Troy Maguire

Ignoring paedophilia won’t make it disappear

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.

Troy Maguire

Troy Maguire is an aspiring writer and film-maker currently living in Melbourne and studying Screen and Media at RMIT. He enjoys deconstructing Hollywood blockbusters in long-winded rants, movie trivia and long walks on the beach at sunset.

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  • ender

    “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”

    That sentence is using “paedophilia” instead of “childhood sexual abuse”. I’ll grant you that it’s not your own sentence but a quote, but you did not challenge the misuse of the term.

    A study by Michael C. Seto found that 40% of child molesters were most aroused by children (pedophiles), compared to 17% of controls. In this study, Dr. Seto decided that 17% of the general population being most aroused by children was unacceptably high, so he arbitrarily changed the cut-off point for pedophilia until only 10% of controls fell under the diagnosis, and that resulted in 27% of child molesters being classified as pedophiles. So that means either 27% or 40% of child molesters were pedophiles, depending on the diagnostic cut-off point of pedophilia. In any case, this still shows that most child molesters are not pedophiles at all. The study is called “A Brief Screening Scale to Identify Pedophilic
    Interests Among Child Molesters”. There are other studies.

    I sincerely thank you for your effort and I’m sorry that my comments seemed more negative than how I really felt about your article. Your intentions were good and I appreciate that. You have not offended me.

  • simgiran

    What concretely is special pleading? The is no good evidence using child-like sex dolls makes one more inclined to engage in sexual activity with a child. In fact there is some evidence suggesting the opposite might be true (I think it isn’t conclusive though). Both possibilities you mentioned are plausible. There isn’t anything logical about strongly preferring one to the other without evidence. It may be the case that people who wish to use child-like sex doll are more inclined to engage in sexual activities with children. But that doesn’t matter in deciding whether it’s moral to use child-like sex dolls neither in deciding whether it should be legal to use them.

    Genetic is something that is coded in genes. Ex.: Sex, blood type, cystic fibrosis. Inborn is something that one is born with. It can be genetic, but it doesn’t have to. It can be something caused by environment during prenatal development. An example of non-genetic inborn trait is fetal alcohol syndrome.

  • Troy Alexander

    A lot of your comment comes across as special pleading. One would imagine, for example, that a paedophile who uses a plastic sex doll may be more inclined to try the real thing. I mean, that is the main argument against it.

    “The question whether the lack of empathy many offenders have is
    hardwired or learned may be asked in general, it’s not anything specific
    for pedophilic offenders.”

    I never suggested it was…

    But uh, perhaps you could clarify what the difference between “inborn” and “genetic” is?

  • Troy Alexander

    The point of the article was to raise awareness and change attitudes toward paedophilia.

    1. I appreciate that, but I meant from a scientific standpoint.

    2. I never conflated the two. While I totally understand that some (maybe most, who knows) CSOs may not be paedophiles, I’d imagine a large number would in fact be paedophiles. Do you have any links to studies that prove your contention? Because I’d actually be really interested to see them (not sarcasm).

    3. Hmm. Maybe “morally wrong” wasn’t the right way to put it. I apologise for that. I’m certainly not saying it’s “evil”, don’t be ridiculous.

    I tried very hard to approach this with an open mind, and with a mind to opening minds, so I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, or misrepresented Virtuous Pedophiles. That was the complete opposite of my intention.


  • ender

    I’m sorry that my comment confused you. I guess it’s the fact that your article confused me. While there are some good things about it, I just don’t get what point you’re trying to make. There’s a lot of flaws in what you wrote, as pointed out by commenter simgiran above. But I guess I was trying to convey three points:

    1. You admitted to not knowing much about how or why pedophilia occurs. I wanted to give you the perspective of how a pedophile discovers their attractions in the vast majority of cases.

    2. You kept conflating pedophilia and child molestation, talking about pedophilia in one sentence and about “the risk of becoming a perpetrator” in the next, and using the term pedophilia as a synonym to child sexual abuse. So I wanted to clarify that a lot of pedophiles (I’d say most, but I don’t really know–and no one does–how many pedophiles there are) never abuse children, and a lot (according to some studies the majority) of child molesters are not pedophiles.

