When I first emerged online as Ethan Edwards, in 2012, I took many things for granted. Now, nine years later, restrictions and limits have been placed on many of those things.

In some cases, laws have been changed to outlaw things:

People could write and post text-only fiction describing adult-child sexual activity. In the interim, Canada, the UK, and Australia have banned such stories. It is only the U.S.'s strong First Amendment that keeps such laws from being passed in the US.

It would be legal to create, sell, and own dolls suggesting anything that technology could devise, including child dolls with orifices that could accept penises. Most jurisdictions are working to make such dolls illegal if they have not already.

Child pornography was clearly illegal, but with your psychotherapist you surely could talk about your struggle with trying not to view it. You could be sure that confidentiality restrictions would prohibit the therapist from revealing this to anyone else. Now, in some states (California, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, last I knew) the viewing of child pornography is a mandated reporting offense -- not only can the therapist break confidentiality and report it to authorities, they are subject to sanctions if they do not.

In other cases, it is commercial pressure that has changed the landscape:

Technology companies supported websites unless they had a strong reason not to. This included those related to pedophilia as long as they didn't directly encourage or facilitate illegal activity. Now, activists will find Company X, identify its other customers, and ask those customers if they want to do business with a company that supports pedophiles. Company X will in response stop hosting anything to do with pedophilia. Nine years ago, you could use your credit card to buy just about anything. Now, you cannot buy from child modeling sites because due to activists' demands, there is no way to pay for the material.

Pedophiles liked to look at YouTube videos of kids just being kids, and the YouTube algorithms suggested more and more of them. Their comments sometimes revealed that they were pedophiles. When the public discovered this, they were outraged, and Google responded by prohibiting comments on child-related videos, restricting what could be posted, and disrupting the algorithms suggesting the next video in those cases.

Sometimes companies got the message before public pressure is applied and change with the times. Nine years ago, anyone could surely write a blog on the subject of pedophilia if it didn't suggest anything illegal. Now most blogging platforms prohibit blogs related to pedophilia, regardless of what the authors say -- this very blog was banned from blogger.com in 2020 for violating that rule.

This is only a partial list, and I suspect I have the details wrong in some cases. Everyone is strongly opposed to child sex abuse and child pornography -- that it is a given. However, it sure looks like the public has also become less and less tolerant of pedophilia -- it is the attraction itself that people despise, and if any evidence of that attraction can be seen, there is pressure to eliminate it.

There is another possibility -- it is not that the public has become less tolerant, it is that they do not instantly follow technological developments. There is a sort of "Wild West" situation when new technologies first appear. Starting with the new millennium, the web made available a host of new forms of sharing information. Some were clearly illegal, such as child pornography. Governments quickly discovered this and took action, with the effect that it was driven into the anonymity of the dark web. It took longer to discover and react to legal manifestations of pedophilia. People were just as outraged about celibate pedophilia in 2012 as they are today, it's just that they were not aware of where it was showing up back then. As they became aware of it, they took action, and it looks much like increasing intolerance for pedophilia.

Society is now grappling with another very serious set of problems posed by the web. One is deliberately shaping public opinion by way of misinformation -- systematic, never-ending lies. Another is fomenting hatred. Another is revealing information that was meant to be kept private -- confidential communications, or large sets of customer data. Demanding ransom money to not destroy a company's data is another. The public (and their elected governments) are trying to figure out how to react.

From where I sit, pedophiles expressing or exploring their attraction in harmless ways is a good thing. To the extent society disagrees, I would have hoped they would express their disapproval and prohibit a few instances of "low-hanging fruit". Instead, they have used all means at their disposal to clear the web of anything related to pedophilia.

Progress on acceptance of pedophilia has been slow. On the surface, it looks like the public is becoming less and less tolerant. I find it a slight encouragement to hypothesize that attitudes are not actually getting less tolerant, it is just that it has taken time for those attitudes to express themselves in new areas that technology has opened up.


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