Devil’s Advocate

This article in the Hindustan Times and another one I had read some time back got me thinking – if child pornography is such a big thing, do we need to acknowledge the existence of ‘good pedophiles’ (by ‘good pedophiles’ I mean men who haven’t acted on their urges)? Don’t get me wrong – I DO NOT support child molesters and think they are the worst scum of the earth – worse than murderers…I also think all of them should be physically castrated, but what about people who are burdened with a sexual interest in children but who possess the moral sense to resist acting on that interest? I mean, we all know that most people are racists and as long as they don’t harm anybody, we don’t give a damn about them, so should we give a damn about people who merely view child pornography?

I don’t think pedophiles can be converted to non-pedophiles, just as homosexuals cannot be converted to heterosexuals, but how can society help the ‘good pedophiles’ and thereby our children? I’m sure most of these people don’t get help from professional therapists because of the social stigma attached (I’m not sure if there are psycho therapies geared towards men who haven’t acted out) and manage to get through life by controlling their urges, but what happens if the percentage of people who can control themselves falls? Should there be government sponsored agencies who provide medication anonymously to reduce such people’s sex drive? Shouldn’t we think along these lines, meaning, shouldn’t we be thinking about nipping the problem in the bud?

Again, I’m just rambling here but do let me know your thoughts…

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24 thoughts on “Devil’s Advocate

  1. An interesting line of thought Bones. I would have never thought of it this way. But are we sure that the pedophilic urge is normal as in something that can be part of a normal person like homosexuality, or is it always a result of some mental disturbance. If I suppose it is something that is part of their personality, I think it would be advisable for them to be treated, in whatever way possible.

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  2. I think we must also understand the situation a bit more. I want to differentiate between true pedophiles and statutory pedophiles. Real pedophiles are attracted to physically immature children and the latter are attracted to physically mature individuals who are still below the legal adult age.

    I don’t consider the latter pedophiles – those attracted to sexually mature teenagers. After all, sex with pubescent men and women was (and is) common enough to be called natural no matter what the law says. As far as I’m concerned, if nature thinks a person’s body is ready for sex, then they are.

    The whole “they’re not emotionally prepared for it” funda comes from making such a huge deal out of sex. There’s really no need to. No one is so fragile as to be harmed from sex per se. As for “they’re too young to have their hearts broken”, no one really dies from that either and it’s a part of life. It’s unnatural to try and “protect” teenagers more than you really need to.

    Let us also get one thing out of the way here – people view relations between an adult female and a teenage male differently from the way they view an adult male and a teenage female. Why this is so, I’m not sure but it’s good to know that such a difference exists.

    So while devising treatment, make sure you’re not “treating” healthy individuals who are called pedophiles simply due to a definition of law. After all, the fact that the age of consent varies from country to country is proof that nothing is set in stone. The age of consent in the Netherlands for example is 14. Is the whole country filled with Pedophiles? I don’t think so.

    Me: I agree with you on statutory pedophiles…Here I’m talking about true pedophiles…

    Also, your statement “No one is so fragile as to be harmed from sex per se” is not true…Teenagers are not adults and so are not as fully developed as adults to deal with the pros and cons of having sex…People mature at different rates both emotionally and physically…So, even though one 14 year old may not be emotionally scarred by the sexual act, another may be…Esp. girls because they view sex differently from men…To them, the sexual act involves some emotional involvement i.e. it does not happen in a vacuum…

    Then there is the physical aspect as well…Is the body of a 12 year old fully developed to deal with penetration? I don’t think so…Hence, legally some age has to be set…

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  3. Interesting thought, Bones. Does the latent desire to do anything socially or legally unacceptable mean one needs help? More importantly, how exactly can such people be helped?

    Bhagwad Jal Park’s point is a valid one, as the age of consent varies across countries.

    Check out this post by Ketan – he makes some very interesting points.

    http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-man-boy-love-beautiful-thing.html#comments

    Cheers,

    Quirky Indian

    I read the post and found it extremely interesting…

    Me: Everybody who has a latent desire to do something socially or legally unacceptable may not need help, but sex with a minor (true pedophilia) is something so wrong and sometimes so uncontrollable that I feel people with such desires should seek help and the relevant help should be available to them…

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  4. I second the views of Bhagwat. There was a report recently that a Saudi official had said that a one year old girl is old enough to give consent for marriage but not to have sex!

    Me: Seriously? WOW! Trust a Saudi man to come up with such a statement…

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  5. I agree of course that some age needs to be set. You’re right when you say the body of a 12 year old isn’t likely to be ready for penetration. I was of course only referring to physically mature individuals.

