quarta-feira, 11 de maio de 2016


Stigma. A strong word with an inherent emotional load associated to it. There are several examples in world history about stigma. Stigma is usually directed at somone/something in specific or a group of people that share some characteristics. Today it is heavily applied to pedophilia and pedophiles.

Note: This article has a difference in the Portuguese and English versions. Although the base subject -- stigma -- being the same they have different focus. The Portuguese version was originally intended to be written in the same fashion as the English version. However I found an article from a psychologist where she declared her horror that pedophilia could not be considered a mental illness by the APA (American Psychiatric Association).

That same psychologist also goes on to spew most of the garden variety stigma and prejudices aimed at pedophiles while also complaining she wasn't allowed, in Brazil, to conduct conversion therapies in homosexuals and pedophiles. Given her views were atrocious I ended up dedicating the article to commenting her arguments one by one and explaining why they were wrong.

With that said, the original content for this article will only be present on the English version and the Portuguese version has been published separately.

What is Stigma?

If we look at the definition of the word, in Google for instance, the following is presented:

Definition of stigma

I have highlighted the most relevant parts to the discussion at hand. I would like to begin by addressing the first highlight in fact. There it is said that:

1. a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
It is interesting to note that this definition applies to pedophilia in two ways. One is that of a 'mark of disgrace' associated with a particular quality belonging to someone one or something. In the case of pedophiles the stigma is aimed at their inherent condition: pedophilia. Possessing such a characteristic, of being sexually attracted to children, is what generates the well known automatic rebuff from most people. To those people pedophiles can't be seen as human beings.

On the other hand that definition also mentions it can be a mark of disgrace associated with a particular person. In the case in point it would be with pedophiles again but because it is naturally assumed they are monsters, immoral, that would act on their perverted thoughts. More than the characteristic alone of having sexual attraction to children there seems to be a shroud of biased prejudiced surrounding pedophiles for being how they are. This prejudice is related to their lack of good morals, their lack of empathy towards a victim (that they haven't created and most likely never will). So in a way this stigma is generated from the perceived notion that all pedophiles are evil in a gross generalization biased towards a negative view.

The last highlight denotes that stigma has a Greek origin where it is said :
a mark made by a pointed instrument, a dot
In a way it certainly feels like that for many pedophiles. Their condition comes with an automatic mark which is inflicted to them by a pointy instrument. Such instrument to me is the blind ignorance, hatred and prejudiced that is branded by people in society nowadays. I personally believe that it is common for most people to resist changes. We are naturally resistant to things that will have a great impact on our way of thinking and living.

You can see several examples throughout history of this collective resistance behavior. Resistance for instance to electric lighting in the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution as well. Steam engines, petrol engines, radio technology furthermost supplanted by television technology. Recently you can point out personal computers, smartphones, the internet and so on. Yet despite each time these revolutions and innovations being massively adopted they were also deeply resented by many. Usually by older people there were set in their ways and didn't want to learn new things or change their minds.

On a social level the same is true. We can, for instance, use as examples slavery, racism, women's rights and homosexuals rights. At different points in the world's history there were people that finally broke through the status quo of their era and thus began changes in people's point of views. It is clear that eventually that acquired critical mass was enough so that those new concepts became something common, in a way something to be expected -- the new status quo. I talked specifically about this topic here. Still, to each one of these thoughts and moral revolutions there was a resistance by some people.

Comfort Zone

I believe it is common for people to want to remain in their comfort zone. More often than not they will not even make an effort to see someone else point of view because it means getting too close to the limit of their comfort zone.This resistance is something to be fought even though it is a long hard uphill battle. Still if history shows, it is through persistence and perseverance that actual change to the world comes about.

Having said all that why is there prejudice and stigma aimed at pedophiles? Why is there such a thing in regards to the subject of pedophilia? Why do people feel so strongly about this?

Why is there stigma related to pedophilia?

For most people, as far as I have experience in interacting with non-pedophiles in Twitter, this derives mostly from one reason and the awful consequences they assume will happen. That is that by talking about pedophilia opening and asking people to see things from my perspective, while presenting arguments for that point of view, I am talking about accepting pedophilia and normalizing it.

Well, I will be honest. I do have the intention of getting people to break their prejudice towards pedophilia and making them accept it, and pedophiles, as people. In that regard people are correct when it comes to my intentions. They are not ill intentions as I am merely asking them to accept my condition for what it is, instead for what they think it is. Having said that I have an issue with the way they use expression 'normalizing it'.

Ender has written an excellent blog post about people's view on pedophilia normalizing. I would highly suggest you take a few minutes to read that as he makes every single point I intended to make about normalization. I will just briefly extend a bit on the subject to pitch in my opinion.

The word normal can have different meanings. Normal as in present in nature (given pedophilia is a condition some human beings have, and given we are all part of nature, then yes, it is part of nature), Normal as it being common (most studies tend to show a 1%-3% prevalence of it in world's population, quite low in fact) or Normal as in 'Legalizing it and making child sexual abuse okay'.

In no way accepting that pedophilia is an actual condition that is not chosen, and can't be changed, means condoning child sexual abuse. More so, it certainly doesn't mean a child having sex with an adult as being okay or that it can be consensual by the child. In fact it doesn't even mean that child-adult sex is wrong.

Wow, what do you mean by that?

What I mean by that is that accepting that pedophilia is real, not chosen and incurable/unchangeable means that a person who has sexual attraction towards children simply is a person that has sexual attraction towards children.Go ahead and take a moment to think about that.

A person's sexual orientation/attraction doesn't have a correlation to said person's moral code. In other words, someone being a pedophiles does not automatically make them a manipulative lying pervert. Nor does it make that person someone who understand that child-adult sex is wrong and that his/her attractions shouldn't be acted upon.

