make a gay person straight and therapy to prevent someone from acting on sexual desires at all. Even if people cannot change their sexual orientation, they can be celibate.

    You’re describing conversion therapy pretty much exactly. The goal of conversion therapy isn’t quite to make a gay person straight, at least not as it is actually practiced and the techniques involved, the goal is to prevent the expression of homosexual desire and to promote the expression of heterosexual desire. Essentially conversion therapy involves a combination of celibacy and acting. Human beings are pleasure seeking creatures and the kind of repression required to pull off that kind of hard-core closeting takes a serious toll. The APA has come out against conversion therapy as a concept because its unethical. I’d argue that its not only unethical because that kind of work is wrong but also because the treatment does not generally work and often causes real damage to people. Thats not a good bet for pedophiles.

    Also, just because we think that gay and straight people cannot change their sexual orientations does not mean that people oriented towards children cannot.

    Thats going to depend on how you construct human sexuality. Thats still a pretty open question. That means we end up with something akin to Pascal’s Wager. If we’re wrong about a pedophile’s sexuality and it cannot be changed, then we continue to have a pedophile.

    I mean, it isn’t entirely unheard of for 13-year-olds to be attracted to other 13-year-olds, but most of them progress past that stage. Perhaps there is a way to do the same for people who have not progressed past that. Who knows.

    Thats assuming that pedophilia is a developmental issue. Thats certainly worth studying but, in the mean time, we still have pedophiles whose only means of sexual gratification is rape.

  168. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    matlun: You do not think that people’s emotional reactions are getting in the way?

    Yeah, because god forbid people should have to be rudely interrupted in what might purely be an intellectual discussion for them by the mere presence of others in this thread serving to remind them that pedophiles hurt people.

    The survivors and loved ones of survivors in this thread are quite in control of their emotions thank you very much, they just disagree with people who seem to have a hell of a lot of sympathy for pedophiles while trying to erase survivors and their loved ones/allies.

  169. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    Anonoregonian: Chemical castration doesn’t work either. It’s either upthread here or over in the Salon comments but someone posted a link with a really horrifying example of just how it doesn’t work

    That was me. Here is the link again.

    (trigger warning of course for any survivors)

  170. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Ismone:
    Anoregonian,

    I think there is a difference between therapy to make a gay person straight and therapy to prevent someone from acting on sexual desires at all.Even if people cannot change their sexual orientation, they can be celibate.Also, just because we think that gay and straight people cannot change their sexual orientations does not mean that people oriented towards children cannot.I mean, it isn’t entirely unheard of for 13-year-olds to be attracted to other 13-year-olds, but most of them progress past that stage.Perhaps there is a way to do the same for people who have not progressed past that.Who knows.

    Then I think this debunks the idea of pedophilia as orientation. Because while yes, gays and lesbians can definitely be celibate, or even force themselves to participate with varying degrees of enthusiasm in heterosexual acts, they can’t stop BEING gay or lesbian in terms of their basic orientation. It’s not a phase people grow out of. If pedophilia is simply someone who got stuck in a stage, they have a mental illness or character defect, not a sexual orientation.

  171. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    Why would they want to argue for orientation if it results in people thinking “well then they should just be locked up”? Because the alternative is “since there’s no point in therapy, just let them be.” I think that covertly, that is the obvious goal of getting pedophilia declared “just another orientation.” It’s a way of convincing all us well-meaning liberals to just leave them alone to do their thing. And to of course take their word, like the miserable bastard who posted upthread, that they’ve never acted on their rapist fantasies. Right.

    Yes.

  172. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    I think there is a difference between therapy to make a gay person straight and therapy to prevent someone from acting on sexual desires at all. Even if people cannot change their sexual orientation, they can be celibate.

    Actually, there’s a clear dearth of education about Christian fundamentalism here because this is exactly what Exodus International and most “ex-gay” organizations now do. They used to try to change someone’s sexual orientation–now, they mostly just try to get people to live their lives as celibate “ex-gays.”

  173. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    It would not be akin to conversion therapy, which tries to convinence homosexual people that they are really heterosexual.

    Again, wrong. No one uses the term “conversion therapy.” It’s called reparative therapy, and, yes, in fact, they now focus not on changing orientation, but on suppressing desire and convincing people to live celibate lives.

  174. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Runar is so obviously trying to manipulate us and it would be instructive to take a close look at his methods, as they are representative of what his “community” as a whole tries to do. He’s telling us what we want to hear as far as the moral wrongness of his urges. He assures us that he would never act on them and never has. (Believe this claim at your peril.) But on the other hand, he’s trying to appeal to our progressive, inclusive sensibilities by ripping off the standard “coming out story” narrative from GLBT people. He was “born this way,” he grew up with shame and terror, he wishes he could just be open about who he is to his family but fears condemnation and rejection. What gives him is away is he contradicts himself. If he believes his “orientation” is wrong, why on earth would he want to be “out” and why would he want to argue that it’s just who he really is, his most authentic, inborn self which he should be free to share with his family? Why would he frame the shame and terror it supposedly caused him as a child and teen as wrongful? If what he wants–what he IS–is bad and wrong and he agrees it’s bad and wrong then he should FEEL bad and wrong about it. He shouldn’t be arguing for acceptance from his family or anyone else.

    What he’s doing is shamelessly co-opting the GLBT oppression narrative and abusing it. We should call these creeps out for their homophobia as much as their rapist mentality and criminal inclinations.

  175. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    No one uses the term “conversion therapy.” It’s called reparative therapy

    You mean no one in that industry uses the term or no one uses that term to describe it, ever?

  176. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    Megalodon: It’s not used in the industry–and doesn’t accurately represent what they do, as explained. Truth Wins Out and Beyond Ex-Gay are useful resources in terms of understanding what these groups do. In some ways, it is legitimate behavioral therapy–it’s just that it’s not legitimate to use it for producing “ex-gays.” It’s probably needed, though, to help prevent pedophiles from offending, as much of a lost cause as I think that probably is.

  177. Ferentes
    Ferentes August 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Annaleigh: Yeah, because god forbid people should have to be rudely interrupted in what might purely be an intellectual discussion for them by the mere presence of others in this thread serving to remind them that pedophiles hurt people.

    Well, but emotions are getting in the way, apparently, because they are preventing anyone from acknowledging that there are two entirely separate would-be discussions going on here, and the two have very little to do with one another.

    Annaleigh et al. are defining pedophilia as being an overpowering desire to rape children, and talking about the political implications of calling that an orientation. If everybody in this thread were using “pedophilia” to mean that and nothing but that, and if everyone were similarly talking purely about the political aspects of calling something an orientation, there would probably be very little disagreement.

    William, I think, along with some others, has been defining “pedophilia” more broadly, to include whatever people subjectively perceive as a sexual attraction to children and/or legal minors, whether or not it includes anything beyond the occasional stray fantasy about a manga character, or a determination to remain celibate, or an attraction to adults who retain a childlike physical appearance. Similarly, he and others have been talking about whether this might constitute an ‘orientation’ as an unsolved question of fact: something that might or might not be true as a scientific matter, regardless of what the political and social implications would be of the answer to that question.

    These are two entirely different discussions, and both are legitimate. Although perhaps I’m missing something, because damned if I can tell why having the second discussion constitutes “erasing” anyone. Unless the idea is that survivors and their loved ones/allies are entitled to dictate the terms of all discussions that touch on the relevant issues?

  178. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    Because the alternative is “since there’s no point in therapy, just let them be.” I think that covertly, that is the obvious goal of getting pedophilia declared “just another orientation.” It’s a way of convincing all us well-meaning liberals to just leave them alone to do their thing.

    I think that depends heavily on who is arguing for it being an orientation. It might hurt my arguent a bit but one of the reasons I’m in favor of calling it an orientation is because an essentialist view of pedophilia forcloses the possibility of treatment and makes pedophiles themselves a class of people who need to be segregated from society because they will never get better. If pedophilia is pathology then we have to waste scarce resources which could go to treating survivors on trying to fix people who I don’t feel any moral obligation to care for. If pedophilia is an orientation, on the other hand, we can warehouse them away from their potential victims and use the thin resources we have for public mental health services to serve survivors.

    On a more personal level, conceptualizing pedophilia as an orientation makes it less uncomfortable for me to have the feelings I do about the man who raped me. Its a form of dehumanization, a means of escaping the friction between empathy and a desire for retribution. I don’t have to feel bad about wishing another human being a slow death because, if pedophilia is an orientation, he isn’t sick but wrong, an aberration, and excluded class. He gave up the right to be seen as human when he raped me. I will not be revictimized by my own conscience.

  179. Megalodon
    Megalodon August 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    Megalodon: It’s not used in the industry–and doesn’t accurately represent what they do, as explained.

