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By shocu
Telegram: @shocu7
Originally published in MAPness:
http://mapness.home.blog/2020/01/28/growing-up-a-map/

I was born to two loving parents who to this day never failed to be there for me. I was raised in a multilingual environment, as I had family members from different cultures. At age 4, my uncle introduced me to the wonderful world of video games, an obsession that would follow me to this very day. At school I was initially not a very good student, and at one point I had to repeat an entire grade. Thankfully, I was eventually able to pull myself together and actually start catching up academically. I was even able to skip a grade later, bringing me back in pace.

Overall, my childhood seemed like a relatively regular one. Nothing particularly exceptional. Looking back at it now, however, I recognize certain aspects—“clues,” if you will—that as a child were invisible to me but were nevertheless indicative of something that would mark a quintessential part of my existence, something that I now know was part of me from the very beginning.

I remember—possibly around the age of 6 or 7—that I sometimes liked to imagine Young Link from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time naked. I didn’t know why at the time, of course, but for some reason I simply liked picturing him like that. I’m fairly sure I did the same with other boys from games/shows. A few years later, I found myself occasionally doing the same for boys I actually knew: picturing them naked. Not doing anything in particular, to be clear—simply naked.

In retrospect, I can tell these were just early signs of what was to come, but back then, my child self didn’t really question these things. They were just thoughts I enjoyed for whatever reason.

At around age 13, I started to learn what sex was, being taught first by my parents and then a bit later at school (sex ed). I learned what puberty was and wondered when it would happen to me. Around this time, knowing what it was now, I started noticing that I would sometimes imagine kids my age or younger in sexual situations. I figured it was normal, since I myself was a kid. When I hit puberty at 14, however, these thoughts got more intense. I started masturbating more frequently, and at points I couldn’t seem to get my mind off of it. I guess it’s not too uncommon for teenagers at that age to feel libidinous, since their sex drive is just waking up for the first time, but there were a few things I couldn’t help noticing: first, I was still mostly aroused by picturing kids my age or younger in sexual situations. At this point I still didn’t feel too concerned about this, since I still figured it was normal, but the second thing I noticed was that I never seemed to find adult women attractive at all. I would never picture one when masturbating, and I’ve never found the female body particularly appealing. I found this rather odd, since the culture and media around me strongly suggested that boys like myself should be drooling over the female body. Both boys my age and adult men always seemed so fixated on things like breasts, and yet, in my case, I actually found breasts rather repulsive.

Perhaps it all meant that I was gay? The thought certainly crossed my mind, but the thing is, I wasn’t finding men particularly attractive either.

By the time I reached 15, it was all starting to sink in. I was still imagining kids, except this time I wasn’t thinking of any 15-year-olds, but rather kids as old as 14 but as young as 9. At this point in my life, I had already heard the word “pedophilia,” though all I knew about it were news reports and horror stories about dirty old men senselessly abusing children for their own pleasure. I was confused. I didn’t know what to make of all this, and I really started to worry. Anxiety kicked in, an anxiety that lasted all the way to adulthood. I didn’t want to believe it. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why would I be anything like that creepy old man on TV? I didn’t want to be a bad person, and I wasn’t a bad person, but what was I to make of all this? And there was seemingly nothing I could do about it either. Trying to force myself to think only of adults whenever I felt aroused didn’t seem to be very effective. In fact, it only made it clearer that only kids seemed to get anything out of me. And it wasn’t like I was pleasantly enjoying that fact. I was horrified at what it could all mean, and yet there just wasn’t anything I could do to change it. What’s worse, I was too afraid to talk to anyone about it. I feared how others would react to this. I feared they’d never want to talk to me again, and that they’d call the police on me, that my life would essentially end. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the legal aspects regarding this. I was under the impression that simply having these feelings was enough to constitute a crime. I was also too scared to try to even look up information about this online, since I thought even searching for words such as “pedophile” was enough to get me in trouble.

