Lecture about ‘pedophilia’
Dr Frans E.J. Gieles, The Netherlands
University of Nijmegen, November 10, 2005, and of Tilburg, November 14, 2005 (Dutch); Amsterdam, School for International Training, (English) March 28, 2006
* Before the lecture, the English speaking students were asked to read the writings on a preparing reading list.
1. What are we speaking about? A: Define correctly
Being asked to speak about ‘pedophilia’, I start with asking you to make for yourself a correct definition. … Then, see if your definition is correct. A good definition describes something, it circles somewhat. A good definition also has neighbors - they are partly the same, but partly different – and contraries, usually also overlap with other concepts and broader concepts: table, chair, furniture. By this reason, ‘sexual abuse’ is not a good concept, because then ‘sexual use’ has to exist, as has ‘religious abuse’ and ‘religious use’. These concepts are not usable, and so is ‘sexual abuse’.
In a Dutch book about treatment, written by Bernard ten Hag, psychologist, reads:
Is this a correct definition? No, it is a preach. Concepts such as pedophilia, homophilia and heterophilia are logically coordinating on the same level, thus equivalent. However, mister Hag feels obligated to say that pedophilia is morally not equivalent. Thus, he preaches, he does not define a concept. He also changes the usual word ‘preference’ or ‘orientation’ or ‘attraction’ into ‘choice’, which not defines but explains the concept within a specific view. It is a view, not a definition. This is just like someone who says that the plural of God, ‘gods’, not may and not can exist because there is only one God, named Allah. He is a preacher, not a scientist.
Well, now look at your own definition: does it define, or does it preach?
I use the definition of the NCGV, a Dutch mental health center:
The center adds:
And I add:
I make a distinction between pedophilia and pedosexuality – in contrast to Mister Hag. Pedophilia is a feeling, pedosexuality is a deed. I may ask you to also make this distinction. Without making this important distinction, it is not possible to think and speak in a meaningful way about this subject.
Both concepts are connected as two overlapping circles:
AB = Pedophilia
BC = Pedosexuality
A = Pedophilia without pedosexuality
B = Pedophilia with pedosexuality
C = Pedosexuality without pedophilia
Regrettably, thus use of language has been changed: nearly everybody sees ‘pedophilia’ as ‘sex with children’, thus, as the equivalent of ‘pedosexuality’. Thus, the word pedophilia is no longer usable. I avoid the use of it. I better try to say what I am referring to: pedophile feelings of pedosexual deeds.
Note, that these concepts, these definitions and circles refer to feelings and deeds, not to people. People may in different phases of life have different feelings and may differently act or do not act.
Our language is playing tricks with us. The Greek φίλια means ‘friendship’, but is mostly translated as ‘love’. The Greek had also εροσ, αγαπη and χαριτη : physical love, spiritual love and loving care. My choice is φίλια, friendship, and χαριτη, loving care. There may be a sexual component in the feelings, εροσ, but this is not the core of it.
Being asked to speak about whether pedophilia is a distortion or personality disorder, or not, let’s have a look to DSM, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, made by the American Psychological (& factually the Psychiatric) Association. Now and then, they change the manual by vote. Once upon a time, homosexuality was a distortion, but later on no more. The "A" stands for "American", thus the Western way of thinking is dominant. Eastern thinking may be different, but does not enter the manual. We have to work with this manual, it is the standard way to make diagnoses.
In DSM, pedophilia is one of the paraphilias. DSM reads:
Then: what is a distortion? The manual gives criteria. Regarding pedophilia:
The criterion of distress is deleted in another passage:
There has been a lot of discussion n about these paraphilias. The crucial question is: is behavior that is statistical deviant, or even juridical illegal, per se a psychological distortion, or simply a variant?
There is an inconsistency between "and" (having distress) in the definition of paraphilias, and "or" (having distress) in the description of pedophilia, moreover, in the cancelling of the latter in the quoted sentence. This is confusing. I fear that morality and science are mixed up here.
