In the classic formulation, there are five stages a person goes through in adjusting to a painful loss:

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

Pedophiles must go through their own path in accepting their attraction to children, and their families and friends have a closely-related path. That is a topic for another day.

In this post I want to look at the process that a typical non-pedophile goes through when coming to accept realistic and tolerant ideas about pedophiles. The core Virtuous Pedophile message is that pedophiles have an attraction they did not choose and cannot change, but they can resist molesting any children. If they do they are good people and deserve all the same compassion and understanding as anyone else. I have gotten to see how people react to that message a great many times -- notably in the comments section of online postings.

The starting position is that pedophiles are outside of humanity. Their sexual urge is to harm innocent children, and all have molested children or will shortly. They are foreign, devious, and evil. How does pedophilia start? There are good people and bad people, and the badness of bad people emerges in different ways. Badness in pedophiles shows up as a sexual attraction to children. It is fundamentally a form of sadism -- a desire to cause pain. Pedophiles are enemies, pure and simple, and no further thought about their nature is required. There are no holds barred in combating enemies.

However, people are sometimes confronted with a series of uncomfortable facts that require them to re-examine this view. You can see elements of the five stages of grief in their reactions.

An uncomfortable fact is that most pedophiles are as lovable as any other child, but they find out around puberty that they are attracted to children. They are horrified and disgusted by the idea, and they wish they weren't. Although they feel the attraction, many are clear they absolutely never will harm a child. That doesn't fit the evil enemy model very well. One form of denial is to conclude such pedophiles don't really exist and are just devious political fabrications on the road to normalizing adult-child sex. But this denial is likely to be challenged because there are respected professionals who make this same claim.

Another reaction is anger. "It makes me incredibly angry to consider that such pedophiles might exist. The idea that they might not be evil means that basically good people have a gross and disgusting sexual attraction. Your existence is not OK with me and it pisses me off!"

"You should just shut up and go away!" Anger here blends into denial. To an individual, not having to know about non-offending sexual attraction to children is akin to not believing it exists.

Then we get to bargaining. OK, maybe such pedophiles exist. Maybe that's livable as long as they realize they have a sickness and are willing to undergo therapy to get cured. Well, unfortunately the top experts all agree that they can't be cured -- they're stuck with the attraction. Well, in that case they have an obligation to kill themselves to make sure they never harm children. It fits well with the rage I feel, and yet... there's absolutely no one else who has done no harm where we recommend suicide. It's not realistic. However, there is chemical castration -- that should fix them! We never make any other group take heavy-duty drugs if they haven't done anything wrong yet, and it isn't any foolproof cure either. Maybe I could live with the idea of pedophiles continuing to hold their attractions as long as they hate themselves thoroughly and unconditionally, and recognize that their entire purpose in life is to make sure they do not offend against children. Admittedly, that is a limited life. We never ask any other group of people to do that, and we certainly don't until they have committed a crime. None of these bargains is looking so good.

But damn it, pedophiles just shouldn't exist! We're cycling back to denial and anger.

Denial, anger, and bargaining. Depression is next.

When we evaluate people's emotional reactions over the web, we do it based entirely based on what they type. When dealing with depression, you imagine the most likely response would be to stay silent, engaging on the web only with other topics. But you also see some active indications of depression. It's so sad nature has made people who can never fulfill their sexual desires and can't be cured. It's sad that they exist and face such miserable lives.

The desired result, of course is acceptance. I've described examples of the other four stages, but the fine print describing the five stages of grief will always tell you that the stages don't always all occur, nor do they occur in the same order, nor do you move cleanly from one stage to the next -- it's a framework but a very loose one.

Some non-pedophiles can skip this whole process. They hear of non-offending pedophiles and are on board and accepting at once. I associate them with those who would say, "Thoughts and fantasies are free, and anything you do without harming anyone else is just fine!"

But here's a sketch of final acceptance for the others: I'd rather not have to know it, but non-offending pedophiles exist and are not evil. Yes, it makes me angry. Pedophilic attraction is the desire that leads to the horror of child sex abuse, and it still makes me angry even if in their case the desire is kept strictly under control. But there's no known humane way to make it go away. You can't really tell someone not to live a life at all when they've never done anything wrong and quite probably never will. The situation is depressing and not what I want.

However, I have to accept that while pedophiles have desires that are foreign to me, they have a place on earth too and it is my duty to accept them as long as they do not offend. As full members of the human species, I must treat them as fellow humans. They have the right to presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. They have the right to compassionate confidential psychotherapy. They have the right to live and work where they will and are able. They have the right to fantasize, in one instance by way of text-only erotic stories describing adult-child sex.

In the five stages of grief, the loss is often plainly unavoidable. If you have a fatal illness, you will die. When it comes to accepting non-offending pedophiles, there is nothing inevitable about the transformation. People can stay at any of the stages of grief, or indeed never even start, continuing to believe that the only good pedophile is a dead pedophile. And yet most people strive to be good. They figure they ought to have a good reason for condemning others. Their conscience pulls them along the path of grief towards acceptance of non-offending pedophiles.

Maybe recognizing the stages of grief will help move them along the path more comfortably.




  • Robert Hillman  
    Hi Ethan,

    Brilliant analysis and clever use of the grief model. I think it is even more apropos because in the grief model there is the inevitability that we have to resolve the issue of someones death. Because death is permanent. So is pedophilia. If you got it. And if you do, the is the inevitability that you must deal with it is permanent.

  • Skye  

    This is great. You are such an inspiration to me!
    I seem to still struggle at times with all these stages at times even though I am almost 60. Keep blogging!3

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