Vorige Omhoog Volgende

~    [Home]   ~

Pedophilic Sexual Orientation: A Fuzzy Expression

Wolfgang Berner, M.D., 
Abteilung fur Sexualforschung, 
Der Psychiatrischen und Nervenklinik Universitatskrankenhaus Eppendorf, 
Der Universitats Ham- burg, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany 
(e-mail: berner@uke.uni-hamburg.de )


At first glance, the papers by Green and Schmidt have very different contradictory lines of arguing. 

On the one hand, Green has us believe that sexual interest in children is a widespread tendency, prevalent nearly in all cultures, at all times. Accordingly, it must be part of normal variation in sexual interest and may be evocable, occasionally, according to social rules or other furthering circumstances. 
On the other hand, Schmidt gives a clear-cut definition of pedophilia: Pedophiles are persons whose sexual wishes, desires for relationship bonds, and love are either primarily or exclusively focused on children who have not reached puberty. 
Nevertheless, this definition points to a heterogeneous phenomenon. The heterogeneity concerns not only the amount of interest (exclusively or only primarily), but also all qualities of these interests. 
Is there an interest originally focused only on social contact (closeness) with children, becoming "sexual" later on? 
Is it interest in a mutual erotic love relationship? 
Or, is it interest in an exclusively sexual endeavor, using the child more like a fetish than like a person?

Taking the variation of pedosexual interest into account, it is not surprising that Krafft-Ebing, in his early writings, understood pedophilia only as a reaction to unsatisfactory heterosexual contacts (inability to impress an adult woman) and disinhibitions in senile and in mentally ill persons, much in contrast to homosexuality, where the concept of a clear-cut orientation seemed much more convincing to him. Only later did he come to believe that a very small minority of persons with pedosexual interests had such an orientation since puberty, which he called "pedophilia erotica." 

He noted that these individuals could not feel sexually aroused by adults and cohabitated with adults only "faute de mieux" and without "psychological" satisfaction ("seelischer Befriedigung") and that their sexual activity with children consisted mainly in touching or masturbating them, rarely exhibiting themselves during that act (Krafft-Ebing, 1984, p. 417). In Krafft-Ebing's view, the supposed attraction of the prepubertal child was somewhat fuzzy, because it was unclear if the pedophile was attracted by the genitals of the child, other body parts, or by the child as a person.

There is a tendency today to stress a more secondary, let us say "reactive" type of pedophilia, where this interest is not caused exclusively by biological factors (as in Krafft-Ebing's concept), but by a lot of different circumstances. The child is a surrogate-partner, standing for a feared adult in these cases. This is especially true for authors concerned with "victims' work."

Interesting, for instance, is Finkelhor's (1984) consideration of four factors responsible for the expression of pedosexual interests: 

(1) emotional congruence with children; 
(2) development of sexual arousal (e.g., alongside traumatic experiences or model-learning); 
(3) blockage of development of (teleophilic) heterosexual or homosexual interests; and 
(4) disinhibitions (e.g., senility, alcohol, etc.).


Those who are concerned with treatment also stress this reactive type. 

For example, Marshall, Anderson, and Fernandez (1999) showed convincingly that assertiveness training with a group of pedophilic men not only improved their self-esteem, but also changed their performance on phallometric testing (penile plethysmography). 

By the way, phallometric testing underlines one more argument against the fuzzy expression of a pedophilic sexual orientation. Nearly one-third (27.7 %) of a comparison group of unselected young men (recruited through an advertisement), who were compared with homicidal and non-homicidal child molesters, showed a positive pedophile index, indicating their principal arousability by visual pedosexual stimuli 

(Firestone, Bradford, Greenberg, & Nunes, 2000). 

Thus, it cannot be this arousability alone leading to real pedosexual interest.

The large number of cases where a reactive type of sexual interest in children is evident 

(e.g., senile or mentally disabled persons who look for a sexual partner and who easily can be convinced to participate in sexual activities) 

is a strong argument against pedosexual orientation as analogous to homosexual orientation. 

Therefore, it seems important to be careful with an assessment of a "dilemma" of pedosexual orientation. For establishing motivation for "treatment" or change, it seems much more productive to take developmental as well as socio-cultural influences, and the reactive character of most forms of pedosexual interests, into consideration. 

No question, a minority of pedophilic people remains unable to establish sexual interests in accordance with societal demands for sexual self-determination and protection of children. Nevertheless, it seems questionable to me if the term "sexual orientation" has any explanatory value to them or can help them to find ways of adaptation with the demands of society.

Vorige Omhoog Volgende