Those who have deviant fntasies but does not feel distress about it, has no paraphilia [as a distortion]. However, those who have pedophilic fantasies and does not feel distress, have a distortion, at least those who recently have acted on those feelings. If one feels distressed, the pedophilia is called egodystone; If one does not feel distressed, the pedophilia is called egosyntone.
For a diagnosis as pedophilia [as a distortion], the criterion is to have acted on it. Fantasies and desires as such are no distortion. However, the practice nowadays is quite different: anyone who has such feelings, fantasies or desires is declared to be distorted, especially if one has egosyntone feelings.
I have studied reports made for the court. One report described a man as "normal in every respect". However, the man spoke about his egosyntone feelings – and the same man was declared to be severe distorted and convicted to forced treatment. About another man is said that he had no cognitive distortion. However, the man also spoke about his egosyntone feelings and ideas – and the same man was said to have a severe cognitive distortion.
Thus, only having deviant desires and politically incorrect ideas can make people to severe distorted people who surely need forced treatment. In the former Soviet Union, one had a psychiatric distortion if one did not think along the communists’ ideas. At the same time, in the United States, one had a psychiatric distortion if one did think along the communists ideas.
Here we see the confusion of diagnostics and politics, as well as the confusion of science and morality. This one of the pitfalls of the forensic diagnostic process: someone who passes a law, does not have, only because of that, per se, a psychologically distorted personality. See my article "Science and Morality".
3. Recidivism rates
A forensic diagnose has to estimate the chance of recidivism. In this area, there is a lot of misunderstanding; one does not know the data and says what comes in mind. Am expert declared under oath that the chance of recidivism for his patient was 100 %. This is principally impossible, but yet declared under oath.
Always and everywhere one says that the recidivism rate for sex offenders should be very high, much higher than the general recidivism rate. The reverse is true: the rate is much lower.
Some years ago, the general recidivism rate was 36.4 %. Even a Dutch professor said that the risk for pedosexual people was a treble higher. The contrary is true: it is a treble lower: 13.4%. After treatment it was about 10%.
In the meantime, the general recidivism rate has become much higher: 68 or higher. For sex offenders, is has become lower: between 3 and 10% for treated people. Have a look at the literature list to see the data.
Another standard misunderstanding are the data about harm. Constantly is said that each sexual experience of each child will always cause harm, thus a 100%. This is not true.
In a meta-analysis of 59 research reports about thousands of people in many countries, concluded four percent enduring harm, only for girls and only after force or threat, mostly by the fathers. The sexual experience was afterwards by boys felt as one third positive, one third negative, and one third neutral; by girls as one sixth positive, one sixth neutral, and two third negative. See the literature list.
2. What are we speaking about? B: Content-related
My definition read: "Pedophilia is the feeling to be attracted to children, also in a sexual respect.". Note the word "also". It is not "exclusively". The feelings do not differ too much from those of parents, grandparents – and the makers of commercials – who feel children as cute. The pedophilic feeling is firstly esthetic: one sees attractive beauty, pureness, spontaneity and openness.
The usual ‘therapist’ in the sex offender treatment combat this. They call it "thinking errors". The trust is, they say, one only wants sex, isn’t that true? No, it is not true.
Usually, sexuality is only on the background. It may play a role for some people in some periods of their life.
Most people with pedophilic feelings limit themselves to the feelings, and avoid the deeds. They may have desires, but do not want to fulfill them. Note, that most research and news items in this area come from convicted people or people in clinics. They do not form a representative sample, and so misrepresenting ideas enter the literature, the newspapers and television screens, and so the community.
Note that we speak here about pre-pubertal children. Who is attracted to teens, is quickly called a pedophile. Well, then there must be many of them. Teens are attracted to teens.
