Thursday, March 24, 2016

What You Need To Know About MAP, Paraphiles, And Sexual Orientation


So, you are likely wondering what a MAP is. MAP is an acronym for minor attracted person (or people). Pedophile, as I have said many times on this blog, is someone attracted to children and find that the attraction is ongoing and interfering. Anyone with much social awareness would likely find it interfering because of the popular opinions towards pedophiles if nothing else, but having pedophilia can be utterly debilitating, particularly for those who are only attracted to children. Pedophilia is a form of paraphilia, so I often use 'paraphiles' to refer to those attracted to minors. MAPs would work also.

Popular usage

I am not up-to-speed on the usage of MAP. So, what I am about to say is a guess. I might get corrected as soon as I tweet this. But I have a guess that the use of MAP and MAPs (the "s" would be "minor attracted persons") is becoming popular because people attracted to children are sick and tired of people conflating pedophilia with child molestation (I have recently tweeted two articles that explain why this distinction is important, in addition to my previous posts). Obviously it is logical that at least some who molest children are not attracted to children, and it is logical that there are some who are attracted to children. Given that, it is logical that there are people who are attracted to children who have abused, and there are people who have not abused.


The problem, as many experts have said, is that there are not many large donors who are willing to help fund research on pedophilia and child molestation. You would think the opposite, given the enormity of the impact that child sexual abuse has on victims. But the issue is so stigmatizing that no one wants to touch it. We do not know with any amount of accuracy what the proportion of paraphiles who have not abused is to paraphiles who have abused. We can know with some accuracy the proportion of child molesters with and without pedophilia, but to my knowledge there are only a handful of studies on the subject. We know a little about how pedophilia develops, and that it has something to do with the connections between areas of the brain.
For now, however, we are left with several conclusions about pedophilia:
  1. Pedophilia is not a choice. MAPs are not choosing to be attracted to children. 
  2. Pedophilia is just as unchangeable as any other mainstream sexuality like homosexuality, heterosexuality, etc. 
  3. There are paraphiles who do not molest children. 
  4. Cognitive behavioral therapy, and in extreme cases, chemical castration, are effective treatment methods for child molesters. 
  5. Pedophilia is a mental disorder classified as a paraphilia by the DSM-V, the manual used by psychologists to diagnose mental illnesses. 
Not a choice?

The first one should be obvious, but is not to the vast majority of people. Most people, when it comes to children, believe that paraphiles have a drive to have sex with children, an innate desire to abuse and molest. As with any belief, it is partly true and partly false. Paraphiles are wired to find children sexually attractive. However, that does not automatically make them a risk for abusing children. That may be hard to hear, so think of it like this: Imagine someone saying that someone who is homosexual is liable to rape every person of the same sex that they see, that they are at risk for rape. Totally ridiculous! Right? Same idea. Most people recognize something about themselves, and decide how that something should or should not play a role in their life.

On sexuality, just because someone is sexually attracted to a particular group of people does not mean they have the same beliefs or opinions on how they will interact with people given that attraction. That is true even within traditional heterosexuality. There are people who choose to stay single, people who choose to get married, people who choose to have lots of girlfriends or boyfriends, people who choose to just have lots and lots of sex, and people who do many other things besides. I probably do not need to cite experts for making these statements, they are blatantly obvious.

Unchangeable orientation?

This one is probably less obvious to some groups, but essentially experts universally agree that there is no "cure" for pedophilia. Yes, I hate that word with a burning passion. But here, it makes sense. There is no way to change someone from being attracted to children to not being attracted to children. This is also true for heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, and other sexualities recognized by sexperts (um... sexual experts just sounds too formal, so sexperts they are for simplicity's sake). That is why conversion therapy, attempting to change someone's sexuality, is viewed as harmful by psychologists. It is even banned in some places.

Not every paraphile is attracted only to children (again, this stands to reason when you think about it: There are people who are not only attracted to their own sex, or only attracted to the opposite sex. There are some people attracted to both. I, for example, am attracted mainly to boys, aged 5 and up. That includes adults. I also have a small amount of attraction for girls of similar age, but it is vastly outweighed by my attraction to boys. While much of my attraction is for those under 18, I do have some attraction for men my age (in fact, I recently began dating one!). What this means is that there is even less reason to think that paraphiles are always threats to children. Just because someone has an ongoing attraction to minors does not mean that it is their main attraction or that they are exclusively attracted to children.

