in brief: Making sense of attraction to minors

  • There’s a huge disconnect between current popular attitudes and professional knowledge of psychiatrists, social scientists, and historians.
  • Erotic attraction to people under 18 years of age is common and, along the life course, typical. That’s true even today in the West when such feelings are labeled “pedophilia” in mass media and regarded with outrage both in public opinion and harshly punished by the law.
  • Psychiatry defines pedophilia as primary and persistent attraction to prepubescent girls or boys, generally age 10 or younger — and views such as a mental disorder. But psychiatry recognizes attraction to adolescents as so common as to be completely normal.
  • For centuries, marriage in societies around the world was most often between a girl 12 to 15 with a male 19 to 21, who had time to establish himself economically.
  • Male same-sex relationships over time show a similar pattern. Most famous historical figures now celebrated as “gay” were in fact mainly erotically oriented toward youths, such as artist and polymath Leonardo da Vinci, poet Walt Whitman, writer and wit Oscar Wilde, or computer-science pioneer Alan Turing. In societies — from ancient Greece to pre-modern Japan where these relationships were seen as normal, it’s striking that a large proportion of men seem capable of feeling such attraction — together with heterosexual impulses.
  • These patterns persist, even in America today. Boston University researchers looking at internet search terms for erotic imagery say no request is more popular than “nude girl 16.”
  • Seeing that male erotic feelings for minors is typical – and almost certainly what males are evolved to feel – does not speak to whether sex involving minors is legal or right for today. But harsh and inaccurate attitudes about the rarity of attraction to minors puts a large proportion of men and boys today at risk of years of imprisonment. Some 40% of U.S. youngsters have “sexted” (broke child porn laws) by age 13. In some U.S. states as high as 30% of prisoners are incarcerated for sex. And federal incarcerations for porn possession rose more than 60-fold from 1996 to 2010. Around one million U.S. citizens are deprived of virtually all civil rights as registrants.
  • Surely there are ways to foster sexual behavior in line with today’s mores without destroying hundreds of thousands of lives.

Read more on this topic here.


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