Pedophiles choosing to work with children -- sections:

"Key points"
"What makes a pedophile an OK pedophile?"
"VP members views on choosing to work with children"
"Is it dangerous for pedophiles to choose to spend time with children?"
"Aside from not molesting children, how should a pedophile lead his life?"
"Pedophiles and volunteering with children: getting specific"
"The effect of secrecy and failure to disclose"
"Should pedophiles volunteer with children? Biased data sets"
"What will the effects of this advice be?"
"Pedophiles and tolerance"
"A hard sell"


"Key Points"

Although I am a co-founder of Virtuous Pedophiles, this post represents only my own views.

In the spirit of a "tl;dr" or "Abstract" or "Summary" I will put here the key possibly controversial points in this long blog post.

We pedophiles are human beings whose lives matter as much to us as yours do to you. People of good will should support our efforts to build the best entire life we can, and see us not just through the lens of our potential for molesting children.

Like any other adult, a pedophile is responsible for identifying situations where their behavior might harm others and take steps to make sure that doesn't happen. In our case, that includes choosing to relate to children and the risk of child sex abuse. In some cases it is absolutely clear that the right choice is not to.

Pedophiles are fully justified in not revealing their attraction to others because of enormous prejudice against them. Children would be somewhat safer if pedophiles could discuss their situations freely, but society has made it unrealistic for them to do this.

A pedophile's sexual and romantic attraction to children can be and often is sublimated into an entirely appropriate affection and interest in children.

For pedophiles who feel an emotional congruence with children, telling them not to spend time with them is forbidding a major opportunity they have to build a good life. It is not like forbidding some hobby or pastime among a set of dozens.

For better or worse, a large proportion of Virtuous Pedophiles members would consider volunteering with children under the right circumstances. Many already have, and reports of abuse or the danger of abuse are very rare.


"What makes a pedophile an OK pedophile?"

Before 2012 or so, it seems most people (including professionals in the field) believed virtually all pedophiles would molest children soon or later. Within that framework, there was no such thing as an OK pedophile.

Ever since the days of NAMBLA, the most notable message I heard from pedophiles was that adult-child sex was fundamentally OK if only laws and societal attitudes changed. This view is in some ways worse than being a molester, since it rules out a crime of passion that a person later regrets. It instead indicates premeditation and lack of remorse. They might swear they would not do anything sexual with kids until/unless laws changed, but since most people think such changes to the law would be horrible, a pledge to obey the law now becomes a footnote, and one of questionable credibility at that. The web today may be anonymous in general, but if you admit to molesting children, you are inviting negative attention from not only your service provider but from law enforcement. That's a sufficient motivation for many people to deny they molest children.

In 2012, a bunch of us pedophiles came together under the name Virtuous Pedophiles. The founding principle was that adult-child sex was wrong, and we did not seek to make it legal or accepted. We had never molested children. Many of us felt certain we never would, and others were hopeful we wouldn't if we received support and help. There was a previous scientific consensus that pedophilia was not a chosen condition and could not be changed. Here was a group of pedophiles that were arguably OK. 

The key elements to being OK were (1) sharing society's belief that adult-child sexual activity was always wrong, (2) a determination to never abuse any children, and (3) an attraction to children that was not chosen and could not be cured. There was no need for us to say that we opposed the production of child pornography (the phrase more widely used today is "child sexual abuse material," or CSAM), because making it was abusing children, and recording it surely could do nothing but make it worse.

In 2012, when Virtuous Pedophiles got approving reviews from some professionals and some positive media exposure, that is where things stood. There were some other lurking issues, but it's worth stopping to reflect that they were secondary considerations. Molesting children (or wanting to change the laws to allow it) was the key complaint against pedophiles, and those who didn't were fundamentally OK.

What were those other issues?

Could a pedophile deliberately fantasize sexually about children, perhaps based on legal images (or text-only erotic stories, or child sex dolls)? Could they feel OK about their attraction instead of despising it? Could they fantasize about children they knew? Could they sit on the park bench and enjoy watching the children play 30 yards away because they were sexy? Back in 2012, I don't recall many people asking.

