Before I begin this, I need to share with you the very beginning of my journey as an advocate. In the beginning, I relied on a website that seemed to have some solid information on helping those with pedophilia. The website stated that 95% of child sexual abuse is preventable because 95% of child molesters have pedophilia. They cited a study, and it being a few years removed from college, I did not do my homework on their statistic. So I ran with that idea for about a year.
Then, I came across a media article (I have long since lost the link, sorry…) and an article on Medium (since removed, because Medium had decided to take the coward’s route on these issues) from Ender Wiggin. In it, Ender argued that pedophiles are not a risk to children because most child molesters are not pedophilic. So, between the media article (which indicated the same) and Ender’s article, I was understandably confused. By this point, I had made a few professional contacts on Twitter, so I asked them about it:
As you can see, their answer matched the articles: Most child molesters are not pedophilic. So, with that in mind, I did a little more digging into the website, and found it was the work of Gene Abel, who did a study. That study, among other things, defined pedophilia as an act of molestation AND as the sexual attraction to children, then concluded based on nothing more than asking convicted child abusers if they had pedophilia, that 95% of child molesters have pedophilia. Incidentally, Ender also shared an article that is a collaborative work about how Gene Abel’s statistical crimes are causing real damage to preventing sex abuse (again, removed from Medium, because Medium is a cowardly publication).
So, with that in mind, please allow me to continue on to discuss the fictional outlets available to pedophiles, and why they have merit for some individuals. And yes, Ender covered this already (again, censored by Medium), but I have my own take on it, and you can never cover a controversial area too many times, right? Right, which means my take may be a tad on the, “I really did not need to know that…” side of things for some people. No doubt prevention programs, scientists, and of course, other pedophiles would benefit from this exercise.
First Point: Does Fantasy Make Someone Act Out In Reality?
This idea has actually been discussed a myriad of ways. People have sometimes discussed it around violent video games and television. In fact, that was a major focus of one of my psychology classes in college. Today, we acknowledge that violent media can indeed influence violent behavior, but does not directly cause that behavior. In other words, people are still responsible for knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and they are still responsible for their real-life actions. That is a commonly accepted fact, except in the case of certain issues involving mental illness.
So, we must then ask ourselves if the same principle holds true for sexual fantasy and sexual reality: Is there evidence that people who view certain sexually explicit imagery go on to engage in that imagery, in the same way we might posit that someone who plays violent video games might become violent in real life? Again, the answer seems to be no. While some seem to be ringing the alarm bells on the evils of pornography, most scientists acknowledge that it can be perfectly healthy for some people in most situations, while it is indeed unhealthy for others.
Second Point: Does Fantasy Cause Issues For Pedophiles?
Again, the answer is not clear. Some pedophiles seem to be helped by having fantasies and not beating themselves up for those fantasies, while others are helped more by trying to avoid fantasy. It is very controversial, particularly among religious pedophiles, as Ender does a fantastic job of illustrating.
Speaking broadly of what I have seen across Virtuous Pedophiles, the issue does not seem to be the fantasy itself that causes distress to many of our members. What seems to cause distress for some members is the fear that someone might act on their fantasy, or be more susceptible to acting on it if they are not careful enough in managing their needs. To be frank, many of our members do not seem to have as much of an issue, but there are some who really struggle to see themselves as safe because of the stigma that comes with being a pedophile.
So, in short, fantasy can cause issues for pedophiles if the pedophile already has difficulty accepting their attractions as something they do not need to beat themselves up over.
Third Point: What Fantasy-Based Materials Exist, And What Is Their Legal Status?
Yet again, the answer is about as clear as mud, at least in the second part of the question. The fantasy-based materials that exist right now are manga (that would be Japanese comics, for the non-geeks in the crowd), digitally created drawings, and erotica. These materials are illegal in some places (I believe Canada and the UK, offhand), a gray area in others (the United States does not appear to have a clear-cut answer), and perfectly legal in many nations.
Other fantasy materials do include child sex dolls, and of course, role-playing, though one can imagine it might be difficult to find a willing age-appropriate partner who would entertain pedophilic role-playing. I have heard that some countries ban dolls, but I have not looked into this area beyond an article that appeared in The Atlantic in 2016. I am aware that Stop Abuse Campaign is attempting to ban them in the United States.
The legal status of fictional materials, and by that I mean materials that do not depict real children, for me is nothing short of ridiculous. Do we ban art? Do we ban other things that harm no one? Do we ban violence in media? If the answer to those questions is no, then it stands to reason that material that does not depict real children should enjoy the same status of not being banned, and up to each individual’s taste. That is a rather unrelated political/civil rights point that may be better left for others to argue.
Fourth Point: Do People Who View Child Sexual Exploitation Material Go On To Abuse Children?
This falls into the realm of scientific study that I am partially unfamiliar with. I have heard via word-of-mouth from researchers that the answer to this question seems to be no. However, I have not directly read the scientific studies, nor am I familiar with that particular side of statistics. It stands to reason, based on the other information I have, that the answer would be no, or at least, not all the time: Per Dr. Cantor’s statement above, studies find that 20–40% of child molesters have pedophilia, and I know from another study that a higher portion (in that particular study, 61%) of sexual exploitation material cases are perpetrated by those with pedophilia. A Dutch study found that 80% of child sexual abusers are attracted to adults.
While I would rather not speculate on science I am unfamiliar with directly, I do trust the researchers that have mentioned these ideas, and applying critical thinking about correlation not equating causation comes to mind.
Fifth Point: Should We Take A Blanket Approach To This Issue?
In other words, should we pick one area of fantasy and say that it is universally good or bad for all pedophiles? In my experience, absolutely not. For some, one area of fantasy may be triggering, or offend their sense of morality. For others, that area may be perfectly healthy and in fact assist that person’s aim to be a non-offending pedophile. My experience with therapy, on Virtuous Pedophiles, and knowing how mixed the science can be in these areas all combine to tell me that banning something, or universally encouraging it, would both be unwise.
Each individual has their own thoughts, their own needs, and their own morality. Each pedophiles, as Ender points out, must decide for themselves what is appropriate for their situation. Of course, there are also laws in play for some forms of fantasy that are not in play for others and vice-versa.
Banning fantasy-based methods that pedophiles might find useful to stay safe and manage their attractions in a harmless way is not the way to protect children. Suggesting that every pedophile use fantasy-based methods to manage their attractions is equally unwise: Each individual is different and has different needs, and are in different places regarding their attraction.
It is my position as an advocate — and you can quote me directly if you like — that non-offending pedophiles should have a support system of some kind that helps them determine the best (legal) method to manage their attractions that fits them as a person. I believe each individual should have support in deciding what is best for them, because that is what the evidence says is most effective.
I believe countries should not ban these materials, as they do not harm children, and are unlikely to lead to that harm because most who pursue these materials are likely pursuing them in an attempt to avoid illegal activity.