    Also, I feel the emotional component of sex is part of the rough tumble of life. A girl may get bruised, but I’m of the opinion that the human mind can’t be broken by what is after all, a natural process. She’ll feel the pain for a while just like any other bruise and then it’ll heal and she’ll know better next time.

    The danger of course is that society might make the bruise bigger than it really is via stigma etc etc. But that’s a flaw of society not the human mind. The normal human mind IMHO is well equipped to deal with a broken heart. It’s one of the more common maladies after all 🙂

    No need to be overprotective the way Americans get about their children getting physically hurt for example – with special seat belts, house proofing and so on. The same should go for emotional hurt.

    Me: Society is the root of most problems, isn’t it? Even adult rape – society makes it hard for a woman to report it which further puts pressure on her mental well being and let’s the culprit roam around free…

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  6. But how does one know who the potential paedophile is unless he admits it himself? If he admits it then he should have the option of seeking medical help. Why not? I think he deserves a helping hand.

    And a physically mature 14 year old is still a child, and there is no way to know if her consent was coerced in so many ways in which it can be – so the law must protect them. I am fine with consensual sex between 13-15 year teenagers (like in Juno) (I think is legal in many countries and should be), but not a child and an adult. Most societies, including ours seem to think exactly the opposite is right. Young kids are married to older men – whether or not they know what’s happening to them, and all hell breaks loose if young girls are in relationships with boys their own age (and of their own liking). I suspect this is because most of these virginity obsessed social laws were created by these older men who feared they would not be the first (or last) choice of these younger girls (at least in most cases).

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  7. Sraboney,

    I landed here after I realized Quirky Indian had linked my blog-post in the comments, here.

    Anyway, my post deals with the issue very selectively. Incidentally, I myself was thinking as to how much are those who get sexually attracted to children at fault?

    You and the readers here have raised many issues that relate not just law, but even ethics and psychiatry.

    Though I am no expert, I’ll try to address them, and that will make the comment long. Hope, you don’t mind. 🙂 Also, at the outset I’ll recommend that you go through the wikipedia article on pedophilia (click)

    Firstly, pedophilia is indeed a psychological disorder. But by definition, it includes only those people who feel an urge to have sex with prepubescent children.

    These in turn could be of two types – exclusive (do not feel attracted towards adults at all, and can have sexual gratification only by having sex with children) and nonexclusive type (feel attracted towards and can seek gratification from both adults and children).

    There are others who are not attracted to children to begin with, but may end up having sex with them because of unavailability of an adult sexual partner. These people are not pedophiles, but simply child sexual abusers. So, important part in diagnosis of pedophilia is not the act, but the urge. Of course, urge may translate into action.

    It would be very inhuman to say that to simply possess a certain kind of urge is a crime. Because no one ultimately gets to choose one’s urges. They are inherent – possibly, part genetics (though not proven in case of pedophilia), nurture and childhood experiences (pedophiles are suspected to have suffered from childhood head trauma, and their mothers are more likely to have sought treatment for psychological disorders).

    But the next thing you have suggested is strong punishment for those who act out on such urges. But does this not follow from the assumption that everyone has in them equal ability to restrain their actions? But is this truly the case? There is an entire range of psychological disorders known as impulse control disorders, which arise precisely because of inability to control acting out on one’s impulses. In fact more precisely not acting out gives rise to intense anxiety, which incapacitates them vis-a-vis routine functions. You might have heard of these – kleptomania and pyromania….

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  8. …So, part of the problem faced by those acting out on their urge is their inherent inability to control their impulses. But to what extent this inability to restrain is responsible for those ending up abusing children has not yet been determined.

    But fortunately, it has been found that those suffering from exclusive variety of pedophilia is are just 7%. Meaning, the rest can actually have sex with consenting adults, and not feel a significant deficiency in their sexual life.

    But yes, those suffering from the exclusive variety are bound to feel sexually frustrated and discriminated against. As they can see the whole world having sex and enjoying it, whereas what they want to do to derive gratification is illegal (and rightly so).

    But this opens up a few more contentious issues. If it gets proven in case of a particular pedophile that it was his inherent inability to control acting out an urge, then ideally he should be absolved of the guilt. I think the relevant section is 84 of the Indian Penal Code.

