The phrase “normalizing pedophilia” gets thrown around a lot, often an accusation levied against people seeking to prevent sexual violence by promoting support and resources for people who may be at-risk for sexual violence, such as pedophiles. However, this phrase is nonsense. It is an attempt to evoke emotions such as fear, rage, and disgust rather than a rational approach to keeping children safe from sexual violence.
Pedophilia is best understood as the sexual attraction to prepubertal children, though colloquially it has come to mean sexual abuse as well. Those who use the phrase “normalizing pedophilia” want there to be ambiguity between sexual attraction to taboo populations and the sexual violence perpetrated against those populations. This is part of the reason why far-right extremists love to levy accusations of pedophilia against their opponents: They know that people will stop thinking and start siding with them. It’s an intentional ploy to drive wedges and manipulate people.
This is where the phrase gets even murkier – again on purpose. Normalizing. When we think of normalizing something, we typically think of attempts to make something mainstream, or to lead something to being widely accepted and normal. This is a phrase that does not really have purpose in areas adjacent to mental health. Nobody discusses the normalization of autism because it sounds ridiculous. We can’t force people to have autism or to saying that they have autism. The same principle goes with depression, anxiety, and any other mental health condition.
We don’t talk about normalizing these things because we recognize that they are unchosen conditions that happen quite outside of anyone’s volition. Nobody chooses to have depression, anxiety, autism, or other mental health conditions. Yet we recognize the need to destigmatize these conditions because people with them need support and allowing freer discussion of them assists these people in finding that support.
Not A Mental Health Issue
While there are of course similarities between pedophilia and mental health conditions, they are not the same thing. The DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual for mental health conditions) draws a clear distinction between those who have the diagnosable condition of pedophilic disorder, the mental health condition, and those with the attraction itself – pedophilia. While pedophilia the attraction is neutral, pedophilic disorder is not neutral and can be classified as unhealthy.
The DSM-5 describes pedophilic disorder as meeting several diagnostic criteria, of which pedophilia the attraction is one of the requirements. The other requirements for diagnosis are distress felt due to having pedophilia and the societal stigma (hatred/misunderstanding) towards those with pedophilia or alternatively, someone who acts on their attractions in illegal ways. In other words, pedophilia is not a mental health condition.
However, pedophilia the attraction is quite clearly not a choice (who would choose to be attracted to children) and just as clearly is not something that can be changed, only managed and treated.
Again though, to discuss making this attraction normal is preposterous and quite obviously not what is meant by the phrase “normalizing pedophilia.”
The true intent behind the phrase is to subtly suggest that there is an organized effort to make child sexual abuse acceptable, and to infer that those the phrase is levied at are part of such an organized effort. However, this is a conspiracy theory. There is no formal, organized effort to promote the idea that children can safely be involved in sexual relationships with older children or adults. The people who do promote these ideas have nothing to do with this site, with Virtuous Pedophiles, MAP Support Club, Prostasia Foundation, or any of the conspiracy theorist’s other targets.
The phrase “normalize pedophilia” is simply the same conspiracy theories peddled by the far-right in their fascist attempts to control people. It’s an empty attempt to anger, not a legitimate concern that requires resources to address.
How To Take Action
With all of that said, here’s a few things you can do when you see this phrase come up:
- Ask yourself who’s using the phrase and why and whether they can be trusted.
- If this is online, ignore those using the phrase or block them.
- If this is in real life, ask those using this phrase what they mean. Now watch them squirm as they try to explain it.
- Donate your time and money to efforts to educate the public about child sexual abuse and minor attraction.
- Seek out communities of minor-attracted people and pedophiles and offer your support.