Guardian article about paedophilia

(42 Posts)
madamezouzou Thu 03-Jan-13 22:30:38

There's an article in the guardian online today highlighting a number of surveys that state that paedophilia is a sexual orientation and that such [paedophilic] relationships, entered into voluntarily, are "nearly uncorrelated with undesirable outcomes".

I believe children are unable consent to sex with an adult. Therefore it is rape. Rape cannot be a sexual orientation and can certainly lead to all sorts of 'undesirable outcomes'.

Is asking these questions offensive to victims of paedophilia? Doesn't it just make it more difficult for them to seek justice and recognition for their experiences and heal from them afterwards?

Do we really need to ask the questions raised by the article and by the surveys referenced?

MrsMcEnroe Thu 03-Jan-13 22:35:38

Another question to ask is: if paedophilia really is a sexual orientation, can it ever be acceptable to release a convicted paedophile back into the community? - surely s/he is guaranteed to reoffend?

tribpot Thu 03-Jan-13 22:43:02

I'm not sure what the point of the article is, other than perhaps to counteract some of the hysteria that tends to be whipped up in the tabloid press (think mobs attacking paediatricians, that kind of thing) by looking fairly objectively at the issue of paedophilia and presenting a range of viewpoints backed up by some actual research (see above comment on the tabloid press).

The writer is quoting the view of some of those who treat paedophiles that their preference is not a 'choice' in the way that we now understand heterosexuality is not a 'choice' but something pre-determined. However, as you say since it is impossible for true consent to be given I can't see how this non-choice can ever be fulfilled without harming another human being. So is it really very helpful to consider it in those terms?

I don't see anything in the article that would make it harder for a victim of a crime to seek justice.

CabbageLeaves Thu 03-Jan-13 22:45:04

I'm disgusted by the promotion of an idea that my child can give valid consent to sexual activity with an adult.

I've tried to put thoughts down but can't because I'm so angry. What idiot thinks an adult encouraging a naive child to act to fulfil his sexual needs is a healthy balance of power in a relationship.

slhilly Thu 03-Jan-13 22:47:18

Harm reduction demands we must ask these questions, yes. It reduces the number of raped children.

slhilly Thu 03-Jan-13 22:49:16

By providing evidence-based methods for reducing offending and reoffending rates, I should have said. A la Circles, which is referred to in the article.

CabbageLeaves Thu 03-Jan-13 22:49:41

I work with paedophiles. I constantly am confronted by human beings who have done something I revile...but are human beings. I hope they get help

Vast majority of their abuse is abusive, coercive, pretty perverse even if it were an adult they were with. Dressing it up as a extension of a loving relationship towards a child is very misleading.

PimpMyHippo Thu 03-Jan-13 23:03:23

Okay, so let's say paedophilia is an "inbuilt" thing that people have no choice over, like sexual orientation - that doesn't give anyone free reign to abuse children. Paedophiles may not choose to have those feelings, but they certainly do have a choice when it comes to acting on them. So even if this study does find that it's an orientation like hetero- or homosexuality, I still don't see how that can be used as a defence for it. I'm a heterosexual woman, but if having sex with men caused them as much emotional damage as abuse causes to children, I wouldn't do it. It is possible to be celibate, I think it's quite insulting to imply that humans are complete slaves to their libido.

Having said that, I still really hope they don't reclassify paedophilia as an orientation because I think that homophobes would leap on the opportunity to compare the two. sad

tribpot Thu 03-Jan-13 23:37:08

Btw the article implies all paedophiles are men. I don't believe this is the case?

I'm not sure anyone quoted in the article is promoting the idea that a child can give consent - I'm not going to read the cited studies but I assume the idea is that the child him or herself feels they consented. To be clear, I don't think a child can consent. But there will - or should - be a definition of the term consent within the study.

LineRunner Thu 03-Jan-13 23:43:14

Well that's just fucking great for the child victims who were made to feel they 'wanted' what happened to them, isn't it.

Have we not moved on at all from the whole blame, guilt, fear and obligation cycle of abuse and society's collusion in it?

