This is a loaded question. For the typical person, the answer is “No, No, No!” But for a person with pedophilia, it takes more to arrive at an answer, because it represents a very significant commitment.
This article is written primarily to pedophiles. The tone might be softer than some might like, but I would remind us that God’s “kindness leads us to repentance” and his “gentleness makes us great”.
If you are a pedophile, there has been research that indicates your feelings of romance and sexual attraction toward children are the same sort of feelings that non-pedophiles experience toward adults (see Research). Studies using fMRI analysis indicate that brain activity in pedophiles is the same as people attracted to adults when responding to sexually preferred stimuli. This means that how you feel is normal.
Pedophiles can “fall in love” with a child the same way that typical people do with adults. All the psychological mechanisms are present – attraction, romance, and giddy feelings. The reaction is the same, except that the pedophile’s brain is wired to focus on children. If you’re a pedophile, how you feel toward children is not bad or evil. It’s just human attraction.
However, a pedophile is faced with a real dilemma. The feelings he or she have might be normal enough, but it is not normal to feel that way toward children. And so, we are left wondering what to do with those feelings.
I think that every pedophile has asked themselves at some point whether a romantic/sexual relationship with a child can be done in such a way that it’s OK: What if the relationship is one of mutual consent, with nothing forced? What if I am committed to the child, am good to them, and care about them, because I actually love them? What if the child enjoys the physical contact? I know it can’t last forever, but is it possible they could benefit from our time together and grow up thinking positively of me?
As a pedophile, I’ve had to face these questions myself, as have most others I’ve talked to. You see, there isn’t a quick answer, because to say “No” means denying those same feelings of attraction that everyone else is free to act upon. We need an honest discussion and strong conclusions, if we’re to take a stand.
The crucial question is, “Will it hurt the child?” If a consenting relationship can be good and healthy, then any restriction is just a matter of social norms. But, if the child will be harmed… we must never permit that. For those of us who know Jesus, we also ask, “What does God say about it?” We believe that God loves us, and that he wants the best for us.
Allow me just to come out and state that I believe a sexual relationship between an adult and child is always harmful to the child and morally wrong as well. Please, if you’re pro-contact, keep reading and allow me to explain why I’ve come to that conclusion!
There are two compelling reasons: First, a child has not gone through puberty, and their body and mind is not prepared for sex and romance. Second, a child is not capable of being an equal partner with an adult. The child is the recipient, not a participant.
Ok, but what’s the harm?
Humans don’t develop along a straight line. We don’t just grow from little human to big human. Instead, we hit milestones that change us dramatically.
Puberty is the stage when a young person prepares for sex and romance. The body and brain begin to communicate through hormones that it’s time to sexually mature. This means the changes in the body we are all aware of, but it also involves a reworking of the brain’s structure and functional patterns.
Mentally, it’s a huge deal. Two important events take place. First, myelinogenesis ramps up in the brain’s cortex. The neurons begin to organize themselves more efficiently, which allows the person to understand the world with greater meaning. He or she gains a broader conception of personal identity, increased ability to think abstractly, and anticipate outcomes. All of this gives new meaning to sexuality.
In addition, processes involving the neurotransmitter GABA increase. This allows the teenager to better understand his or her emotions and to think through what they actually want to do. A child often acts on impulse, but puberty allows them to really join thoughts and feelings together, in order to act as a whole person.
These are just two ways the brain develops during puberty. There’s much more. And the biggest part of all this change is to prepare the body for sex and the brain for romance.
A child simply isn’t ready. We’d be trying to take them where they aren’t able to go.
Okay! I hear the objections. Let me give some responses…
- “Some girls begin menstruation at an early age, which means they are ready for sex.”
That is completely false. Actually, if we consider body development, it’s clear that sex and pregnancy are only safe once the girl’s hips have fully developed, which happens later on. But regardless, her psychological health is also at stake, and that takes the longest to mature.
- “In some countries the age of consent is as young as 12. And historically, there were cultures (including Greek, Roman, and Japanese) that had a social tolerance of adult/child relationships. Our society’s negative view of adult/child sex is what causes the most harm.”
Yes, social stigma can certainly add to the harm. But human development is biological, and there’s no getting around that. Those societies that allowed adult/child sex either were unaware of the harm, or didn’t very much value certain children.
- “Ok! So children are not developmentally ready, but does that make it harmful? Adults are supposed to guide children into new experiences. It’s just sexual discovery.”
Yes, children need adults to help them grow. However, discovering sexuality isn’t the same thing as learning how to cook Mac & Cheese. Learning must be age-appropriate. Sex and romance is an experience along the lines of being a soldier, running a business, or raising a family – all of which require maturity in order to be positive.