Could a pedophile passively watch CSAM and still be OK? This is a hot and controversial issue, and has become more so in the past ten years. Everyone knows that what a pedophile does alone in private based on images passively downloaded does not harm a child in the same way as face-to-face child sex abuse. But the indirect effects are enough to make the person a "not OK pedophile" in the eyes of a great many. But that is a subject I have already written about a great deal, including 41 blog posts here:

Finally, could pedophiles choose to spend time with children? Spending time with children could be a step on the road to molesting those specific children. A few people have raised this issue and brought it to my attention in the past few years. It deserves its own consideration in the sections that follow.


"VP members views on choosing to work with children"

Based on recent polling without the Virtuous Pedophiles peer support board, the overwhelming majority would consider working with children under the right circumstances, and a great many already have. Reports of this leading to offending or a serious danger of offending are very rare.

This is not to say that these pedophiles made a wise or justifiable choice -- that is a separate topic. But their self-report in this regard is itself a fact that should be incorporated into anyone's appraisal of the overall situation.


"Is it dangerous for pedophiles to choose to spend time with children?"

Choosing to spend time with children could include among other possibilities family social gatherings, babysitting for family members, volunteering with formal organizations (like the scouts, youth sports teams, or Sunday schools), informal volunteering, paid employment of limited term (like being a camp counselor), or a full-time career, for instance as a teacher.

Sometimes choosing to spend time with children is clearly a bad thing. People with antisocial tendencies who are attracted to children should not do this. "Antisocial" here means roughly that they have trouble with self-control, rationalize their bad behavior, and blame other people for their own failings.

The next circumstance that makes it bad requires a bit of explanation. One important part of being a responsible adult is to evaluate any sort of activity or situation for potential dangerous consequences and avoid them if necessary. For instance, if you are an alcoholic or well on the way to becoming one, then you should not drink. This is especially true if while drunk in the past there have been specific negative consequences such as assaulting others or the grave risks of driving while intoxicated.

So the next way working children is bad is when a pedophile notices that a sort of situation is seriously tempting them to offend. We expect them, like any other adult, to do whatever it takes to avoid those consequences, and if that involves limiting what they do with children, that is what they must do.

Someone might try to claim that pedophiles are not responsible adults. There are some classes of adults who are not considered competent to make decisions about some of their behavior. The severely intellectually disabled and the seriously psychotic would be examples. If anyone thinks pedophiles should be placed in the same category, they should find some solid evidence to back up their claim. There is some scientific evidence that pedophiles are on average less intelligent than teleiophiles, but the suggested difference is nowhere near large enough to warrant considering pedophiles to not be competent adults.

There was one instructive case regarding pedophiles evaluating their own risk that came up in the Virtuous Pedophiles support forum. A man had been regularly babysitting for his nephew, but he was finding the nephew sexually attractive and was not sure he could resist molesting him. He tried to beg off of babysitting, but his brother put great pressure on him to continue to do so, since good sitters are hard to come by. We counseled this man that he had to stand his ground and stop babysitting, even if it caused a serious family rupture.

When alcoholism leads people to commit battery or manslaughter, or when it leads to multiple DUI incidents, other people step into the situation, analyze it, and tell them not to drink. When pedophiles commit child sex abuse, others analyze the situation and suggest they not volunteer to do things with children..

But there is a crucial difference. The outsiders do not claim that EVERYONE should not drink alcohol, they reserve the advice for those whose history suggests this is a problem for them. But the outsiders do insist that ALL pedophiles should not volunteer to spend time with children.

Why the difference? We all know a great many people who drink responsibly and enjoy it. But historically we have very little knowledge of pedophiles who volunteered to spend time with children and everything was fine. Their existence is becoming apparent as pedophiles gather in groups such as Virtuous Pedophiles and share our stories.

