Hey, guys! I’m back, and I’m officially graduated and back home and desperately looking for a job so I can pay for graduate school next year! For the moment, though, I have nothing better to do than blog. What better way to celebrate my new status as part of the American intelligentsia than to talk about the light, fun, happy subject of . . . pedophilia. Yep. Skip to the end if you only want me to talk about the left, but I would greatly appreciate if you’d stick around for the other stuff too.
This is a pretty heavy subject that elicits viscerally negative reactions from most everyone (even from actual pedophiles, which I will get into). Unrepentant murderers and rapists in prison will shiv people to death if it’s found out that they are in jail for child molestation. People don’t like it, to put it lightly, and for totally understandable reasons that are so obvious they don’t need to be elaborated on.
That being said *caveat, caveat, caveat* what you typically see when discussing the subject of pedophilia is a total lack of desire to understand what it is and very conditional concern that leans towards the stereotypical. That’s a double-pronged criticism that requires further explanation. The two issues are inherently interwoven with each other: the existence of very salient stereotypes goes a long way towards fueling the unresponsiveness. It’s kind of like internet feminists and the topic of rape–they only want to hear that it’s bad and disgusting and that rapists are evil, and there’s apparently no further conversation to be had on the matter.
In regards to pedophilia, the very salient stereotype is a creepy-looking guy with rapist glasses and a rapist comb-over and a rapist face, someone who is just an obvious embodiment of unwanted, sadistic, deviant sexual desires. Just picture the bad guy from The Lovely Bones, and that is what people typically think of when they picture a pedophile, for better or for worse: an obviously and knowingly evil person, with evil desires and evil motives, who does evil things to innocent children–the worst thing you could possibly do.
The issue with this is not the knee-jerk revulsion towards the idea of hurting a child. The issue is that this appropriate knee-jerk revulsion and the images it brings with it aren’t overly accurate to the reality of the situation, for many reasons that I’ll get into. To address the issue of the immediate, stereotypical image of a pedophile that is conjured up to everybody who hears the word: 1.) This makes it more difficult to find and convict actual child molesters because “suspicious subjects” being reported by the public tend to just “have that look” without actually having done anything, which sometimes leads to tragic consequences when people who have committed no crime are still convicted by the court of public opinion. 2.) The disgust it elicits is very conditional–female pedophiles aren’t looked on with nearly as much knee-jerk societal disgust. They aren’t shanked in prison for being child molesters, and a woman isn’t deemed automatically suspicious for hanging around a playground, is all I’m saying. The adherence to the idea that a pedophile is just some evil creep doesn’t do much to actually deal with the issue at hand.
This very salient idea of a pedophile as just some evil creep also totally ignores the reality of what pedophilia is, in the overwhelming majority of cases. That’s why I feel the need to actually detail what pedophilia is and what it does and does not entail before addressing the question that the title of this post is asking.
Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder. More specifically, it’s a kind of paraphilia. Being attracted to non-human or inanimate objects is a kind of paraphilia. Extreme forms of sexual sadism/masochism is a kind of paraphilia. The sub-section of rapists who are actually in it for sexual pleasure and not just as a from of control and dominance are paraphiliacs, etc, etc. The term essentially covers all types of people who are attracted to things and behaviors that it isn’t normal or healthy to be attracted to. Pedophilia is a fairly specific term refering to attraction to prepubescent children, distinguishing it from the often conflated hebephilia (attraction to adolescent children on the younger end of the scale) and ephebophilia (attraction to late adolescents).
Before I go into further explanations, I should note that there is a difference between pedophilia and pederasty. I’d be willing to bet that most adults who took part in pederasty weren’t actually pedophiles , as pederasty was a socially accepted form of mentorship and more of a social institution than a sexual thing, for the most part. The line is also blurred when it comes to child marriages, which are, once again, something with an acceptability level that varies from society to society and therefore may or may not actually entail any pedophilic desires. Note: this is not me saying that pederasty and child marriages are fine “because culture,” this is me pointing out that it’s questionable whether or not instances of them would be considered pedophilia in the diagnosisable sense. Moving on.
The most important thing to point out when it comes to addressing misconceptions is that the overwhelming majority of known pedophiles are known not because they molested a child and went to prison, but because they have not yet committed any crimes, acknowledge their paraphlia, and are seeking psychiatric help for it. That’s what I mentioned in the beginning of this post: Pedophiles tend to be just as disgusted by pedophilia as everyone else. While acts of pedophilia can be sadistic in nature, of course, the psychiatric disorder itself is distinguished from the sadistic sub-types of paraphilia by virtue of being characterized largely by intrusive thoughts, which something like sexual sadism does not typically have.
