Pedophiles R Us
He sounds like a pretty typical pedophile to me.
Last spring, Time magazine interviewed the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire. In their massive study of online pornography consumption, they found that what men most search for is this: "It’s youth by a wide margin."
This is a shocking fact, when you consider the mind-boggling array of porn in which women, other men and even animals are used in every way imaginable for sexual release. It's the kids that they want -- and these are, for the most part, "normal" men.
The novel “Lolita,” about a man's obsessive lust for a 12-year-old girl, did not become an international sensation because it was beautifully written. It gripped the world because it gave vivid, salacious voice to common male fantasies about seducing virginal children. As the data on this complex and painful subject prove overwhelmingly, these fantasies are not confined to a demonic little coterie of hell-bound subhumans.
On Oct. 18, 2012, The Boy Scouts of America -- forced by the Freedom of Information Act -- released files documenting sexual abuse by thousands of its troop leaders (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/boy-scout-perversion-files-released/2012/10/18/62c7a6ec-1940-11e2-b97b-3ae53cdeaf69_story.html ).
The molestation is so extensive that the Scouts seem more like a pedophilia cabal than an organization dedicated to the well-being and character development of boys. It's at least as messed up as the Catholic Church (and many other churches, including evangelicals, orthodox Jews and Mormons).
And so, apparently, is the BBC. The esteemed British institution was rocked in late October 2012 by allegations that longtime children's host Jimmy Savile, who died last year, abused an estimated 200 children and underage teens over several decades, sometimes on BBC premises.
 Jimmy Saville, left, and Gary Glitter in their celebrity heydays. Some of the alleged victims have accused other entertainers -- including rocker Gary Glitter -- and BBC staff of participating in abuse during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The BBC is accused of covering up the scandal
But the biggest problem is not with institutions. According to most sources, about half of child sex abusers are the child's parent. Another 18 percent or so are relatives. As we are often informed, the child almost always has a relationship with the abuser. Sandusky had lots of relationships, and I bet more than the originally alleged 20 of them became sexually abusive.
Why do we keep being so gushingly surprised when our most upstanding citizens are found to be predators? Doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, police officers, directors of charitable organizations, therapists, human-rights activists and business, political and civic leaders are being arrested all the time, often after years or even decades of abusing children. (The blue-collar guys, the loners, the drifters offend as well, of course, but that doesn't surprise us.)
MEN WILL BE MEN
A congressionally funded 2005 study by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) found that almost all of those arrested for possessing child porn were men; 91 percent were white, and 86 percent were older than 25. Seventy-nine percent had a high school education or better, and 73 percent were employed full-time. Just regular guys in the grip of one of the few things I would characterize as truly evil.
Why did Jim Jones, David Koresh and Warren Jeffs -- among many other charismatic religious leaders -- prey on boys (and girls)? Because they could! Like Jerry Sandusky, they had authority, motive, opportunity and plausible deniability. They did it because they had power over people, and power -- as Henry Kissinger famously said -- is "the greatest aphrodisiac." They think the rules don't apply to them, etc., etc. They are blinded by the esteem in which they are held. They can't imagine that they'll ever get caught. Other guys get caught, not the Supermen of American society. We've heard this all before.
NONE DARE CALL IT 'KIND OF NORMAL'
Haven't we kept our blinders on long enough? Pedophiles are arguably the most hated members of the human race, but is their attraction as twisted as we like to believe?
These crimes are so common that it seems disingenuous to call the behavior “aberrant.” It is estimated that for every man who succumbs to these impulses, as many as 10,000 endure “intense temptation” to engage in sexual activity with children. For millions more, it is a real but well-repressed curiosity or attraction.
We need to confront this issue honestly, which will make a lot of people very uncomfortable. It's about time we realized that an attraction to children is within the spectrum of normal human sexuality (which is not, of course, to say the abuse is acceptable). It is rampant and always has been. Throughout history and into the present, adult sexual relations with children and adolescents (including incestuous ones) have been accepted, encouraged, even glorified in some cultures.
(UPDATE: This excellent January 14, 2013, Los Angeles Times article reviews current research findings on pedophilia. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pedophiles-20130115,0,197689.story?track=lat-pick .)
(Studies indicate that a sexual preference for children is inborn, genetic and incurable, although there are strategies for repressing the urges, the LAT article reports. The research also distinguishes between true pedophiles, who helplessly "fall in love" with children, versus those who are not sexually attracted to their victims but "have personality disorders or violent streaks." Their victims are usually family members, and they account for about half of all child sex abuse, according to the article.)