But surely it is prudent to play it safe, you may say. No pedophile needs to volunteer to spend time with children. But then no one needs to drink alcohol either.

If the two cases seem totally different, then we need to address what a pedophile's life is like.


"Aside from not molesting children, how should a pedophile lead his life?"

Grasping the entire life situation of the typical pedophile may require multiple steps. If you recognize that not all pedophiles are child molesters, then you understand each one must be treated as an individual. If you learn a friend or relative is a pedophile, you don't need to condemn them or break off your relationship. Perhaps you would if you discover they are a child molester, but not unless you do.

At this point, your world view might well be that a pedophile's life goal should be to never molest any children. While no pedophile should ever lose sight of that goal, we are all complex people whose lives are as important to us as yours is to you. If you see us that way, you would grant us the right to try to make the best life for ourselves that we can, and "Do not molest children" is way too narrow of a framework for living a good life.

A common thing a celibate pedophile might hear from a non who has just learned to accept OK pedophiles is, "I'm proud of you for never molesting a child". As far as it goes, it's a good thing to hear. But if you're a well-adjusted pedophile, it is a reminder that people still view pedophiles primarily as offenders or potential offenders. Imagine telling an ordinary man after you are introduced to him, "I'm proud of you for not raping any of the women you meet, assuming you don't."

Mandated reporting by psychotherapists extends to cases where their judgment is that a pedophile poses a future danger to children. Wise professionals are in favor of making sure this is construed to mean only an imminent danger to specific and identifiable children. But the reason they will give is that psychotherapy can help pedophiles resist any tendency to molest children. A reason they are unlikely to mention is that we pedophiles can benefit from psychotherapy to improve the quality of our own lives, the same as anyone else. The inability to safely engage in psychotherapy without hiding our pedophilia is a serious limitation on our own personal quality of life.

Imagine that some stranger tells you they can never have satisfying sex and have no chance of finding a life partner. They have a secret they can never reveal because they would face severe discrimination and violence, and they live knowing that most people hate their true inner self. Those seem like some serious limitations on living a happy life! But that is in fact the basic situation confronting exclusive pedophiles. Perhaps they know there is no danger they will molest children. But it is no wonder many might seek psychotherapy for those reasons alone, let alone any of the other life difficulties ordinary people have.

Most people have sexual desires for some class of adults. They likely enjoy the excitement in just contemplating that attraction. When partners are not available, they will engage in solo satisfaction, perhaps with the aid of pornography or romance novels. You can expect that pedophiles will want to do exactly the same things, though hopefully they substitute legal pictures of attractive children for CSAM. Ordinary folks will also often find sexual partners, and good pedophiles will not. That is a crucial difference in their situations, but it does not change private expressions of attraction. If you understand that some form of sex life is part of living a good life, you could come to accept that it is OK for pedophiles to fantasize about children, even if what they are fantasizing about is repulsive to you.

Let's return to the subject of pedophiles choosing to spend time with children..

Allyn Walker interviewed many pedophiles in depth and collected their stories in the impressive book "A Long, Dark Shadow". A few of them reported that they felt working with children reminded them of what children are really like and therefore that adult sexual activity with them is inappropriate. This appeared in a section on strategies MAPs use to not abuse children. However, it is almost certain that they chose to work with children because they found it personally rewarding, and the effect on not offending was a secondary consideration. But Allyn Walker's concern, like so many in society, was primarily the protection of children, not how to live a rewarding life as a pedophile. So that is the question Allyn asked. Given how much negative attention the book generated as it was, limiting the inquiry in that way was likely prudent.


"Pedophiles and volunteering with children: getting specific"

The question to start with is, Why would any ordinary person (teleiophile) choose to spend time with children?

"Parents" have earned that designation because they signed up for a decades-long commitment to raise children. Members of extended families may share that commitment to some extent.

As for children outside the family, they might feel it is part of their duty to help others. They might feel good about helping children learn and grow. They might actively enjoy their company. They might enjoy it when the child shows their affection and appreciation.

