The below are answers given by selected members of the VirPed forum who are all pedophiles. They are speaking for themselves and not for the organization.
“Swedish Podcaster” asks:
What should pedophilia be labeled as? Should we call it a sexual preference or mental disorder? Anything in between or something else entirely?
It’s my understanding that it can be either (or both at the same time), depending on how it affects our lives. If we’re comfortable and accepting of it and have largely learned to live with it then it’s a preference or orientation (albeit unchosen), whereas if it causes someone distress, difficulties, disorder, then that person could be said to have pedophilic disorder (while at the same time you can say it’s their preference or orientation)
Strictly speaking “pedophilia” isn’t a disorder as pedophilia and pedophilic disorder are two separate things in my understanding.
When I’ve thought about this question in the past I’ve tended to shy away from calling mine an orientation, preferring to think of it as a condition. These days I’m more undecided.
Arguing about whether it is a disorder or sexual preference sheds more heat than light, as I see it. What matters is what the implications are of whatever term you choose. It certainly makes life harder. If you say it’s a disorder, grant that since it is not chosen and can’t be changed, it is not a cause for shame, any more than diabetes or myopia. If you say it’s a sexual orientation (the way it is more commonly put than ‘sexual preference’), then recognize that this does not mean you can ethically act on your attractions. Science has one idea of what a sexual orientation is, but there is also a political definition some people subscribe to: Along with being an enduring sexual attraction to a class of people, it’s OK to have sex with willing people in that class. Pedophilia would not match that definition. So the argument is about what the term “sexual orientation” means, not what pedophilia is.
Whatever you call it, it doesn’t affect the principle that adult-child sexual activity is always wrong.
I would like to label it as a sexuality. That is what it is for me, essentially
I don’t get why the DSM-5 label it as a disorder.
Yes, it brings most of us an enormous amount of shame and guilt, not to mention distress. And some of it is caused by the attraction itself. Usually leaving us to conjure up thoughts like: Why do I have it, it’s not normal to feel this way about kids, kids don’t deserve being thought of that way. And then there’s also lots of it caused by the stigmatization from the outside world, the usual negative talk about pedophilia, the conflation of pedophile and child abuser etc. There’s also distress caused by the fact that there’s really few places for us to talk about it without the fear of severe consequences and ostracization. There’s an added distress for exclusive pedophiles who realize they will most likely never have a fulfilling romantical and sexual life. At least I felt that last one quite well.
So after all that, why don’t I understand why the DSM-5 label it as a disorder?
Strictly speaking, for most people it develops as any other normal sexuality. Most of us notice the signs around puberty and start figuring it out not long after. Though denial may also affect time of realization for a lot of us. People who don’t notice their minor-attraction until they’re way older exists, but that also goes for homosexuals. It seems that people who are outside of the heteronormative box can notice it around puberty, but also way later, simply because it is different from most of the rest of the world.
I’ve talked to a few teleiophiles (Adults attracted to adults) about their attraction and their feelings, and guess what? It’s practically identical to what I feel about boys. The romantic feelings are the same, the sexual desire is the same, we all have certain fantasies about the subject of our attractions etc. Point is that the sexuality differs not in any way except for the subjects that we’re attracted to.
In the first paragraph I mentioned the stigma and how few places there are for us to talk about this, I want to address the other side of that. Once we do find safe places to talk about this, such as the VirPed forums, it feels so much better. When we get that sense of finally belonging somewhere, and people relating to us, and maybe even making friends to the point where we can go “Hey, boys are extremely attractive” and they go “Yeah, man” that’s when it starts to feel normal. It doesn’t stay that odd, awful side of us. It just becomes a part of us that is there, and we can address it and enjoy it and then move on with other things in life. That’s what it is for me now. Completely normal.
Furthermore we can’t exclude the fact that just having feelings for someone, being attracted to someone is so universal, and ultimately when you get past the shame and guilt, it feels good to blush when you’re near someone, to think about them and smile, or think about them with desire. Yes, we won’t get what we want, and that can feel bad. But when you learn to not think about that too much, the feelings of being attracted to someone, or being in love with someone just feels good.
I believe that it is these things that make it a sexuality. And if people don’t agree; fine. In my mind it is a sexuality. My sexual identity is being a pedophile. My sexuality is being a pedophile.
