Bering in Mind | Mind & Brain

Pedophiles, Hebephiles and Ephebophiles, Oh My: Erotic Age Orientation

Why most "pedophiles" aren't really pedophiles, technically speaking

Jesse Bering Jesse Bering Image:

Michael Jackson probably wasn’t a pedophile—at least, not in the strict, biological sense of the word. It’s a morally loaded term, pedophile, that has become synonymous with the very basest of evils. (In fact it’s hard to even say it aloud without cringing, isn’t it?) But according to sex researchers, it’s also a grossly misused term.

If Jackson did fall outside the norm in his “erotic age orientation”—and we may never know if he did—he was almost certainly what’s called a hebephile, a newly proposed diagnostic classification in which people display a sexual preference for children at the cusp of puberty, between the ages of, roughly, 11 to 14 years of age. Pedophiles, in contrast, show a sexual preference for clearly prepubescent children. There are also ephebophiles (from ephebos, meaning “one arrived at puberty” in Greek), who are mostly attracted to 15- to 16-year-olds; teleiophiles (from teleios, meaning, “full grown” in Greek), who prefer those 17 years of age or older); and even the very rare gerontophile (from gerontos, meaning “old man” in Greek), someone whose sexual preference is for the elderly. So although child sex offenders are often lumped into the single classification of pedophilia, biologically speaking it’s a rather complicated affair. Some have even proposed an additional subcategory of pedophilia, “infantophilia,” to distinguish those individuals most intensely attracted to children below six years of age.

Based on this classification scheme of erotic age orientations, even the world’s best-known fictitious “pedophile,” Humbert Humbert from Nabokov’s masterpiece, Lolita, would more properly be considered a hebephile. (Likewise the protagonist from Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, a work that I’ve always viewed as something of the “gay Lolita”). Consider Humbert’s telltale description of a “nymphet.” After a brief introduction to those “pale pubescent girls with matted eyelashes,” Humbert explains:

Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as “nymphets.” 

Although Michael Jackson might have suffered more disgrace from his hebephilic orientation than most, and his name will probably forever be entangled darkly with the sinister phrase “little boys,” he wasn’t the first celebrity or famous figure that could be seen as falling into this hebephilic category. In fact, ironically, Michael Jackson’s first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, is the product of a hebephilic attraction. After all, let’s not forget that Priscilla caught Elvis’s very grownup eye when she was just fourteen, only a year or two older than the boys that Michael Jackson was accused of sexually molesting. Then there’s of course also the scandalous Jerry Lee Lewis incident in which the 23-year-old “Great Balls of Fire” singer married his 13-year-old first cousin.

In the psychiatric community, there’s recently been a hubbub of commotion concerning whether hebephelia should be designated as a medical disorder or, instead, seen simply as a normal variant of sexual orientation and not indicative of brain pathology. There are important policy implications of adding hebephilia to the checklist of mental illnesses, since doing so might allow people who sexually abuse pubescent children to invoke a mental illness defense.


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  1. 1. slywy 01:56 PM 7/1/09

    How can such specific age ranges be attached to such a classification? What is the substantive difference between a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old that moves them into a different category? And aren't some 11-year-olds well into puberty, while some 16-year-old may be just getting started? These are pretty arbitrary distinctions. It seems to me there are those who are developmentally infants, toddlers, children, prepubescent, adolescent, and adult, and that this doesn't always correspond so precisely to age.

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  2. 2. Rogeregon 02:18 PM 7/1/09

    I totally agree with royniles. There seems to be an attempt here to justify old freaks taking advantage of kids, because supposedly some kids "aren't so innocent." More and more I find Mr. Bering to be a creepy and warped individual!

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  3. 3. kfreels 02:22 PM 7/1/09

    Great article. I would have liked to see you go a bit further into public reactions regarding such things. For example, you point out that hebephilia is relatively common compared with other forms of erotic interest in children. I expect it is more common than many would be williing to admit considering the evolutionary advantages and history. We seem to accept teen sex as something that happens as well, but for some reason, every time you see a news article about a 25 yr old guy and a 15 yr old girl, there is a general consensus that the person would be lynched if only it were possible.

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  4. 4. SciChick 02:38 PM 7/1/09

    It doesn't matter if it's Oscar Wilde, Michael Jackson, or the guy next door. Sex or sexually suggestive actions with children are morally reprehensible, damaging to the child, and criminal. It's like saying it's ok to kill the puppies because it's Tuesday. Makes no sense to anyone except the person wanting an excuse for their actions.

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  5. 5. Faultline 03:19 PM 7/1/09

    Psychologists will divide pedophiles into different classifications, not to make them seem more or less vile, but to better understand the problem, its causes, and its treatments.

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  6. 6. Jillian 03:45 PM 7/1/09

    Maybe a minor matter, but you may want to correct the reference to Lisa Marie Presley. I believe it was her mother's boyfriend Michael Edwards who made inappropriate advances to her when she was 13, not her father Elvis...

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  7. 7. lance08alot 03:51 PM 7/1/09

    SciChick, your thinking is flawed, and next time I hope you allow your ideas to come to full fruition before you pluck them (much like your subject matter). There is, like it or not, innate desire in certain, though a larger number than we all like to admit, human males to be attracted to pubescent girls, of various ages. In fact, lest we forget, it used to be common for "old" men of their 30's or 40's to marry 13 & 14 years old. (I am only 19 and dating a girl 3 years my senior, so not in any way justifying an personal fetish, mind you.)
    Evolutionarily speaking, this is advantageous because these girls are young, healthy, and if they survive childbirth, should live as long as the male to raise the children to adulthood. We have, need I remind you, moved away from the animal world in many ways, but some undercurrents nonetheless still flow through us in mysterious manifestations. To the rest of you, what is morality anyway? Religion may give us some semblance of a security blanket to shield us from our own dark desires and the low-down dirty natural world, but in the end that's all it is: a facade. Without it, we see the world for all its vacuousity and self-reliance.

    That all being said, I personally perceive the numbers distinction as being quite arbitrary as well.

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  8. 8. hotblack 04:34 PM 7/1/09

    The girl I grew up with and loved more than my own life itself, disappeared from my life when I was 17, and she was 16. I never got over her. When I see 16 year olds, in the back of my mind, I remember the last time I was truly in love, and just how beautiful the female body was to discover and see, at the peak of its sexual attractiveness, piloted by a girl who was sweet and wonderful and uncorrupted by a world of hateful bigots and arseholes. It was absolutely transcendant. It was not disgusting.

    And that's not even commenting on the biology of sexual reproduction, about which so many are so pleased to remain ignorant. Or the dynamic nature of socially acceptable behavior! Nevermind what was normal only a hundred years ago, 300 years ago, in everyones favorite, biblical times, & before. Look at what is still socially acceptable in other countries today. Or what is still socially acceptable so long as there's a large amount of money or a crazy religion involved.

    I can definitely understand how some people would become pedophiles. Before you get on your high horse, assume things about me, and direct your blind rage at me, know that unlike the rest of you breeders, I had the self-control to quit altogether. I have only one love, and she's 15 years gone, along with any sexual ambition I would have had.

    There is a logic to nature, and for better or worse, humans are not supernatural.

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  9. 9. thedr9wningman 05:27 PM 7/1/09

    This is a very good exploration about our own sexuality, cultural norms, and the like. Thank you for that. I must mention, though, I find it in poor taste to lump Jackson into this camp. I'm not a huge Jackson apologist or anything, either, but we must look at some of the facts: He was never convicted of sexual acts with minors.

    In my estimation, Jackson was a person who saw himself as a child, got along with children, and much like most children of pre-pubescent age (mentally, it seems Jackson was about 5 and arrested development there) are fairly asexual.

    Jackson had two wives. One child was born via in-vitro fertilization. If he can't have sex to even make children, I have a hard time believing he wants to have sex at all.

    Jackson wasn't a kiddy-fiddler; he was a modern-day Peter Pan. Misunderstood? Sure. Messed up? Sure. I just don't think that he had sex with anyone, especially children.

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  10. 10. thedr9wningman 05:34 PM 7/1/09

    There you go, @Rogeregon, shoot the messenger. Look past your social bias at the brain chemistry, evolutionary imperative, and reassess what is being said here. There's not a justification of breaking any social laws/norms: this is an investigation as to why people would do these sorts of things /despite/ social custom.

    You can try to shut off your desire all you like, but it doesn't work. People are attracted to what they are attracted to, and trying to fool yourself into something else is silly.

    I'm fortunate that I'm attracted to 25-35 year old females, but I'm not going to bag on someone who prefers something else.

    You obviously didn't read the article; it just bounced off your training. This wasn't a justification nor a coming-out of anyone having sex with kids.

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  11. 11. AreyouthinkingwhatI'mthinking? 06:29 PM 7/1/09

    "Close-minded people are very certain and dogmatic in their views, and generally believe that there is a single correct point of view," said study researcher Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "The implication is that you have a group of people who would only seek to confirm their points of view, resisting all evidence to the contrary via avoidance of exposure."

