SL Letter of the Day: Where's My Gold Star?
by Dan Savage
on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I was reading the letter from March 7th from "CWIA", and I want to extend my encouragement. Stand strong, and get the, ahem, heck out of the US! I am a man in my early thirties, live outside the US, and those "in the know" about my attraction to young girls include my doctor, my mental health worker, my parents and a few friends. While it is hard to trust, I find it to be entirely necessary, because it's too much to carry on your own—and the ones I need worry least about are the healthcare professionals, as their duty is NOT to report anything that is said in confidence. (Though it is my understanding that they can have me committed for short stretches of time if they believe that there is immediate danger to anyone.)
For the record, while I am a pedophile, I am not a child molester.
Here I'd like to address a subset of your readers, who wonder why one should commend pedophiles for not indulging in their desires, since they don't rape people and get no credit for that—here's why. You know when Dan says to someone with a weird (to others) fetish, or some kind of physical peculiarity, or whatever, that they should "hold on, there's someone... plenty of someones... out there for you, give it time, put yourself out there," and so on? That doesn't apply to us. Not only should we not put ourselves out there... but I walk around every awful day of my life knowing that THERE IS NO ONE OUT THERE FOR ME. Time will bring me no release from knowing that what I want can't happen.
A few other things, to offer a perspective from my side of things: chemical castration does nothing much, in my own experience. More melancholy, but no less longing for intimacy from the "wrong" sources. Also, it's not "because I was raped as a child." I know this because I wasn't. My childhood was sickeningly normal and wholesome, and my parents were and still are awesome people. And finally, no, it's not a CHOICE. As if anyone would CHOOSE this! Given any kind of choice, I would much rather not have to give explanations as to why I haven't found that "special someone" yet, and fear for my life in case someone should somehow find out.
Finally, one small bone I'd like to pick with you, Dan. You plead with CWIA not to work with children. Makes sense. Then you plead with him not to have children of his own. Makes less sense. Any human attracted to other humans will potentially have children that are nominally in the group they are attracted to. As a gay man, Dan, are you attracted to all men? Rhetorical. Pretty much any heterosexual man would be willing to attest, I think, that not ALL women are attractive to them, as well. Now for me, as a pedophile, not all children are attractive to me. Given the Westermarck Effect, it is in fact very likely that I would NOT find my own children sexually desirable, and my own reluctance to have children stems more from a feeling that it would be unfair to a woman to have a child with her when any sexual attraction I feel to her is weak and transient, if present at all.
Sad About Impossible Desires
Thanks for writing, SAID. But I'm going to stand by my advice to CWIA.
CWIA shouldn't have children of his own—and neither should you. Let's just set aside the issue of how exactly you guys would come to have children of your own. (Convincing someone you could never truly never love—say, an adult woman—to marry you and give you children, well, that wouldn't be fair to her, now would it?) Even if you weren't attracted to your own kids, SAID, having children of your own means spending a great deal of time with other people's children. Play dates. Sleepovers. You don't need the stress or the temptation, SAID, and other people's children don't need the risk.
But in case you're not willing to take my word for it, SAID, here are a couple of a second opinions for you...
My scientifically informed guess would be that it is not a good idea for a pedophile to become a parent, even in the absence of any sexual offending in the past. Pedophilia is likely to be a risk factor for sexually offending against one's child, relative to the nonpedophilic population, all other things being equal. Probably not a huge risk factor on its own, as demonstrated by emerging research on men who are charged and convicted for child pornography offenses: Identified child pornography offenders are likely to be pedophiles, yet many have no known sexual offenses involving children.
But having a kid would create opportunities to act on one's pedophilia, with that kid or with the other kids that being a parent brings into one's life (play dates, school, sports, etc.). Someone with a low sex drive and high self-control may be able to manage the temptation successfully, but the risk would be there until the kid(s) are out of his preferred age range. That's a tall order, fraught with uncertainty and stress. As for pedophilia vs. the Westermarck effect, I wouldn't bet on Westermarck given the startling incidence of incest in our societies without pedophilia ever coming into the equation.
Assuming your question comes from a Savage Love reader/listener, my advice to him would be: if you are capable of it, enjoy sexual relationships with adults and stay childless. Being a parent is a wonderful experience, but unfortunately, life has not dealt you a hand of cards for this to be a viable option.—Michael Seto, psychologist and researcher, @mcseto on Twitter.
Why won't the Westermarck Effect help you out? Because it creates sexual aversion in siblings, SAID, not adults:
I just wanted to clarify the Westermarck effect, or the effects of childhood co-residence on the development of sexual aversions. The Westermarck effect really pertains to siblings. The cue of childhood co-residence duration was a good cue to use to identify probable siblings in ancestral environments. Though we talk about co-residence duration, I think the more appropriate way to look at this cue is the duration of time one receives care from the same mother (and perhaps also father). In any case, I think we only use co-residence duration for sibling detection. This raises the question of how men figure out who their offspring are. My research is focusing on this now and I am pretty confident men do not use the cue of co-residence duration. The likely rely on other cues signaling fidelity of their mate.
So, to answer the question about pedophiles [molesting their own children], I would say that so long as they have an intact kin detection system and they were exposed to the cues indicating that a particular child is likely to be their own, then they likely develop strong sexual aversions toward their own children. This question is really like asking about whether a man who is addicted to sex (ok, any man) is sexually attracted to his sister. Same thing applies—so long as the cues to kinship were present and their is no brain damage, I would suspect even an oversexed man would find his attractive sister relatively sexually disgusting.—Deb Lieberman, Assistant Prof of Psychology, University of Miami
So... presuming you're not brain damaged, and presuming all the appropriate kinship cues are present and accounted for, then you probably won't be a danger to your own children. But, again, being a parent means spending time—sometimes a great deal of time, sometimes a great deal of time alone—with other people's children. You agree that its a bad idea for pedophiles to work with children, SAID, as that means spending time with and around children. Pedophiles shouldn't have children of their own for the exact same reason.