General Question

College_girl's avatar

What are your thoughts on pedophilia as a crime?

Asked by College_girl (884 points ) February 3rd, 2013

Why is pedophilia, above all other deviant and criminal behaviors (including adult murder and rape), singled out as more heinous and loathed by American society? (Besides the target is children).

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50 Answers

rooeytoo's avatar

I too have often wondered that myself. They say in prison pedophiles are targets, but rapists are not. I guess it goes back to the “women ask for it” attitude versus the innocence of a child, that is a child could not “ask for it.” I also notice there seems to be more sympathy for a male who is raped or sexually molested than for a female. Same reason I suppose. I don’t think it is right, they are all situations where the physically weaker is overpowered and forced to do something against their will, therefore all are equally heinous.

mattbrowne's avatar

Besides the target is children? Can’t think of any reason. It’s seen as the most heinous and loathed exactly because of that. Children need the protection of adults. Children are vulnerable. Often children can’t protect themselves. Of course adult murder is heinous too, but the risks for the murders are higher and this alters the perception of society.

ucme's avatar

They’re sick fucks who need exterminating in the most painful way imaginable, because they rip the heart out of families & defile the only innocents left in the world, our kids.
Personally i’d have them wrapped & tied to a tree pinata style & have parents beat the fucking shit out of them with bats entwined with razor wire.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Children being the target IS the reason. Children are innocent and defenseless, unlike adults. Many humans have a natural desire to protect children, just as other animals protect their young. This is especially true if a person has kids of their own, because they imagine that the same can happen to their kids.

Asking why people hate pedophiles “besides the target being children” is like asking why people like ice cream “besides it tasting good.”

Personally, I think it’s stupid that pedophiles are treated so much worse in prison than the rest of them. That “I killed my entire family, but I attack inmates that are pedophiles because that’s worse” mentality is stupid. They’re all animals.

Shippy's avatar

It’s very nature is that it involves sex with children. You cannot separate that factor.I personally find any crime against any vulnerable target disgusting.

_Zeus_'s avatar

You need to define “pedophilia,” or abuse, or child porn, for that matter. The old line, “I know it when I see it” won’t do. Forced sexual acts on a child of five? Definitely. But a 12-year old girl who willingly engages in petting with her 18 year-old brother and his friend?
Teens and preteens are being arrested for uploading child porn—of themselves, and they are subject to the present draconian penalties, which can be harsher than those for rape or even murder. (See A. Adler, “The Perverse Law of Child Pornography,” Columbia Law Review, 2001.)
Also, the vast majority of “pedophilia” goes on within families, yet little is done because parents (when they are not the guilty ones) hush it up and pretend it didn’t happen.
The elephant in the room is that preteens can in fact be sexually alluring. Humans could not have evolved otherwise since life spans were so short. Now people reflexively proclaim child sexuality as “sick” because they are afraid of being accused of being pedophiles, as in the witch hysteria of medieval times.
Is it not precisely because we want to raise sane and happy children that we must recognize this fact and legislate accordingly? One police chief brave enough to say offenders with “lolita” complexes should be treated differently from those who abuse toddlers was nearly pilloried.
Obviously, recognizing that children can be sexual is different from advocating it, but such critical distinctions are too subtle to be noticed by the lynch mob that opines on this issue. What is worse, engaging a willing child in playful petting or beating the child with a belt and traumatizing her for touching herself in a way that the parent’s narrow-minded religious dogma defines as “sinful”—even though it is a perfectly innocent and natural part of growing up?
The absurdity is very much like marijuana laws. Smoke one joint in your home and the IRS can seize your house, whatever its value. Get drunk and start a lot of fights, no problem.

Shippy's avatar

@Zeus This is a joke right?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

The target of the crime is children, which as others have said, makes an already awful crime that much worse. The elderly and disabled are vulnerable, so we feel a greater protective instinct towards such people. Children are vulnerable, but they are also innocent and trusting. Adults know that bad things happen in the world, and are generally more resilient, in that they already have an existing framework through which they can deal with traumatic events such as a sexual assault or rape. Of course that is not to say it is even remotely easy for an adult to deal with. However children naturally trust adults, and through their innocence have no idea of sex and its accompanying emotional implications. It is the breach of this innocent trust, combined with the vulnerability of children, that makes paedophilia one of the worst imaginable crimes.

