Monday, February 11, 2019

Helping Others Understand Pedophilia Effectively

Why Be Effective?

Personally, I think this question answers itself. We have all seen examples of conversations that did not go well at all, and one or both people involved ended up angry or worse. That is not the ideal on a topic we want people to understand, so we need to find the best methods that work, not just for our specific issue - destigmatizing the sexual attraction to children so people treat us like people - but for other related issues as well.

I am most familiar with the prevention of sexual abuse, which I have found to be an equally stigmatized though not as angering topic for people. Basically, that topic, like pedophilia, is just so disgusting people simply do not want to investigate it or learn new things. They simply do not want to know.

For reference about what I am about to outline, you can drop by the following links:
National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Berkley Studies Media Group Report
RALIANCE and Berkley Studies Media Group Report 
National Sexual Violence Resource Center Guide

Strategy Vs. All The Facts

The basic reality is, no matter how much we know all of the nuances of our issue, most people do not care about those nuances. We are hurting ourselves by trying to cover all of them. They need to know why they should care about what you have to say. Why should they work past their disgust of the topic to consider your viewpoint? You cannot engage most people by throwing a ton of information at them.

I think most of us can agree on the following points:
  1. Pedophilia is not a mental illness, pedophilic disorder is.
  2. Pedophilia cannot be changed and it is harmful to try.
  3. Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children.
  4. Pedophilia is distinct from hebephilia, ephebophilia, and minor attraction.
  5. Pedophiles are all minor attracted people, but not all minor attracted people are pedophiles.
  6. More therapy needs to be available for pedophiles.
  7. Mandatory reporting and stigma interfere with pedophiles getting help.
  8. Fictional materials do not put pedophiles at risk to harm children without other factors involved.
  9. It is wrong to sexually harm or exploit children.

For many, the best course of action is to stick to a single fact or two and then give them an opportunity to learn more if they so choose, whether it be via link, podcast, video or simply an invitation to communicate further (ie, "Do you have any questions for me?"). Trying to cover every single fact, or even what we might regard as the most important facts, can lose the people we are trying to reach. We do not want to throw too much information at people all at one time.

For example, the average person probably does not care about the distinction between pedophilia, the sexual attraction, and pedophilic disorder, where someone's behavior or internalized attitudes have become an interference on daily life. To them, pedophiles are someone with a mental disorder.

While technically incorrect, we could gain a lot of ground by agreeing with them and pointing out that having pedophilia is not a choice, but harming children is a choice. This could be phrased, "Those with pedophilia can indeed have a mental disorder, and because of that, pedophilia is not a choice, harming children is a choice we can choose not to make."

Picking Our Battles Wisely

Yes, this is another area where we are simply not doing very well. Many of us interact with people who are never going to change their minds in the vague hope that someone will see the conversation and become convinced. We also have a large amount of hostile individuals who fabricate nonsense in order to discredit, insult, and inspire negative emotion towards us. The thing is, we fall for this nonsense time and time again, believing that their false accusations need to be challenged for the broader public to believe us.

This is not always true. While this was certainly the case with the false accusation of Ender Wiggin being that fellow from Canada, this is not true each and every time someone accuses one of our number of being a pedophile, child molester, etc. Many of these trolls are best blocked, not argued with, because most rational people will see most of these accusations as a ridiculous ploy to insult rather than civilly engage in conversation. More specific false allegations made outside of the context of normal dialogue, such as the accusation of Ender being Justin Coulombe, should of course be challenged in the strongest terms possible.

Knowing The Facts

Yes, we had Ender and then we have me. We know our facts and arguments well. This does not give you an excuse not to learn. If you want to challenge the stigma against pedophilia and educate people about the facts vs. the myths that are out there, then you need to educate yourself about the facts. Deferring to me is fine and wonderful on nuanced topics, but the fact of the matter is, it makes you look less knowledgeable and undermines your credibility.You should also bear in mind that the facts are just a small part of convincing other people, and most people will not be convinced by facts alone, which leads us to...

...Being Genuine And Making Private Outreach A Priority

Wait, but how do we do that if we are concerned about outing our real identity? Exactly. Social media is not, has not been, and likely never will be a good platform for letting people see pedophiles as human beings with a sexual attraction rather than monsters who abuse kids. Face-to-face communication changes minds a whole lot faster. People are also less inclined to respond how they believe will be popular when approached privately, so rather than publicly shaming journalists for misusing the term "pedophile," a better approach would be to email them privately, if possible.

We should always be prioritizing what is most effective over what makes us, personally, feel good. At times, this means not insulting people who absolutely deserve it. At times, this means accepting something that is technically incorrect in order to pick our battles wisely. Regardless of the specific situation, we need to ensure we are doing what it takes for people to drop their defenses and listen, not reject what we say out of hand because we are angry at them for being (understandably) "stupid" when 90% of the population is very uneducated about topics we are very familiar with.

Yes, I know. I am hardly a shining example of this. That is why I want to challenge all of us - myself included - in learning what makes for effective advocacy, doing what works and learning from what does not work, and ensuring that we set ourselves up for success, not just with the critical-thinking types, but with everyone else as well.