Debate Guide: Evolutionary logic
The ideas of sexual experiences as being necessarily injurious to the young and motivated by adult psychopathy are contested with the concept of hedonics. It is observed in humans and other animals, that beneficial activities (such as eating and sex) bring innate pleasure, especially at times of great need. Harmful behaviours bring about innate pain. These feelings are not coincidental or God-given designs, but rather evolved in animals because they supported the reproduction of genes - the same genes that carry genetic codes for pleasure and pain structures in the nervous system.
As Jack McClellan puts it:
- "I definitely don't accept the view of the dominant culture that loving, noncoercive, consensual sexual touching with potty-trained prepubescent children is abusive and ruins them for life. What ruins them is the subsequent brainwashing by the "sex offender" industry that they've been damaged. The key test that this is nonsense folkways is that children have to be indoctrinated that pleasurable genital/anal touching is "bad touch" -- yet they instinctively and experientially know that touching a flame is bad touch, sticking a syringe in their arm is bad touch, being bit by a dog is bad touch, etc".
Barring overpopulation and infanticide, no adaptive function has ever existed for parents to abuse their own offspring, in whom they are genetically invested. If, as suggested by modern "experts", genital touching were significantly and inherently injurious for youngsters, it would most likely carry an innate burden of pain for both youngsters and closely related adults. In this case, incest could be dismissed as an "aberration". However, this fails to explain its sheer prevalence and why common variations in family environment (absence of one parent) are known for bringing about parental "incest" contacts.
One may decide to argue against this by bringing up the example of children not having any innate aversion to eating too much chocolate. Whilst eating too much chocolate would in fact make a child sick, there are also a number of addictive substances that can do long term harm to people of many different ages. However, in terms of proposing that children do not express severe and innate displeasure towards these substances, the analogy with sex fails. This is because unlike sex, we are referring to either contemporary or artificial substances, for which we can not reasonably expect humans to have adapted defence mechanisms. Other substances, such as chocolate are not thought to do severe harm after just one exposure (unlike sex), and would have been valuable sources of energy in primitive societies where food was sparse. An opponent may argue that as with heroin, human ancestors were simply not exposed to "under-age" sex. However, this is an absurd argument to make, when we know that legal age restrictions did not exist in such societies, and that the current prevalence of "abuse", and the "destruction" it wreaks would have to be modern phenomena, according to a model in which it exerts a negative effect on fitness.
Adaptive oppression/rape (Anti-Hedonics)
It could even be claimed that Child Sexual Abuse is simply the "overspill" from what is an adaptive genetic trait in men - namely a sexual tendency to pursue (some may say "rape") the youngest, most fertile females. It may be reasonable to identify downsides to adaptive traits, but this argument fails to explain why adult-child sex so often takes the form of parental "incest" - contact that in no way mimics an adaptive reproductive interest in non-familial adolescent girls. And whilst the prevalence of man-boy sex may also cause some problems for this theory, we are also left with the familiar conundrum, i.e. why is the supposed "innate" response of prepubescent children not similar to ones reaction to a flame, or resistance to being forcefully raped by a stranger (both highly adaptive)? Instead, we are forced to contemplate the CSA model's supposed symptoms of "confusion", "shame" and "self blame" (mid-term) and "(sexual) dysfunction" (long-term), that lead to a nonsensical and unexplainable reduction in biological fitness. Again, the purported reaction to such a common "problem" is wholly dysfunctional, and for a form of non-coerced physical contact, would appear to be unparalleled in its long-term effects, if they are indeed innate.
It could be claimed that it is the nature of the "power-disparate" relationship that causes these symptoms, but as other parts of this guide argue, even assuming that the child does not want to be stimulated in such a way, what is it about genital contact in particular, that makes CSA so harmful, as opposed to aspects of "lovingly" coercive, "for your own good" parenting? Whilst this is not an argument for "tough love" child molestation, it is a point worth considering, as are the reasons why children sometimes consent to and seek this "destructive" sexual contact.
Pedophilia and Erotics
There are evolutionary pressures that work in favour of intergenerational intimacy and attractions to pre-pubertal youngsters.
