Children are sexual beings

Yates, A. (2004). “Biologic perspective on early erotic development,” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 13(3), 479-496.

Eighty-five percent of young university women recalled erotic games and 44% recalled erotic games that involved boys [79]. Most remembered feeling sexually aroused or excited at the time. Most of the play involved exposing or touching the genitals. Insertion of objects in the vagina and oral contact was distinctly unusual. Other studies confirmed that most young adult students recalled early sex play that they viewed in a positive light as pleasurable and exciting [40, 80 and 81].

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Pedophilia as a sexual orientation

Gaither, George A. (2002). “Peer Commentaries on Green (2002) and Schmidt (2002): Pedophilia as a Sexual Orientation?,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31(6), 486.

One possible conceptualization of pedophilia is that it is a sexual orientation. This point of view appears to be consistent with Schmidt’s reasoning. Although most researchers have tended to discuss sexual orientation in terms of the sexes or gender identities of the individuals involved (most likely assuming that the individual to whom one is attracted is of consenting age), there have been a growing number of researchers who have defined sexual orientation in much broader terms, which include pedophilia (e.g., Barbaree, Bogaert, & Seto, 1995; Berlin, 2000; Feierman, 1990; Laws & O’Donohue, 1997; Suppe, 1984). Barbaree et al. (1995), for instance, stated that “sexual orientation is defined by (1) the ability of a certain class of stimuli to evoke sexual arousal and desire in the individual, (2) the persons or objects toward which sexual behavior and activity are directed by the individual, and (3) the persons or objects depicted in fantasies and cognitions” (p. 358). Pedophilia certainly fits within this definition of sexual orientation. Furthermore, clinical evidence suggests that, similar to homosexual or heterosexual orientations, a pedophilic sexual orientation typically begins by early adolescence, tends to be lifelong, and is resistant to change (Abel & Osborn, 1995; Marshall, 1997), for as Schmidt states, it is part of the person’s identity.

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The negative effects of child sexual repression

Prescott, J.W. (1975). “Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence,” in The Futurist and The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists.

Prescott links deprivation of physical affection in childhood to the eventual development of violent and aggressive behaviors. He examines various cultures, and finds that high levels of violence are strongly correlated with repression of extramarital sexual activity.

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Cognitive distortion and pedophilia

A number of scientists have challenged the hypothesis that cognitive distortion is more common among pedophiles.

Gannon, T. A., & Polaschek, D. L. L. (2006). “Cognitive distortions in child molesters: A re-examination of key theories and research,” Clinical Psychology Review, 26(8), 1000-1019.

Gannon and Polaschek claim that “the popularity of the cognitive distortion hypothesis is due to factors other than its empirical validity.”

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Does sexual abuse cause pedophilia?

Some psychologists have suggested that pedophilia is caused by childhood abuse. There is no empirical evidence to support this hypothesis.

Freund, Kurt; Watson, R.; and Dickey, R. (1990). “Does sexual abuse in childhood cause pedophilia: an exploratory study,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19(6), 557-568.

The first however, to investigate the reliability of these offenders retrospective reports was Hindman (1988). This therapist compared paroled male adult sexual offenders against children in two periods: In the first (1980-1982) she interviewed 40 patients and in the second (1982-1988) she saw 129. The second period differed from the first in that the patients were told that they would have to submit to a polygraph test and that if their self-reports were contradicted they would be returned to jail. In the first period, during which patients were not threatened with polygraph testing, 67% indicated that they had been molested when children. In the second period, however, only 29% of the offenders indicated that they were abused as children. Hindman’s results imply that in a therapeutic climate where professionals tend to subscribe to the theory that pedophilia is caused by earlier sexual abuse of the offender himself, some offenders could fabricate such an event as an excuse for their erotic attraction to children. […]
A second question addressed by this study, and which had been investigated only by the Hindman (1988) study, was whether positive reports about sexual abuse in childhood sufficiently reflect true events. […] The results of the present study are in agreement with those of Hindman, in that they demonstrate that the empirical basis of the molestation theory of pedophilia is unreliable.

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Very few children are harmed by sexual encounters with adults or peers

Levine, J. (1996). “A Question of Abuse,” Mother Jones.

What’s wrong with these things? “They make parents nervous,” says Allie Kilpatrick, a social work professor at the University of Georgia who conducted a massive review of the literature on childhood sexual experiences, both wanted and unwanted, and administered her own 33-page questionnaire to 501 Southern women. Most of Kilpatrick’s subjects had kissed and hugged, fondled and masturbated as adolescents, and more than a quarter had had vaginal intercourse. Her conclusion: “The majority of young people who experience some kind of sexual behavior find it pleasurable, without much guilt, and with no harmful consequences.” A similar study of 526 New England undergraduates revealed “no differences…between sibling, nonsibling, and no-[sexual]-experience groups on a variety of adult sexual behavior and sexual adjustment measures.

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Society’s stigma of the act may account for a large portion of the harm

Bauserman, Robert; Rind, Bruce (1997). “Psychological Correlates of Male Child and Adolescent Sexual Experiences with Adults: A Review of the Nonclinical Literature,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(2), 105-141.

Secondary consequences include reactions of others, such as parents and peers, to the sexual contacts. Feelings of guilt and shame regarding the sexual contacts, which are based on perceived violation of one’s own and others’ norms, are also addressed here.

Emotional responses of guilt were related to outcomes, with greater guilt associated with more negative responses, Haugaard and Emery (1989) and Okami (1991) both reported guilt feelings to be associated with negative evaluations of experiences. Stein et al. (1988), in their study of unwanted experience in a community sample, noted that feelings of guilt and shame were common. Risin and Koss (1987) reported that guilt feelings were more common in experiences involving fondling, which were also associated with more force and greater levels of other negative feelings. Finally, Sandfort (1984) reported that when the boys interviewed in his study were asked about negative aspects of their relationships, many cited concerns about possible negative reactions from others, such as parents, peers, and authorities.

The role of socialization in these reactions may be very important. Finkelhor (1979) and Fritz et al. (1981) both suggested that boys’ reactions may be more positive than those of girls because boys are socialized to regard sex in a more positive fashion, whereas girls receive more negative messages. Fritz et at. (1981) stated that although girls typically regarded their experiences as sexual violation, boys often regarded their experiences as sexual initiation.

Clearly, feelings of guilt and shame and concerns about negative reactions from others are associated with negative responses to early sexual contacts with adults. These responses, however, are not inherent in the sexual contact per se but rather stem from social taboos and condemnation (cf. Constantine, 1981). To the extent that boys receive more positive messages regarding sexuality, they are less likely to experience these negative emotions and to react negatively to sexual contacts.

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