CW/TW: Child Abuse/Pedophelia/Incest
It is one of the last bastions for widely accepted hatred in modern western society. Few topics rouse the intensity of anger, aggression, and judgement that commonly accompanies the idea of adult sexual interest in children.
Because it comes from a justified desire to protect innocent children and to avenge those who have been so profoundly and permanently devastated by sexual abuse, a hostility toward pedophiles is difficult to condemn or decry. Our hostility presumably originates from a noble and understandable place. However, it is also often unfortunately misdirected, and it can have unfair consequences.
It’s usually easier to dole out our disapproval in bundles that we leave undissected and unexamined rather than to ensure its precision. Such oversight is even more appealing when the subject matter is, by its very nature, both distasteful and frightening to us. We don’t want to envision the realities of adult sexual attraction to children, and we don’t want to dwell on the fact that our own children may at some point be affected by it.
Perhaps it is for this reason that, more often than not, we fail to acknowledge that pedophelia and acts of child sexual molestation (and other forms of sexual abuse toward minors) are not exactly the same thing. While they do certainly sometimes go hand-in-hand, sexual abuse can occur without the presence of pedophilia, and a pedophile can live their entire life without ever effecting a child in a sexual manner.
Our mistake is the overly convenient assumption that all pedophiles embrace, or, much less realistically, have chosen, their pedophelia. The reality is that the vast, vast majority of pedophiles spend their lives combatting, denying, and trying to escape their own sexual urges. Most of them wish as intensely, if not more intensely, than the rest of us do that they had healthier attractions to more suitable sexual partners.
If we can bring ourselves to accept that there is a group of pedophiles who never would have chosen to feel a sexual attraction toward children, and who would have done anything to rid themselves of that internal urge, then we can finally begin to consider, at least on a removed, intellectual level, how difficult that burden must be for them.
As a largely heterosexual society that’s just now trying to expand our level of general acceptance of difference, we’re finally beginning to attempt to sympathize with how difficult it must be for our lesbian, gay, and bisexual neighbors and loved ones to have grown up in an external atmosphere at unrelenting and hostile odds with their internal feelings. In fact, there was a time (which I hope we’re now on the dawn of escaping) when an unimaginable number of us assumed gay men were probably also pedophiles.
In case I have not been abundantly clear to this point, allow me to take this opportunity to specifically explain that it is not my intention to equate homosexuality, bisexuality, and pedophelia, other than to acknowledge that all involve naturally occurring sexual preferences which have, at varying times and to varying degrees, been the targets of disapproval and persecution by the heterosexual majority.
I would also never intentionally downplay the struggles our homosexual and bisexual neighbors have been forced to endure over the years, but I do believe the atmosphere is improving, albeit slowly and insufficiently. Homosexual and bisexual activities and lifestyles are no longer illegal in some of the areas in which they used to be. Same sex marriages are officially recognized in the United States and some other nations. There’s still a long way to go, but progress is being made.
There is no progress to be made now, or probably ever, in terms of accepting sexual activity or romantic coupling between adults and children, nor should there be. My earlier or coming acknowledgements that pedophiles are tragically doomed to difficult, frightening, and heartbreakingly unsatisfying lives are in no way an endorsement of any adult’s decision to engage in sexual activity with any other individual who does not have the capability to consent. Children who have not yet matured to a certain degree are not capable of consenting to sexual activity, and, therefore, engaging in sexual activity with a child is unquestionably morally and ethically wrong.
That in no way negates or mitigates the fact that some people do naturally feel a sexual attraction to children, however. And that’s the part with which I cannot make myself comfortable. I cannot simply wrap myself up in the cocoon of “it’s wrong, and they shouldn’t do it”, closing off my vision to the larger external reality of “but those individuals still have to live with that desire.”
I agree that we cannot allow pedophiles outlets (like child pornography) that still exploit and severely damage children even in cases when no direct sexual contact is present. Yet, I’m still haunted by the idea of allowing pedophiles no satisfying sexual outlet at all.
It is bitterly heartbreaking to me to consider that any person, regardless of sexual preference, is forced by the combination of both fervent popular opinion and threat of legal punishment to live their entire lives knowing that they may never, ever, even so much as admit their sexual preference to another person, let alone ever be able to act on that preference. They may never feel a romantic love that also includes a sexual interaction: children will always age, and children will never (and/or should never) be considered acceptable sexual partners. The pedophile’s options are to live a quiet lie alone or to live a more extensive lie with someone who’ll never truly satisfy them.
The best option I’ve ever heard for satisfying pedophile sexual desires as best we can is to provide them with or allow them to purchase child sex robots. It’s an imperfect solution from every perspective, but there may not be a better option now or for a long time. Even that best case scenario carries a depressing certainty for a young person looking ahead toward a long life of dealing with internal frustration. Many people believe that pedophiles do not deserve even that ineffective measure of relief.
If we’re being open-minded, and as humane, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate as we can, we recognize that the best we can do is to offer an imperfect and incomplete solution to a person living with an endless and heartbreaking set of circumstances. You’d think, as in other such cases in which our collective ability to offer people even the remote possibility of complete happiness is compromised, that we’d at least be able to offer kindness. Yet, what other group of people, innocent of any actual wrong-doing, are we as completely hostile toward and intolerant of, as we are toward pedophiles who successfully struggle their entire lives to never act on their urges?
A lot of people aren’t ready to hear this. A lot of people are not going to be able to bring themselves to set their fears and their inaccurate stereotypes and assumptions aside to extend innocent pedophiles the respect, compassion, and appreciation they deserve. I am going to do my best to try, though, and I hope that you’ll try with me.