Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pedophiles And Pedophilia And Perverts

Intro and Definition

I have been in the process recently of going over the limited data I have on what posts have been viewed the most, and it appears to me that this is an apt subject. So, first, some definitions: Pedophilia is an ongoing attraction to prepubescent children, although I generally use paraphilia, and I likely will throughout this, because the term also refers to ongoing attractions to teenagers as well. Obviously, then, a pedophile refers to someone with pedophilia- an attraction to prepubescent children. I could bore you with the difference between that and ephebophilia, or hebephilia, but you can see my other posts and look it up on Wikipedia if you really want to know.

Pervert

That last one, though, gets very tricky. People use pervert in all sorts of ways. They use it to describe someone with a sexual preference they do not like, for example. I have been called a pervert for liking my fellow males- not boys, males. Homosexuality, or same-sex attraction makes someone a pervert for some people. Sometimes people refer to transgendered people as perverts. Of course, people also refer to paraphiles (those with any kind of deviant and disorder-worthy sexual attraction) as perverts. People also use pervert to describe someone who has peeped on people, or on people who have exposed themselves to others. They also use it to describe someone who has abused or molested a child.

So, the word pervert will have to wait, and if I come back to it, I come back to it. I do not use pedophile, in describing myself or others, to describe having acted and abused a child. I use it according to the definitions I used earlier. So, with that said, there is some talk among advocates against abuse, and advocates against the registry even, that having pedophilia does not automatically make someone a risk to children. I would like to explore why that is, and explain a little bit about the 'inner workings' of how I thought about the entire issue before my offending, and after.

Using the Proper Terms

First off, let me start by explaining how I came to recognize what I had as pedophilia. I did not have any proper terminology to describe what I was experiencing until I was 19, but I was noticing it around age 13 or so. This was partly because of my ignorance- intentional, at that point in my life- of sexual topics. Sure, I knew the basics, but if someone told a dirty joke, I did not recognize it as such. I have often made dirty jokes without even intending to, or knowing that I was. I would have called it liking other guys, or other boys, because at the time, I was one. I was a teenager. I even looked up pornography involving people my own age on the internet. I did not recognize what this meant, how on earth could I? If you had told me I was looking at child pornography, my reaction would have been 'yeah, so what?'. Now, of course, I get what that means- that children were abused and raped in the making of the pornography.

I remember one of my friends in high school asking me once if I liked boys, and I said yes. I thought he was asking me if enjoyed being around them. To this day, I have no idea what he meant. But now, I think he was asking me if I was attracted to children. The stigma against pedophilia, to me, was the same stigma against being attracted to other males, not against the ages of those I was attracted to. All my life, I had heard comments like 'freak' and 'pervert' and 'gaywad' and other terms. I associated this with looking at other boys in the bathroom- peers at that point.

So when the news about Michael Jackson came out about possibly having molested boys- that he liked boys- finally clicked with me. I understood that he was aroused by children, and wanted to have sex with them. I understood it, because that was how I felt. I had no idea what to call it, or how to think of it, until then because any exposure I had to the terms meant nothing to me. I just did not understand. To me, it was not something I was concerned by until that point. In reading up on the issue in current events, I began understanding that what he did by abusing children would affect those children negatively. To me, before that point of understanding, I viewed my attraction as something that just did not matter. I did not only like children, I also was attracted to people my own age- both men and women- and the entire subject of sex was something that I just avoided. To me, sexual anything happened in a marriage relationship, and the idea of marrying a child I just dismissed.

Perspective

So it is not so much that my attractions have changed, just how I view them and how I respond to them. A romantic relationship was a completely foreign concept until college. I dated a girl very briefly in high school, but to me it was hanging out with a girl and was an opportunity to spend time outside of school with someone I knew from school. I revealed that I had attractions to children towards the end of my first semester in college, but not as such. I remember the conversation going something like, 'I am attracted to other boys', meaning, of course, that I had homosexuality, or same-sex attractions. And the professor I was revealing it to asked what ages, so I told him. I had very little clue what I was getting myself into, so I was honest- age nine and up.

And numerous times, he wanted me to stop working with children because of it. I did not see the connection between the two, at all. I did not even consider the possibility of being sexual with a child. In fact, you could say that risk entered the equation by this professor doubting what I believed about the subject. My belief was that any child worth pursuing would talk about it, and it would not be appropriate because of their age. And any child who would not talk about it- a younger child- I just did not find attractive. I thought I would have better luck with people my own age. But numerous times, this professor wanted me to see that I was a risk to children because I was attracted to children.

