Sunday, 3 April 2011

Paedophilia

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.

4 comments:

Scarlet said...

Alas, due to my job, and what I have been exposed to as a result of my job. I cannot agree with you.

This is probably not the best place for a serious debate on the topic, and I do see where you are coming from.

But..... As long as there are people who have the fantasy, someone out there will be looking to profit from it by exploiting innocent children, and that is why I'm more likely to side with your sister.

There is no black and white, and sentencing should always reflect the severity of the case - it's one of the reasons the images are catagorised - however, sometimes, prison is going to be the only option, for me it's a utilitarian argument, it's about the greater good for the greatest number of people, particularly when the victims are often never located and never rescued from those exploiting them.

Innocent Loverboy said...

While I see where you're coming from, and the people profiteering from the exploitation of children is a serious problem, actually putting people who have the fantasies away isn't going to either stop the exploitation or stop people being born who have the fantasies.

If there is, as you say, a case which results in incarceration, then it should be individually examined - but it should involve a crime, and therefore the people profiteering are the criminals to be dealt with, surely, and not the people who have the fantasies themselves?

Scarlet said...

hmmm just wrote a long reply and blogger ate it!

Gist was, I don't think all paedophiles should be shipped off just because of their fetish, if they're able to indulge themselves purely from their own imagination, so be it.

However, I have little faith in the idea that the average paedophile wouldn't require more than their own imagination, and in taking their fetish to the next level, they are breaking the law, and therefore should be dealt with accordingly and that is what our Justice system is there for.

Each case is dealt with individually with the judge deciding exactly how much of a risk that person would be to society were they allowed to remain free. Hence my comment about the greater good for the greater number.

Anyway, I'll shut up now, like I said, due to my job it's hard not to get passionate about this kind of thing

Innocent Loverboy said...

Damn, I also wrote a long comment and Blogger ate it! I'll try and type the thing up again. But I'll use bullet points this time, because that makes it easier to digest.

- Of course it's difficult not to get passionate about it, it's a hot potato issue! If you didn't have any strong feelings, I'd be worried!

- You use the phrase "the greater good for the greater number" again. I'm still not sure exactly what you mean by that, it's a dangerous phrase to use; philosopher Ayn Rand said, "the good of others is a magic formula that turns everything it touches into gold ... even the idea wich may be the wrong [most evil] idea can, with popular support, become 'the greater good'." But I kind of get where you're coming from.

- God, I remember the oddest quotes sometimes.

- You make the point that paedophiles who are able to indulge themselves without breaking any laws don't need incarceration - but that's the point I was trying to make in my original post!

- Essentially, though, from reading back through the comments, I think that perhaps I have more faith in humanity than I should - and you're probably correct in that there are a lot of lawbreakers in this area! But I'm sure that there are lots of paedophiles who aren't...

- ...although nobody's going to own up, so it's impossible to judge!

The final point I want to stress here is that I totally agree with you in that paedophiles who break the law and prove to be a danger to children should be imprisoned (as long as the incarceration involves some sort of help, such as counselling, available - in addition to make society feel a little safer). But this should happen because they committed a felony, and not simply because of who they are.

But I'm sure you agree with me on that one!