As many of you who already know my story are aware, when I was about 13 and a half, I started developing an attraction to younger boys that came seemingly out of nowhere. Before that, I was only turned on by women and same-aged girls. Not only turned on by, but sexually obsessed with. Most of the molestation and sexual bullying I endured at the hands of older kids as a boy had been done by females, and it led to a hypersexuality that I’m certain isn’t healthy for a preteenage boy. However, up to that point, not once had my premature obsession with sex and pornography been directed towards males at all. As the 13.5 year old me rapidly discovered his attraction to younger boys, he found his attraction to females disappear completely and almost immediately.
I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom in the late summer of 1988, looking at pictures of boys in the Sears catalog. (Yes, kids, this is before the internet.) Why did my mind and my heart suddenly race at the thought of what those boys might look like if you took off all those clothes they were advertising? Then, the more overtly sexual thoughts crept in. I tried to repel those thoughts and wish them away but they just kept coming back stronger. It was as if the attraction had started out as a babbling brook but very rapidly turned into a raging river that I could no longer swim upstream against, no matter how hard I tried. It was futile to resist, and before to long I surrendered and let that torrent of raging water take me where it would.
As I rifled through the boys section of that big, thick catalog, I remember asking myself in my head, “Am I gay? Why am I turning gay?” However, it didn’t take me very long to realize that I was not turning gay in any normal sense. I was well into puberty at that point, and the boys who I began finding attractive were all younger and prepubescent. I had no idea what it all meant though. I had no frame of reference. I was totally lost and confused. I hoped that maybe it was a phase and that it would go away, but the more the weeks and months wore on, the more this new found attraction hard-wired itself into my being.
Keep in mind now, that in the late 80’s, the word “pedophile” was not nearly as much a part of the public vernacular as it is today. At 13, I had never even heard the word. Sure, I knew there were people out there who molested children but I didn’t have any concept of the fact that there existed adults who were primarily sexually interested in children. I had been warned all throughout my childhood of molesters, but didn’t really have much of a handle on who they were exactly either. To me, child molesters were dark, shadowy, creepy strangers who wore trench coats and sat in windowless vans outside of schoolyards, with a bag of candy and a perpetual erection. They were people who abducted children, chained them up in their basements, did unspeakable things to them, and finally left them in shallow graves somewhere. Surely I wasn’t becoming one of those, right? I couldn’t be. I knew I was a nice person and I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Then, in the early months of 1989, there came the day when I found out. The day I found out what I was, or, at least was given a label to apply to myself and my new sexual identity. They say labels aren’t important, but they can be, especially when you’re trying to categorize something for the sake of making sense of it.
It was right around my fourteenth birthday, give or take a month or two. I was sitting in my living room, watching MTV, when the Madonna video for the the song “Open Your Heart” came on. Now, I’m not much of a Madonna fan and wasn’t even back then, but I was a bored teenage kid who would watch whatever crappy video came on MTV. At the time, I was probably waiting patiently for the next Guns n Roses or Motley Crue video. This was long before on-demand, mind you, and to see a rock video, you often had to wade through half a dozen or more teeny-bop videos and just enjoy the rock ones when MTV decided to air them. Though not a fan of Madonna, this video grabbed my attention and held it, because this video featured a stunningly gorgeous boy who appeared to be about 10 or 11.
So, I watched this video and was absolutely transfixed by the beauty of this boy. My heart skipped a beat every time he was shown on camera. Then, at the end of the video, Madonna bends down and kisses this little boy on the lips. It was all I could do not to excuse myself to the restroom for a fap right then and there. How badly I wished I could have kissed those lips like she did.
Towards the end of the video, my mother had come into room and witnessed the on-screen kiss. When Madonna’s lips pulled away from the boy’s, my mother became visibly perturbed and exclaimed, “Oh my god! What the hell is wrong with Madonna? Is she a pedophile or something?”
What had my mom just said? “A pedophile?” Having never heard this peculiar P word before, I hesitantly asked her, “What is a pedophile?” It was immediately clear she was made uncomfortable by my question and didn’t want to answer me, but I persisted. I wouldn’t let her off the hook, even though I could see that my steadfast inquiry was making her squirm. After a minute or two of pestering, she relented and reluctantly explained to me that a pedophile was an adult who was sexually attracted to children.
The second that explanation finished leaving her mouth, I knew it. I knew that’s what I was and what I was becoming. Now I had word for it though. A “pedophile”. I was a fucking pedophile! Sure, I had only just turned 14 myself, but that didn’t matter. That is what I was and that was suddenly my new reality.
As an aside, I know that the clinical definition of pedophile states that, to be a pedophile, one must be at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the children they are attracted to but I don’t completely agree with those criteria. Sure, I understand the need to apply those specifications to the definition from a clinical standpoint but, in reality, that clinical, textbook definition of pedophilia is far from infallible. I was every bit as much a pedophile the day I sat watching that Madonna video with my mother as I am today. Not from a clinical standpoint, but from a reality standpoint.
It’s hard for me to believe that day, that epiphany, that moment of clarity I had at 14 happened over 25 years ago. Christ, a quarter of a fucking century! How I’ve survived this long with all this is anybody’s guess, but how I survived the first few years of it is nothing short of a bloody fucking miracle.
From that day forward, I had a word to give some frame of reference to what I was, but it didn’t make me feel any less alone. Alone, confused, bewildered and lost. I only wonder what my life might have been like had 14 year old kids like me, in 1989, known they had places to turn for help and support for such things.
That’s why I do what I do, by the way. That’s why this discussion and this issue is so important. That’s why the topic of pedophilia needs to be wrestled out of the shadows and brought into the light, in a realistic sense. This is why we need to break through all the hysteria and dispel the myths. This, above all else, is why my fellow Virpeds and I will not be silenced and will not go away, no matter how uncomfortable the message we have may make some people.
If kids who came of age dealing with what I had to deal with did so in an environment where they did not have to feel ashamed and afraid to open up and reach out for help, how much better would things be for them and possibly lots of people around them? Sadly, I still don’t think we foster such an environment in our society, but I think we’re getting closer to a time and a place where we will, and I’m proud to be one of the people leading the charge to make that happen.
I’m currently writing what is essentially a coming-of-age story of a fictitious boy who is navigating through life in a new town while slowly becoming aware that he is increasingly attracted to prepubescent girls… It’s set in the 80s, and your mom’s Madonna video comment (and the ah-ha moment it gave you) would be so perfect for this story! Can I use it?? Who knows, it might get published one day…