Fantasies of Adult-Child Sex Disgust even the Sex-Positive Public

The public is enraged at child sexual abuse, of course. A great many pedophiles are too. The public is also enraged by abuse that is recorded and distributed. That is child pornography (CSAM). They are enraged not just by the making CSAM, but by the idea that anyone might look at it for the purposes of sexual arousal – getting pleasure out of the suffering of some child in the past.

But the public is enraged at far more than those cases. The public wants to ban sexualized cartoon drawings of children (notably the Japanese forms of lolicon and shotacon). They want to ban realistic-looking AI-generated images of children in sexual situations. They want to ban child-sized sex dolls. They want to ban text-only stories involving children in sexual situations.

The COPINE scale is used in the UK to classify images of child pornography from least to most serious. The description of the least serious is worth quoting in full: “Non-erotic and non-sexualized pictures showing children wearing either underwear or swimsuits from either commercial sources or family albums. Pictures of children playing in normal settings, in which the context or organization of pictures by the collector indicates inappropriateness.” There is nothing wrong with the pictures themselves, but it is “inappropriate” when they are organized to indicate a pedophile might find them sexually interesting. They may not be illegal, but the authors of the COPINE scale want you to know they think it is inappropriate – morally wrong. I doubt much of the public would disagree.

Let’s be explicit about what we are talking about. The public assumes that the pedophile will masturbate while looking at the images in question. I think that is a fair assumption about how a typical pedophile would “use” such material.

But suppose we take images out of the picture entirely. It’s a good guess that if the public knew some pedophile was lying on his back in the dark, masturbating to the memory of a child in a scene from a Hollywood movie, they would be angry about that as well. They would certainly be repulsed. They would feel no shred of sympathy or compassion or even fellow-feeling – “I know what sexual desire feels like” inspired by what they have in common. (Some people think masturbation by ordinary people thinking adult heterosexual thoughts is also wrong, but I will set them aside in this post.)

A pedophile masturbating while thinking of a child causes gut-level revulsion in the public, even those whose beliefs should make them sympathetic. After years of contemplation, I think this is the fundamental problem we pedophiles face.

Of course there are other sources of hatred based on mistaken beliefs. Some believe all pedophiles are dangerous because they will molest a child sooner or later. Some who might not believe that will believe that all pedophiles will look at CSAM. A great many pedophiles do neither of those things. Some people will accept that reality. Organizations such as Virtuous Pedophiles (of which I am co-founder) believe that good pedophiles should restrain their behavior in that way.

Some will also accept the truth that pedophiles have an attraction they did not choose and cannot change, and that momentary feelings of attraction can arise unbidden.

Of course a great many people will not yet accept these things, but these are matters of fact that can be addressed by education. The gut-level revulsion cannot.

There is one other key element of a pedophile’s behavior that he or she has control over. They can abstain from masturbation. That is is under conscious control. Masturbation is an extremely powerful temptation, whether a man prefers women or other men, and sex-positive people think it is just fine or even a positive good to masturbate to thoughts of such partners. And yet many believe that a sexual attraction to children is so repugnant that a good pedophile should never do that.

One thing to note is that a great many pedophiles agree. Some pedophiles seek never to masturbate. A few succeed, but many more lapse with varying frequency. They typically feel remorse and self-hatred after the moment of climax.

I agree that pedophiles must control their actions to the extent of never molesting children. But I think (and feel!) that in general pedophiles should feel free to masturbate while thinking of children and feel no guilt about doing so. Past efforts to get men and boys to not masturbate were both cruel and largely ineffective. In the modern view it is instead viewed as a healthy part of sexuality. Deciding that an entire class of people with a condition they did not choose and cannot change cannot masturbate would only make sense if there was a very serious risk of harm to others.

There are some pedophiles who should probably not masturbate while thinking of children. One case is simply those who themselves perceive that it is leading them towards offending. The other is those who have already committed an offense against a child and a professional correctly judges that abstention is required for the future safety of children. But there is a widespread common-sense belief (at least among social liberals) that masturbation by ordinary people reduces sexual desire and any tendency to act inappropriately with others. We expect the same to hold for pedophiles.

I believe there is a significant segment of the population (and a large group of mental health professionals) with a sex-positive view and who also value freedom, feeling that people’s private behavior should only be restricted when there is strong evidence that it needs to be. Their minds may tell them that they should accept pedophiles masturbating to thoughts of children, but they retain their revulsion. How people behave is often controlled by their feelings more than their beliefs. Will a potential ally speak up for fair treatment of pedophiles if they think they ought to but just can’t shake the revulsion?