    3. I wanted to point out that not only being attracted to children isn’t immoral in and of itself, but that Virtuous Pedophiles as an organization does not claim that it is, nor do the vast majority of its members (I am one of them). It is not a requirement to be a member of that support group to think that being attracted to children is either immoral or wrong, let alone “evil”. The requirement is to agree that actually having sex with children is morally wrong. As for your rebuttal, you cannot compare someone thinking that “black people are subhuman” with being attracted to children. The former is either a choice (one decides to be a racist douchebag) or, if not a choice (let’s say the person was educated in an environment where that is what he learned), it can be changed, through education. Being attracted to children is neither a choice nor can be changed. If you don’t make an active choice to do (or think, or in this case feel) something, then it cannot be assigned a moral weight. If, in spite of being attracted to children, I consciously decide each and every day of my life to refrain from having sex with a child, then I can in no way be categorized as immoral. You could say that maybe the mere fact that I fantasize about sex with children is immoral, even if I never act out those fantasies, but I would disagree. Mainly because my fantasies don’t harm anyone, and don’t make me more likely to act them out. Have you ever been attracted to a married woman? Have you ever fantasized about sex with a woman other than your partner/wife, a woman you don’t know and who would most likely not consent to having sex with you? Have you ever thought about punching someone in the face when you were angry? Are these thoughts immoral? I guess that if you think these thoughts are immoral then I guess I won’t try to argue with you since logic says you’d think my sexual thoughts about children (even though I will never act on them) are immoral. But at least agree that having sexual thoughts about children (and not acting on them) would be just as moral or immoral as for “normal” adults to have sexual thoughts that if acted out would certainly be immoral (like cheating on a spouse, or rape fantasies).

  • thebigsmoke

    This is a great analysis of the piece. If you feel like writing a rebuttal or your own view, why not email [email protected]. PB

  • simgiran

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

    Actually, not necessarily. What kind of negative attitudes? How is it going to change an attitude of person who think sexual contacts with children are wrong? A person who realizes the doll isn’t real and that silicone doesn’t have feelings to be harmed unlike a child have?

    “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.””

    The article uses the term pedophilia differently than it’s currently used in sexology. Many sexologist stresses the term pedophilia means sexual preference or orientation towards children, not an act. At least authors define the term for the purpose of the study. It should be pointed out how they use the term, clearly James Cantor use the term differently than it’s used in this study.

    “How do they account for
    the premeditation “grooming” requires?”

    The problem with grooming is that it’s often assumed it requires premeditation. Yes, there are offenders who plan how to abuse children. But often what is described as careful planning might be interpreted as an instinctive behaviour of person in love. Even people attracted to adults don’t just start having sex with someone.

    “Is their apparent lack of empathy hardwired, or learned?”

    Pedophilic sex offenders doesn’t necessarily lack empathy. Lack of empathy isn’t a trait that goes hand in hand with pedophilia. The question whether the lack of empathy many offenders have is hardwired or learned may be asked in general, it’s not anything specific for pedophilic offenders.

    “Can convicted child molesters be rehabilitated despite their disorder being genetic?”

    What kind of disorder? Not all child molesters are pedophilic. There may have some personality disorders or other psychological disorders, but I don’t know about any that is present in all offenders. In case of pedophilic offenders pedophilia doesn’t mean one has to molest children. We need to look for co-factors contributing to offending, some can be affected by treatment, some cannot (at least so far). Furthermore, speaking about pedophilia, there is little if any evidence that it has strong genetic background. So far James Cantor and others have presented some evidence pedophilia is inborn or at least there are significant inborn factors. Inborn is not the same and genetic.

  • Troy Alexander


    First of all, no, I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you. In fact, I commend you for your courage.

    But I don’t really understand the purpose of the majority of your comment. If I wanted to read my article again, I’d read my article again. Your comment is structured and written as though it were an argument, but at no point (except my assertion that paedophilia is “morally wrong”) do you contradict anything I’ve said. Your suggestion that only acts can be given moral weight, I have to say, is quite absurd. Acts presuppose beliefs and thoughts, so thoughts can be immoral (RE: someone who believes black people are subhuman is immoral). However, in no way am I suggesting that anyone can be punished for “thought-crimes”!
    There is most definitely a distinction between being a paedophile and being a child molester, and I regret having not included that in the article. I only thought of it after I had submitted it. I’ve probably forgotten something that I wanted to address that was very important now…

    Again, thanks for commenting, but I’m kinda confused as to what your intentions were.

