Concerning pedophiles

Originally posted on August 29, 2013

The Atlantic published two articles about pedophilia recently. The first featured convicted pedophile David Goldberg discussing whether those who view child pornography should face long prison terms. The second featured an interview with Dr. James Cantor discussing whether pedophilia is a sexual orientation.

(Before I comment on the articles, I must say that I am curious as to whether feminists will pitch a collective fit over the Atlantic’s articles like they did when the Good Men Project tried a similar experiment. I suspect they will not.)

In his article, Goldberg described his obsessive need to collect child pornography. He spent every night online searching for new images and videos or looking through his own collection. He got caught when he ordered films with naked boys in them, although the films were not pornographic.

I found his arrest curious. I am not familiar with Canadian law, so I do not know if the government prohibits any depiction of nude children. However, if the films were benign, I fail to see why they would be flagged. Goldberg does not state what exactly he purchased, but I am inclined to assume that it was something more than just the random scenes with nude boys. I would like to know what exactly prompted the police to pay him a visit.

Goldberg goes on to state:

The most important thing I’ve discovered in the 15 months since my arrest isn’t the why, but rather what can be done to change the preconceptions and misconceptions that society has when it comes to pedophiles. Most people hear that word and think of the Jerry Sanduskys and abusive Catholic priests of the world. Fewer people think about the millions who grapple with sexual feelings on which they can never act. When someone hears the word “pedophile”, they immediately think of a child molester. Yet the majority of pedophiles do not molest, but instead spend hours looking at child pornography. And as those numbers grow, so does the number of child victims.

I doubt that the majority of pedophiles spend hours looking at child pornography. That would require them to be compulsive, and it is unlikely that all men and women sexually attracted to children would compulsively seek sexual gratification.

It is more likely that some pedophiles suffer from some psychological issue that prompts such compulsive behavior, while most are discernibly no different from the general population, and likely can control their behavior. That does not mean that some or many of them do not collect or view child pornography, only that I think this probably plays out the same way it does with other sexual orientations.

The latter is a problem for many people as “sexual orientation” has a specific political meaning in our society. As Dr. Cantor explains in his interview:

“Sexual orientation” means different things in different contexts. When they say “sexual orientation,” most people mean a sexual interest that is inborn and unchangeable. No one chooses to be sexually attracted to children, although people do choose whether they act on their sexual attractions. Therapists have been attempting to turn pedophiles into non-pedophiles for a very long time, but no one has presented any objective evidence of any enduring change in sexual interests. People can learn self-control, people can take sex-drive-reducing medications, and people can learn how to live more healthy and productive lives, but we do not appear to be able to change the pedophilia itself.

He goes on to explain what he thinks causes pedophilia:

The best current evidence suggests that pedophilia results from atypical wiring in the brain. This field of research is still very new, but it appears that there exists what could be considered a “cross-wiring” in the brain anatomy that is responsible for controlling natural social instincts or behavior. Although learning happens after birth, humans are pre-wired to recognize and respond to certain stimuli. It seems, from research conducted thus far, that stimuli that usually elicits nurturing and protective responses in most adults are instead eliciting sexual responses in pedophiles.

I would like to see that research because I want to know how specific the researchers were in using the label “pedophile.” The reason I find this important is because people use the term as catch-all for anyone who has sex with a minor. Some people, like me, attempt to limit this people sexually attracted to minors, yet we still use it as a catch-all for anyone attracted to a person under the age of 18.

However, pedophilia refers to the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Hebephilia refers to sexual attraction to child just reaching puberty, while ephebophilia refers to sexual attraction to teenagers. If the researchers made no distinctions between the types of attraction, I think the findings could be misleading as the latter two sexual attractions may not stem from the same cause as pedophilia.

Dr. Cantor also mentions the problems pedophiles faces when seeking treatment:

Many jurisdictions have passed mandatory reporting regulations for psychologists and other health care providers. Consequently, when someone who thinks he might be a pedophile comes in for counseling or therapy, the psychologist may be compelled by law to report the person to the authorities. That, of course, can lead to loss of the person’s job, family, and everything else. So, these people have simply stopped coming in at all, and instead of getting help to them, we now have pedophiles circulating in society receiving no support at all.