I think minor attraction is both a sexual preference and a mental disorder. Michael Seto believes there are three criteria for a sexual orientation; early development (in late childhood), stability over time, and a desire for an emotional/romantic connection. Minor attraction certainly checks all three boxes for me, and I would guess for many others. But just because it is a stable orientation does not imply it is a functional one. What I want I cannot have. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to leave the object of you love alone in peace. I have a broken attraction. I accept it as a mental illness. It certainly is not a choice; any more than OCD is schizophrenia is a choice.
The use of the term sexual preference implies choice. I don’t think it should ever be used in this context. I’m not aware of anyone selecting it from a list. It’s a sexual orientation. The DSM says that it’s a disorder if it creates severe distress. I disagree with that. Yes, it can cause depression, but I see depression as the mental disorder.
Well, it’s really both. It’s just as much of a sexual orientation as it is a mental disorder. Now, this is a mental disorder that can be managed and even largely rendered symptom free, by self acceptance, therapy, appropriate boundaries, and etc… but the extreme nature of the stigma means it does negatively affect every one of us. The mental disorder aspect lies on a spectrum: it could devastate a person to the point of suicide or it could have seemingly no symptoms, or anywhere in-between that. At which point along that spectrum do you cease to classify it as a mental disorder? I don’t know. I suppose that would be up to an appropriately trained psychiatrist or therapist, though I’m sure it’s subject to change based upon the current social climate of those that decide such things.
I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. I see the attraction itself as a sexuality. In the sense of it’s similar to being straight or gay in that you can’t choose it, none of decided one day to be maps, most of us would choose not to be if we could. But we are what we are, didn’t choose it and can’t change it. I think it can be a disorder in how it affects our lives. The depression, anxiety, self loathing etc. All that I would say can be a mental disorder.
At the end of the day though the real answer is I don’t care much. I care about the day to day reality me and my friends go through living with these attractions. It being called a disorder or sexuality doesn’t change those.
Pedophilia and pedophilic disorder are currently separate things. Pedophilia is an attraction to prepubescent children and is not considered a disorder. Pedophilic disorder is a disorder in which someone suffers clinical distress because of their pedophilia (or more often, the societal stigma surrounding it) or when they act on their pedophilia in a way that causes or risks causing harm to others.
This relatively recent framework reflects an effort to change what a mental disorder fundamentally means. Until about a decade ago, a paraphilic disorder (such as pedophilic disorder) simply meant that someone’s sexual attractions were different from the majority of people’s. Under this schema, pedophilia itself was classified as a disorder. I think this was accurate at the time and would even, as a gay man, have supported continuing to label homosexuality the same way. In my opinion, the issue with disorders at this point was how society viewed them, not the way they were labeled.
Around 2013, the way paraphilic disorders are classified underwent a shift. Other categories of disorders did too, but I’m not sure what the timeline was for them. Instead of defining disorders as differences, experts started focusing on treatment needs. Under this new framework, an innate trait like pedophilia would not be considered a disorder, but clinical distress or harmful actions that resulted from that trait would be. Under this new system, pedophilia’s label as a mental disorder was removed, which I believe was reasonable given the shift in focus.
To me, the question is less about pedophilia and more about mental disorders. If you’re just trying to label things that differ from the norm, pedophilia is one of them. If you want diagnoses to reflect a clear need for treatment that can inform someone’s medical decisions, pedophilia doesn’t fit the bill, as most pedophiles find a way past distress and never harm others, even without professional support.
I think that the latter approach is more helpful to people seeking treatment and would not consider pedophilia a disorder, but I leave that decision up to experts.
Either way, I would classify pedophilia as a sexual orientation (not preference, as it’s not a choice, and the terminology is established). I’m a gay pedophile, and I can tell you that the two traits function very similarly to each other and aren’t inherently harmful. They should carry the same label, regardless of disorder status.
I prefer the term sexual orientation, which is often used in exchange with sexual preference, though I think orientation is a better term as it emphasizes that most pedophiles experience their pedophilia in very much the same way that teleophiles experience their attraction to adults. It comes with the whole package: sexual attraction, emotional attraction, developing crushes and falling in love with children, discovering our feelings around puberty, realizing our feelings are unchosen. These are all very commonly reported experiences amongst pedophiles, and it shows that the way we experience our sexuality is very similar to how teleiophiles experience their sexuality. Of course, it’s unethical for pedophiles to engage in sexual contact with children, but should that disqualify it from being an orientation? The way I see it, sexual orientation is (or should be) a scientific term, not a political term, and if we forget about the consequences of people acting on their sexualities (which is a valid topic of discussion, but shouldn’t be the factor to decide if something is an orientation) and focus on the nature of the unchosen feelings, then pedophilia has all the characteristics of a sexual orientation.
