Monday, July 4, 2016

Debunking Myths About Pedophilia

Introduction

So, some time ago, I addressed an Atlantic article discussing child sex dolls, talking about how and why they are not a perfect solution, or even an ideal one. I argued that the determination of whether they would be helpful can only be made with some kind of a support system who knows the person who wishes to purchase the dolls (or read manga involving children). I stated again, as I have many times before, that secrecy and a lack of support system can contribute to decisions to commit sexual crime. I have likewise discussed the role of fantasy and the moral and psychological issues surrounding fantasies of children in pedophiles. 

So, naturally, when I saw an article in my news feed revisiting the subject with a very different title, "Child sex robots for treating pedophilia 'could revolutionize therapy for sex offenders'", I was slightly suspicious. Frankly, it looks like I had every right to be. The media is constantly butchering these issues and misrepresenting them. Since I am fairly knowledgeable about pedophilia, and how it differs from child sexual abuse, I figured I would tackle this article. Yes, on the fourth of July, in the United States. Do try to follow this, because I do have a tie-in to make about sexual abuse prevention, and I would rather build my case for it and then make the tie-in than just up and make a suggestion out of thin air.

Part One: Definitions, Definitions, And Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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First, let me address the title, because it is terribly misleading. Can I get a show of hands for therapists who treat sex offenders, please? No one? Well, then let me tell you about my experience as a sex offender with the team of therapists I worked with through my treatment. If I had come into therapy suggesting that child sex robots could help my treatment, it would not have gone well. Not well at all. You see, pedophiles can be exclusive, meaning that they are only attracted to young children, or they can be non-exclusive, meaning that they are also attracted to other age groups. I am non-exclusive. The ideal for me is to stick to fantasies involving adults, and to not fixate or get preoccupied with sex. Do you think that owning a child sex robot would achieve this goal? No, not hardly. It would have the opposite effect for me and likely most other non-exclusive pedophiles. 

With that being said, I feel I must point out that most sex offenders are not pedophiles. Only 66% of sex offenders in the US are what we call "child sex offenders", or people who have committed offenses against children. So, already in the title we have the implication that sex offenders have pedophilia. That is not even generally true. And I have already made my case for why sex dolls are not the first go-to treatment option, both in the previous paragraph and in my two previous articles on the subject.

That brings me to the first sentence. Pedophilia is not a fetish. Show of hands for anyone who has read what the DSM-V has to say about paraphilias? Well, on page 700, it gives the diagnostic criteria for fetishistic disorder:
So... I think you are able to read that, correct? Is a child an object? Right, you just objected strongly to even putting "child" and "object" in the same sentence, so obviously not. Is the child a specific non-genital body part? No, of course not. They are an entire human being. So no, pedophilia is not a fetish. Different criteria altogether. And using the word sick to describe what a pedophile feels towards children is rather disturbing. Even more disturbing is the reference to pedophiles as would-be offenders. I mean, if someone told you that it is inevitable that you will murder someone, you are not terribly inclined to think highly of them. And if most of the people around you came to that conclusion, you might even start to think they could possibly be right, and maybe you are a murderer in the making. It is not terribly conducive to a good mindset if you are constantly wondering if you are just a child rapist who has not raped yet. 

And frankly, I know of no country that polices thought crimes, and implying that all pedophiles desire sex with children is just as disturbing as implying they are a would-be offender. Even if all pedophiles did have such a desire to act out fantasies (which are fiction) in reality (non-fiction), these fantasies (fiction) are not illegal, acting out the fantasy with a real child (non-fiction) would be the crime, not the fantasy (fiction). 

After getting all of that wrong in the first two sentences and title of the article, I wonder just what kind of research the Mirror did for this article. Probably not a whole lot, is my guess. Because if they had, they would know that the experts who believe that child sex robots would protect children are in the minority, and the experts who believe that such robots should be treated with care and caution are in the majority. So, the "some" who "say they will do more harm than good" are not "some". The Atlantic cites an expert at Johns Hopkins, for starters, and my familiarity with therapists tells me that they would not ever take a blanket approach, but say something like, "This could work for some pedophiles under the right conditions." 

Part Two: Robot Experts Versus Psychiatrists Versus Sex Offender Recidivism Statistics

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So, here we get into some rather shady journalism that is frankly more shady than the stuff they have already said, which has to be some kind of achievement somewhere. A simple Google search for "what is methadone and what does it do" brings up the top result, which says, "Methadone is an opioid medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the "high" associated with the drug addiction." Let me put that in laymen's terms: It blocks the high that narcotic drugs give the brain. A sex robot being used for sex would cause a high, not block it. Orgasms are a type of high, and a robot would not block that from happening as this article seems to imply. 

I would like to call a lot of attention to what their expert (in robotics) says: "I only believe it is worth investigating in a controlled way to possibly provide better protection...". It would be fantastic if he stopped there, but then he inserts his foot into his mouth and continues with, "...to society from recidivism in sex offenders." I think I have cited it often enough, but the average sexual recidivism rate for sex offenders, or sex offenders who are rearrested for committing a sexual crime, is around 11.5%. That is an extremely low figure. Many studies have indicated that cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely effective in curbing recidivism. But no, this robotics expert (who likely has zero credentials in sex offender treatment or therapy in general) thinks that these robots could help lower recidivism. Good grief, did anyone do their homework for this article?