Or have we actually fallen back through a crack in the space-time continuum into Sigmund Freud's study and his crap about infantile desire?

slhilly Thu 03-Jan-13 23:43:29

I think it would help to read the article closely before commenting. The comment about distinguishing between desire and action repeats a point made in the article by one of the people quoted. That's part of the harm reduction strategy. The article also explicitly discusses the prevalence of paedophilia in men and in women. But many of the people quoted talk about male paedophiles.

xkittyx Thu 03-Jan-13 23:50:32

The rate of re-offending would suggest that it is a sexual orientation. However I don't believe that it's an orientation that can be acted on without causing harm.

hackmum Fri 04-Jan-13 08:15:06

I thought it was a good article and a perfectly reasonable question to ask. I'm sure all of us agree that a child can't consent, and that acting on paedophilic urges is wrong. But it seems quite right to me that we should ask why people are paedophiles, and where those urges come from. Finding out the answer to that question helps us know how we should deal with the problem.

The article didn't say that all paedophiles are men - I think the figure cited was 95%.

tribpot Fri 04-Jan-13 08:30:16

The article didn't say that all paedophiles are men - I think the figure cited was 95%.

Yes, sorry - the author was paraphrasing one of the people quoted and so the remark was made outside quotes.

runningforthebusinheels Fri 04-Jan-13 09:28:29

No, Children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults.

I find the notion that paedophilia is a sexual orientation "just like heterosexuality or homosexuality" disturbing. And it's telling that a major advocate of it is a convicted paedophile. Calling it a sexual orientation gives a justification for it that I'm deeply uncomfortable with (although I'm sure many predatory paedophiles would be thrilled to have such validation), since it is not a sexual preference that can be acted upon with the informed consent of both participants.

I'm with majority of organisations with experience of working with convicted paedophiles, that it should be defined as a sexual dysfunction.

MiniTheMinx Fri 04-Jan-13 09:49:42

I think there is little doubt that paedophilia is a sexual orientation but I don't think that children can ever give consent, not because of where we make an arbitrary cut off point btw childhood and adulthood but because men have power over children. If anything it should inform sentencing and make certain these people are locked up indefinitely. Psychologists failed to cure homosexuals and they fail to cure paedophiles.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Fri 04-Jan-13 11:17:22

I feel it also important to point out, as the article does, that the majority of sexual assaults on children are not carried out by paedophiles...

GrumpySod Fri 04-Jan-13 11:30:40

There was a good book out recently about this sort of thing. I can't remember title or author but maybe someone else will. It was the autobiographical account of a profound long-term love (physical & emotional) relationship between a young child and a middle aged man.

It wasn't glorifying the situation, anything but. It very nicely untangled the complicated strands of what happened, the damage done and the way it could seem normal and acceptable to the child at the time. One thing she couldn't delve into is how the man thought it was acceptable, she leaves that to reader to ponder. I thought it was such a nuanced sensitive treatment.

I don't understand fine?

I think its splitting hairs really. You can call it that but unfortunately its a sexual orientation which does not allow for consensual sexual activity. Same as if a man decided actually he was of a sexual orientation that he only wanted sex with women in comas. However if a man decides he'll only have sex with blonde women, or with Asian men, then this can be a 'sexual orientation' which allows for consensual sexual activity.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Fri 04-Jan-13 11:43:29

What I mean is that paedophile does not equal child abuser. It is a sexual orientation. Many (most?) paedophiles do not act on their desires as they are fully aware of how wrong it would be.

Most sexual abusers of children are not paedophiles, "just" people who are into sexually dominating people weaker than them. They feel no attraction to the child, they get off on the power aspect.

Hmm I can see the paedophile does not equal child abuser definitely. But surely if you engage in sexual activity wih a child, tthen unless you have a gun to your head, you're a paedophile?
(happy to be told I'm wrong)

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Fri 04-Jan-13 12:18:03

You are wrong. :-) A paedophile is one who is sexually attracted to children. Most rapists rape to have power over someone weaker/vulnerable. They don't abuse the child because they are attracted to/in love with the child. They abuse the child because they can and it makes them feel strong and powerful.

Xenia Fri 04-Jan-13 12:25:57

Lots of good points on the thread.
The more questions asked the better and then we can get to root cause. Eg if you could conceive a child who would spend a wretched life unable to act out their sexual desires or one who would be attracted to adult women in the usual way (or adults of their own sex) most of us would presumably want to ensure we only conceived children with the sexual orientation that would give them happiness.

As for the age at which someone can consent to things that is always difficult but you just go by what the law says in a particular country - 15 for sex in France, 14 in Italy, 16 UK. There are though problems in states which have no minimum age - Saudi where even if you obey the law you may morally be wrong to have a bride who is below a particular age.