The same applies to any heterosexual or homosexual person having a sexual attraction towards someone only meaning that said person is attractive to them. How they go about handling those attractions though is what makes them a good or bad person. People, regardless of their attraction, that act on their attractions in an immoral and/or illegal way are certainly acting as a bad person. By default we don't assume all men are rapists because a subset of that group are indeed rapists.

It is understood that despite there being a a subset of all men that act on their attractions violently the majority of them don't. The same goes for women.

So why would people assume that all pedophiles are immoral, lying, conniving, lurking perverts?

One reason is the conflation of the words pedophilia and child sexual abuse. It is often believed, and assumed, that the word 'pedophilia' means 'child sexual abuse'. In that regard it is also believed that the word 'pedophile' actually means 'child sex abuser'. I have explained in different posts on this blog, such as this one, that such conflation is not true.

In fact I already mentioned earlier in this article how pedophilia simply means having an attraction to children while pedophiles are people that are sexually attracted to children. Main point being: Attraction does not means action.Child sex abuse is an action and the perpetrator of said action is a child sex abuser. If they acted or not on a sexual attraction to the child, that was unfortunately abused, is a different matter.

So why do this conflation keeps on going? I can't honestly answer this for sure but to me it is due to lack of wanting to learn more about the subject (remember the comfort zone?) and the media blind usage of the word when reporting child sex abuse cases. Unfortunately those cases happen daily and more often than not the police is able to catch those abusers and fortunately stopping the abuse from happening. When those arrests make it to the news though there is a poor journalism that keeps the right knowledge from being disseminated.

Also those cases that make it to the news are another reason why this prejudice towards pedophiles still exist. The people that are caught sexually abusing children, be them pedophiles or not, generate a lot of anger and resentment towards them. Added with the conflation, already mentioned, of the media of the terms 'child sex abuser' and 'pedophile' all those bad feelings get attached to the word 'pedophile'.

So what is the stance on child sex abuse by pedophiles?

As with most things in life the answer is: depends. Specially more so because pedophiles are just a random assortment of people that share a base condition. That condition, pedophilia, doesn't imply a hive-mind mentality (as Ender's article I referenced points out as well). That means that all pedophiles are different just as all people are different. Yet there are basically two sides to this story.

Pro-contact pedophiles

These pedophiles have a view that child-adult sex is okay and natural and it should be allowed. That people that condone that notion are 'sex fascists'. That a child is a sexual human being with sexual rights and that modern day society curtails those rights. That a child can given informed consent to a relationship with an adult of sexual nature.

Anti-contact pedophiles

These pedophiles share the same views as non-pedophiles people. That a child-adult relationship involving sexual contact is not okay and that doing so is sexually abusive to the child. That there isn't the possibility of a child giving informed consent to a sexual relationship with an adult. That a child is a sexual being, as all human beings are, but each age range has a manner to express their sexuality and that they learn more about it naturally but in the child-like manner inherent to childhood. That an adult has no right interfering with that or forcing anything on the child that isn't appropriate for their age range and that means no form of sexual contact whatsoever coming from the adult.

Where does that leave us?

That leaves us with the view that pedophilia is a complicated, polemic subject. That it is surrounded in prejudiced and stigma from society and the media. That there are many different aspects to it and the people that have the condition. That not all pedophiles are child sex abusers. Also that even those that abuse may not have done so if they had been given the chance to seek help earlier. Asking for that help though is incredible hard given society's views on the condition.

Talking more about pedophilia generates more spreading of the objective knowledge about it to society. An open, honest and level-headed discussion about the topic can only improve things. That the more that is known about pedophilia the better. That allows people to identify better ways to protect and help their children from child sex abuse. It also allows pedophiles that do need help to request that without being the subjects of a 'witch-hunt'.

Also it is important to point out that accepting pedophilia and pedophiles does not mean condoning child sexual abuse. A person is able to have a sexual attraction and not act on it. In fact a lot of those pedophiles are also attracted to adults and can pursue a relationship with them. There are of course those who are only attracted to children. Unfortunately for those they can never act on their attractions and have to learn coping mechanism to deal with their feelings. That is certainly doable given the massive amount of pedophiles that have never hurt a child in their lives. The thing is that they don't make good subjects for news report so you never hear of them.

In order for the stigma to cease to exist people need to have an open mind. An open mind is generated by both attitude from that person as well as knowledge. The more willing the person is to break away from the status quo, and with more knowledge that person has, it tends to be easier to accept new ideas.

I know the subject of pedophilia is touchy. There is a lot of emotional load attached to it mainly because people associate it with child sexual abuse and think about all the abused children. Child sex abuse is a crime with dreadful consequences for the child. Yet most child sex abusers aren't pedophiles (around 80% of them). The abusers who are in fact pedophiles can be rehabilitated. I would like to think most are repentant and with some treatment and support can stay non-offending for the rest of their lives. Also I tend to think a lot of them held out for most of their lives on their secrets and given the inability to ask for help eventually gave in. Those cases are the ones where society fails them and the results is two lives shattered.

Despite all the emotional aspects of the subject I would urge people to think more about the subject. That they may reach beyond their views on the matter and try to see things from another point of view. Even if at the end of this exercise they decide their original view was correct. At least they will have given a chance to it.

At the end of the day there are two goals with talking about pedophilia openly. One is helping children stay safe, and allowing their parents to better be able to protect them. The second is allowing pedophiles to stop self-hating, stop suffering from depression, anxiety, paranoia, suicidal tendencies and fear of rejection. So that they can have better life quality and better mental health. In doing that, helping pedophiles staying healthy, you directly impact the first goal. Healthy people tend not to commit any crimes.

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