I haven't blogged in a long time ( 6 months, it looks like. This post I return with is not a very hopeful one.
Part A, Emotional Challenge
I fear what I paint below is a rather bleak picture. It comes from a decade of listening online to those who are tolerant of pedophilia and the great many who are not.
It's a dialog, but starts with a long opening statement by "Them":
I will protect my children with whatever it takes, and careful thinking doesn't enter into it. If there is a danger to my children, very strong feelings are already in play. The emotional temperature is already high.
Who ever heard of a pedophile who doesn't look at child pornography or molest children? Have I heard of even a single one in the news? I don't know any personally. If one claims to exist, why should I believe them? Watching child pornography and child sex abuse are both done in private.
When I am judging something, a major emotional source is a common image. What does this thing look like? Pedophilia looks like a man in private with a child, penetrating them, causing them pain and emotional distress, and threatening them not to tell anyone. That's a powerful image igniting rage at this pedophile, and tenfold if it is my child.
What's the point of someone who isn't a criminal saying they're a pedophile? They know they're going to make me uncomfortable. What do they want? It's not going to be a joke. No one ever heard of an ordinary person saying, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to tell people I'm a pedophile when I'm actually not! I'd fool them!" So if they're going to risk feeling my wrath, they must want something big. What's big? They want permission to have sex with my kid. I've got an answer to that one all right! If they have to ask, they're not just evil, they're an idiot.
A joke asks what happens when you cross a Jehovah's Witness with a Unitarian-Universalist. Answer: Someone who comes around knocking on your door for no apparent reason. The message "Follow our path and be saved! Don't and you're damned!" is a big deal. You can see why people who believe that would come knock on your door. "Join us in determining your own beliefs about God and morality, which might well be different from everyone else's, but join a community of seekers that respect each other." Huh? You knocked on my door to tell me that?
So you've upset me by saying you're a pedophile. What do you want?
Us: The first thing we want is the ability to seek therapy without being reported to police.
Them: You're probably molesting kids or looking at child porn, so it's a good thing if police look you over.
Us: The next thing we want is the ability to admit who we are and not face hatred and ostracism.
Them: Seems to me the odds you're a child molester are nearly 100%...Why wouldn't I ostracize you and hate you -- assuming I kept myself from beating you up myself?
Us: We didn't choose to be this way. We just realized that's the way we were, when we turned 14 or so.
Them: I don't believe God would make anyone so vile. You must have done something to deserve it.
Us: What if it was your son?
Them: It couldn't be my son. If it was I'd beat him up myself (which is just words because it couldn't be).
Them again: Suppose you're a grown-up and you get a digestive problem and mess your pants. Don't come telling me about it -- go home, clean yourself up, and come back when you're clean. Same with your pedophilia.
Part A is not a very promising beginning. I would like to say it's unrealistic, but I can't say that with much conviction. The same ideas, expressed more politely, are everywhere.
Part B -- Difficulties Being Seen
There are no innocent or celibate pedophiles within that emotional framework. How can we find some to show to them? A first step in getting some sympathy is establishing existence.
This is very hard. How can we come close? Are there any other groups anything like us?
For lots of Americans, lots of the time, the only news they hear of Muslims is about terrorists. So there is a strong tendency to label Muslims terrorists. This is real and serious discrimination. And yet if the news cameras go out into enclaves of our cities, they can capture on film Islamic populations including lots of women and children, living in families. It really does contradict the idea that they're all terrorists. There's a way to challenge the prejudice.
No TV camera can sweep across a room of smiling, joking pedophiles who have done nothing wrong. There are no such groups for the cameras to capture.
Why are the cameras limited to capturing a very few "out" innocent pedophiles like Todd Nickerson, Ed Chambers, Gary Gibson, and Paul Christiano (before he killed himself)? These people not only have constraints on their life, they fear for their safety, so it's no small wonder others are very reluctant to join them.
"Them" in Part A already gave us the representative image of the pedophile molesting a child. What other image would we like to create instead? A pedophile just talking and playing innocently with a child does no good, because it just looks like a pedophile grooming the child for later molestation.
Suppose we try looking inside the mind of this pedophile. Here's more dialog:
Them: What does it mean to be attracted to children? Do you just fantasize about getting pleasure out of harming a child, even if you don't actually do it? That doesn't sound very appealing at all -- not something I connect with or want to be tolerant of. If I'm an ordinary guy I don't fantasize about hurting a woman.
Us: No, in my fantasies the children are happy participants.
Them: But they wouldn't ever be happy participants, and if you think they might be, then you don't know children -- you're out of touch with reality.
Some of Us: So maybe I'm not attracted to real children at all, but to people who look like children but are imaginary beings.
Others of Us: My attraction just stops when I notice how sexy I think they are, and I don't seriously consider doing anything about it.
Them: So how is that a sexual attraction to children?
Us: I'll try an example. A stretch for the same situation. Suppose they're a strong gay guy (a bear) who's into small young-looking gay men (twinks). There's some guy who looks like a twink, but he's 100% straight and in fact hates gay people. So if you as a bear fantasize about sex with him, aren't you fantasizing about rape?
Them: Well, no, because I'm fantasizing that he's gay instead of straight. It's not that big of a transformation. I mean, no little girl wants sex with any man, ever. There's a much bigger gap between that little girl and a sexual partner than there is between my straight twink and a gay one. The straight guy probably wants sex with someone (a woman), just not me.
Them continues: If you're attracted to children, and you don't offend, that means you never, ever in your life, not even once, have sex with a partner. Is that really credible? Who can do that? I expect that desire will overcome your good intentions at least a few times. And that risks ruining some child's life.
Us: Among all the men in the world, there are quite a few who just can't get a date -- or not with a woman who will have sex with them. Many have no interest in prostitutes. Even so, the vast majority of them never, ever rape a woman. Pedophiles are in the same position, and a great many never molest a child.
Them: I don't know about that. You ever hear of "Incel"?
Parts A and B look pretty bleak.
Part C -- Causes for hope, unfortunately not very specific
There are those who believe that every person has worth and dignity.
There are those who believe it is our obligation to pause before judging some other human being -- to reach out and try to understand them, however unfamiliar to us they might seem.
There are those who believe that people are innocent until proven guilty, and that no one deserves to be punished or have their actions restricted based on what they might do as opposed to what they have actually done.
There are those who understand that pedophilia is not chosen and cannot be changed.
There are those who understand that pedophiles cover the same range as any other group of people in terms of self-control and moral compass. That means that most of them will choose to never commit a serious crime.
These are basic tenets of what I might call social liberals who cherish civil liberties. A lot of people believe these things.
For those people who believe Part C with their heads but resonate with Parts A and B with their hearts, they have a conflict to resolve.