Abused children show biological changes, compared with those raised in a healthy environment, that affect everything from gene regulation up. Statistically the majority of abused children will attempt suicide before they turn 18. Many will succeed. Those who don’t will likely try several more times. Others will go on to become abusers themselves. Only a very few will ever deal with their difficulties enough to be able to lead a largely normal life. To destroy a child’s life is to destroy enormous potential, in addition to all the pain and suffering an adult would suffer under similar circumstances.

Why do you specify American society? Doesn’t every society with functioning ethical standards abhor paedophilia?

Coloma's avatar

Mental illness and deviant behavior is the truth behind pedophiles, but yes, their “crimes” are classified as crimes because they harm ( assault ) children. Tossing these people in the penal system makes no difference, but neither does long term therapy. Sadly pedophiles are already serving a life sentence within themselves and their hardwired sexual preferences for innocent children. Personally I think they should be incarcerated in mental health facilities rather than the mainstream prison population. Tragic all the way around.

_Zeus_'s avatar

I don’t think any progress will be made on this issue until people stop posturing and repeating platitudes like “children are innocent” and instead get down and tackle the difficult issues involving the definition of what precisely constitutes “abuse” and what precisely a “child” is.
We all know that an adult violently forcing penetrative abuse on a five year old is about as horrible as a crime can get. But the original question raised by College Girl concerns why an adult (who is usually a relative) who fondles a child of some given age (which we must specify) is treated in much the same black-and-white, shoot-from-the-hip way in all cases, regardless of the circumstances, such that he or she is regarded as being worse than a murderer—or for that matter, people who physically beat their children, which many people regard as a parent’s “right.”
A high school teacher finishes her prison sentence for having sex with a male student only to be greeted upon release by a crowd of raucous teenage boys jokingly asking to be next. When I was fifteen, me and every other 15 year old kid I knew would have loved to jump in the sack with the school civics teacher, an attractive 24 year old woman. Yet if I had been fortunate enough to get my civics teacher in bed, I would have been devastated to have her arrested and treated like a criminal. These are realities whether you like them or not.
We know all the platitudes. Return to the original question: Why do we treat what are clearly offenses of vastly varying gravity in such a simplistic, black-and-white fashion? How in the world do we establish some kind of fair criteria for ranking offenses.

Coloma's avatar

@Zeus Because, aside from the “hot for teacher” fantasy which is, of course, common, it still boils down to the age of consent and violation of trust/ethics whether it is a family member or teacher/student situation. Stealing is stealing and while stealing a candy bar may not be as “bad” as stealing a car, ( consensual sex between a 15 yr.old boy and his teacher, vs. raping a 5 yr.old ) the bottom line is that there has to be a demarcation line, and in most states that is a minimum of 16–18 years.
“Adults” in positions of authority,parent,teacher, coach, counselor, etc. have a code of ethics to uphold and if they violate those ethics they should suffer the consequences.

We treat these situations as black and white, because they ARE black & white.
Violate the ethics of your position or the trust of your child, student, etc. and suffer the consequences. There are thousands of potential sexual partners out there and teachers that are foolish enough to fuck their underage students deserve to be strung up, legally speaking.

Shippy's avatar

@Zeus I have a few issues with your post. I’d like to address;

The elephant in the room is that preteens can in fact be sexually alluring. You think? That is interesting.

recognizing that children can be sexual is different from advocating it You do?

What is worse, engaging a willing child in playful petting or beating the child with a belt and traumatizing her for touching herself Are those the only two options? What about doing neither of those things? As I presume you mean is if your child is exploring you would engage in that? (Since this is your point of view? If I am correct?)

or for that matter, people who physically beat their children, which many people regard as a parent’s “right.” Who thinks that? It’s also child abuse, last time I looked.

When I was fifteen, me and every other 15 year old kid I knew would have loved to jump in the sack with the school civics teacher Of course you would, so would a lot of teenage girls that have crushes on their male teachers (or females). But how would that effect their life gong forward in regards to trusting authority figures, or people in general?

_Zeus_'s avatar

@Coloma. First, I don’t think it is necessary to use foul language, and I ask that you refrain from doing so. You recognize the need to distinguish between degrees in theft but don’t seem to be able to do so with child abuse. You therefore prove my point about the need people seem to have to prove they are not witches. But the result of your simplistic thinking is injustice. Moreover, you are rather rude in your implication that I know nothing of fiduciary responsibilities, which is of course involved in the case of teachers. But it is not the crux of the matter under discussion. Like most people here, you seem intent on avoiding the intellectual difficulty or effort involved in answering the original question.