The crucial phase is puberty, the bodily and psychic maturation. One can be attracted to the still remaining child, another one can be attracted to the awakening man or woman, which is basically a heterosexual or homosexual kind of feeling. Note that there are legal age limits, different by state and that those are not the same as diagnostic or clinical age limits. These are lower.
How and when appear such feelings?
Most people with pedophilic feelings say: from my early childhood’’, which factually means: ‘as long I can remember myself’. Self-reminiscence starts about the age of six, thus the feelings might have been there earlier – remarkably just on what is called "the oedipal age".
It is important to mention that these kinds of feelings can lay more or less on the foreground, or on the background of the mind, during different phases of life.
In my case, the feelings slept more or less until I was about twenty and entered society. The feelings have slept in a side room during my marriage, but came clearly to the for3eground after my divorce. Repressed feelings always will come back sooner or later.
During that period I have sought and found help in encounter groups for people with pedophilic feelings. Later on, I have sought and found psycho-therapeutic help, with which I have had a long quest in my inner. See my personal essays in the literature and on this web site.
After that period, the feelings again went to the background. The have not disappeared, but they are quiet and not obsessive. If you give room to your feelings, they will be quiet; if you repress them, they will heavily come back.
Note that one cannot divide people in ‘pedophiles’ and ‘pedosexuals’, because the same person can be the one, the other, or both in different periods of life. Thus, do not divide people in categories, only feelings and deeds.
6. The sources
I say ‘sources’, not ‘causes’. Why? Because the concept ‘causes of behavior’ only fit with the behavioral model, which is only one of the eleven models in which an explanation of the phenomena might be given. I reject the behavioral model and chose for the human action model. That is also the reason that I do not speak about disposition, because this concept supposes a genetic base, which never has been proved. Nevertheless, pedophilic feelings are frequently felt and labeled as a disposition. This may refer to a genetic disposition, but may also refer to a development in the early childhood. It is there, where I look for the sources, and thus in the psycho-dynamic model.
Each model has its own explanation, concepts and theories. If you search an explanation, you should first chose the model in which you will look for an explanation. These models are based on a vision on the human being, thus on philosophy. It is good to be conscious of your vision on the human and your philosophy – and to keep being critical to the same model. I mention the eleven models only shortly in a scheme with core concepts. For more, have a look on the literature list. Nine models come from the literature, especially Dennis Howitt who I follow here with the numbers below. Two models are a kind of wish for me. I classify the models in three groups. The text in the scheme is not a description of the model, but an evaluation of the model.
Models of explanation
Regrettably, the demonology model is the most frequently used model. The feminists’ model has had a crucial influence on the way of thinking about pedophilia, because one has the simple model ‘father and daughter’, thus ‘the powerful predator and the powerless victim’ used to label men who intimately cuddled boys or girls. Concerning boys, Bruce Rind combats this labelling in his research report about gay teens.
The models ## 1, 2 & 3 are mostly used nowadays. The basic concept is behaviour, caused by stimuli, among which cognitive stimuli, usually labelled as thinking errors. In this model, one constructs an offence chain: the series events and thoughts that caused the offence, and that thus should be avoided. For example: problems on the job, drinking beer, gone to the swimming pool, talked with children – and so on. The problem with such an offence chain is that the laws of logic thinking do not allow to turn back the chain. This is what happens: one starts with the offence and reconstruct afterwards what has happened in the chain. Then, one concludes: do not drink any beer anymore, never go to a swimming pool, and never talk with children anymore. This is what the behavioural model calls ‘therapy’.
The medical model may lead to give medicines: anti-depressives and lust-inhibitors. I am quite critical about it, but some people are content with these medicines. But I also know a clinic that taking those medicines makes a requirement, even before a doctor has seen, let alone has exanimate the patient. For me, this is ‘a bridge too far’, as we say in Dutch.
