What is Pedophilia?

When we hear about pedophiles, rarely is it before they have committed a crime. In fact, we don’t even know who or where they are until they have been caught abusing a child and let’s be clear here, any pedophile who acts on his sexual desires with a child, is a child rapist. No question. But, “pedophilia” (or “paedophilia”) itself is not an act nor is it a crime; it is nothing more than a diagnostic label — just like Bipolar, Downs Syndrome, Fibromyalgia or Cancer.

“Pedophilia” is a label that identifies a quantifiable  psychiatric disorder, possibly caused by or related to a birth defect or brain injury. In studies, science has been able to show us through ever-growing technology, that the brains of many sex offenders have identifiable differences from those of non-offenders. These differences, particularly in their temporal and frontal lobes, can often be seen and measured. The frontal lobes are considered our emotional control center dictating many things including judgement and impulse control as well as social and sexual behavior.

Also worth noting, some research points to a possible prenatal neurodevelopmental correlation and/or excessive prenatal estrogen exposure as a potential cause of disturbed hemispheric brain lateralization resulting in paraphilias (fetishes).

Pedophilia is not a choice, but pedophiles can choose not to offend. They can learn to control themselves and their urges. Sometimes, as unreasonable as it may sound, they need our help.

Many people have tried to conflate pedophilia issues with homosexuality or gender issues. They are not related. The American Psychological Association (APA) considers pedophilic disorder a “paraphilia,” i.e. a sexual perversion and sexual deviation, not a form of “sexual orientation.” The APA removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1974, after it was determined decades ago that homesexuality was not a fetish. One day the DSM will aslo recognize the biological evidence and what it may mean.

  • Pedophilia is a primary or exclusive adult sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger.
  • Hebephilia  is a strong and persistent adult sexual interest in pubescent, i.e. early adolescent individuals, typically ages 11–14.
  • Ephebophilia is a primary or exclusive adult sexual interest in mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19.

Most of you have probably never heard the words”Hebophile” or “Ephebophile” before because most people group all of these people under the label of pedophile; even though they are not the same. Just like we deem all pedophiles to be child molesters.

“Pedophilia” does not mean “child molester” and, although a pedophile could molest a child, these two types of people can be vastly different; especially from the victim’s perspective.

Not all or even most pedophiles harm children yet we readily demonize all of them just for being pedophiles, whether they have ever touched a child or not. We treat them like child molesters for committing nothing more than what would be equivalent to one of George Orwell’s “thought crimes”. And yes, no one wants to think about what a pedophile thinks about and yes it is quite distasteful when we do, but thoughts are not crimes and a pedophile’s thoughts are no more controllable than your own. What most people do not realize is many pedophiles are just as disgusted by their thoughts as we are because they know what they are thinking about our little ones is wrong.

Knowing there are adult men who are deeply sexually turned-on, not by their own female peers, but by our children, is where the conversation on the issue seems to stop. Some people think of pedophilia as the worst possible crime ever, rating it higher than murder. Our disgust has created an inability to differentiate what a pedophile really is and isn’t and has deterred us from real intervention. This is half of the problem that continues to put children in harm’s way. Our reviled and upturned noses over the topic of pedophilia does little to address the problem and instead goes a long way towards making sure both pedophiles and kids continue to “keep the secret”.

Back in the ’80s and ’90s the world suddenly cared about an issue that for the most part had previously been locked tightly behind closed family doors. Hotlines were set-up and kids were told,”It’s OK to tell”, but what good was opening up all of those hotlines for kids when adults still aren’t themselves talking about it any healthy or proactive way?

And, why are we only offering hotlines and help to kids after they have been abused instead of also trying to stop the abuse from happening to them in the first place?

The reason why is two-fold:

  1. We are talking about sex and children and no one wants to talk about that. Ever. Period.
  2. Because we do not understand the difference between a pedophile and a child molester and that we do have some power in the outcome of a pedophile. If we did, then we would be taking the necessary steps to offer the appropriate help to those with pedophilia before they enter into pedophilic behaviors. The intentions of the two sub-types of “deviants” are almost wholly different.

A large portion of child molesters have no attraction to children whatsoever yet still molest them. A child molester’s abuse is usually calculated with the intent to harm, manipulate, dominate or control. Whereas, (yes I know how sick it is) a pedophile is aptly named because the word pedophilia comes from the Greek: παῖς, παιδός (paîs, paidós), meaning “child”, and φιλία (philía), “friendly love” or “friendship”. It is that perceived “friendly love” (often perceived by both the abuser and the victim) that enables a pedophile to garner the trust, and yes often even the love, of a child. Most pedophiles are seeking to fulfill sexual desire and loneliness, not seeking to control or hurt the child.

There is no doubt the abuse a child suffers, but it’s that “friendly love” that often silences children who are being sexually abused by a genuine pedophile who has gone from thinking about sexual activity with a child to actually initiating sexual activity with a child. Because most pedophiles that offend do so with a child close to them in life, the pedophile in your child’s peripheral probably already has a positive relationship with your child long before any “tickling games” begin.

Correlating “love” with active pedophilia is probably one of the hardest things for people to wrap their minds around, including later in life for the victims themselves.

While there is little to indicate a pedophile’s mind itself can be reprogrammed to remove sexual thought and attraction towards children through drugs or therapies; there also is nothing to indicate a pedophile cannot ultimately control his actual actions or behaviors. In fact there is much evidence many of these people want help so that they won’tact out and the mere fact that they haven’t entered into situations of abuse should go a long way to prove that it is possible for them not to abuse.

No one is asking you to “support a pedophile”, where a pin, wave a flag or otherwise celebrate their existence however; these are still members of humanity; your family; friends; neighbors; teachers; politicians and more. The only way our kids can be safer from childhood sexual abuse is if we encourage pedophiles who have not committed crimes to come out of the shadows, without fear of repercussion, and get the help and tools they need in order to keep their hands off our kids.

If we only throw hate and anger at the problem we are not doing our kids any favors.


You can contact SOS here or via email @ challengingtherhetoric@yahoo.com. Please put “SOS” in email subject lines.  be sure to join Cheri Roberts, LIVE on Challenging the Rhetoric every FIRST THURSDAY @ 5pm PDT/8pm EDT for their special ongoing podcast series, “A Sickness of Silence”. Listen to “part 1” HERE. These 2-hour round-table discussions feature both male and female victims, leading experts and even the pedophiles themselves. #SOS & #CTR are both rated PG-13.