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Pedophilia (or paedophilia, originally Greek παιδοφιλια; paidophilia) is an erotic age preference (chronophilia) and orientation towards pre-pubescent children. It is to be distinguished from pedophilic disorder – a medical diagnosis of disputed merit.
While the exact definition varies by context, the medical definition of pedophilic disorder most commonly referred to is that of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Common usage does not follow either the etymological meaning or the strict medical definitions of an adult or teen who is attracted to prepubescent children. In colloquial use, the term instead refers indiscriminately to any adult who is attracted to, or has sexual contact with, a person under the Age of Consent, or the age of majority (which varies from 14 to 18 in most western jurisdictions). As even Wikipedia acknowledges, researchers recommend that these imprecise uses be avoided. The correct term for an attraction to pubescents would be hebephilia.
In many societies and cultures, the term pedophile is highly stigmatized, and represents an image of an evil, callous monster. This spurs many self-identified pedophiles to adopt names such as boylover, MAP, girllover, and childlover, among others, to assist in differentiating themselves and their values from this stereotype.
Some believe that pedophiles have made great contributions to past societies, and that their influence is often ignored or their attraction to children is greatly played down. Others disagree with this idea, and claim that alleged historical pedophiles actually preferred the company of persons who were in their late teens or early 20s.
The terms "pedophilia" and "pedophile" stem from the Greek roots παῖς (paîs, meaning "child") and φῐλος (philos, meaning "love"), so their literal morphological translations are, respectively, "love for children" and "child lover". In Byzantine Greek, the term "παιδοφιλία" meant simply "love for children" and had no sexual connotations.
The term paedophilia erotica was coined in an 1886 article by the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who also happened to be anti-masturbation, classify homosexuality as a disease, and be against most forms of sexuality in children.
Pedophilia according to...
For a full history of pedophilia as a medical diagnosis, see Wikipedia.
The concept of pedophilia as an orientation, or at least a "disorder and not a crime" is considered to be a contrary, but not unacceptable position within parts of mainstream society, scholarship and media. Some professionals and activists have identified that one implication of this approach, is that pedophilia (as a disorder or disability) should be destigmatized "in and of itself". This "liberal" approach appears to ignore the uncomfortable truth that diagnostic criteria specify the need for distress, and sometimes acting upon the impulse, implying that ego-syntonic, non-offending pedophiles suffer from no disorder at all. Indeed, this lack of inclusivity has caused controversy within academia. Ray Blanchard, an American-Canadian sexologist known for his research studies on pedophilia, addressed (in his literature review for the DSM-5) these objections, and proposed a general solution applicable to all "paraphilias". This was a distinction between paraphilia and paraphilic disorder. This distinction was implemented, but the resulting implication that pedophilia might be a sexual orientation was met with hysteria in the media and among right-wing pressure groups, forcing the APA to change the word "orientation" to "interest" in their online copy.
The prison, legal, medical and pharmaceutical industries all either directly or indirectly profit from the pathologization and medicalization of pedophilia. The diagnosis of pedophilia, has, for example, been used to justify discriminatory, involuntarily, and indefinite commitment of sex offenders to psychiatric facilities ("hospitals") after their sentences have been served. Conversion therapy (see also "A "cure" for pedophilia?") - based upon the faulty belief that sexual orientation is the primary determinant of behavior, is another technique that has been used on pedophiles. Further negative consequences of diagnosis have been recorded, including assault, and abusive psychotherapy, compulsion towards chemical castration, and sexual assault of minor and adult patients within facilities.
According to the APA's DSM-5, there are three criteria for pedophilic disorder:
- The individual has had arousing fantasies about, urges for, or behaviors with a prepubescent child or children.
- The individual has acted out these sexual desires, or is experiencing significant distress or difficulty as a result of these desires.
- The individual is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child or children noted in Criterion A.
- Exclusive type - sexual attraction to children only.
- Non-exclusive type - sexual attraction to adults and children.
- Attraction to boys.
- Attraction to girls.
- Incestuous only.
According to the DSM-5, the actual prevalence of pedophilic disorder is unknown, with an estimate of up to 3-5% (American Psychiatric Association, 2013a).
According to the WHO's ICD-11 diagnostic manual:
- "Paraphilic disorders are characterized by persistent and intense patterns of atypical sexual arousal, manifested by sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, or behaviours, in which the focus of the arousal pattern involves others whose age or status renders them unwilling or unable to consent (e.g., pre-pubertal children, an unsuspecting individual being viewed through a window, an animal). Paraphilic disorders may also involve other atypical sexual arousal patterns if they cause marked distress to the individual or involve significant risk of injury or death."