  • ender

    Hello there. First I want to thank the author for trying to shed some light on such a difficult subject as this one. Let me start by saying that I’m a pedophile. Yes, you heard right. I am sexually attracted to children. You can choose to automatically hate me or you can choose to listen to what I have to say.

    Let me try to clarify a few things about pedophilia. First, we didn’t choose to be attracted to children. I mean, come on, user your common sense here. Who in their right mind would choose to
    belong to the most despised collective in modern society? Just like heterosexual men didn’t one day consciously decided that they were going to be attracted to women, and just like it is generally accepted nowadays that gay men did not choose to be attracted to other men, none
    of us made a conscious choice to be sexually attracted to children (and please don’t freak out here, the ONLY way in which I am suggesting that pedophilia is similar to homosexuality is in that it’s not a choice, and it cannot be changed, nothing more). For the vast majority of us, we started to develop sexual feelings towards children while we were still children ourselves, during puberty if not slightly before that, pretty much like every other child discovers their own sexual orientation. What happens in most cases is that, as we continued to grow into our teen years, we discovered (in horror for the most part) that the subjects of our attractions didn’t keep up with us, and remained children. For me, I have been attracted to boys since I was a boy myself, and just thought I’d grow up to be a gay kid. At around the age of 14 I realized that the boys I was attracted to had not grown up with me.

    Second, while we did not choose to be sexually attracted to children, the vast majority of us DO choose, day after day, to never touch a child in a sexual way. Being a pedophile does not turn someone automatically into a child rapist/molester. We do know that children aren’t capable of
    consenting and we have no desire to force ourselves onto a child. Assuming that every pedophile is a child molester (and that happens every time the term pedophile is not used to refer to someone sexually attracted to children, but to talk about someone that has abused a
    child) is the same as assuming that every heterosexual man is a woman rapist. That is simply not true. It is very important to distinguish between pedophilia and child sexual abuse (CSA). The vast majority of pedophiles never molest a child, and the vast majority of CSA happens within close circles of the abused children, either by relatives or very closed trusted adults, and it so happens that in the majority of these cases (most studies suggest above 50%, some go as far as 80%) the perpetrators of the abuse are not even pedophiles. They are what’s called a situational offender, and they don’t abuse the child because they are sexually attracted to children but because of many other issues. There are, of course, pedophiles that abuse children as well, just like there are heterosexual men that rape women, but simply assuming that every pedophile is a child molester (or a “ticking time bomb” that will inevitably molest a child one day) and directing blind hatred indiscriminately towards every one of us is not helping protect children from the real danger of abuse.

    The organization Virtuous Pedophiles does not say that being attracted to children is morally wrong. Being attracted to children is not an act, and as such cannot be assigned a moral weight. Being attracted to children just IS, and it doesn’t make the person that is attracted to children automatically evil. Acting on the attraction is what is wrong, but like I said most pedophiles choose to never act on those attractions. However, many of us internalize society’s attitude towards us and develop strong feelings of shame, guilt and self-hate that lead to severe episodes of anxiety or depression, suicidal thoughts and, all too often, actual suicide. An individual in distress is much more likely to make a poor choice and harm a child. Perhaps a lot of people don’t care that every year too many teenagers that discover their attractions for the first time can’t cope with them and decide to take their lives, all because they are too afraid to seek professional help. Perhaps some people will care, and will realize that changing our attitudes as a society and encouraging pedophiles to seek help if they feel they need it can only lead to better balanced individuals and safer children. All we ask for is some understanding that just having certain desires does not automatically turn us into child rapists. Even if it sounds hard to believe, the vast majority of us pose absolutely no risk to any children, and many of us even work with children on a daily basis and will never do anything to any of them. Sexually abusing a child has simply never crossed our minds, and we are as confident that we’ll never do it as anyone can be confident that they won’t commit any other crime. For the most part, we don’t have irresistible “urges” that we have to
    constantly fight, and for those that may, easy and safe access to professional help can really help make children safer. But unfortunately the current environment isn’t conducive to pedophiles coming forward and admitting to professionals that we have these attractions, with mandatory reporting laws and all the stigma associated with our condition.

  • Troy Alexander

    Thanks Tina!
    Yeah, I felt physically ill reading the sentencing remarks. Kinda glad the editor omitted the link I provided to it.

  • Tina

    good points. the story of the lost prophets guy made me sick.