How do decent human beings live with pedophilia?
June 12, 2014 4:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm obviously not talking about people who act on it. But we don't choose our fetishes, and I've read a few tortured anonymous accounts of people who don't want to molest children and will never act on it, but nevertheless suffer with that compulsion. So I'm wondering what resources they use to cope.

I was just reading a short story about a pedophile who wanted to kill himself so he wouldn't give in to his compulsion to molest children, and it really hit me how awful living with that must be. That's one of the very, very few paraphilias which is straight NOT OKAY, and there's no way to indulge it without seriously harming another human being. Pedophilia is justifiably reviled. But what about the people, and I know they exist, who know that, and who are capable of resisting those impulses, but feel them anyway?

I'm not not NOT talking about child porn here. I'm sure that's involved in people's coping, but I am the polar opposite of interested in hearing about it. I'm more interested in how pedophiles deal with the self-loathing, and knowing that their sexual identity is genuinely and legitimately unacceptable. Are there support groups? Do people seek out other, more standard groups, like, I don't know, AA or something, and make up some other reason to be there? This isn't the sort of thing I can google without coming out scarred, so I'm wondering whether anyone happens to know of any books or articles written by pedophiles who successfully suppress their urges and do not, as the character in this story, commit suicide.

This is a tough question to phrase, and I hope I am getting it right. I'm a straight 34-year-old woman who dates my age and up, so my interest isn't personal. Just. Jeez, guys, it has to be HARD to suppress something that big. And when all anyone ever sees is the horrible, horrible result of those who do not, who can these people turn to when it's too much?
posted by Because to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A recent This American Life interviews a young man who realised at a young age that he was a pedophile. He has not acted on it and does not expect to, but he defines himself as a pedophile all the same. He started a support group for people similar to himself (those who consider themselves afflicted, never wish to act on it). It is quite tough listening.

You can hear it here.
posted by distorte at 4:46 AM on June 12, 2014 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Australia's public broadcaster ABC Radio National did a documentary on this a few years ago: Age of Attraction. From the program description:
Bill and Tom are battling a sexual attraction to children they've never understood and find utterly repulsive. Both exceedingly ordinary, one just into his twenties, they defy the stereotype of paedophiles being predatory monsters.

The mere mention of the word paedophile is enough to strike fear into the hearts of parents. It's hard to think of an issue more divisive and more likely to raise hysteria than that of how to handle child sex offenders once they're released from jail. They're hated on the inside; hated on the outside. But, ultimately, the focus should be on how best to keep kids safe.

Bill and Tom have voluntarily spent years in a Perth based community treatment program called SafeCare. Set up in 1989, SafeCare initially counselled the victims of intra-familial child sexual abuse, along with their families and perpetrators.

Ten years later, it controversially broadened its approach and began offering treatment to anyone who had offended, or who was at risk of offending against a child.

But treating child sex offenders and paedophiles is an explosive political issue and when the Coalition came to power in Western Australia two years ago, it cut the funding for offender programs.

Bill and Tom speak openly and honestly to 360documentaries about their desires, motivations, self-loathing and confronting their demons through the SafeCare program. And a warning, this program contains confronting descriptions of abuse and violence.
The audio documentary is well worth a listen - the reporter does a brilliant job of balancing her own revulsion toward pedophilia with genuine compassion for her interviewees, who do seem to be suffering immensely and quite earnest in their intent to refrain from actually harming a child. From memory, the doco also talks a bit about how pedophiles often experience their age of attraction as being "stuck" at the age when they themselves were sexually abused.
posted by embrangled at 4:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Psychiatrists sometimes use aversion therapy to treat pedophilia. Sometimes patients choose to take anti-androgen medications (pdf) to suppress sexual drive. I highly suggest going through the linked PDF. It does a pretty good job of covering the physiology, pharmacology, and efficacy of so-called chemical castration. In some states, chemical castration is mandatory for certain classes of offenders (FL, CA, LA).
posted by The White Hat at 5:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's been a few segments on this topic on the Savage Lovecast, and they included some (heartbreaking) stories from individuals who have not abused anyone, yet can't/won't seek out medical treatment for fear of being arrested, and as a result have formed online communities where they share advice. One caller mentioned ordering a particular hormone or medication through a questionable online source to suppress his sex drive. (Like The White Hat mentions, but all done without any input from health care providers.)
posted by Adam_S at 5:17 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld in Germany.
Dont-offend is their website. You can read several scientific publications on the PPD, one abstract here.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:50 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think there is an unstated assumption in your question that it might help to make explicit. Pedophilia is not a compulsion per se. In other words, the definition and diagnosis are not "feels an uncontrollable urge to have sex with children." It's a sexual attraction, a fetish. Pedophilia (leaving aside the strict definitions that require actual sexual acts with minors) is the desire to have sex with children. There are plenty of people in the world who have a desire for sex that they cannot or will not act on.