I agree with Dr. Cantor. While I understand the logic behind mandatory reporting, if a person has not committed a crime, there is no reason to require anyone to report the person. No therapist is required to report someone expressing thoughts of blowing up hundreds of thousands of people, thoughts of mutilating people, drowning people, poisoning them, or a host of other violent acts. As Dr. Cantor notes later in the article, pedophiles are more likely to offend when they feel they have nothing to lose. This is also true of convicted pedophiles. They are more likely to re-offend when they have no other options available to them.

In other words, by making them pariah we may cause them to do the thing we do not want them to do. While I doubt most of these people are incapable of controlling themselves, those who are might seek help if they did not think they would be reported. If those men and women have not offended, I see no reason why we ought not provide them with confidential support with the understanding given to all other people: if you intend or imply that you will hurt yourself or others, you will be reported to the police.

This also goes back to Goldberg’s issue. He states:

Despite my arrest, I am one of the lucky ones. Because I was arrested in Canada, I was only given a 90-day sentence. Had I been arrested in the U.S., I could have served many years with hardened criminals. My family and friends stood by since my arrest and love and accept me, despite my sexual flaws.

How many millions of pedophiles throughout the world aren’t as lucky as I? How many will never seek help, too scared of the legal and social consequences? How many will continue to create the demand that fuels a malicious child pornography market? Is locking them away for a while the answer? Will the day ever come when we, as a society, reach out and offer them the help they so desperately need?

I agree with Goldberg. Placing people who view child pornography in prison for decades does little to prevent further abuse, and it only makes that person’s life worse than it already is.

Understand, there are images of me and my siblings on the internet. I know this because I have been asked about it by someone who deals with such crimes. I also know because I remember the photos and videos being shot. I used to wonder when I was younger whether people staring at me did so because of how I looked or what I wore or because they recognized me from those pictures.

So I understand the violation of having those images out there, being traded now, while some woman or man gets off on them. I also, however, understand that vast majority of people who will see those images did nothing to me and likely will not do anything to any child. It makes no sense then to punish them more harshly than we do those who actually made the images.

Yet we do, and it proves absolutely pointless. Those making the images get to continue to abuse children while someone like Goldberg gets labeled a sex offender for thinking about having sex with a child.

The money we spend locking these people up could be better spent treating them by teaching them how to not act on their impulses. We can then take the rest of that money and use it to find people who actually abused children.

The 90-day sentence seems a little lax, but the 10 to 20-year sentences we see some people getting for possessing child pornography are absurd. There is an easy middle ground we should go for, particularly since locking them up is not a deterrent.

That leaves us with the obvious issue: these people’s attraction towards children is not going to go away. That is an inherent problem because as society we are essentially telling them they can never act on their feelings. That is not working well.

Unfortunately for pedophiles, unless someone creates a robot that looks like a child or manages to stop people’s growth so they appear to be children but are technically adults, pedophiles have no option. A child simply cannot give informed consent to sex. That is not to say that they do not know what they are doing or are not interested in doing it. It is only to say that their ability to understand what they are doing is very low. No eight-year-old can understand what an adult relationship entails, let alone a sexual relationship. To force that on them is grossly unfair, and that puts pedophiles at a disadvantage because they can never act on their feelings with a genuinely consenting partner.

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21 thoughts on “Concerning pedophiles

  1. Assuming that viewing child pornography doesn’t cause people to actually go out and molest children (and I think that is the case), I think the following might be a reasonable tactic.

    Continue to outlaw making or viewing new child porn and dry up the demand for it.

    Allow people to view/read child porn that involves no actual children (eg. drawings, fictional stories, animated images)

    Have a government database of approved child porn. This porn would feature actual images of children, but would feature only images older than 100 years or so. The idea would be that the people harmed by the creation of the porn would no longer be alive, so that no further abuse is perpetrated on the child victims.

