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In the first place, paedophilia's definition is primary an issue of theory, not merely classification, since classification implies a theory, no matter how rudimentary. Freund et at. (1984) used Latinesque words to classify sexual attraction along the dimensions of sex and age:
According to Levin and Stava (1987),
and they regard child molestation as a synonym for paedophilia.
The term "child molester" is more usually regarded as a generic term for all who offend against underage persons:
Inherent in the child molester/paedophile distinction is the belief that while some men are sexually/erotically fixated on underage people, there are circumstances uncharacteristically or intermittently engage in some form of sexual activity with children rather than with their usually preferred adult partners. Superficially, this may seem reasonable but may not bear close examination.
Stylized case studies illustrate aspects of the problem:
For Rowan, both of these men are clearly child molesters in that they had sexually assaulted a child. In question is whether both are truly paedophiles. Al is the archetypal paedophile of the two. His sexual fantasies centre around the physical characteristics of an underage female and, just as in Graham's case, sex with an adult woman is facilitated by fantasies of sex with a child. Carl is a doubtful case of paedophilia, according to Rowan. His scenario suggests that drink and his wife's inadequacies caused his single sexual assault on an underage child.
While it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Carl is a child molester rather than a paedophile, caution is appropriate. For example, if Carl, in similar circumstances, had fondled his friend George's penis, would we argue that he has no homosexual leanings? We know too little about Carl -- has he offended against any children outside of his family? Has he masturbated to thoughts of intercourse with an underage girl? Carl may be keen to present his crime as the result of the pressures of unfortunate circumstances.
The problems of definition are even more difficult when we take Rowan's discussion of incest:
To suggest that men do not have sex with children because of social bonding is palpable nonsense. If this were the case every man would have intercourse with any child with the exception of those with whom he has bonded. Relatively few men, as far as we can tell, have an erotic interest in children. In the light of this, it is probably safe to assume that this incestuous offender has an erotic interest in
underage children which motivates incestuous acts, rather than a bonding failure.
In psychiatric classification, paedophilia is regarded as one of the sexual paraphilias alongside fetishes and sexual activity with animals. Homosexuality was, until relatively recently, regarded as a mental disorder in the standard American Psychiatric Association diagnostic manual. Gay Liberation not only had a significant impact on the decriminalization of much homosexual behaviour but also helped to define homosexuality as a lifestyle rather than a pathology.
In the second Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-II), homosexuality was classified as a sexual disorder but this changed with the third manual (DSM-111). Suppe (1991) suggests:
Support for these assertions can be found in Howitt (1992) and Howitt and Owusu-Bempah (1994) for child abuse and racism, respectively.
Other curiosities abound in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. For example, the diagnoses of zoophilia (sexual attraction to animals) and paedophilia are based on either overt activities or private fantasy. In contrast, fetishes, exhibitionism, voyeurism and masochism/sadism are recognized solely from overt activities. Thus, the person who can only be aroused sexually by thinking of sex with their next-door-neighbour's goat but never touches the animal may be suffering from the mental illness zoophilia. Apparently, someone who can only get sexually aroused by imagining that he is whipping his next door neighbour's naked body is normal! This reasoning appears to be quite arbitrary. The value of a psychiatric theory that classifies the fantasy-only paedophile as mentally disordered but not the fantasy-only exhibitionist is very much in doubt.
The way in which paedophilia is described has changed with fashions or developments in psychiatric thinking. In the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I)
(American Psychiatric Association, 1952), it was listed as one of several "sexual deviations". Paedophilia was held to be sociopathic since the paedophile was at odds with society's mores, not just other individuals. Despite still being described as a "sexual deviation" in DSM-II, the notion of sociopathic disorder was abandoned and the categorization "non psychotic mental disorder" used instead (American Psychiatric Association, 1968).