ETpro's avatar

I certainly think there needs to be some sensible perspective brought to the issue. Not all underage sex is the same. Consider a 16 and 17 year old who fall in love and begin heavy petting, then actually being sexually active. The moment the older one turns 18, that person is a pedophile and can be imprisoned for many years for what was legal the day before their 18th birthday. Hopefully, a court would recognize that such a case is VERY different from a 40 year old man raping a toddler.

Even in egregious cases of child sexual abuse where no permanent physical harm is done to the child, I would not call the crime worse than murder. Murder, you cannot recover from. Sexual exploitation, as ugly as it may be, is far from a death sentence. With counseling to work through it, the child that suffered it can go on to live a full and happy life.

Coloma's avatar

@Zeus My “simplistic” thinking is based on fact. Violate a position of trust and authority suffer the consequences. As far as my foul language goes, I use that word to show my emphatic feelings towards those that exploit their positions of trust and mentorship.
I will speak as I choose to speak and if you do not like it, that is your problem.

We are allowed to use less than stellar and perfectly savory words so I suggest you adapt or die. lol
If the occasional use of an expletive is offensive to you, well…there are many exits available, but don’t ride into Dodge and appoint yourself as sheriff on the first day you’re in town. We have a large and capable posse of moderators here and THEY determine what is acceptable and what is not, thank you very much.
As far as “implicating” you know nothing of your fiduciary responsibilities, again, that is your perception, not my intention.

My choice of words and expression of my sentiments are just that, and certainly not subject to your censorship.

_Zeus_'s avatar

@Shippy. You’ve raised some interesting point. Nice to have someone around here try to think.
First, the sexual allure which “normal” men of varying ages feel toward prepubescent children is an empirical fact, demonstrated through penile volume studies of men being shown provocative photos of scantily clothed children. Sorry if you don’t like it, but there it is.
As for children exploring themselves, I believe any elder person, parent or otherwise, should never under any circumstances participate in “stimulating” the child. That is abuse. Even the greatest Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, said he was grateful that his household women did not introduce him to sex before he was at a ripe age, meaning adolescence. But children’s adult sex lives can be dreadfully harmed by adults who cause them to feel guilty for experiencing sexual feelings. Adults who think they “shouldn’t because it is a sin or sick or whatever are therefore abusing the child if they punish her for something that is innocent and natural.
FYI, 65% of American believe corporal punishment is good even though it is outlawed in most advanced Western countries. I was beaten with a belt as a child by my aunt—for wetting the bed, something which I had no control over. This is cruel abuse.
As for the female student versus male teacher, the feminists won’t like my politically incorrect response, but I believe that treating at least teen girls and boys the same is misguided and flies in the face of biological realities. If I knew my son had an affair with his cute high school teacher, then yes, I’d feel what she did would be wrong, but I’d probably be more concerned for her sake owing to our absurd laws. Or, should I prefer that his misguided high-school buddies browbeat him into going to Mustang Ranch to break his virginity? Wouldn’t it be better to have his first affair with a loving older woman? I think so. And yet if it was my daughter, I’d explode. I’d have the teacher arrested, though I’d want to know the precise circumstances. Why do people ignore these realities, namely the reality that a teenage girl can and often does get thrills from tempting an older man, especially when she knows he is bound. The psychologist Karen Horney wrote a book on this tendency of teenage girls. These circumstances have to be taken into consideration.
But people who think in black and white terms would, out of sheer intellectual laziness and pig-headedness, drag any person branded as a “pedophile” to the nearest tree and string him up, devil with the details of the matter. Don’t these people see that this doesn’t win any points for democracy as a political system?

Coloma's avatar

@Zeus The “reality” of the human bodies physiological response to sexual stimuli has nothing to do with a healthy and mature mind and sense of integrity when it comes to actually acting on those impulses. Regardless of these facts you present, healthy “adults” do not act on their sexual whims and impulses when it comes to exploiting underage people.
It’s no mystery that young females are trying on their newly discovered sexual powers way before their brains are developed enough to be discriminating. A healthy person is aware of this and does not exploit it.

Speaking of psychology, sounds as if you might be looking for some sort of justification for YOUR sexual impulses. People are very clever when it comes to finding a way to rationalize what they want.

Shippy's avatar

@Zeus I think it is understood in Psychology today that children between the ages of 3 -7 are in what is known as the latency period. This can vary and last up to age 15 in some children. (I still regard a 15 year old boy and girl as a child at that age). The latency phase is when the child is none sexual. Note I said from age 3. A child is according to this theory then more sexual under 3 than at 3.