Intrusive thoughts are not unique to psychiatric disorders. Everybody has them. Imagining punching someone in the face for no real reason, thinking to yourself that it’d be totally easy to bite off one of your fingers if you wanted to, or being in a high place and wondering what your body would look like if you jumped off are all examples of intrusive thoughts. Being disturbing is not what makes them signs of a mental disorder. The thing that makes them hit mental disorder-level is when they are so intrusive and so frequent and so vivid that they make it difficult to function normally in society.
I once heard of a case of OCD where a woman had such frequent intrusive thoughts about stabbing herself and those around her that she had her husband remove all the sharp objects from their house because she was afraid that she was going to act on those thoughts. I’ve heard of a woman with GAD (anxiety disorder) who was essentially mentally torturing herself because she had constant intrusive thoughts about how her husband hated her and was cheating on her and was going to leave her and how she needed to stalk him to catch him in the act. There was a schizophrenia patient who had frequent thoughts of driving up on the sidewalk and running down pedestrians, to the point where he never drove for fear of hurting people. There was another case of OCD where a woman had frequent intrusive thoughts about performing oral sex on her two year old child. She was suicidal over how ashamed she was for thinking something like that. But it wasn’t something she could help. None of the people I listed above ever committed any crimes, by the way, not the ones they fantasized about or any others. They never hurt anyone or did anything that would put those around them in danger. They were just mentally ill.
The research and evidence on the subject would suggest that the typical case of pedophilia works in much the same way–people having disturbing, intrusive thoughts that don’t go away about having sex with children, whether they want to have those thoughts or not. And, as is the case with all other types of intrusive thoughts in psychiatric disorders, trying to repress them only serves to make them worse, not better. It leads to safety and coping measures that overcompensate for the thought they’re trying to act against.
The woman who was afraid of her husband leaving her dealt with those thoughts by obsessively calling him every five minutes to definitely prove to herself that he wasn’t out cheating, for example. In the worst case scenario of a pedophile trying to act against their intrusive thoughts, they would watch child porn as a means of stopping themselves from physically harming a child in real life. As I’m sure you know already, however, child porn is not exactly a safe industry known for improving the welfare of the children involved, so watching it in an attempt not to hurt children is very counterproductive, to say the least. Then you, of course, have the cases where they act on or try to act on their urges irl, which inarguably makes them an abuser and a criminal, and traumatizes kids, and is rightfully punished with the full force of the law.
So where does that leave us in the discussion on pedophilia?
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Now it’s time to actually address the question: Does the left defend pedophilia?
As I said before, most of the recorded cases of pedophilia in the US are cases where the pedophile in question has never touched a child and is disgusted and ashamed at themselves for wanting to. In short–they’ve done nothing wrong and don’t want to do anything wrong. It’s a matter of if and when. If depends heavily on whether or not they get psychiatric treatment, with those who don’t receive treatment being far more likely to lapse into genuinely criminal behavior than those who do receive it. That sounds like a good thing, “Oh, just go to therapy, and that’ll keep you in line.”
The problem, though, is that many people avoid seeking treatment because being treated for paraphilia means being given the label as someone with paraphilic tendencies. In the case of pedophiles, that essentially means that people who haven’t necessarily done anything wrong and who want help with dealing with disturbing thoughts must first be given a label that, as far as the rest of society is concerned, marks them as an evil bastard who loves traumatizing kids. If it is regarded with psychiatric care, they’re not likely to hurt anyone–just like a schizophrenic with violent fantasies of stabbing people is ultimately unlikely to actually hurt anyone. I highly doubt anyone would look at that schizophrenic and think that they were some inherently evil monster that should be raped and murdered in prison as the only truly just way to deal with them. That schizophrenic is acknowledged as mentally disturbed.
On the other hand, there is a huge societal stigma saying that anyone with pedophilic thoughts is inherently evil and a monster and loves hurting kids and is definitely going to hurt kids and probably already has hurt kids in the past because they are evil and a monster and that is just what evil monsters do. “The only good pedophile is a dead one,” as the internet says. And that doesn’t help. It’s not even accurate to the reality of the disorder in the majority of cases. And ironically, that zero-tolerance is making things worse: Pedophilia is a potentially harmful disorder whose harm is mitigated by treatment. And treatment is increasingly difficult to come by because people are either afraid of committing social suicide by officially seeking help for it, or, in extreme cases, the psychiatrists themselves are pressured into not offering treatment for it because that apparently “legitimizes sexual deviancy.” There was a psychiatrist who tried to use child-like robots as a means of treating pedophilia through exposure therapy, and that research was shut down essentially because people who knew nothing about psychology caught wind of it and thought it was too icky. The disorder that requires treatment to lessen the chances of it being dangerous isn’t given treatment because people think it’s dangerous. Welcome to the world!
This is why I understand why those on the left seem more sympathetic to pedophiles than what many people think is right or acceptable. A pedophile, in the end of the day, is someone with a psychiatric disorder who may or may not do something wrong, but who is treated like they’ve already committed a heinous crime even if they haven’t. That is not fair. It’s not conducive toward helping them. And if you don’t give any fucks about helping them, it also doesn’t make them less of a danger to society, which you probably do care about. This is not me saying that every pedophile is a victim of circumstance and biology–there are unrepentant, psychopathic assholes of every type, child molesters among them. The point that I’m trying to impress, though, is that the unrepentant creep from a Law and Order episode who laughs about molesting little girls is not the typical example of what a pedophile is, and that stereotype is making the very necessary treatment of pedophilia more difficult than it needs to be and only contributing to the harm it does.
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That being said, the left has really dropped the ball when it comes to mental health advocacy in general. The case with pedophilia and trying to impress upon people that it is not automatically equivalent to being a lecherous child molester is just one of very many points that the left has fumbled beyond all reason.
You have the “neuro-divergency” movement, a branch of leftist activism that either a.) insists that mental disorders aren’t even a thing and that it’s just society trying to medicate people who are different into conforming to evil Western cultural norms, or b.) doesn’t like how mental disorders are called “disorders” because no human being is broken, man. Fuck those people, by the way. Try telling the woman who tried killing herself because she had so many disturbing intrusive thoughts that it’s just society tricking her or that there’s totally nothing wrong with her thought processes.
You have the people who deplore the idea of finding a cure for autism because these people on the high functioning end of the spectrum are insulted that you think something is wrong with them. Just ignore the fact that their brain doesn’t adequately process human faces and language, to the point where a 10-year-old child with middle-of-the-road autistic traits has the same language learning abilities as a 5-year-old. There’s no cognitive deficit here, folks!
You have the people who glorify needing therapy like requiring psychological help is cool and something to be proud of as opposed to something indulged in for the sake of achieving previously unattainable mental stability. And this is in a country where there’s a borderline epidemic of need unmet (people who need help not getting it) and met unneed (people who don’t need help taking up all of the time and resources) in mental health spheres.
You have the people who advocate for safe spaces and trigger warnings even though those are, at best, psychologically unhelpful and, at worst, psychological safety behaviors that do nothing but perpetuate pre-existing negative cognitive patterns by behaviorally reinforcing them.
And, getting back to the subject of pedophilia, you have the people who defend pedophiles all in the name of “tolerance.” They compare pedophiles to LGBT people and different sexual orientations on occasion, which I would find incredibly insulting if I were gay. What is this, the 1920s? Homosexuality isn’t considered a kind of paraphilia anymore, and grouping in pedophilia as being just another sexual preference on the non-heteronormative spectrum should be incredibly questionable to anyone who considers themself progressive. Pro tip: If your super-normal and perfectly acceptable sexual orientation is one that could logically never be consensually engaged in, it’s probably not normal and acceptable.
I understand not wanting to lynch people in the street for the crime of having a mental disorder that hasn’t hurt anyone else, but you start crossing the line into “unacceptable” when you don’t even condemn people’s actions after they act on that disorder. The vagina-obsessed Lena Dunham writing about how she molested her younger sister was the first of multiple controversies where people inexplicably defended leftists figures who engaged in questionable activities with children. You also have the overlap with the leftist idea of multiculturalism where pedophilic behavior is apparently okay when when a religion/culture other than Christianity engages in it.
So do I think that the left defends pedophiles? Yes and no. I get what they’re trying to do–the left typically cares more about issues of mental health than those on the conservative side of things. And I’m on their side when it comes to actually wanting to have a conversation about how to view and contend with pedophilia, as opposed to just writing it off as something evil and disgusting and leaving it at that. Even so, they are not the people who should be fronting that conversation at all. It’s just been one big, poorly handled clusterfuck where, instead of focusing on the issues of mental health and demonization and crime prevention through psychiatry, the loudest activists decided to go the neuro-divergent route, co-opting the rhetoric of the LGBT movement and insisting that we shouldn’t be mean to people who are different. Even if “being different” means that you’ve actually committed a serious crime.
I don’t know why I even spent so much time writing this. I look forward to the flood of people who don’t read to the end and automatically assume I’m disgusting trash!