I want to share with you some of the pitfalls you and I might stumble into. These are the times when your emotional energy ebbs away, discouragement makes you retreat, temptation silently gnaws at your resolve, and the rug gets pulled out from under you.
It’s critical to understand that willpower can only last so long. It’s a valuable lifesaver in the short term, but like a muscle, it can only hold on for so long. Therefore, we need to recognize the dangers ahead of time, keep our distance, and stay on the sunny side of life.
Winning a battle requires knowing the terrain and using the right strategy. Below is a list of some of the pitfalls on the map, and how a pedophile can navigate around them.
It’s our darkest hour.
- Shame, Isolation, and Frustration = Fixation
- Addiction to Fantasy, Masturbation, and Porn
- When Everyone Hates You
- Self-Deception: My Attraction to Kids Is Just Emotional
- Self-Deception: The Kid Will Enjoy It
- The Feelings Never Go Away
- When a Kid Comes on to You
At face value, pedophilia doesn’t have to be such a big deal. It’s just an atypical sexual preference that a person must learn to cope with. Actually, human sexuality is complex, and there are all sorts of atypical variations! However, pedophilia is the most taboo, with a lot of stigma attached. That makes it all worse.
A pedophile usually experiences a lot of shame and self-hatred, even if they’ve never offended. This is especially true for teens or young adults, who are first coming to grips with what they’re feeling. But instead of asking for help, almost always, he or she hides it from others. This can create an internal hurricane of unanswered questions, self-doubt, and frustration. It’s the perfect recipe for OCD type thinking patterns and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
What happens is that you and I can overly fixate on our feelings for kids. All that peripheral tension (shame, isolation, and frustration) constricts our attention until pedophilia becomes our whole world. Yes, sexual attraction is a big part of anyone’s life. But for us, it’s easy to become obsessive and compulsive.
But if we step back, the reality is that life is much bigger! Your capacity, as a human being, is so much greater than the definition of pedophilia. You have every opportunity for healthy relationships, meaningful work, participation in society, and personal growth.
Please, don’t constrict your life and potential to an internal world of dissatisfaction. You got to break free, or it will keep getting darker. We must live in the light to survive.
The first step is dismantling the shame. Simply having these feelings doesn’t make you a monster. Also, it’s time to connect with others; you can’t bear this alone. A good place to start is the Virtuous Pedophiles community.
Washing off some of the stigma and processing your emotions in a healthy way can free you to learn how to cope with pedophilia itself.
Sexual addiction (or arousal addiction) is a big deal. Like any addiction, it involves the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. A quick search on the subject reveals that compulsive masturbation and porn consumption are an emerging health concern. Please see Gary Wilson’s excellent TEDx talk, The Great Porn Experiment.
While this is a danger for anyone, it’s especially easy for us pedophiles to fall into the trap. We can’t look forward to a healthy sexual relationship in the same way that typical people do. Consequently, it’s very easy for us to turn inward. Many pedophiles engage in fantasy and masturbation, and some even risk the penalty for using child porn.
But regardless of who you are, the consequences of sexual addiction are universal. These include intense cravings that require all your attention, becoming less and less sexually satisfied, and sexualizing people you meet in real life, along with mood swings and lack of motivation.
If you’re struggling in this area, it’s important to realize that you’re dealing with an addiction, and it’s best to approach it that way. There are tools and strategies that are specifically designed for addiction recovery. A good place to learn more is Sex Addicts Anonymous.
Yes, we are attracted to children, which is it’s own challenge. And, we do need our own specialized strategies to cope with being attracted to minors in a healthy way. However, it’s important to recognize that sexual addiction is separate.
When it comes to fantasy, masturbation, and porn, we can become addicted like anyone else. But, help is available! It’s possible to see a counselor, or participate in a group, without sharing that you’re a pedophile. Just explain that you have a sexual addiction, without saying that it’s related to minors. That way, you can get help with the addiction side of it (and possibly share the rest, if it’s safe).