Many children and young adults and preteens are learning behavior today. From incorrect sources. For example, a teen flirting with an older man could be missing a solid father figure and so resorts to that. Because sadly the older man responds. (This would apply to males also flirting with much older women, as an underage person.). There are so many variables. Acting out, peer pressure, as well as of course, older men and women using this behavior to satisfy what is clearly an abnormal behavior.

Do I think all cases are clear cut and the same? No. Just as if a person is murdered slowly, cut up and eaten, I would regard that murderer worse than the one who pushed his cheating ex wife out of the window in a rage. Would I consider the crime worse if a baby was raped as opposed to a teenage girl being courted by a pedophile? Of course.

Don’t forget our children, I say our, because these kids are someones daughter or son, are at the developmental stage in all areas of their life. Children learning to drink from a special cup should not be given beer. Why not? They want it, they drink it, and feel funny afterwards and ask for more. But it is our obligation to protect children, preteens, and in fact women from sexual predators.

For me personally if I were in prison would I make the life of a pedophile worse than say that of a murderer? No, I wouldn’t. All crime needs to be dealt with in the manner as was requested by the judicial system. In house prison dynamics are another topic altogether.

_Zeus_'s avatar

@Coloma, I hereby extend the peace pipe. You and I both embrace what should be a basic principle of civilization, namely the principle that people must be held accountable for their actions. This is necessary because humans are opportunistic animals and will follow the path of least resistance. Our society should but does not in fact make enough effort to eliminate all moral hazards, or situations in which people can act without having to answer for their actions. This principle is a corollary or inverse principle of Locke’s dictum, also fundamental to civilized society, that all people are entitled to the fruits of their labors.
As for your view on foul language, I applaud your sincerity but I suggest you serve yourself ill. When I was in high school, I caddied on the golf course as a part-time job. I noticed that most golfers used foul language except one doctor who was my favorite “client.” All the other golfers treated him with immense respect, but I strongly believe it was more for his personal dignity, including refraining from foul language even after a slice or a hook, than for his status as a medical man.
As for the posse of moderators, Gee, now I feel like Marty Robbins fleeing a posse of black-hatted riders through the hot Texas dust—without any enchanting Felina to comfort me as I die of being shot, or hung, or whatever judgment the mob passes on me….

Shippy's avatar

@ETpro See this is what I see as the problem with the world today. This is why there are tons of sites, with girls who appear to be that age, or even younger. There is a difference between experimentation on your own as a teen. Or even with another teen. I know from my own experiences it was an emotional thing for me.

The human brain is not fully developed until around age 21. This is the critical reasoning centers and logical thinking areas. Meaning that consequences and emotions are not in place.

Then a whole load of grown men (and women) take advantage of this and buy into porn in order to get their jollies off over kids. Because they are kids. Or in desperation, desire a grown woman to have a body of a kid. So it is very real, I don’t know why men feel that way about women. I can’t understand why they are turned on by children, teens and women with a body like a teen. I just find it disgusting.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@Zeus First I need to pick up on your comment about the greatest Roman Emperor because one it was a pointless inclusion and second he certainly was not the greatest by a long shot and a clear majority of Roman historians (and I have personally dealt with some of the best in the UK thanks to my archaeology) would laugh at that suggestion.

I would like to discuss the point you made about the school teacher. People frown upon it as parents see the school as being a place where their child is protected and a teacher is seen in society as being somebody that we should be able to trust. They are there to educate children and to look after them and when the teacher breaks that trust then that is the point where society thinks enough is enough. Yes it is not as evil as somebody with say a child under 10 if the child is 15, but there are still clear lines that are accepted as being ones that you should not cross and everybody knows that if you cross those lines you deserve to be punished.

Coloma's avatar

@Zeus Peace pipe offering accepted,and be aware you are dealing with a bright female George Carlin type, I use and choose my expletives with passion, not because I lack the ability to communicate my thoughts in a civilized manner.
I am an NT female, alpha if you will. This little Felina doesn’t cradle anyone in her arms.
If you’re an outlaw I’m gonna pull that smoke wagon. lol
Race ya to the cantina. ;-)