There is every reason to think that some pedophiles are motivated by all of those reasons. In some cases, those would be the only motivations. If a pedophile is only attracted to girls, there is no reason to think that his motivation in volunteering to spend time with boys is any different from anyone else's. If he is attracted to boys as young as 12, choosing to work with 6-year-old boys should raise no issues -- or vice versa if he is only attracted to young boys but chooses to work with older ones.

What of pedophiles who choose to work with the sex and age of child they are attracted to? There are several possibilities. If they are doing so to gain sexual access, that is obviously a very bad thing to do.

An interesting variable here is just how certain someone feels that sexual activity with a child is always wrong. Some pedophiles (even those with good intentions) think maybe it would be OK to be sexual with a child if the child was willing. They might know it is risky in today's world, but if presented with actual temptation, they might give in. A solid conviction that adult-child sex is always wrong, even if a child was the one suggesting it, is an important factor in judging that volunteering with children is an OK thing to do. Pedophiles who are not so clear on this should almost certainly not choose to spend time with children they find attractive.

Children deserve the sort of attention that is appropriate to their age and the activity in question. Some teleiophiles are better at this than others, and there is no reason a pedophile has to be perfect in that regard. What is vital is that they never allow any sexual attraction they feel to influence how they are acting with the children. On that, they must be perfect.

Scientists have identified emotional congruence with children at a higher incidence among pedophiles than teleiophiles. After ten years of listening to stories on Virtuous Pedophiles, I feel we have plenty of anecdotal evidence consistent with that view. Many of us are "kid magnets". We often intuit what the kid is likely to find appealing. We find it both easy and rewarding to take the child's point of view, and are genuinely delighted by their company. A great many adults rarely feel much true enthusiasm for kids. Kids typically have good "bullshit" detectors, and they will be strongly drawn to the people who really like them instead of just politely pretending to.

So what is the relationship between pedophilic attraction and this "kid magnet" quality? The attraction can often be expressed in a way that is perfectly appropriate to what the child wants and needs. The concept of "sublimation" in psychology comes into play here. It is transforming a tendency to engage in harmful behavior into a positive expression. A pedophile can sublimate sexual or romantic desires whose expression would be very inappropriate into genuine, healthy affection and interest in children.

I have already noted that there can be danger when pedophiles spend time with kids they are attracted to, and being alert to that possibility is always the highest priority. But we can also identify with our "kid magnets" what can be an entirely win-win situation. The lives of the children and the pedophiles are both enriched in healthy ways.

When any of us tries to construct a good life, we are drawn to activities we find especially rewarding. "Emotional congruence with children" is likely correlated with "not-so-great emotional congruence with adults". Choosing to spend time with children can be a significant part of leading a good life. "Kid magnets" are likely to find their appropriate and healthy interactions with children an important source of life satisfaction. Saying, "Don't do anything with children because it's better to be safe than sorry" is not like telling us that stamp collecting is off limits.

This same healthy tendency extends from pastimes to "find a career doing something you enjoy". If a pedophile enjoys children, a career teaching them is going to be an appealing choice. Pedophiles who seek the most rewarding life they can get will often see it as their best chance at a career they will love.

Pedophiles vary just as other people do in how sensitive they are to social cues. They may misunderstand signals others are giving, and -- crucially, here -- they may not understand what signals they are giving to others. The phrase "autism spectrum" comes to mind. If a pedophile gets feedback that they are betraying a romantic or sexual attraction to the children they are volunteering with, then they must stop that sort of volunteering. It has become an unacceptable situation. Children deserve to be free of an awareness that adults find them sexually attractive. A lapse in this regard is not an instance of child sex abuse, but it is inappropriate behavior that must be stopped.

Is there a serious danger of things getting worse when pedophiles relate to children in appropriate ways if they are also aware of a sexual attraction?