The social stigma attached to pedophilia affects individuals in different ways. For some pedophiles, they don’t mind keeping their attraction to minors a secret. They go about their daily lives, and disregard any hateful attitudes.
But for others, it really bothers them that they need to be guarded, and it feels like a wall separating them from loved ones. They internalize and personalize the messages they hear about pedophilia in social media. Their secret is a heavy burden.
I want be clear that I’m not talking about keeping child abuse a secret. But rather, many pedophiles (who have never offended) are absolutely terrified of anyone discovering them. Pedophilia remains the one physiological condition that is so persecuted that the cost of seeking help can outweigh the benefit.
If you’re an individual who needs to be open and transparent with others (a great personality trait), it’s best to have some clear rules for when it’s safe to share. Here are a few suggestions:
- Only tell someone about your attraction to minors if they truly have your best interest at heart. You need to be sure that whatever they do with that knowledge will be motivated by love for you as a person.
- Only tell someone if it will benefit the relationship. Some people might have a difficult time coping with the idea that you’re a pedophile. Even if they love you, they won’t know what to do with the knowledge. Therefore, before you tell, decide whether sharing will lead to a closer relationship through greater transparency, or if it will only create tension.
- Sometimes, it’s very helpful to speak with a professional counselor. They have been trained on how to help a person work through his or her thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Some even specialize in sexual issues. Just be sure to research the professionals in your area, in order to find one who is both competent about pedophilia and empathetic.
(Currently, Gary Gibson at asapinternation.org is building a directory of helpful professionals. Gary can be contacted directly.)
You and I need someone who knows. Even if it’s just one or two people, we need the care, camaraderie, and accountability. Be willing to take a calculated risk, and share.
I hear this one a lot. A person will admit that they are attracted to minors, but say it’s mostly emotional. They just love being around kids, enjoying their childhood charms and antics, and appreciate how they see the world.
I get that. However, it’s important we’re educated about how human sexuality works, and to be brutally honest with ourselves. Otherwise, you and I won’t recognize when we’ve crossed the line.
The human sexual response has two parts. First, there is the raw physical desire that cues in on the body, which we usually think of as “sexual attraction”. Second, there is the emotional attachment and appreciation of the other person, which we call “romance”.
It’s easy for us pedophiles to fall in love with a child and not even realize it! You might ignore or push away the sexual thoughts, but the romantic is just as real. That’s when the slightest interaction with that special child makes your whole day, and you notice every detail about him or her – their voice inflections and laugh, how they move, smile, and smell. That’s the romantic side of the sexual response.
I’m not trying to demonize what you’re feeling. We each have a right to our own human experience, and frankly, we do have romantic feelings for kids. However, it’s important to call it what it is.
The danger is that it’s very easy to cross the line if you tell yourself those feelings aren’t sexual. Suddenly, you find yourself enveloped in intimate exchanges, silly games, and soft touches. You tell yourself it’s nothing, but that’s not true.
You can get into a lot of trouble when others recognize your behavior is off. Trust me, it’s totally obvious.
Also, it’s not fair to the kid. They know interacting with you is different, but he or she doesn’t really understand it. The emotional ties are confusing and the unusual attention makes them unsure of their role. A child isn’t ready for romance.
It can be really hard when you fall for a kid. Falling in love is supposed to be a good thing! Unfortunately for us, it’s complicated. Having gone through it myself, I know there’s a lot of pain when you realize that you must step back and let go. It really, really hurts.
But please, recognize the emotions for what they are – the romantic side of the sexual response.
This is the deadly viper that slithers its way into your imagination. Every pedophile has asked themselves if a sexual relationship can be done in such a way that it will be positive for the child.
I imagine scenarios where everything goes just right, without any harsh response from the outside world. With all my heart, I want to love and care for that special kid, and I wonder if sexual intimacy can be part of it.
The problem with those fantasies is that I’m imagining it through my eyes, and not seeing it through the child’s.
Here’s the clear reality:
- A young person is not ready for sex and romance, until their brain and body has gone through puberty.
