'Harmful to Minors'
The perils of protecting children from sex
Lecture about the book of
Levine, Harmful for Minors,
Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 1 November 2002
children from sex is dangerous, says Levine in the subtitle.
At the congress of the World Association of Sexology in Paris in 2001, I have given a lecture [*],
and so did an American scientist, Michael Young. →
He told about his research project to find a way to promote Postpone Sex. It appeared that the teenagers did not postpone sex, but had sex in spite of that campaign.
Other research tells us that young people who officially promise to postpone sex tend to do it for only a few months. If they have sex, it is unprotected sex, usually quite long before their 18th birthday.
Thus, Young concluded
that he and his team had to continue the research to find the right
way to present the Postpone Sex message.
This corresponded precisely with the lecture given by Sanderijn van der Doef about Sexual education from birth to adulthood in The Netherlands.
The public reacted by saying things like 'You have a good country! It is an example to us! Continue your own course!'
The scientist Young reacted by saying that he surely wanted to do so, but that the school boards and the parents make this impossible. They simply don't want it.
Predictors of virginity and recent sexual involvement among rural adolescents
Young & Denny George, USA
The purpose of the study was to identify the role of educational aspirations, self-esteem, and religion in early sexual involvement. To develop programs that are effective in helping young people postpone sexual involvement, it is important to identify the antecedents of such involvement.
Voluntarily and with written parent permission, students from 15 rural school districts completed a study questionnaire in their regular classroom setting. Approximately 18 months later students completed the same questionnaire a second time. Completed questionnaires from both test times were received from 704 students. Data were analysed using logistic regression. Data from the first survey were used to predict behaviour at the time of the second survey.
For the variable "transition from virgin to non-virgin" only confidence in completing high school and plans to attend college were significant predictors of maintaining virgin status (r2.=.036). When separate analyses were conducted by gender no significant predictor variables were identified for males, but confidence in completing high school and plans to attend college were significant predictors for females.
For the variable "had sexual intercourse in the last month" significant predictor variables were age, church attendance, religiosity, peer self-esteem, home self-esteem, school self-esteem, confidence in completing high school, and plans to attend college (r2=.152). When separate analyses were conducted by gender, significant predictor variables for males included age and peer self-esteem. For females significant predictors were age, religiosity, and home self-esteem (r2=.225).
scores for home self-esteem, school self-esteem, religious variables and
educational variables were associated with a decreased likelihood of
engaging in sex. Increased age and higher scores on peer self-esteem
were associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in sex. Results
of the identify possible variables to address by those interested in
program to help young people postpone sexual involvement.
Levine mentions (on page 93) that 98% of the parents of a national sample of 2000 wanted a kind of education that would prevent AIDS, but that 97% of the same parents wanted this to be done by only highlighting abstinence during the sex ed lessons.
The idea that sex is a normative -- and, heaven forbid, positive -- part of adolescent life is unutterable in America's public forum. "There is mainstream sex ed and there is right-wing sex ed," said Leslie Kantor in 1997, when she was traveling the nation in her work for SIECUS. "But there is no left-wing sex education in America." She included her own organization in that characterization.
Just fifteen years after Joyce Purnick's newspaper denounced the idea of chastity as antediluvian, the New York Times columnist felt compelled to insert a caveat into her critique of the new abstinence-only regulations. "Obviously," she began, "nobody from the Christian right to the liberal left objects to ... encouraging sexual abstinence."
(Levine p. 93)
In the meantime, so she says, nearly all teenagers do have sexual contact. Thus, all those wise lessons referring only to abstinence, do not have any effect.
The Allan Guttmacher Institute, an institution promoting birth control and family planning, speaks about "a national epidemic of teen pregnancy" (p. 96). Other reports tell how many AIDS cases there are -- and that is worse: teenage pregnancy leads to new life, AIDS leads to death.
