Saturday, March 26, 2016

Pedophiles And Fantasy... And Child Molestation

So, following my recent feature of Ender Wiggin's story, I looked into some of his other writings. They really are thought provoking. One of them that really had me thinking was this one about fantasy and whether or not fantasy is a good thing. It is safe to say that this post is a follow-up to my other post about manga and dolls, as well as an analysis of Ender's thoughts on the subject. I will also touch a little bit on another article questioning the arguments against dolls.

Emotionally Charged Controversy

As he points out, this is a controversial subject. It is controversial for pedophiles, it is controversial for researchers, it is controversial for the general public, and for therapists. Everyone will have a differing opinion about it. Those opinions from the general public likely fall somewhere between "That's disgusting! Who could think of a kid that way? Just... no. No." to "Sure, if they're not acting it out, what's the harm?". Researchers and therapists have concerns that weigh into this issue, like if fantasy makes it easier for the person to act on the fantasy, what the pedophile thinks of the fantasy, whether they see fantasy as problematic, whether it desensitizes a pedophile to viewing children as sexual objects rather than people.

I cannot analyze this issue objectively. It is impossible, because I have not only been abused as a child, but I have abused a child. I viewed traditional pornography, then gay pornography, then slowly moved to child models, and then to child pornography. That is why I am short a desktop tower and several external hard drives. I know the topic of sexual fantasies of children because there was a point in my life where I actively sought out those fantasies. In the process of all of this, my thinking became distorted. I started believing things that were not helpful to me. I believed that sex with a child was okay if it was with the right child. I believed that child pornography was not harmful. I believed that having fantasies of children helped me stay safe from touching a child.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Ender points out that fantasy is the result of thought which is the result of feeling (and would likely say beliefs as well). The attraction that comes before the fantasy is classified as a feeling, so that part is uncontrollable. It is well worth noting that sexuality is a very varied topic. As I have discussed before, there are many people who are attracted only to one sex or another, and there are others who are attracted to a variety of different people, just as there are people attracted only to children and people attracted to adults and children, or different ages. The main point is that attraction is not controllable, but the thought in reaction to the attraction and the option to fantasize is a choice.

Ender points out that some religions have teachings about all of this. I will not address that much. His main point is that the feeling of finding someone attractive is universal, and the feeling is not controllable. He then points out that the thought response (wow, they're hot, that's sexy, I want that, etc) is controllable to an extent, but it is perfectly natural for a pedophile to have that response just as it is natural for someone of any other sexuality to have that response.

The point is that the progression is attraction, thought, fantasy, in that order. Sometimes, that progression just goes as far as attraction, sometimes thought, sometimes all three. It is at this point that Ender asks the question, what should pedophiles do with all that?

Fantasy and Morality

The topic of pedophiles having fantasies of children is partly ethical (ie, should they be encouraged if they can push people towards abusing a child rather than away from it), partly moral (ie, is this something that is acceptable for me to be doing, is there a moral rule for this that must be formed or followed), and partly sociological (ie, is it right to condemn a particular kind of fantasy just because it is deviant). I would like to avoid, if I can, forming a universal moral or ethical rule on this. Part of that is because I do not think such a rule would be helpful.

All three of these factors - ethical, moral, and sociological - are at play in answering Ender's question. And again, I do not think one universal rule would be helpful. I do not think you can tell all pedophiles that they should or should not have fantasies of children. Every pedophile will be different. There will be some pedophiles, just as there are anyone else, who find fantasy to be enjoyable and find no shame or guilt in it. There are some pedophiles, just as there are other religious people, who find fantasy to be a tricky subject that must be navigated with care. And there are some pedophiles, just as there are others, who think that fantasy of a particular kind is not a good idea for them.

I fall into the last two categories when it comes to fantasies of children. I recognize that my reasons are not objective and not fully logical. I realize that my reasons amount to a slippery slope in some places. However, I have had experience with where my thoughts have led me, and what beliefs formed as a result of my actions and thoughts. But I am getting slightly ahead of myself here, and jumping ahead in Ender's article.