What could be done to reduce that revulsion? Pedophiles vary a great deal, and some fantasies might cause revulsion among many pedophiles too. Ones with violence or humiliation would qualify. Overcoming revulsion to all pedophile fantasies is asking too much.

I had a plan to find the most sympathetic case I can of a pedophile masturbating while thinking of a child. If I could get some freedom-loving sex-positive people to feel that some pedophile masturbation isn’t so revolting, I would have succeeded.

Some elements of the description are clear enough. Someone with a commitment to never abusing children and a track record of keeping that commitment despite potential temptation. Someone with a similar commitment and track record regarding CSAM. Someone over 50 would have increased credibility about those things continuing into the future. Someone with mild, consensual fantasies. But I fear that anything more specific is a bridge too far.

If there were a few people who thought there was promise in developing this idea further who wanted to correspond privately about it I would be interested. I’m reluctant to air specific ideas where hostile parties might be reading (such as here). If I do not respond here, as a backup you can always write to the Virtuous Pedophiles email to reach me.

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Posting this on April 1st may not have been ideal, I now realize, but I hope nothing in what I wrote is so outlandish as to give rise to speculations of an April Fool’s prank.

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I think it’s pessimistic and defeatist. There isn’t really a way to confirm these predilections on a massive scale, and I’d even argue that it’s wrong, since people tend to base their desires to ban things on whether or not someone or something was objectively harmed, rather than their disgust.

I’ve seen some studies which are completely at odds with this, but I’ll need to source them.

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This specifically needs a massive citation. I’m sure large swathes of the population exist who believe this, but to claim that they’re the overwhelming majority and not just a vocal subgroup comes across as pessimistic and presumptuous.

*Edited to change “fearmongering” to “pessimistic and presumptuous”

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It’s also worth considering what percentage of those people hold only a surface-level belief. Sure, someone whose only exposure to this debate is public opinion will probably oppose art and other sexual outlets based on transgressive fantasies, but it’s entirely possible that a large number of people would quickly adjust their views upon learning about the harmlessness of these outlets and their potential to reduce rates of abuse

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I agree it’s pessimistic. I’m not sure it’s defeatist. My goal is to think about what’s true, and whether it makes our chances seem better or worse is something that follows from that. Are there actions we are taking or should take that my pessimistic attitude suggests we should no longer take?

Opinion polls would be a good start.

I haven’t seen many nons talking about “objective harm” unless they are sympathetic professionals. Have you heard any legislators saying that?

I would very much like to see them.

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It’s possible, I suppose, but the people who have (or think they have) their finger on relevant popular opinion are politicians. It looks to me like they are all very reluctant to make any changes to improve our situation, even if they privately think it would be rational, for fear of an opponent claiming they are in favor of pedophilia. It’s pretty clear to anyone thinking about it with an ounce of logic that things like residency restrictions for people on sex offender registries are counterproductive, or at the very least do not help address the problem they were supposed to help with. But I’m not aware of the politicians educating their constituents about that, confident they will understand and support them.

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One aspect that should be directly focused on in discussions on this topic I see not mentioned or merely intimated is the importance of the human agency to moderate. Not stealing and not speeding are examples of moderating. The agency to moderate matters infinitely more than whether one feels attracted. Consequently, expecting someone to not feel attracted to features he finds attractive is akin to expecting someone who likes the smell of baking bread to not like the smell of baking bread.

Certainly, no activity that’s conducted within the confines of solitude can breach social boundaries, much less abduct someone. What matters is social boundaries. Comparing fiction to reality is akin to comparing undressing to shower with undressing to ride a bus. The context of a behavior cannot be omitted. Feeling guilty for doing no harm is akin to feeling protective of an imaginary character.

What matters needs to be delineated from what does not. What matters is the agency to moderate and social boundaries. What doesn’t matter are activities that cannot breach social boundaries.

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I’ll be honest, I occasionally masturbate to (real and fictional) adult porn, but there have been times where I did so with lolicon. I don’t have guilt over the latter because I know that they’re just drawings.

A bit of a sidenote, but when it comes to fantasies involving minors, I’ve been doing so most of the time with fictional minors. I rarely think about real minors. Obviously, this is just my personal experience.