    Okay. Analysts and critics seem to use the terms interchangeably, at least within the last few years.

    http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001a.aspx
    http://www.counseling.org/PressRoom/NewsReleases.aspx?AGuid=b68aba97-2f08-40c2-a400-0630765f72f4
    http://www.drdoughaldeman.com/doc/GayRightsPatientRights.pdf

  180. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    It’s not used in the industry–and doesn’t accurately represent what they do, as explained

    The American Psychological Association continues to use “conversion therapy” and “reparative therapy” interchangeably in it’s discussion, and unambiguous condemnation, of the industry. Regardless of what proponents might be calling it this week such therapies violate the APA’s code of ethics.

    http://www.apa.org/about/governance/council/policy/sexual-orientation.aspx

    http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.aspx

  181. Super Anon for This
    Super Anon for This August 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    How are “emotions getting in the way” of this discussions? If you don’t have an emotional reaction to the idea of child-rape, YOU’RE the one with the problem – not those of use expressing perfectly appropriate anger, rage, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, and anxiety.

    Please. “Stop being all emotional” is just bullshit. Please tell me how we’re all so better off by not expressing our emotions.

    @William: You talked about sadists “grabbing child(ren) off the street.” Rarely happens. You’re being disingenuous in that example, and you know it.

    @Runar, it sounds like you were sexually abused. Maybe it happened so young that you don’t even remember.

  182. Azalea
    Azalea August 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Anonoregonian:
    So here’s the thing. We now recognize that you cannot force a change in your sexual orientation from gay to straight or, presumably, straight to gay. Programs which claim to allow you to do this have been debunked as junk science, ineffective, and probably harmful. You cannot change your sexual orientation, and we understand orientation to be something that is inborn and predetermined to at least some degree.

    If this is the case, and IF pedophilia is a sexual orientation, then there is no point in them receiving “help” to change themselves. Because if it is an orientation, they cannot change. They could go to four hours of therapy every day for the rest of their lives and they would still want to rape children.

    This being the case, what should we do with them? They are a menace and will always be a menace, if this is an inborn sexual orientation. Perhaps they should be institutionalized for the good of society.

    Why would they want to argue for orientation if it results in people thinking “well then they should just be locked up”? Because the alternative is “since there’s no point in therapy, just let them be.” I think that covertly, that is the obvious goal of getting pedophilia declared “just another orientation.” It’s a way of convincing all us well-meaning liberals to just leave them alone to do their thing. And to of course take their word, like the miserable bastard who posted upthread, that they’ve never acted on their rapist fantasies. Right.

    It is quite obvious they need help (for those who actually recognize that their desires are harmful) or incarceration. I think the most uncomfortable part in all of this is associating something harmful with any given sexual orientation. All of those who engage in pedaphelia, like necrophelia and beastiality are rapists because they are having sex with, sometimes with physical force and causing severe physical damage to, beings that can not consent . The desire to have sex with someone or something that can not consent is wrong and harmful. I don’t think saying that desire is a sexual orientation somehow makes that particular sexual orientation ok.

  183. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |

    It might hurt my arguent a bit but one of the reasons I’m in favor of calling it an orientation is because an essentialist view of pedophilia forcloses the possibility of treatment and makes pedophiles themselves a class of people who need to be segregated from society because they will never get better. If pedophilia is pathology then we have to waste scarce resources which could go to treating survivors on trying to fix people who I don’t feel any moral obligation to care for. If pedophilia is an orientation, on the other hand, we can warehouse them away from their potential victims and use the thin resources we have for public mental health services to serve survivors.

    I think what you’re not seeing is that these movement pedophiles are taking up the rhetoric because they feel it legitimizes them. That’s what is happening at this conference, and I think this is the exercise in which the two pedophiles who’ve engaged this thread were engaged (assuming that Baldur is a pedophile).

    You see your perspective as pragmatic, but then you seem untroubled that you’re taking up some of the rhetoric of these people in the movement. Why? And if we’re judging these things based on their consequences–um, doesn’t the fact that some of these folks see it as “empowerful” and a means of gaining social acceptance complicate your view?

  184. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm |

    Heh, I didn’t mean “empowerful” ’cause that word even irks me in scare quotes, meant to say they’re finding it empowering because it lends them legitimacy.

  185. Runar
    Runar August 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

    Anonoregonian, I don’t believe my feelings are “wrong”, and I’m not ashamed of them. I am what I am, and it is simply not possible for me to change my attractions (believe me, I have tried). I refuse to go my entire life feeling ashamed over a trait I cannot change. I think it would be healthy for me to be able to be open and honest about this.

    This myth that being attracted to minors turns you into a genius manipulator is dumb.

  186. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

    Ferentes: Although perhaps I’m missing something, because damned if I can tell why having the second discussion constitutes “erasing” anyone. Unless the idea is that survivors and their loved ones/allies are entitled to dictate the terms of all discussions that touch on the relevant issues?

    As it is, we have already had some people argue that people who watch child pornography are not hurting anyone when they do that. From what I’ve heard in the survivor community from survivors who were used for child pornography, they feel that the people who consume the pornography are also reabusing them and other subjects of child pornography.

    As for the “entitled” insult, I have no words…

  187. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    The American Psychological Association continues to use “conversion therapy” and “reparative therapy” interchangeably in it’s discussion, and unambiguous condemnation, of the industry. Regardless of what proponents might be calling it this week such therapies violate the APA’s code of ethics.

    It matters because it’s pointless to have a conversation about this with people who don’t understand what the “ex-gay” people do (because again it is being conflated with therapeutic approaches to pedophiles). They are not trying to make gay people straight anymore. Even horrible groups like Exodus have determined that this doesn’t work–they’re trying to convince people to live celibate lives.

    Look, if I’m being honest, I’m extremely uncomfortable with using the idea of something being “in-born” for anyone. I don’t think it’s ultimately a viable strategy for gaining LGBT exceptance (The motivation of it is all wrong–’cause what if we can’t find a Scientific Reason that explains why people are gay? The implication then is that gay people shouldn’t be accepted.).

    Which brings me back around to the fact that “orientation” is currently a badge of acceptance in our society. It’s the way in which queer liberation groups have long challenged the Christian Right, and I think it may be useful for a time, but it isn’t *innocent.* It has a political function. It is extremely irresponsible to speak of pedophilia as a “sexual orientation” without accounting for the political implications of that. Lay people DO NOT CARE that these words function in a disinterested, scientific manner for the APA. That’s not how they function out here in the world.

  188. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    they just disagree with people who seem to have a hell of a lot of sympathy for pedophiles while trying to erase survivors and their loved ones/allies.

    Like Esti said, I don’t think focusing the discussion on pedophiles (the topic of the OP) is erasing survivors. And it’s certainly possible to have sympathy for multiple parties simultaneously — not to mention that this whole discussion is ultimately driven by our collective desire to stop pedophiles from offending, which I think centers the targets of abuse pretty well.

    Then I think this debunks the idea of pedophilia as orientation. Because while yes, gays and lesbians can definitely be celibate, or even force themselves to participate with varying degrees of enthusiasm in heterosexual acts, they can’t stop BEING gay or lesbian in terms of their basic orientation. It’s not a phase people grow out of. If pedophilia is simply someone who got stuck in a stage, they have a mental illness or character defect, not a sexual orientation.

    I don’t personally care if a person can entirely stop “being” a pedophile, or if they are just able to successfully repress it/medicate it/whatever, as long as they don’t act on it. The question of “orientation” only seems relevant in that it might inform treatment options (I don’t buy that an orientation automatically grants legality or acceptability.) It reminds me of — to stretch a comparison — alcoholism because I’ve heard the idea that while “you never stop being an alcoholic” you can stop drinking alcohol. While the desires are very different (and probably the mechanism of desire is very different too) that model at least demonstrates the possibility of living with a chronic harmful desire.

    Lots of innocent people live with chronic “incurable” shittiness, some of which could harm themselves or others if it weren’t treated or dealt with carefully, and I’m not okay with the idea that society can deem a non-offender (of whatever stripe) irredeemably criminal or dangerous and throw away the key. That certainly would fuck over a lot of people with no relation to pedophilia whatsoever, for one, and isableist in principle.

  189. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Um, Bagelsan, so far there’s only one person who sounds overcome by emotion on this thread, and it’s not any of the people who’re pointing out that this hypothetical group of good pedophiles who just want therapy is kind of small. Also, speaking of reading for content and context, I was describing the supportive groups for pedophiles as they exist now. Not as they might in theory exist in an ideal world.

    OK, cards on the table. My mother was sexually abused as a child. It messed up her life in many ways that continued long past the time at which the abuse stopped. This is not just an academic conversation for me, and I think the demand that it should be is completely inappropriate on a feminist website. One of my best friends, who’s in her mid twenties, was also solicited by pedophiles online from when she was about 9. I think a lot of older people may honestly not be aware of just how often that happens. So again, this is not just an academic discussion.

    Also a lot of my discomfort with the orientation model of framing pedophilia is to do with the results that’s had in the past. In London one spectacularly stupid therapy and treatment program for pedophiles set up their offices directly across the street from a primary school. I think that’s a pretty good example of what happens when you look at this entirely from a theraputic perspective rather than from a criminal one.

    (Apparently some of the people running the program thought that constant exposure to kids while they were coming and going from treatment would help desensitise the pedophiles, as well as teach them that it was possible to be around children and not molest them. Which is all very well for the pedophiles in treatment, but you can imagine how thrilled the parents of the kids at that school were by this theraputic approach.)