Explanation within the psycho-dynamic model
Modern psychology massively chooses the cognitive-behavioral model. One speaks about ‘behavioral sciences’ and ‘behavior expert’. I reject this model because of the too narrow view. I refuse to see the human as a machine with behavior caused by stimuli. Do you see yourself in that way? And your clients or patients? I refuse. I see the human as a being able to act, motivated by aims, reasons, feelings and interpretations.
My blanket theory
In my view and experience, pedophilic feelings are, especially if they are rather obsessive, a blanket that covers other feelings. The same is said about a neurosis: a neurotic has obsessive feelings that suppress other feelings. There still is a difference: this way of acting of the human psyche is not per se an illness or distortion. It can be an excellent life-saving method of the psyche, in this case the child’s psyche. A child’s inner is not mad but clever. The childish psyche knows to survive and the early neurosis is a kind of helping the child. However: in later life, this method of surviving is no longer necessary, but can still be kept alive. In that case, it is good to combat the neurosis.
The blanket theory becomes visible if one tells people that they have to give up their pedophile feelings and way of living. That was what happened to me. In a therapy, the same can happen, and surely an accusation or even a rumor can do the same. In those cases, people get in a state of panic and become unsteady to the bottom of their psyche. Usually, they say something like ‘you may do everything with me, but not this’, or ‘they can take away anything from me, but not this’. I interpret: don’t take away my blanket.
Because of this reason, therapists often say ‘we don’t take away your feelings, we only teach you to better handle with them’. In practice, therapists factually do combat fantasies, thoughts and desires. Psychologist ten Hag calls this ‘de-sexualisation’, meaning to give up the idea that sex is the most important thing and that sex might be the way to solve problems and frustrations. Well, this idea could cause a new sexual revolution in society, but of course the idea is meant for pedophiles only, not for other people like the therapists themselves.
I am not able to present research in which a thousand people are investigated in order to find the source of their pedophilic feelings. Such a research report does not exist. I only can offer you one story: my story. And I am only one person.
In my story, my blanket was suddenly taken away because something was discovered and I had to completely change my way of living, which was living with children around me. I got completely panicked. Suddenly and intensively, the feelings hidden under that blanket came to the surface of consciousness – very awful feelings until then hidden by the blanket. Those feelings were a mix of fundamental uncertainty, loneliness, pain, desolation, sorrow and being all of my own. I called this mix of feelings my ancient stew, because it was very old and, since my early childhood, a undifferentiated mixture of still not specified feelings. Only gradually I could specify those feelings and find names for them.
I dreamed about a very scary anxious elephant in a cellar. With his big feet he was bumping against the iron gate: ‘Let me free!’. But later on in the therapy, I dreamed about an elephant I could let walk on the grass with a bit of string: the feelings were freed and no longer dangerous.
What represented that elephant?
I am born in the war and my first experiences of life were illness, hospitals, day nursery, intense loneliness, hunger, bombs in the street, soldiers, flight, uncertainty, and fear. According to my mother, I refused food, which refers to an early-childhood depression. I always was brave, my mother said, which refers to suppression of the negative feelings, maybe all feelings. My young psyche banned those feelings to the cellar of my mind, and I isolated myself in an ivory tower and closed the door behind me. There I was ‘invulnerable’, but also very lonesome. This is called: narcissism.
Narcissism is a standard diagnosis for people with pedophilic feelings. But be cautious with standard diagnoses: they can fit with the one, but not for another. I have written a personal essay about narcissism, in which I mention the remarkable experience that, as soon as one acknowledges that one has such a problem, the problem ebbs away. Typically for narcissism is that the person strongly denies to have such a problem. The end of thee will be the start of the end of the problem. I suppose, by the way, that narcissism is a frequent problem in our narcissistic society at the present time.
I am worrying about the lots of children all over the world, who grow up in circumstances of war. So, try to do something in peace groups or so or for UNICEF.
What was the blanket?