For comparison, I consider teleiophiles, where the same thing surely happens. People who do body work, such as massage therapists, are presumably attracted to some of the people they work on. Presumably most of them retain their professional attitude and the person they are working on never knows of their attraction. Perhaps a few make inappropriate advances, but the misbehavior of the few does not call for people not to provide services to those they are attracted to.

More broadly in life, adults may get a small satisfaction from contact with adults they are attracted to even as they do not betray their attraction. The same will be true of pedophiles and children.


"The effect of secrecy and failure to disclose"

A great many pedophiles are very careful not to reveal their pedophilic attractions to the world at large. Being found out can cause loss of family, friends, employment, and housing, and can put a person at risk of violence. It makes sense that if others know someone is a pedophile, they are in a better position to detect problematic interactions and intervene. But the effect is nowhere near large enough to justify the sort of wholesale discrimination that "out" pedophiles face.

(As an aside, we humans like people best who don't have any big secrets to keep. Even if you understand why someone is keeping their pedophilia a secret, you naturally wonder what else they aren't revealing. It's a natural reaction, but not one that pedophiles can do anything about. This applies even to discussions (like this one) which are about pedophiles in general rather than any specific person.)

I struggle to come up with a suitable analogy here, but I'll try. Suppose you live in Nazi Germany, where people with physical defects are singled out for killing, but you are certain that this is an unjust policy. Suppose you have epilepsy, a defect that is invisible except during seizures. You avoid the company of others who might turn you in if they saw you having a seizure. Suppose you are drafted for a work task where having a seizure would result in the death of 10 others. In an ordinary society you would explain your epilepsy and why you should be assigned a different task. In Nazi Germany you would be fully justified in keeping your epilepsy hidden and hoping that you will not have a seizure at the wrong time. This is true even if the expected loss of life is higher when you keep your secret. If you reveal your epilepsy, you will certainly die (average death toll of 1). Suppose the chances are 20% you will have a seizure, in which case the 10 others will die, for an average death toll of 2 -- 20% of 10). The ratio is 2 deaths of others to 1 death (yours). Just how many people would have to be at risk before you would be obliged to sacrifice your life is one of those questions that makes practical moral philosophy difficult. But the fact that an unjust societal policy is part of forcing you into this position justifies tolerating a higher ratio. If the people who are at risk are enthusiastic Nazi Party members who thereby share some responsibility for the unjust policy, that justifies an even higher ratio.

Suppose you as a pedophile face strong pressure to babysit for your nephew, yet you are not sure you will keep yourself from abusing him. Getting out of it by revealing to your family that you are a pedophile risks those very serious "outing" consequences for you. If you seek professional help, mandated reporting laws mean it is likely you will suffer the same consequences. You are justified in keeping your secret even if it puts your nephew at some small risk of being abused, if your creativity simply does not extend to finding some other plausible excuse to get out of the babysitting. Of course nothing justifies any actual abuse under any circumstances.

Suppose we move to the realm where the pedophile is not being forced into contact with children exactly. Suppose he is looking for housing, and the best option seems to be in an apartment building where a family with children he finds attractive lives a few doors down. He can't risk "outing" himself, of course. We as society have to leave it to him to evaluate the degree of risk involved when he is deciding whether to take the apartment.

Now suppose we move on to cases where the pedophile is considering actively choosing to do things with children. In a world without prejudice, a pedophile could discuss their attraction and get advice on whether it is suitable, what sort of risks there might be and how to minimize them, how to ask for help if they fear a situation is becoming dangerous, and so forth. In our actual world, we know that prejudice will mean the disclosure itself would instantly bar them from any contact with children. Since that is grossly unfair, the pedophile is left to navigate the situation on their own.

Let me look for another analogy. Suppose a man is having a great deal of trouble finding work, and an opportunity comes up to drive a school bus. He feels no attraction to children, but there is another issue. He has been sober for several years, but when he was younger he got drunk frequently and had several close calls while driving. None of that resulted in an arrest or a criminal record, but arguably it puts the children at increased risk if the man returns to drinking. Is he obligated to report his past behavior, meaning he won't get the job? Or do we leave it to him to evaluate how likely it is he would start drinking again and put the children at risk? We leave it to him. Among other things, we don't know what unknown risks might be associated with someone else who would qualify for this job.

