„Ich fühle mich nicht diskrimineert, ich werde diskrimineert" - Social Stigmatization of Paedophiles in Germany

MSC Medical Antropology and Sociology

Pfirrmann, Jana Kristin; Jun 29 2015
AdvisorReader:, Dr. René Gerrets Second, & Gerrits Dr. Trudie
UniversityUniversity of Amsterdam - Graduate School of Social Sciences
Place PublishedAmsterdam
Type of WorkThesis


The focus in this thesis lies on the personal perception of self-identifying paedophiles concerning the stigmatization of their sexual preferences. In the literature there is a lack of emic perspectives regarding the stigma of paedophilia. Thus this study aims to contribute to the filling of this gap. The research is limited to a German context.

Through data collected via a questionnaire and interviews, five key-themes informing stigma have been developed. These are

  • self-assessment,
  • paedophilia in everyday life,
  • coming out,
  • experiences with society’s opinions regarding paedophilia and
  • views on the legal framework in Germany.

The vast majority of approximately seventy informants have been reached over internet forums administered by paedophiles and four more through the therapy network ‘Kein Täter werden’.

The findings of the research suggest that paedophiles do perceive a stigmatizing environment in Germany. The best solution to fight the growing stigmatization appears to be educating the German society about paedophilia.

9. Call for enlightenment (page 52 - 54)

  • “Such a prevalent ignorance, paired with the tenacity in which it persists, would not be accepted in any other context“ (Answer survey).

As my research has shown, paedophiles do perceive stigmatization in Germany in regards to their sexual preference. Stigma is, as Jahnke et al. wrote, “a widespread problem with serious adverse consequences for the stigmatized individuals, including, most notably, reducing quality of life and self-esteem” (2015: 2). This is confirmed by my findings obtained mainly through the survey.

The kind of research I conducted certainly has its limits. With the exception of the four questionnaires I received from patients of ‘Kein Täter werden’ all informants learned about my survey through an internet forum administered by paedophiles themselves.

The internet as a source is always tricky. In my case the possibilities it offered in regards to anonymity were very important if not even absolutely essential. Supposedly without anonymity only a minority of informants would have been willing to share their answers. However I do not know whether everyone who answered does in fact have paedophilic preferences and whether they answered truthfully (but this could have been the case as well if I had met them in person, paedophilia is after all not something visible). Furthermore the anonymity made it impossible for me to connect different answers.

Thus I could not assign pseudonyms to the quotes which would have contributed to a better understanding. Also, as I assume that only a fraction of all people with paedophilic preferences in Germany visit forums like those regularly, my data cannot be seen as representative for all German paedophiles.

That paedophiles are not a homogenous group can be seen for example when it comes to the issue of consensual acts. As mentioned before, in chapter 5, ‘Kein Täter werden’ is distancing themselves from at least one of the internet forums because of their stance on sexual acts between children and adults.

However in the answers from the survey it was clear that not all paedophiles visiting the forums agree on this issue. Some do write that it were

  • “scientifically proven that consensual and child-oriented sexual acts harm nobody. And I don’t see intercourse as a child-oriented sexual act!”

Others make this more explicit:

  • “Friendships where there’s a place for playful, non-penetrative, non-orgasmic and, the way I see it, non-pathological dealing with sexuality”


  • “I have sympathy for sexual playing around but I have no understanding for intercourse/oral sex with a prepubescent child”.

In the answers about public discourse on paedophilia crude words such as ‘Kinderficker’ (≈child fucker) were mentioned several times:

  • “I have the feeling that the average citizen thinks only in categories of ‘fucking’ and sexual domination because that is all he knows.”

According to Ms. Munch (the psychologist I talked to who works with convicted sex offenders) sexual acts that included penetration had been rarely committed by her patients. Other sexual acts that are not physically harmful are illegal as well and according to Ms. Munch psychologically damaging to children.

However the public might have a worse imagination about what even convicted paedophiles have done. Amongst the informants there are also voices who state that they are against any kind of intergenerational sexual relations but these are rather rare:

  • “Only in my fantasy do I experience my sexual preferences. I don’t watch child pornography and I don’t engage in sexual acts with children.”
  • “I am aware that children have no interest in sexual activities or a relationship with an adult like myself.”

In any case informants stated that other factors in a relationship between child and adult are more important:

  • “A hebephile relationship isn’t defined by shared sex but by the whole feel-good package of mutual interests.”

Harming a child would be the last thing they want:

  • “A paedophile who really loves children and who, like myself, appreciates especially the natural joyful lightheartedness of the children, would never do anything that could destroy exactly this natural joyful lightheartedness – and abuse would most certainly do so.”
  • “I have never and will never harm a child in any way.”

As said before the group of paedophiles are diverse individuals with different backgrounds and opinions, or as Bernstein put it

  • “identity groups [that] tend to splinter into ever more narrow categories” (2005: 51).

In spite of that they are viewed as one category from the outside based on one single attribute. This category very often includes that “all paedophiles are child molesters or potential child molesters”.

In no way do I want to belittle actual abuse that has happened and has seriously harmed children. However these cases should not provide the basis for a general stigmatization of all paedophiles.

Thus it is necessary to provide more information in order to enlighten the public. In an interview a representative of a foundation for child protection requests an open debate:

  • “If we want to make progress in the contact with paedophilic persons, we have to address the topic in the public…and we have to do it loudly, so everyone can hear it. In order to win, and especially to win for our children” (Das Erste, 2014).

My research has only opened a small window on the huge field of stigmatization of paedophiles in Germany. Further research should include more informants from different interest groups and possibly a wider spectrum of questions. Ideally in an interview setting instead of questionnaires where more depth is possible.

The media coverage in Germany has shown that paedophilia is an issue that needs further discussion in a public context. To close with a final quote of an informant:

  • “The public simply isn’t informed enough, there should be more enlightenment and more studies on this topic.“