This is a sad story. Levine names one of her chapters: “Children who molest – the tyranny of the normal”.
Children who go in for whatever kind of childish 'sexual' behavior are immediately called 'molesters' or 'predators', the other children in the play are 'the victims'. There are no other concepts than predator and victim. 'Predators' will get a severe kind of 'treatment', 'the victims' will receive a more kindly form of 'treatment' -- but there must always be treatment if a child has any sexual experience. It is assumed that these children are sick.
There was a problem in a small town in the US, where a lot of children appeared to have played 'sex' or 'marriage' in the local wood. This was a case for the police, but the police had a problem: who were the molesters, who were the victims? The same child appeared in one play session as the molester, in another session as the victim. Nobody was able to imagine that the children simply had played a game with each other -- why should the only play 'cops and robbers', and not 'father and mother'? People was astonished and questioned how the children could have such dirty knowledge. Nobody had ever told them about it. Nevertheless, they knew -- and did.
Known world-wide is the case of the Swiss boy Raoul, who had helped his little sister go to the toilet, and whose neighbor woman had seen this. Immediately, the little boy was 'a molester'. He was sent to prison for punishment and 'treatment': he was 'a great danger'. The family has fled back to Switzerland -- fled because of the very real and great danger: the US way of thinking and doing about children and bodily matters.
In another case, a two-year boy who ran naked in his garden, was accused of the felony of exhibitionism. The parents were legally obligated to permit an investigation to denounce their, without any doubt, shameful way of bringing up their child. There are plenty of cases known concerning children around the age of ten, who are considered molesters, who have had to be treated and registered.. for life.
Tony was nine years of age and his sister Jessica was eight. Jessica had told at school that Tony had "touched her front and back". Because of a law from 1974, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the school had to report any kind of "suspicion of child abuse, even by a child, to the Child Abuse Hotline. So, an investigation started with which the parents were obligate to cooperate. If not, they are viewed as promoting abuse, which would be worse.
The record mentioned all Tony's sexual misbehaviors: at school he had spoken sexual language and had looked under girls' skirts. At four, he lay on top of Jessie in the bath. He had touched his sister's buttocks with a pencil and had poked her there. In the meantime, the testimonies of Jessica changed week after week.
The court decided that Tony, nine years of age, was guilty of sexual abuse of a minor. The report said that Tony was "a budding sex offender".
I quote Levine (p. 46):
Tony was to become one case in a new "epidemic," the "sexualization" of children; a new class of patient, "children with sexual behavior problems"; and a new category of sexual criminal perpetrator, "children who molest."
[...] As young as two, they are diagnosed and treated, and sometimes prosecuted, for "inappropriate" behaviors like fondling, putting things inside genitals, or even flashing, mooning, or masturbating "compulsively."
From the anecdotes I have gathered since reporting on Tony, it appears that sex play between siblings is considered the gravest, though ironically the commonest, species of a grave and not uncommon problem.
In my opinion, as a PhD in the special care and treatment of troubled children, this 'treatment' is no 'therapy'. It is only indoctrination and behavior modification based on the principles of Pavlov's dogs: giving reward or punishment just like animals in a circus.
Children who molest are accused of coercion, though often the "victim" complies willingly, enjoys, or does not notice the "abuse." And while some such kids are aggressive in other ways, such as fighting, stealing, or setting fires, their doctors practice under the assumption that any sexual acting-out is of a wholly different, and worse, order of behavior. So, with little supportive evidence, a new group of self-styled experts has persuaded the child-protective systems that "sex-offense-specific" therapy is necessary for any minor with a "sexual behavior problem."
This all concerns children. There are a lot of institutions with hundreds of programs which 'treat' these young 'molesters' ordered for treatment by the courts. Levine quotes a man who earns a good living by managing such a center: "Frankly," the man said, "it was a business decision." (p. 52)
"[...] who at fourteen in 1993 had been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and oral copulation with a minor, felonies punishable by three and eight-year terms of incarceration, respectively.
