"Chronophilia" is defined as a type of sexual interest or preference for individuals of a particular age.
"Chronophilias" related to minors are nepiophilia (attraction toward infants), pedophilia (prepubescent children), hebephilia (pubescent youth) and ephebophilia (late teens). Chronophilias related to adults are mesophilia and gerontophilia. The only supposedly "typical" form of "chronophilia" is teleiophilia (attraction toward young adults).
Each "chronophilia" is associated with a stage of the Tanner scale of human sexual development, which ranges from stages one to five. Hebephilia, however, corresponds to both stages 2 and 3. All "chronophilias" related to adults correspond to stage 5 of the scale.
Concomitant with the above, Chronophilic sexual labels (to the extent they are used) do not technically relate to age itself, but to preferences for human sexual maturity stages, connoting features such as body type, muscle development, and secondary sexual characteristics. This is one of the reasons why embracing chronophilic labels, or treating them as discrete or discontinuous natural taxa, is a controversial idea among MAPs.
The term chronophilia (chrono (time) + philia (love)) was coined by psychologist and sexologist John Money to describe a form of "paraphilia" in which an individual experiences sexual attraction limited to individuals of particular age ranges.
Most inclinations described as "chronophilias" are scarcely researched, especially mesophilia and gerontophilia. The existing body of research on the topic is also mainly focused on men. Chronophilias related to sexual attractions to minors (such as pedophilia and hebephilia), however, have a significantly larger body of modern scientific research compared to the others.
Age-based sexual attractions have been a topic of scientific study for over 150 years, Ulrichs arguably being the first theorist of the field. However, after the mid 1980's there was a cultural and global medicalization of the topic, as well as an intimidation of scholarly inquiries regarding this subject that escaped the field of forensics.
Much of the scientific knowledge of non-teleiophilic "chronophilias" in fact derives from forensic and correctional samples. And non-teleiophilic, criminal offenders are most certainly not representative of the whole population of non-teleiophilic people.
Each "chonophilia" is related to a stage of the Tanner scale, which is a model that describes the evolution of visible primary and secondary sexual characteristics of human beings from childhood to adulthood. Though physical features are important for eliciting "chronophilic" sexual arousal, psychological features may also play a role in it. Pedophile males, for example, have reported "innocence" and "playfulness" as part of what they find attractive in children.
There is presently no evidence that age preferences among men vary as they themselves age, although some surveys of mature women suggest that the average age of their preferred long-term partner increases with theirs. "Chronophilias" may begin to manifest in the ages associated with menarche and puberty, as is the case for pedophilia and possibly other chronophilias.
The term minor-attraction has been used as an umbrella term to classify chronophilias related to minors. Under this terminology, a person who is attracted to minors would be called a minor-attracted person (MAP). The usage of this term in scientific articles started growing after 2017. It is controversial among academics whether ephebophiles should be considered minor-attracted.
Similarly to other sexual groups, people who are attracted to minors often become aware of their sexual preference during adolescence.
Very little is known about nepiophilia. It, along with gerontophilia, is expected to be one of the rarest "chronophilias" that exist.
Pedophilia is a "chronophilia" whose pattern of attraction is towards prepubescent minors (children) from the ages of 3 to 10 (sometimes set as high as 11, or 12). This age range also corresponds to Tanner stage 1.
Pedophilia is the best-researched chronophilia. It has been estimated in the DSM that the prevalence of pedophilia among the general male population could be as high as 5%. Pedophilia is more common among men than women, which is the case with most interests defined as paraphilias (except for masochism and objectophilia, among others).
According to the fifth edition of the DSM, pedophilia is a paraphilia in which a person has intense sexual "urges" towards children, and experiences recurrent sexual "urges" towards and fantasies about children. Pedophilic disorder is further defined as a psychological disorder in which a person meets the criteria for pedophilia above, and also either acts upon those urges, or else experiences distress or interpersonal difficulty as a consequence.