Part Three: Fear-Mongering, Zero Evidence

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This robotics expert goes on to say that if a trial (read: experiment) can save some children, it is worth it. Is there any way of proving that they could save children from child sexual abuse? How do you control for that? Put a pedophile in a room with a real child and a sex doll, and see which one they choose to have sex with? Right, terribly stupid idea. Why are we quoting a robotics expert on sexual abuse prevention in the first place? This article was clearly not well thought out. And their lovely little embedded article suggestion is for something that not only misuses the word "paedophile" (they mean child rapists or sex abuser, obviously), it gives a situation that is so statistically rare it is not even worth worrying about. They also claim that these dolls are in widespread use across the UK. Show me the shipping manifests, Mr. Takagi, or let us hear a quote from the same. "Reportedly" in my mind means about as much as what they are reporting on pedophiles in this article: Absolutely nothing.

Part Four: Definitions, Suicidal Thoughts, And Shock And Awe

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There are many therapies that are available for people who struggle with a sexual attraction to children. Many of these therapies do not target the sexual attraction, but the struggle to accept that attraction and the internalization of the stigma directed at people with said attraction. That stigma is partly why I use "TNF 13" and not my real name. Other therapies include the use of drugs to reduce the sex drive. Some drugs, like naltrexone, inhibit the high that comes with an orgasm and reduces sexual interest. That particular drug can make pain-blocking medications useless, so woe to the person who takes it and ends up in the hospital and given a pain-blocking medication in higher and higher doses until the doctors figure out the person is taking naltrexone. Other drugs reduce the production of testosterone, and still others are used for chemical castration. These drugs also have rather large side-effects. They are right for some, but not for most. 

My point is that there are many alternatives to purchasing an expensive rubber doll in the image of a child. And again, they try to shock you by saying the dolls are legal and made of children of age three. And then they misuse the word "fetish" to describe pedophilia, which is again, completely inaccurate. And that lovely little caption, like the claim that lots of people in the UK have these sex dolls, has zero supporting evidence. A picture of a doll does not show that the market for sex robots is increasing (nor is a doll the same as a sex robot).

Part Five: Support Systems, Prevention, And Who Pedophilia Affects

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As I addressed somewhat in my previous posts on these subjects, the decision to use materials that cause fantasies of children rather than avoiding them is a decision that must be made with a support system. Why is that? Because, as we often said in sex offender treatment, "Our best thinking landed us here." People make seriously stupid decisions when they do not run them by people who have their best interests at heart (people also make seriously stupid decisions as a group, too, but that is more organized crime than sex crime). Pedophiles, sex offenders, and people in general need a support system of some kind to help them weather the roller coaster of life. That has nothing to do with having pedophilia, with having committed a sex offense, or anything else. It is a basic human need.

So the fact that most of this doll-maker's clients are men who live alone screams to me that these men need to go talk to people. I understand that the reality for these men is not that simple, and that one must be extremely careful when disclosing a sexual attraction to children. I fully comprehend that. But that does not negate the basic human need for a connection with other human beings. Frankly, that most of his clients are living alone is a large red flag to me. 

Debrief

These dolls, or robots, or other tools that increase sexual fantasy and thereby increasing sexual desire, can never be proven to reduce child sexual abuse. There is no way to measure that in an ethical manner. If they are to be used, they must be used with a support system of some kind, preferably under the guidance of a therapist who is an expert in sexual issues like pedophilia. No one is immune to pedophilia. It is a condition that does not discriminate on race, social class, profession, handedness, or any other measurable characteristic. The only true method for determining if someone has pedophilia is self-disclosure. And frankly, writing articles about child sex robots curbing the fetishes of sex offenders does not help people with pedophilia disclose their attraction. 

Pushing pedophiles further into secrecy and further away from people pushes them towards the same feelings that can contribute to child sexual abuse: Fear, isolation, desperation, depression, suicidal thoughts... the list is long. When we as a society push people away from getting help with anything they need help with (not just pedophilia), we do our entire society a disservice. Doing this contributes to suicide, depression, anxiety, untreated/unmanaged mental health struggles, bullying, terrorism... you name it. People do not do well when they are pushed into a corner. 

The less we understand about pedophilia, the less we understand about preventing child sexual abuse. The more we correlate child sexual abuse and pedophilia, the less we prevent children from being raped. The more myths we believe about pedophilia and the people who wrestle with it, the less we know about the facts surrounding the issue of child sexual abuse. Myths about pedophilia, and myths about child sexual abuse both contribute to enabling sexual abuse to happen. 

How do I figure that, you ask? Because the more we treat sexual abuse as some monstrous disease we cannot possibly understand, the more we turn a blind eye to it. The more we dehumanize abusers, the more we blind ourselves to the people we trust that are sexually abusing children. The reason you have advocates telling people to wake up to the facts and dispel the myths surrounding child sexual abuse is because refusing to learn the facts about the issue contributes to the epidemic of child sexual abuse. 

Sexual abuse thrives in the dark. 

Will you face the light?

I am a sex offender, and a pedophile, and I prefer that children are not raped. 

What about you?

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