This fear and anxiety eventually developed into recurring nightmares. Sometimes, I would dream of my family or everyone I knew finding out and turning against me in disgust. I remember one particular nightmare I had on several occasions. My mother, somehow finding out about this, turned around to face me, her expression being that of looking upon the aftermath of a massacre: indignation, shame, revulsion. Her eyes were watery, and her frown was so pronounced it seemed like it was going to split her face in two. She yelled at me to get out. I tried to plead, but she just screamed louder. As I started backing up, other family members started appearing: my father, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, all with the same expression and all yelling the same thing: “Get out!” I went into a panic. I ran out the door to my own house and started running through the streets, still hearing my family in the distance. Eventually, I heard it all around me: “Get out!” Those words as well as a mixture of insults came from nearly every house in the neighborhood. People were exiting their homes. I eventually found myself surrounded. I had nowhere to turn to, and the entire world was against me, ready to do who knows what.

One day I decided to finally start looking for information online. At first I wasn’t even sure what to look for. I didn’t know the terms “MAP,” “minor attraction,” “chronophilias,” or anything like that, and the word “pedophile” still had a very negative connotation in my head. Nevertheless, I searched for what I could. At first, it wasn’t very reassuring: reports of molested children and discussions about the horrors of pedophilia, and how they all deserved death.

Eventually, however, I managed to stumble upon some more-informative resources. I read the Wikipedia article about pedophilia, which in turn lead me to articles about other chronophilias and groups such as Virtuous Pedophiles, along with some other online articles talking about the subject. I was finally beginning to understand what it was I was dealing with. What I had wasn’t some curse that predestined me to turn into a monster. This was an attraction that life had dealt for me through no action of my own. It wasn’t too dissimilar to homosexuality in that sense. I realized that simply having this attraction didn’t mean I was a bad person. Of course, it wasn’t that well articulated in my head at the time; it took me several years to properly process all of this. Throughout those years I still had recurring nightmares and self-esteem issues. At a few points in my life, I had suicidal thoughts cross my mind.

During my search I also found information regarding groups such as NAMBLA and some pro-contact arguments. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of these at first. The concept of child consent was actually something I didn’t put too much thought into, despite discovering my attraction. I was a minor myself, so the idea of a relationship between a minor and an adult (or child sexuality in general) wasn’t something I pondered much, since I was still trying to figure myself out. These days, although I can recognize that child sexuality may be more complex than we give it credit for, sexual interactions with children is far too risky for the child, and I wouldn’t encourage it.

While researching all of this, I also learned about shotacon (and lolicon, although shotacon was more relevant to me). The concept of animated/drawn pornography involving child characters was interesting to me. It meant a potential way one with this attraction could indulge in their sexual fantasies without putting actual children at risk. I remember I had even contemplated it before: whether there existed hentai depicting fictional children, and whether something like that could be considered legal since it wasn’t real. (Pornography involving actual children was definitely out of the question for me.) I was tempted to search for it, but I was afraid. For one thing, back then I didn’t really know about the legal situation regarding such drawings or if there were cases of people getting arrested over drawings. However, there was another reason I was afraid to look it up. Despite how obvious it was at this point and how much research I had done so far, there was still a part of me that didn’t want to believe I had this attraction. I was afraid that if I looked at such images, there would essentially be no turning back: I would no longer be able to deny this about myself. The answer would explicitly lie before me. Of course, looking back now, the answer was already obvious, but my young self had trouble accepting that.

One day I decided to just go ahead and do it. I searched for it. And I found it. What I felt upon seeing it terrified me. I had seen pornography involving adults or adult characters before, and it did occasionally caused some arousal in me. But this was different. It felt much more “genuine.” I hadn’t felt that way about a pornographic image before. I was terrified because, as I saw it, there was simply no way to deny it anymore: I was attracted to young boys.

For the next few weeks, I had trouble sleeping. I couldn’t get it off of my mind. The anxiety had commenced all over again. There was no doubt about it now, but I didn’t know what to do. I was still too afraid to talk to anyone. There was the possibility of going to a therapist, but I had read that many therapists were inexperienced/untrained on the subject and would sometimes report the patient even if there was no need to. It was due to laws that heavily incentivized them to report patients they deemed “potentially dangerous,” with more legal consequences for not reporting someone who does end up doing something than for reporting them unnecessarily.

