Chapter 1 - Defining Pedophilia

Here below: (1) Summary, (2) Some quotes


The extent to which a phenomenon appears across time and across cultures says
something about its universality and perhaps its origins as well. The available
evidence suggests that adult-child sex has occurred historically and cross-culturally
but is much more likely to involve pubescent or post-pubescent youth. Puberty is
critical, as indicated by minimum marriage ages and the punishment of sex with
prepubescent children in many societies. Societies where sex with prepubescent
children does take place involve delineated cultural practices, such as the Sambian
practice of initiating boys into manhood through the ingestion of semen (…).

A challenge is that adult interest or behavior involving prepubescent or pubescent
children could exist but not be recorded because it is shameful or illegal, and thus
hidden from historians or ethnographers. There is no theoretical or empirical reason,
however, for expecting pedophilia, hebephilia, or sexual offending against children
to be temporally or culturally bound, although it clearly varies as a result of
environmental and other parameters; consider the cross-cultural variation in child
sexual abuse rates reported by Stoltenborgh et al. (2O11).

Pedophilia can be seen as a disturbance in the mechanisms underlying sexual age
preferences, that is, as a maladaptive exaggeration of the male-typical preference for
youthful features in potential sexual partners. Quinsey and Lalumiere (1995)
suggested pedophilia may represent a disorder, consistent with the definition by
Wakefield (1992), in the mechanisms that regulate men's sexual preferences for
In other words, persons with pedophilia pay attention to youthfulness cues such as
smooth skin and neotenous facial features, as other men do, but they do not attend
to fertility cues such as a waist-to-hip ratio around .67 or firm breasts and buttocks.

l further discuss this idea about the critical cues underlying pedophilic sexual
interests in Chapter 5, this volume. Knowledge about the important psychological
and physical cues of attractiveness could greatly inform efforts to understand
pedophilia and hebephilia.

The second diagnostic criterion in DSM-5 is substantial distress or impairment
because of pedophilia. This distress or impairment can be the result of multiple
factors, including personal distress at having an unwanted sexual interest in
children; stress and psychopathology because of having a highly stigmatized sexual
interest and thus having the burden of hiding one’s sexual interest; and getting into
social or legal trouble as a result of acting on the interest, for example, by accessing
child pornography or having sexual contacts with young children.

The argument about maladaptiveness is less clear for hebephilia (…, which is less
rare than pedophilia. Rind and Yuill (2012) argued that cross-cultural and historical
evidence of marriage to pubertal girls and sex between men and pubescent boys as a
means of social bonding and mentoring argument suggests that the potential to
sexually respond to pubescent children has adaptive functions. On the other hand,
Hames and Blanchard (2012) reviewed evidence to suggest that having hebephilia is
associated with lower reproduction (although see Rind, 2O13, 2O17), and I have
suggested that the potential to sexually respond to pubescent children does not
negate the possibility that individuals who have an exclusive or preferential
attraction to pubescent children over sexually mature adults do show evidence of
Wakefieldian dysfunction (Seto, 2Ol7b).

The evidence regarding marriage or other socially prescribed adult-pubescent-child
sex is evidence of hebephilic behavior but is not necessarily evidence of hebephilic
sexual preferences. Indeed, I think the key test of someone’s sexual attraction is
choice: Would the person choose a prepubescent or pubescent child if a sexually
mature person was available?

Some Quotes from Chapter 1

Page 13
Neither pedophilia nor hebephilia is synonymous with sexual offending against
children, although these terms are often used interchangeably. But some persons
with pedophilia or hebephilia are not known — despite thorough police
investigations and pertinent questions — to have ever committed sexual offenses
involving children, and a substantial proportion of identified sex offenders against
children are motivated by reasons other than pedophilia or hebephilia.
Non-offending persons with pedophilia are likely to differ from pedophilic
offenders in important ways, and pedophilic and non-pedophilic offenders differ in
their risk to reoffend and in the interventions that have the best chance of preventing
future crimes.

The assumption seems to be that someone who would engage in such sexual acts
must be paraphilic, because it is otherwise incomprehensible behavior to most nonoffending, teleiophilic people (i.e., people with a species typical interest in young,
sexually mature adults).

Public and media discussion of pedophilia and sexual offending shows a conflation
of the two concepts, reflecting this intuition. But it is not correct: Some persons with
pedophilia or hebephilia have not committed sexual offenses involving children, and
a substantial number of identified sex offenders with child victims would not meet
the classification criteria for pedophilia or hebeiphilia. Also, because of imprecise use
of the term pedophilia in media and public discourses, offenders against legal
minors, including postpubescent youth, are sometimes inaccurately referred to as
persons with pedophilia.

Page 15
Baily et al. (2016) found that

  • - the average awareness of sexual interest in children under the age of 14 was
    14.2 year;
  • - The average age when respondents suspected this was unusual was 16.1
    years; and
  • - The average age of understanding that this was an atypical sexual interest
    was 18.1 years.

Page 16
B4U-ACT[‘s …] respondents … reported [that] their average age of awareness of
their attraction to children was 14 (…). The average age of first attraction to children
was 12.

Page 17, 18 & 19
A reliable system for determination of pubertal stage was described by Tanner (1990; see figures 1.2 & 1.3).

  • Tanner stage 1 is relevant to pedophilia;
  • Tanner stages 2 & 3 to hebephilia;
  • Tanner stage 4 to ephebophilia; and Tanner stage 5 to teleiophilia.
  • Nepiophilia and gerontophilia are not explicitly included in the Tanner system.

For girls, Tanner scores are based on pubic hear, appearance of the vulva, emergence of breasts and axillary hair. For boys, Tanner scores are based on the appearance of the penis and scrotum. The Tanner system does not consider other physical features that are also likely to be relevant to pedophile attraction, particularly body size and shape.

A huge challenge for interpreting research on the association between pedophilia and sexual offending against children is that the pubertal status of child victims is rarely known. Instead, inferences are made based on victim ages.

Although age and Tanner stage are positively and strongly correlated, inferences on age are less precise than knowing pubertal stages. Lang, Rouget, and van Santen (1988) found that

  • two thirds of child victims of sexual offenses were in Tanner Stage 1, consistent with pedophilia,
  • whereas another 15% were in Tanner Stages 2 or 3, consistent with hebephilia.
  • None of the girls age 10 or younger were menstruating.

Thus, the evidence would be that a majority of child victim are relevant to pedophilia or hebephilia, but some child victims are post-pubertal and thus unlikely to reflect either of these chronophilias.

Page 22
In the first edition, I suggested (…) that the maximum upper limit for the prevalence
of pedophilia among males was 5%. (…)
I revised the upper limit to 3% prevalence in my 2013 book (…) and more recently I
suggested a best guesstimate of 1% (…).

Page 25
… Most of what is known about pedophilia and hebephilia comes from the study of
men who have had sexual contact with prepubescent or pubescent children,
especially those seen in criminal justice settings (…).
Much of this book therefore still depends on identified sex offenders against
children. The proportion of these offenders who are likely to have pedophilia varies
depending of pedophilia indicator, setting, and sample characteristics (see Table 1.4).

Page 26: Table 1.4 …
… gives 7 studies with “% Pedophilic” between 30 and 77 %.

[The] distinction between pedophilia or hebephilia (interest) and sexual offending
against children (behavior) needs to be kept in mind when reading this book or the
corresponding literatures.