Well, here’s a start:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263292337_Stigmatization_of_People_with_Pedophilia_Two_Comparative_Surveys

I’m kinda lazy, so I copied what was said about the survey here:

Pedophiles are one of the most hated and distrusted groups in society; even more so, in some respects, than psychopaths. A 2014 U.S. based survey found that, of those polled:

  • 44% believe pedophilia is something that one can choose
  • 49% believe that people with pedophilia have taken a deliberate decision to have these interests
  • 48% believe that people have the choice whether they have pedophilia or not
  • 94% believe pedophilia poses a danger for children
  • 83% believe pedophilia poses a danger for adolescents
  • 39% believe pedophilia poses a danger for adults
  • 59% feel afraid when they think of pedophiles
  • 40% feel pity when they think of pedophiles
  • 84% feel anger when they think of pedophiles

When asked, “How do you feel about interacting with people who are dominantly sexually interested in children, but have never committed a crime?”:

  • 5% would have such a person as a friend
  • 6% would accept such a person in their neighborhood
  • 11% would accept such a person as a work colleague
  • 15% would talk to such a person
  • 49% would prefer such a person to be incarcerated
  • 27% would prefer such a person to be dead.

By comparison, only 21% favored incarceration of psychopaths who have never committed a crime, and only 8% favored death for psychopaths who have never committed a crime.

I feel great knowing that people like me are seen as “monsters” or “subhumans” in modern society and are stigmatized for attractions that we can’t choose. This is fine. It definitely hasn’t resulted in any mental health issues, nor has it resulted in me feeling isolated. I’m perfectly fine with suppressing my feelings of anger and sadness, if I had any.

I definitely did not “come out” to someone close to me recently. They did not give me judgmental reactions, nor do I feel any worse than I did previously. This will surely make me trust other people with this information.

Yeah, I feel great, thanks for asking!

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Yup. That sounds about right. Incarcerate/intern/concentrate people who haven’t even done anything yet and you cannot prove are planning to do something. Fucking beautiful.

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Are there any studies on this? That at-risk pedophiles should NOT masturbate? That indulging in fantasy would actually make them more likely to offend? This seems to contradict everything we currently understand about this subject, considering than even offenders who masturbate to genuine CSAM have lowered rates of hands-on contact (not that this justifies CSAM, mind you).

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In the first instance, I said the pedophiles themselves believed it was leading them towards offending. I think respect for pedophiles’ own judgment should certainly extend to them not doing something if they think it’s bad for them. As for the professionals, I hedged it with “correctly judges”. I admit I don’t know what would qualify. Maybe if over a 5-year period they tried to abuse kids 7 times, and in every case it was preceded by masturbation of a certain kind, which never occurred at other times?

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Perhaps I’m simply too invested in this idea based on my own experiences. I look at (legal) porn and masturbate frequently. Several times a day. In many respects, it makes me miserable. But I believe I’d be even more miserable if I stopped! It’s a double-edged sword: if I masturbate to porn, I feel perverted and disgusted with myself (even if it isn’t rational) and want to kill myself for it because I think I might offend (or just cuz I hate myself). If I don’t, I feel so pent up and stressed out, paranoid that I’ll offend (and want to kill myself before I hurt somebody)!

My situation is unique and not indicitive of what the vast, vast majority of MAPs go through. At least, that’s what I’d wager. I don’t have concrete statistics on this.

I’m not a very happy person…

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A need to emphasize that the agency to moderate matters infinitely more than any attraction pattern to address self devaluation exists.

Morality depends on respecting social boundaries and feeling protective of others. Doing no harm cannot breach social boundaries.

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AgentColeBowl provided the sort of basic information about public opinion that I suspected. Maybe a little worse than I suspected. But you could read the “lock 'em up!” answers to be basically just a reflection of “I’m furious with child abusers!” and not a seriously considered opinion.

But even if progress on tolerance and support for non-offending pedophiles is slow, I am not entirely pessimistic. A great many researchers now understand that non-offending pedophiles exist in significant numbers. Sometimes opinion-shapers who show any sympathy for us are severely punished, but not all. Sexplanations did this Virtuous Pedophiles? - YouTube. While it’s about “my” organization, I think the sentiment would naturally extend to others with the same view. The bulk of the comments seem supportive (maybe she deleted the others, I don’t know…). If she suffered negative consequences for that show I’m not aware of them. With a few more brave and established “influencers” coming on board, perhaps others could safely state their views without facing such immense hostility – it could rise to the point of an unpopular opinion but not one that leads a person to get canceled. One thing might lead to another. Small victories today could in time grow more rapidly (“exponentially” is a form of hyperbole I can’t get myself to use).