I disagree with labelling it as a disorder because, while it’s true that a lot of pedophiles suffer from depression, loneliness and anxiety, these are not required characteristics of being a pedophile. Pedophilia has only one “symptom”: the sexual and/or romantic attraction to prepubescent children, with the orientation traits outlined above. Nothing else. It has no effect on someone’s impulse control, their sense of morality and ethics, or anything else. These are all issues that can happen to people regardless of whether or not they are a pedophile.
We can argue about semantics all day, but the reality is that pedophiles experience their feelings in very much the same way that teleiophiles do, and pedophilia has no inherent symptoms other than the sexual and/or romantic attraction to prepubescent children.
I think what we call it is just pedantics. It really doesn’t matter. In fact, it distracts us from what is real. The truth of the matter is that no one escapes childhood/loss of innocence/social conditioning (whatever you want to call it) unscathed. We all have mental wounds from growing up. It is just part of living. These wounds show up later in life in all sorts of flavors: anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addictions, fetishes, phobias… We all deal with them as best we can. Pedophilia is just another flavor of the pain.
Society views these particular conditions differently. Overcome anxiety or depression, or get sober and society celebrates you. Other conditions are vilified no matter the progress of the individual. Murderers, pedophiles, felons, bigots, racists, and anti-semitists are never really fully redeemed in the eyes of society. Virtuous pedophiles are not alone in the camp of groups of people who are ostracized for their condition. The issue with pedophilia, and here I am speaking specifically about virtuous pedophiles, is that pedophiles are ostracized just for having the condition, whether or not they have acted on it in any way. That is what needs to change.
By using the term “preference” it can be seen as a choice. I definitely didn’t choose this. I think a more appropriate term would be “orientation” or “attraction” as it acts like any other “orientation” It usually starts to be noticeable in early adolescence and is unchangeable usually being present the rest of the person’s life.
As for it being a “disorder” it’s only that depending on how much mental turmoil it brings a individual. Unfortunately in today’s society pedophilia is demonized no matter if the individual acts on it or not. This can lead the person to extreme depression, self hatred and feelings of not belonging to the rest of society.
The only difference between pedophila and other orientations is that it can not be acting on without causing harm.
Arguing whether it is a orientation or disorder is nonsensical in my opinion what is important is for the individual who is a pedophile to be able to live a healthy well fulfilled life learning to accept this as just a part of them not all of them. MAPS should be able to seek any form of help they need in achieving this without fear of persecution by those they are reaching out to receive that help.
I would definitely call it a “sexual preference”, but I understand why it needs a different label from, for example, being gay. Sexual contact between an adult and a child is inherently immoral, whereas sexual contact between consenting gay adults is entirely fine.
If you want a special word for sexual preferences that shouldn’t be acted on, “paraphilia” is used a lot.
For me, personally, I view it as a sexual preference or orientation. Pedophilia and pedophilic disorder are two different things, with one pertaining to the other. Pedophilic disorder (which I have) occurs when it causes distress. Pedophilia is simply the existence of the attraction. If it were up to me, I would remove paraphilias from the DSM altogether and only include paraphilic disorders that cause distress or some kind of offense.
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ngl, I am pretty bored of this question.
Most times I’ve seen it asked on social media it’s been clear that the person asking wasn’t interested in the actual answer (spoiler, there isn’t actually a definitive answer).
Usually, it’s just a proxy for “do you think your pedophilia is a bad thing or not?” If I say “it’s a sexual orientation”, people assume I mean “It’s something that’s fine and I feel pride in, just like gay people have pride in their orientation and nobody should be trying to intervene in it!"
If I say “it’s a disorder” that is seen as implying that it’s a terrible burden, that it ruins my life etc.
I say, this distinction is irrelevant to how.I live my life day to day and the answer doesn’t predict what support I need, whether I’m entitled to participate in society and it doesn’t throw a photon of light on what I’m going to do in the next ten years or seventy-two hours.
I guess the reason people think it’s important is that they are thinking ahead to the possible future consequences of defining it as a sexual orientation (which would create certain rights against discrimination) or a disorder (which would create certain rights against discrimination and maybe make it easier to fund help for us), so a pretty big difference ig? Or maybe not.