Several times, I have contacted Snopes to tell them their fact-checks on pedophilia lack merit. Each time, I have told them that pedophilia is not the sexual abuse of a child, but the sexual attraction to children. Each time I see a new Snopes article discussing pedophilia, they keep making the same mistake. So, what follows will be my own fact-check of their most recent article, “Is LGBT Adding a ‘P’ for Pedosexual?”
First, Definitions And Why They Matter
I do not believe I need any kind of source to make the point that the sexual attraction to someone, and sexually harming that same someone or group of someones, are two separate ideas. Snopes appears to use pedophilia and sexual abuse interchangeably throughout their article, so I would like to take several quotations from their article and simply replace every instance of “pedophilia” with, “sexual attraction to children.” For brevity, I will skip the paragraphs that do not contain the word in question.
Anti-gay activists continue to push the long-disproven idea that homosexuality and a sexual attraction to children are somehow connected, despite an utter lack of scientific proof. In December 2017, for instance, Facebook user Keya Hopkins shared an image purportedly showing a flyer in support of “LGBTP” rights, claiming that the “P” for stood for “Pedosexual”:
This is not a genuine flyer from an LGBT group, nor has any LGBT group condoned a sexual attraction to children, let alone announced that a “P” would be added to the acronym in order to show support for pedophiles.
Nor was it the last time a 4chan group tried this. A January 2017 thread titled “LGBTP General: Subversive Memesmithing Edition” laid out further plans to spread the idea that the LGBT community supports a sexual attraction to children:
To be clear, no LGBT organization has ever come out in favor of child molestation. Furthermore, this attempt to link homosexuality to a sexual attraction to children was rooted in bigotry, not statistics:
By now, I think you see my point: Confusing the sexual attraction to children, with the sexual abuse of them, makes no sense whatsoever.
The proper understanding of these words would roughly be as follows:
Pedophile: Someone with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to children.
Pedophilia: A sexual attraction to children.
Child molestation: The act of sexually abusing a child.
Child molester: Someone who engages in child molestation, the act of sexually abusing a child.
The Facts About Pedophilia And Its Connection With Child Molestation
A prestigious fact-checker like Snopes would do well to re-examine the facts of this issue, for no other reason than to avoid looking utterly foolish.
But what are the facts of this issue? Is there a basis for conflating the sexual abuse of children with the sexual attraction to children?
To date, the only major study that has ever been done to link the sexual abuse of children with the sexual attraction to children is from Gene Abel. In his study, Gene Abel surveyed 5,000 men, and for the purpose of his study, he defined pedophilia as the act of molesting a child, and the sexual attraction to them. Then he asked them questions, and from their responses, concluded that 95% of child molesters have pedophilia. Obviously, that causes problems.
By this point, I had made a few professional contacts on Twitter, so I asked them about the matter:
In short, Gene Abel’s study is bunk that is contradicted by four studies and the statement of Dr. James Cantor.
In fact, Interpol released terminology guidelines last year, and one of their recommendations (page 86) was to call those who sexually abuse children and also have pedophilia “preferential offenders,” rather than “pedophiles.” Their reasoning is as follows (with three citations, seen in the guidelines themselves, removed for clarity):
“Paedophilia” or “paedophilic disorder” refers to a clinical diagnosis of a mental health condition. WHO defines the condition broadly as “a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually or prepubertal or early pubertal age”. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), paedophilic disorder is a part of a larger group of paraphilic disorders, characterised as a “persistent and intense atypical sexual arousal patterns that are accompanied by clinically significant distress or impairment”. The change in terminology from “paedophilia” or “paedophile” to “paedophilic disorder” in DSM-5 was intended to reflect the growing acceptance among mental health professionals that not all individuals who present with symptoms of paedophilic disorder are perpetrators of child sexual abuse or exploitation.
In other words, the World Health Organization, the DSM-5, and mental health professionals agree that those with pedophilia are not the same as sexual abusers.
What Do Pedophiles Say?
That is a very interesting question. There are essentially three groups of pedophiles: Those that are unknown to the world at large (they have not disclosed their attraction, and suffer in silence), those who are “anti-contact” (they do not wish to harm children and believe it is wrong to act on their attractions), and those who are “pro-contact” (they wish society would accept that not all sexual activity between children and adults causes harm and think that some of that activity should be legal).
I used to be part of the first group, and then I sought help from professionals and I identify with the second group. While the third group certainly exists, as Snopes rightly points out, the recent group “Heart Progress” and the so-called movement to include being sexual with children in the LGBT movement is nothing more than a bunch of trolls running a smear campaign. Trolls are loud, and sometimes (as was the case with NAMBLA), the pro-contact pedophiles are very vocal.
In other words, there is no unified position that pedophiles have. Most, like me, still believe that being sexual with a child is wrong under any circumstance, whether that is directly with a child, or with child sexual abuse images (child pornography). So, the idea that pedophiles themselves want civil rights to be sexual with children is a mixed bag: It is mostly false, given the pedophiles I interact with, and my own beliefs. In fact, I have a website to educate people on how sexual abuse can be prevented before it can happen.
In summary, there is in fact scientific evidence (as outlined here) that links homosexuality and pedophilia: Both are sexual attractions. As I have covered elsewhere (and here), pedophilia is a sexual orientation directed at children, in that it is a sexual attraction that cannot be changed and persists over a long period of time.
While Snopes is correct in pointing out there is no link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, or a significant prevalence among homosexuals to also have pedophilia, and they are also correct to point out that the recent posts from Heart Progress are actually from trolls running a smear campaign… Snopes is not correct to equate child sexual abuse and pedophilia as the same thing, and they must update their articles tagged “pedophilia” to reflect this reality.