Hey, nice to meet you, I’m Andrew. In most ways, I’m your average 20-year-old guy. I’m going to university full-time, I love chilling out with friends, playing video games, and jamming out to the best music. But wait, there’s one last bit I forgot to mention: I’m also a pedophile. You may be wondering, why the handshake then? What could we possibly shake hands and agree upon? As it turns out, you and I aren’t so different after all. Sure, I may have some forbidden, taboo attraction, spoken of only in hushed whispers, or bellows of anger (you take your pick). But in the end, we’re both on the same team when it comes to keeping children safe. Sounds crazy, right?
“How is this possible?” you may ask? Well, to answer that, we’ll have to go back to where it all began: childhood.
Growing up, my childhood was relatively normal, yet I always had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that something wasn’t right. But at 13, I didn’t know how to properly express it. As I went through school, I noticed that all my friends were talking about how cute that girl at the lunch-table was, or how they were totally gonna ask Ashley out this Friday.
Back then, I didn’t really understand why they felt that way, because I didn’t have any sort of feelings for them at all, they just seemed like another classmate to me. I chalked it up as being a late-bloomer: I always told myself, “maybe I just haven’t reached that point in my life yet, but I’m sure I will soon.” As time went on, I started becoming more and more worried about when this supposed change would take place. I remember wanting to talk to my friends in private, and ask them “What makes you like girls?!”, hoping their answer would somehow bring me into the fold of young-adulthood.
Unfortunately, it never did. In fact, the opposite started happening, and I found myself having the same crushes on boys that they had for girls. The thought of it terrified me, because back then, being gay was grounds for constant harassment, bullying, being the butt of school-wide jokes, or God-forbid, your parents might find out. While it may not seem so bad looking back on it, there was nothing I wouldn’t do to avoid that fate. So, like most people who have gay feelings, I kept it inside, and never told a soul. I figured, in time, maybe those thoughts would go away and be replaced by feelings for girls. At least, that was what I was hoping for, anyway.
Time marched on, birthdays came and went, and as I turned 14, and then 15, and then 16, I noticed that these feelings I had for boys never “grew up with me”, so to speak. Quite the contrary actually, as I ended up liking younger and younger boys, the older I got. I still felt those same kinds of feelings for 11 and 12-year-olds that I liked all those years ago, and it was really worrying me at that point. I kept asking myself over and over, how something like this could have happened, and more importantly, how can I make it go away, and be ‘normal’, like everyone else?
I’d try to reassure myself by telling myself there’s no way I could actually be a pedophile. Pedophiles are those creepy old men you see getting arrested on the evening news. Pedophiles are the ones who look like freaks, stalking playgrounds in their old, beat-up white vans, right? Pedophiles are the ones my parents would shout at on TV, wishing they would rot in jail and die. See? That couldn’t possibly be me! There’s no way my parents would want me dead, so I couldn’t possibly be one of those people. I hoped with enough repetition, I could talk myself out of it. Hell, I even forced myself to go out with girls my age at school, despite the fact I felt absolutely no attraction to them. I thought, maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough? I was pretty confused, and upset at the time because I didn’t really know what to do.
After countless nights of deliberating, I came to the conclusion that this was who I was, and there was nothing I could do to change it. There’s no use in constantly fighting with yourself, or putting yourself down over feelings you can’t do anything about. It doesn’t get you anywhere, and it’s just counter-productive overall. However, just because you can’t choose your feelings, doesn’t mean you can’t choose your actions. Everyone can make the choice to keep children safe. I took this idea to heart.
Even back then, before I discovered all the support networks available, I knew I would never harm an innocent child. I genuinely didn’t have the willpower to intentionally hurt a child. It was never a consideration to me back then, just like it isn’t now. I knew that I cared for children very deeply, and I wanted them to be happy, and safe. Why would anyone hurt someone they love and care for?
After a while, it was honestly a bit lonely having to go around, day after day, with such a heavy secret looming over you. All the while knowing that you could never tell anyone, no matter how much you wanted to, because they wouldn’t understand. Most would see pedophiles in the usual way, as the monstrous, evil, child abusers who want nothing more than to hurt kids. I couldn’t really blame them for that line of thinking, since I felt the exact same way, until I realized I was one myself.
So, to try and counter these negative feelings, when I was around 17, I decided to search around the Internet for more information about pedophilia. I didn’t know what I was looking for, exactly, I didn’t know how many of us were out there, I didn’t know if there was some cure I just wasn’t aware of, I hardly knew anything. All I knew was that it was miserable feeling like you were completely alone.
One of the first things I stumbled upon was a podcast called This American Life. The episode I saw focused on individuals or groups of people who are often threatened, and publicly shamed, appropriately titled “Tarred and Feathered”. I remember hardly being able to contain my excitement when I read that a younger-aged pedophile was being interviewed. So there are others like me! I ran up to my room and closed the door, put in some earbuds, and just listened. I listened to every single word of that podcast at least three times that day, and I couldn’t help but grin the entire way through.
It was then that I realized I wasn’t alone. The article, and his story, resonated with me on so many levels, and I’m pretty sure I cried at least once, just out of pure relief. From there, I discovered Virtuous Pedophiles (or VirPed for short), a support forum dedicated to helping pedophiles realize that they can live healthy, happy lives without ever harming children. Just seeing people from all across the globe, supporting one another in their shared goal of keeping children safe, was truly amazing to see.
It was through VirPed that I met lots of other pedophiles who were going through the same struggles I was going through, and I couldn’t have been happier. I was happy to finally have a place where I belong, a place where I was understood, a place where I could be honest for once! All those years of concealing my thoughts and feelings were finally over. It honestly felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders that day. Most importantly of all though, were the core values and beliefs that all of the members shared. Thousands of people, regardless of their age, sex, or spoken tongue, all dedicated to keeping children safe and unharmed: no exceptions whatsoever. If that means being a 40, or 50-year-old virgin, then so be it, as long as children are kept safe.
Much to my surprise, I found that the VirPed community was just as diverse as any other group. I remember feeling a rush of relief after discovering that the community wasn’t a bunch of creepy, child abusing stalkers with white vans, as I was led to believe pedophiles were for so long. I quickly learned that all the pedophile stereotypes were far from true — the only time they were brought up was at the expense of a joke. Interacting with the community made me realize that pedophiles are just regular people, your everyday Joes. They’re the nervous 20-year-old girls, and the outgoing 25-year-old soccer players, the hardcore video game players, the insanely skillful guitar players; you name it, we’ve got it. And yes, there’s even a few folks in their 50s and 60s, too.
The sheer importance of communities like this can’t be overstated, as they play a pivotal role in helping prevent child abuse before it ever occurs. I can personally attest to the tremendous positive impact that these child protection groups have had on my life. Hell, it’s because of these communities that I’m even writing here to begin with.
Now, try to imagine if this group was never founded, and all the thousands of members were left to struggle on their own. The outcome certainly feels a lot bleaker without these support groups in place as safeguards against abuse. Through all their years of hard work, this organization and it’s members are living, breathing proof that we only want what’s best for children. Maybe it’s proof enough to encourage a bit of understanding between you and I? Maybe it’s proof enough to make you think twice before believing everything you hear about us online, or on the news? And maybe it’s proof enough to make you reconsider the question, “What is a pedophile, anyway?”