In June of 2012, nearly 9 years ago, Nick Devin and I launched the website Virtuous Pedophiles. We got some interest from media and progressive scientists who study pedophilia. The interest has lessened along with the novelty, but it has not disappeared. They perceived us as something new. We were pedophiles who have never done anything sexual with a child, thought doing so was wrong, and had no desire to change society to make it accepted or legal.
Most of society had no conception of pedophiles who do not molest children. They still don't. Perhaps we chip away at their numbers bit by bit, but it is a very slow process. Everything else we do depends on the acceptance of that basic premise.
We have had more luck with professionals in the field, who are bound by their professions to consult facts when shaping their beliefs. Before Virtuous Pedophiles launched, ATSA's page included the phrase, "While virtually all pedophiles are child molesters, not all child molesters are pedophiles." When challenged on this by fellow scientists, ATSA quickly removed this quote.
Nick Devin and Ethan Edwards are pseudonyms and, like most pedophiles, we do not dare reveal our true names. Although we have never offended, we have good reason to fear loss of job, housing, family and social supports if our identities are revealed. Violence is also a possibility.
A common reaction is that people who hide are up to no good. The best way for a misunderstood minority to combat prejudice is to appear in public in large numbers as whole people, who like most others have good and bad traits but are basically good. This is precisely what we do not dare do. As a result, the public continues to be aware of only the pedophiles who are caught committing crimes. Prejudice makes us hide, and staying hidden prevents us from reducing prejudice.
The very existence of Virtuous Pedophiles depends on the web. Starting around 2000, enough people have been online that the members of just about any stigmatized group can find each other online while remaining anonymous. This includes pedophiles who do not offend or wish to change laws. Pedophiles who argue for the legalization and acceptance of adult-child sex have been visible online for some years longer. I have no explanation as to why anti-legalization pedophiles were late to find each other and make our presence known.
So how are we doing in relation to our goal of increasing tolerance and compassion for pedophiles? (We may define ourselves as anti-legalization pedophiles, but we care about the fate of others as well.)
There are a few encouraging signs. Some people, notably social liberals with an open mind, hear of the Virtuous Pedophiles message and are immediately on board. Their values tell them that everyone deserves acceptance as long as they don't harm anyone else, and those values make them fight against persecution of any group that qualifies. We qualify. As noted before, some scientists who study sexuality see the evidence of our existence and change their beliefs.
ASAP International has been able to create a directory of therapists who have experience dealing with pedophiles and are willing to work with us. They also have a 24-hour hotline for pedophiles to call who are in distress.
Virtuous Pedophiles has opened the doors to research on anti-legalization pedophiles, as there is a significant population of people who are willing to be studied, albeit anonymously. Research results have generally shown us in a good light.
There are many discouraging signs. Some of those therapists who are willing to take pedophiles as clients and treat them with compassion are reluctant to be listed publicly, for fear of the stigma that will attach to them from other therapists. Scientists who are sympathetic to us are reluctant to state their views strongly for fear of losing their funding or professional standing. These are not new problems.
Now, as for changes for th worse. The definition of what is considered illegal has broadened. Canada, Australia, and the UK have made text-only fictional depictions of adult-child sex illegal. Some crimes that are relatively minor are treated more harshly. Law enforcement agencies see fit to run sting operations to find men who are coaxed or entrapped into agreeing to meet a purported underage girl or boy for sex. A few US states have recently seen fit to make the mere viewing and possession of child pornography a mandated reporting offense (in contrast to, say, murder).
Recently social media platforms have banned pedophiles from participation, even if their message and goal is to reduce child sex abuse. Perhaps this is more a reaction to the proliferation of such groups and their awareness of it rather than a negative shift in attitudes. Similarly, emerging bans on child sex dolls are motivated by the technology that is good enough to create more realistic dolls.
Overall, the situation is not encouraging, but we are not alone. Those who work for righteous causes often agitate for decades or even centuries with little progress to show for it.
Changes have sometimes surprised people with their rapidity. US abolitionists in the 1850s saw absolutely no prospect of ending slavery in the US any time soon and assumed it would go on for many decades. In the 1980s the world faced a nuclear stalemate between the West and the Soviet Union, with no idea of how that confrontation could possibly end -- and great fear that the end would involve a nuclear holocaust. Although gay men and lesbians had been making progress, the universal acceptance of same-sex marriage happened more quickly than most people thought possible.
I heard a saying about the tech world that resonated with me: "Swing hard in case they happen to pitch the ball where you are swinging." This means that most projects fail because the circumstances are not right, no matter how hard the people on those projects worked or how clever they were. But a few projects work and are enormously beneficial. This statement also suggests a hopeful perspective -- all those who worked on failed projects were part of the whole that created useful and successful projects, and can deserve credit for their efforts.
Similarly, those of us working for the improvement in the conditions of pedophiles can swing hard, continuing to do our best even if no progress is in sight. Perhaps an unexpected development will give us an opening, and we will be rewarded if we are working hard in hopes of an opportunity emerging unforeseen.