  190. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    As it is, we have already had some people argue that people who watch child pornography are not hurting anyone when they do that. From what I’ve heard in the survivor community from survivors who were used for child pornography, they feel that the people who consume the pornography are also reabusing them and other subjects of child pornography.

    Yes, this. It’s a sick, appalling thread. You know how the Christian Right loves to demonize feminists? Say we “hate children”?

    Guess what? This thread would be great ammunition for them.

  191. Miss S
    Miss S August 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    I kind of feel like I need to hop in here because theres some dangerous ableism that I’m not sure you realize is lurking in your post.

    Oh FFS. It’s not ableism, it’s a different opinion. I respect your opinion as a mental health professional, but I’ve read other literature from mental health professionals that suggest that personality disorders are difficult or impossible to treat. It’s not like I made up that piece of information for fun.

    Honestly, I don’t care if you call pedophilia evil, a personality disorder, mental disorder, developmental disorder… whatever. I don’t think they deserve to be legitimized, nor they do they deserve compassion or understanding. Because they’re rapists. Oh yeah, and some of them are the ‘good ones’ who haven’t raped a child, but really want to.

    They want to call it orientation because they would love to lump themselves in with the LGBTQ movement. I still fail to see how being attracted to rape could be considered an orientation. (Of course I mean actual rape, not planned out, consent given in advance, BDSM rape fantasies, or anything else two consenting adults engage in.)

  192. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    Also, I agree with William that there are some people who actually are sexually attracted to children in the way he describes rather than purely motivated by sadism. So obviously it would be a good idea to provide those people with some sort of treatment in the hopes that it can prevent them from acting on their urges. The problem with that is, none of the treatments that have been tried have proven to be very helpful. And the communities for pedophiles that exist right now exist precisely as a means of resisting the whole idea that pedophilia is a bad thing that should be suppressed, ie they exist to encourage and validate the mindset that those urges are just fine and that children can and do consent to sex. So when people start using the language of self help where no impulses are really bad as such, just maybe not something to be acted upon, I flinch, because I think this is a special case where the self acceptance model just isn’t valid or helpful at all.

  193. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Why would he frame the shame and terror it supposedly caused him as a child and teen as wrongful? If what he wants–what he IS–is bad and wrong and he agrees it’s bad and wrong then he should FEEL bad and wrong about it.

    I don’t think it’s ever very valuable for a person to believe that what they ARE is “bad and wrong” — on a practical level having a low expectation of yourself encourages you to stop trying to behave well. I think it is valuable to know that the things you WANT are “bad and wrong” (when they are) because then you can avoid doing them.

    Whether or not Runar is a totally honest virginal saint, or if he’s shamelessly co-opting queer experiences as he laughs evilly, I still don’t believe that the kind of story he’s telling could never be true for someone. And I remain unconvinced that shaming pedophiles is a valid (or effective) tactic for protecting children — if anything it seems like an impetus for pedophiles to find like-minded people who can soothe away the shame while also encouraging the terrible behaviors. I would like to uncouple these things, and acknowledge that a person can have bad thoughts and desires without being a bad person, and without acting on them, so that not all messaging of “you are not hopelessly evil” comes from child predators and rapists.

  194. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |

    Bagelsan: Like Esti said, I don’t think focusing the discussion on pedophiles (the topic of the OP) is erasing survivors.

    Of course you don’t see any erasure here, you’ve participated with dog-whistles like “drama” and saying that the survivors and loved ones/allies is this thread are not “reasonable” enough to participate in the thread.

    When people demand that survivors and those who love them should disconnect entirely from any emotions they have about the subject (btw, condescending much? I know damn well this thread is about pedophiles specifically and knew that all along) in order to be a suitable participant in the conversation, that’s probably their non-survivor privilege showing. The problem is not that we are uncontrolled and irrational, it’s that you don’t like what we have to say.

  195. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Kristin Rawls: Yes, this. It’s a sick, appalling thread. You know how the Christian Right loves to demonize feminists? Say we “hate children”?

    Guess what? This thread would be great ammunition for them

    Yep, very sad, and very true.

  196. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |

    Runar: This isn’t my house, and Cara was kind enough to let me post this one-time guest post, but since none of the mods seem to be around:

    This is a feminist thread that contains many survivors. It is wholly inappropriate for you to be posting here to justify your desires as you’ve been doing here. You say you have never harmed a child, but as you’ve seen, people have justified the viewing of child pornography here in this thread. I have no idea whether or not you have harmed children by viewing their rape, and I really, really don’t know to know whether or not you’ve done so.

    This isn’t a confessional, and god knows it’s not a safe space for many, but I will be damned if my thread turns into a place for a pedophile to come for therapeutic affirmation. Please go to a therapist for that.

    This would never, NEVER happen at feministe if we were talking about an adult woman’s rape. Someone discussing an “orientation” toward raping–and only raping–adult women would not be entertained with the slightest ounce of compassion. I am disgusted and horrified that it’s happening now.

  197. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    oops, I meant to say that I don’t *want* to know if you’ve viewed child pornography. I really, really don’t want to know. Really. Because, again, not a confessional, not fair to the many survivors who have posted on this thread.

  198. Anon21
    Anon21 August 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    Annaleigh: As it is, we have already had some people argue that people who watch child pornography are not hurting anyone when they do that.

    I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen anyone do that in this thread. Someone did say that they felt it was a different act than actual rape, and someone else disagreed, but I haven’t seen anyone suggest that the consumption of child pornography does not hurt anyone. Possibly I just missed it, or it was held for moderation initially. Can you point me to the post or posts where you saw someone write that the consumption of child pornography doesn’t hurt anyone?

  199. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm |

    Anon21: No, just NO. Go back and read the thread yourself. You are not going to ask a survivor to pour back over an already-painful thread to find something you missed. And I’m not going to do it for you because I’m stubborn that way.

  200. Anon21
    Anon21 August 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    Kristin Rawls:
    Anon21: No, just NO. Go back and read the thread yourself. You are not going to ask a survivor to pour back over an already-painful thread to find something you missed. And I’m not going to do it for you because I’m stubborn that way.

    Ok. What I meant to convey, in a polite way, is that I think something was misinterpreted, and that no one actually said that the consumption of child pornography is an activity that doesn’t harm anyone. It’s not really possible to prove a negative; I can obviously go back and read all the posts, then come back and say, yes, it really is not there, but I don’t know what that accomplish if people believe that they saw it.

  201. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm |

    Anon21: However, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen argued here (if you want the exact quotes, as I said, you’re welcome to find them yourself). Several people have argued that child pedophiles who view child pornography but have not raped children are somehow qualitatively different from pedophiles who rape children (and, one assumes, also view child pornography). No one has argued that it’s not at all harmful, but several have implied that it’s a different kind of harm–and that it’s not as serious as the harm involved in rape. Members of survivor communities have pointed out that this is not a logic that would make sense to any of their friends who were used in child pornography–and they’ve been shot down for being “too emotionally” invested in the discussion to have a “rational conversation.” Perhaps I’ve put up with it too long, but just: STOP. Stop now.

  202. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm |

    And Esti explicitly insinuated that the consumption of child pornography is not (and should not be) seen as a serious criminal offense. Her words were something along the lines of: “We’re not going to lock someone up indefinitely for that.”

  203. Anon21
    Anon21 August 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    Kristin Rawls: Anon21: However, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen argued here (if you want the exact quotes, as I said, you’re welcome to find them yourself). Several people have argued that child pedophiles who view child pornography but have not raped children are somehow qualitatively different from pedophiles who rape children (and, one assumes, also view child pornography). No one has argued that it’s not at all harmful, but several have implied that it’s a different kind of harm–and that it’s not as serious as the harm involved in rape.

    Yes, I agree that that argument has been made, and that those implications were arguably present.

  204. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    CassandraSays: The problem with that is, none of the treatments that have been tried have proven to be very helpful. And the communities for pedophiles that exist right now exist precisely as a means of resisting the whole idea that pedophilia is a bad thing that should be suppressed, ie they exist to encourage and validate the mindset that those urges are just fine and that children can and do consent to sex.

    This. And….when it comes to warehousing possible pedophiles away from the rest of the community, shit, society isn’t willing to do that with actual, convicted pedophiles. They don’t spend much time in prison—or even, any time (since it’s harder to prosecute a pedophile, States Attorneys are more likely to plea-bargain down the charges or time), just probation. Hence, the high concentration of offenders in my neighborhood, most of whom are classifed as sexual predators and some of whom are classified as sexually dangerous persons.

  205. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    La Lubu: Exactly.

    William: To me, it seems like you’re engaging in a thought experiment that provides solace to you, but not engaging with the way in which these things are treated by the criminal justice system in reality–or, again, thinking about the political implications of what you’re saying.

  206. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    This would never, NEVER happen at feministe if we were talking about an adult woman’s rape. Someone discussing an “orientation” toward raping–and only raping–adult women would not be entertained with the slightest ounce of compassion.

    We have had a similar discussion. For example, in threads about the prevalence of rape of college campuses: research has shown that the majority of rapes are committed by a minority of rapists, who have strategies and preferences dedicated to raping adult women. No one has situated that as an “orientation” to my knowledge, but I’ve certainly seen the argument that some rapists like raping these women instead of having consensual sex with them even though consensual sex is not that hard to come by. While people haven’t been sympathetic to these guys, we’ve certainly acknowledged that it’s a different mindset from “typical” heterosexual attraction.

