In another forum, someone who is sympathetic to pedophiles wrote, "Ethan, everyone knows that you, a paedophile, would like to engage in some type of sexual contact with children, but few would actually believe that you don’t at least think about “doing it”. In the mind of most people, this always will stand against your position. Most believe that if you want it, you will do it."

In my <previous post>  I argued that celibacy is entirely possible and reasonable for pedophiles, I believe a great many are celibate, and a great many don't struggle with the issue at all.

Now I want to talk about the ambiguity of the language in that comment (which is just one example of a common problem) and how it hurts understanding. In ordinary life when people say they want something, it is often straightforward. They want it and the only possible obstacles are external ones. But in other cases, wanting is the result of balancing pros and cons. Someone who is dieting might say out loud, "I want a piece of cake" or "I don't want a piece of cake" to the person cutting the cake to reflect their final decision. But behind that are probably also the thoughts, "I want to eat that cake because it looks very tasty", and "I do not want to eat that cake because it is not part of my diet". Both are true whether the person ultimately decides to eat the cake or not.

To resolve the ambiguity, I propose we distinguish between "want-final" and "want-component". 

In the realm of sexuality, a person might say, "I want to have sex with this willing adult partner because it would be very pleasurable and satisfying." Cons might be, "I'm in a monogamous relationship with someone else", "I know they are hoping we'll become a committed couple and suspect they think sex will mean that, even though we haven't talked about it, and I don't want to hurt them" or "They are awfully drunk and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be willing if they were sober". Those are all want-components. The want-final emerges when they do or do not have sex with them.

If we turn to a child as a potential partner, the pro would be, "I want to have sex with this willing child partner because it would be pleasurable". The key con might well be, "I'm afraid there's a good chance they will be emotionally harmed by this later". Others might be, "They'll either have to keep a secret forever or else get involved in an upsetting investigation", and "I don't want to go to prison". So a pedophile wants-component to have sex with children, wants-component to avoid those bad consequences, and on balance does not want-final to have sex with a child. (If the child is unwilling, the key con would be, "I never, ever want-component to have sex with an unwilling partner!", determining the want-final easily.)

So when someone says, "you want to engage in some type of sexual contact with children", the language does not help us converge on a single meaning. If I say, "No I don't want that", it sounds like I'm denying that I'm a pedophile if you take it as "want-component". If I say, "Yes, I want that", it sounds like I'm not a virtuous pedophiles if you take it as "want-final". The right answer is "I want-component it, but do not want-final it". Or stated in more normal language, "I do have some desire to do sexual things with a child, but ultimately, in the final analysis I do not want that and would never do it." But the one formulation has terms that need definition,and the second one is long and unwieldy. I'd welcome people's suggestions for simpler wording that conveys the idea.

In conversations about adult sex, speaker and listener share assumptions so the ambiguities do not cause problems. "I so want to fuck my boss's wife" does not lead to, "Oh, dear! You want to rape her? Surely you know she doesn't want sex with you!" because both understand it is want-component. It is also assumed that the person is entirely capable of not trying to rape their boss's wife. They could have a discussion about whether the boss's wife is in fact interested in sex with the speaker, if appropriate, and whether the employee might have more "do-not-want-component" considerations about the implications of having sex with his boss's willing wife discovered. "I so want to fuck my boss's 12-year-old daughter!" will not go over easily in the same way because "no-sweat celibate pedophilia" is not widely understood. Even between pedophiles and hebephiles it might cause some consternation unless they know each other very well.

Another ambiguity pertains to "dream about" and "think of". For each there is a literal meaning, and also a figurative one that is just for emphasis. I've often been inclined to write, "I'd never dream of molesting a child", or "Molesting a child is unthinkable". (Somehow other appropriate expressions of emphasis don't come to mind. "I would never, ever molest a child" just doesn't have the same punch). They are both true enough in the figurative sense. But in the literal sense, I do daydream of doing sexual things with a child, and I do think about it. When some people think sexual thoughts about a child are horrible and others think they are OK if not acted upon, the ambiguity in those words gets in the way of understanding. Any ideas on how to resolve that problem?

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