_Zeus_'s avatar

@ProfoundPork: I love Britain. God save the Queen! And my colonial ancestors were loyal!
But alas, you’ve made the same valid and correct point as was made before, which I agree with, but as I tried to say before, it is precisely just such circumstances as trust and fiduciary capacity that are not adequately being accounted for under present law owing to the hysteria which College Girl noted surrounds this issue. Thus, I am certainly not discounting the points that you and Coloma have made. I agree with you. My point is merely that this is but one of many factors, and I humbly suggest by no means the most important, which is the age and psychological state of the child during and after the abuse, the intent of the abuser, the precise circumstances etc. All of these critical points seem to be lost when people hear the word “pedophile.” Their eyes glaze over and they become zombies seeking to devour human flesh.
That said, I do believe judges are for the most part reasonable and take these circumstances into consideration. Yet at the same time, grandparents are being investigated and branded as child abusers for taking photos of their grandkids running through the sprinklers in their birthday suits. People have committed suicide because, as they say, mud sticks, whether you’re guilty and to what degree and of what. Married couples have uploaded photos of themselves during a romp in the hay and been branded sex offenders because, although married and having legal consensual relations, they happened to be under eighteen.
Alas, I have to go to sleep because I’m in Japan and it is 1:00 am here and tomorrow—or rather today is Monday. If you start a thread on Roman Emperors I’ll be glad to spar with you there in true gladiatorial fashion, but I suppose we’d have to define “good.”
おやすみなさい—Good night all…

wildpotato's avatar

I think that mature adults who act on their pedophiliac drives commit terrible crimes, in nearly all cases. Statutory rape cases are sometimes frivolous, to be sure, but are often quite serious in others. It seems pretty clear-cut to most people, most of the time, when heinous behavior has occurred and when it has not.

I think that pedophilia not acted upon is an extremely unfortunate mental predisposition that must be stoutly resisted, and that people who work to resist deserve our compassion and not our condemnation. I like that popular media is beginning to deal with struggled-against- pedophilia sympathetically – Lawrence Grey in Justin Cronin’s Passage series and Sargent Hatred in the TV show The Venture Bros.

@Zeus Welcome to Fluther! I think you have an interesting perspective in this issue. Thanks for sharing. I have a request regarding two of your statements:

“One police chief brave enough to say offenders with “lolita” complexes should be treated differently from those who abuse toddlers was nearly pilloried.”

&

“The sexual allure which “normal” men of varying ages feel toward prepubescent children is an empirical fact, demonstrated through penile volume studies of men being shown provocative photos of scantily clothed children.”

Sources, please? Not that I don’t believe you, I’d just love to read those articles/studies, plus we all like it when folks do their best to source their facts round here.

@Shippy Freud’d theory of the latency period in children is now not so much accepted as true. I am driving myself crazy trying to find internet data supporting my claim – I got this info from my psych prof – so I’ll ask him for his source on this and get back to you.

ETpro's avatar

@Shippy I don’t understand the attraction to immature bodies either. I find a fully grown adult much more sexually attractive than a teen. Given the serious criminal consequences currently applied to those who let their attraction to Lolitas get the better of them, I feel very fortunate to find adults sexy and children not.

Coloma's avatar

I also am pretty sure the brain continues to mature until age 25.
This has been a subject of my humor recently, arrested evolution.
Bodies that are sexually mature at age 10–12 but minds that are still in the playpen for another 15 years. Brilliant design which no longer serves us as a species considering we no longer need to reproduce tenfold because we will most likely be dead, or certainly all used up by life in our 30’s to early 40’s.

Hey, I guess this could fall into the ridiculous pop saying so popular the last few years, 12 is the new 22. Bah humbug!

ragingloli's avatar

Paedophilia is not a crime. Child abuse is.
You may not know this, given that you probably never opened a dictionary, but there is a difference between these two.

zensky's avatar

Actually,

In law and forensic psychology

Definitions

In law enforcement circles, the term pedophile is sometimes used in a broad manner to encompass a person who commits one or more sexually-based crimes that relate to legally underage victims. These crimes may include child sexual abuse, statutory rape, offenses involving child pornography, child grooming, stalking, and indecent exposure. One unit of the United Kingdom’s Child Abuse Investigation Command is known as the “Paedophile Unit” and specializes in online investigations and enforcement work.Some forensic science texts, such as Holmes (2008) use the term to refer to a class of psychological offender typologies that target child victims, even when such children are not the primary sexual interest of the offender.The FBI, however, makes a point of acknowledging preferential sex offenders who have a true sexual preference for prepubescent children. (Wiki)

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I’d like to offer my own take on pedophilia. I don’t have any scientific or empirical evidence to support my beliefs, and they’re nothing more than that—my own beliefs, based on what I’ve read and observed.

Men are hard-wired by evolution to be attracted to young bodies. It’s all tied to reproduction and propogation of the species—young women are generally healthy and fertile, so men are drawn to them as sexual partners. Firm, youthful flesh is appealing, and this very normal. There’s a reason why great-grandma doesn’t get featured in the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit edition, why NFL cheerleaders are over-the-hill by age 30, and why men don’t usually ogle and lust over older women.