    Of course you don’t see any erasure here, you’ve participated with dog-whistles like “drama” and saying that the survivors and loved ones/allies is this thread are not “reasonable” enough to participate in the thread.

    Dog-whistle my ass; everyone knows Feministe threads blow up into drama on a regular basis, just like any other fraught internet discussion. And, not that it’s any of your business, but I am a loved one of a survivor of child abuse so maybe you should step right the hell off about how “privileged” everyone who disagrees with you must be, because shockingly you are not psychic.

  207. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm |

    Bagelsan: And, not that it’s any of your business, but I am a loved one of a survivor of child abuse so maybe you should step right the hell off about how “privileged” everyone who disagrees with you must be, because shockingly you are not psychic.

    And unfortunately secondary survivors aren’t immune from CSA and/or rape apologism, or treating survivors in an insulting manner, so the point still stands.

  208. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm |

    In terms of the side conversation about child porn, here’s my perspective. Yes, viewing child porn is not the same crime as raping a child yourself is. But it’s still a crime, and should be treated as such, because consumption of child porn cannot happen with children being raped. So consumption should be treated as a crime and prosecuted accordingly.

    Where this gets a little more complicated is with animated or drawn child porn, but honestly, I tend to fall on the side of prosecuting people for production of Lolicon manga etc too because although no actual children are harmed in the production process, I think consumption of the resulting product does help to normalise child abuse.

  209. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 8:57 pm |

    No one has situated that as an “orientation” to my knowledge, but I’ve certainly seen the argument that some rapists like raping these women instead of having consensual sex with them even though consensual sex is not that hard to come by. While people haven’t been sympathetic to these guys,…”

    Um, according to your description, these were quite different conversations. It seems to me that what is troubling people most about this thread is that:
    1. Pedophilia is being situated as an orientation.

    AND

    2. People are being sympathetic to folks who show up and identify themselves as pedophiles.

    My point is that these things will never, never happen around the issue of people who rape adult women–not at Feministe, in any case.

  210. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Sadly, the thread over at Salon is even more repugnant than this one. Actually, a lot more. As offensive as I’m finding this one.

  211. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm |

    Super Anon For This:

    You talked about sadists “grabbing child(ren) off the street.” Rarely happens. You’re being disingenuous in that example, and you know it.

    Yes, it rarely happens, but that wasn’t the thrust of my post. It was a reference to the things which I cannot control and, I had thought, a nod to the very point you’re trying to make. The stranger rapist is something of a myth, I made that point way back at 138. What I was saying in that example is that there are things I can have influence over in my community (identifying the grooming behaviors of rapists who, by necessity, are known to their victims) and things I cannot (strangers grabbing children off the streets) and that the things which we can identify and intervene in are things which we should identify and intervene in. I’m not entirely sure where we disagree here.

    Kristen Rawls:

    I think what you’re not seeing is that these movement pedophiles are taking up the rhetoric because they feel it legitimizes them.

    I think thats a fair point. I also think its a losing argument for pedophiles in the long run. The LGBT movement got a lot of mileage out of the orientation claim because it ultimately humanized them dispelled many of the stereotypes that existed about homosexuality, it brought the queer experience and the heteronormative experience closer together by arguing that gays were just like straights with a slightly different interest. I think its unlikely to grant pedophiles the legitimacy they crave because the end result is still adults who want to rape children. A committed same-sex couple can break down a lot of walls just by showing up to a dinner party because they really aren’t that different from an opposite sex couple once you see them up close. Thats just not the case with a pedophile. I don’t think you have to look much further than the repulsion a lot of people had to Baldur to see that starting to play out.

    You see your perspective as pragmatic, but then you seem untroubled that you’re taking up some of the rhetoric of these people in the movement. Why? And if we’re judging these things based on their consequences–um, doesn’t the fact that some of these folks see it as “empowerful” and a means of gaining social acceptance complicate your view?

    To be absolutely honest, I believe that if the view that pedophiles aren’t sick, that they are just born this way, that they are just another orientation is going to kick off enough fear and defensiveness in communities that you’re going to significantly increase the likelihood of extrajudicial action. Pedophiles might think they’re steering towards tolerance, but I believe they’ll find themselves at lynchings. Not because society as a whole cares about children, but because parents and caretakers generally do. I wish there was a better option, but the justice system doesn’t work and if pedophiles are stupid enough to be out and proud I’m more than happy to help them all the way to the way to where the body will be found. Its ugly, yes, but the survivor in me isn’t put off by helping them along that road.

    Look, if I’m being honest, I’m extremely uncomfortable with using the idea of something being “in-born” for anyone. I don’t think it’s ultimately a viable strategy for gaining LGBT exceptance

    I’m in the same boat. I suppose I view everything as basically pathological because human experience is messy. Some things are benignly pathological (heterosexuality, homosexuality, most kinks), some things are dangerously pathological (pedophilia, nonconsensual sadism, rape culture), but the final language I use is largely situational and pragmatic. That said, I don’t see pedophilia as being something which is mutable. I feel the same way (more or less) about conversion therapy. Even the techniques aimed at producing abstinence don’t work very well because human beings aren’t, as a whole, very good at repressing desire.

    The rub is that if reparative therapy fails for a gay man your major problem is the ethical failure of instilling a crippling shame in him after he “fails” and ends up having consensual sex with another man. Thats a problem with the therapist and the technique which can easily be avoided by not doing something so irresponsible as to tell someone to be celibate because some asshole wrote that it was wrong in a letter 2000 years ago. With a pedophile a child has been raped. The alternative for the LGBT community is therapy geared towards acceptance (and if the idea of something being in-born gives that, whatever, I’m generally an advocate of whatever gets you through it). There isn’t really a viable alternative for pedophiles. The risk of a failed treatment is too much to accept.

    To me, it seems like you’re engaging in a thought experiment that provides solace to you, but not engaging with the way in which these things are treated by the criminal justice system in reality–or, again, thinking about the political implications of what you’re saying.

    I apologize in advance if this seems a little disjointed but I have to be careful. I’m familiar with how poorly the criminal justice system works in reality. It failed me, its failed people I care about, and it has failed my patients far more often than it has helped them. I can tell you that I’m not engaging in a thought experiment and speaking from lived experience. I believe in extrajudicial solutions to the problem of pedophilia. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be. It might be cliche but in the absence of justice theres just us. I’ve thought about the political implications, I’m not happy with them, but I’m coming from the perspective of a survivor and a clinician. Imperfect solutions for a terrible world, sure, but I decided a long time ago that I’d rather have blood on my hands than tears in my eyes.

    Miss S:

    Oh FFS. It’s not ableism, it’s a different opinion. I respect your opinion as a mental health professional, but I’ve read other literature from mental health professionals that suggest that personality disorders are difficult or impossible to treat. It’s not like I made up that piece of information for fun.

    First and foremost, I didn’t want you to feel attacked but at the same time I felt like the opinion you were talking about (without any intended malice) came from a place of ableism. I’m sorry if you felt like I was going for you personally, that was not my intention.

    That said, I stand by the content of my post. The idea that personality disorders are impossible to treat, while a different opinion, is one which I find offensive and problematic. That it is an opinion with a fair amount of literature does not make it valid or immunize it from criticism. Personality Disorders have had a specific political function from their inception and continue to be used as tools of oppression today. A big part of that is the perception that they are untreatable because that provides a means for throwing away certain patients, generally women, people of color, the poor, non-neurotypical individuals, and survivors of trauma. Regardless of the context of where that comes up I feel it needs to be challenged because it destroys lives.

    More, as someone who has actually treated a lot of patients with Personalty Disorders and worked with a lot of other professionals who have done the same, I believe pretty strongly that the perception of Personality Disordered patients as hopeless cases has more to do with clinicians not wanting to deal with the unique challenges of an Axis II population than those patients actually being impossible. Personality Disordered patients are eerie, they are often very good at hitting a therapist’s vulnerabilities, they are draining, they make clinicians feel lost and incompetent because work with them take more time for less obvious gains, they require treatment modalities which are a lot of work for care providers. Someone used to doing 12 week courses of CBT with the worried and wealthy well just isn’t likely to salivate at the chance to work with a poor person who tells them stories with a vividness that threatens to cause vicarious trauma and who will need years of close, deep work to show improvements. Thats the bottom line of the literature which gives up on Axis II patients and, while I don’t think you’re personally a bad person for having read and cited it, I do think that its worth confronting when I encounter it.

    I don’t think they deserve to be legitimized, nor they do they deserve compassion or understanding. Because they’re rapists.

    On that we agree.

    I still fail to see how being attracted to rape could be considered an orientation.

    Because its where their sexual interest is directed. Heterosexuals want to have sex with people of the opposite gender, homosexuals want to have sex with people of the same gender, BDSM individuals want to have sex which involves forms of stimulation not commonly associated with pleasure, and pedophiles want to have sex with children. Sometimes it isn’t any more complicated. That this is who they are does not mean that it is acceptable. What is different is not that pedophiles don’t really want to have sex with kids in the way homosexuals want to have sex with people of the same gender, what is different with pedophiles is that their sexual interest can only be fulfilled in the absence of consent and (I would hope) we would all like to live in a society in which rape isn’t acceptable.

