One argument that pedophile haters make is that since pedophilia is a risk factor in child sex abuse, we should hate pedophilia more -- and send all pedophiles to prison for years if we discover their condition, perhaps because they were caught looking at child pornography.

I was trying to think of analogies to help clarify the issues (as I often do). What else do some people have that others do not that can harm others if they give in to sexual desire and have sex with them?

HIV seems like a reasonable match. Let's rewind the clock to 1990 or so in the US, after the disease was fairly well understood but before effective treatment existed -- a time when an HIV infection was a death sentence.

It is possible to have relatively safe sex with HIV if you avoid sexual intercourse or if you use a condom. But many in the gay community were unwilling or unable to follow those rules. A great many continued to engage in risky behavior even when they knew it could kill them. Some who knew they were HIV positive did not reveal this to their partners and infected them -- sentenced them to death. Their partners were not sufficiently informed to give valid consent -- a parallel to child sex abuse. Although some faced prosecution for this, the vast majority did not.

A pedophile doing sexual things with a child doesn't kill them, but it can cause severe lifelong emotional distress. Pedophiles rarely engage in intercourse that is physically damaging to the child, and often don't engage in intercourse at all, but that does not seem to matter much in terms of the risk of emotional distress. While the risk is real and serious, the <Rind et al studies> showed that such activity usually does not cause severe distress. In this it is like unsafe sex with HIV, which is often not harmful.

While HIV did lead to increased hatred of gay men, it was among people who were already inclined to hate them. Others of a more liberal temperament instead had compassion for the men whose sexual desire led them to engage in risky behavior, and even for those with AIDS who did not inform their partners.

Some people who contracted HIV in 1990 were totally innocent, such as those who got it from blood transfusions. But IV drug users who shared needles and men who engaged in unsafe sex with men were the vast majority of the new infections. They had put themselves in harm's way. In contrast, no pedophile has ever gotten the condition based on anything they have done -- it arises completely independently of how someone lives or what they do.

Some pedophiles do molest children, though the sadistic stereotype of physically overpowering a struggling child is extremely rare. The vast majority of the time the child is willing or at the least not objecting in an obvious way. Many non-pedophiles also molest children, and form a large majority of the perpetrators against young teen girl victims.

Even today, an HIV infection is no joking matter. It requires lifelong medical care, the therapy often has unpleasant side effects, and it significantly shortens life expectancy.

HIV infection is a risk factor in infecting others with HIV. Although infected people know they shouldn't, some take those risks and infect others. But do we hate those with HIV infections? Do we suggest they deserve to go to prison because of what might happen if they don't do what they should? No. So why would anyone hate a pedophile or support his removal from society based on what he might do? Although no one has good statistics, a great many pedophiles -- likely a large majority -- never molest children.

I mentioned that pedophiles are often detected because they are caught watching child porn. Let's contrast this with the gay men who engaged in unsafe sex knowing it might kill them. We sympathize because a sex drive is a powerful thing. We might have some sympathy for pedophiles who also engage in sexual behavior with an apparently willing child -- even while we insist it is always wrong. But in looking at child porn, pedophiles are directing those powerful sexual energies in a way that harms no one. That deserves far more sympathy. Sending them to prison for years has no legitimate purpose and is profoundly unjust.

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