" . Most rapists rape to have power over someone weaker/vulnerable."
Agree with that but surely they do it because, for whatever reason, they want to. And if you want to has sex with a chil, then imo you're a paedophile. Again, splitting hairs.

perceptionreality Fri 04-Jan-13 12:37:38

Isn't the article saying that paedophilia is a sexual orientation on the part of the adult rather than a mental illness? I don't see that it implies that children are able to consent to any relationship, which of course would be nonsense...

StormyBrid Fri 04-Jan-13 12:44:34

What questions exactly is the article asking? So far as I can see it's concerned with two issues: whether paedophilia is innate or learned behaviour; and whether children can consent to sexual activity with an adult. Have I missed anything there?

Answers to the second question are likely to be divided based on whether one is victim or perpetrator. I'm not at all sure about studies showing some children who feel they consented and weren't damaged by the experience, but I can't turn round and say "That's bollocks" because I'd be denying those children the opportunity to speak about their own experiences. That said, I do think it's bollocks, because children don't have the mental sophistication necessary to fully understand and agree to adult sexual activity. If we were to claim that they do, then we're in pretty dangerous territory: a paedophile could potentially use as their defence the "fact" that the child consented, and if rape cases are anything to go by it would then be down to the child to prove they didn't. And that's a horrifying prospect.

As for whether paedophilia is learned or innate, whatever the answer to this may be, I feel the article raises a valid point in its final two paragraphs. If attraction to children is learned deviant behaviour then it requires treatment, and its origins need to be studied so that it can be avoided in the future, but labelling those with that tendency as monsters means they'll likely avoid treatment for fear of the stigma, and are thus more likely to offend. If an attraction to children is innate, then demonising those who feel it is simply cruel, as they aren't able to change their orientation towards children. In neither circumstance is it appropriate or helpful to simply label paedophiles as monsters.

There was a Telegraph article in response to this one, that basically said "The Guardian supports paedophiles! They're monsters!" Now that was unhelpful. The Guardian article makes a clear distinction between having an attraction to children, and acting on that attraction. As a victim of paedophilia, I find this approach remarkably refreshing. All too often, in an attempt to make me feel better about my past, people have referred to my abuser as a monster or an animal. He is neither. He's a human being, capable of making rational decisions and weighing up their consequences. A tiger can't be blamed for biting off your arm, it's just being a tiger and doing what tigers do. But humans are different, we have the capacity to think first and adjust our actions accordingly. When a paedophile is labelled a monster we deny their humanity and so deny the very thing that makes them responsible for their actions.

I don't know whether my abuser is attracted to small children because he was born that way, or because of events in his life. I do know it was his own free choice to act on that attraction. As a victim, I would have found it immeasurably helpful during the healing process to have that distinction between attraction and action widely recognised.

Sorry, that was a bit long and rambly!

What an excellent and thoughtful comment, StormyBrid.

slhilly Fri 04-Jan-13 17:06:44

Stormy, that was a wonderful comment. I am very sorry to hear you have suffered and hope you have found peace.

LineRunner Fri 04-Jan-13 18:07:38

If paedophilia is determined even by one academic or newspaper to be a sexual orientation, there will follow arguments saying it is unlawful to discriminate, arguments for the end of the sex offenders' register and CRB checks, and arguments citing right to a private life in respect of ownership of certain images.

Just watch.

It's been tried before back in the 1970s.

runningforthebusinheels Fri 04-Jan-13 18:16:43

My thoughts too, Linerunner.

tribpot Fri 04-Jan-13 18:20:08

Following the logic given above, however, the sex offenders' register is not called the paedophiles' register. It is a register of people who have committed offences. Presumably the law would need to change to say that sex with a child was not a criminal offence. That strikes me as unlikely to happen.

hiddenhome Fri 04-Jan-13 19:51:44

I was slated a thread that I began expressing these exact fears. People thought I was nuts, but it's coming. You wait and see sad

LineRunner Fri 04-Jan-13 20:42:41

I don't think a legal challenge will succeed in the European Court, but I think that there will be some kind of legal or cultural challenge and that the 'sexual orientation' arguments are to try to soften up liberal societies for when this happens.

