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Are paedophiles "born that way"?

(76 Posts)
NameChangeForThisThread Thu 09-Jun-11 19:32:40

I'm a lurker in the feminism section, but name changed for this thread (regular though not prolific poster elsewhere on MN).

This is not a thread about a thread, but is inspired by posts on another thread where someone said that paedophiles are born that way, like gay people are born gay. I have quite firmly held beliefs that whilst gay people are born gay, paedophiles are not. I believe child rape has more to do with rape generally (power) than with sexuality. But reading the other thread has me questioning whether those beliefs are consistent with each other and, whilst it's not a feminist issue, I was hoping to get some discussion from a feminist perspective.

I have quite a bit invested in my beliefs. Being a lesbian and having been repeatedly raped as a child, I believe that being gay is what I always was, before the abuse and therefore not caused by it ("born gay") and that my rapist does not have any excuses for what he did (not "born that way"). Is this skewing my perspective? After all, paedophilia is much wider than child rape, perhaps child rape is a combination of power (rape) and an inherent sexual interest in children? I'd be interested to read discussion of this by people who can think about this more clearly than me.

MillyR Thu 09-Jun-11 19:49:14

I believe some people are born gay and some are not; they become gay because of their life experiences. I don't know if paedophiles are born that way or not.

I don't think it matters whether or not people are born gay or not, because we don't need to do anything about people being gay. It matters if people are born paedophiles, because if many of them are not, we need to change the societal influences that turn them into paedophiles.

SockMunkee Thu 09-Jun-11 19:51:52

I believe our sexual preferences are something we are born with.

msrisotto Thu 09-Jun-11 19:54:18

Rape isn't a sexual preference, it's a power/abuse trip.

MillyR Thu 09-Jun-11 19:56:38

There is clearly a distinction between who you find sexually and/or romantically attractive, and the manner in which you want to carry out sexual activities.

I don't think anybody wanting to carry out sexual activity without consent can be reasonably compared to homosexuality.

sparky246 Thu 09-Jun-11 20:00:35

i agree with MillyR
also-its often said that paedophiles are themselves victims of abuse
i find this very hard to understand as why would a person that has been badly hurt then go on to hurt someone else!

NameChangeForThisThread Thu 09-Jun-11 20:06:26

If child rape is rape + interest in children, then the rape part I am read up on a little and have a view that it relates to power. The interest in children, that has to be sexuality, right? So whether someone has an interest in children or not presumably is determined in a similar manner to whether someone has an interest in their own sex. ie if I believe gay people are born gay (and I think Milly is probably right that it's a mixture of born and become gay), then some paedophiles must be too?

tiredemma Thu 09-Jun-11 20:07:54

They dont see that they are 'hurting' the children though sparky. I have worked with Paedophiles who genuinely believe that they have been in a 'loving relationship' of sorts.

NameChangeForThisThread Thu 09-Jun-11 20:08:23

sparky, I don't remember the number exactly. But I think studies found that the majority of abusers were themselves abused, whilst the vast majority of survivors do not go on to become abusers. Both can be true because there are many more survivors than abusers.

NameChangeForThisThread Thu 09-Jun-11 20:09:56

tiredemma, do they talk about where their desire to form a "loving relationship" with a child came from?

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 09-Jun-11 20:12:17

The only paedophile I have every (knowingly) known was a woman who abused her own children. She herself came from a family where everyone fucked everyone else - born or made? I don't know.

MillyR Thu 09-Jun-11 20:15:31

Many people who are gay know they are gay from a very early age. This suggests they may have been born that way. The same cannot be said for paedophiles because everyone's initial romantic interest is in children. If you have a crush on somebody as an 8 or 11 year old, it is most likely another 8 or 11 year old. You cannot 'become' a paedophile until you yourself are an adult or at least a teen.

So how could anyone ever know that they were 'born' a paedophile? How could we know as a society that paedophiles were born that way?

sparky246 Thu 09-Jun-11 20:18:02

but do you think they are using this as a exuse tiredemma?
when someone does bad things to you=even if you dont realise how bad it is at the time-you know later.
you have bad feelings and feel horrible so you must know that is how others would feel if you hurt them.