In some cases, having pedophilia is a disorder. The DSM-V has this to say about it:

Some do not molest?

This also stands to reason, because not only are there people who say they are attracted but committed to not acting on it (I featured an article written by one such person recently), there are people who come forward to psychologists for help with the issue because they are afraid that they might abuse a child (one of those stories is a permanent link on this blog). The academic world has been particularly insistent on recognizing the distinction between a pedophile and a child molester.

Effective treatment?

Yes, effective treatment. This entire blog is written on the premise that help is not only available to pedophiles, but effective at helping them live a life that is just as meaningful and productive than anyone else's. I wrote about my own treatment, and there are organizations that make similar statements to mine, like ATSA, Stop It Now, and the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute. Cognitive behavioral therapy works under the premise that our beliefs are what drive our thoughts, which are what drive our emotions, which all come together to drive our decisions and what we do (behavior). Essentially, the idea is that many people have beliefs that are not helpful and can cause distortions in thinking. One great example is the belief that you are alone in something. This belief can cause someone to think that no one can understand them, and that they are the only person dealing with whatever that is. That way of thinking can obviously lead someone to deciding never to tell other people, keeping secrets, and not getting support that might be readily available.

My point here is that we know there are treatments that work to correct these distortions, and it is these distortions that can lead to the decision to molest a child (meanwhile, law enforcement and those familiar with criminals will tell you that these distortions lead the the vast majority of crime in general). Some pedophiles, as I have said, are only or exclusively attracted to children. They have no sexual interest in adults. The impact that can have on a person is very traumatic, and for some of those people, chemical castration can help reduce the sex drive and make life more about jobs, friendships, and things other than sex, sex, sex. Those people do not choose their attraction or an overactive sex drive, but they can choose therapies that limit the effects of those things.

A mental illness?

The DSM-V has a number of different qualifications that must be met for someone to be given the diagnosis of pedophilia. One of the main issues is whether or not the attraction to children interferes with daily life (pedophilia is prepubescent children, hebephilia is pubescent children, and ephebophilia is older teenage into adult, but all are considered disorders, so I mean children broadly here). Other requirements are an age difference of several years and that the attraction be ongoing for at least six months.

The main reason that a disorder is almost always a disorder is because of the degree to which it interferes with daily life. There is no one mental illness that, by itself, drives people to hurt other people. The decisions, thoughts, and beliefs that hurt other people are just those: Decisions, thoughts, and beliefs. They may stem from a disorder, but they are directions people take with their disorder. Someone with obsessive compulsive disorder may be under the compulsion to wash their hands constantly and do so, while someone with the same compulsion may be able to ignore it and not wash their hands to a degree of interference.

Acceptance? Sexual orientation?

That leads me to my final points: Many say that pedophilia should be accepted. Many use the words "sexual orientation". What I think MAPs mean by saying that is that they should accept that they cannot change their attractions, and recognize that they have choices about what to do with those attractions. What I think most people unfamiliar with this subject hear when a MAP says that pedophilia is a sexual orientation that should be accepted is that sex with children should be seen as a good thing.

I do not hear very many credible thinking people making the statement that sex with children is a good thing. I have had a few interactions with two individuals who do make that statement, and they make it out of supporting free speech, supporting freedom, and other otherwise noble and admirable aspirations, but have self-serving arguments that ignores the harm that sexual abuse causes many children. Most of the MAPs I have spoken with may have some strange ideas, or express themselves unclearly, but are not claiming anything more noble than their own self-preservation. They accept their disorder, or their lot if you will, and they see it (accurately) as something they cannot change

So, when most people who are attracted to children says that you, the ordinary person, should accept their attraction and view it as an orientation, I very much doubt that they mean "sex with children is okay". I think what they mean is, "I have an attraction I cannot change, and all I can do is accept that this is my lot in life." It is more about the Serenity Prayer, and accepting the things you cannot change, than it is about 'sex with children is okay'.

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