His crime, denied by both alleged participants, was asking -- or, depending on who told the story and when, allowing -- his ten-year-old sister to lick his penis. After much persuasion, Brian pled to the first count, for which he spent more than two years in the state's punitive custody.
When he went AWOL from one of his placements, the county sent a SWAT team: half a dozen squad cars with loudspeakers warning neighbors to beware of "a dangerous sex offender" and a helicopter buzzing the scrubby backyards of his father's community. Brian scrambled up a hill; an officer took chase and pulled a gun. The fugitive jumped a fence into the night. His mother finally, reluctantly, turned him in. "I was scared he was going to get himself killed," she told me.
A boy of ten had grabbled two girls on the school yard and was convicted of double rape. A mentally retarded boy of twelve had 'groped' his stepbrother, eight, in the bath. He had to register as a sex offender, a life-long label.
These days we are seeing that behavior that is quite normal for children is labeled as abnormal, criminal and sick. Schools receive long lists of behavior items which are to be reported and treated if observed (p. 52-53). It is scarcely permitted to even look at genitals, but "touches / stares at genitals" is listed under "Of Concern" and "sneakily or forcibly touches genitals" is under "Seek Professional Help". If children do not do this sneakily but openly, it is even worse.
Research about what is normal behavior for children is scarce. The most well known research was done by Friedrich e.a.[*]. Friedrich says he wrote his article to prove that much of what is called 'sexual behavior' in children is quite normal.
[*] Friedrich, William N; Fisher, Jennifer; Broughton, Daniel; Houston, Margaret & Shafran, Constance, R., Normative Sexual Behavior in Children: A Contemporary Sample, in: Pediatrics Vol. 101 No. 4, April 1998, p. e9
However, when I look at that list of so-called 'sexual behaviors', there might be something wrong with that list. I suppose that much of what is called 'sexual behavior' by the authors, is not considered 'sexual' by the children. "Walks in underwear", "Kisses people outside the family", "Stands too close", this kind of behavior. Childish behavior has now been sexualized; one labels as 'sexual' what is not felt or viewed as such by the children themselves. This is what's happening, Levine says.
In 1996, a new felony appeared in the law under the category of "other or unknown sexual abuse": "inadequate or inappropriate supervision of a child's voluntary sexual activities."
"All children, in other words, need to be protected from their own errant sexuality. And parents who take a laissez-faire stance regarding sex play are, by their failure to intervene, 'abusers'." (Levine, p. 53).
"[..] the North Carolina school administration overreacted almost ludicrously when it censured the freckle-nosed first-grader Johnathan Prevette for kissing a classmate. But since then, "zero-tolerance" rules on student flirtation have become more extreme in some places.
For instance, in 2001 the eight-year-old daughter of a Vermont acquaintance had the charge of "sexual harassment" entered in her elementary school record. Her crime: sending a note to a classmate asking if he wanted to be her boyfriend."
(Levine, p. 49)
Thus, all lovely bodily exchanges between children is 'sex' -- and sex is always traumatic. Quite simple, isn't it?
A psychologist (a scientist, isn't she or he?) was able to explain Tony's sick behavior. He or she
"wrote that Tony had "witnessed" his mother's rape, though he was only months old; thus, he had a history of abuse. Jessica's unwanted glimpse of a penis was added to her list of victimizations. One evaluator wondered whether [mother] Diane had a propensity for substance abuse. And because at the time Diane was more worried about Tony than about Jessica, who seemed okay, CPS decided Diane was "minimizing" the "molest" and judged her incapable of protecting her daughter. Tony was made a ward of the dependency court and removed from his mother's custody."
(Levine, p. 50)
... here we see a people and a culture in which one perfectly knows how to handle with weapons -- nearly every family has at least one -- but in which one absolutely does not know how to handle these two issues: children, and sexuality. It is a wonder that children still are born since they think sex is so dirty. However, the teenagers will want to keep trying. Clearly, also in the US, nature is stronger than doctrine.