In my early childhood, it was my mother. She was the great pain killer. Then, I reached the so-called oedipal age. Then, a boy has to imitate his father. I did not so; I hated my father and adored my mother. I did away with him as a father and avoided him the rest of my life.
Psychologists call this: ‘the negative solution of the oedipal complex’. ‘Negative’, not meaning ‘bad’, but ‘the contrary of the intention’: the boy rejects his father as a model and imitates his mother. For my childish psyche the best solution: my father was surly, my mother was careful. So, I became a careful man: youth leader, group leader, house parent, orthopedagoge.
This kind of psychological history is also standard in diagnostic reports about people with pedophile feelings: ‘oedipal problems’, being the considerate mother and the standoffish father. But be careful: this situation is standard in our society. About the oedipal stuff, I also have written an essay.
My young psyche was content with my mother as a ‘blanket’ or a pain killer. Nevertheless, I reached puberty and in that phase the boy instinctively takes more distance from the mother. But I found a new blanket.
I was still at the age of sixteen, when I was asked to volunteer in a club house for street rascals. So I did, and I was reviving like a flower in springtime, and very happy with those vital boys around me. I liked and loved them so much. I had vitality, suppressed by my father and myself, just around me and so I felt more whole, a more complete human being. And the caring mother who I had to miss, became replaced by the mirror of it: the careful youth leader. Caring for youth became the leading thread in my life.
This kind of psychological mirroring is quite frequently mentioned in diagnostic reports about people with pedophilic feelings. It reads somewhat like this: ‘the bad relationship with the fathet has been compensated by the wish to be ‘a good father’ for children’.
A sexual component was only vaguely conscious for me. It became conscious because of reactions from my environment and society.
A second blanket was my marriage, which seemed to function as a good pain killer and blanket for a long time – until the ship stranded. Why? My wife and daughter said I was a nice man and a good father, but my wife missed the sexual passion for her. Indeed, I had not developed such a passion. May masculinity was wake, and so was my masculine sexuality. My sexuality was blocked at a certain age, a quite young one. In a marriage, this will give a problem. Thus, it is not good to advice people with pedophilic feelings to go out and hunt after women.
After the divorce, I had a problem, but again my psyche found a blanket or a pain killer: my pedophilic feelings, stored in a side room, came into the full light. I made mistakes and the blanket was suddenly taken away. I got panicked, but this appeared to be a healthy crisis: the elephant bunked against his gate; he was freed and became tame. The neurosis was gone, fled away in the therapy process. I also have written a personal essay about this process: The quest. [Still Dutch, but soon to be translated and placed in this library]
7. Helping people
It might be clear that I see real psycho-therapy as a good method to help people with pedophilic feelings. There are more methods. I divide them in three groups or models: see the attached scheme, which may speak for itself. I only make some remarks.
The right column may be well known. The middle column represents the self help method. I may remark that this is a helping method, but not a therapy. Who leads the conversation is not ‘the therapist’, but one of the members of the group who only leads the conversation as a self help group, not as a therapy group. It is helping people on the basic or first level, and may have no more pretensions. Nevertheless, a lot of people have said to have had good help in the 25 years I work with this method.
Especially I may mention the support group, a group of citizens formed around a client. The model is developed in religious circles. The article of Kirkegaard & Northy gives a good description.
I also may remark that those self help groups develop ethics. These may differ by group, but roughly speaking the groups develop the next guidelines:
In practice two words: hands off.
The left column represents the method nowadays mostly used in the professional treatment of sex offenders or possible offenders. As you may see, I am critical about this method. In my lecture given in Paris I give a lot of critical remarks about it.
To be short, I cannot share the vision on the human being that funds this method. The therapists see themselves as reasonable acting humans who are completely healthy, but they see their clients as humans with behavior caused by stimuli and thinking errors, who are sick and distorted. Such a difference is not acceptable for me, not in philosophical respect, not as a fellow human being.