Or consider this parallel: Some people think gays and lesbians pose a danger to children and should not be teachers. The enlightened view of LGBT allies today is that this is mistaken, and it is OK for a gay or lesbian to teach children -- and also to stay closeted and teach children. Seventy years ago (before "the sixties") only a small percentage of the public would have thought that was OK. In retrospect (as well as today) we bestow trust upon each individual gay or lesbian individual to evaluate the risks that they pose to others and act accordingly.

Pedophiles who are parents typically feel no attraction for their own children, but will feel attracted to some of their children's friends. Among some groups of parents, there is an expectation that parents will rotate certain tasks. They will take turns volunteering in the cooperative nursery school. They will take turns coaching the soccer team. They will take turns being chauffeurs. How should pedophile parents deal with these situations?

There is another sort of danger that most parents tolerate. Most straight male teachers are attracted to teen girls who are well into puberty. Such girls typically have full-blown sexual desires, and may feel a strong attraction to a handsome male teacher. The potential mutual interest sometimes goes out of control, and harmful relationships ensue. And yet the reaction of parents is to feel this possibility is something to keep an eye on, not a reason to insist their girls attend high schools without any male teachers. Without the passionate hatred of pedophiles most people feel today, parents might make the same judgment about pedophiles who might be teaching their younger children.

Pedophiles should not restrict their lives in the ways society would if their pedophilia was known. Among other things, misunderstanding and irrational hatred of pedophiles is just too strong. The pedophile's life is important too, and a rewarding life might involve some contact with children.

When faced with difficult decisions, many ordinary people reach out to a support network. Some pedophiles have a very few trusted friends they could confide in. Some very few have a therapist who they are confident will not report them. Some have online anonymous support groups. But for a lot of us, we have to make these decisions based entirely on our own inner compass. One way to keep children safer would be to reduce the stigma so that pedophiles can get more help and support.



"Should pedophiles volunteer with children? Biased data sets"

I noted earlier that a large percentage of Virtuous Pedophiles members answered a poll saying they would consider working with children under the right circumstances. A great many already have, and reports of abuse or serious danger of abuse are very rare.

That much is a matter of fact.

To evaluate whether they made a wise or justifiable choice requires us to extend our consideration far beyond those who write about positive experiences on Virtuous Pedophiles to all pedophiles who are considering working with children.

Professionals in the field know for certain that some pedophiles made that choice and things turned out badly because they molested children. But if the professionals conclude (as many apparently do) that their experience means no pedophiles should volunteer to work with children, they are being guided by an extremely biased sample of pedophiles -- those who considered working with children, did so, and molested them. If they hear of other cases, they will be few and incidental. Even if they are aware of how heavily biased their sample is, it still supports a "better safe than sorry" conclusion, since one very bad outcome outweighs many good ones.

The Virtuous Pedophiles support group is composed primarily of young pedophiles just coming to grips with their attraction. They are united in their belief that adult-child sexual activity is always wrong and their commitment to never engage in that. Often an early revelation is that they do not need to hate themselves, and can accept themselves as people with a condition they did not choose and cannot change -- while they still can and must never molest children.

They also have decisions to make about how to lead their lives. When Virtuous Pedophiles started out, we didn't think much about telling pedophiles how to live. We insisted they not molest children, but didn't get specific about what steps they would take to achieve that. Rules like "Never be alone with a child you find attractive" were offered up from the earliest days, but only as suggestions. There was no attempt to weave them together into a code of conduct.

In what I have written above I have sketched out something looking a bit more like a code of conduct. It is not a Virtuous Pedophiles position, just my personal one. And it is not based on a lot of data -- but then there isn't a lot of data.