I was also uneasy about whether viewing shotacon could potentially get me in trouble, since I wasn’t sure if it was legal or not. Some nights I would be in my room fearing the police would suddenly burst through the door. I was confused and conflicted. I remember I even attempted several times to view gay porn (with adults) in some kind of attempt to get me to like that more. It was never quite the same. Eventually, I went back to looking at shotacon again. It was so conflicting: on the one hand it made me feel sexually gratified, yet on the other hand I wasn’t sure if what I was doing was right. The nightmares started haunting me again.

Little by little, however, I came to accept myself and my attraction. I continued researching it. I learned that I was a hebephile (since that’s the age range I generally found attractive). I also heard about the term “MAP,” though I still didn’t quite understand what it meant. I now had a clearer picture regarding the legality of shotacon and other similar images—where I live, it’s generally legal (although it’s still a bit in a “gray” area), and even in places where it isn’t, it’s rarely enforced, since authorities rightly prioritize real children over drawings. I started feeling more at ease with myself. I was understanding myself better now. I knew this attraction didn’t mean I would one day suddenly lose control and sense of morality. I knew that having an attraction did not equal having a desire to rape or harm anyone, and that I was in control of my actions. I had accepted that this attraction would never go away, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t live a happy and healthy life because of it.

I came out to a few of my friends that I trusted. I also mustered the courage to tell my parents about it. Although initially talking about it was difficult, as I was handing them the information that for years I dreaded people knowing about, once I was finally able to spit it out, to get it off my chest, and then hear them understand me and still accept me for who I was, a feeling like that of lifting a massive burden off of myself manifested (keeping a secret like that for so long has its toll). It made me feel so much better about myself once everything was said and done.

I also decided to visit a therapist. Although I was starting to feel more comfortable with myself, I still wanted his opinion. After a couple of very long sessions mostly consisting of me explaining this attraction to him as well as going over some early signs from my childhood, the therapist determined that I was no real danger to children, as I was well aware of what I had and showed no intentions of harming anybody. He also saw that I was accepting of myself and was living a healthy life. Eventually, there just wasn’t much else to talk about, and we decided to end our sessions, although he let me know that I could come back and renew them anytime.

Despite my newfound comfort, one thing that still made me rather uneasy was how there was seemingly no network of support for people like me. For the longest time, I was mostly only able to worry about myself as a MAP and how it would affect me. Now that I felt more comfortable with myself, I couldn’t help but think of other people like me who were still trying to come to terms with this while having next to no one they can talk to and little direction on where to start looking. As I got older, I also thought about teenagers going through a similar ordeal I did during that age. It seemed so unfair to me that young MAPs had to go through all that anxiety and confusion over something inborn, and then confront it all alone.

On occasions I looked for discussions or articles regarding people with this attraction and how they were able to cope with it. Unfortunately, there was very little information I could find and instead a lot of incensed content that made me simply want to stop looking, as the negativity reminded me of those horrible days where I felt forsaken.

But there was one thing that still made me rather upset. Once in a blue moon, I would find articles or videos that actually attempted to discuss this, whether it be MAPs talking about their experience, people discussing ways in which they can be helped, or a discussion about the stigma surrounding this topic. Whenever I looked at the responses for these articles/videos, I’d see people reacting in a vile manner. They’d say that these articles/videos were “normalizing” child sexual abuse, that they were defending irredeemable monsters, that these people deserved death rather than help. To all this, I’m left wondering if these people even watched or read the same thing I did. It was outright disturbing to me how people would react so hatefully to those trying desperately to understand themselves and actively seeking help. These comments excreted negativity, making comparisons to defending murderers, insulting authors, and expressing disbelief that a person with such an attraction could possibly be anything other than a rape-obsessed monster. It all disgusted me. It made me outright angry that people like me could not even go out of their way to seek help and try to be decent human beings in spite of their attraction without being exposed to nothing but pure hatred and disgust. Such an attitude does nothing to protect children from abuse. In fact, it can be argued that it contributes to the opposite: it brings vulnerable people into the brink of isolation and desperation, which, for some, may lead to regrettable actions. Also, the approach of dealing with abuse only after it’s too late instead of seeking ways to prevent it hardly protects anyone. If there is to be any hope of minimizing child sexual abuse as much as possible, it is fundamental to properly understand what it is we’re dealing with.