- "Many sexual crimes involve actions or behaviours that are not associated with a sustained underlying paraphilic arousal pattern. Rather, these behaviours may be transient and occur impulsively or opportunistically, or in relation to substance use or intoxication. A diagnosis of a Paraphilic disorder should not be assigned in such cases. [...] Paraphilic disorders should not be diagnosed among children and should be diagnosed only with utmost caution among adolescents. Sexual experimentation is typical during adolescence and sexual acts may occur impulsively or opportunistically rather than representing a recurrent pattern of sexual arousal."
Paraphilic disorders include the following:
- Pedophilic Disorder. Specifically:
- "Pedophilic disorder is characterised by a sustained, focused, and intense pattern of sexual arousal—as manifested by persistent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, or behaviours—involving pre-pubertal children. In addition, in order for Pedophilic Disorder to be diagnosed, the individual must have acted on these thoughts, fantasies or urges or be markedly distressed by them. This diagnosis does not apply to sexual behaviours among pre- or post-pubertal children with peers who are close in age."
Calls for declassification
There are many voices past and present in favor of declassifying pedophilia as a mental disorder, or removal of the broader, and scientifically questionable paraphilia category. These are not limited to activist organizations such as Newgon, and have included influential psychologists such as Richard Green, who was instrumental in the declassification of homosexuality, and Philip Tromovitch:
- Haeberle, Erwin J. (2010). "Paraphilia - A Prescientific Concept," Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology.
- Green, R. (2002, Dec). Is Pedophilia a Mental Disorder?, in Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 467–471.
- Malón, Agustin (2012). "Pedophilia: A Diagnosis in Search of a Disorder", Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(5), pp. 1083-1097.
- Stephen Kershnar, ‘Pedophilia and Mental Disorder’, in Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis (London: Lexington Books, 2015), pp. 7-31.
- Vogt, H. (2006). Pädophilie: Leipzicher Studie zur gesellschaftlichen und psychischen Situation pädophiler Männer (Pedophilia: The Leipziger Study of the Social and Psychical Situation of Pedophilic Men). Pabst Science Publishers.
- Tromovitch, P. (2008, Oct. 16). Manufacturing Mental Disorder by Pathologizing Erotic Age Orientation: A Comment on Blanchard et al. (2008). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 328.
- Hinderliter, Andrew C. (2010). "Defining Paraphilia: Excluding Exclusion," Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology, 2, 241–272.
- Moser, C., & Kleinplatz, P. J. (2005). DSM-IV-TR and the paraphilias: An argument for removal. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 17(3/4), 91–109.
- Moser, C. (2008 Oct. 23). When Is an Unusual Sexual Interest a Mental Disorder? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 323–325.
- Suppe, F. (1984). Classifying sexual disorders: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Journal of Homosexuality, 9, 9–28.
- “There is nothing wrong with pedophilia in the sense of the word, that is, against liking, even loving, children [...] The sensuality that spontaneously unfolds between a child and an adult is something wonderful. Nothing can remind us more intensely of the paradises of childhood. Nothing is purer and more harmless than this eroticism of the body and the heart. Childish eroticism is not only full of delights, it is also necessary.” - Sexologist, Volkmar Sigusch.
- "Experiencing ongoing sexual attractions to prepubescent children is, in essence, a form of sexual orientation, and acknowledging that reality can help to distinguish the mental makeup that is inherent to Pedophilia, from acts of child sexual abuse." - Sexologist, Fred Berlin.
- "According to my experience, pedophilia constitutes a nearly normal component of the sexual impulse. Nearly everybody may, at times, detect such thoughts in himself. But they will be rejected, disclaimed, and condemned with all the emotionality of moral indignation. Many people of high intellectual standing admitted to me that sinful thoughts had surprised them when they were looking at children. We fail to appreciate the immense degree to which pedophilia is prevalent among women and men." - Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel in 1922.
- "Pedophilia has been considered the norm by the vast majority of individuals in the history of the world. [...] It is because our society overreacts to it that children suffer. [...] Pedophilia may enhance the survival of the human species by serving "procreative purposes."" - Sexologist, Richard Gardener.
- "Paedophiles must be prevented from 'coming out'. Every attempt to display their vice as a legitimate 'alternative' to conventional morality must be, not refuted, but silenced." - Philosopher, Roger Scruton.
- NVSH - Paedophilia.