The doctrine or ideology there seems to be Christian, but in my opinion it has nothing in common with Christianity. It has a lot to do with devilish conservatism and with a general intellectual limitation. Schools and education are quite bad in the US. People are scarcely able to find their own country on a world map, and surely one does not know the difference between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. People are limitedly educated, thus unsure, and trust in the modern gurus with their conservative and limited ideology. In the US, there are a lot of associations, foundations and institutions to lead the people in the right way, mostly subsided or paid for by the very rich.
It is a neurotic culture that has to maintain its own balance by creating scapegoats. Unfortunately, communism is over, and the gays are also outdated as scapegoats and fiends of the people. The solution is simple, let's take 'the pedophiles' as the next ones, a vulnerable group, and easy to catch.
I will not comment on it extensively, because the phenomenon is also well known in the Netherlands. It is a witch hunt, a hunt for a non-existing, unreal construction. The peril for children is not 'stranger danger' or the kind male neighbor. The real perils are the parents themselves with their guns and cars, their nearly permanent absence and their lack of contact -- and all those laws and institutions who aim to protect the children from the greatest danger: their own childish sexuality.
The main position of Levine's book is precisely that this kind of 'protection' is the real peril. The result of this 'protection' is ignorance, grief, unwanted children, unjust penalties, treatments that are not therapy and do not cure or heal, and deaths by AIDS.
It is a dangerous culture. By repressing sexuality, one calls aggression to life.
James Prescott has proved this [*]: cultures that suppress sexuality, especially for youths, are the most aggressive cultures. Cultures who do not suppress this, are far more peaceful. The latter do not search for a fiend, the first need a fiend. Regrettably, the communists are not good fiends nowadays. OK, no problem, let's take the Islamite. After all, we need a fiend.
[*] Prescott, James A., Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence, The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, November 1975, pp. 10-20
Let's quickly go to the second part of Levine's book, where we will find solutions and alternatives.
The second part
of the book has called up the exceptionally aggressive reactions.
Not everyone may recognize the situation sketched in the first part as somber.
But as soon as someone pleas for more room for youth and self-chosen relationships, all hell breaks loose, because of the fear of the combination of youth and intimacy.
same alternative ideas which have invoked such heavy reaction in the US, are
here, in the Netherlands, quite common. Here, we act more or less as Levine
Let us behold this.
... is the title of chapter ten. Touch is good for children and other living beings, lack of touch is not. These facts are well known since research was done in the '40s with hospitalized children.
Levine also mentions Prescott's research, mentioned here above.
"Anthropologists concur that America is an exceedingly 'low-touch,' high-violence culture" (p 179)
It is well known and proven that families who sleep and bathe together and who are not afraid of nudity, are, in all cultures and times, much better off and more peaceful.
"a Syracuse, New York, mother was picked up by the police and briefly jailed after she phoned a local hotline because she was panicked by the slight arousal she felt while nursing her daughter." (Page 180-181)
Parents are doubting every touch. Teachers and youth care workers do not dare touch any child. Men are not allowed to change diapers in day care centers. Fear, fear, fear...
... says Levine, is the basis of a sexually pleasant life. Nevertheless,
"[...] Republican members of the House of Representatives called for the resignation of Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, whose transgression was to suggest, in response to a question following a speech to sex educators, that masturbation was an appropriate subject for classroom discussion.
This remark, according to one congressman, was part of a social movement that was "killing the moral fiber of America" and just one symptom of a decline also manifested in reckless driving, an indecisive military policy-dubbed "mission creep," and homosexuals in the Boy Scouts." (p. 185)
Masturbation is an absolute taboo in the US. Many adults still think that they are the only ones who do such dirty things.