I think that this primal hard-wiring goes awry in some men. Your average guy might be attracted to an older teenager (let’s hope that he’ll look but not touch, yet the appeal can’t be denied), but some men don’t have similar, constraining boundaries. They have overpowering urges for underaged partners, sometimes even pre-pubescent children. The compulsion is so strong, otherwise decent men do things that they know are wrong and risk getting caught and imprisoned.

I’m guessing that science will someday identify the pedophilia gene and learn how to isolate it.

So, no, I don’t think that pedophiles are perverted fiends who choose to pursue children rather than adult partners. Why would any normal, rational person make such a choice? I believe that pedophiles are somehow “off” and driven by irresistable needs to act on their urges. But, they can’t be allowed to touch, or otherwise harm, children; every society must protect its most innocent and helpless members.

Coloma's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul Well said, nothing to add, you are spot on.:-)
Hey, I might be tempted to get in a car with a stranger if they flash me a cheesecake, but my cravings will be subjugated against my pragmatism. lol

Shippy's avatar

@wildpotato Sure, not all theories hold true. I don’t recall feeling sexual during that period. I was abused. So this can awaken that in a child. I think a lot of looking for love and acceptance can be misconstrued as flirting.

@ETpro Thanks for the reply. It just is a sore point for me, that so many men do in fact use underage porn, or at least look at porn that hints at that. I don’t want to get into a gender war on me next point. But imagine a woman looking at a 12 year old boy that way. It’s just—freakin—strange.

rooeytoo's avatar

Some interesting answers here. I wonder if it is a proven fact that an adult woman who is raped is more “resilient” and will get over the offense more quickly and easily than a child???

The question has evolved into the why pedophilia exists and how terrible it is rather than the why it is worse than the same crimes committed against an adult.

jerv's avatar

Given that we used to marry 10-year-olds in this country a couple of centuries ago, I think that it’s safe to say that what qualifies and what doesn’t is almost as subjective as it is possible to get. Define “adult”, and do so in a way that covers all cultures of all time periods.

Moreover, there are enough people like @ucme that it’s difficult to have a discussion about the issue without one side wanting to form a lynch mob and the other being accused of closeted kiddy-diddlers themselves. And people like that have ruined and ended at least as many lives, so they cannot legitimately claim moral superiority. In fact, @ucme makes me wonder if it is wise/safe to even participate in this discussion since I fear the consequences of disagreement.

@FireMadeFlesh I forgot; adults are not allowed to be innocent and trusting.~
Seriously though, there are many people of all ages that have about the same mental maturity and wisdom as a 12-year-old, yet somehow adding 6+ candles to the birthday cake makes them magically more able to handle things despite the fact that they have not changed psychologically since they learned how to wipe themselves.
Note that non-sexual abuse has similar issues. It isn’t the sex that is the problem, especially not sex between peers.

@Shippy (and anybody else who citses data about the brain growing until a certain age) Looking at many of the people around me, I think that many people have their brains stop evolving in their early teens. Inability to accept responsibility for their actions, inability to appreciate/understand consequences, spelling worse than I did when I was 4…. and I’m talking people over 30. Note also that it’s different in different cultures, and that 2013 America is a slightly different culture than America of 25+ years ago, way different from Europe of any era, and practically a different planet from non-Western cultures.

@rooeytoo It exists because Americans are trying to prove that they are above all other animals (including non-American humans) by defying the biological imperative to mate with healthy females who can bear many healthy offspring during the fertile period of their lives. It seems that the “right” thing to do is to get with people who are less healthy and over halfway to menopause.

@ETpro I don’t understand the attraction to blondes, so we’re even.

ucme's avatar

@jerv Disagree all you like man, i’m perfectly happy with my stance on the subject & have no desire, or need for that matter, to take it any further.

Coloma's avatar

@jerv Right, marrying off 10 year olds 200 years ago was right up there with slavery. Woman and children WERE enslaved and owned by the male of the family. They were valued as little more than livestock in the legal sense and had no rights whatsoever.

We can’t work 9 year olds in factories all day long or whip them in school, beat them at home, send them off to be endentured servants and marry them off at a grossly immature age. I’d call that progress wouldn’t you?

bkcunningham's avatar

I have known of people getting married young, but 10 years old as a norm? Come on now. Keep it real.

jerv's avatar

@Coloma It is also progress to treat 23 year olds as children. See, the dividing line between childhood and adulthood has changed as the educational demands of the workforce have changed; since many jobs these days require a college degree, anybody not old enough to have graduated college is considered a child in many ways in today’s society. That is not true of many other places in the world though, even other First-world nations.
However, my main point is to illustrate that societies vary on what they consider “mature” and that having a different, more restrictive opinion does not mean that you are more advanced. Plus, emotional maturity doesn’t count candles. I know people older than me that are less mature than people half my age. I know that the ordeals I endured in my early years made me mature a bit more rapidly than you would likely even consider possible.

