It’s time we acknowledged and openly discussed paedophilia, with Troy Maguire believing the only way to cure this problem is by first admitting there is one.

 

In January of last year police arrested a Sydney man for possession of a 12-year old sized sex-doll (needless to say, “paedophile sex doll” is a search term I never thought I’d punch into Google).

The first thought that crossed my mind when the story broke was, “Wait, child-like sex-dolls? Who the fuck is manufacturing these things?”

The second was, “Well, better that than the real thing, right?”

Logic soon kicked in and I realised that the use of such an item would positively reinforce the negative attitudes and behaviour of the paedophiles that purchased it.

So what is the cause of paedophilia? Most people, myself included, seem to understand very little about it. Is it the result of nature or nurture (or perhaps even a combination of the two)? Experts can’t seem to reach a consensus on the issue, and as such, it remains a major point of interest for behavioural scientists and psychologists.

According to research presented in a review article posted by the British Journal of Psychiatry “the risk of being a perpetrator is enhanced by prior victim experiences, doubled for incest, more so for paedophilia and even higher for those exposed to both paedophilia and incest.”

So, to a certain extent, it could be said that the vicious cycle of child sex abuse is actually perpetuated by its victims. On the other hand, however, professor of psychiatry James Cantor contends that there may exist a “paedophile gene”.

What are the implications of such a finding?

How culpable are offenders for their actions? How do they account for the premeditation “grooming” requires? Is their apparent lack of empathy hardwired, or learned? Are they immoral or amoral? Can convicted child molesters be rehabilitated despite their disorder being genetic? Do they even deserve to be rehabilitated? Should we just “lock them up and throw away the key”? Is that ethical?

As the issue of paedophilia is such a sensitive topic, it escapes open, honest, and rational discourse. Even the word “paedophilia” elicits an emotional response unlike any other.

Tabloids and broadsheets alike employ emotive language when reporting on cases of child sex abuse. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see descriptors such as “sick” and “evil” populating their headlines. Such reductionism does nothing but provoke moral outrage among the masses, which benefits no one. Speaking of “evil”, the act of applying semi-religious concepts to the psychological and (arguably) biological aberration of paedophilia serves only to appeal, rather ironically, to our baser human instincts.

Bombarded with all this loaded language, it’s easy to forget that paedophiles are human beings. Is it not counter-intuitive, paradoxical even, to vilify child-molesters as “animals” and “monsters” whilst insisting they be held accountable for their crimes?

Not all journalists are guilty of such sensationalistic nonsense, however, as the BBC special A Place for Paedophiles demonstrates. Filmed at Coalinga State Hospital in California, the documentary investigates the incarceration and rehabilitation process of convicted child molesters in an even-handed, objective way. Indeed, it was hard to not feel a twinge of sympathy for a number of the subjects (one “inmate” in particular opted to have himself surgically castrated in conjunction with therapy sessions). We need more Louis Therouxs in the world.

I often hear the argument that if pederasts in vestments were allowed to marry, they wouldn’t be raping kids in the first place. I’m sorry, but that makes fuck-all sense. One doesn’t just decide to be a paedophile because of forced celibacy. One can’t “turn paedo” any more than one can “turn gay”. Often, rather than discuss preventative measures for the long-term (a psychological screening process, for example), many people will instead concern themselves with detailing the convoluted and ironically perverse methods of torture they’d like to see inflicted upon the offender in question.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m just as guilty. Having followed the trial of Ian Watkins, (the former vocalist of Welsh rock band Lostprophets), and subsequently read the sentencing remarks, I honestly hoped for the man’s death. I must admit that it was satisfying to imagine him meeting his end at the edge of a prison shiv, but was mine a reasonable response? Was it merely self-congratulatory wish-fulfilment? What does indulging in revenge fantasies actually achieve?

PSAs and awareness campaigns like “Stranger Danger”, whilst prudent in the short-term, are nothing more than Band-Aid solutions to a problem people seem reluctant to even acknowledge, let alone address accordingly.

Instead of plugging our ears and burying our heads in the sand, we need to push the issue of paedophilia beyond the lines it occupies in scientific journals and into public consciousness. While websites such as Virtuous Pedophiles offer information and resources for those whom acknowledge that their sexual attraction to children is morally wrong, an online presence just isn’t enough.

Ads on TV? Posters in medical clinics? Emergency help lines? Supervised support groups?

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that preventing the crime is better than “cure” of punishment.

Ignoring paedophilia won’t make it disappear.

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