There is a lot of force and power in this method. With a lot of pressure, the correct way of thinking and feeling is taught. For me, this is not acceptable. Moreover, it does not work out therapeutically, it only creates fake behavior on the surface and does not change the inner, the psyche. It is an illusion to call the ‘therapy’. It is behavior control. Clients have said that it was no more than a course in acting.
I do not end with solutions, but with problems.
Research in this field is extremely difficult. It is nearly impossible to find respondents who will speak the truth. Usually, we see a very one-sided sample: condemned people or active people. Society does not want honest conclusions. Rind and his team reached conclusions like ‘only 4% lasting harm’. His report was condemned by the US Congress. See the literature list anc click on the links given. There is no room for objective research, only research with very narrow and one-sided questions. Even in the Netherlands, a student who writes a thesis, has to moderate her or his conclusions, in order to ever get a job and not too much threats. The climate is, even here, very grim.
A process of scapegoat forming and demonizing is fully going on. Each kind of suspicion, rumor, reporting or accusation, and even acquittal creates threats and aggression. People loose their job and feel forced to change home and city. Even publishing only certain ideas, without doing any deed, has lead to loosing jobs.
Actually, I should not be allowed to speak about this subject anyway. A person with pedophilic feelings is scarcely allowed to say that the weather is cold, but not more. It is said that a person with pedophilic feelings impossible can be also a scientist, because he or she is prejudiced, this biased in advance. And the opponents? Oh no, they are not prejudiced, of course not.
In this kind of ‘reasoning’, pregnant women may not talk about pregnancy, teachers not about education, journalists not about journalism, married people not about marriage, women not about feminism, and priests not about God. They are all prejudiced. Isn’t that correct and true? No, it is not – except, of course, for people with pedophilic feelings.
Here we have a great problem. I have gathered diagnostic reports made for the court and have written an essay about it. This essay will be translated in due time. There are a lot of pitfalls and paradoxes in this field. Twenty-three of the twenty-five reports had serious errors. There are no objective criteria; one is dependent of the person who does the diagnostic investigation and his or her ideas. Several people are first declared to be quite normal, bus as soon as they speak about their feelings and ideas, they are declared to be severely distorted and dangerous, thus advised – and convicted - to forced clinical treatment. Students should learn those pitfalls and paradoxes, and act very carefully while examining patients.
Here seems to be no problem, because a lot of new clinics are built and started. There is agreement about the method: the cognitive-behavioral model. I have a lot of critic on that model. I have gathered reports of 15 people who have experienced such a treatment. For them, it was a nightmare, not a therapy. I have written an essay about is, which will be translated in due time. One might have a look at the section "Experiences with treatment" on http://www.helping-people.info/ .
Even in the Netherlands, there is an enormous increase of advices leading to forced clinical therapy. It seems to have become an automatism. Even people who did not violate the law can be locked up if a psychiatrist declared them distorted and dangerous. People are locked up for what the might do, not for what they have done. This is the trend.
Those who do not cooperate with the treatment staff, are seen as not treatable. For them, long stay clinics are built. They get a kind of life-long because they might do evil things. Here you see the process of scapegoat forming and demonizing. I regularly visit such locked-up people. But let this be my concern, let studying and learning be your concern.
9. Studying and learning
I end with you as students. Have you got lessons and literature about this subject? And if yes, only within the cognitive-behavioral model? You might read the book of Dennis Howitt. It is out of sale, but it is on line.
I have counseled students from universities, who wanted to write a thesis about this subject. Most of the teachers could not give them a good literature list. A clinic nearby the university gave such a list – only about sex offenders and their treatment, and with a very narrow view. The therapists of that clinic have not listened to the student and her questions, their list only reflected what they are doing. Ehmm… therapists? Specialists in listening to people? No, specialists in controlling people. I have made a new list for the student. Her thesis is ready, but not translated.
Dear students, go thoroughly into this subject. Have a look at the literature list, ask questions and be critical and self-critical.