by Jon U
Pedophilia can sometimes be a taboo topic. Despite being a very common term, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the word.
Most common of these is the equation of pedophilia to child molestation.
According to sexologist Ray Blanchard, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, “A pedophile is defined as a person who has a sustained sexual orientation towards children, generally aged 13 or younger.”
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines pedophilia as an intense and recurrent sexual interest in prepubescent children, which becomes a disorder if it causes the person “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty”.
Pedophilia has been included in APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since 1968. Because as a basic principle of law in most countries, people are not held criminally liable for their thoughts or desires but rather only for their actions, pedophilia cannot be called a crime.
The law punishes acts rather than beliefs or disorders. And in the face of the law, a person’s unacted sexual interests are considered as thoughts. So unless these thoughts or desires are acted on in an illegal manner, they won’t be considered as a criminal matter.
This means that if a person is a pedophile only in the context of being sexually attracted to children, but otherwise do not act on that belief, then they have not committed any crime.
However, if this same person engages a child in a sexual activity of any manner, they have committed a (serious) crime, regardless of their particular motivations.
They will be charged for child molestation, or any other title of offense according to their actions, but not for pedophilia.
According to Wikipedia, a person must be at least 16 years old, and at least five years older than the prepubescent child, for the attraction to be diagnosed as pedophilia.
Not all pedophiles are child molesters and not all child molesters are pedophiles. Neither pedophiles (nor other paraphiliacs) are punished for their mental state; they are punished only if they act on their proclivities in an illegal manner.
“Child molesters are defined by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires,” Professor Blanchard says.
One of the biggest issues pedophiles face is seeking treatment for their condition because, very commonly, admitting to their problem immediately brings them to being stigmatized.
This difficulty in seeking treatment potentially opens the door for them to eventually act out and, hence, commit a crime, writes Margo Kaplan, an Associate Professor at Rutgers Law School.
It is also impossible to tell who is a pedophile and who is not, until they act on their inner attraction.
A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice.
According to the article by Margo Kaplan published on The New York Times, recent research has shown pedophilia to have neurological origins.
Pedophilia could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response.
Brain scans of sex offenders with pedophilia have been found to show fewer of the neural pathways in the brain known as white matter.
Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause.
Some findings also suggest that disturbances in neuro-development in the womb or early childhood increase the risk of pedophilia.
Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.
While treatment cannot eliminate a pedophile’s sexual interests, a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication can help them to manage urges and avoid committing crimes.
A pedophile should be held responsible for his conduct — but not for the underlying attraction.
For the same reasons that lust is not regarded as a crime while sexual assault is, pedophilia cannot be labelled as a crime.
In conclusion, a pedophile can be attracted to young children all they want, but so long as they do not act on that attraction, they have not committed any punishable offense.
But once they do, be it physically through molestation, child pornography, propositioning a child, etc, it becomes a crime, and a very serious one at that!