@bkcunningham If the only society/culture you know of is late-20th-century America, then I recommend you do a bit more studying. You can start with this and the associated tables here. Of note; in 1880, Delaware’s age of consent was 7. Seven! Now, Delaware is part of the US, is it not?
Read the article and then tell me whether or not you believe that the US used to be a different place. Then look at the violence, wealth disparity, and a few episodes of Jersey Shore and Honey Boo-boo and tell me we have really made much progress as a society. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

_Zeus_'s avatar

@WildSpud You asked for my sources. I expect to be tarred and feathered for this post, but here goes. First, I should have mentioned sources but I’ve forgotten the name of the first study and assumed anyone could confirm similar studies on the Net, which I’ve done below. A quick Net search shows, for example:

• Diagnostic Interviewing, Michel Hersen et al: Cites a number of studies. Reports “A significant percentage of apparently otherwise normal men show penile volume evidence of arousal to pictures of nude girl children.” (p. 269) [In fact what rather disturbs me more in the above study is the following finding: “Over 30% of men reported sexual fantasies of tying up and raping a woman, and 10–20% of torturing or beating up a woman….” Given all the different males I’ve met on the course of reaching age 58, I can’t say I’m not surprised but am grateful this certainly does not apply to this dude, who has two sisters he loves.]

• Human Sexuality and Its Problems, John Bancroft. Some of the language is scientific but explicit and I’d rather not quote it directly as it mentions body parts, but you can look it up yourself on p. 486, where he reports studies that find “erections to images of pubescent and prebertal girls averaged 70% and 50%, respectively, of the erectile responses to adult women.” You can check out this book on Google Books and find similar conclusions.

Bankcroft makes the important distinction between fantasy and actual abuse. My original point was that I believe one reason the laws regarding child porn, for example, are so irrational (and politically motivated) as law professor Adler mentions is owing to the fact that what we broadly define as “children” can indeed be sexually alluring, so many people who feel what is in fact a normal attraction vociferously condemn others for the inner devil they don’t want to face up to within themselves. So, they take a black-and-white view and call for all “pedophiles” to be hung, drawn and quartered on the Tower green. Look at how ex-smokers and ex-alcoholics so often stridently condemn those still addicted to their former vice. They are trying to suppress their own urges.
But if I’m in a mine field, I want to know. Yes, I admit I can look at a 12 year-old girl and, in a Platonic way, admire her budding womanhood and admit to myself that I’m attracted. I believe adults who deny this are lying. Block off the upper half of a photo of a 12 or even 10 year old girl in a bathing suit and you’ll see what I mean. How can we protect children unless we face up to often disturbing scientific facts? As I said, if you’re in a mine field, it does no good to pretend the mines aren’t there just because you don’t want them to be.
The same cultures which are so puritanical as to force women to cover themselves head to toe are the same cultures that allow families to force their prepubescent daughters into “marriages” with forty-year old men.
And please let no one be so brainless as to assume that recognizing the reality of the innocent but nevertheless at times sexual attractiveness of children is by no means to condone sexual contact between adults and children. I would encourage both my male and female children to remain virgins until they have completed their education. I get tired of repeating that I agree—and may very well feel even more strongly that children aren’t able to make rational decisions. Sex is only one of the areas in which children should be taught that, although their impulses are normal and not sinful, they can not be surrendered to without adverse consequences for them later in life. I go further and question whether many adults are competent in most matters. Ask any cynical corporate PR and advertising execs and, if he’s honest with you, he’ll smirk at the idea that the average “adult” is rational.
As for the other sources about the police chief who called for the distinction between abuse of toddlers from abuse of “Lolitas” or the percent of Americans who advocate corporal punishment— I’m really busy with work today, and I believe you can easily corroborate this on the Net. And I’ll bet the percent of people who believe in striking children (which I strongly oppose) may be even higher than 65% particularly because there is so much backward religious fundamentalism in the US.
Alas, I have urgent business back at Mt. Olympus now.