    Somehow this seemed appropriate. :-)

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  12. 12. quantum_flux 11:11 PM 7/1/09

    Well, Romeo and Juliet were 13....

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  13. 13. leisurelyviking 11:46 PM 7/1/09

    The evolutionary advantages mentioned here seem dubious to me. Women's fertility peaks between ages 19 and 25, and usually towards the later end of that. Teenage girls are much more likely to suffer complications during pregnancy and have lower chances of bearing viable children.

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  14. 14. JT1a 12:58 AM 7/2/09

    The DSM V (and its predecessors) are published by the American Psychiatric Association, not the American Psychological Association.

    Jillian, I have seen references to sources that put forth that Priscilla and Elvis were together when she was 14 years old.

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  15. 15. guardtiger25 01:15 AM 7/2/09

    Priscilla was much younger than Elvis so Jesse's original comment in his blog is correct. She was 14 when they met while he was in Germany.

    @leisurelyviking: You are speaking about the fertility of modern human women. From an evolutionary perspective, our mind is attuned to ancestral peaks in fertility not modern peaks, which would explain why men are attracted to signs of youth in women and why when (on average) men get remarried, the age gap between them and their female partner grows with each remarriage.

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  16. 16. Rogeregon 01:16 AM 7/2/09

    Actually, I've always thought Oscar Wilde was a total pervert and basically the patron saint of today's perverts. I could care less about "celebrities". I think anyone engaging in something as disgusting as sexual gratification through kids is a criminal and a very sick minded individual. But people that engage in using young people for their sexual pleasure- or at the least wish they could but don't go that far because of fear of consequences if they were caught, love this kind of moral equivocation, where they can work to lower the ages to legally perform their pedophilia.

    Mr. Bering often talks of children in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable. Of course, most of the time his stuff is just boring drivel that is usually quasi-scientific and would seem more appropriate in something like "National Inquirer" and not "Scientific American."

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  17. 17. c.harvey in reply to Rogeregon 02:03 AM 7/2/09

    @Rogeregon, oh go away. shouldn't you be watching FOX news or something? not everyone with half a brain cell and can look at this types of things critically is a member of "nambla," you doofus. but anyway, i for one find it very interesting that you're getting so worked up about this subject. hmm...

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  18. 18. WilliamLeGoos 04:31 AM 7/2/09

    Given that it was not long ago historically, that the age of consent was 12 and women were frequently considered to be marriagable by that age, there seems to be once more a case of some sort of moralistic double standard. 1000 years ago when the ALE was less than 30, it would have been racial suicide if women did not start reproducing at puberty. Biologically girls are designed to reproduce at or shortly after puberty and their biological clock starts ticking. Males over 30 were considered to be the strongest available fathers due to their survival. It is only in the last 150 years that the rules have changed. The biology has not changed.

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  19. 19. Tucker M 10:23 AM 7/2/09

    Mr. Bering: yet another fascinating, provocative and well-balanced article, thank you. There's no way to write about a topic this explosive without convincing some less-than-careful readers that you're a pedophillic apologist, or others that you're personally passing judgment over a public figure. But keep writing and thinking this well and this clearly, and careful readers will continue to flock to your blog. Well done!

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  20. 20. SpoonmanWoS in reply to c.harvey 01:17 PM 7/2/09

    @c.harvey: I think you've hit the nail right on the head. People like Rogeregon classically denounce what they believe to be reprehensible behavior and then are found out to be be active and regular participants in said behavior. Look at Haggart and the governor of South Carolina, for example. Haggart thought homosexuality was the cause of the decline of western civilization (which is odd since we're not in decline), and loved to get funky in public restrooms like the redneck ho he is. Rogeregon's protestations sound exactly the same. I wonder how many young boys he has tied up in his basement?

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  21. 21. riverboots 04:48 PM 7/2/09

    No matter how forward your turn to speak advances your preferences, a quale consent to perform in sexual relations does not always deem said performances are accepted.

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  22. 22. carlofab 04:56 PM 7/2/09

    This article assumes Michael Jackson's attraction to boys and children was sexual. Of the thousands of children who stayed over at Neverland only two made such accusations and both have been exposed as frauds. Some have suggested Michael sought a belated by seeking acceptance of boys especially as peers. Neverland was built for children and parental permission always obtained. All say nothing happened.

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  23. 23. fyngyrz 05:23 PM 7/2/09

    At least one of the elephants in the room is that once past puberty, age is not a reasonable line to draw in the sand.

    Some newly sexual teens are sexually active, sophisticated and knowledgeable, careful and intelligent, well-informed and far from gullible. Just as with any other characteristic, various areas of interest to the individual develop at various times. The only thing we *can* be sure of is that sexual sophistication doesn't magically "happen" on some birthday. To *ANYONE*.

    Contrariwise, some 21+ "adults", having been actively sexual for years, couldn't tell you how a baby is made, don't understand STDs or procreation in general (I once heard an adult guest on Jerry Springer recite the meaning of DNA as: "drugs-n-alcohol"), and base their sexual choices on just how inebriated they are that evening, rather than any legitimate emotional or rational set of choices. Nor are many of these adults emotionally capable of managing a relationship.

    Others fall in between, developing these characteristics at various rates and times.

    The cultural pathology of drawing a line of age in the sand and then standing on it as if it really meant something (it really, really doesn't) is one of our core problems. Until or unless we can arrive at a functional means of determining the *actual* ability to give informed consent (such as a test and a card, like a driving license), we're bound to continue destroying the lives of many reasonable, non-evil people. The only problem I see with such an approach is that many adults couldn't possibly pass such a test.

    Irrational, absolutist panic-mongers like SciChick and Rogeregon are not the solution; they are a very large part of the problem... and I have to say, when people paint post-puberty teenagers as nominally non-sexual "victims" of adults, most of the time I laugh, if only ruefully, at the ignorance and stupidity of the person making the characterization. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    For your own safety and the safety of whatever family you may have, the optimum thing to do at this point in time is completely avoid people below age 21. Don't teach or mentor them, don't talk to them, don't acknowledge them, and *certainly* don't risk having children of your own. At this time, this isn't a nation that is good for them. This is the only safe pressure that can be applied to correct the system.

    The answer to every question from a minor needs to be "come back when you're 21." The answer to "do you want to have a child" needs to be "no."

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  24. 24. Nathaniel 07:22 PM 7/2/09

    The age of consent varries from state to state and it varries even further between various countries. There are countries whose age of consent is as low as 12-13 and some that are as high as 20-21. To me this shows that the differences are entirely social. I would even go as far as to argue that much of the psychological "damage" done to kids 13+ due to sex with someone older is caused by guilt, which is socially caused.

    When I was a young teen, below the age of consent, I would not have turned down an adult woman for sex. I think that's what they're trying to say. Essentially, that while many may indeed be victims, many are not.

    Kids are going to have sex before the age of consent whether they're doing it with kids their own age or with adults. While I am not attracted to children, I don't see any moral issues here unless the child in question does not consent. In effect the age of consent laws make such acts immoral because the child isn't legally able to consent whether they want to or not.

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  25. 25. Cap168 in reply to slywy 09:44 PM 7/2/09

    Very good points, although am pretty sure that would be refuted by a professional psychologist with a reply such as: "...there were confounding factors involved...there's also a margin of error here and there...and statistically MOST of the subjects qualified to the designated category...blah, blah, blah..." so in short, it's all generalized data, not 100% foolproof, unfortunately.

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  26. 26. Cap168 in reply to Rogeregon 09:53 PM 7/2/09

    If you don't have something smart to say please hush....

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  27. 27. Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield 02:03 AM 7/3/09

    Paedophilia (in fact, all such 'philias') is a 'mental disorder' only because The APA committees say it is; that is all.

    Science and history do not.

    As an act is never a mental disorder, neither is a fantasy.

    Paraphilias as 'mental disorders' are just positivistic artefacts, maintained by the APA, for governmental approval and kudos, and legal skulduggery.

    If anyone does not know why this is all correct, then they need to do a little more reading.

    Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield

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  28. 28. pauviolet 10:55 AM 7/3/09

    Enter Your Comment Here.

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  29. 29. pauviolet 11:13 AM 7/3/09

    I do not believe dicing up the male preferences for sexual gratification in whatever forms they take will make them go away or be more palatable to any society as a whole. I am not excusing these manifestations, I have unfortunately had to reconcile some of these behaviors through two husbands. While I do not condemn nor condone these preferences, I have had to come to understand them.

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  30. 30. Ben W 03:24 PM 7/3/09

    Dr. Oldfield, such opinions are probably better argued by people who are not convicted sex offenders. It's hard for people to see this issue objectively (myself included), and you're not helping.

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  31. 31. Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield 04:31 PM 7/3/09

    Ill-informed, vacuous and ad hominem attack ... seen, exactly, for what it is.

    Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield

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  32. 32. poolerboy0077 in reply to Rogeregon 04:45 PM 7/3/09

    The point of this article was to make descriptive statements about observed phenomenon, not to make prescriptive statements about how we should form our societies. Your protest seems akin to how creationists argue that accepting evolution leads down a road to perdition like Nazi eugenics or the like. Please.

