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Pedophilia is not an easy subject to talk about. When we think about people who sexually abuse children, we feel anger, loathing, aversion and hostility.

These feelings are completely understandable.

But as a society, we can only evolve if we’re brave enough to face our darker side. Therefore, pedophilia is something we should not only talk about, but study.

Pedophilia has always been viewed as a psychological disorder triggered by early childhood trauma. However, over the past few years, many researchers have been developing the theory that it is a biologically rooted condition.

One of those researchers is Dr. James Cantor, a neuroscientist who’s been studying sexuality for over a decade and is now a renowned international expert on pedophilia.

Dr. Cantor believes that pedophiles have some specific physical characteristics, including differences in brain wiring. Their brains have less white matter — the connective tissue that carries messages to other parts of the brain. He’s found convincing evidence that is now widely accepted among scientists.

According to Dr. Cantor, pedophilia is often confused with child molestation, and this is a misconception important to break down. While pedophilia has to do with what people are attracted to — like a sexual orientation — child molestation involves abusing a child for sexual pleasure.

These findings allow us to reach a few conclusions:

For the past few years, pedophiles who have never molested children are seeking social acceptance, saying their attraction is one they were born with and cannot change, but can control.

“But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever. Yet we are despised for having a sexual attraction that we did not choose, cannot change, and successfully resist.”

Ethan Edwards, in Virtuous Pedophile

Ethan Edwards is the co-founder of Virtuous Pedophile, a website aiming to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia, as well as providing peer support. Edwards wants people to know that the vast majority of pedophiles do not molest children, and that they need help to learn how to deal with their issues.

“ I’m a 20-year-old man who has been trying to deal with an attraction to young girls since I was 13. Women just don’t interest me. I wish with all my soul that I could have a brain that’s wired normally. I know that I can never act on what I feel, but I need to speak to a therapist because I don’t think I can get through this on my own. But if I talk to a therapist he could report me, because I have to talk about my attraction to young girls. I don’t know whether he would or not and don’t even know how to go about getting more information. Even the friendships I have are in danger of falling apart because I can’t just keep saying ‘I’m fine’ and I can’t talk to anyone about my problem. I think about suicide a lot.”

Anonymous, in Virtuous Pedophile

Members support each other in trying to lead normal lives without offending any children. There are over 2000 users registered, including parents of children and parents of pedophiles.

Dr. Cantor believes groups like this can help prevent child sexual abuse.

These controversial findings raise many questions.

Indeed, people are responsible for their behaviors, not their sexual attractions.

Just like an heterosexual man will find some women attractive while walking down the street, a pedophile will feel the same way towards children. In both cases, the problem would be enforcing any kind of coercion or abuse, not the attraction itself.

Thinking of pedophilia as an innate characteristic makes it easier to prevent pedophiles from becoming child molesters.

According to Dr. Cantor, pedophiles are most likely to commit their offenses when they feel that they have nothing going for them in their lives.

“People are most likely to do the most desperate things when they feel the most desperate. Unfortunately, much of the current social systems greatly increase rather than decrease these people’s feelings of desperation.”

Dr. James Cantor, in What Can Be Done To Prevent Pedophilia?

Something that contributes to this desperation is the fact that, more often than not, pedophiles aren’t even able to seek help. Many countries have mandatory reporting laws that require mental health workers to report a client who talks about feeling attracted to children.

It’s also important to note that, even though many people see child molesters as insatiable predators, only about 3% of them commit another sex crime after being released from prison.

However, the question remains: if some men are born pedophiles, and not made, how should society deal with them?

Initiatives have emerged around the globe, aiming to prevent pedophiles from offending. An excellent example is Germany’s Dunkelfeld Prevention Project, that offers free and confidential treatment for those seeking help.

Beginning in Berlin in 2005, the project has since expanded across several cities in Germany. The treatment is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, with an emphasis on identifying triggers, taking responsibility for one’s actions and developing empathy for potential victims.

In its first 38 months of operation, 808 men requested support.

Many traveled long distances just to get treatment — some came from Austria, England and Switzerland— which contradicts the idea that pedophiles won’t seek help.

So far, there is no treatment capable of converting pedophiles into non-pedophiles.

Now that we have a whole new perspective on such a complex subject, maybe we should think less about treatment, and more about prevention.

Maybe we should put more focus on creating safe environments for pedophiles to be open about their issues, in order to prevent them from acting on their urges.

Maybe we should try to help them, before harm is done.

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