  212. Withheld
    Withheld August 19, 2011 at 9:33 pm |

    I’m a long time Feminitse lurker. This is my first comment. I don’t know if it’s going to add anything, and right now I actually can’t ascess for myself the extent to which this be derailling or apologism. Trigger Warning – it’s about a time in my adolescence when I feel that I had the potential to sexually abuse a child.

    There was a period of time in my adolecesence where I was terrified that I would sexually abuse a child. I was also terrified that I would kill my entire family. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do either of these things, I thought it was inevitable due my view of myself as inherently evil and possibly non-human. (At the time a suspected I was some kind of zombie or cyborg.)

    I did not feel sexually attrached to children. There was an abuser in my extended family who sexually abused other child family members when I was a child. I was told about this at the time. Because I had almost no models of mutally enjoyable adult sexality or female desire in my life, when I hit puberty and began wanting to dry hump all the boys in my class I freaked out. I thought the world was divided into people who raped and people who got raped and because I felt sexual desire it meant I was now one of the rapers.

    Now here is where it gets super horrible. 14 year old me, while terrified of herself and not ‘wanting’ to sexually abuse a child did actually begin grooming a much younger child. It got to stage where I was seeking excuses to share a bed with this particular child. Luckily I managed to have enough insight at the time to force myself to think about what it would actually be like (for myself and for the child) if I did sexually abuse them. Forcing myself to actually think about it made me realise I couldn’t hurt someone like that. I had been sliding dangerously close to doing something unforgivable because I was so terrified of doing it, and I thought I was capable of doing it because I couldn’t actually face the thing I was terrifed of doing.

    Shit, I’m super-fuckin skeptical of the folks in the OP article. And what I went through is arguably very different to what they’re talking about since I never experianced an attraction or oreintation towards children. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here except maybe that I was once very afraid (with good cause) that I might sexually abuse a child, even though my own subjective experiance is that I did not want to, and I feel deeply that when it came down to it, it was not something I could have done. I was lucky enough to get through that time without hurting anyone else, but I sure think it would have been prefable to have some real help from mental health professionals at the time.

  213. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm |

    I think thats a fair point. I also think its a losing argument for pedophiles in the long run.

    On what basis?

    The LGBT movement got a lot of mileage out of the orientation claim because it ultimately humanized them dispelled many of the stereotypes that existed about homosexuality, it brought the queer experience and the heteronormative experience closer together by arguing that gays were just like straights with a slightly different interest. I think its unlikely to grant pedophiles the legitimacy they crave because the end result is still adults who want to rape children. A committed same-sex couple can break down a lot of walls just by showing up to a dinner party because they really aren’t that different from an opposite sex couple once you see them up close. Thats just not the case with a pedophile. I don’t think you have to look much further than the repulsion a lot of people had to Baldur to see that starting to play out.

    I’m not worried about mainstream society. I’m worried about the Christian Right, which routinely equates homosexuality with pedophilia anyway. They have far, far more political power in the US than I think most liberal people recognize. Republican presidential frontrunner Michelle Bachmann is a follower of Rousas John Rushdoony, the father of contemporary dominionism who argued in favor of public hanging for “homosexuals and unchaste women.” I know–I grew up with–people who believe that LGBT folks are a menace to society and a danger to children. I live in a state when gay couples cannot legally adopt children. I’m not willing to bet the future of this community on the possibility that this pedophile-acceptance movement won’t have long-term traction. It doesn’t need to have long-term traction. It just needs to convince people in, say, Tennessee, that you shouldn’t be allowed to say the word “gay” in public schools. Or show up on the radar of the people connected with Rick Perry’s New Apostolic Reformation network. Anything at all that places queer folks into the same “category” as pedophiles is immediately dangerous for LGBT people. Not theoretically dangerous or potentially damaging–it’s dangerous now. It gets people killed.

    The rub is that if reparative therapy fails for a gay man your major problem is the ethical failure of instilling a crippling shame in him after he “fails” and ends up having consensual sex with another man. Thats a problem with the therapist and the technique which can easily be avoided by not doing something so irresponsible as to tell someone to be celibate because some asshole wrote that it was wrong in a letter 2000 years ago. With a pedophile a child has been raped.

    Not so fast. People commit suicide as a result of failed “ex-gay therapy.” They don’t just get through it and heal–and then everything is fine. I know people who have spent decades involved in this sort of therapy and lost many years of their lives. Again, I think you seem fairly ignorant of the way in which this particular culture operates. In addition, children can be sent to reparative therapy camps against their will–the largest organization that does this is the Exodus-affiliated Love in Action.

    I apologize in advance if this seems a little disjointed but I have to be careful. I’m familiar with how poorly the criminal justice system works in reality. It failed me, its failed people I care about, and it has failed my patients far more often than it has helped them. I can tell you that I’m not engaging in a thought experiment and speaking from lived experience. I believe in extrajudicial solutions to the problem of pedophilia. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be. It might be cliche but in the absence of justice theres just us. I’ve thought about the political implications, I’m not happy with them, but I’m coming from the perspective of a survivor and a clinician. Imperfect solutions for a terrible world, sure, but I decided a long time ago that I’d rather have blood on my hands than tears in my eyes.

    I hear you–and I would point out that this seems far, far less pragmatic than I think you originally presented it. I’m all for engaging in revenge fantasies in processing past trauma, but I’m really, really concerned that what you’re suggesting is going to do more to advance this “community” than you realize–and undo what LGBT people have achieved in the meantime. I can’t risk that.

  214. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian August 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    Bagelsan: I don’t think it’s ever very valuable for a person to believe that what they ARE is “bad and wrong”

    If someone is a fucking rapist then yes, it’s a GREAT thing if they hate and despise themselves as a lowly, useless, worthless being.

    Being a feminist does not mean we don’t get to make value judgments, ESPECIALLY on this subject, ffs.

  215. Miss S
    Miss S August 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    I appreciate your apology William, and I apologize for being extra touchy. I think it’s a combination of having such an emotional response to this thread, and after the last few trainwrecks I’m a little jaded about other posters intentions.

    I absolutely believe you that there is contradicting information about personality disorders out there; I just wanted to reiterate that I have actually read literature that supported my theory- I didn’t just make it up to make anyone feel bad. Most of what I know about personality disorders comes from what I’ve read. I know you’re a survivor as well as a medical professional, so I know this thread has to be triggering for you, and I don’t want to make that worse.

    Anything at all that places queer folks into the same “category” as pedophiles is immediately dangerous for LGBT people.

    I agree 100% with this, and this is why I’m less than willing to call it an orientation, even if it is one. I’m heterosexual, which means I don’t have to deal with orientation in the way that, say, a lesbian does. Calling pedophilia an orientation won’t really have negative impacts on me. It’s everyone who isn’t hetero that would feel the effects of that.

  216. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm |

    Something sad just dawned on me.

    I’ve read discussions about sexual assaults against adult women that were not on feminist sites, and one thing that was common was for MRA types or men who have general anti-feminist ideas to tell female survivors of adult rapes and women in general that they were too emotional, and their views on rape weren’t “rational” enough to take seriously or to take into consideration at all.

    I’m horrified that people on a feminist website are resembling MRAs just a wee bit in their thinking. I’m beginning to understand a bit of what people mean when they talk about adult privilege. Shaming and erasure we would loudly condemn if used against survivors of adult sexual assault seems to be ok if used against those who were raped and assaulted as children.

  217. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm |

    @ Annaleigh – I kind of feel like part of what’s at work here is the liberal version of the classic geek social fallacies. It’s a tenent of liberal thinking that while actions may be bad, feelings and/or thoughts are not. So what tends to happen with discussions about pedophilia is that good liberal people get all hung up on the desire not to stigmatise people for their thoughts if they haven’t actually taken any negative actions (yet). In general liberals dislike social shaming, and so they’re just sort of assuming that hey if that’s true in general it’s probably true here too.

    The problem is that there are some thoughts that are inherantly bad, and that social shaming is sometimes useful in preventing people from acting on those thoughts. If you look at situations where there’s less social shaming attached to the idea of being sexually attracted to children (say, any forum full of anime and manga geeks, or 4chan), what you get is a larger number of people sort of playing around with the idea that hey maybe those impulses aren’t so bad really. But they are. They’re really, really bad, and there’s no non-harmful way for them to be expressed.

    Basically people are refusing to deal with the fact that this is a special case, and that there’s a huge difference between impulses that have been unfairly stigmatised in the past (say, homosexuality) and impulses that are quite correctly stigmatised because there is no non-damaging way that they could ever be acted upon.

    Some thoughts and/or impulses are regarded as inherantly bad for a reason. This is one such case. Destigmatising pedophilia is a terrible idea because the stigma is in part what keeps some people from acting on those impulses.

  218. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm |

    CassandraSays:
    @ Annaleigh – I kind of feel like part of what’s at work here is the liberal version of the classic geek social fallacies. It’s a tenent of liberal thinking that while actions may be bad, feelings and/or thoughts are not. So what tends to happen with discussions about pedophilia is that good liberal people get all hung up on the desire not to stigmatise people for their thoughts if they haven’t actually taken any negative actions (yet). In general liberals dislike social shaming, and so they’re just sort of assuming that hey if that’s true in general it’s probably true here too.