    Moreover, it is pointless to call attraction to children wrong because there's nothing you can do to stop it. Sex with children is a different thing because it's something you choose to do rather than something that happens to you -- the latter is rather pointless to be criticized.

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  33. 33. ljayner 06:44 PM 7/3/09

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but younger people just don't really like saggy old balls and asses, they just act like they do when paid to.

    When I was a child I had fancied other children. When I was a teenager, I was attracted to other teenagers. Now that I am an adult, I am attracted to other adults.
    I think this goes for most people out there....

    Some people have referenced the historical trend of much older men marrying younger females. On the human side, I seriously doubt many of the females were actually ATTRACTED to those old men. Forced to marry, yes. That doesn't make it right. And it doesn't mean the younger party liked it or entered into the union willingly.

    Maybe there was a biological advantage to the older man who would pair with a younger female, but the younger male has the advantage over the older male in relation to the young female in that the female is ATTRACTED to the young male and not some creepy old bastard.

    Plus, evolutionarily speaking, the younger male would probably triumph over any older suitors because of increased physical fitness and virility. Men hit their sexual peak in their late teens to early twenties.

    I amazes me that some people can be so selfish.

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  34. 34. SteveCarleton 09:21 PM 7/3/09

    For what it's worth I think that what is important is for adults to be mature enough to control their sexual impulses. Children have the right not to be sexual targets of adults. While some people mature faster than others, 18 seems to be an approximatly good age for most to make independent decisions. We need to do our best to protect minors from adults lacking self control. While I find this article interesting, I am concerned that many adults may find it to be useful to justify irresponsible behaviour.

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  35. 35. DeniseM-Toronto in reply to SciChick 10:04 PM 7/3/09

    SciChick, well said. I notice that several of the people who attacked you, attacked things you never said. I suppose if we look over the fullness of history, time, and place, we could find exceptions where the child was not harmed by what was done to her/him, but those would indeed be exceptions. Most young children would indeed be harmed.

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  36. 36. Name132 01:23 AM 7/4/09

    It is a pity that some of us blame evolution and instincts. Nowadays, evolution and "instincts" have become scapegoats. We blame them for almost anything. It seems to me that the theory of evolution (as true as it may be) has led some people into a pessimistic attitude; they claim "it is in our genes, we can do nothing about it."
    But this is not true.

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  37. 37. Zufolek 03:29 AM 7/4/09

    What an unscientific, stupid article.

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  38. 38. Sonata 10:31 AM 7/4/09

    This is a bit upsetting as Michael Jackson was actually aquitted and even Jordon Chandler came out and said he was telling lies so his family could get money out of Michael.
    Why can't people drop it?! His fame didn't get him out of it...anyone who reads about the trial and the accusers' profiles know this.Michael simply loved children and ok was a bit unorthodox, but he was like a regressed child and so did things children do. I think a better example could have been chosen here as a suspected child abuser in light of this man's death. Let him R.I.P

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  39. 39. DeniseM-Toronto 05:25 PM 7/4/09

    fingerz, while there is much truth in what you said, if we are going to impose rules on people, we have to have objective standards that people can follow. Adults DO know that there is a line in the sand, and that however arbitrary that line might seem in many ways, it is based on age. And not just apparent age. ("She claimed she was 18.") But actual age. There are many, many situations where we draw such lines for practical purpose. This no only results in some people being punished, but also in protecting other people. You know to follow the rules. Perhaps one likes very young-looking women. If she's adult and grants valid consent, you're safe. You don't have to worry about some assessment of her maturity that takes in some dozens of factors, and that different people might figure out differently. Adults have a responsibility to follow the rules.

    Where it becomes, perhaps, more difficult is when children and teenagers are involved as the primary actor. An adult can indeed be expected to follow the rules, despite instincts, urges, drives, and genes. But the younger the person is, the more we can see that might be more difficult for them to do.

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  40. 40. madameOkeefe 10:51 PM 7/4/09

    @Jesse Bering: What about the female school teachers who have been charged for sexually assaulting teenage boys, albeit an all boys' "American Pie" fantasy?

    (High school teacher, Shannon Kay Hrozek, 42, faces a felony charge of sexual assault of a child after the assistant principal at Westfield High School interrupted Hrozek and a 16-year-old student engaging in oral sex. Source: NY Post

    Here is a great compendium of female teachers on student-fetishes, below:

    @Bering: I hope part 2 of your series will cover this. I wonder what UofT's Blanchard thinks about classifying these "Zena"-Warrior-Princesses in the lusty battlefield of the classroom. Lesbian teachers? Can Blanchard classify women into similar categories by some form of pap/clitoris test (they can reuse those slides and lab equipment)? (Consensual Lesbian Teacher + 14 y-o) (Murder by 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby on 8 y-o; reports 'raping')

    Lastly, since you placed the late Jackson with this story... it all had to do with Ms. Jackson as it was sung by OutKast.

    I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (oh)
    I am for real
    Never meant to make your daughter cry
    I apologize a trillion times
    I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (oh)
    I am for real
    Never meant to make your daughter cry
    I apologize a trillion times
    - Peace

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  41. 41. madameOkeefe 10:52 PM 7/4/09

    @Jesse Bering: What about the female school teachers who have been charged for sexually assaulting teenage boys, albeit an all boys' "American Pie" fantasy?

    (High school teacher, Shannon Kay Hrozek, 42, faces a felony charge of sexual assault of a child after the assistant principal at Westfield High School interrupted Hrozek and a 16-year-old student engaging in oral sex. Source: NY Post

    Here is a great compendium of female teachers on student-fetishes, below:

    @Bering: I hope part 2 of your series will cover this. I wonder what UofT's Blanchard thinks about classifying these "Zena"-Warrior-Princesses in the lusty battlefield of the classroom. Lesbian teachers? Can Blanchard classify women into similar categories by some form of pap/clitoris test (they can reuse those slides and lab equipment)? (Consensual Lesbian Teacher + 14 y-o) (Murder by 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby on 8 y-o; reports 'raping')

    Lastly, since you placed the late Jackson with this story... it all had to do with Ms. Jackson as it was sung by OutKast.

    I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (oh)
    I am for real
    Never meant to make your daughter cry
    I apologize a trillion times
    I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (oh)
    I am for real
    Never meant to make your daughter cry
    I apologize a trillion times
    - Peace

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  42. 42. pauviolet 11:34 PM 7/4/09

    Enter Your Comment Here.

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  43. 43. nonsequitur 01:55 AM 7/5/09

    Someone needs to fire Mr. Bering for sensationalizing science and gaining attention through often misguided comments on a myriad of hot button issues. He is a serious deterrent to continuing to visit Scientific American online.

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  44. 44. madameOkeefe 12:10 PM 7/5/09

    @nonsequitur: it's not just Bering, but the entire publication itself! Most times, the entire mainstream scientific industry that needs to blend in a splash of controversy and frivolous fads, just to increase ad-click revenues and the like.

    I can't help but address 'agnotology,' my dear friend.

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  45. 45. Graeculus 09:01 PM 7/5/09

    It is so typical of these discussions that we hear on the one side carefully qualified and nuanced social science and on the other side name-calling and ex cathedra pronouncements from the arbiters of morality. Neuroscience tells us that the human brain, particularly those parts of it responsible for self-control and judgment, is not fully developed until 25. So should we make the Age of Consent 25? After all, younger people often make bad choices.
    The fact is that the US is virtually the only advanced industrial country that denies sexual autonomy and freedom of choice to those under 18: in Canada and all EU countries, the age of consent is between 12 and 16. Why are American teens assumed to be so much less capable of making decisions for themselves than their Canadian and European peers? Could it be because too many adults infantalize them by telling them they aren't grown up enough to make independent decisions? This issue, like the drinking age, is one on which we need careful analysis by social scientists and policy experts.
    Although I chose to wait until well after 18 to become sexually active, my mother married and had her first child at 16, so she could escape an alcoholic and violently abusive father. This was in the 1940s; today the laws would make it impossible for her to do so. Anyone who says that 16 year olds are incapable of making responsible decisions in this area is insulting both her and me.
    Those who assert that kids are only attracted to their own agemates are generalizing from their own limited experience. Human relationships can be nurturing and positive across age boundaries. Although I myself have never violated the law in this area, every long-term relationship I have ever had has been with someone who was either 15-20 years older than me or younger than me. It may be true that the younger partner in such intergenerational relationships is in it for motives other than physical attraction. Believe it or not, human relationships are a complex dialectic involving exchange of more than just mutual physical attraction.
    On the late great Michael Jackson, of whom I am a fan, there is no clear evidence that he ever violated the law in this area, but there is abundant evidence that he was, on an emotional and physical level, deeply attracted to boys in the "hebephilic" age range, as were a number of noted historical geniuses. His love of boys provided inspiration to his musical style and philanthropic work. Let us not dishonor it.