Later, paedophilia was listed as a member of the category "paraphilias" in DSM-III (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). Paedophilia was restricted to sexual activities between adults and pre-pubescent children or fantasy on this theme. Thus, adult sexual activity involving early adolescents is not classified as pedophilia:
The revision, DSM-III-R (American Psychiatric Association, 1987), abandoned the requirement "repeatedly preferred". A categorization of paedophilia was allowed even when the men showed sexual arousal to other stimuli, e.g. other paraphilias or adult-adult homosexual or heterosexual intercourse. Thus change accompanied a growing awareness that paedophilia is often associated with other sexual crimes and activities.
Also contentious is the extent to which paedophilia actually results in psychological disability:
But it needs to be stressed that Suppe wrote this in the context of a rare publication broadly favourable towards paedophile activity.
Describing paedophilia as a paraphilia means that it is classified with sadism, exhibitionism, voyeurism and other sexual practices that many regard as perversions.
The key characteristics of paraphilia, are:
The fantasy of paraphiliacs has its origins in childhood and adolescence. Ageing paraphiliacs frequently describe how certain erotic imagery has stayed with them for most of their lives. While some men have periodic episodes of paraphiliac fantasy, they usually claim that this started prior to or during adolescence. The sense of pressure to act out these erotic fantasies in real life varies greatly. Masturbation is commonly used to discharge the physical arousal caused by fantasy. Frequent masturbation can, in some individuals, severely interfere with normal daily life. Many paraphiliacs experience this sexual arousal as intrusive, occurring when not desired. They are rapidly aroused when imagery relevant to their fantasy is encountered in magazines, videos and elsewhere (Levine, Risen and Althof, 1990).
Despite paedophilia being classified as a paraphilia, nothing should be assumed about its relationship with other paraphilias. Levine, Risen and Althof suggest that although changes from sadism to masochism, for example, are typical in the work experience of clinicians, switches from paedophilia to other paraphilias are uncommon.
A study of adolescent offenders found that about half of them had committed two or more offences. Nevertheless, under a quarter of such multiple offenders offended in more than one category of sexual offences (Saunders, Awad and White, 1986). Switching between paedophilia, rape and exhibitionism was rare. About two-thirds of recidivists repeated the same type of offence.
Substantial differences are found between the legal, social and biological definitions of paedophilia. In Western society, definitions of childhood have been based largely on arbitrary dates, milestones marking progress into adulthood. Biological changes may not
correspond closely to these, and are insignificant in social and legal definitions. Childhood has been extended to leave a limbo time when the young person may be physically but not socially ready for reproduction:
It may be more appropriate or meaningful to classify paedophiles in terms of the biological characteristics of the child. Perhaps if the offender consistently opts for children who lack secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts or pubic hair then he should be classified as a paedophile; there is a distinction to be drawn between biological and socio-legal children. In girls, biological children have not started their periods (but the age of menarche varies between cultures, individuals and historical period). Similarly, boys undergo changes from the flat and slim boy-type to a maturer shape:
For the purposes of this book, the word "paedophile" will be used as a generic name for sexual offenders against underage persons. At the same time it is acknowledged that this covers a multitude of sinners, perhaps not all of whom will have strong sexual desires towards underage persons.
The advantages of using the term "paedophile" include its brevity compared to phrasal nouns such as "child sexual molester". It also adroitly avoids the conventional wisdom that there are types of sexual offenders against children who are not erotically orientated towards children.
For example, incest offenders are commonly held to be different to "true" paedophiles, although this has not been proven and is in considerable doubt. One disadvantage is the connotations of child love, which may be anything but the truth. At times the terminology of other writers has to be adopted for stylistic
reasons, despite reservations about their choice of language. Doubtless, Okami and Goldberg (1992) would describe the proposed use of the term "paedophile" in their phrase "slippage" -- meaning that different researchers apply the term to vastly different phenomena such that it becomes very difficult to make meaningful comparisons between studies, or even to know what is meant by the trem. This may be regarded as sloppiness; it can also be seen as one of the central. things to understand in research and writings on child abuse -- how ideas can change to suit different purposes (Howitt, 1992).