EthanEdwards's avatar

Addressing the original question of why sexual abuse is considered so much worse than other crimes: As others note, the fact that the crime is against children is a big part of it. But why is it considered so much worse than physical, verbal, or emotional abuse? I think a big reason is that people understand what forces would lead someone to those kinds of abuse, but they don’t understand the sexual one—a man who perpetrates it is alien to them, even if the other kinds of abuse cause more severe harm (which they often do). Another reason is that people assume a child molester is intending to cause harm. “I will enjoy making this child miserable”. That is very rarely the case. (There is a tiny class of psychopaths who do horrible things to others. Sometimes the victims are adults and sometimes children, but sexual attraction has little to do with it). Most sex offenders have some sort of pre-existing positive relationship with a child, and they engage in cognitive distortions to convince themselves sexual activity is really OK (as the child rarely shows clear distress at the time). It’s a serious crime and can never be condoned, but I think it should be considered on a par with other serious crimes that cause similar harm. I am a pedophile myself in the original sense, but I am ever and always celibate (see virped.org).

Shippy's avatar

@EthanEdwards Very interesting link you posted there.Perhaps if it were more spoken about and admitted people could seek help for it to manage it. I think deviant sex all round is an interesting top. Deviant being that which differs from the norm. Because often deviance is welcomed in many circles. But the key is, it is OK if it is between two consulting adults.

@Zeus Also very interesting that such a large percentage of males become erect at the site of underage images. The rape fantasy thing is common also in women. The Secret Garden by Nancy Friday is a good read for insight into female sexuality.

Human sexuality is so complex and interesting.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@jerv I don’t believe in magic numbers, in that an 18 year old is ready for sex and a 17 year old isn’t by definition of their ages. I have been breaking the age mould all my life (finishing school at age 16, Masters degree at age 21, and constantly being asked at work if I am in fact old enough to be responsible for a medical procedure). However such issues require broad guidelines so that a consistent legal framework can be applied. Unfortunately no legal system has the resources to judge the matter on a case by case basis, so generalisations must be made, and unfortunately some mature “children” suffer restrictions due to the prevalence of immature “adults”. A mature 17 year old missing out on a year of good sex is far less tragic than the majority of 17 year olds who simply aren’t mature enough to make wise decisions with regard to their sexuality, so I don’t really think such generalisations are a bad thing.

bkcunningham's avatar

@jerv, 10 years old as the norm for marriage? Really? I didn’t see that in your link.

Since you know so much about history, would you care to enlighten me with reliable sources on why under British common law the age of consent was so young? Thanks in advance.

ragingloli's avatar

@zensky
Well, duh. Law enforcement does not attract the brightest of people is filled with idiots, and forensic psychology is complete bunk anyway.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@ragingloli Wow, nothing like having both of your fields of interest attacked and/or discredited. I guess we idiots don’t have many options in life – law enforcement is our default. :)

jerv's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh True, but that would also imply that the US needs to up the age of majority to at least 25 since many that age are less mature than 18-year-olds of fifty years ago.

@bkcunningham One thing i have learned over the years is that it really isn’t worth getting into it with you. At best, it derails the conversation into you-vs-me, and I’m not falling for that this time. You will likely call that a cop-out, but you wouldn’t listen to anything I say anyways (you never do) so why should I waste my time with you?

@livelaughlove21 A lot of idiots do well in politics and Conservative talk shows.

Gabby101's avatar

Being sexually attracted to a ten year old seems abnormal to me and quite frankly disgusts me. It brings the same feeling as thinking about having sex with a family member or being sexually attracted to an animal. It’s a feeling of revulsion. That’s why, personally, I find peadophila so especially heinous.

EthanEdwards's avatar

@Gabby101 I appreciate your clarity and respect the feelings you have. You might be surprised to learn that a large proportion of pedophiles agree with you and hate their own attractions. If pedophiles were hated only as much as those with bestial or incestuous attractions, it would be a big improvement. Considering now actions instead of thoughts, it’s right to punish those who sexually abuse children much more severely than those who engage in bestiality or (adult) incest. But I think that punishments for sexual abusers and (say) those who repeatedly beat their children should be comparable. The sentence should be proportional to how much harm the crime causes (or that a reasonable person would expect it to cause), not how disgusted we may be at the feelings that gave rise to it.

jerv's avatar

@EthanEdwards Sadly, our legal system is geared more towards punishment than rehabilitation.

Gabby101's avatar

@ethanedwards, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I was just speaking rawly – without thought of right or wrong. Just, this is how I feel. I don’t imagine people want to dig deeper because child abuse of any form is uncomfortable. Unfortunate.

Shippy's avatar

I’ve learned a lot from this question. So to me was a GQ!

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