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  46. 46. edwardo212 09:44 AM 7/6/09

    I keep reading about how being attracted to younger people makes evolutary sense. One could say that a chimp would be naturally attracted to a younger, more fertile chimp because it increases fitness. But the difference between a human being and that chimp is that a human being has mental control and knows that when an adult has sex with an adolesant or prepubescent it can have psychological effects on that younger person.

    Either way interesting article.

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  47. 47. micklechuck in reply to Jillian 12:51 PM 7/6/09

    Lisa Marie Presley - read again Jillian - the writer says that she is the offspring of a pedophilic relation -Elvis her father and Priscilla Presley, who was 14 (and living in Germany) when Elvis was attracted to her.

    this is a good point about what subconsciously might have driven that relationship between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie

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  48. 48. Chloe101 02:10 AM 7/7/09

    I agree with the last four posts. You can blame it on animal instincts but I believe that people have more control over themselves than they claim. I'm sure our cavemen ancestors defecated where ever they wanted. But we don't. It's called self control. They may have married/raped women, young teens or children but that was then and this is now.

    I am 25 years old and I'm attracted to men my age. My younger sister (who is only 10 years old) is attracted to boys her age. That is the true biological norm - mutual attraction. In the past, the majority of marriages were arranged/forced, or young women were sold, bartered etc. Just because young women were married off to older men, doesn't mean it's a choice they willingly made. Are we suppose to call it normal because it was common in the old days? Even though it was against the wishes of the other half?

    Society has introduced laws and reforms to prevent these things from happening because most young teens lack the maturity to make informed choices. Laws are there to protect children from being exploited. I understand that teenagers of all ages can be sexually active. But it's different when they're being sexually active with members of a similar age compared to being taken advantage of by someone older.

    There's a clear difference between being attracted to 'young looking' adults and teens/children etc. Most people want their partners to look vibrant and young but doesn't mean they want pre/pubescent lovers! Looking young and vibrant just means (for most people) a healthy looking partner.

    All these apparent "advantages" of mating with a pubescent female doesn't fit in with the facts. Look at Africa TODAY. Many still births are born to teenage mothers (mostly raped/forced into marriage). The younger the mother, the higher the odds of miscarriage or still birth. And for the young mother, higher chances of developing fistulas (a condition where she cannot hold in her bowel moments or urine) and other complications with future pregnancies.

    Healthiest babies are actually born to mothers between the ages of 18-25. I can understand why a 40 or 50 year old man would be attracted to women in that age bracket. But young teenage girls/boys that can't bear children? Or being attracted to children? They're both disturbing.

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  49. 49. outraged 01:55 PM 7/7/09

    The author says "most teenage boys would prefer to scrub toilets for the rest of their lives or sell soft bagels at the mall than become the sexual plaything of an older gentlemen."

    What he should remember is that many victims end up in such vocations not by choice, but because they are traumatized and damaged so badly they become diminished people. And yes, that includes victims of ephebophiliacs.

    The whole article is stained as pedantic due to its lack of a victim's perspective.

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  50. 50. showme in reply to Jillian 04:41 PM 7/7/09

    The wording of the sentence you are referring to is awkward, but correct. Elvis is Lisa Marie's father. Priscilla was 14 when Elvis married her. There is no mention of anyone having an attraction for a young Lisa Marie in the article.

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  51. 51. Chickygirl in reply to Jillian 12:25 PM 7/8/09

    Jillian: Where the heck did you get that from?

    THIS is the quote: "In fact, ironically, Michael Jacksons first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, is the product of a hebephilic attraction. After all, lets not forget that Priscilla caught Elviss very grownup eye when she was just fourteen, only a year or two older than the boys that Michael Jackson was accused of sexually molesting."

    Meaning that Priscilla was underage when Elvis first met, and as attracted to, her. And Lisa Marie was then a product of that, meaning that Elvis had sex with Priscilla (although it's not clear if she was underage at the time) and Lisa Marie was born. It is not stated nor implied that Elvis made any sexual advances to Lisa Marie. (Not saying that didn't happen, cause I don't know. Just saying that's not stated/implied here.)

    It's a very poor example the author used, but I had to point out that you read it wrong.

    There's your correction.

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  52. 52. Chickygirl 12:26 PM 7/8/09

    Jillian: Where the heck did you get that from?

    THIS is the quote: "In fact, ironically, Michael Jacksons first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, is the product of a hebephilic attraction. After all, lets not forget that Priscilla caught Elviss very grownup eye when she was just fourteen, only a year or two older than the boys that Michael Jackson was accused of sexually molesting."

    Meaning that Priscilla was underage when Elvis first met, and as attracted to, her. And Lisa Marie was then a product of that, meaning that Elvis had sex with Priscilla (although it's not clear if she was underage at the time) and Lisa Marie was born. It is not stated nor implied that Elvis made any sexual advances to Lisa Marie. (Not saying that didn't happen, cause I don't know. Just saying that's not stated/implied here.)

    It's a very poor example the author used, but I had to point out that you read it wrong.

    There's your correction.

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  53. 53. Rampant_unicorn in reply to SciChick 04:36 PM 7/8/09

    SciChick, Kudos, your thoughts are very well stated, and I couldn't agree more.

    You seem to be receiving a certain amount of negative response from people who don't want to cut the issue down to it's core.

    Nobody is saying it unnatural or even particularly unusual to find an "blooming" individual attractive, or perhaps in some ways "stimulating".

    I think those who are voicing objections are not dealing with the obvious and very real point you've plainly and clearly made.

    "Think what you want, indulge whatever little thoughts might cross your mind. Fine, enjoy... Do something beyond that and you've crossed a line. A line that destroys lives."

    If you're not capable of seeing that, it's no wonder you're not understanding what SciChick had to say.

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  54. 54. gregtidwell 05:22 PM 7/8/09

    In regards to the "alliance formation theory"

    What genetic fitness benefits do the elder gentleman get?

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  55. 55. seawriter 11:25 AM 7/9/09

    I am so tired of this author's slippery perspective. Everything he writes reeks of the thrill a child sometimes gets by using a "dirty word" when quoting an adult.

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  56. 56. Michael Xavier Maelstrom 05:20 AM 7/11/09

    I'm pretty sure MOST people figured out that THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE are attracted to pubescents.

    HELLO young Britney Spears prancing around in a school-girl outfit = multi-millionaire overnight.

    Bottom line:


    2. It is ABNORMAL/IMMORAL/SELFISH/DISGUSTING (for ANY adult) to take those fantasies and attempt to turn them into reality when s/he knows it will DAMAGE the child psychologically for the rest of their life.

    Do not take the childhood away from the child.

    Rent Lolita and fist-off.

    Michael X.

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  57. 57. transsexual 06:47 AM 7/11/09

    The age of consent in Spain is 13. If hebephilia is a mental disorder, that's a lot of disordererd Spaniards.

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  58. 58. Aussieboy 06:29 AM 7/12/09

    I found this article to be very interesting and informative and have appreciated many of the comments e.g. Michael X and Chloe101. I have to say from the outset that while it seems clear to me that Mr. Bering writes most of his articles from a certain agenda, this doesn't negate his work nor does the content of his articles deserve the sort of shrill vilification ejaculated by some of the comments I've read.
    As a school teacher, I work closely with children from ages 5 to 17 and have even had the odd 15 year old girl have a crush on me. As a teacher, I am profoundly aware of the power that I have over students and have seen in the papers how that power can be abused. My students need to be able to trust that I would never do anything to harm them and there can be no gray areas or exceptions just because some 15 or 16 year old THINKS she knows what she wants.
    I am a christian and went to a number of church camps over several years at the same campsite. The resident cook was a lovely man in his forties I think, whom everyone held in very high regard. He was also a professing christian. Imagine my surprise years later when he was convicted of being a pedophile. Now what makes his case interesting in connection to Mr. Bering's article is that his "prey" were 16 year old boys that worked with him and developed a relationship with him. While I still see his actions as wrong/immoral, this article calls into question the degree of wrongness. Clearly 10 year olds are much more vulnerable than 16 year olds. To this day, the man refuses to acknowledge that he did anything wrong as the boys gave their consent, although I believe that this defense is used by many sex offenders.
    I would like to point out that while I find many of my students
    'attractive", I am not attracted to any of them (I prefer mature women with significant life experiences), do not fantasize about any of them (sorry Michael X)and thankfully , have only ever had one dream with a student in it (you can't control what's in your dreams).
    Finally, I think most adults know that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed but for those that don't, there are laws.

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  59. 59. Aussieboy 07:04 AM 7/12/09

    Me again. On a whim i did a search for "hebephile" and found a support blog. One of the gentlemen there was 35 and didn't care if the girls he was attracted to were young enough to be his daughter. As I said before, I am a teacher, what I didn't say was that I am 52 years old. Some of my fellow staff members are the same age or younger than my own kids. One in particular is very attractive and a lot of fun to be around(partly because she is so young and naive and easy to prank)but she is younger than my daughter and I have a mental block to that sort of thing even if I wasn't happily married.