  2. Continue to outlaw making or viewing new child porn and dry up the demand for it.

    That will not work. Modern technology allows anyone with a computer or cell phone to take pictures and videos. Various file-sharing services allow people to share media privately as well as publicly.

    Allow people to view/read child porn that involves no actual children (eg. drawings, fictional stories, animated images)

    This is practical, yet still problematic as most countries have obscenity laws that would outlaw such media. For example, the United States Supreme Court declared that it was not illegal to possess fictional depictions of children engaging in sexual situation as long as no real child was involved in its creation. However, the wording of the law is tricky, meaning that anyone caught with such material can face prison time.

    Have a government database of approved child porn. This porn would feature actual images of children, but would feature only images older than 100 years or so. The idea would be that the people harmed by the creation of the porn would no longer be alive, so that no further abuse is perpetrated on the child victims.

    This seems unwise. For one, it is rather easy to age a picture to make it look older than it is. Two, there are plenty of artistic nudes of children that are centuries old that people can already own. Three, allowing the government to control the database would also allow them to track who views it, therein violating the person’s privacy.

    Four, I think creating such a database would only make the situation worse because we would essentially be teasing pedophiles. They appear to want actual relationships, and porn is not a substitute for that. If we created such a database, we are saying on some level that the sexual attraction is acceptable.

  3. “The money we spend locking these people up could be better spent treating them”

    That.

    We are willing to spend way over a million dollars locking up a single “pedophile” (the inaccurate catch-all term you clarify), but treatment, education like Stop It Now has developed, etc. close down for lack of 100,000 dollars a year nationally. Over $100 million in Minnesota, times 50 states.

  4. The most troubling aspect to me is that the illegality of ‘possession’ of such porn is, essentially, making a crime out of intent, rather than action. “If we catch you with some words or pictures on your computer that we disapprove of, you’re going to jail” should be frightening to anyone who values freedom.

  5. “If we catch you with some words or pictures on your computer that we disapprove of, you’re going to jail” should be frightening to anyone who values freedom(Copy)

    Slippery slope, but if you have thousands of pics of naked kids on your hardrive and they are not yours(Id still question your sanity if they were). I would have no problem pushing you down the hill.

  6. Copyleft:

    The most troubling aspect to me is that the illegality of ‘possession’ of such porn is, essentially, making a crime out of intent, rather than action.

    Exactly. It is a thought crime, literally criminalizing the thoughts people have when looking at pictures. That is not to say that I want people creating these images. However, to punish someone for a thought is far too extreme.

    Titfortat:

    Slippery slope, but if you have thousands of pics of naked kids on your hardrive and they are not yours(Id still question your sanity if they were). I would have no problem pushing you down the hill.

    I can understand that logic, however, let us change the offensive material. Let us say someone has thousands of pics of murdered kids on their hard drive and they did not create the images. Would you still push them down a hill?

    That is my problem with this. It is one thing to punish those who create the images. But to punish those who view the images, often regardless of the context of the images or the viewing, is absurd. For example, my 13-year-old godson can be charged with creating and possessing child porn if he takes a nude picture of himself. If he sends it to anyone, that is trafficking child porn. Anyone who receives the image also violated the law.

    I realize the laws are designed to protect children, but it could easily be a case of my godson playing “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” with a smartphone rather than in person.

  7. TS

    Snuff films come to mind in regards to murdering. The problem with child porn is that the individuals in the pictures are not dead. They are living breathing individuals who are probably being continuously exploited. In the case of murdered people, who would be hurt by that? I agree with you in regards to your godson. Hopefully we would have clearheaded people reasoning out the difference.

  8. The problem with child porn is that the individuals in the pictures are not dead. They are living breathing individuals who are probably being continuously exploited.

    That is certainly true in my case. However, my issue is the nature of the crime. The pictures and videos of me have already been taken. While I do not like the idea of someone looking at them, the harm was already done. It makes little sense to me to punish someone for thinking about what was already done to me more than going after those who actually did it.