Do speak about it, says Levine, give names to all parts of the body, teach the children to speak about bodily matters. Respect and accept masturbation by children. Accept sexual games between children. Give a quiet reaction, not hysteria or panic as often happens. Teachers are quick to panic because of the fears of anxious parents. Better to encourage this kind of play, says Levine. Emphasize the importance of friendship and care for each other.
Do touch the children. Don't give them an armor of 'correct behavior'. Let children be children. Do not label everything about the body as 'sexual', including touching or caressing. "Our terror about sex actually 'sexualizes' behaviors that aren't sexual." (page 191). By doing so, we create fear of touching, fear of intimacy -- a bad education to later sex. Listen to the children and respect the knowledge they have about their body and sexuality. They know much more than we think. Respect their privacy, do not over-control the children.
This concerns all forms of intimacy except intercourse. The human body has many possibilities for contact and pleasure, so teach the children these possibilities. By doing so, children also learn to communicate about intimacy, they learn about relationships. Outercourse makes it possible to speak with boys and girls in the same terms; for outercourse, there are nearly no gender differences. Outercourse may also be an accepted and encouraged game between boys or girls without fear of referring to homosexuality. Outercourse gives adolescents the opportunity to interact intensively with each other without fear of pregnancy or deflowering. It gives many possibilities.
As we can expect, Levine pleas for an open and honest sex education from cradle to adulthood -- just like we use to do here in the Netherlands. For instance, tell about kissing. "How do you do that?" is a routine question on web sites on which youth may ask questions. The most uttered question is always "Am I normal?"
Teach the way to safe sex and speak positively about sexuality -- not only about illness, but also about pleasure and safety. Tell the children stories in which sexuality and relationships are normal aspects. Young people have a need for romantic stories and scenes. Tell the story of Romeo and Julia, a classic one in the world's literature. Don't panic if they appear to be able to find porno on the web: they learn a lot by doing so.
Fortunately, there are web sites nowadays to ask questions, with anonymity if wanted -- as long as the schools, libraries or parents do not filter away these web sites. The Web is an unique opportunity to give education about the sexual health of the body and the soul.
Use these possibilities at home and at school, don't be afraid of them, do not avoid them because of the fear of sexuality.
Desire resides in the body. You can feel your body. Listen to what your body has to say.
Girls also have sexual desires.
Fantasy is a way of exploring transgressive desire.
A girl can be both a "sex object" and a sexual subject.
Desire alone does not guarantee sexual satisfaction. One needs also contact, relationship, communication, skills and knowledge.
Even if the desire for a storybook romance is likely to be disappointed, the desire for sex that accompanies such fantasies is neither wrong nor harmful.
Love and lust are not the same thing, and love doesn't always make sex good.
Boys are more than hormone-pumping bodies.
A girl can be both a sexual object and a sexual subject. So can a boy.
"Dirty talk" need not be derogatory.
Sex causes vulnerability. And vulnerability has its benefits in sex.
isn't unmanly. It can unlock the clues to desire.
For us, here in the Netherlands, this is not even a point of discussion: give open and honest education about and possibilities for safe sex and birth control. But the Americans need a whole chapter in a book to argue that this results in safety and health, while always hammering at abstinence contrarily results in unsafety, illness and even death. Youth simply does not follow the abstinence advice, and if one makes love, one does unprotected. Adults are afraid of open education, it might encourage sexual behavior, and adults are afraid of the sexual behavior of youths.
There is still much aversion against and fear of homosexuality in the US culture. The same aversion and fear hinders youth from coming out - the result is sneaky and unsafe sex and avoiding the doctor and the drugstore for contraceptives.
A lot of school drop-outs are hidden gays who worry about their feelings and so give up on school. Many of the homeless youth in the US run away or are sent away from home because of their homosexuality.
There are also many people who have another culture than the 'correct' white and white-collar culture. Many people have an African or a Mediterranean culture -- great parts of the US population are Hispanics. In those cultures, youths are sexually active earlier and people tend to be more open about sexuality. Regrettably, the dominant white culture overrules this.