The evolution of man occurred for the most part, before the diversity and interconnectedness of modern societies. In the highly isolated tribal societies that were the landscape for man's evolution, out-competed males would have had virtually no option in terms of reproduction. The only way they could enhance the spread of their genes would be to enhance the fitness (and future reproductive success) of closely related members of the tribal society who were not in competition with him (men) or otherwise inaccessible (women). Young, easy to befriend individuals whose abilities were malleable and yet to be determined. Whilst no one man made the rational decision to do this (understanding of natural selection is a relatively modern innovation), tribes in which out-competed males could direct their love and attention towards young members survived because of the beneficial mentorship, protective and nutritional properties of these relationships. The youngsters therefore achieved high status, successfully reproducing their genes and a good proportion of their relatives' as adults.
This is just one of the possible mechanisms through which attraction to the prepubescent children of other individuals became an adaptive trait in early human societies. That in modern societies, these interests are sometimes directed towards completely unrelated children is irrelevant. Thousands of years of evolution could not have controlled for the modern situation in which acting on such attractions may not confer genetic benefit, and may in fact lead to social ostracism and death. We should also pay attention to historical manifestations of pedophilia that are accepted even today. Attraction to the unique physical attributes of children is after all, a trait with cross-cultural and cross-species validity. Vital to the parental nurturing response, these emotions are also seen in self-identifying pedophiles and are accompanied by erotic behaviours in humans' closest relatives.
That said, the above arguments do not adequately explain why pedophilia often has an erotic component. We may begin to explain this by casting light upon the importance of good erotic taste in the tribal pedophile male. By selecting children who have budding sexually attractive physical characteristics, and therefore future reproductive fitness, the tribal pedophile male again increases the chance that his genetic commonality with said youngster will survive through the generations. This may help us explain why pedophiles express interest in the most physically attractive children, and why this interest takes something of an erotic form. The following section expands this case.
Sexual contacts with juveniles
It is often suggested that an "uninformed", but consenting child may only recognize the magnitude of the event/s years afterwards - notably in young adulthood. This runs counter to Darwin's model. Psychological pain and sexual inhibition would be highly non-adaptive traits for young people to express, just as they are acquiring the ability to reproduce. Any such reaction would harm their reproductive fitness. In fact, this supposedly scientific mechanism would appear to be positively maladaptive in a Darwinian sense.
There are also many possible reasons why erotic contacts with juveniles and adolescents could confer an advantage in the Darwinian model. For post-menarchal girls, the superior lifespan of children to young mothers makes them desirable partners - although when malnourished, small girls may sometimes be more vulnerable to complications during pregnancy.
Moving on to prepubescents, it is simplistic to state that due to their incapability to reproduce, they should be no more sexually attractive to "normal" adults than an inanimate object. To begin with, "pedophile" relationships may very soon develop into situations where reproduction is a possibility. This early induction may have been vital in early societies where 30, 40 or 50 was considered old-age.
Considering the possible benefits to a primitive community of maybe 30 human ancestors, it makes sense that a small number of the adults should have an interest in the emotional development and sexual education of the group's young. "Hands on" sexual education (note the lack of innate damage eluded to earlier) and intergenerational communication are likely to have been important parts of tribal life and survival (see Research: Nonwestern Intergenerational Relationships for some examples). And if these attractions towards a range of ages, genders, looks, etcetera (polymorphous perversity) are shared by most of the community - albeit not as explicit preferences, this may enhance the possibility of successful reproduction in communities where a wide spread of physical types may not be available. A diverse set of sexual attractions, not only in relation to age, is therefore favourable in the Darwinian model.
Throughout our childhood and adolescence, various windows for development open and are accompanied by urges and explorations that are relevant to learning in the areas concerned. It is natural to explore these urges, as they are biological traits geared towards the purpose of personal growth and experience. Maybe in light of this and children's untamed sexual curiosity, we should reject today's prevalent questioning of "the effects of sex on youth", instead choosing to investigate "the effects of suppressing sex on youth". This revised focus has far more relevance to the physical and mental health of human beings before social conditioning and in pre-western cultures. "Thinking outside of the box" applies.