There was one YouTube video I remember. I can’t recall the title or the person who made it, but I remember there was a young man on camera reacting to various things he found on the web. At one point in the video, he found what seemed to be a forum about psychology where users posted about psychological issues they faced in the hope of potentially receiving the insight of a professional or at least that of other users. He had found a post from someone fearing that he might be a pedophile, saying he had been having sexual thoughts about children and that he didn’t know what to do. He was hoping someone in that forum might be able to help him.

To this, the man in the YouTube video said something along the lines of, “Well, maybe you could start by not being a piece of shit,” in the most natural tone. I was so angry. Here was someone who had discovered this about themselves and actively sought help both to understand what he has and out of fear of that it could mean he could become a child molester, and this man simply tells him to “not be a piece of shit,” as if it were his choice to have this attraction, as if this whole issue could be solved by simply “not being” minor-attracted, as if him having this unchosen attraction was enough to make him “a piece of shit,” as if he was a bad person simply for asking someone to help him. I couldn’t continue watching at that point.

Now well into my adult years and already graduated from university, I started viewing two podcasts on YouTube: MAPs IRL and Journeys with MAPs and Legends (now A MAPs Journey). I started looking into the MAP community much more, learning about all the terms relating to it as well as all the wonderful people (both minor-attracted and otherwise) that persisted through all the hostility in order to help fellow MAPs. I myself even started meeting some MAPs over the Internet. However, the constant hostility I saw towards people like me still irked me. In fact, there was now an urge building up inside me: an urge that implored me to speak up, to let people know that I, a MAP, a hebephile, existed, and that I was a human being like any other. The constant negativity I saw regarding this attraction made me more and more upset. That feeling made that aforementioned urge stronger and stronger, until one day I decided I had had enough: “shocu” was born. I started a Twitter account and went into a bit of a rant. I ended up getting into a lot of arguments with strangers that perhaps I could have handled better, but at least I was finally putting my voice out there.

Eventually, I decided to write an essay explaining what many of the terms relating to MAPs meant, as I had noticed that much of the hostility towards us stemmed from misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding what being a MAP is. I also wanted to present my argument that MAPs are unjustifiably dehumanized. It was all in an attempt to offer my honest perspective as a MAP to the world. When deciding how I was going to publish it, I decided to start a WordPress account to make a website where I could put that essay as well as have a place available for any future essays I might write.

During my time on Twitter, I witnessed my fair share of people being disgusted over my existence. Being the subject of such hatred has at times had its toll on me. Seeing people so convinced that I was a monster, that I was incapable of anything good, that I was just a time bomb, that I deserved death, produced in me a profound discomfort for humanity. It disturbed that people would be so willing to demonize others who are not like them and insist on assuming the worst of people. The feeling of being hated—especially when it’s for something innate, for your mere existence—is quite literally sickening. At times, particularly when I first started, I felt a nauseating sensation in my stomach. It would feel as though my body were trying to digest all that putrid hatred. I would often need to stop what I was doing to go to the bathroom. Even now, I sometimes feel that sensation in my stomach as I log into Twitter in anticipation of what could be waiting for me. Despite all that, however, the ability to let my voice be heard, the positive change I sometimes witness in other MAPs, seeing how my words positively influence them, seeing people trying to make an effort to learn about us, and the rare occasions I see someone finally comprehend just why it is that I speak out has made it all worth it. Overall, I believe this has been positive for me, not only because of the feeling that I may be getting through to someone out there or at least providing other MAPs with a sense of solidarity, but also because I’ve been able to put my voice out there to let people know what I, a MAP, think. It has provided a sort of an emotional vent for me.

So now, here I am, still trying my best to educate, still trying my best to provide support, still trying my best to show people that I am human, that all MAPs are human, and that we should be treated as such. I do not know how many people see my tweets and essays and actually understand the point I’m trying to make, but I will continue writing in the hope that somewhere out there my voice is being heard, or that at the very least other MAPs can see that they are not alone, that they are more than their attraction, that they are human.