- “But boys can masturbate at an early age, and children sometimes engage in sexual play. What harm is there if an adult is involved?”
That sort of personal discovery is completely different than the type of sexual contact we would have with a child. Those children are simply exploring physical sensations, which isn’t necessarily bad. But when we get involved, we put it all in the context of a relationship.
Sexual contact is never just physical. The vulnerability and intimacy always invokes a transaction where something is given and taken. The child might enjoy the physical sensations, but they aren’t prepared for what a sexual relationship actually means for their identity and future.
You see, it can never just be about physical sex; the relationship turns into a quasi-romance. The problem is that the adult is able to engage with their mature intellect and emotion, while the child is not developmentally ready. He or she is left to sort out the mess in the years ahead.
- “I don’t mean for it to be some big thing. Can’t we just share something enjoyable together?”
Now we’re getting to the bottom line. What’s the harm in just a little shared, sexual experience with a child?
Here’s the harm: It tears down the child’s personal boundaries, and causes identity confusion. Statistically, 63% of women, who were sexually abused by a family member, later become victims of rape or attempted rape. They don’t keep themselves safe. Research associates these boys and girls with a greater risk for addiction, failure at school, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
For the adult, it’s a moment of pleasure and satisfaction. But for the child, he or she cannot put their feelings into perspective. The emotions mix together – confusion, desire, shame, loyalty, uncertainty, fear – and the child doesn’t have a way to cope. Nothing makes sense down deep, and the result is reckless behavior.
Also, the child’s personal boundaries have been opened wide and he or she is unsure of their identity after what’s happened. They lack the self-control that comes with puberty, and so it’s hard to say “No” to anything else.
You, as the adult, cannot help the child cope in a healthy way. You can’t simply explain things to them, or go about it gently enough. That’s because they weren’t ready in the first place, and this is how children respond to trauma.
- “How can we be certain that every child will have a bad experience? Some adults, who were involved when they were a kid, now say that it was a positive experience.”
This question actually proves the point about development. Here we are examining adults’ testimonies to learn whether their childhood sexual experiences were positive or not. Why don’t we just ask children? The reason is that we know only an adult can really understand what happened. But even if there are a handful of adults who report a positive experience, the number is so small compared to those who were traumatized that we would be selfish and evil to risk harming children with those odds.
The BIG problem with the “pro-contact” arguments is that it’s all adult reasoning that fails to look at the situation through the child’s eyes…
He never hurt me, physically. Actually, he treated me really well! I don’t want to hate him for what we did. It felt good at the time, and I agreed to it. But I was 10 years old, so I didn’t really know what was happening. I keep thinking back.
I liked his attention and wanted him to think I was special. I was a very vulnerable kid. I craved to be noticed. The way he treated me made me feel important. No other adult was like that.
Sex wasn’t something I was looking for. I mean, at the time I did have sexual feelings, and was curious about that. And at first, all we did was a little sexual teasing, stuff like I saw on TV. But, he took it to a level I had no idea about. It became this thing between us.
I didn’t have words for how I felt, and I’m not sure what to say now. But, I do know my life changed back then. Something was different, and it followed me around everywhere, at school, at home. It’s like me and him together began to take over my whole world. It was intense.
Actually, I felt proud sometimes. I thought it made me special compared to other kids. But then it was confusing too. He kept telling me it was our secret, and I knew that’s how it had to be. I knew others would be mad if they found out.
The other thing that bothered me was that I felt like I was being used up. I don’t know how else to say it. I knew that private parts and sex were important. It was for people who fell in love, and for making children. But it was like that was happening to me now, at 10 years old. And so I felt taken, or used up. Like this was already my future.
Another thing was that I always felt naked around him. I told him I was embarrassed, but he said it was normal for love and would go away. But, it made me feel distant from my parents and Grandpa, because everything was so different between him and them.
I asked him if we would get married. He said that we would, and I believed him. That made me feel better for a while.
Eventually, he was out of my life. I went to middle school, and my schedule changed so that I didn’t have much chance to see him. We saw each other a few more times, but then he moved away. The last time we met he told me that he would always love me, but that hurt the most, because now he was gone and our special secret was over.
After that, I felt like I was falling. I started having nightmares, and got in trouble a lot at school. I had this empty feeling. I thought about finding another man to have another relationship. The other kids all seemed fine not having that, and I wondered why they didn’t feel the way I did.
Also, sexuality and sex was always on my mind. All those feelings didn’t simply go away when he did. I started looking at porn whenever I could. After a couple years of getting older, it wasn’t hard to find hook-ups. There were lots of guys who wanted to have sex with me. I was already used to it, and it made me feel special again.