- Sexual contact creates a special kind of relationship between people, which requires maturity in order to be healthy. It can never be just a learning experience, or a fun activity.
- A child does not yet fully possess their sexuality, therefore, how can he or she give it away? The adult is always in the position of taking and stealing.
- The child cannot comprehend the impact a sexual relationship with an adult will have on their lives. Only once they grow up, can they look back and evaluate what happened. That’s not fair to them, or right.
Even knowing all this, the question still creeps into my mind on occasion, and I begin to imagine “what if?” The danger is that it’s easy to start treating fantasies as if they are possibilities.
You and I need to swallow a cold dose of reality on a regular basis. Please see Between an Adult and Child – Can It Ever Be Right?
This might be the most difficult challenge we face over the long run. Our feelings toward kids won’t ever go away this side of heaven – it’s the test of time.
What happens is that I can get discouraged. Maybe life was going well, happy and productive, when all of a sudden I hit a lull and finding myself in the trenches, struggling against temptation. I thought I had made progress, and was past all that! I feel like giving up.
At other times, I am totally confident. I feel rock solid in my resolve to be a Godly man, and nothing can take me down. I get careless, and pay no heed to dangerous situations. Suddenly, I discover with horror that I’m one step, one moment, from plummeting over the edge.
The truth is that victory is day to day. That means I can’t ride on yesterday’s success, but also, I don’t need to let past failures hold me down. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” (Lam 3:22-23)
The best guarantee that I’ll do the right thing tomorrow is if I do the right thing today. Chances are that I’ll be proud of myself next year, if I can be proud of myself this year.
We must keep this mindset in order to ward off discouragement, and to be realistic about temptation.
The Bible tells us to “above all else, guard your heart”. It says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (Prov 4:3; 25-27)
And, God gives us a great comfort. He says that if we follow him sincerely, we won’t be hurled headlong when we stumble, because he holds our hand. Also, “the godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” That means we don’t need to be afraid of what’s ahead, if we walk with God right now. (Ps 37:24; Prov 24:16)
When we go to heaven, the battle will finally be won. But in the meantime, victory means standing strong, holding our ground, and defining what sort of people we are by our choices.
For more thoughts on this, please see A Pedophile’s Victory.
This might be the single most difficult trial a pedophile can face. Yes, it can happen – a kid might want to be sexual with you.
Sometimes, a child has gone through experiences that have made them “sexually reactive”. What that means is that they have been exposed to sexual contact in a way that’s created a flurry of emotions. All he or she knows is that sexuality exists, and that it affects them deeply.
Most often, a child is sexually reactive when they’ve already been abused by an adult or an older child. They don’t know what to do with the feelings; it creates a vacuum in their heart and uncertainty in their mind.
What that child needs are adults to help them recover his or her sense of identity and personal boundaries, without shame or secrecy. But if that doesn’t happen, a child may seek to repeat those sexual experiences in an attempt to normalize their feelings. That means it’s possible a very broken and vulnerable child may approach you.
This is your moment, and this is your time. Will you take advantage of that child’s hurt, and add to it? Or, will you – a pedophile – truly love him or her, protecting them, even from your own sexual desires?
I want to share with you two true stories. Both are of pedophiles that I’ve counseled online.
Jerry and Jessie are a couple and live together. Life goes on well enough for them, but Jerry explains to me that he’s got a situation. Jessie’s little ten-year-old sister comes over to spend the night on weekends. Her name is Tammy, and recently she’s been snuggling into bed with them in the mornings.
Jerry is flustered by this, as can be imagined. His girlfriend, Jessie, already knows he’s attracted to little girls, and Jerry brings it up to her again. But, Jessie isn’t sure what to say, and seems to shrug it off. I explain to Jerry that this could be a dangerous situation, and he agrees.
The following weekend, Jerry is alarmed. He tells me that Jessie left for work early, and Tammy snuggled into bed with just him. And the way Tammy pressed up so close to him, it almost seemed to Jessie that she wanted his attention.
