This is a topic that is controversial even for pedophiles. Before you begin this, take a few deep breaths, and set aside your fears. We are about to dive into a topic that most people would rather avoid, but when we talk about people with an attraction to children (pedophiles), we need to understand what the options are, realistically.
Background: Can Sexual Attraction Change?
The science almost unanimously says no, it cannot. While sexual attraction has some fluidity, there is no way to make, for example, a gay man straight. While the gay man might have some attraction to women that fluctuates from time to time, he will always remain attracted to other men. I recently wrote a thread on Twitter describing this, and wrote another article about why acceptance is the only solution available to someone with an attraction to children. I also wrote an article examining the claims of Paul Federoff, who believes (without reliable evidence) that pedophilia can be changed. Suffice to say (and you can read through all that if you like), pedophiles are stuck with their pedophilia. Obviously, it is immoral to act on these attractions in a way that would harm a real-live child. That means, in part, no having sexual contact with children, no viewing images that involve real children in sexual situations (child sexual exploitation material, herein referred to as CSEM), and no situations that can enable these choices. That is the background for this article.
Fantasy: A Harmless Outlet
Anything can happen in a sexual fantasy, hence the name. Some pedophiles believe that all fantasy is harmless, where some prefer to avoid fantasies that involve children they know personally. Some prefer to attempt to suppress all fantasy (which, as you can read about here, often makes matters worse instead of better).
In a fantasy, you can fly, there can be aliens, there can be whips but no real pain, there can be whatever you can imagine. Provided you understand that fantasy and reality are separate (and most of us have no difficulty understanding that), there are no limits to what someone can imagine. Fiction novels are a very, very vast and broad range of fantasy that many people have enjoyed for centuries. There has often been talk in psychology about the effects of violent fantasy, as seen on television/movies, and to a lesser extent, in books. Psychology has shown that young children are particularly susceptible to violence in media, but for adults, it is mostly a harmless form of entertainment.
Why Pedophiles Do Not Want To Rape Children (no matter how rudely you put that)
When you take those ideas and you apply them to a sexual attraction to children, that is where you begin to understand that someone with a sexual attraction to children might have the attractions, but no desire to rape/harm a child through any means, including CSEM. They realize their attractions can never be harmlessly acted on with a real child, and so do not want that outcome.
What pedophiles desire in a fantasy is not the same thing as what they desire from reality, because reality can never fulfill their fantasies. While it might be attractive in a fantasy for a child to have full knowledge of sex and talk dirty, that is not the reality of what children are like. While a fictional child in a fantasy could consent to sexual activity (because they are fictional), a real child cannot. What pedophiles want in a fantasy is simply not possible in reality. Why desire something we can never have?
Fantasy Is Ethical
Put simply, a fantasy is just that: Fictional. Provided someone understands that and does not blur the line between fantasy and reality, fantasy is a perfectly healthy and legal outlet for pedophiles to have. While some countries can restrict fictional content depicting children (not CSEM, but computer-generated art and drawings, essentially), they cannot restrict what happens in a pedophile’s mind.
Almost no one, thinking Christians included, believe that fantasy involving adults is unethical, provided it does not lead to the desire to act on the fantasy (see prior paragraph). While some evangelical Christians believe that lust is any sexual thought, an actual analysis of the applicable verses show otherwise. Most non-Christians believe that fantasies of adults are perfectly acceptable, sometimes even rape fantasies. Why? Again, because they are fictional, and as long as the person does not have an inclination to act on their fantasies, they are harmless.
Fictional Materials Depicting Children
If you want the full effect of my discussion around fictional materials that depict children – computer-generated art, manga, etc that do not involve actual images of children – you can read my article about it. Suffice it to say that if the art is not harming a real-live child, it is ethical, even while it remains illegal in some countries (such as Canada and parts of the UK).
As I explain in my article, removing the only harmless form of pornographic material could actually put children in danger rather than keeping them safe, because making such material illegal can lead to a pedophile thinking that the entire world is out to get them, and from there, “What’s the point of keeping kids safe if it’s all illegal anyway?” That mindset is dangerous for obvious reasons. While obviously, fictional materials depicting children should not be made or distributed in a way that could identify real children as their basis, and should certainly not be made of CSEM or CSA, if fictional material is the only pornographic outlet available to pedophiles, and it harms no one, then we should not be restricting it.
This argument is not restricted to computer-generated art, either, it also includes child-focused erotica, manga, books, and short stories that depict children in sexual situations. If they are fictional, and do not harm a real child, then they should not be restricted so as to give pedophiles a harmless and legal outlet for their attractions.