By now, you may have heard the news that Nathan Larson, who is (safely, we can say was, at this point) a Virginian congressional candidate, has certain views about child sexual abuse, rape, and the sexual exploitation of children that are enough to make anyone sick to their stomach. And yes, they have been confirmed. If you are sensitive to any of that, I highly discourage you from reading the above link. It is graphic, and it is upsetting to me, not only as a survivor, but as an advocate for preventing sexual abuse.

It is also upsetting to me as a pedophile.

Virtuous Pedophiles: What Are They?

By now, you may have heard the term, “virtuous pedophile” being used on the internet. This term does not really indicate that someone is a stellar or better human being than the rest of humanity, it means only that the person is a pedophile, and also committed to never harming children, whether that is through viewing or making child sexual exploitation material (child pornography) or sexually abusing a child directly. They are against any form of sexual activity involving real children, though opinions on fictional material that do not involve real children are somewhat more varied.

Other terms that are used for this is non-offending or anti-contact. I describe myself as a MAP: Minor attracted person, due to the inherent stigma associated with the term “pedophile.” When most people hear the word, they think of a child molester, where that is not what a pedophile really is.

Pro-Contact Pedophiles: What Are They?

Broadly speaking, a pro-contact pedophile is not even necessarily like what Mr. Larson seems to be. A pro-contact pedophile believes that children can consent to sex, and that the harm from sexual activity with children comes not from the act itself, but from society’s reaction to the act. While some pro-contact pedophiles certainly hold views similar to Mr. Larson’s, they more often view being sexual with children as harmful, given today’s society. They seek to change society’s attitude towards child sexual abuse, as opposed to Mr. Larson’s view that it is okay to be sexual with a child even with said societal attitude.

Pedophilia: What Is It?

Pedophilia is best understood as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children, as separate from the act of sexually abusing a child. This is because most who sexually abuse children are not in fact sexually attracted to them, and because attraction and behavior are clearly two different things. While we can get into a discussion of semantics over how people understand the words, we should not confuse a feeling with the act of sexually harming someone, regardless of which label we use for the harm or for the feeling.

The Point Being…

Most pedophiles look nothing like Mr. Larson. Most pedophiles care a great deal about children, and do not wish to harm them. Maybe that is a challenge for you to believe that, however, I have seen a lot more of pedophile communities than you have. I participate sporadically on Virtuous Pedophiles, I am in three other communities as well. I see the reactions that people have to people like Mr. Larson. One of the first reactions in one of those communities was, “ This guy is scary af..” with a link to the Huffington Post article, along with, “ that guy is a fucking dumpster fire of a person”. There were other, more sarcastic comments and understated comments as well, “ Bit messed up this boy is.” and, “ What a charming gent.”

Another comment from Kira who is active on Twitter, reads,

I’ve been around a long time, and heard a lot of people who have the odd twisted ideas, from all background. But this guy’s stated views are some of the worst I’ve ever heard. He didn’t choose the sexual attraction he has, that’s fine, it’s concerning for broader society, but in and of itself, it’s harmless if he never hurt anyone or advocated harm. But he says child pornography should be legalised — and it’s clear he is including the worst of the worst stuff here. He advocates for legalising rape and sex slavery. Everyone I know is disgusted by that. He’s a white supremacist who believes Hitler, a man who led an evil regime down a path of gross barbarism, was a hero. As for his misogyny, it’s quite frankly repulsive that anyone would try to deny half the people in the world education and basic human rights. He has a documented criminal record, and he doesn’t seem to believe that anything he’s done is wrong. Pedophilia may be the detail about him that grabs the headline, but when you look at his character, the disease lies in the other horrific details.

While it is very understandable to fear pedophiles, and not understand the distinction between someone who has harmed a child and someone who is attracted to children, we need to make that distinction. There are many reasons why, which I have covered extensively, the first and foremost being that young pedophiles just discovering that their attractions are not aging with them do not need to be hearing the message that they are a monster who will inevitably harm children. That message can very well become self-fulfilling prophecy, and that means more children are sexually abused, if the young pedophile does not find a suitable anti-contact community to be a part of or some kind of social support.