Levine uses much space to argue to stop dividing people into certain categories and then appoint some of them as 'the risk groups' and to approach them as such. This is the usual way of prevention, but it does not work at all. It does not prevent HIV or AIDS. These illnesses are spread among all groups of the population.
She also argues to respect the choices of people, including choices for sex -- for example prostitutes earning a living in order to survive. In those circles there is knowledge of contraceptives and the practice of safe sex.
"Sex" is, in the US language and culture, simply a synonym for "danger". It is this association that leads to what is called 'sex ed", but not an association with 'pleasure'. The words 'love' or 'real love' are connected with abstinence, not with shared intimacy. However, in a really loving relationship people want to make safe love -- more than short anonymous contacts. The word 'lust' is connected with 'danger', not with 'pleasure'. 'Lust is dirty', that's the association.
Levine also pleas for more community development and the promotion of close friendships. The American community is very fragmented, there is not much community living. One can easily be exiled from these communities. A gay is 'a queer', 'a stranger', an outsider. If there were more community feeling, there will be more motivation to keep the community safe for everybody.
These are the ways to prevent AIDS. Singling out risk groups and exiling them from the community does not work at all. It works contrarily.
She says that 'youth' in the US by association means the same as "undisciplined, rude, spoiled, and wild" (p. 219). No wonder, because one out of six of the population, including youth, lives in great poverty.
There are a lot of institutions that worry heavily about child sexual abuse, but widely spread poverty is abuse. Scarcely any institution worries about that. One is busy with sex -- better to say, to prevent sex -- not with well-being, food, housing, income or good education and medical care. A plea for such things is a synonym for political suicide. A plea for stronger and stronger legislation to ban child sexual abuse is a guarantee for re-election and a nice political career.
She rants and
raves against the conservatives
To repeat a well known story: most sexual abuse of children happens within the family -- especially the poor families, and there are a lot of them. A bit more economic certainty, some more community welfare, a feeling of shared responsibility for all our children would give somewhat more safety, also in sexual aspect.
"Family values endanger children at home and everywhere else" (p. 223).
In the US culture, there are quite few relationships outside the family. Contacts with neighbors, shopkeepers and other citizens are quite seldom and are discouraged. Children would benefit from those kind of contacts, but these contacts are prevented because of the fear of sexual abuse and to defend family values. Children are not viewed and approached as citizens, as members of a community. Children belong to nothing, except the family. And there, within the family, is the place where child sexual abuse generally occurs.
Children would benefit from a bit of self-knowledge, knowledge of their own body and feelings, the freedom to express feelings, some appreciation and self-respect, and some acknowledgement of their intuitive knowledge and skills. There is none of that at all.
Healthy food from a safe kitchen, natural green space to play and to make friendships -- there is none of that. Frequently, there is no pavement to walk safely on; only a highway for cars. This is the world that the rich and morally correct people have created for our offspring.
"Sex is not harmful to children. It is a vehicle to self-knowledge, love, healing, creativity, adventure, and intense feelings of aliveness. There are many ways even the smallest children can partake of it.
Our moral obligation to the next generation is to make a world in which every child can partake safely, a world in which the needs and desires of every child -- for accomplishment, connection, meaning, and pleasure -- can be marvelously fulfilled."
What might Levine’s book mean for us?
First, of course, it is a warning to not take the same direction as the US culture. We have to stay self-opinionated and defend and hold to our libertarian culture.
The same is necessary about Europe. The conservative policies of, for instance, France, Great-Britain, Ireland and Belgium attempt to force themselves onto us. In the E.U., many plans are cooked up to 'protect the youth', but which are in fact threatening the well-being of all.