Fantasy Has Ties To Action

Ender makes the excellent point that fantasy to a pedophile and fantasy to, well, anyone else, are essentially the same. He states that people generally know the difference between a fantasy and reality, and that most people, regardless of attraction, will be able to differentiate between the two and not automatically see their fantasies as things they should act out. Most people know that anything with children cannot happen with consent and therefore would cause harm. So he very thoroughly debunks the idea that simple fantasy will inevitably lead to child sexual abuse. He also points out that pedophilia is not often associated with other pathologies or issues, like aggression, inability to empathize, etc. Other than the object of sexual attraction being different from most people, pedophiles and minor attracted people are mentally healthy.

So essentially the point is that fantasy will not automatically make people act on said fantasy, whether it be sexual fantasy or other types of fantasy. Just because I enjoy blowing the heads off of zombies and terrorists in a video game does not mean I will go grab a gun and start doing the same thing in real life. Most people who watch a violent movie are not inclined to then go and be violent with others in real life. A fantasy is not inherently wrong, and a fantasy by itself will not lead to action.

My Conclusion

My conclusion is slightly different from Ender's conclusion. Ender makes the point that fictional imagery involving children in sexual situations (drawn or created images, not real children) harms no one. He also makes the point that conditioned guilt and shame around the objects of these fantasies being children is what causes many pedophiles to believe that their fantasies are wrong. In other words, they are wrong for no other reason than that people are telling a pedophile that they are. His idea is that a pedophile should apply whatever belief they have about sexual fantasy consistently to adults and children: If it is wrong or right to fantasize about adults, the same applies to children.

I think it is slightly more complicated than that. I do not think someone can really determine, objectively, if fantasies of children are good and healthy for them, just as I do not think that someone can determine if fictional imagery involving children is right for them, just as I do not think that someone can determine if child sex dolls are right. They are available means of relieving sexual tension and finding sexual pleasure. I think on this issue, because of the stigma involved, and because of the propensity humans have for rebelling against constraints put on them (and the stigma is definitely a constraint), it is impossible for a pedophile to make an objective analysis by themselves that they would be unaffected by engaging in fantasies involving children.

The issue that I ran into, the issue that eventually led to me abusing a child, was not fantasy. The issue was the cognitive distortions that I formed, the wrong beliefs I developed about myself, about children, and about morality. These distortions (ask Google, "what is a cognitive distortion" or simply click here for more information) were the issue. The problem is, I have no idea when I started forming them. My best guess is that I was already forming cognitive distortions when I was abused, and as a child watching how my parents responded to various events and watching how my teachers responded to me. I can say with certainty that over time, the combination of keeping my attractions a secret, feeling like I was a monster, the stigma and how it affected me, and the fantasies I was having formed the cognitive distortions that informed the decision to abuse a child.

My point here is that people are blind to their own cognitive distortions, and the reality is that for some, viewing fictional imagery can lead to these cognitive distortions. It is not something anyone can identify by themselves. I am very sure that most experts will tell you the same thing. Pedophilia, or attractions to minors, is not something that can be managed alone. That is why the group Virtuous Pedophiles is so popular among pedophiles: Because it gives people an opportunity to talk with others going through the same thing and get feedback. It is a support group of sorts. Lacking some kind of a support group of people to help us, we are alone, and it is when we are alone that we are at our most dangerous in making decisions. This is not because pedophiles need to be watched to control our fictitious urges to rape children (fictitious, as in, we do not have these urges). It is because we are human, and we need social support of some kind on any issue.

I have talked before about secrecy, and about keeping all of these issues in the dark, and how secrets enable child sexual abuse. The cognitive distortions are what lead people to keep issues a secret, and these and a number of other factors snowball into one huge mountain of desperation if we are not talking about them. That mountain has to go somewhere. The fantasy, by itself, is not what causes someone to no longer find the fantasy enough. It is the distortions and other factors, and no one is immune to them. Pedophiles need a support system of some kind to help them see through the darkness of the stigma, shame, and fear that having pedophilia can cause. That is why this blog has resources linked on the right to help.

What I Am Not Saying

I am not saying pedophiles need to be watched for our own good. I am not saying that all pedophiles will molest children if left unchecked. I am not even saying that pedophiles are, by themselves, dangerous because of their attractions. I am not saying fantasy will inevitably lead to child molestation. Pedophilia does not make someone a risk to children, the snowballed mountain does. So what I am saying is that any disorder, any issue that someone is struggling with or dealing with requires some kind of support system. Without that support system, a pedophile cannot accurately make the determination that fantasy or other outlets are healthy for them.

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