    The problem is that there are some thoughts that are inherantly bad, and that social shaming is sometimes useful in preventing people from acting on those thoughts. If you look at situations where there’s less social shaming attached to the idea of being sexually attracted to children (say, any forum full of anime and manga geeks, or 4chan), what you get is a larger number of people sort of playing around with the idea that hey maybe those impulses aren’t so bad really. But they are. They’re really, really bad, and there’s no non-harmful way for them to be expressed.

    Basically people are refusing to deal with the fact that this is a special case, and that there’s a huge difference between impulses that have been unfairly stigmatised in the past (say, homosexuality) and impulses that are quite correctly stigmatised because there is no non-damaging way that they could ever be acted upon.

    I have been thinking about the same thing–but associating it less with liberalism in general and more with sex-positive feminism. To be clear, I am NOT a radical feminist. If I must choose a side in that debate, I choose sex-positive, but on the whole I find most North American feminist discussions that fall within this dichotomy very alienating.

    I think this conversation is the result of sex-positive rhetoric taken too far–the imperative against shaming anyone’s sexual desires under *any* circumstances means that people are having a hard time shaming people who want to rape children, just as long as they haven’t done it yet. I agree with CassandraSays that destigmatizing this is dangerous because shame might–might–prevent some people from acting. It’s not the first time I’ve seen sex-positive rhetoric refashioned to condemn people for making judgments that really, really need to be made.

  219. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:30 pm |

    Basically people are refusing to deal with the fact that this is a special case, and that there’s a huge difference between impulses that have been unfairly stigmatised in the past (say, homosexuality) and impulses that are quite correctly stigmatised because there is no non-damaging way that they could ever be acted upon.

    And THIS.

  220. William
    William August 19, 2011 at 11:36 pm |

    Kristen Rawls:

    On what basis?

    Because, as little respect as I have for institutions or for the general goodness of your average person I believe that the idea of child rape just doesn’t have much traction in our society. Yeah, there will be a handful of people who are so liberally tolerant they buy the line, and a substantial number of people who just don’t care, but I don’t see it becoming the next cause.

    I’m not willing to bet the future of this community on the possibility that this pedophile-acceptance movement won’t have long-term traction.

    And I understand that. I’ve got a different set of values and I’m sure that my residual trauma changes the balance for me. Thats why I’m here in this discussion. I think its worth talking about, worth arguing about, worth getting angry about. Engaging only with people who agree with me is what makes the Bachmanns of the world, you know?

    Not so fast. People commit suicide as a result of failed “ex-gay therapy.”

    What you’re responding to was phrased very poorly. What I was trying (and failing, it seems) to say is that I think there is a very real moral difference between practice that is unethical and hurts (or kills) patients and practice which enables abusers and creates a false sense of security. Both are failures and terribly irresponsible, but their negative outcomes are different.

    I actually think that the incredible failure of conversion/reparative therapies is a pretty good argument for why treating behaviors in pedophiles is a bad idea. It doesn’t work when its geared towards normalizing them, it doesn’t work when its geared towards enforcing celibacy through shame, its bad clinical practice. The entire industry around these kinds of therapies aren’t rooted in clinical theory or outcome measures but in a religious belief that God wants people to not have certain kinds of sex. I don’t see how such a failed proposition is going to work any better if you substitute Society for God.

    I’m all for engaging in revenge fantasies in processing past trauma,

    I’m not talking about fantasies.

    but I’m really, really concerned that what you’re suggesting is going to do more to advance this “community” than you realize–and undo what LGBT people have achieved in the meantime. I can’t risk that.

    Thats distinctly possible and its a problem. In the meantime, we’ve got a justice system that doesn’t work and a lot of rapists in the world.

    Miss S:

    I appreciate your apology William, and I apologize for being extra touchy. I think it’s a combination of having such an emotional response to this thread, and after the last few trainwrecks I’m a little jaded about other posters intentions.

    Its a triggering discussion and honestly I was emotional too. No apologies necessary.

    I just wanted to reiterate that I have actually read literature that supported my theory- I didn’t just make it up to make anyone feel bad

    I get that. I don’t think you made anything up. I honestly don’t think even most of the literature you’ve read was written by people who were consciously making things up. At the same time, Axis II patients are rough and clinicians have a lot of reasons to avoid them.

    I think its an especially important point to make given the discussion of people being too emotional in regards to pedophilia in this thread. Personality Disorders tend to be the product of continued trauma over time, they’re major adaptive alterations in the way in which people think and perceive the world (theres some evidence, for instance, that Borderline Personality Disorder occupies a spectrum with Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder). Childhood survivors of severe abuse are at risk of developing Personality Disorders which, in turn, are often interpreted by professionals as hopeless and resistent disorders not worthy of treatment. In a way the perception of Personality Disorders as untreatable is a medicalization of rape culture and the silencing of victims for being “too emotional.”

  221. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    I actually think that the incredible failure of conversion/reparative therapies is a pretty good argument for why treating behaviors in pedophiles is a bad idea. It doesn’t work when its geared towards normalizing them, it doesn’t work when its geared towards enforcing celibacy through shame, its bad clinical practice.

    This is actually a good point, but, I mean… This is not what Fred Berlin or the folks at B4U-ACT are teaching. They *are* promoting this kind of therapy. They’re saying they need more of this kind of therapy in more “safe” and “affirming” atmospheres so they can process this stuff. And you’ve been defending them the entire time, so I am confused.

  222. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    @Kristin – Regardless of whether or not we agree on the cause, the effect is certainly irritating. I find the whole “but we can’t condemn X because we don’t want to seem like we’re narrow minded or uncaring or anything” aspect of this discussing immensely frustrating. Also intellectually frustrating – attempting to envision a slipperly slope leading from condemning pedophilia to re-condemning homosexuality is just plain stupid, because one orientation can be acted upon with consenting partners and the other cannot. Even the most homophobic people I’ve ever encountered aren’t sufficiently deluded to think that having sex with someone of the same gender is morally equivalent to molesting a toddler.

  223. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm |

    CassandraSays: Right, I agree with all of this.

  224. Ismone
    Ismone August 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm |

    My concern isn’t stigmatizing pedophiles, my concern is in accurately understanding them so that we may prevent harm as much as possible.

    I know that the thoughts are bad, if we define the bad thoughts as wanting to have sex with children because they are children. I have no doubts about that.

    One of the problems with not treating pedophilia as a separate sexual orientation is that then, pedophiles who victimize same-sex children are described as gay. So I think it is very important to make it clear that being oriented towards children, which I would say is always wrong, is a different orientation than being oriented towards same-sex adults.

    And I am fine with saying it is always wrong.

  225. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:51 pm |

    One of the problems with not treating pedophilia as a separate sexual orientation is that then, pedophiles who victimize same-sex children are described as gay. So I think it is very important to make it clear that being oriented towards children, which I would say is always wrong, is a different orientation than being oriented towards same-sex adults.

    I really don’t see this as a possibility, anymore than a man who rapes another man in prison is thought to be “gay.”

  226. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:57 pm |

    When someone rapes an adult, we don’t attempt to frame this as an element of sexual orientation. We say that the person enjoys power and abuse–and make very little commentary about the person’s sexual orientation or degree of actual sexual attraction to the person who has been raped. Is this not part of the project of resisting slut-shaming? People don’t *rape* because a woman wears a short skirt, and they become so attracted to the woman that they can’t control it any longer. We’ve resisted this explanation for decades when it comes to adult rape.

  227. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm |

    Also, here’s the Catch 22 with the whole “but if we stigmatise pedophilia to the point where we say that having these impulses makes you a bad person then pedophiles won’t be motivated to seek treatment” argument – if we bend over backwards not to suggest that having those impulses makes you a bad person or suggests that something is wrong in the way your brain works, then why should pedophiles feel motivated to seek treatment? If the thoughts themselves aren’t seen as bad things that need to be changed, why should anyone seek treatment? And if they don’t seek treatment then their not actually hurting any kids is entirely dependent on a. their self control and b. their having a moral belief that having sex with children is wrong. And going out of our way to avoid stigmatising the thoughts themselves will tend to undercut b. in real life scenarios.

  228. Kristin Rawls
    Kristin Rawls August 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm |

    We don’t hear people say, “This rape happened because this man is heterosexual” or “gay” or anything. Sexual orientation is framed as irrelevant.

  229. Ismone
    Ismone August 20, 2011 at 12:04 am |

    CassandraSays,

    But no one on this thread is saying that.

    Kristin,

    It has been said to me, repeatedly, in non-feminist spaces that pedophiles who are male and victimize boys are “gay.” And yes, most non-feminists I talk to don’t get that most male-on-male rapes are perpetrated by straight men. Which does get to the important point that some child-rapists victimize them because they are vulnerable and they wish to harm the vulnerable, not specifically because there are children.

  230. DonnaL
    DonnaL August 20, 2011 at 12:06 am |

    Annaleigh:
    Something sad just dawned on me.

