What precisely is the question?

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What are we talking about? 
Why is it even a question? 
Law and morality 
Science and morality 
These are the two questions of this essay 

What are we talking about?

If someone likes to speed in a car, that doesn't automatically mean he or she still is not a road hog. If someone likes to accumulate property, he or she is not automatically a miser. If a man loves women you cannot assume he is a rapist. Those who make these kinds of assumptions make two mistakes:

They exaggerate the feelings and takes the worst forms of them, and

they declare this exaggeration the identity of the person.


If it concerns pedophilic feelings, these two mistakes are nearly always made.

People equate feelings with undesirable kinds of behavior, and

people declare this the identity of the person and view the person only from that viewpoint.


That is the reason I only speak about pedophilic feelings, not about 'pedophilia' or 'pedophiles'. I have explained this more comprehensively in the background article of my lecture 'Helping people with pedophilic feelings'.

Anyone who uses the word 'pedophilia' should not equate this with sexual contact with children or child sexual abuse, just as one should not equate 'hetero-philia' with sexual contact or sexual abuse -- or the desire for a beer with drunkenness or alcohol abuse, or the desire for a joint with criminality. One must make distinction between feelings and behavior, and within the concept behavior one should make distinction between acceptable and not acceptable behavior.

Why is it even a question?

The question 'Why do  pedophilic feelings exist?' is quite simply to answer: because children universally are attractive. This holds true for all mammals, including humans.


But what about that erotic aspect?

I estimate this exists for at least one third of the human population, albeit not always consciously and not always visible in  behavior.
My estimation is based on the research of Nagayama Hall et. al. More than 25% of the males reacted with excitement to images of young girls. If you consider also female responses and add images of young boys,  the percentage will be quite higher than 25%.

Princess Margriet is moved by seeing her ten-year old sun prince Floris hugged by Steve Dudson, the president of the Royal Canadian Legion.

   "Help! Now we really are to be eyed hungrily!"

If a phenomenon exists for one third of the population, there is no need to ask for a source of it. It simply is a variant of what otherwise exists, an universal human datum. Nobody asks for the source of heterosexual feelings, or of the desires of possession, power, honor or fame.

The question to the sources is not very important. Things simply exist. Far more important is the question 'How to live correctly with it?' 

This question has meaning for all desires: wether to alcohol or sweets, meat or fat food, for tension or winning, for speed, sex, possession, power, honor or fame.


Nevertheless, in the case of pedophilic feelings, the question "Why?" is always asked. This is because our society is not able to manage these feelings. They are declared unacceptable and are denied. Mostly they stay unconscious, they are collectively exiled to the shadow side of the human soul, the collective shadow side of humanity. From there, the feelings are projected into people, who become a minority, who are set apart: our modern kind of apartheid. 

This has far-reaching consequences for those who consciously sense these feelings, who do not deny them but acknowledge them. Then, the question "Why" comes into mind, and the question how to live with it becomes inevitable.

Law and morality

We, here in the Netherlands, have the reputation of being a tolerant folk. This is because of our history. I do not know if the next story is exactly historically correct, but it can be used as an example world wide.

When the political and military power was in hands of the Catholics, it was by law forbidden to be Protestant. As the power went over to the Protestants, it was by law forbidden to be Catholic. Believers went underground in hidden chapels. During regime A, those who supported the regime were considered good, those who combated it or simply had other thoughts, were considered  bad. Then, the power went to regime B, and the good and the bad changed places. Not long ago, we saw this happen in Afghanistan. 

The content of a law is that which is juridical and politically forbidden, but it is not by definition morally wrong. There are cases in which it is morally more correct to resist the laws. A lot of people thank their canonization to this resistance. Nelson Mandela is an example of such a modern saint.

Concerning sexuality there is no difference. In some countries, homosexuality is still illegal -- but  that does not mean it is morally wrong. The same holds true for some heterosexual behavior, even the way women attractively cloth themselves. Concerning pedosexuality, a contact between a 15-year old and a 21-year old is a severe felony on one country, but no misdeed at all in another. The limits between 'good' and 'bad' are just an arbitrary birthday, differing by country. Yesterday making love was a felony, today the same suddenly is not. This is the way laws work.

Thus, one cannot say that something is morally wrong merely because it is legally forbidden. It is legally permitted to kill an animal and to eat it or use its skin as a coat, but I doubt the moral correctness of it. The transportation and use of alcohol is legally permitted, the same of hash is forbidden. Yet, alcohol is far more dangerous than hash. One may not say that something is morally wrong merely because of it is forbidden by law. 

To know what is morally good or bad, one has to think about it and to search for ethical arguments.

Science and morality

Science may and must concern itself with moral questions, as long as one makes a distinction between two types of questions: how something is, and how something should be. Both type of questions ask for a different type of research and a different type of discussion and should not be mixed up. I base this on the core concepts communicatively acting and discourse, described by Habermas.

This is already discussed in my article Science and Morality and in my dissertation (Gieles 1992, see the scheme about the discourse). Here, I concentrate on other questions.

These are the two questions of this essay

So. the two questions for this essay are:

What might be the source of pedophilic feelings?

How might one correctly live with these feelings in today's society?


To answer the first question, one has to think. Thinking is aided by the use of models. I have already said that quests for objective truth, moral correctness, and legal acceptability are very different types of quests, which ask for very different ways of thinking, for different models.

That's the reason to first have a look at which models there are and which of them are used, or not used, to answer this type of question.

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