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  60. 60. hotblack 10:43 AM 7/12/09

    "I am 25 years old and I'm attracted to men my age. My younger sister (who is only 10 years old) is attracted to boys her age. That is the true biological norm - mutual attraction."

    Assuming that you and your preferred peer group are the "True Biological Norm" (careful with that notion, btw). Look outside your own little sphere, and you will find you are in the minority.

    It is not uncommon whatsoever for females to seek older males for the basic elementary reasons everyone's known about for thousands of years. Who is a better provider/protector? A 17 year old boy running around acting like an idiot with his friends? Or an older, man, established, capable, and mature? Most, though not all girls are mature beyond boys of their same age, predisposing them to older men.

    Human nature isn't as squeeky clean and made-for-tv as some of you might like to think. There are functional reasons everyone's not identical.

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  61. 61. Dougtubing 08:55 AM 7/18/09

    Three dimensions unaddressed here are
    1.The reinforcement of any rewarding behavior. The first time might be an experiment, the next may be a learned response with suitable reward.
    2. The expression of power as the aphrodisiac. Having political power or physical power over the partner is one. Having the allure and sexual attention is the other power.
    3. Rather than pretending that one is attracted to a group of people, why not tell the truth and admit it is contempt for that group. It is more obvious in male blue collar workers to speak poorly of women. Building a consensus for contempt gives them the courage to go home and fill that role. The unity is not at home. The contempt may actually have been temporarily reduced by the support of their fellow males. It is not gone. Same with pedophilia. How many of our fellows claim they love someone or something and underlying it is comtempt. Maybe contempt of self first then the at risk behavior is the creative expression of this.

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  62. 62. Michael Xavier Maelstrom 04:31 PM 7/20/09

    DougTubing: Excellent point re: power / as aphrodisiac.

    re: contempt

    You may be right to some degree but as far as "norms" go, I think "contempt" as a source for desire is LESS common than "natural attraction" as a source for desire.

    AISI the noble attempt by our society to enforce the notion that pubescent-attraction is "wrong" falls off the rails when it descends to arguing CLEAR FALSEHOODS, such as "it's abnormal".

    That artifice is an unnecessary remnant from our heavier Judeo-Christian social-engineering days. Back when authority thought that peer-pressure manifesting as collective SUPPRESSION and collective DENIAL would be a good approach to behavioral conditioning.

    We all saw how well that worked out; even the religious and political / authority figures who came up with the idea (in)famously couldn't keep it in their pants.

    Bottom Line: SUPPRESSION and DENIAL of any naturally occurring biological attraction DOES NOT WORK FOR LONG.

    Worse, it clearly exacerbates the problem and increases the desire.

    I think the answer is for society to be allowed to GROW UP; to accept the truth of our biological attractions (whatever they may be) WHILE ALSO promulgating the apparently outrageous notion that just because we are attracted to someone does not mean we have to act on it.

    It is normal to be attracted to pubescent youth.

    For many reasons.

    Not the least of which is that

    o MOTHER NATURE has decided we're biologically ready for sex as pubescents; she has us looking our most attractive AND she has us sending out legions of aphrodisiacs / biochemicals / pheromones.

    o Co-relational Physicality. Power and Sex.

    o Psychology.

    Nabokov 's Lolita hits closest to the mark imo for MOST people it's about attempting to re-connect with lost love, lost innocence and lost youth.

    Would that we would please stop the artifice-excrement.

    We are inundated with the attraction of pubescent youth everywherefrom music to television to film to advertising itself - pubescence is now a western sales PHENOMENON, en par with that of Europe and Asia/Japan.

    We need to collectively move past the ridiculous denial of a natural attraction so that we can deal with it and focus on WHY YOU DO NOT IMMORALLY ACT ON THAT NATURAL ATTRACTION.

    to move from THE LIE: It's abnormal to be attracted to pubescents

    to THE TRUTH: It's normal but you can't act on it because the act is 100% selfishly disgustingly exploitive, it HARMS the pubescent.

    You wouldn't gain the child's youth, you'd rob the child of _theirs_.

    Michael X

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  63. 63. gasto 06:45 PM 7/26/09


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  64. 64. gasto 07:17 PM 7/26/09

    Great article.

    I think that there is no age for judging a person's sexual and mental maturity.

    These psychological and legal terms should be renamed based on characteristics (behavior, IQ, background,etc.) and not on an age set on stone.

    I know very mentally mature pubescent girls that far outdo 30+ year old women, in regards to sexual behavior.

    The fact that hebephilia and pedophilia portray a disgusting image of a man abusing of a child, is because of man is abusing a child, and not the fact that there is an age difference.

    It is very well known that some students fall "in love"(are sexually attracted) to certain teacher. A sexual act in such a circumstance is reproachable only in the context of the breach of a preconceived agreement the entrusting parent confines to the teacher, in the hopes of a professional lesson.

    But really, at the end of the day, it all comes down to being sexually attracted, and respecting the possible rejection of the attracting individual.

    Homosexuality in the majority of contexts, is by far a severer paraphilia than hebephilia in that the very foundation of homosexuality is unnatural. Hebephilia is understandable in biological terms... the just fertilized youngling is able to procreate and offers advantages that older men and women might find preferential: more tender, less corrupted by a decaying society, more beautiful, purer, virgin, etc. This unfortunately lends itself towards manipulation of the rules, and thus tenderness, might be seen for the perverted as naive; virgin might be seen in terms of "opportunity to sully his/her soul".

    The intentions of an individual count. And the guilt of person is fair if the other younger person did not consent the sexual act. Which can turn out to be abuse.

    The maturity of a person, therefore, must be judged by how he/she acts, and not by a pair of digits. It must be a fuzzy logic and not a 'state machine'. That is the main problem with science. They don't want to let the old manuscript way of documenting thins in favour to more modern methods, like AI of a reliable computer program (which will always be more reliable than a person's judgment).

    Bottom line, if you like a younger person, don't feel guilty, show him/her some affection and honest interest. And like any other relationship, it might go wrong. But don't dismantle yourself, be happy and keep trying.

    Remember to that you have a big social responsibility, and that a immature person(no matter the age) might feel psychologically molested if you did not analyze him/her with anticipation.

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  65. 65. m Andrea 10:15 PM 7/31/09

    Whenever someone attempts to make exploitation acceptable because "the victim said it was okay", notice how the focus is on the victim. The exploiter disappears from the entire issue. So instead let's focus on the person doing the exploiting. Let's ask them to justify their own behavior and leave their victim's behavior out of the equation. Why is it acceptable for you to exploit anyone at all? What makes you so special? Why does performing autrocities and creating evil come so naturally to you? Because it doesn't come so natually to ALL of us. Some of us are better than that.

    Once we get beyond focusing on the the exploiter's motivation, we have another question. Why do you have the right to presume that the other person is fully aware of all the potential and likely repercussions of your own proposed actions? Why do you have the right to assume that the other person's choice is free from economic coercion? Who gave you the right to presume that the other person grew up in a vacuum, magically free from a billion brainwashing messages all implying that of course young girls like to screw creepy old men? Why assume young girls like to screw men at all? Ten percent of us are lesbian, you know.

    Why presume any of that, when you have provided zero evidence that you are interested in anything but gratifying your own animalistic impulses?

    And for the evo-psyche nuts, I have a logical argument for you. If the assertion is "men can't help it, we've evolved that way" then of course you are admitting that you possess little capacity for reason and your animalistic instincts are out of control. For what's worth I totally agree with your initial premise -- but obviously in conclusion you need a choke chain and a legal guardian. Because if it is true "that you can't help your behavior", it is also true "that we don't have to tolerate your behavior".
    Please refrain from trying to refocus the subject and stick to refuting the logical conclusion of your own argument, if you can.

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  66. 66. Quirkyreaper 12:19 PM 8/1/09

    I have quietly and patiently read all of the posts here regarding Berring's article; some voracious in their denouncement and others more reasoned. I am an adult gay man who wrestles with his attration to pubescent and post-pubescent boys. As a psychologist, I am aware of the damage that can be done to the young mind, regardless of their apparent "willingness" at the time to participate in sexual relations. For those of you who are quick to denounce, I have neither participated in nor pursued ANY kind of stimulation with regards to an adolescent because I have the willpower not to! It seems the general consensus among the lesser academics is the continued demonization of people like myself as slobering, knuckle-dragging, sex-crazed satyr. This is not always the case! I am a living example that we can overcome physiology and base impulse. Yes, technically and academically speaking, I am an hebephile. My sexual desires are there but I have not and do not act upon them. I would also like to ask my "learned" colegues to suffer from "cephalo-anal inversion" to shed their cultural mores and think of this as a physiological problem and not a psychological one.