    I’ve read discussions about sexual assaults against adult women that were not on feminist sites, and one thing that was common was for MRA types or men who have general anti-feminist ideas to tell female survivors of adult rapes and women in general that they were too emotional, and their views on rape weren’t “rational” enough to take seriously or to take into consideration at all.

    I’m horrified that people on a feminist website are resembling MRAs just a wee bit in their thinking. I’m beginning to understand a bit of what people mean when they talk about adult privilege. Shaming and erasure we would loudly condemn if used against survivors of adult sexual assault seems to be ok if used against those who were raped and assaulted as children.

    Yes, it’s horrifying, but it’s not the least bit surprising. People on feminist websites have been using *exactly* the same type of argument for years to silence trans women and invalidate their perspective. It still happens, and I’ve seen it happen here.

  231. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 12:10 am |

    @Ismone – Some people are kind of saying that. I recall that Bagelsan was particularly convinced that if we stigmatise the impluses rather than the behavior it will lead pedophiles to be less likely to seek treatment. I think the opposite is true.

  232. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 12:15 am |

    If someone is a fucking rapist then yes, it’s a GREAT thing if they hate and despise themselves as a lowly, useless, worthless being.

    Being a feminist does not mean we don’t get to make value judgments, ESPECIALLY on this subject, ffs.

    Did you even read the rest of my comment? Because I made an argument about how shame does not function effectively to prevent bad behaviors, and the only response I’m seeing from you is that you don’t care, you just want them to feel bad ’cause that gratifies you. Please excuse me if I don’t consider this a realistic or practical response, or something that in any way benefits children.

    One of the problems with not treating pedophilia as a separate sexual orientation is that then, pedophiles who victimize same-sex children are described as gay. So I think it is very important to make it clear that being oriented towards children, which I would say is always wrong, is a different orientation than being oriented towards same-sex adults.

    I really don’t see this as a possibility, anymore than a man who rapes another man in prison is thought to be “gay.”

    Yeah, both of those misconceptions are really common. Pedophiles who target boys are called “gay” with mindboggling regularity, as are references to prison rape being “gay.”

  233. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 12:20 am |

    I recall that Bagelsan was particularly convinced that if we stigmatise the impluses rather than the behavior it will lead pedophiles to be less likely to seek treatment. I think the opposite is true.

    I’m still baffled as to your reasoning on that one — do you think stigma really increases a person’s likelihood to make positive changes about themselves? Because I have always observed the reverse. Being told “you’re fat!” discourages people from working out, being told “you’re crazy!” discourages people from seeking therapy, being told “you’re stupid!” discourages people from trying hard to learn… Seriously, what compelling evidence do you have that saying to a potential pedophile “you’re an evil rapist!” will have a better result?

  234. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 12:25 am |

    @ Bagelsan – It’s more that I think lack of stigma makes it easier for people to indulge in things that the stigma might otherwise put a damper on the expression of. I’m basing a lot of this on my experience with anime and manga geeks – like I said before, there’s not much stigma in admitting an attraction to children in those communities, and I’ve seen a truly horrifying number of people doing so. And then arguing with anyone who tries to point out that this is problematic on the grounds that thinking sex with children is wrong makes you a prude, that kids are receptive to sexual advances, etc. I’ve even seen a number of people argue that everyone is actually attracted to kids and the rest of us are just scared to admit it.

    It could in theory be possible that those communities are just drawing in an unusual number of pedophiles, but it doesn’t feel that way to me, it seems more like those communities are normalising the idea of attraction the children for their members and seeing a lot of that floating around is causing people to not even try to fight any impulses they might have in that direction.

  235. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    if we bend over backwards not to suggest that having those impulses makes you a bad person or suggests that something is wrong in the way your brain works

    Those are two different statements. I’m totally fine with the latter; it’s the former I find unhelpful. Not sure how I can be more clear about this — I have repeatedly said I’m fine with treating pedophilia as a pathology. Telling people they are evil because they have evil thoughts is so fundamentalist and regressive and, well, pathetically knee-jerk old-school I’m honestly not sure how it is getting any traction here.

  236. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 20, 2011 at 12:27 am |

    Bagelsan: Being told “you’re fat!” discourages people from working out, being told “you’re crazy!” discourages people from seeking therapy, being told “you’re stupid!” discourages people from trying hard to learn… Seriously, what compelling evidence do you have that saying to a potential pedophile “you’re an evil rapist!” will have a better result?

    OMFG. I can’t believe you just compared fat people, people with mental illnesses, and people who have trouble learning to PEDOPHILES.

    I mean, what the fuck? It’s offensive and bad enough already that we in the LGBTQ community are being compared to pedophiles, but Jesus Christ on a pogo stick…

  237. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 12:34 am |

    @ Bagelsan – I totally disagree, and I think I already outlined why well enough above. I think that social shaming serves a purpose, and that part of the purpose is to constrain behavior.

  238. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    I’m basing a lot of this on my experience with anime and manga geeks – like I said before, there’s not much stigma in admitting an attraction to children in those communities, and I’ve seen a truly horrifying number of people doing so.

    I definitely get what you’re saying here (I like anime and manga but it’s a total hive of scum and villainy), but I don’t think that’s representative of most of the world — outside of a few niche areas online there is a lot of stigma about having sexual thoughts about children. And I doubt that injecting more stigma into manga fan circles will suddenly make people realize that sexualizing children is wrong; it seems like they’ll just shush up about it in those spaces and continue not consulting anyone besides each other about it (albeit in more secrecy.)

    I’d actually be pretty okay if I were wrong about this, ’cause increasing stigma seems like an easy fix — if all we had to do was yell “pervert!” at anyone who had a sexual thought about children and they’d stay away that would be awesome. I’m just not convinced that’s the case.

  239. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 12:38 am |

    OMFG. I can’t believe you just compared fat people, people with mental illnesses, and people who have trouble learning to PEDOPHILES.

    I mean, what the fuck? It’s offensive and bad enough already that we in the LGBTQ community are being compared to pedophiles, but Jesus Christ on a pogo stick…

    Yep. That’s definitely the point of my comment. I’m apparently self-hating as fuck, being a fat crazy woman myself. Good to see we’ve cleared that up. -_-

  240. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 12:43 am |

    “I definitely get what you’re saying here (I like anime and manga but it’s a total hive of scum and villainy), but I don’t think that’s representative of most of the world — outside of a few niche areas online there is a lot of stigma about having sexual thoughts about children. ”

    I think we’re sort of disagreeing about cause and effect here? My point is that I don’t think people are drawn to those circles because they’re pro-pedophilia for the most part, I think that being exposed to those circles gradually normalises child abuse in their eyes so that what starts as “well that 17 year old it hot” ends up being “well that 8 year old is hot”. It’s like grooming, sort of, but for adults? Basically my concern is that in any wall lessening the stigma associated with child abuse ends up creating an environment where child abuse is more likely to happen.

    I mean, I have a friend who’s Japanese who’s been taking her daughter to Tokyo to visit friends since the daughter was a kid. Since Tokyo is on the whole very safe, the kid has always been allowed to walk around by herself, take the subway, etc. But she’s never been allowed to go to Akihabara by herself, because the end result of that sort of community destigmatisation of pedophilia is a community in which children are viewed as perfectly valid targets for sexual harrassment to the point where even the people who aren’t pedophiles don’t intervene. And I think that part of that is the removal of the idea that being attracted to children makes you fundamentally a bad person.

  241. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 12:44 am |

    wall – way. Typing, I suck at it when I’m lacking sleep.

  242. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 20, 2011 at 12:49 am |

    Bagelsan: Yep. That’s definitely the point of my comment. I’m apparently self-hating as fuck, being a fat crazy woman myself. Good to see we’ve cleared that up.-_-

    That’s no goddamn excuse. It’s still a fucking repugnant comparison.

  243. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 1:01 am |

    I think we’re sort of disagreeing about cause and effect here?

    Seems like it; honestly we just need more information and studies about this. Isn’t there still not even much info about whether the consumption of child porn increases the chance of a pedophile offending? That seems like basic data we’re lacking.

    And I think that part of that is the removal of the idea that being attracted to children makes you fundamentally a bad person.

    The Japan thing is really interesting; I’ve certainly heard Japan is bad about harassment of women in general on transit but the Akihabara (big geeky pervy touristy place innit?) is new. I’d argue that harassing anyone makes you a bad person, no matter what particular thing motivated it, and that fighting harassment of women/children/anyone is a more realistic goal than trying to make people stop thinking about them. Like the Slut Walk thing; guys are free to think whatever they want but they aren’t permitted to harass or rape.*

    In the absence of better cause and effect info, I prefer a fight-the-behavior strategy rather than a fight-the-person one because I think it’s sounds more concrete and doable. Like I said I’m happy to change my mind if it becomes clear that stigmatizing pedophilic thoughts is an effective tactic.

    *OMG, Annaleigh, I just called small children “sluts”!

  244. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 20, 2011 at 1:11 am |

    Bagelsan: *OMG, Annaleigh, I just called small children “sluts”

    Wow, you’re a real asshole, you know that? You have gone from erasing and shaming survivors, to really offensive comparisons of oppressed groups to pedophiles (and not surprisingly have no appreciation for how you fucked up and continue to fuck up), and now you’re just plain being an ass.

