What would a perfect pedophile look like? Of course I'm talking about a perfectly ethical pedophile, not "the perfect child molester" on the model of "the perfect criminal". Also, all humans are imperfect in countless ways, so a more accurate description of the goal would be a person who handles his pedophilia perfectly. And let's assume a male pedophile attracted to girls, to keep things simple, and an exclusive pedophile, to keep this challenging -- no sexual attraction to adults. Enough with the preliminaries.

The perfect pedophile would be at peace with his sexual attractions. He would feel no self-hate based on something he did not choose. He would not struggle to change what cannot be changed.

He would realize that his only sexual outlets are solitary ones. Since sexual satisfaction is a good thing and unresolved sexual tension is stressful, he would masturbate fairly often to thoughts of the small girls who he is attracted to. He might also use some visual aids. He would strictly avoid child pornography, but would understand that mainstream child actresses and fashion models are freely offering their images to the world with no sexual overtones. The fact that he finds the innocent pictures alluring poses no ethical problem.

As regards real children, it goes without saying he would not molest them. His goal would be to never act in any way differently than a friendly adult who had no sexual interest in children. He might form a friendship with a small girl if she was interested and her parents approved, but there would be no secrets, and he would scrupulously follow the rule that he would do nothing he would not do if the parents were there watching every interaction.

The perfect pedophile described above violates no laws. But he also violates no social norms and causes no waves. He is undetectable.

The perfect pedophile might also decide that he would for his own peace of mind rather avoid children in his life as much as possible. Even diabetics with complete self-control might elect not to hang out in candy shops.

Even if his pedophilia remains undetectable, there could be imperfections behind the scenes.

A perfect pedophile would not seek out child pornography. If nothing else, it poses a very serious legal risk to him. My impression is that this is the most common way that pedophiles in the internet age are imperfect.

Another way a pedophile could fall short of perfection is in feeling some temptation to act, including simply acting in ways that could make others uncomfortable. This nearly perfect pedophile would be aware of his feelings and make sure that if they seemed to be going in a direction inconsistent with his friendly, innocent presence he would do his best to stay out of any such situations. He might decide to limit his participation in family activities with nieces and nephews, even if other adults pressure him to keep participating.

A pedophile who refrains from sexual activity with children is meeting the most important requirement of handling his pedophilia well. He is virtuous. How realistic a goal is this? For an exclusive pedophile, this means lifelong celibacy. The idea in certain circles today that this is a nearly impossible goal is a recent one. Most religious traditions recognize a class of people who choose celibacy to focus exclusively on service or contemplation. Notable examples are Buddhist or Hindu monks and Catholic priests and monks. Pedophiles are forced into this condition instead of choosing it freely, but there are analogs among ordinary people too. Some people are physically or emotionally unable to engage in satisfactory sex with a willing adult partner, and somehow they manage. Very few become rapists.

A less obvious cost to exclusive pedophilia than celibacy is loneliness -- being without a partner to share a life with. Adult relationships are often possible. One typical way is with a partner who is not very interested in sex, and the pedophile can make the sex work even though his attraction is minimal. However, many pedophiles -- including those who are non-exclusive and feel genuine sexual attraction to an adult partner -- are uncomfortable feeling like they are keeping a big secret from their partner, so they feel a relationship is not possible for that reason. Others confide their pedophilia to potential partners, and the great majority of the time that is the end of a budding relationship. In the end, many pedophiles are unable to have a life partner.

Of course good lives have far more to them than sex and partnership. Career, friends, extended family, service to others, sports, hobbies -- all are open to the perfect pedophile as they are to anyone else. It's a fair guess that there are many men out there who could have sex with women if they wanted to, but are so busy and engrossed with other things that they don't get around to it.

I have been close to a perfect pedophile, but I am not exclusive. I was also aided greatly by not realizing it until I was over 50, and had already been married an raised three daughters. (The idea of a pedophile being perfect by never at any point realizing his condition is an intriguing one, but not of much practical importance.)

No one can be perfect. But handling pedophilia with near perfection is entirely feasible, and a great many pedophiles do it.

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