The Moore Center of Johns Hopkins University has released <an online course> that is the first of its kind and extremely valuable. It will likely help reduce child sex abuse, and it will certainly help teen pedophiles, people facing a situation that is so difficult it is hard for most of us to grasp. Imagine that you have all the self-doubt and uncertainty that any teen has. You realize (after denial, anger, bargaining, etc.) that there is no escaping this stark fact: you are attracted to younger children. Society tells you that you are a monster and are doomed to molest a child. You likely know that if you confess your attraction to any professional, they may report you to police. Friends or family you dare to confide in will likely be embarrassed or not want to talk about it any more -- that's a reasonably positive outcome.

So, without the need to reveal their identity to anyone, this course gives young pedophiles information about how to deal with their attraction, with this key element: It never, not even once, implies that the pedophile is sick or evil or a bad person. It explains what behaviors constitute child sex abuse, and it describes how it is very harmful to the victims and the serious legal consequences. 

An entire chapter is devoted to disclosure. It starts with the presumption that you should not disclose your attraction, and then goes through the various dangers and difficulties and helps you find the specific people you might want to disclose to, how to do it, and how much to disclose. Much of society thinks of a pedophile as nothing but a potential molester, someone outside humanity whose happiness is irrelevant. As such they would support all pedophiles disclosing their attraction publicly to help keep children safe, whatever the cost to them. The course treats pedophiles as people who deserve happiness as much as anyone else, and their suggestions are much more realistic.

The course avoids categorical rules. It qualifies its suggestions, so a simplistic "Never be alone with a child" becomes instead "Avoid being alone with a child you feel a strong sexual attraction to". It gives a reason for every piece of advice offered, and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions based on information -- and allowing for the particulars of their situation. It assumes they have the capacity to draw the right conclusions. If they don't, categorical statements aren't likely to move them anyway. The course does categorically recommend that pedophiles obey the law, which is entirely appropriate.

The course includes many "testimonials", read by pedophiles describing how things were for them. These are very good, and among other things highlight how much variety there is in pedophiles.

The final chapter is on building a healthy sexuality. They note that most pedophiles have a significant attraction to adults too, and should work from that basis to build relationships. They do not talk about eliminating the attraction to children, which most scientists today agree is impossible -- however much the average person desires that outcome. As always, they emphasize the positive and constructive.

One of the most delicate issues is touched on only in the third and last personal "Account" in the final chapter, not in the actual text. What do you do with your sexuality if you just have no interest in adults? The speaker says, "if you're exclusively attracted to children, refocus your sexuality/masturbation on just getting pleasure from your own body. The advantage of the latter is that it's free and you can do it any time and there are lots of safe ways to do it." The course has (rightly) made it very clear that looking at child pornography is not an acceptable way to do it. But they don't address pictures of children in swimsuits, or from nudist colonies. They don't address material from "child modeling sites". And they don't address bringing to mind the image of the girl who lives next door while you masturbate.

They also don't address whether you might do those things in parallel with working on developing your attraction to adults, or whether you might continue to do them even if you do have an adult partner. There is an enlightened mindset regarding adult sexuality today that says it's OK for adults to fantasize about other adults (typically through pornography) even  in a committed relationship. This same mindset would also suggest this as a possibility for adults attracted to children (though not through actual pornography).

I can think of some good reasons for these omissions. The course designers may not agree with each other. What's legal may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction or not be legally settled yet. Detractors who dislike such a compassionate course for pedophiles might leap on such controversial suggestions. It is just as well to leave these issues unaddressed. The course has accomplished a great deal in getting to the point where these are the remaining questions.

On the whole, the course treats the teen pedophile as a real person, facing a real problem, and helps them solve that problem. And that is not a reaction they will get much of anywhere else! And while designed initially for teens, it will be helpful to pedophiles of any age.


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