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  67. 67. Leebfan1 05:34 AM 11/18/09

    The part i like the most about this article is the mentioning that numerical age does not always coincide to physical maturity. I have caught some criticism for my pining of the young and overtly attractive Taylor Lautner. I found him to be a completely attractive adult male but upon discovering his age to be 17 i felt strange and was even looked at oddly for this. Scientifically he should be just about reaching maturity but he boast a physique of someone a few years if not many years older. Though clearly not a pedophile due to my attraction to him because of his face and mature physique people would like to nearly label me as one. I am 23 and traditionally attracted to people around my age group though not much older that Lautner his physical maturity reflects that of someone i am socially allowed to lust for, and just happen to biologically.

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  68. 68. 08:32 AM 11/20/09

    In the new McCarthyism of "everyone is a sexual predator" this puts things in a more rational perspective.

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  69. 69. ThePonderer 12:11 AM 12/13/09

    I don't think that the author is attempting to justify abhorrent behaviour. I think he's merely pointing out that while on the one hand people want it punished, on the other hand they think what a waste it is that someone with all that talent threw their life away by destroying other peoples lives.

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  70. 70. ThePonderer 12:29 AM 12/13/09

    It's a scary thought that sexual evolution is lagging behind cultural evolution. A hundred years ago it was very common in western countries for teenagers to lead adult lives in every sense of the word.

    I agree with Jesse Bering that when a highly talented individual's abhorrent crimes destroy the lives of others and in the process destroy their own life, people are generally more inclined to say what a waste than they are if a perpetually unemployed person with no talent commits the same crimes. I think it is very unfortunate that some people distort this point of view, claiming it is an attempt to justify the crimes.

    Apart from that I would say that the only people who have the right to publicly accuse Michael Jackson of anything are the alleged victims. With something like this how many people know for certain what did or didn't happen besides them and the accused?

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  71. 71. ThePonderer 12:34 AM 12/13/09

    My first comment might sound like I'm saying the author of the article accused Jackson of the crimes he was charged with. I think he just openly wondered about it. Maybe that's not a good thing either though.

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  72. 72. ThePonderer in reply to slywy 12:39 AM 12/13/09

    The author made it clear that they're aware the various categories of abnormal sexual desire are likely to overlap and that the stage of physical development doesn't always correspond with age. They commented on how it is difficult to make the law completely objective for this reason if the subcateogries are focussed on.

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  73. 73. tyciol 03:53 PM 1/22/10

    Clarification like this is very helpful to the public who are largely ignorant of these specializations. It is unfortunate when people who are merely ephebophile or hebephile are tricked by ignorance and slang into believing that 'pedophile' is an apt description for their character.

    Similarly, people forget that 'preference' is a key here, not merely attraction, so even being attracted to adolescents, pubescents or prepubescents is not adequate unless it is a clear sustained preference. In fact furthermore, according to psychology, it additionally has to be a preference that is disruptive, essentially obsessive in nature, before qualifying for pedophilic diagnosis (whereas I am not sure if there are diagnoses for obsessions over the other 2)

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  74. 74. vjgower in reply to SpoonmanWoS 08:41 PM 3/28/10

    Please remember that not every one who objects to a specified behavior engages in that behavior. For example, many of us who are faithful object to infidelity. There are plenty of heterosexuals who disapprove of homosexuality, I would think. I also disapprove of a lot of other things that I have never done, and so do you. Having said that, I must say that I appreciate the temptation to suggest that the strident objectors are actually practitioners of the behaviors about which they are getting overly exercised.

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  75. 75. vjgower in reply to hotblack 08:47 PM 3/28/10

    hotblack, if what you wrote is true, I would respectfully suggest that you see an endocrinologist. When you make the appointment, you should tell them it is regarding your libido, as many endocrinologists seem to only know about diabetes, at least in my area.

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  76. 76. vjgower 09:22 PM 3/28/10

    I just read my recent post, and I now realize that it sounds as though I disapprove of homosexuality, when I was actually referring back to a general disapproval of infidelity. Sorry about that.

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  77. 77. dakota2001 in reply to kfreels 07:53 PM 6/26/10

    amazing the amount of denial society lives in.the example of the 25 year old and 15 year is spot on!! it happens! funny nobody admits to being attracted to teen girls...who's buying all that barely legal porn

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  78. 78. uhclem 11:48 AM 7/3/10

    From a legal perspective the distinctions between pedophile, hebephile and ephebophile are irrelevant. Most societies agree that sex between a minor and an adult is a social taboo, therefore punishable by severe legal consequences as well as stigmatization. Also, these are not new terms; they've been in the literature since at least the sixties. In many States in the U.S. being diagnosed a pedophile would not be a legal defense but a liability for the defendant. It would result in a way ticket to Civil Commitment. Furthermore, discussions about these distinctions are interesting only to a small number of people in "the cottage industry" of forensic psychology (actually, I think it's more of a "mansion" industry when you take into account the vast number of law enforcement and clinical specialists employed in the service of managing convicted offenders). A more interesting follow up to this article could provide the good news - much of which is validated by research: the rate of sexual abuse has been in decline since the mid 1980's - long before sex offender registry laws were enacted - and the recidivism rate among known offenders is far, far lower than the media reports. Also, treatment works for many offenders - as does prevention. Parents who realize that the typical offender is likely to be a family member or trusted adult can teach their children how to react if approached or groomed. The nightmare, "snatch and grab" cases are both horrific and extremely rare. But they are a field day for the media. Finally, the term pedophile has unfortunately been subjected to "creeping definitionalism," whereby a word with limited meaning expands to a broader meaning that diminishes the original definition. In that sense, I think this article provides us with a linguistic service. But Gide and Wilde as pedos or hebos? If I remember my college lit classes they were drawn to youths over the age of 16 and well into their 20's. Well, that and five bucks will get me an exotic coffee drink somewhere.

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  79. 79. tallmchris1 04:27 PM 7/13/10

    jerry lee lewis married his first cousin once removed, i.e., his first cousin's daughter, not his first cousin.

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  80. 80. tallmchris1 in reply to quantum_flux 05:05 PM 7/13/10

    romeo and juliet are fictional characters. as well, the article is about men who are attracted to young teens, not about teens being attracted to other teens.

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  81. 81. tallmchris1 05:08 PM 7/13/10

    the age of consent in England shortly before Wilde's troubles was 13. it moved up due to the widespread pimping of 13 year old virgins.

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  82. 82. tallmchris1 in reply to ljayner 05:17 PM 7/13/10


    you assume that everyone had the same erotic feelings as you did. i find girls in their middle and late attractive and continued to find willing and even eager partners that age well into my early forties, when i settled down. i never paid for it. in fact, unlike women, those girls had no expectations that i'd take them out to eat or to a movie. they were quite willing simply to come home with me, not just for sex, but to watch TV, talk, listen to music. very often when i'd suggest going out, the girls would respond that they'd rather go home with me.

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  83. 83. tyciol 05:33 PM 9/18/10

    Ben, I would say that's ad hominem. Anyone should be able to argue, even those with biased interests. We can assess arguments based on their own merit. Due to anonymity and lack of knowledge, I think most of us assume all parties biased anyway and thus apply skepticism to all inputs.

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  84. 84. Oslers Beast 01:00 PM 11/11/10

    This is a well written and thoughtful article on a notorious subject. FYI the moral question you raise of whether Oscar Wilde's or Michael Jackson's transgressions in light of their talent has been addressed in great depth by the pretty awesome philosopher Bernard Williams, who uses the case of Gauguin, the impressionistic painter who abandons his wife and children to cavort with 14 year old tahitian girls and attend to his painting. I personally believe that transgressions must be punished no matter who you are, but williams articulates that uncomfortable pause we face when we realize the sinner is not wholly evil, but both very bad and* the bearer of great things. humanity, what a mess.

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  85. 85. clewis 12:25 PM 12/22/10

    The evolutionary explanation for hebephilia can be extended to pedophilia. When an adult had a sexual relationship with a child it would be more likely that when the child did become sexually mature they would choose the adult as their first sexual partner.

    It is also worth noting that most sexual relationships between prepubescent children and adults are not penetrative and instead consist of behaviour that is considered fore-play when adults do it. The actual sex mostly happens when the child is pubescent - and it happens with the adult - giving them an evolutionary advantage.

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  86. 86. Kobidobidog 04:25 PM 1/1/11

    See accusations and confusion trying to give commingle guilt,and see not a loving God. Gods law is simple. love all,and receive love from all being one in forgiving love.Do that,and words describing sexualities will become meaningless.

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  87. 87. Kobidobidog 05:38 PM 1/1/11

    Jesus gives loving caring understanding,and forgiveness, but hear anything else,and it is of the dark enemy of that loving God who gave us the living that things that are seen,and unseen on this planet that keep on giving,and the infinite universe all around our planet. All should stop bickering about whatever,and save your soul. Those against the zoosexual are throwing their soul away ,and that makes God sad,and will make the one throwing their soul away sad too. Make all Glad,and hug the zoosexual,and whoever for that matter,and make all Glad,and send the negative devil far away never to be seen ever again.

