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Abnormal Eroto-sexual Preferences in Human Beings: 
The Nature of Pedophilia

Alan F. Dixson, D.Sc., 
Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, 
Zoological Society of San Diego, 
POB 120551, San Diego, California 92112-0551 
(e-mail: adixson@sandiegozoo.org )

The paraphilias are bizarre and disturbing phenomena of abnormal human sexual preference.

How is it that a small fraction of human beings, and most often men, can have eroto-sexual preferences 

for objects (such as shoes), 
for parts of the human body (such as the hair or feet), 
for inappropriate partners (such as animals or children), or 
for behavioral traits (such as sadism or lust-murder)? 

As a primatologist, I find the human paraphilias baffling. I can find no homologues for such behavior among the nonhuman primates. This is not to say that monkeys or apes never exhibit sexual arousal towards inappropriate partners or inanimate objects. However, those human beings afflicted with paraphilias show deep-seated and bizarre eroto-sexual preferences, which indicate that something has gone profoundly astray during their childhood or perhaps during adolescence, to inappropriately condition sexual arousal.

I understand Green's misgivings about whether pedophilia is a mental disorder rather than a behavioral disorder concerning eroto-sexual preference. But a disorder it most assuredly is. It does not matter how many tribes in New Guinea, or in other cultures throughout history, have allowed or encouraged sexual contact between adults and children. These cultural variations are not the equivalent of frank pedophilia. Pedophiles have a marked, and often exclusive, sexual preference for children as sex partners (whether in reality or fantasy), often coupled with an inability to form sexual relationships with adults. This is bizarre and abnormal; whether it is a "mental disorder" is debatable but it surely is a disorder of sexuality.

As both Green and Schmidt point out, a major problem with acceptance of pedophilia is that it cannot be truly "consensual," as in the case of sexual activity involving adults. The child is always at risk of being manipulated or disadvantaged by an adult in such relationships. Schmidt provides examples of how a pedophile can inappropriately interact with an unsuspecting child and set up an agenda for intimacy.

Both articles were very interesting and thought provoking. However, the major questions, which surround the paraphilias, including pedophilia, are not touched upon. What I should really like to know is what happens in childhood, or at adolescence, to tilt sexual preferences in such bizarre ways and why only some individuals become afflicted with these compulsions.

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