My suggestion in the base post was aimed at social liberals. I didn’t say how many I thought there were… Maybe 25% of American society? If we could increase our support among them 10 or 20 percent we’d be making significant progress. If we considered that group as a tight little society (which it’s not), and even 40% of the group pointed out that their “live and let live” philosophy requires tolerance of non-offending pedophiles, we could dare hope for lots of converts (a stampede?) to tolerance.

My “sympathetic masturbation” idea was just one brainstorm, and it seems to me to be of limited usefulness.

I can mention as an aside that I think fighting for child sex dolls was not a politically astute move. The logic of the situation is open and shut – they ought to be legal and accepted. But these battles are to be fought largely in emotions, not logic, and my strong hunch is that those dolls gross out the public even more than looking at CSAM.

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Research into the stigmatization of pedophiles shows that unfortunately, even liberal people with a generally high level of tolerance towards sexual minorities and paraphilias strongly reject pedophiles. Tolerance and acceptance by liberal and open-minded people does not apply to pedophilia at all, in fact factors like tolerance and social desirability are often correlated with a higher degree of punitive attitudes and social distance towards pedophiles.

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I view the fight for legality of child sex dolls mainly as a proxy war. There is no empirical evidence proving that they are harmful. The only reason people want them criminalized is that they are afraid and disgusted by the idea that some people are attracted to children.

The idea is not to criminalize dolls per se, but to criminalize and lock away as many pedophiles as possible, and to turn every possible way to find sexual fulfillment as a pedophile into a crime, no matter if it actually hurts anyone or not. The same people who want to criminalize dolls would most likely also criminalize masturbation to sexual fantasies involving children, if they could.

The banning of dolls therefore sets a precedent, making it acceptable to lock people away for their sexual desires, even if they never actually hurt anyone. This validates and furthers the stigmatization and discrimination against pedophiles and is extremely dangerous, not to mention that people who have managed to deal with their sexual orientation via the help of dolls are forced to give that up for no valid reason whatsoever.

In terms of emotions, I believe that this debate could potentially be useful too. The reason for the stigma is largely that people believe that it is almost impossible to lead an entire life without acting on your sexual orientation, which for us would mean (in their eyes) raping a child. Dolls could also be used to “soothe” people, to show them that it is possible to act on our orientation and live a sexually fulfilled life without the need of any actual children being involved at all. If society allows us that alternative, that is.

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That is very interesting and naturally also disappointing. If you have a reference I would love to see it.

I wonder if they tested whether these respondents were considering the case of non-offending pedophiles. It would not be too surprising if the sexually tolerant were more passionately against child sex abuse. If they indeed understood that the question was about pedophiles who had not offended and never would, but still had more punitive attitudes, that would undercut my thinking on the topic.

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The present study could furthermore solidify the evidence that higher social desirability is related to stronger punitive attitudes toward pedophilic men or, on a more general level, non-offending men with sexually transgressive impulses (Imhoff,2015). Although one might expect that social desirable responding would be associated with inflated reporting of tolerance, reactions toward non-offending men with pedophilia appear to be a unique exception to this rule. Correspondingly, having a minority status (with regards to race or sexual orientation), liberal values and a higher level of education did not affect ratings of the man in the vignette, which resonates with previous observations that people with pedophilia are strongly rejected even by people who otherwise express accepting attitudes toward minority sexual orientations or paraphilic sexual interests (Furnham & Haraldsen, 1998; Imhoff & Jahnke, 2017).

Emotions and Cognitions Associated with the Stigma of Non-Offending Pedophilia: A Vignette Experiment. Sara Jahnke, 2017

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I think I agree with your basic framework for thinking about this issue and agree with most of your points.

My perception is that child sex dolls were quite rare until recently, perhaps because technology is only now advanced enough to create appealing ones. So the situation was not taking punitive measures against a long-established sex aid, but making a new thing illegal as soon as the body politic noticed.

Defending the right to read text-only erotic stories, to look at lolicon or shotacon, and to order collections of legal pictures from child modeling sites all seem like things that would raise those same issues but without gratuitously grossing everyone out. In every other aid to pedophilic sexual fulfillment, it remains vague exactly what the person is imagining they are doing with their penis as regards the child. With a child sex doll nothing is left to the imagination.

In practical terms, sex dolls are expensive and difficult to hide if anyone else might be going through your things. I’d say it’s better to pick battles that are of greater practical significance and where the emotional headwinds are not so high.

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