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  88. 88. Kobidobidog 01:50 AM 1/2/11

    It is simple. have fear,and humans will make laws that hold humans in bondage. they will fear losing their life say in a nuclear war, but all humans die because that is the consequences of sin,but have faith in God and love all waiting for the gift of eternal life, and Joy,and one will not have fear even in the face of such an event,and not spend untold amounts of money in an attempt to save this body.It is the soul that needs to be saved being good to others, and yourself. Then all of these laws will be useless,and humans will be forgiving,and see each other as they see themselves. That is having Gods law of God of love in your heart.Humans are falling into Satan's deadly trap of giving the negative things he has to give,and not the positive loving things Jesus who is God has to give.Have the positive,and give the positive,and the human animal will not make a dart board of a confusing array of names like dart boards for humans as stupid as a beast to throw a darts at.All love all the sexualities,and even your enemies,and Satan will be the only one to perish in his own flames,to be turned to dust when God Judge's the living, and the dead.

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  89. 89. ormondotvos 04:46 PM 1/5/11

    love that dare not speak its name wasnt homosexuality, per se, but rather a great affection of an elder for a younger man: there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo& It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
    But, generally speaking, Muscarellas theory doesnt seem to pull a lot of weight. Not many teenage boys in any culture seem terribly interested in taking this particular route to success. Ratherand I may be wrong about thisbut I think most teenage boys would prefer to scrub toilets for the rest of their lives or sell soft bagels at the mall than become the sexual plaything of an older gentlemen.

    Seems to me you're worried about being thought friendly to the noble sentiments, so you have to express crude ones. How is the first sentiment, the intellectual desire to groom promising you with wisdom, worse than cleaning toilets. You err.

    Sexual desires are one of the chief means for society to train its members to behave the way they're told. It's exactly designed to make no sense. Power has to make it clear that obedience is absolute, not rational

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  90. 90. peacedove 01:51 AM 2/18/11

    I'm a guy in his early 20s who's getting over years of heavy denial of the fact he's a gay hebephile. I absolutely love boys. I think they're the most amazing people in the world. I love the child's curiosity and sense of fun. I've always felt like an outsider because I don't understand adult relationships at all. On the other hand, I have an uncanny ability to relate with children and I want nothing more than to be able to make some boy's life a bit more magical. Because of the world I live in, this sexual orientation means that I'm never going to be satisfied sexually, which is a daunting thing to realize.

    This is an interesting and well-balanced article, despite the provocative tone. What it fails to emphasize, however, is that philia means LOVE. Discussions about pedophilia (I use it as a catch-all term) always seem to be uniquely about sex. Seldom is there mention that pedophiles fall madly in love with children, regardless of whether or not there is sexual contact. According to the pro-Childlove sites, the feelings can be mutual. I know that this seems as strange as falling in romantic love with a member of your own family, but I've felt it and I know it to be true, though I've never had such a relationship. I've decided to consider myself fortunate to have the ability to fall in love with an 11-year-old boy.

    I've been thinking about the future and I realize that I'm going to have to put up with a lot of hate from people who think they know better. I don't subscribe to the view that sexuality is necessarily harmful to children. Objective science in the current social climate is pretty much impossible, so it can't support either side. I value my freedom more than my sexuality so I must stay within the limits of the law.

    What I would like to know more about is the apparent link between hebephilia and creative genius. I'm told that Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Camille Saint-Saens, Walt Disney, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Britten, Thomas Mann and Michael Jackson all might have been attracted to children. Obviously, the list goes on. These are a lot of big names.

    I'm an artist and people tell me I'm gifted. Going through school has shown me that I am one of the smartest people I know. I can only wonder what the future has in store for me.

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  91. 91. St_Frank in reply to peacedove 06:42 AM 2/25/11

    Peacedove, I can relate to what you're going through. I am also a man in his early 20s who has hebephiliac attractions, although mine are for girls. I went through a period of denial and self-hatred about it, but I found that it's just best to accept it as part of who you are and get on with your life. I am not solely attracted to young girls or even solely attracted to females (I have no attraction to young boys, however), but it is a strong attraction, nonetheless. Thankfully, I have found outlets that are legal and can find a release for it by myself. It also helps to have someone to talk to who is accepting of it, or who at least understands.

    I, too, see it as a gift. It's a gift to be able to love anyone or anything at all. I see it as a natural variant of human sexuality. It shames me that society is so fearful of natural urges that we can't even have honest, mature discussions of attractions that are 'deemed' taboo. Hopefully, we'll eventually get over that. I'd like it to be in my lifetime.

    You are also correct in your estimation that the love that some feel towards young people is essentially innocent. That's another thing that's wrong with this whole picture; science doesn't want to discuss the truly human aspect of it, it just focuses on the merely physical parts of it. It doesn't get into the real lives and experiences (emotional or otherwise) of people like us. It doesn't help much.

    As for the artistic side of things: I believe that once you accept yourself, and who you love, it leads to being a more passionate person. Passion drives us to create. Of course there's not many forces in the world that can compare to Eros.

    I wish you luck in your journey and may you find contentment.

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  92. 92. peacedove in reply to St_Frank 07:51 PM 3/2/11

    Thanks, St_Frank. We're all in this together.

    I'm feeling better now of days than I have the last little while. I got pretty badly depressed; my marks in school and my social life suffered. I was sleeping pretty much all the time and hardly eating anything... All the while, I had to pretend I was just another seasonal depressive who gets like this in the winter. I had to act like I was perfectly fine while on the inside I had a violent hurricane of thoughts and ideas rattling and clanging, shaking me to my very foundation. It's a good thing I'm well-grounded. I went from being convinced I was straight to realizing I've got a label that in the eyes of a hysterical society is on par with "murderer," this despite the fact I've committed no crime.

    A hysterical society that won't believe me when I tell them I'm in love. Won't believe me when I tell them I'd give my life for the boy. If I could just make them see through my eyes... It's a beautiful, amazing, wonderful, spiritually moving thing when a child smiles.

    They'll call it "rationalization."

    I'm writing in the hope that someone out there is going to read it and consider that I might actually just be a person like they are. I get my catharsis posting messages like this. It's almost like coming out. Thank God for the internet and anonymity.

    I get to practice my rhetoric, too. I over-emphasize in the hope they'll empathize. :P

    But, it's the 92nd reply on a Sci Am article from 2 years ago. Why I'm even posting I don't know.

    The world doesn't care. Things aren't going to change and I'm just going to have to put up with more and more oppression. There's too much money to be made hunting us all down, and too many minds are closed, unwilling to open.

    All I can do is say to a silent, uninterested world, "Please, please! You're making a terrible mistake!"

    Now, I know there are people who do awful things to children. They repulse me. Thing is, the worst crimes against children are done by sociopaths, who probably don't even have the same sexuality I do. I can't believe that someone who sees the beauty I do in children could harm one. Maybe I'm just naive.

    What society is doing is painting love and hate with the same brush. What we're doing is breaking up beautiful, mutually beneficial relationships that can last for years. A lot of them aren't even sexual!

    I imagine a world where there are visible positive role models for pedophilia.

    I say to the world, don't criticize what you don't understand.

    It's about love.

    maybe someday art will set me free

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  93. 93. St_Frank in reply to peacedove 09:14 AM 3/5/11

    Peacedove, I agree with everything you've said there.

    To me, it seems like the world is experiencing an accelerated rate of change. More and more people are shaking up perceptions of sexuality and gender, and it is becoming easier to have such dialogues. At least on the Internet. So it is an exciting time to be alive.

    Just know that you're not alone, and there are support forums on the Web for people like us.

    If you would like to talk more about this, I can give you my e-mail address.

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  94. 94. wheresthesense in reply to lance08alot 08:00 AM 3/9/11

    Yes, the marriage between men in their 30's and 40's and very young women was socially acceptable when society was set up in such a way that it was necessary and advantageous to do so.

    But if we speak of the natural world, of animalistic tendencies and of reproductive advantage then you must be aware that the young women married to old, and probably balding, men were more than likely attracted to young men their own age.

    Reproductive advantage belongs to the young. So in a world with no society, the fertile human female of any age would choose to mate with the fittest male and most likely very young, under 25.

    In the natural world, the healthiest and strongest young men would be the the ones inseminating ALL the fertile females. You would be an old man at 25 because the health and number of your sperm begin to decline at about 25.

    So our society was created by old men for old men, it would seem. Yes, the old men are sexually attracted to teens, but teens are sexually attracted to other teens or to truly healthy slightly older guys.

    But you see, we are way way more than just our natural instincts anymore, we have left that chapter in our evolution behind. Most of us desire sex with another, for reasons that have nothing to do with reproduction. So unless you want to have a baby with a teenager then what is your reasoning?

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  95. 95. wheresthesense in reply to hotblack 08:49 AM 3/9/11

    When you say that your first and most beautiful love was to someone aged 16 and you 17, and that you are now forever looking for that same feeling it's understandable.

    My first love was at 10 to another 10 year old. It was such a beautiful feeling, but I am no longer attracted to 10 year olds. I also fell in love at 17 to someone of 16 and it was the strongest sexual feeling I had experienced up to that point and I think since then, but I am no longer attracted to 16 year olds.