"Boy play" in Afghanistan means he'll be doing more than dancing for his elders.A GRIM REALITY THAT'S PLAGUED MANKIND FOREVER
THE NORMALIZATION OF INCEST
So we can surely be offended and outraged and repulsed by the use of children for sex, but we shouldn't be surprised. The attraction seems to be a part of our makeup, however well-repressed it generally is.
And psychoanalysis inadvertently provided a quasi-intellectual rationale for the abuse. Sigmund Freud and others advanced the theory -- "polymorphous perversity" --that children are sexual beings from birth, and they can experience libidinal pleasure by being touched anywhere on their bodies.
IN JAPAN, IT'S COMIC RELIEF
Photos and videos of minors (anyone under age 20) committing graphic sexual acts can be found in adult video shops nationwide. Men openly peruse child pornography during their long train commutes to urban centers.
There is a brisk market in pornographic manga comic books.
THE EPIDEMIC IS UPON US
The Internet has turned pornography into a mainstream product. Billions of dollars are year are raked in by subsidiaries of AT&T, Time Warner, General Motors, EchoStar, Liberty Media, Marriott International, Hilton, On Command, LodgeNet Entertainment and News Corporation (not to mention hundreds of obscure porn production lines) -- all of which make and distribute "extremely raunchy" adult films, according to the New York Times.
The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined, the Internet Filter Review reports. It adds that 12 percent of sites on the web are pornographic. The average age of first exposure to pornography is eleven. Some 90 percent of youths 8 to 16 years old have viewed porn online (most while "doing homework.") A quarter of all search-engine requests are porn-related, and 35 percent of all Internet downloads are pornographic.
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE INTO KIDDIE PORN
Chat rooms are filled with men who are trying to cope with an obsession that they didn't seek and that they find repugnant. They "happened upon" this material, and now they can't seem to let it go. They recount the urgency they feel about getting back on the computer to view more images of child pornography. Their description of their tormenting hunger, and the "release" they get when they get their "fix," make it clear that the material is addictive in the same way as hard drugs. The men give each other advice on the best ways to divert themselves from child pornography and to avoid acting upon their intensifying urges. Exercise, or practice meditation, or just stay away from boys entirely, they are advised.
THE NICEST GUYS YOU'D EVER HOPE TO MEET
It appears that those who prey on children fall into two major categories. There are the more normal guys, the "good" guys who have decent marriages, wholesome community and professional connections and overall respectability. They fall into the abuse almost by accident -- through an intimacy that develops with a little kid on the team they coach, for example -- or, increasingly, after a little bit of nervous exploration on the Internet grabs them by the throat and yanks them into a mindset they never could have imagined.
It is these "ordinary, upstanding" men who concern me most, because it is among this group that the huge surge in pedophilic interest and "dabbling" has occurred.
I imagine that it begins innocently enough. You've got a computer right in front of you, and you've heard about this vast, mysterious universe of pornography that's out there. You're just curious. One little peek to see what all the fuss is about, and then it's back to your Power Point presentation. That's the plan.
From what I've read -- and from what I've been told -- it doesn't work that way. Pornography, appropriately enough, is seductive.
The market for child pornography has grown by several thousand percent in the past ten years. It has become a multibillion-dollar commercial enterprise, and is among the fastest growing businesses on the Internet, according to Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
John Shehan, director of exploited children services at NCMEC, says the market for child pornography has become as large as the adult-porn industry.
THE MARKET BECOMES ALL-EMBRACING
“Traditionally, we have viewed pedophiles as the users and distributors of child pornography,” said Allen. “However, the consumer market for child pornography is growing, and becoming much broader."
This broader audience, according to a paper titled “Child Pornography: An International Perspective,” consists of individuals "who may not have a sexual preference for children, but who have seen the gamut of adult pornography and who are searching for more bizarre material.”
 French model Thylane Blondeau is ten years old. Ten years ago, Muireann O’Brian also observed this in her work with child sexual abusers. She heads the Bangkok office of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, a global organization that helps police and lawyers target child molesters.
She pointed out that “arrests have shown men with perfectly normal sexual proclivities become seduced, then involved and finally addicted to child pornography. Their addiction may manifest itself by them just keeping and looking at the images . . . But it has been found that the addiction leads many men into seeking out children to abuse.”
An estimated 58 percent of children used in child pornography today are prepubescent, and six percent are infants. NCMEC is seeing an alarming trend in which victims are becoming younger and younger, and images are much more violent. In its 2005 study, 21 percent of those possessing child pornography had images showing sexual violence toward children.