Hebephilia is defined as a form of sexual attraction toward pubescent persons, from ages 11 to 14. This age range corresponds to Tanner stages 2 and 3.
Despite being socially sanctioned in many modern Western societies, hebephilia is not an uncommon form of age-based sexual preference. Hebephilia has not been included as a diagnostic category in the DSM 5.
"Ephebophilia" is defined as a pattern of sexual attraction toward post-pubescent youths, from the age of 15 to 17, and in some instances 19. This age range is sometimes said to correspond to Tanner stage 4, but this appears to be doubtful.
Teleiophilia (from Greek téleios, "full grown") is defined as a sexual preference for younger adults (20s and 30s). The term was coined by Blanchard in 2000 and has seen less public adoption than some newer terms.
Most human beings are said to be "teleiophilic". This "chronophilia", like all chronophilias related to adults, is associated to Tanner stage 5.
Gerontophilia is sometimes defined as a sexual preference for the elderly (60s and older).
Nonexclusive age interests
Some individuals can, unsurprisingly, be classified as having "more than one chronophilia". And the concept of nonexclusivity can also cover nonadjacent age categories as well. Some men, for example, are equally attracted to both children and adults, just like other men are attracted to males and females.
In a study by the preventionist Dunkelfeld Project, 39 out of 215 pedophilic individuals and 59% of hebephilic participants identified themselves as nonexclusive. A study from 2016 found that pedohebephilic women tend to be more nonexclusive than men.
According to research from Dunkelfeld, possible chronophilic overlaps include the following:
- pedo-hebephilia: pedophilia + hebephilia;
- pedo-teleiophilia: pedophilia + teleiophilia;
- hebe-teleiophilia: hebephilia + teleiophilia;
- pedo-hebe-teleiophilia: pedophilia + hebephilia + teleiophilia;
As can be seen, the possibilities abound.
It is widely believed among academics that fewer women than men have non-teleiophilic preferences. The overwhelming preponderance of men among people sexually attracted to minors is consistent with a general tendency of men being "paraphiles".
In a survey conducted on 1,300 participants who had some form of attraction toward minors, only 5% of the respondents identified as female. It has also been reported that women who had some sort of minor-attraction were more likely to have adult-oriented sexual behaviors, which is consistent with the broader sexuality literature that women are more sexually fluid than men.
Minor-attracted women have reported feeling further isolated and excluded than men due to their gender. In an interview for a scientific study on women who are attracted to minors, some participants reported feeling as "a minority within a minority".
In popular culture
The prevalence of mesophilia in society is hinted at by the relative popularity of the slang MILF (which stands for "Mom I would Like to Fuck"), as well as the derived acronym DILF. Results from an online survey about paraphilic sexual interests suggest that 34% of women and 48% of men have reported sexual fantasies about older partners.
The term pedophile is understood differently in academic and popular languages. While academics use this word to refer to people who are sexually attracted to prepubescent children, colloquially, the term often refers to anyone who carries out a sexual act with an adolescent or child. In popular criminology and crime fiction, the word pedophile is used as a generic term to describe a broad array of sexual relationships involving minors.
Society and stigma
Teleiophilia is identified as the "most common chronophilia" among human beings. Ephebophilia is generally considered a "normophilia". Chronophilias related to minors, on the other hand, are associated with higher social stigma. Research has shown that though some minor-attracted persons may receive positive social support after disclosing their attractions, others may encounter negative reactions such as threats, loss of friendships and increased levels of stress, even if they had committed no criminal offenses. In two joint studies about the topic, 38% and 49% of participants stated that minor-attracted persons who had not committed a crime should be nonetheless incarcerated, and 14 and 27% believed they would be better off dead.
Individuals who are attracted to minors might also suffer from internalized stigma against their own sexual impulses.
- Age of attraction - A concept more often used by MAPs as opposed to those attempting to classify them.
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- Minor Attracted Person
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