NameChangeForThisThread Thu 09-Jun-11 20:26:16

Milly, thank you. A very clear argument that paedophilia is not the same as gay. I'm not being patronising, honestly, thank you. Although I know this to be true, on days when my head spins a clear argument like that is what I need to settle myself. Even if paedophiles are born that way, we could never prove it. I need to stop worrying about things that are unprovable.

sparky, I don't think (all) abusers have a normal perspective. They can live in a fantasy in their head. I believe they constructed that fantasy, they are completely responsible for it and for the violence they use to maintain it, but they delude themselves that they are not hurting people. I don't know if this is true of all abusers, but do believe it's true for some.

hatwoman Thu 09-Jun-11 20:29:50

I have always strongly suspected that sexual desire has inherent components. I think there is little humans can do to alter their desire. Chosing to act on that desire (whether it be about children, violence, or both) knowing full well that the damage it causes to other people is well documented and researched and for that reason society (all over the world) has made such acts taboo, and criminal, is a whole other matter.

hatwoman Thu 09-Jun-11 20:31:42

as is constructing fantasies to justify/rationalise acting on that desire. but therein lies a whole otehr, interesting, area of psychology

sparky246 Thu 09-Jun-11 20:32:32

thankyou namechange.
but they must know what they doing is wrong however deluded they are-
or they wouldnt be so secretive.

MillyR Thu 09-Jun-11 20:37:22

When people were fighting for various types of liberation in the sixties and the seventies, there were attempts made by paedophiles to attach themselves to these movements, and make out that their cause was somehow similar.

They certainly tried to attach themselves to various libertarian movements and child-led parenting type issues, by making out that children had a right to choose to be in a relationship with an adult, and other adults had no right to deny the child that freedom. There have certainly been cases where survivors of abuse have said that their abuser used such arguments as a justification. There were also attempts by paedophiles to claim they shared a common cause with gay people. So both gay rights activists and people (often mothers) wanting progressive change within family structures were pushed into a position of having to do the work of distancing themselves from paedophile groups and their claims.

One of the broadsheet newspapers looked at the history of this at the time of the children's homes scandal.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 09-Jun-11 20:40:53

Has anyone else read Tiger Tiger by Margeaux Fragoso? It purports to be a memoir of a girl who had a relationship with a paedophile.

Thomas1969 Thu 09-Jun-11 20:53:26

Im gay. Pretty sure it was nature not nurture. As for paedophiles, I believe, like all rape, its a power thing. If it were beyond their control they would not be so selective in their victims or the times they attack. Self control is one of the things that separates us from animals. For me, anyone can get off on whatever fantasy they like but it must remain just that.

hatwoman Thu 09-Jun-11 21:29:39

exactly thomas

sparky246 Thu 09-Jun-11 21:40:01

what about women who only ever have lesbian realashionships when theyre in prison?
this isnt nature or nuture?circamstances?

SpeedyGonzalez Thu 09-Jun-11 21:48:02

I also agree that some gay people are born that way and some not.

I have always thought that paedophilia is a sickness. A psychological and emotional sickness. Perhaps it's similar to psychiatric disorders, hence the delusion that they are not harming children. Or perhaps it's psychological but not psychiatric - i.e. not a medical disorder, but a disorder of the emotions, thinking and behaviour. Yes, that sounds more likely to me.

I'd guess that most paedophiles share the behaviour pattern of domestic abusers; that is, that they start 'small' and build up to the worst form of attacks if they continue to have opportunities to abuse. Which, if true, makes early intervention absolutely vital as a way of halting the cycle of abuse.

Like many other psychiatric disorders I assume it typically stems from some type of abuse - usually sexual. This is all guesswork, btw, informed guesswork, but still guesswork. So of course I may be wrong on all counts.

BoiledFrog Thu 09-Jun-11 22:39:19

But paedophile does not automatically=child abuser, there must be paedophiles out there that do not act on impulses or desires. There was a very interesting documentary about this, I think it was set in a secure institution, where patients could volunteer for chemical castration to gain more freedom.

There are never excuses for abuse, but I think the fundamental attraction to children is more complex.

BoiledFrog Thu 09-Jun-11 22:44:26

Have there always been the taboos there are now about being attracted to pre-pubescent children? I'm an ignoramus but across all ages and cultures I would guess not.

I would be willing to guess that as long as there have been humans there have been people attracted to young children, not saying it's right or to be accepted, but maybe it's a personality type that has always been present.

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