Risk

My experience is likely somewhat isolated due to the obvious fact that autism was playing a role in how I thought about the entire issue- obviously the not understanding terms, stigma, risk, all of that was due to not being socially aware. To this day, I sort of wish I maintained that unawareness. However, I think it is safe to say that just because someone is attracted to children- and the disorder of pedophilia requires that attraction to be ongoing for at least six months- does not mean they are at risk around children. They might have some strange beliefs about children partly because of the attraction and how they think about it- like that children as young as seven are old enough to understand about sex, or believing that children can handle more than they really can. But the likelihood of them acting it out entirely depends on how aware they are of it, and how big of an issue it is.

To the pedophile, their attraction to children is not a big deal until they are aware that to most other people, it is a big deal. I like broccoli, video games, books, space, and children. And? Who does NOT like children? They are adorable. Okay, you have some grumps that forgot they were children once, but for the most part everyone likes children. I doubt that if you asked a thousand teenagers if they like children that most of them would interpret it to mean sexual attraction, not even those who are sexually attracted. So where is the risk? Even before I really began to understand my asperger's/autism several years ago, I knew my preferences and needs around it. I have known almost my whole life that I need to temper what time I spend with other people with time spent alone. Knowing why that is, yes, it helps, but it does not change anything.

So introducing a pedophile to the concept that their attractions, if acted upon, are a huge safety risk would be like introducing someone who absolutely loves watching explosions to a roomful of dynamite and C4. Their reaction is likely to be, like, you mean I could cause these explosions? They will not hear the safety risk, they will hear that they can do something about it. Many pedophiles are also attracted to people their own age, or maybe a bit younger. Some are indeed only attracted to children, but this is very rare. A great analogous idea is the idea of sexuality- many have proposed that true homosexuality- only being attracted to one's own sex- is very rare and that there is a continuum. The same concept of a continuum applies to pedophiles.

After Understanding

So, what happens in the mind of any teenager or young adult when you tell them they cannot do something and it is strictly off limits because it is dangerous? What question will they ask? Why. Why is this dangerous? Why is it off limits? Why is this even a big deal? You may have some goody-goodies who just accept it and listen to the adults, but for the most part, most are not going to be in that camp. They will rebel. They will seek to prove it wrong. This is a recipe, on this issue, for abuse, and not because pedophiles are inherently a risk to children, but for simple human psychology. Remember DARE? All DARE ever did for me was introduce me to the fact that drugs and alcohol exist, and being in 5th grade, I just accepted that they are bad for you. But prior to that, I had no idea what they were.

You put a new concept or idea to someone who knows nothing about the idea on their own, and you will get a wide range of reactions to it. Most want to know more until their curiosity is satisfied. That is exactly why we all have our hobbies, interests, degrees, jobs, and personalities. But on this issue- as with drugs and alcohol- the idea must be handled with care, by experts who know what they are doing. It cannot be handled by amateurs, because while some might get it right, they do not know enough to guide a developing mind correctly.

My reaction after understanding other people's reactions is that those other people do not understand me, therefore I am right and they are wrong. I know more because I have been there, and because of that, they have no idea what they are talking about. That led to me going from believing I would not, could not ever be sexual with a child to wanting to come up with a way it could happen and would happen. It bears mentioning that the timeline goes from pedophile, to at-risk for abuse, to abuser, in that order. The warning signs came before the abuse, but were not present initially.

Guidance, Understanding, and Stigma

This is exactly why the stigma against pedophiles and pedophilia is unhelpful. It practically creates child abusers in the same way the stigma against GLBT sexualities formed the very civil rights movement that made it acceptable to increasing number of peoples. That is why you have your NAMBLA, your child sex advocates, your boy-love organizations, your psuedopsychologists, and your anti-authority folks that believe society just does not understand them. With nothing to guide someone's reaction to finding out that some seemingly innocuous interest they have is, to some people, quite dangerous, the main reactions by those people is very predictable.

That is why the stigma against pedophilia must end: Not so that pedophiles can have sex with children. Not so that NAMBLA can have their way. So that those with the disorder can get the help and guidance they need to understand their disorder, how it plays a role in their lives, and manage it successfully. In the absence of that guidance, the result is unpredictable. That is why I am a primary prevention advocate, that is why I talk about it, and that is why I criticize the policies on this issue. Educate children to say no, to create and keep boundaries? Sure! In order to prevent child sex abuse? Absolutely not. Monitor and mandate treatment for those who have hurt others with their sexual behavior? Absolutely. Interfere with their ability to function in society? Not on your life.

Children with ADHD have interventions and guidance in place. Children who are deaf have help. So do the blind, the intellectually disabled, the socially impaired, the 'emotionally disturbed', and the autistic. Yet GLBT children have whatever resources their parents see fit to give them- if any- and those with pedophilia are shunned, hated, and ridiculed. Mental health is a minefield, I get that. But unless we can figure out where the mines are and disarm them, they will blow up. This is not an issue we can afford blowing up in our faces. Using the word pervert is one surefire way to detonate those mines.

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