But there are several points where I myself don't have even a clear intuition about what is best.

Is it vital to have a totally anti-legalization outlook to be safe working with children? Or does that arise partly from my prejudiced view that legalization would be a bad thing?

If someone (for instance "on the spectrum") reveals to some kids that he finds them attractive, does that mean he should not volunteer with kids? Parents who become aware of that might take action on their own. A few anecdotes I have heard suggest that if you have a diagnosis of autism, people will give you something of a pass on being a pedophile (though not on child molestation).

In years past, I have often engaged in debates with those who would like to legalize adult-child sex. 
Some young teens grow up to think their sexual experience with adults at that age was a good thing, and this means the anti-legalization argument as it regards young teens cannot then be an absolute one. Some cases might work out OK, because we know some have. Yet I still support a total prohibition because I think it is unwise to leave the decision about whether a young teen would actually be OK with sex in the hands of someone whose only sexual satisfaction would come from such an encounter.

Someone could argue that allowing pedophiles to decide for themselves how much of a risk they are working with children is subject to the same complaint. I think there is a big difference. In the one case the question is whether to engage in sex with a minor, and in the other it is whether to put oneself into a position where they have more contact with minors -- where they are also committed to never letting anything sexual happen. There may be risk, but it is one giant step removed.

One thing I don't have any doubts about is that pedophiles have to be treated as responsible adult actors in the sense that they have both the right and the responsibility to evaluate the potential harm they pose to others and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen.

I wrote of biased data sets, noting that most professionals will have seen primarily offenders. I on the other hand have formed my impressions mostly from pedophiles participating in discussions online, most particularly Virtuous Pedophiles members. There are a great many pedophiles who would fit in neither category, and experience with them might lead to a different evaluation on what is best for pedophiles depending on different characteristics, beliefs, and life situations.


"What will the effects of this advice be?"

In the current world we live in, most pedophiles are closeted and most people are very mistrustful of pedophiles. It is a good bet that known pedophiles will generally be denied the opportunity to spend time with children. This is likely true even in structured settings when there are strong safeguards in place to make sure adults are never alone with children.

The story of Pastor John Ortberg of the Menlo Church bears on this point. Pastor Ortberg had a son who John knew was strongly attracted to children, but he believed that he posed no danger to the kids and allowed him to continue unsupervised contact with the children. When this was discovered, people were horrified and the pastor was forced to resign. There was no evidence that the son had engaged in any inappropriate behavior. I would not say with any certainty that Pastor Ortberg made the right decision to let his son continue, but the reaction to his choice shows that public opinion is strongly against pedophiles being allowed contact with children. To much of the public, it was unthinkable that the right choice was to let his son continue volunteering.

Societies do change, but I sense we are a long way from known pedophiles being trusted with children.

So the interesting questions all pertain to pedophiles deciding whether to work with children without revealing they are pedophiles. Perhaps they will consult with a few trusted friends, or a therapist, or an online community.

Perhaps a few will be influenced by advice publicly addressed to all pedophiles. Almost all of it will be that no pedophile should volunteer with children at all, under any circumstances.

My advice is different. I think it is sometimes an OK thing to do. What might the effect of my advice be on pedophiles who consider it?

I have laid the responsibility for assessing danger at the feet of the pedophiles themselves. This means I think a great many pedophiles should not do so because the particulars of who they are as people and the situations they are considering mean there are serious safety issues. A great many will accurately perceive that and stay away from the children.

But some will consider their particular situation carefully and decide it is OK. Some pedophiles who currently do work with children and feel guilty about it will decide that they are safe, and continue with their work with greater comfort and less anxiety. A few who are on the fence will give it a try, attending to their own inner evaluation rather than society's uniform message that it is never OK.

Advice on this question can be wrong in two ways. It might encourage pedophiles to volunteer with children who should not, leading to child sex abuse. Or it might make pedophiles not try to volunteer with children, when it would in fact be safe for the children and rewarding to both children and pedophile.

