The third rail of homosexuality is pedophilia. The queer community does all it can to distance itself from people who are attracted to youngsters, whether they be pre-pubescent or teens under the age of majority (which is technically called hebephilia and ephebophilia, but which I will lump together in this entry). There are some good reasons for this aversion, but the primary reason seems to be that accusations of pedophilia have been used as a bludgeon against gay rights for a long time.
Thankfully, this entry is not a Shocking Diclosure of Sexual Perversion. I personally have no sexual attraction to children or teenagers, or even to the twinkish young men that grace gay publications everywhere. I am grateful for this for many reasons. Being in the closet is difficult enough for mostly mainstream perverts like me; living in the closet for one’s entire life with no hope of being open is another matter entirely. Yet, that is the situation many people with pedophilic tendencies face. In addition to the legal consequences of acting on one’s sexual impulses, there is also the traumatizing children and destroying their lives part. Even for those “gold star” pedophiles who never touch a child, there is enormous stigma. Even the pornographic material one might use when masturbating is illegal in many jurisdictions, even if no children are involved in making the porn. (Romeo and Juliet gets a pass, however, because that’s art or something.)
Let’s be clear. Sexual abuse is awful. Period. Full stop. I believe that almost all sexual activity between children and adults can be classified as sexual abuse, and it almost always has traumatizing consequences for the child, even if the child thinks they are a willing participant. I remember back when I was going through puberty, and I harboured unclean thoughts about the Grade Four teacher Mr S. I spent too much time thinking about his moustache and chest hair, and although my fantasies were not fully articulated it is clear to me that I felt desire. But if Mr S. had compliantly carried out those scenarios in real life, I would very likely have been traumatized. It would not have been okay, no matter how much my hormone-laden brain wished otherwise.
If we accept that the prohibition on sex between adults and minors is justified, we still have a problem: some people are sexually attracted to minors. Now what do we do? Our solution has been to throw these people under the bus. At the same time we claim that we were “born this way”, and that our sexual attractions are not under our control. Thus it is societally acceptable to discriminate against a class of people based upon what they are, not what choices they have made.
I find myself thinking about this a lot. As revealed in Shocking Diclosure #3, I tend to be attracted to elders, often in intergenerational ways. It is no surprise that I harboured unclean thoughts about Mr S. and not about my classmates. Some kind commenters maintained that I am not an unlovable freak for my paraphilia, because lots of people are into daddy-types. Really, I am unbelievably lucky. Daddy-types can consent freely to sexual relations with freaks like me, and we presume that children cannot. Pedophiles are just the mirror image of my own fetish.
As such, I do not feel comfortable throwing pedophiles under the bus so that the rest of us seem more respectable. I do not think closets work for anybody, and that includes pedophiles. In fact, I think the closet results in a lot of sexual abuse, if only because pedophiles never learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with their urges, and then they give in. I do not believe that pedophiles should have open license to follow through on having sex with children, but there may be other avenues that the rest of us would find squeamish but which might be appropriate. It might not be wise to ban pornography that does not harm children in its creation (eg fictional text pieces). Even weird sex dolls that look like children should probably be permissible. This is creepy, but that is not the question. The question is whether allowing these things does more to protect children or harm them.
As I wrote at the beginning, pedophilia is the third rail of homosexuality, so we cannot welcome those with pedophilic tendencies into our communities even if they commit to never having sex with children. But I think this taboo is irrational, and I suspect that it harms more children than it helps.
Maybe we keep going down the path we are going down, decide that the existence of pedophilia is a threat, and conclude that the only ethical resolution is chemical castration. I have my doubts that this will work well (it didn’t work so well for Alan Turing) but at the very least we should then allow this as an acceptable treatment for other unwanted sexual desires as well, including mine.
Suffice to say that I feel we are dealing with the issue of pedophilia in unhealthy ways, and that we in the LGBTQ community are as much at fault for this as anybody, because pedophilia raises a lot of uncomfortable questions we are not willing to face head on. As a result both children and those with pedophilic tendencies suffer.
There is another side to this, but that is better left to another entry (or maybe never written at all).