    My sexual needs are tied to my emotional and mental needs. I have evolved beyond my pre-teen and teenage needs both mentally and emotionally so naturally my sexuality is satisfied by people who are my equals in that respect.

    So I would say that you need to get some therapy, because, unfortunately for you, socially and most times legally it is unacceptable for people over a certain age to date and fall in love with teenagers.

    I think that what we might miss is how powerful and strong our sex drive was during our teens, but having sex with teens is probably not gonna give you that drive back.

    Meditate, actually I recommend QiGong because it will increase your energy and ability to stay relaxed. Anything that helps you relax will produce wonderful results with your sex drive. You might be surprised at how stress robs you of your health and vitality.

    Try and find peace. Your life is where it is at the moment, make peace with it and you'll soon be isnpired to make positive changes.

    Exercise and don't eat too many bad fats. Sluggish blood circulation greatly affects blood flow to your penis.

    I digressed so much from the original topic. Ugh.

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  96. 96. wheresthesense in reply to peacedove 09:53 AM 3/9/11

    Hi Peacedove,

    You sound like such a gentle and loving soul.

    (On a side note, my previous comments were meant mostly for people who use the argument of "basic reproductive instinct" to justify hurtful behavior)

    Most of us are weirded out when we think of pedophiles and hebephiles. I hope you know that it's from information we are given.

    Our fear is that the adult has too much advantage over the child. That it will not be a fair exchange. I'm think most children do not desire to do sexual things with an adult.

    I have heard that pedophilia and the like, is like homosexuality. At one point in history homosexuality was considered a deviant behavior and a mental illness. But the thing about homosexuality is that in a sexual act, there would be two homosexuals. With Pedophilia, only one of the people involved is a pedophile. The child is not a pedophile. Do children fall in love with adults?

    The truth is I never judged Michael Jackson, never felt disgust when I thought that he might like young boys because I had seen Michael in interviews. He always seemed like such a child himself, very vulnerable and sensitive. He seemed very innocent to me, and I felt a protective instinct kick in when I thought people were being cruel.

    If kids are not being hurt in any way at all, no mental trauma, no emotional pain then if falling in love with children is something that happens to many people then perhaps there is something to it.

    In the meantime use your art to express what you feel, both the love and the pain. The truth is that none of us owns anyone, even if we love them. Sometimes you have to love from afar, it happens to all of us. Unrequited love is painful, but sometimes the pain is quite beautiful. To desire someone so much without a real hope to ever have them can sometimes break your heart and teach you humility which is beautiful.

    Please, don't judge yourself. Do not hate yourself. Don't listen to opinions that hurt you.

    If our eyes, hearts and minds are closed you might be here to help pry these open. But you will have to have compassion for the whole of humanity.

    I hope you can understand the fear around this subject.

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  97. 97. Nijuro 04:53 PM 3/27/11

    What disgusts me most about these kneejerk reactionaries who condemn sex with anyone younger than 18 or even 16 is their assertion that sexual desire is base and dark in some way and never associated with love. These people are doing more damage with their headless chicken fearmongering than absolutely innocent double takes from me at what they'd consider jailbait. Recently Stephen Harper raised the Canadian age of consent from 14 to 16 to placate worried gullible parents and erotic art depicting minors is already illegal in Canada. What makes these people think they have a right to tell anyone what they can and cannot draw or look at? What significance does the age of 16 have except that it's two years closer to the age you die? I truly believe that if they could conservatives would ban sex in any form.

    I am a boy with hebephilic desire but also ephebophilic and teleiophilic desire too. I've always been attracted to older women from the time I hit puberty at about thirteen. What infuriates me most is that, at that age, the only reason I never had an experience with a hebephilic adult woman is because any who wanted to would have been too scared to act on their desire because of society's rigid policing of sexuality and gender.

    If I still believed in a gender or sexual binary I'd probably consider myself bisexual but as I think about it more and more these words really only stifle sexual expression. When I turned thirteen I became a sexual being and that's what I am now. There's no more point in labelling myself bisexual than there is in giving the genres of movies I like an official-sounding pseudo-scientific name; bigenre? It took the freedom of conversation only 4chan could provide for me to explore my sexuality and that says more about the society I live in than it does about me.

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  98. 98. peacedove in reply to wheresthesense 08:33 PM 5/2/11

    The question is "Do children fall in love with adults?"

    There's something called hero worship that I've been reading about recently. Here's a link to an article called "The Role of Androphilia in the Psychosexual Development of Boys" from the peer-reviewed International Journal of Sexual Health.

    In short, the answer seems to be yes. Most people just never experience it because they don't have any need to, and they don't give kids the time of day.

    It's why boys like superheroes so much... (note: tongue-in-cheek)

    This isn't just fabrication either. I was volunteering with some kids not long ago (in a purely legal way!) and one of them walked up to me and said "I'm just going to stand here and stare at you for a few minutes." Another boy was following me around all day and I'm pretty sure he was trying to hit on me. Kids aren't asexual. I read recently that someone had an 11-year-old boy tell them "I love you too much to lie to you."

    The thing is that it's only wrong in a society that forbids it, but because the society forbids it it is actually wrong. If there wasn't such general repulsion, consensual acts where both participants are willing (e.g. the vast majority of the cases currently being seen in the courts) wouldn't be harmful in the long term. It makes no sense to think that something that was enjoyed at the time would wind up causing major distress unless it was re-appraised after the fact.

    The fact is that these relationships have been happening since the dawn of civilization and they will continue to happen despite the laws. Many kids don't care about the laws and are willing to keep the adults' secret. It's a taboo thing to say (which is why I'm posting this via Russia via Finland) but the laws aren't doing anything but making life miserable for the altruistic childlovers like myself who obey them.

    I do understand the fear around the subject, but I see that that fear is largely irrational. It it was just something that happened, then it would just be something that happened. There are people who do very bad things to kids and we should be going after them, not breaking up relationships. There are plenty of other sorts of child abuse happening but it is only sexual abuse, which was shown by Rind et al. (1998) to account for about 1% of the variance of psychological distress in non-clinical samples, that is persecuted, and this on par with murder.

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  99. 99. sacnphilly 11:17 AM 12/2/11

    It is interesting that this article has not garnered revived interest since the Penn State affair.

    As someone who used to work with sex offenders in the criminal justice system, the differentiation of these categories is of great import for treatment and prognosis. True pedophiles have a very complex makeup that is almost impossible to rehabilitate. The best we can hope for from these individuals (I admit I am generalizing here) is that they will develop self-restraint in a manner similar to an addictive compulsion.

    Generally speaking Hebephiles and Ephebephiles are more malleable, CBT and aggressive intervention can sometimes produce change. Especially when they recognize that they are doing a great deal of psychological and sometimes physical damage.

    In addition to the preferred object choice of people who desire minors there is also the intensity of their desires, when and how they started, whether there is a history of trauma in their own lives, their capacity for empathy and their emotional development to take into account.

    While I understand the punitive feelings of victims and their families; our society still needs research to develop effective strategies for dealing with what is after all a very real and damaging behavior. Sexologist's taxons are a step in the right direction.

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  100. 100. TheTolerantChick 05:49 PM 12/6/11

    Lets play the blame game. Here are the people to most if not all choose to blame:
    -no one
    If you were choosing anyone of these, its time to end the game and share some enlightenment.
    Pedophiles and many other sexual offenders and over all considered "Wackos" are the product of none other than A PATRIACHAL SYSTEM which has social constructed them.
    This system glories violence and domination of man not only over women but children and men too. This system benefits the elite white heterosexual man.
    Being 'the man' is consider in society as being violent, not showing any emotions such as crying or feeling sad because then your a pussy [a women's part because a women is a low rank]. It also consist of objectifying and domianting over a women. Because a women in this system is nothing other than a man's propertity of sexual pleasure.
    Being a woman is being this sex object to the man by having good looks, cooking, cleaning,and provide the sex 'the man' needs. After you've become too old, he will replace your ass with someone younger and hotter. [look at the Genital mutilation young girls go through to be a 'pure virgin' and sold off as product to a man in other countries. in american you see it in the form of sexual harrassment in the work place and outside such as the media, im talking to you playboy]
    Being a child in this system means seeing this relationship and fiting into these socially constructed gender-roles and also knowing you have know power as a child because your not an adult.
    The Cycle of violence goes like this The boss yells at the man who hits the wive who thus hits the children and guess what the children are kicking the dog.
    This patriachal system benefits no one in reality [except that rich white hetero man in short-term]. Men are being stripped of their ability to have feelings and be able to express them. Women are stripped of their rights to their bodies and to loving themselves. Children are being stripped of both.
    There is a solution to ending this cycle and it starts within ourselves to get rid of this patriarchal system. To love one another as equals. A better life in everyway for you and the people who surround you when you do. You'll also never think the same ever again.

    Anyway I just wanted to share that with you all. Hope you all have a beautiful and fullfill life.

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Pedophiles, Hebephiles and Ephebophiles, Oh My: Erotic Age Orientation


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