    In the case of murdered people, who would be hurt by that?

    The victims’ living families and friends and the victims themselves. It would technically still be exploitative. My problem is it seems we are not punishing people for exploiting others’ pain, but for fantasizing about engaging in the activity. I simply fail to see the crime in fantasizing, even though I understand the questionable morality of it.

    Hopefully we would have clearheaded people reasoning out the difference.

    Unfortunately we do not. That is why I warn parents not to take any nude pictures of their kids. Regardless of how innocent the pictures may be, it only takes one phone call to get the police involved.

  9. The pictures and videos of me have already been taken. While I do not like the idea of someone looking at them, the harm was already done. (TS)

    Youre a different bird TS. Many people who have experienced what you have would consider the viewing of the pics a continuation of the abuse. We know that people who have willingly engaged in porn regret those decisions later in life because the “evidence” never leaves the web. I imagine for the ones who did not do so of their own accord the impact would be considerably more damaging and continuous.

  10. Another analogy is the live feel of a film. This is why it is a crime to possess a snuff film. Youre not only looking at the dead body, youre watching the person get murdered. Very different than just a still pic of a corpse. Much of the material found in certain individuals homes are not just pictures but videos.

  11. Youre a different bird TS. Many people who have experienced what you have would consider the viewing of the pics a continuation of the abuse.

    I feel that way to an extent. I certainly find it exploitative. I admit I am very ashamed and embarrassed by the images and videos of me. I do not like that people can see them. However, the people who view those images are not actually doing anything to me. If we punish them for possessing illegal images, that is one thing. Yet to punish them for thinking about an act being committed in the images is something else entirely. I think the laws are written to appear to punish the former but actually punish the latter.

    Now here is the odd part: if I told someone about what happened to me and they went home and masturbated to it, there is nothing that could be done. If I write about what happened to me on this blog and someone masturbated to it, there is nothing that could be done. It appears that it is fine to get off on the abuse of a child as long as one cannot actually see the abuse occurring.

    Another analogy is the live feel of a film. This is why it is a crime to possess a snuff film. Youre not only looking at the dead body, youre watching the person get murdered.

    I understand that, however, let me put it this way: when people watch footage of Nazis killing Jews, are those people culpable?

    I agree that it is wrong to enjoy someone’s suffering. But is it criminal? The possessing of the material ultimately comes down to why the person has it, yes? If so, are we not really punishing the person for their intent, not their actions?

    Much of the material found in certain individuals homes are not just pictures but videos.

    I do not see a difference between the two. They are both exploitative and both record the abuse.

  12. And I see no reason why possession of child porn OR a snuff film should be a crime. The creation of either, yes; but possession of a copy of the resulting images and text? Nope.

    And the private viewing of any sort of material cannot conceivably be called “further abuse” if the subject has no way of even knowing about it.

  13. . The creation of either, yes; but possession of a copy of the resulting images and text? Nope.(Copy)

    The problem sometimes is that people will fill the void if there is a demand. Think about it though, this isnt pot or cocaine were talking about. The demand is for human beings suffering and others fantasizing about it. If that aint a crime……………….help us all.

  14. Titfortat:

    The problem sometimes is that people will fill the void if there is a demand.

    I agree, however, the issue is the nature of the demand. The demand is images of children engaging in sex. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of those images already. In theory, no one needs to make new ones.

    The demand is for human beings suffering and others fantasizing about it. If that aint a crime……………….help us all.

    Committing the act? Yes. Wanting to see the act committed? I do not think that should be a crime. I agree it is immoral, but I do not think it rises to the level of a crime.

  15. Copyleft:

    And I see no reason why possession of child porn OR a snuff film should be a crime. The creation of either, yes; but possession of a copy of the resulting images and text? Nope.

    I do not have a problem with the possession of child porn being a crime. I do have a problem with incarcerating people for long periods based solely on possession and not the creation of the images. To me, doing is simply punishing the people we could get our hands on since we cannot find the people who actually created the images. As for stories or drawn images, I see no reason for that to be a crime because no actual child was harmed to make the image.