So, there are proposals to describe 'a child' as anybody younger than eighteen, followed by proposals to forbid a lot of things to 'children', among which are sex and a healthy sexual development. Following those proposals, half of the European youth will be 'criminal' because they have sex before eighteen or because they make nude photos of each other. In fact, some of this kinds of laws have already passed in the Netherlands.
One thing that we all can do, and to which I am strongly devoted, is to be critical concerning what people say, the words, terms and concepts they use.
Are they logical?
Are the connections logical?
Are there false theories?
Does one blindly believe their convictions?
... the sentence "Sexual experiences are always harmful for children".
What is 'a child': fifteen and seventeen years olds?
What is 'sexual experience'? Making love in the school's bike shed? Trying French kissing? Exploring how gay sexuality feels? Cuddling of a child? Sharing the bath or bed? Seeing someone naked? Seeing daddy's dick?
What is 'harmful'? Is is sex 'too' early? What is 'too' early? What is normal?
What does 'always' mean? Is there any proof?
No, there is no proof. The conviction is only 'generally accepted', but never proved. The contrary has been proved.
The research of Rind et al. mentions a small minority of pervasive harm. Still too much, but not 100%. Where was that harm? It was mostly in girls who had been forced into incest within the family.
More recent research by Rind [*] concludes that nearly all gay boys have experienced their first sexual contacts during their teenage years, have wanted this and have felt these as positive. The experiences helped to form a positive gay identity.
[*] Rind, Bruce, Gay and Bisexual Adolescent Boys' Sexual Experiences With Men:
An Empirical Examination of Psychological Correlates in a Nonclinical Sample; in: Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30-4, August 2001
... to the words, plans and acts of people, especially if they want 'to protect the children'. Usually, this protection does not concern cars, air pollution or radioactive waste, but their own sexuality. Be especially attentive if these people show a certain fanaticism. Be attentive if they point to scapegoats. These people are afraid that a male teacher might touch their child -- not for discipline, but for comfort or caring.
Make a distinction between a little girl of five and a sturdy boy of fifteen. Make distinction between stroking or cuddling and intercourse. Make especially a distinction between feelings and acts.
Concerning pedophilia, this distinction has already disappeared in public language. "Convicted because of pedophilia", reads the newspaper. As 'pedophilia' is a feeling or desire, this is not possible. "Convicted because of sexual acts" might be correct. 'Pedophilia' and 'sexual acts' are not the same.
Make a distinction, first between pedophilic feelings and acts, and secondly between sexual and not-sexual feelings and acts. By thinking and speaking correctly, the whole story will be less scary. 95% of the people with pedophilic feelings will appear as humans, not as Dutroux-like figures. Dutroux, by the way, was not a pedophile according psychiatrists, but simply an egocentric man unscrupulously aiming for lust and money.
This is the common perception, but it is not correct. By doing so, the subject is not debatable. A correct definition refers to a desire or a feeling. How someone acts is a second and separate question. Feeling can never be incorrect or legally forbidden, only acts can. Therefore, make a distinction between feelings and acts. Then, the subject can be debated -- and becomes less scary.
Nowadays, people don't dare speak about these feelings. Because of this, obsession may be called up. Feelings may become bottled-up and become only more heavy and obsessive, thus more dangerous. We may see this at work, having heard of the enormous amount of people who apparently were obsessively downloading certain pictures from the Internet: several thousands, among whom were police officers, judges and priests. All of them secretly busy with their obsession. In a more open society there is no need for this.
In the modern treatment of predators, those feelings are declared as sick and forbidden, just as are fantasies and practically any contact with children. By doing so, the obsession becomes even more heavy. A vicious circle is maintained.
Make a distinction between feelings and acts, between sexual and non-sexual feelings and acts. By doing so, one may speak more openly and honestly, and obsessions and depressions will diminish. In a more open minded society, such feelings need not grow into obsessions. That creates a more attractive and safe environment for the children.
According to Levine: combating the sexuality of children and youths is the real peril to minors.