While Heavily Promoted By Society, The Perverse Attraction An Adult Has To A Child Cannot Be Justified By Or Blamed On The Media And Examples They Intake. What You Can Do If You Suspect You Are Guilty Of Having Certain Sexual Thoughts About Children, Is Seek Immediate Therapy, Or Face The Possibility Of Prison Time.
Many people are shocked by pedophilia– boggled by how twisted a person has to be to fantasize about having sex with a child. Others simply write pedophilia off as an illness to be cured. It’s true that pedophilia is a subset of the mental disorder, “paraphilia,” which is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as “a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme.”
However, Psychology Today mentions that pedophilia can be instilled by one being subject to “inappropriate sexual behaviors,” meaning that the societal content we ingest, to no one’s surprise, negatively affects our own thinking and behaviors.
It’s dangerous to reduce pedophilia down to just a few crazy individuals or a naturally occurring illness, because the reality is that pedophilia has been engraved in the frameworks of history. Few people realize that the world we live in plays an enormous part in the way people form sexual fantasies.
Exhibit A: A grown-up in a tux and a child in a wedding dress walk into a church…
(Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
From the earliest points in history until around the 1900s, child marriages (especially with girls under the age of 18) were extremely common. This was normal practice mostly due to economic duress and cultural traditions, rather than life expectancy, as the men girls married tended to be upwards of 20 years old. Currently, there are over 800 million children around the world that are victims of child marriages, and 12 million underage girls continue to be wed per year.
The thing is, not all of these child marriages are happening in third world countries where extreme gender inequality and dowries still exist. Marriage to a minor of any age is still legal in 25 states, and there have been over 200,000 child marriages in the US between 2000 and 2015. In 86% of these marriages, the minors married legal adults. The most extreme of these cases was the matrimony of a 14-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man in Alabama in 2010.
By continuing to allow child marriage, our country is sending the message that children are old enough to be in mature, adult relationships and engage in grown-up activities and duties. With some children in marriages being as young as 11 and 12 years old, this is extremely toxic ideology. Regardless of whether a child has undergone puberty or not, they are not under any circumstances, physically or mentally, built to bear the responsibilities that come with adulthood and a sexual partner.
Exhibit B: That’s not an teen, that’s a sex machine.
Part of the problem is how society perceives underage teenagers– and a large portion of this is due to their portrayal in the media. In movies and TV shows, high schoolers are made out to be these incredibly sexual beings, with their attractive, yet grown-looking physiques essential to this image. And we don’t even let teens be actual teens. Most characters that are canonically 17 years or younger are played by actors who are well in their 20’s, including your favorites like Peter Parker in Spiderman, Sharpay Evans from High School Musical, and Blue from Love, Simon.
We are raised to believe that teens should look older and behave like it. We forget that these are still children, according to UNICEF and the laws of many countries. No matter how “mature” they may seem, there is still an imbalance between a legal adult and a teenager/child. Fourteen-year-old girls dressing like 20-year-olds don’t give adult men justification in lusting after or pursing relationships with them.
Barbie, Bratz and Disney Princesses are all examples of teen girls who are minors being sexualized and depicted in a way that is unnatural for normal teenagers to look like. In this, we encourage sexual thoughts surrounding and project certain sexualities onto young girls viewed by a mainstream audience.
This is not the body of a 15 year old girl. This is the mature body of a woman meant to be the subject of men’s fantasies. Via rebloggy.
Yet another 16-year-old girl in a kid’s movie sporting nothing but a sea shell bra and an impossibly dainty figure. Why are filmmakers creating minors seeking adult romance? Via Glamour.
Exhibit C: Who’s got the power?
It doesn’t matter whether it’s pedophilia or ephebophilia (the sexual attraction to teenagers). However you want to justify it and whatever you want to call it, adults engaging in sexual acts with any minor creates an automatic inequality of power. Whether intentional or not, it’s immovable.
Saying that it’s not pedophilia because the offender went after the child for their maturity rather than for their youth, or because the child wasn’t prepubescent, are all negligible semantics. They are distractors from the fact that the sexual predator is seeking a bond with someone they have control over. This isn’t about eighteen and nineteen-year-olds dating sixteen and seventeen-year-olds. This is about adults deliberately pursuing minors they know are a significant amount of years younger than them.
This is about men finding young girls more attractive, and women finding young boys to be easier targets. This is about grown-ups taking advantage of their prey’s naivety and inexperience in order to emotionally manipulate them into a relationship where they have no say.
A grown-up has power over a child in many arenas: legally, socially and emotionally. It’s not all about experience and mental maturity, but the control an adult has over someone who looks up to them and regards them as a figure of authority. It’s about a child who is still figuring themselves out and knows relatively little about what to expect and what they want in a relationship.
Stop saying that “Roy Moore isn’t a pedophile” because his target for sexual assault was fourteen and not thirteen. Stop trying to rebrand pedophilia as a sexuality by calling a pedophile a ‘Minor Attracted Person (MAP).’ Stop being pedophile apologists and start being advocates for victims. Stop saying that pedophilia is only a mental illness rather than an ugly side effect of misogyny, rape culture and child sexualization. Stop ignoring men when they say they “would f**k her if she was 18.” Stop turning a blind eye to adult celebrities whose legacies are tainted by their teenager fantasies.
Most importantly stop saying that “true love” has “no age limit.” There is a limit when it comes to children, because love and romantic relationships must have two parties that are equal in standing to one another. An adult and a minor that cannot consent are not equal. They can’t be– not when a minor doesn’t have the legal rights that an adult does.
A minor shouldn’t be responsible for saying “no” or fighting off their pursuer. The adult should be the one who is responsible and strong enough to say no to a consenting romantic relationship or un-consenting sexual relationship with someone who is still a child. Hold men and women accountable. Hold famous people accountable. Hold straight and LGBT+ people accountable. Hold your friends accountable. Hold yourself accountable.
Stop being okay with pedophilia until it crosses a line that makes society uncomfortable. Pedophilia isn’t exclusively rape or an old man marrying a little girl. Rather than changing the topic, or debating the technicalities of what makes a pedophile, take a stand and speak out against the normalization of pedophilia in society.
Photo Credit: Jezebel