Specializing in Family Counseling, Men's Issues, & Trauma

Is Pedophilia caused by biology?

A pedophile's internal tormentA recent article in the LA Times on Pedophilia is misguided.  The title is quite sensational “Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia,” and, no doubt, had a desirable effect of drawing readers to the content.  However, the use of the term “many”, seems an interesting choice, given that the names of only three researchers were given, one of whom, Dr. Eric Cantor, serves as the APA’s editor for their newsletter on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Psychology, a very politically motivated publication.

 

Sexual Orientation:  The use of terms like “sexual orientation” has become so common place in today’s media that a great deal of assumption is made on the part of the user that there is a socially uniform definition of the term.  Furthermore, this definition is accepted as accurate, without challenge.  Indeed, simply questioning the meaning of a term in regards to sexuality can spur such potent reactionary anger, the questioner is left resolved to silence in the future.  It is important to challenge misconceptions about what sexual orientation is, however.  Clinically, sexual orientation is not simply a matter of behavior, nor is it focused solely on the direction and persistence of attraction.  In the case pedophilia, application of the term sexual orientation focuses on the individual’s behaviors pursuing sexual interaction with children, in addition to an ongoing desire for such contact.  The use of the term is inappropriate and appears more directed towards creating an understanding of a troubling issue by combining it with an accepted sexual term.  If, the molestation or viewing of children sexually is part of an individual’s orientation, then it is an expression of  their identity, and all protections afforded to other sexual orientations are now granted to pedophiles.

Harmful Behavior:  Excessive individualism appears to be at play in this case.  Focus on the person is valuable and warranted, however, this attention should not lead to ignoring the individual’s impact on the world around them.  Pedophilia, like many other sexually deviant behaviors is manifested by a small minority of the population.  It is destructive to those who practice it and those they impact.  In the LA Times article, a reference is made to a man, Paul Christiano, who, though he never acted-out directly with a child (though we are taking his word), pursued acquiring child pornography.  Simple economics teaches us his role was the creation of demand.  Demand spurs opportunity for others to provide services and materials that meet the demand.  The end result of this process was the violation of innocent children.

It is with great curiosity and horror, that I, as a therapist who has worked extensively over the years with children who have been sexually molested, watch pedophilia being compared with romance, a mutually beneficial and consensual activity.  Men (statistics show us most sexual offenders are men) frame their actions with love and care for the child.  It is justified as an expression of love and intimacy between the two.

As a clinician, I will take a moment to explain what is actually going on here.  One of the key components of antisocial behavior is a toxic compartmentalization and justification of motive and behavior.  What this means, is all of us, as human beings, have some capacity to place the parts of our lives in a kind of mental box.  Think of the mind as a garage, full of boxes, each containing different items.  Men, seem to have a much greater tendency towards this way of organizing life, and there is nothing unhealthy about it.  The content of boxes, though different, should be in agreement.  Great distress, cognitive dissonance, is experienced, when the contents of one box are in conflict with the contents of another.  For example, Paul Christiano, has a box in his “garage” telling him that what he is doing is wrong and should not be done to children.  He also has a box containing child pornography seeking behaviors.  He places his “pedophilia box” away from the “convictions box” in the garage.

Additionally, he begins convincing himself because he is not acting out with children directly, but rather, viewing pornography, he is not doing something “wrong”, or probably more accurately, something “as wrong” as molesting a child.  If a man can compartmentalize and organize his mind in such a way that his behaviors are acceptable to him, he has laid the groundwork for doing extremely harmful things.  Paul elicits sympathy from the reader by noting he saw himself as a monster when he was a child.  We can and should sympathize with his internal struggle, but his actions, chosen by him, harmed the children, whom he victimized vicariously through the actions of other.

Biblical Perspective:  There are many desires present in the heart of man.  The nature of their expression is of utmost importance.  An individual may experience sexual arousal and attraction towards children, but it would be a sin to victimize the innocent.  The individual can and should seek help.  As a Christian therapist, I encourage individuals that therapy is a safe place where  such struggles can be addressed without condemnation.  However, as a licensed clinician, mandated reporter, and a Believer, the protection of innocent children requires accountability for those who act on such desires.

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