Jerry and I talk about it, and agree that Tammy really doesn’t have a grasp on what she’s doing. It’s possible she has a childhood crush on Jerry, but that doesn’t mean she understands or wants a sexual relationship.
I tell Jerry that he’s playing with fire and is one step from the edge. In the heat of the moment is when a person falters. Get out of the situation!
But, the next three weekends Jessie stays home, and Jerry wonders if it’s really worth making a fuss over. However, he shares with me that he thinks Tammy is flirting with him, the way she sits on his lap and teases him. I explain that it’s entirely possible Tammy is sexually reactive, and he needs to protect both her and himself.
I suggest that he and Jessie make a house rule that their bedroom is private space, and that Tammy can cuddle with them once everyone is up and dressed. Also, Tammy must not spend the night when Jessie will be gone!
Again Jerry agrees, but only halfheartedly tries to set those boundaries. He admits that part of him is curious about what might happen. I plead with him to open his eyes.
The following weekend Jessie leaves early. Tammy comes to cuddle with Jerry in bed, and his hands seem to have a mind of their own. Tammy silently complies, and afterwards says that everything is fine.
Jerry is unsure, and the following week is filled with a silent dread. I received one more update from Jerry, and then I never heard from him again.
Two more broken lives.*
You can’t fall off a cliff if you don’t go near the edge. You won’t get burnt if you don’t play with fire. The Bible says to “FLEE temptation”.
Todd is an older man, and occasionally shares with me stories from his past. He’s also a pedophile, who is attracted to boys, and has lived with that his whole life.
He told me that many years ago he worked as a cabin counselor at summer camp. He was foolish back then, and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Nevertheless, one night after the lights were out, one of his campers snuck over to Todd’s bunk and asked if he could lay down with him. He was a nine-year-old named Cody, and Todd already suspected that the boy had a rough home life.
Todd didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and so agreed. But, Todd shivered when Cody climbed into bed. He enjoyed the feeling of the boy next to him.
Unexpectedly, Cody grabbed Todd’s hand and put it on his privates, and whispered, “Please do it! Please!” Todd was stunned, and a few seconds ticked by.
And then, something else happened. A feeling came over Todd like prickling electricity. He was awash with a sense of reverence and terrible clarity.
“N-No Cody,” Todd stammered, “Go back to your bunk.” Cody complied, and avoided Todd for the remainder of the camp.
Over the next few years, Todd often thought of that night, and he hoped things worked out for Cody. What bothered him most was wondering if his gruff response caused even more hurt.
But, it just so happened that Todd ran into Cody one more time at a community event. Cody, now older, shyly approached Todd. With a big grin, he proudly shared that he had a girlfriend, and that things were better. Without so many words, Cody thanked Todd for what he did.
Todd tells me that he treasures that memory, and is so very grateful he didn’t do differently. Todd believes what he felt that night was God giving him a space in time to choose.
What do these two stories mean to you? Which will be yours?
Please, hear what the Bible says: “The prudent person foresees danger and hides himself. But the naive go on, and suffer for it.” (Prov 22:3)
Jesus said that we should ask God to lead us away from temptation, and God’s command is clear – FLEE. Don’t hang around; don’t flirt with it. If you get close enough, temptation will pull you in the rest of the way.
Nevertheless, we don’t need to live in fear. If you are sincere about following God, he will watch over you. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it.”
There are unsung heroes in this world of a very grand sort. They are pedophiles who’ve passed the test, and proved what real love is.
This struggle won’t last forever. There will come a day when Jesus returns, and he will finish what he started. At that time, God will say, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5) You and I will have new bodies, without pedophilia.
Until then, it’s not too hard for us to wake up each morning and live the day with God. Let’s be prudent and wary of these pitfalls, and learn the strategies that can keep us safe.
You and I might have some dark hours, but “The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Prov 4:18)
*I would have intervened more directly with Jerry, however, our communication was anonymous.