    I will continue to interact with the others in the thread, but you’re no longer worth my time.

  245. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh August 20, 2011 at 1:18 am |

    DonnaL: Yes, it’s horrifying, but it’s not the least bit surprising.People on feminist websites have been using *exactly* the same type of argument for years to silence trans women and invalidate their perspective.It still happens, and I’ve seen it happen here.

    That is terrible. It needs to stop. Hopefully if anyone sees that shit around here again they will speak out.

  246. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 20, 2011 at 1:24 am |

    I will continue to interact with the others in the thread, but you’re no longer worth my time.

    Does that mean you’ll return to substantively contributing to the discussion, rather than flailing wrathfully at your bizarre misreadings of my various comments? ‘Cause I support that fully.

  247. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 20, 2011 at 1:25 am |

    Eh, based on my (very unpleasant) experience with random pedophiles online, I really feel like a good strong dose of “no, really, the fact that you think this makes you a horrible person” is just what many of them need.

  248. chava
    chava August 20, 2011 at 4:13 am |

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the demonization and fear of pedophiles in the general public is a relatively RECENT phenomenon. We still see “oh, but they wanted it” and “oh, its not so bad” especially if the victim is a teen. Not to mention that fact that pedophiles are hard to convict, hard to keep of the streets, and have a staggering recidivism rate.

    Point being, I am not so sanguine that society’s hatred of pedophilia is that deeply ingrained. I don’t think child rape has “traction,” per se, but I do think that the discourse around legitimizing pedophilia presents a real danger. Cultural mores, laws, etc can and do slip backwards.

    William:

    Because, as little respect as I have for institutions or for the general goodness of your average person I believe that the idea of child rape just doesn’t have much traction in our society. Yeah, there will be a handful of people who are so liberally tolerant they buy the line, and a substantial number of people who just don’t care, but I don’t see it becoming the next cause.

  249. Nara
    Nara August 20, 2011 at 8:18 am |

    chava:
    I think it’s worth pointing out that the demonization and fear of pedophiles in the general public is a relatively RECENT phenomenon. We still see “oh, but they wanted it” and “oh, its not so bad” especially if the victim is a teen. Not to mention that fact that pedophiles are hard to convict, hard to keep of the streets, and have a staggering recidivism rate.

    Point being, I am not so sanguine that society’s hatred of pedophilia is that deeply ingrained.I don’t think child rape has “traction,” per se, but I do think that the discourse around legitimizing pedophilia presents a real danger.Cultural mores, laws, etc can and do slip backwards.

    A hundred times this. As a fan of things japan, I am really, really horrified by the amount of (animated) child pornography there and the continuing support (online) for people who consume them. And the tendency to normalize pedophilia creeps into anime : with anime having at least one sexualized child in the show, or anime with a cast entirely composed of middle-school and primary-school children. It’s fucking scary to think what that kind of culture does to the well-being of children.

  250. William
    William August 20, 2011 at 9:40 am |

    This is actually a good point, but, I mean… This is not what Fred Berlin or the folks at B4U-ACT are teaching. They *are* promoting this kind of therapy. They’re saying they need more of this kind of therapy in more “safe” and “affirming” atmospheres so they can process this stuff. And you’ve been defending them the entire time, so I am confused.

    I…think we must have gotten a wire crossed somewhere. Fred Berlin is a giant douche and a bad clinician (right up there with Ken Zucker). I don’t think these modes of therapy work, I’ve no interest in defending them, and I’d rather see scarce treatment dollars go to survivors than sex offenders who I don’t think are worth treating. It might be theoretically possible to treat a pedophile, but I don’t think the risk of a failed treatment is aceptable and even if we had a solid treatment model I don’t think rapists are worth treating when bullets are cheap and we’ve got an organ donor shortage.

    My engagement with the whole reparative therapy discussion revolved around pointing out that yes, the term conversion is still used and no, these kinds of therapies aren’t ethical under any circumstances.

  251. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines August 20, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    Kristen – Thanks for your attempts to mod this conversation. I’m truly horrified at what crawled out of the online woodwork here.

    Josef K’s comment @222 seems to have been overlooked, and I really feel it should be deleted.

  252. William
    William August 20, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the demonization and fear of pedophiles in the general public is a relatively RECENT phenomenon.

    I feel like I’m out here defending the absolute worst part of me and I have to keep reminding myself that its not my goddamn fault and I have nothing to feel bad about. Its exhausting.

    When I was raped my father was given a phone number by a friend. We were working class, but he could have scraped the money together to make my rapist go away. Hell, my rapist was the kind of person the police didn’t care about and my father had friends, they could have handled it themselves. Unfortunately he had faith in the system and filed a police report instead. I got to be victimized a second time on the witness stand and now that there was a failed case on record we would have been suspects. I have no idea how many other children were raped because something wasn’t done then.

    You don’t need an entire society to stand up to stop a pedophile. You don’t need a criminal justice system. Those of us in urban areas live in a world where most crimes go unpunished and where even murder cases often go very cold very quickly. We’ve got lazy, stupid police who follow exactly what seems most obvious and who give up once their inbox swells a little bit. People die all the damned time. More importantly, the more marginalized you are, the poorer you are, the less likely it is that the police will look into what happens to you. That applies to predators just as much as it does to victims. All it takes is one mother, one father, one family member or loved one, one witness with a suddenly poor memory, one person on a jury who understands that nullification is their right. The standards of society don’t amount to sweet fuck all because it isn’t about mass action. It isn’t fantasy, its a reality of some survivors lives. I wish someone had stood up for me when I was raped.

  253. chava
    chava August 20, 2011 at 10:22 am |

    And I’m not talking about (only) police or the government. How many people have had no-one, including family, stand up for them because no-one, fundamentally, took CSA seriously? Societal standards matter. There won’t be that one person to stand up for victims if we don’t view the action as real and wrong. You can’t have vigilante justice if no-one sees the abuse as fundamentally unjust. That normalization of abuse, or a return to the days when no-one talked about it, is what seems all too possible.

    William: I feel like I’m out here defending the absolute worst part of me and I have to keep reminding myself that its not my goddamn fault and I have nothing to feel bad about. Its exhausting.

    When I was raped my father was given a phone number by a friend. We were working class, but he could have scraped the money together to make my rapist go away. Hell, my rapist was the kind of person the police didn’t care about and my father had friends, they could have handled it themselves. Unfortunately he had faith in the system and filed a police report instead. I got to be victimized a second time on the witness stand and now that there was a failed case on record we would have been suspects. I have no idea how many other children were raped because something wasn’t done then.

    You don’t need an entire society to stand up to stop a pedophile. You don’t need a criminal justice system. Those of us in urban areas live in a world where most crimes go unpunished and where even murder cases often go very cold very quickly. We’ve got lazy, stupid police who follow exactly what seems most obvious and who give up once their inbox swells a little bit. People die all the damned time. More importantly, the more marginalized you are, the poorer you are, the less likely it is that the police will look into what happens to you. That applies to predators just as much as it does to victims. All it takes is one mother, one father, one family member or loved one, one witness with a suddenly poor memory, one person on a jury who understands that nullification is their right. The standards of society don’t amount to sweet fuck all because it isn’t about mass action. It isn’t fantasy, its a reality of some survivors lives. I wish someone had stood up for me when I was raped.

  254. Esti
    Esti August 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |

    Kristin Rawls: And Esti explicitly insinuated that the consumption of child pornography is not (and should not be) seen as a serious criminal offense. Her words were something along the lines of: “We’re not going to lock someone up indefinitely for that.”

    Okay, look, I backed out of this conversation because I didn’t feel like my contributions were leading to anything productive, but THAT COMMENT WAS NOT ME SAYING THAT CHILD PORN DOESN’T HURT ITS VICTIMS. For that matter, I did not say that consumption of child porn “should not be seen as a serious criminal offense.” I said that “we’re not going to lock them up for life” for possessing child porn. Child porn is horrific, and it does very very serious harm to the children involved in it, and it has spillover harms on society, and IT IS A SERIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENSE. But it is not currently something we hand out life sentences for, and honestly, I think in most cases it should not be. Which is not me saying that it isn’t a serious and harmful criminal act — we don’t give out life sentences for murder in most cases, either.

    Like I said, I didn’t think that my opinions were welcome or helpful to the conversation that this became, so I stopped contributing. But however repugnant you find some of the views expressed here, it seems like there has been a lot of purposeful misreading of people’s comments. Saying consumption of child porn shouldn’t lead to a life sentence is not saying that child porn doesn’t hurt anyone. Talking about how shame has not worked in other contexts is not the same as saying that pedophiles are equivalent to fat people. I think there’s been plenty to criticize on both sides of this discussion — there’s no need to invent things that people didn’t say.

  255. “I’m Not Straight, I’m Not Gay, I’m With You”: What Does Orientation Mean to YOU? - The Pursuit of Harpyness

    […] some pedophile’s attempts to re-frame their sexual attractions as a distinct orientation. See Kristin Rawls’ guest post, and the 250+ comment thread, at Feministe  (obvious trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault of children) for a fascinating […]

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.