What’s funny is that it made me popular at school for about a year. But after that I was the dirty slut. The girls thought I was trash, and the guys either avoided me or made advances. When I did have a relationship, it usually meant sex the first night.
At school they talked about abstinence and safe sex, and at church they said things like be pure and wear a promise ring. I wore one of those rings for a little while, but it was a joke. How’s a ring going to make things different?
In my late teens I finally realized sex wasn’t what it was all about. I wanted a real relationship with someone. I wanted someone to hold me, care about me, and make me feel special. But by then, no good guy wanted me. I felt like a used car. Like I should tape my STD report on my back.
I was already cutting myself since middle school. I attempted suicide my senior year. I didn’t take the whole bottle of pills, because I really didn’t want to die. I just wanted to be somewhere else.
Looking back, the thing that stands out is that he always said he loved me. It makes me cry sometimes, because in a way I miss him. Sometimes I miss him so much.
But I’m not sure it’s him I miss.
Now I understand what a real relationship is supposed to be. I was a god damn 10 year old! All I knew was Disney princesses and I wanted to be one.
I miss that little girl. I miss being a princess.
He used to call me his princess, but that’s what he stole from me. He always said he like my “crooked smile”. But I haven’t f*cking smiled since.
What a load of shit that he loved me. He was pleasing himself. The least he could have done was pay me, but I paid the price. If he loved me, he wouldn’t have did what he did.
I hate him, but it’s hard, because I know he didn’t want all this shit to happen to me. But what was he expecting? Was I supposed to just go off and be a responsible young adult after he took the clothes off a 10 year old me?
It’s taken me years to be able to say this: I know I said “Yes”, but I wasn’t his to touch. He can go to hell.
A second reason why a sexual relationship between an adult and child is harmful is that he or she cannot participate equally. It’s impossible for the relationship to be mutual; the child is the recipient and not a participant.
A child does not fully possess their sexuality, therefore, how can they give it away?
That is why, in legal terms, a child is unable to give consent. He or she is psychologically unprepared to make the decision.
Even if the child says “Yes”, he or she doesn’t fully understand what they are agreeing to. Therefore, the child is not actually free to choose for themselves. They are naive, seeing everything through child’s eyes.
Again, even if they say “Yes”, he or she is not asking for what we would be giving them. The person who says, “The kid wanted it!”, deserves all punishment due to those who serve themselves at the expense of others.
If you or I touch a child, we’re stealing something precious from them. We are asking them to meet our adult needs from the resources of a child’s world. We pillage them.
If I truly love him or her, I must never hurt them. That’s why I think it’s very noble to be a “virtuous pedophile”. It’s a sacrificial love… I love that child enough that I will endure the pain of unfulfilled desire, rather than see them harmed.
Happily, I’m not alone in this position. If you would like to meet other like-minded pedophiles, check out www.virped.org
God takes a very strong position on this issue. The Bible says that “children are a heritage/gift from the Lord”1. Jesus affirms their value, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”2 And he adds, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”3 We can be certain that God treasures children.
Jesus said some scary things too. He said, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.”4 And, referring to children he says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”5 I don’t want that to be me or you.
Let’s be very clear about this, for our own sake. If you or I harm a child, God will take it personally and deal with us. We must not think God doesn’t see. The Bible says, “The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.”6 This means that some people face the consequence here on earth, but others will face judgment in heaven, even if they aren’t found out now. God will give justice to every child.
You see, God takes sexuality very seriously, because he loves us and sex really affects our lives. He’s clear that sex belongs in the marriage relationship, and it’s harmful anywhere else.
This is a little deep, but it’s obvious that sex and romance only belong in one of the four types of relationships: 1) Friendships – Sex turns friendships into something else, 2) Authoritative – We recognize that it’s an abuse of power when a boss asks an employee for sex, 3) Parent/Child – Incest is deeply wrong for many reasons, and 4) Romantic – Sex is wonderful between two committed, equal individuals. So, you can see that sex is only healthy in a romantic relationship, which can never truly exist between an adult and child.
But, what is a pedophile supposed to do? We didn’t choose to be attracted to children. Are we supposed to live without love or intimacy? If you would like to explore these questions, please see God’s Plan for Sex: What’s a Pedophile to Do?.
(If you have already hurt a child, don’t despair. God can forgive you, just like he can forgive people of any evil. Jesus paid the price when he died, and his blood was worth that much. But, for you and me to escape the judgment we deserve, we must ask Jesus to be our Savior and begin a new life with him. To learn more, please see Adopted By God, “Yes” to Jesus, and God’s Love for a Pedophile.)
1 Psalm 127:3; 2 Matthew 19:14; 3 Matthew 18:10; 4 Luke 17:1 NLT; 5 Matthew 18:5; 6 1 Timothy 5:24