The distinction I'm trying to raise is that "living with" pedophilia in the sense of finding a way not to offend, is no harder (putting aside the issues of stigma) than not doing anything one would not want to do. It is no different from not being a rapist if you have no willing sex partners. The confusion may be because we tend to hear most about men who do offend, who do experience more of a compulsion.
posted by JohnLewis at 5:53 AM on June 12, 2014 [16 favorites]

Louis Theroux made an excellent documentary about Coalinga State Hospital in California called A Place for Paedophiles. Part of the film focuses on the treatment that patients receive--group therapy, individual counseling, even medication. You might be interested in watching this film and seeing what links there are to your questions.
posted by whitewall at 5:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

It is no different from not being a rapist if you have no willing sex partners.

That's a little different, since the person who can't find a willing sex partner today can wait around, and might have better luck tomorrow. A clearer analogy would be a man whose only sexual interest is: having sex with women who aren't consenting. (There apparently is such a psychological condition.) It won't do him any good to wait: the kind of sex he likes will always be impermissible. Another example would be a gay person in one of the many countries around the world where homosexuality is a crime.
posted by John Cohen at 5:59 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Online support groups, such as Virtuous Pedophiles, also exist. (I heard about these via the aforementioned Dan Savage podcast segments.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:37 AM on June 12, 2014

Mod note: Totally understand people are asking for clear definitions here — but it's a sensitive and tricky subject any day of the week and Ask isn't at all suited for the discussion that invariably (and again, understandably) follows. Nothing deleted, but I'd suggest leaving the "compulsion" discussion where it stands: the question is clear enough IMHO and MeMail is always an option, thanks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:52 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

'I'm the Level 3 Sex Offender All Of You Have Been Talking About' an interesting, if brief, article about a man who was convicted of a sex offense against a child and went to a community meeting to speak to the community he is living among. There is also an AMA on Reddit with a Level 3 sex offender (and I'm told there are more of them, this was just one that I found.)
posted by jessamyn at 8:06 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not a resource as such, so apologies if it's not answering the question, but The Woodsman is a film about a man (played by Kevin Bacon) trying to come to terms with being a paedophile and live a "normal" life. I found it very moving.
posted by billiebee at 8:54 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The subject is not a decent human being, but The Rapist Says He's Sorry follows the rehabilitation of a criminal who is determined to reprogram his brain/urges.

The question of whether it is possible to rehabilitate such a person is left up in the air. And I want to stress that this article is incredibly vivid and disturbing; it goes over the assaults in question multiple times from different viewpoints; and it preys on extremely common fears. I had a really, really hard time doing laundry in my dark creepy basement for weeks after reading it. If you are triggered by any sort of assault, or you're having a bad day, or you want to sleep tonight, I would not recommend reading it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:05 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I mentioned once before on the blue an article I read about such an individual. I seem to recall he mentioned he had created essentially a surrogate/love doll that he availed himself of from time to time. He acknowledged that it was distasteful, but better than the alternative.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:37 AM on June 12, 2014

he's been mentioned on Savage Love but you can look into the work of University of Toronto reseracher Dr. James Cantor.
posted by custard heart at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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