    And the private viewing of any sort of material cannot conceivably be called “further abuse” if the subject has no way of even knowing about it.

    Yes and no. I will use myself as an example. I have no way of knowing who is looking at the images of me being abused or how many people have looked at them. For all I know, someone is looking at those images right now. It technically does me no direct harm. Yet I know that there are images of me out there. Sometimes I wonder if people who look at me as if they recognize me do so because they saw those images. More so, I can recall what happened during those “sessions” and it still bothers me. I do not like the idea of people getting off on that. That causes me stress, albeit stress I am essentially creating for myself.

  16. Slippery slope statements:
    1. “I enjoy watching children being sexually abused, could you go out a make some for me.”

    2. “I enjoy watching children being sexually abused, I wish I could find some on the web”

    One is a crime, two should be. But instead lets just call it immoral, Im sure a lot of people will sleep better now, right?

  17. Titfortat, the first one is not a crime per se. A person must actually solicit the act for it be criminal, and one must prove the person’s seriousness and intent.

    I fail to see the criminal aspect of the second one. The person is expressing a desire to see something. I do not think we should criminalize people’s desires.

    I doubt people will sleep better, however, I do think it is good to know what exactly we are criminalizing and why. People have horrible thoughts and desires. Sometimes they want to act them out. Sometimes they only want to witness them. We can argue about criminalizing actions, but criminalizing thoughts is problematic. This is not a slippery slope argument. It is a basic argument of how one determines what is and is not “acceptable” thought and desire, and who gets to determine that.

  18. Charles manson, convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder”. Im liking that for people who have video of children being sexually abused. It will never happen but boy would I like it. In reality, wanting to view children being sexually abused is no different than Charles wanting people to murder for him.

  19. Charles manson, convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder”. Im liking that for people who have video of children being sexually abused. It will never happen but boy would I like it.

    It can, depending on the circumstances. If two people discuss one of them raping a child and filming the act, that rises to conspiracy. My understanding of U.S. is that there needs to be some general level of intent to commit the act and an actual attempt it.

    In reality, wanting to view children being sexually abused is no different than Charles wanting people to murder for him.

    I agree, but I still think that it is punishing a desire rather than an act.

  20. I agree, but I still think that it is punishing a desire rather than an act(TS)

    The problem lies in the fact that your desire needs to have an act done for it to be fulfilled. Remember also, were not talking about smoking a joint or snorting a line. The implication of the desire to be granted is that someone has to be abused. I have no problem punishing that desire if it requires a real live person to be part of it. Now, if you want to go and draw pictures or have dummies being used to mimic the desire, then have at it. BUT……….we all know what type of act is needed to placate this type of desire.

  21. The problem lies in the fact that your desire needs to have an act done for it to be fulfilled.

    Not necessarily. It depends on the nature of the person’s desire. For example, someone who likes to see people being killed might get their fill from watching horror films or reading horror novels. They might not need to see the actual act in order to satisfy their desire.

    The implication of the desire to be granted is that someone has to be abused. I have no problem punishing that desire if it requires a real live person to be part of it.

    Where I have a problem is the idea of punishing people simply for having the desire. We cannot control people’s thoughts, and it is illogical to assume that because a person has a desire that they mean to act on it.

    Now, if you want to go and draw pictures or have dummies being used to mimic the desire, then have at it. BUT……….we all know what type of act is needed to placate this type of desire.

    Again, I do not think this is necessarily true. Every person with a negative desire may not need to see the real act committed in order to satisfy their want. Even in cases where people do need to see the real act, we have a tricky issue to deal with: what about images and footage that is very old? For example, if someone wants to watch someone be killed, is it okay for them to watch WWI and WWII footage since most of those people are long dead? Likewise, people like me are now adults, and while it may bother me that people may see those images of me, I am no loner a child or being abused. Is it okay to look at those images? (My personal position is that I would rather people use my images than make new ones by abusing another child.)

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