THE FREAKS ON THE FRINGES
There certainly is and always has been a "coterie" of hardcore pedophiles. These are the "evil people" -- the loners, the misfits, the secretive, unkempt fatsos -- whom we normally envision when the word pedophile is used (although that image is wrong -- there are many of the "upstanding" guys who are hardcore). These are the ones who buy, sell, trade and produce child pornography. They trade tips on how to "groom" and gently seduce or cynically manipulate or simply terrify youngsters into a sexual relationship. The Internet has been a tremendous boon to their ability to organize, communicate and trade images.
It appears that these people, unlike the typical coach or schoolteacher, are to some extent hard-wired to have pedophilia as their sexual orientation, and that they can't control what they desire any more than we can. There are chromosomal abnormalities that have been identified, and even a gene sequence that makes you 13 times more likely to commit a sexual offense than if you didn't have it.
"These statistics alone indicate that we cannot presume that everyone is coming to the table equally equipped in terms of drives and behaviors," a July 2011 Atlantic article by David Eagleman states.
THEY'RE DEFECTIVE, AND IT'S NOT THEIR FAULT
These footnoted data from Wikipedia offer even more evidence that it is difficult to assume pedophiles are fully responsible for their actions: Pedophiles and hebephiles (those attracted to children near puberty) have lower IQs, poorer scores on memory tests, greater rates of non-right-handedness, greater rates of school failure, lesser physical height, greater probability of having suffered childhood head injuries resulting in unconsciousness, and several differences in MRI-detected brain structures.
These findings suggest that there are one or more neurological characteristics present at birth that can cause of increase the likelihood of being pedophilic. Evidence of familial transmittability "suggests, but does not prove that genetic factors are responsible" for the development of pedophilia.
The psychiatric profession regards pedophilia as an illness and as a distinct sexual orientation. Studies of pedophiles' brains at the University of Ottawa have shown differences in the way they react to changes in hormone levels.
Other possible risk factors include psychological problems during puberty and even being brothers: The Journal of Psychology in 2000 reported that "a gap of several years between brothers might deprive the pedophile of companionship in formative years of sexual behavior development."
MAKING THE CASE FOR 'MAN-BOY LOVE'
NAMBLA literature ranges from high-minded, reasoned essays on civil liberties and the virtues of platonic, loving relationships between older and younger males to hideously matter-of-fact tutorials about seduction and about sex tourism, which the group encourages to avoid legal penalties in the U.S.
NAMBLA points to studies which indicate that man-boy sexual relationships, when not forcible, do not damage boys (the data on girls are another story). Shockingly, the authors of a 1998 paper published in the prestigious American Psychological Association Bulletin criticized the use of conventional terms such as pedophile, victim and perpetrator and recommended that “a willing encounter with positive reactions” be labeled “simply adult-child sex.”
'PEDOPHILE CHIC' -- A CREEPY BUT BRIEF ERA
"Stigmatizing and stereotyping minor-attracted people inflames the fears of minor-attracted people, mental health professionals and the public, without contributing to an understanding of minor-attracted people or the issue of child sexual abuse," reads the organization's website.
CRIMINALIZE OR MEDICALIZE?
I certainly don't agree with this. The abuse and exploitation of children must remain criminal, but we do need to adopt measures that are more enlightened than simply throwing people in prison.
We need to recognize that pedophilic tendencies are widespread -- and becoming more so -- and provide programs that are designed to help people avoid acting upon their impulses.
We need to invest far more resources in stemming the flow of child pornography. The damage it does is incalculable.
We need more treatment for those who have already offended. Although it has become conventional wisdom that pedophilia is virtually impossible to "cure," there are in fact several approaches that some researchers claim have great promise, including behavior modification therapies and a redirection of sexual attraction. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking to hope that such measures can work. Chemical or surgical castration is a last resort, but it is effective as long as the offender's motive is sexual rather than a desire to dominate and subjugate.
Finally, we need to stop demonizing predators and try to regard them as sick rather than evil. They usually do get out of prison, and if we shun and isolate them, they are much less likely to adapt to normal life. When there's no place for them to live except under a viaduct, and when no one will give them a job, recidivism is much more likely.
In a forthcoming post, I will offer a personal perspective on this topic. Just doing the research for it has made me sick, and I wasn't able to achieve the understanding or empathy that I sought.
I wanted to become more compassionate by educating myself. It backfired: