Looking for Help

I was 14 years old when my life changed forever. That was when I realized that the ages of people I was attracted to weren’t increasing as I got older. I found myself catching feelings for the younger siblings of the peers I had found attractive two or three years prior. Scarier still, the lower bound of these ages seemed to be decreasing. I began to experience attractions to kids as young as 8 years old.

Being a teenager in the 21st century, my initial reaction was to go online looking for answers. What was wrong with me? What should I do about it? This went well at first; I quickly ended up on the Virtuous Pedophiles website, which helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in being a pedophile with no interest in acting on my attractions. As I continued to search I ended up on Twitter, and things went downhill pretty quickly. I saw post after post calling minor-attracted people and pedophiles evil, portraying them as monsters, and even advocating for genocide. I came away convinced that my attractions were inherently bad and dangerous and that any attempt to look for help or support would only expose me to the same hatred I saw online.

Over the next three years, I spiraled as I desperately tried to convince myself that I wasn’t attracted to kids. I hoped that if I buried that part of myself deep enough it would just go away. As anyone with basic knowledge of thought suppression or sexuality could have predicted, that only made my attractions feel stronger and seem more overwhelming, and my mental health suffered as a result. I felt isolated, unable to confide in my closest friends or family members, and at one point began drafting suicide notes in my head, perhaps hoping that if I explained what I was going through in that context it would be enough to make someone care and understand, or at the very least, sympathize. I never reached the point of actually intending to harm myself, but if I hadn’t gotten help when I did, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t be here to write this today.

Things culminated when I was 17, after I came across a video about another teenage pedophile whose parents placed him in an abusive “treatment” program centered around conversion therapy and assumed guilt. Of course, the media heralded them as heroes, and I, not knowing any better at the time, believed that they were. This brought years of shame and self-hate rushing back to the surface, and I spent several more weeks frantically searching the internet looking for someone, anyone, who would understand and want to help. Unfortunately, I overlooked a number of resources that would likely have helped me because I wrongly believed there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. Despite this, I came across MAP Support Club in November, 2020. After a couple of days of hesitation and second-guessing, I came up with the name Elliot Porter and filled out the application.

In the Community

It’s been over a year since I submitted that form, and since then my life has changed so drastically for the better that it’s sometimes hard for me to believe. I’ve accepted myself both as a pedophile and as gay. Ironically, the latter took longer for me to accept because the stress and attempts at thought suppression from being a pedophile made it difficult for me to recognize and come to terms with other aspects of my sexuality. I have a loving boyfriend who accepts me for who I am and I’m out as a pedophile to several friends from high school who are also supportive. I’ve also made dozens of friends in the MAP community through support groups and social media.

I first started doing activism aimed at reducing stigma and helping other minor-attracted people find support on Twitter in December 2020 and quickly found myself drawn to the work. Publicly speaking out in defense of other minor-attracted people and the community as a whole forced me to recognize and address my own internalized stigma and anti-MAP biases I had picked up from society and the media over the previous 17 years of my life. I also became more knowledgeable on minor attractions and support for minor-attracted people as I looked into the relevant research in order to strengthen my arguments. At the same time, I fell in love with my favorite part of activism: Helping others in the same position I was in at age 14 find a community to provide them with acceptance and support.

For any activist supporting marginalized groups, censorship comes with the territory. This is especially true for minor-attracted people, as social media companies and other platforms use widespread misinformation as an excuse to cut off a vital source of support for vulnerable teenagers and adults and see such an action as nothing more than an optics boost. As the banned accounts started to stack up I realized that I could do more good with a more permanent list of resources for minor-attracted people in need of support. Initially, I planned to make a separate Twitter account specifically for sharing resources, but after Twitter made it clear that their platform isn’t a safe space to support marginalized groups, I decided to make a website instead. As a result, on February 1st, 2021, MAP Resources was born.

Building a Website

In the year since I first shared the link to MAP Resources publicly, it has grown from a single page with a few links into a collection of resources designed to help as many MAPs as possible. With the help of dozens of minor-attracted people and our allies along the way, I’ve created a summary of research on minor-attracted people and minor attractions, a dictionary of common MAP-related terms, and even dedicated pages with advice and support for minor-attracted minors and friends and family members of MAPs. Throughout all of these projects, however, my primary goal has remained the same: Ensuring any MAP can find safe and effective support when they need it. The most important element of working on the website has always been finding and evaluating new resources to share.

Due to my activism and role in the MAP community, I’m constantly on the lookout for new support resources for minor-attracted people. Whenever I become aware of one, I review it before I consider listing it on MAP Resources. When I review, I look for stigmatizing language or misinformation about MAPs, efforts to promote harmful “treatments” such as conversion therapy, and any use of fearmongering to convince people that they need support. Resources that contain any of these are not ones I’m willing to promote, as the stigma does more harm than good. During this review process, however, I also learn a lot about the resources themselves, giving me a unique perspective into the underlying trends in the availability of support for minor-attracted people who are struggling with their attractions.

The State of Support for Minor-Attracted People

First, the good news: Support opportunities for minor-attracted people are more abundant than ever before and the body of research on effective support for MAPs is continuing to grow. Over the past two years, numerous new resources have become available, including Help Wanted and Talking for Change, both of which are support resources intended for minor-attracted people and created by sexual abuse prevention experts. There also appears to be a growing focus on supporting minor MAPs, a particularly vulnerable and undersupported population, as demonstrated by both Help Wanted and What’s OK?, a website from StopItNow! where teenagers and young adults can learn and ask questions about sexual thoughts and behaviors.

There is still room for improvement in a number of areas when it comes to support available to MAPs. The biggest area for improvement is the pushback against any efforts to support minor-attracted people from misinformed and blatantly bigoted individuals. Despite overwhelming evidence that access to support can reduce the likelihood of offending, some groups would rather use children as pawns in order to silence minorities rather than actually protect the children they claim to care about. This uses fearmongering to stifle research into and expert discussion on support for MAPs. These stigma-based attacks have already caused demonstrable harm by forcing a researcher focused on preventing child sexual abuse to step down from their position earlier this year.

Additionally, efforts to support minor-attracted people continue to consist mainly of programs with an end goal of preventing child abuse. A reduced risk of abuse is a side effect of minor-attracted people receiving support, but these programs often present that support as a “necessary evil” in their efforts to prevent abuse. This can cause minor-attracted people to feel taken advantage of or viewed as a risk. Research suggests that minor-attracted people are less likely to pursue support from programs that seem to designate them as a risk, so by supporting MAPs for the sole purpose of preventing abuse, the individuals behind these programs undermine their own work.

The overall trends in support for MAPs are positive, as mental health, sexuality, and even sexual abuse prevention experts are increasingly focusing on supporting the mental health of minor-attracted people and reducing the stigma that causes many to need support in the first place. The MAP community itself is growing and attracting the attention of more MAPs, allies, experts, and even journalists, increasing the number of people who are aware of the support available to them. As public knowledge of minor-attracted people continues to grow, so too will the availability of resources and support. As always, MAP Resources, myself, and others in the community will continue working to ensure all MAPs can find and benefit from these new resources, as well as existing ones.