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What Paedophiles Think and Do



[Page 73]

"We hypothesize that a deficiency of empathy for children would characterize many, if not most, child molesters. This concept might be thought of as having a number of components: 

(1) absence of protective feelings toward children; 

(2) denial that children occupy a special status and qualify for special treatment; 

(3) disdain for childlike emotional characteristics -- neediness, spontaneity, ignorance; 

(4) lack of interest in children; 

(5) feeling of inadequacy in a care-taking role."
(Finkelhor and Lewis, 1988, p. 76)

The nature of sexual abuse has encouraged the disregard of offenders as people. They are portrayed as sick monsters who lie, cheat and deceive to avoid their just punishments. Such a caricature inevitably ensures that sympathetic accounts of the meanings of relationships with children for paedophiles are in short supply; there is an extensive paedophile literature in novels, biographies and elsewhere, but not stemming from research. 

One exception to this trend is Li (1991), who describes the psychological motives for relationships with children. Men recruited from referrals by psychiatrists, paedophile organizations and magazine advertisements were interviewed in order to "understand how my pedophile informants have understood their sexual life as an experiencing subject" (p. 133).
Relationships with children were not replacements for their failures with adult men or women, nor a final resort of thwarted libidos:

[Page 74]

"Over half of the informants have mentioned specific characteristics in children which they find particularly attractive. Thus to them, relationships and sexual activities with children are experienced as more satisfying than those with adults. These relationships are their first choice, rather than a substitute when adult sex is lacking." 
Li, 1991, p. 133) 

Children were described in words implying 







affectionateness and 


These contrast markedly with perceptions of adults as 



materialistic and 

shallow in their feelings; 

the child's world represents the finest aspects of life. 

Li suggests that sex is not the primary motive of paedophiles. Love and the feeling of being wanted are among the things that the paedophile wants but the adult world fails to provide. One 74-year-old paedophile said: 

"As a boy-lover ... I don't go out seeking boys for my pleasure. I only encourage boys who come to me and want me to have a bit of sex play with them, and that has always been my angle. I have never ever forced a boy ." 
(Li, 1991, p. 136) 

A 34-year-old paedophile had had a hundred or so boys sexually over the years but that is not what he wanted: 

"Most important thing I look for, I suppose, is a loving relationship with a boy ... I can only point to four or five true relationships over that time." 
(Li, 1991, p. 138) 

A small proportion of the men described their relationships with children as if they were romantic love and courtship. Another man suggested that children lose their appeal the moment that they 

"learn the ways of the world and ask what's in it for me or what is it worth. When that happens they lose all their charm and enchantment" 
(Li, 1991, p. 135). 

Unlike many writers, Li argues the case for taking such views as representing paedophiles' true feelings rather than dismissing them as lies, cognitive distortions and self-serving excuses:

"The discrepancy between pedophiles' views and those of mainstream society has to be examined critically to see if there is any possibility of achieving an optimal balance between individual rights and collective responsibility. 
In dealing with this problem, it must be borne in mind that the viewpoint of mainstream society cannot simply be taken as correct and that of the pedophiles taken as suspect. Instead, each should be analyzed in terms of its historical and ideological roots. Only after such an exercise can we begin to address the more practical questions of ethics, the law, and social policies with regard to sexual contact between adults and children." 
(Li, 1991, p. 141)

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