The first sort of error is worse than the second, but if you think it is infinitely worse I would suggest it is because you do not think pedophiles are people whose lives matter. Remember that if we play it safe, the dangers of alcoholism would mean that no one should drink alcohol.


"Pedophiles and tolerance"

Pedophiles pose a greater danger of harm to children than teleiophiles do. This greater danger might be a reason to choose not to be a pedophile if we had a choice -- but we don't. Those of us who would never offend can try to claim that offenders are a totally different group, but it doesn't emotionally work very well. Both we and they are sexually attracted to children. But no one is responsible for the behavior of others of their "class". When it comes to attributes they did not choose, no one is responsible for anything other than their own individual behavior.

Poor, urban, young men in America are highly likely to be involved in criminal activity at some point. But no one who values liberty would suggest that we restrict the activity of anyone simply because they are poor, urban, young, and male. Each person is assumed to be a law-abiding citizen, regardless of their demographics. They are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Even if a fairly large percentage of pedophiles do offend against children, we deserve the same rights. We should be trusted to evaluate what sort of risks we might pose to others and regulate our behavior accordingly. We no more chose to be pedophiles than anyone chooses to be young, poor, urban and male.

People realize that a felony conviction makes it very hard for a person to get a job, but some people also recognize that people make mistakes and deserve a second chance. Some people will make it a point to hire ex-cons. Why not extend this basic sympathy to pedophiles -- those who have never crossed that line and committed a crime in the first place?

The extreme and irrational hatred of pedophiles fully justifies most of us not admitting to our attractions. This means we must make some decisions in secret where most people would consult with other concerned parties. But it is society at large that forces this situation on us. It is not us.

We pedophiles are people whose lives are just as important to us as yours is to you. Those of us who have not offended must be trusted, the same as any other adult, to evaluate any situations where we are in danger of harming others and take appropriate steps to prevent that.

This is very much not the predominant attitude among the public or even among professionals who have studied the subject. To them, pedophiles, if tolerated at all, are to be viewed as people whose only valid purpose in life is to not abuse children. This is fundamentally wrong. It is vital that we not abuse children, but that is only one part of our lives.

A vital principle of a free society is that people should be left alone, even if they are different. Everyone should have the same opportunities. Everyone deserves to be free of intimidation and harassment. No one should face legal restrictions unless there is solid evidence that they have done something wrong.

Those with a true commitment to freedom must set aside their emotional reaction to pedophiles and treat us as any other minority.


"A hard sell"

I understand that my view is a hard sell. Even among professionals who are otherwise sympathetic to non-offending pedophiles, it is a hard sell.

Given the prevailing societal outlook that we all grew up with, it takes a lot of adjustment to see pedophiles as "OK" under any circumstances. But, it's true! Some do not offend. They should be accepted if they do not molest children and condemned if they do -- instead of being condemned and hated regardless of what they do. The emerging pencil sketch of a pedophile's life shows one who is not molesting children -- but the rest of his life is still largely a blank.

Surely the one thing we should not find penciled into that blank is any active decision to spend time with children! What we sketched so far was all about not molesting. It was quite a concession on our part to get that far, but now you want to allow pedophiles to work with children? We can all easily bring to mind the pedophile who does  nice things for children, but always cynically and with the goal to get into a position to molest them. It is also asking for trouble in many other cases too, such as those with antisocial tendencies, who could also end up abusing but with less of a clear plan.

Along with a job working with adults (as most jobs are), life could be filled up with TV shows, rooting for sports teams, working out, or socializing in a bar. Surely there is no need to add children to the mix? 

But a great many pedophiles have the insight and discipline to figure out what is risky for them and what is not. Some choose to work with children for the same reasons anyone else does. In some cases, the sexual attraction can be safely sublimated into appropriate interest and affection, to the great benefit of child and pedophile alike. It's true! But it still sounds incredible, and suspicious, and dangerous. It is indeed a hard sell.

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