I also wonder if there is a political motivation to 'confuse' sexual orientation issues so that we might be persuaded retropectively to forgive some really nasty abusers of the past.

After all, Roman Polanski is doing ok this week. Maybe Cyril Smith will be culturally rehabilitated next, and perhaps more importantly the political figures yet to be found out.

It's a funny old world.

Pan Fri 04-Jan-13 21:17:39

Stormy - I particularly like your comments about how other people's reactions can lead to a further disempowering of the victim, and perhaps a confusion where a victim may want to say "no, you don't understand". Such cries of 'monster', 'animal', 'give me 5 mins with the bastard' (which is often read on around here) shows to be utterly missing the point of the victim's experience and desire for a sense to be made of it. (ime the thing that victims overwhelmingly wish is it for it never to happen to someone else.)

The sexual orientation argument is a disturbing one (though less so than the 'no damage done due to consent' one). To try to mix the sex of your partner-attaction with the age of your partner-attraction is conflating the two separate categories and results in v weak justification to exercise power over the less powerful. imho.

rubberglove Sun 06-Jan-13 11:15:07

I think this is liberal, intellectual bullshit. Of the kind that sees itself above the tabloid hysteria.

Both extremes are harmful. I find it disturbing, the mere suggestion, that a child can engage in a sexual relationship with an adult unharmfully.

Anatomically, surely a young girl would be harmed by penetration?

Sorry is that distasteful, well that is the reality. Or a primary aged girl/boy consenting to and enjoying oral sex? No didn't think so.

It is not a sexual orientation, it is psychologically dysfunctional. Like rape, it is about power and control. I think there probably are a lot of abusers out there who can convince a child they do like it, that it is unharmful. That the child is consenting. But that is the nature of abuse.

Abitwobblynow Sun 06-Jan-13 21:11:59

The silent majority believe that paedophiles should be killed/hanged/executed. Progressives think that the silent majority need educated from their base beliefs, that people should be 'understood', in order to 'help' them.

Please read Martha Stout's study on psychopaths. Where you see a deep power/exploitation, you will find psychopaths. Stout says explicitly the majority of child sex abuse is carried out by these people who see others as objects for their gratification and this is why the ' cure rate' is so low. They are literally incurable and we delude ourselves as to their true nature.

The instincts of the silent majority are spot on.

CabbageLeaves Mon 07-Jan-13 06:49:47

Great post Stormy and rubberglove. Both fit with my 2nd post. I too share your feelings about understanding it Stormy because they are human beings. It is however dysfunctional and we should fight any suggestion that children are not harmed and its an orientation so therefore a protected characteristic

hackmum Mon 07-Jan-13 09:45:59

I agree, Stormy's post was excellent.

Brodicea Mon 07-Jan-13 11:55:55

Well said Stormy - really thoughtful and though provoking post. I have always been disturbed by the lack of treatment for pedophiles, and have wondered if the underground nature of it adds to the desire.

Also I agree that children can't consent to sexual acts with adults, but it is true that children are to some extent innocently curious about the subject of sex and I do think that the denial of this in culture leads to really damaging sense of shame that results in silence. If children could talk to us more about their questions and ideas about sex, they could also talk without shame about what an adult in their life may be doing that isn't right.

HortyGal Mon 07-Jan-13 17:13:51

Look at thee roots of that wonderful institution Liberty, was NCCL. The left have always been ambivalent over paedophilia.

rubberglove Mon 07-Jan-13 20:22:03

Abitwobblynow - excellent post. I absolutely agree that most child rapists are psychopaths. And Bob Hare, who is one of the world's leading experts on Psychopathy would agree.

Psychopaths lack conscience and yes most experts agree are incurable. Only 1 percent are thought to be psychopaths but the damage they cause is terrible and wide reaching.

I do not believe the tabloid hysteria is helpful no, given the hypocrisy of such papers that regularly sexualise barely pubescent girls. I also do not believe paedophiles are 'monsters' or should be hung.

But this pseudo-intellectual bullshit is way off too. A paedophile that engages in sexual acts with a child is a rapist and quite often a dangerous, predatory individual. Our children deserve to be protected.

Abitwobblynow Tue 08-Jan-13 15:52:41

Most rapist are sociopaths, Rubberglove. Whereever you see a clear wrong (such as rape or sex abuse), you will find a psychopath (Martha Stout, but also repeated to my by a psychotherapist, who included rape).

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