- 1990 Encyclopedia of Homosexuality entry - Some authors have claimed that this article wrongly appropriates Greek Pederasty as inclusive of pedophilia.
- Famous Pedophiles - "Pedophiles" who contributed to society.
- Wikipedia - Describes Pedophilia as a mental disorder.
- Mapmedicalism - Collection of revisions to the diagostic criteria.
- As of 24 September 2023
- A profile of pedophilia: definition, characteristics of offenders, recidivism, treatment outcomes, and forensic issues (archived URL). Hall RC, Mayo Clin. Proc., 2007. Volume 82, issue 4, pages 457–71. PMID 17418075, DOI 10.4065/82.4.457.
- Pedophilia (dead link). JAMA, November 2002. Volume 288, issue 19, pages 2458–65. Fagan PJ, Wise TN, Schmidt CW, Berlin FS. PMID 12435259, DOI 10.1001/jama.288.19.2458.
- Krafft-Ebing - For example: "Zambaco (L’Encéphale, 1882, Nr. 1, 2) tells the disgusting story of two sisters affected with premature and perverse sexual desire. The elder, R., masturbated at the age of seven, practiced lewdness with boys, stole wherever she could, seduced her four-year-old sister into masturbation, and at the age of ten was given up to the practice of the most revolting vices. Even ferrum candens ad clitoridem had no effect in overcoming the practice, and she masturbated with the cassock of a priest while he was exhorting her to reformation."
- Pedophilia Is a Mental Health Issue. It's Still Not Treated as One (Vice)
- Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not A Crime (NDTV)
- What Science Reveals About Pedophilia (Daily Beast)
- Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime (NYT)
- I, Pedophile
- What Can Be Done About...
- Telegraph article on the infamous Cambridge Conference
- Our approach to pedophilia isn't working - Salon
- I’m a pedophile, but not a monster - Todd Nickerson in Salon, see also this interview in Salon
- National Review defends Salon's Nickerson piece
- Mail Online sympathetic piece from Right-Wing tabloid
- I'm a normal guy. I just fancy six-year-olds - another bizarre DM piece
- Vice - A Child Rape Victim on Why Society Should Be More Empathetic to Pedophiles
- Independent: Paedophilia is 'fate, not a choice', leading scientist (Klaus Beier) claims
- Blanchard R (April 2010). "The DSM diagnostic criteria for pedophilia". Arch Sex Behav. 39 (2): 304–16.
- Paraphilic Disorders" (PDF). American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013
- Psychiatry.org - DSM Correction
- APA press release
- Frances, A., & First, M. B. (2011, Feb.). Hebephilia Is Not a Mental Disorder in DSM-IV-TR and Should Not Become One in DSM-5. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online February 2011, 39(1), 78-85. and Archive
- Blackwell, T. (2017, Aug. 16). Man says he was cured of pedophilia at Ottawa clinic: ‘It’s like a weight that’s been lifted’.
- Kramer, R. (2003 Feb. 5). Aversion therapy. Male Homosexual Attraction to Minors Information Center.
- Sivasubramanian, S. (2016, Apr. 8). Non-offending paedophiles volunteer for potentially harmful drug trial out of desperation. SBS.
- Marshall, W. L. (2014, Oct. 8.). Changing Deviant Sexual Interests: Masturbatory Reconditioning with a Child Molester. In Wilcox et al. (Eds.), Sex Offender Treatment: A Case Study Approach to Issues and Interventions (327–341). John Wiley, & Sons.
- VanDeventer, A. D., & Laws, D. R. (1978 Nov.). Orgasmic reconditioning to redirect sexual arousal in pedophiles. Behavior Therapy, 9(5), 748-765.
- Maletzky, B. M. (2003, Apr. 1). A Serial Rapist Treated With Behavioral and Cognitive Techniques and Followed for 12 Years. Clinical Case Studies, 2(2), 127–153.
- Ethical Treatment for All Youth. (n.d.). Arousal Reconditioning.
- DSM-5 or Exact Copy (paraphilia) or Exact Copy (pedophilic disorder).
- Paraphilic disorders - ICD 11
- ICD 11: 6D32 Pedophilic disorder
- Sexualwissenschaftliche Thesen zur Missbrauchsdebatte
- Pedophilia and DSM-5: The Importance of Clearly Defining the Nature of a Pedophilic Disorder
- Brongersma, E. (1984). Aggression against pedophiles. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 7(1), 79–87.
- Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
- BBC article including the quote from Scruton