I was chastised by my mother for mentioning paedophilia at the dinner table at lunchtime today, although in my defence, my sister started the conversation, and she said something which I didn't agree with, so I tried to challenge it. I was shouted at by my mother, which proves once again that she needs lessons in parenting. Anyway. It's not very often that I aim to be deliberately serious on this blog, but I might as well say it here, on account of the fact that with my sister and mother around, I won't get to say it anywhere else.
I'm not a paedophile. I like children, but I'm not sexually aroused by children. If I were a paedophile, I don't think I'd have trusted myself to have worked with children in the past (as you'll know if you've been reading this blog, I have been a teaching assistant in the past, as well as a couple of other careers during which I've come into regular contact with children). I find young children easy to talk to and fun to communicate with, but as far as it goes, I don't know how a paedophile thinks - how a paedophile's brain may be wired. But for the purposes of this post, a "paedophile" is an adult human who is physically aroused by the idea of children involved in some sort of sexual act.
My sister said, "if you are a paedophile, you should be in prison." This, I disagree with.
I don't agree with paedophilia, as an act. I think certain things, such as kink, gender-bending, exhibitionism and cybersex and other sexual practices are seen as taboo and shouldn't be, but actually physically exploiting a child in order to get a sexual thrill is a crime, and rightfully so. It's a form of rape, even if it is statutory. (Two 15-year-olds having sex with each other is a different matter, but that's not the debate we're having here). Nobody should be exploited like that, whatever their age, as sex is meant to be fun, not forced. And so, yes, although I don't like the idea of anyone going to prison (it makes my skin prickle), I think that "rehabilitation" (as opposed to "correction" or, worse, "punishment") is a reasonable response to an act of premeditated harm linked to paedophilia.
However, the sentence my sister said, I'm not entirely sure she was thinking through. One doesn't have any control over one's sexual preferences. If you are set up to be a paedophile, you can't help it, and what's more, it's not your fault. Moreover, sexual release is a basic human right (hell, not just humans - all animals have the right to sexual release) and shouldn't be disallowed. If your masturbatory fantasies involve young children, then you are within your right to have them, even if many people - myself included - would blanch at such an idea. It can't be an easy life, knowing within yourself that you are effectively a social pariah even if you keep your sexual preferences a secret. That's being a paedophile, it doesn't involve any act. And I don't imagine you can choose to be one.
What you do have control over is your actions. Unless you are inhibited by some sort of intoxicating substance or - I don't know, whatever inhibits the decision-making process - you have the ability to make decisions based on whatever sense you want to go by - logical or poetic - and the reasonable thought process (although, as I have said before, I'm not in the right position to assume, but I'm attempting empathy here) should go something like this:
I want to [sexual act] with [young child], but this is [immoral / illegal] because [reason]. Therefore, I should not do so because of the repercussions on [the child] due to [what happens], and on myself due to [the consequences].
That's a should. The thinking process doesn't always happen that way, and there are occurrences of children being sexually abused, and that's why we have paedophilia laws in place.
But there's a difference between existing as and acting upon. The structure of the sentence my sister said could easily be applied to, "if you are a homosexual, you should be in prison." (Homosexuality is not a crime, but it was only a few decades ago.) What about, "if you are black, you should be in prison"? "If you are American, you should be in prison?" "If you are a Christian, you should be in prison"? Crimes can be committed by any sort of person, and the blind assumption that a paedophile will commit an act of paedophilia is just that... blind.
So I disagree with my sister entirely. I will admit to agreeing with, "if you commit a crime that in an imprisonable offence, including abuse of a child, also known as paedophilia, you should be rehabilitated in a secure environment"; in the case of paedophilia, rehabilitation applying to the promotion of the ability to sexually please yourself through imagination, rather than physical contact with children. But I don't agree with "if you are a paedophile, you should be in prison."
Because I'm sure there are perfectly innocent, law-abiding citizens out there who have paedophiliac tendencies. I just doubt they'd freely say so, that's all.