    This is because law is largely based on ethics, which looks into not just the act and its consequences, but also the intent behind it. So, in such cases, the abuser should have a more lenient punishment, but psychiatric treatment would then become mandatory. 🙂

    As to the treatment part, two types of psychiatric treatments have been tried with some success. First is the cognitive behavior therapy, which seeks to alter the beliefs of the patient, for instance to make the patient understand that to get attracted to children is not alright and how to repress them consciously, or to make them aware of the harms caused by child sexual abuse. The second method is to replace the object of their sexual attraction from children to adults by subconscious methods like punishment for arousal by children and reward for arousal by adults.

    However, none of the two techniques have been entirely successful, but of course, the good thing is to a limited degree they have been. However, the first technique is largely useful for those who have already indulged in abuse.

    The third technique is chemical castration, i.e., using drugs that inhibit production or action of testosterone – the hormone responsible for sexual attraction….

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  9. …But apart from some side effects like female-like breasts, it also goes against human rights. But what still could justify it is that without that treatment, patients might have to be restricted to an asylum.

    So despite the fact that ethically those who feel an attraction towards children and act on it might not be morally responsible (for inherently not having a control), to safeguard children from significant harms, they have to be restrained and/or punished, depending upon the degree of volition involved.

    One more reason what you suggest (helping those who have not yet acted) could be a good idea, is because in wikipedia it is written that possibly, a part of the reason pedophiles get intimate with children is because they perceive the society at large to be harboring an antagonism towards them (for possessing sexual urges involving children). So, somehow if we can decrease the intensity of attraction they feel towards children or increase their ability to restrain it, then they will find the adult society more comfortable to gel in with, and the vicious circle of attraction towards children encouraged by reticence from adults, could be curtailed.

    To answer Quirky Indian’s doubts, I think pedophilia is considered a disorder because:

    1. Urge to have sex with prepubescents occurs in very few people.

    2. It impairs interpersonal relations of those suffering. In fact this criterion is a must to make any diagnosis in psychiatry. Because, actually everyone possesses some trait or the other, albeit in moderation, which are not considered normal when in excess. The threshold for this “excess” is impairment of day-to-day functions.

    3. It harms the victim.

    But can we realistically expect everyone in the society of make so many allowances and look at the issue objectively so as to reach ethically the most justified conclusions? I don’t think we as a society are prepared, yet.

    What needs to be curbed is the tendency to indulge in hypocritick rhetoric simply to bash up an accused, without trying to remedy the situation. Of course, I don’t expect those directly affected to stay objective.

    And lastly, Sraboney, viewing child pornography may or may not harm children directly, but it must be remembered that to make child pornography most definitely involves child sexual abuse.

    Excuse the long comment, but I don’t think I could’ve done justice to the topic in fewer words. 🙂

    Take care.

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    • Thank you for the long comment – it was very informative and interesting…

      Yes, those who create child pornography are despicable and should be punished harshly because they’ve exploited/molested children in the process…There’s no excuse for such people, period…

      The laws in India should be made tougher for child molesters and should also be enforced properly…In India, the age of consent is confusing…The Delhi HC has set the consent age for homosexuals at 18 (“A person below 18 would be presumed not to be able to consent to a sexual act”) which is a departure from the consent age of 16 years for a woman fixed by Section 375 IPC for a man to escape the charge of rape…There’s a confusion even within the heterosexual context…If it is penile vaginal sex, the consent age for the girl remains 16 years (Section 375) and if it is penile non-vaginal sex with a woman (anal or oral sex), the consent age for her would be 18 years (as laid down by the HC verdict)…

      There’s also a discrepancy in the consent age for a married woman…While the consent age for pre-marital penile vaginal sex is 16, the husband has license to engage in such an act with his minor wife even if she is as young as 15…So, even though the minimum marriageable age for women is 18, marriage with an under-aged girl is valid…

      Due to all these complexities and confusion and the lack of proper enforcement, perpetrators get away…

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  10. ‘… so should we give a damn about people who merely view child pornography?’

    I’m afraid I have a problem with child pornography itself- whether or not it is viewed by anyone.- I do not think there is any way to create child pornography wihout exploiting children.

    Or is it the contention that if a child consents to being photographed or filmed in such a manner, it is acceptable?

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    • Sorry, read Ketan’s comment after posting my above comment. I repeated his point.

      Me: I’m not talking about people who create child pornography – those who do are obviously sick…I’m talking about people who just look at it…

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      • Bones I would echo Manju’s point (and Ketan’s )

        as for people who just look at it?..I dont know there something seriously fundamentally wrong there…
        as a commentor asks how do we know when this person would act on his/her urge? or not at all?

        I kind of see it as a black and white issue..though I appreciate the way you have tried to look at it from anotehr angle.

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  11. Sure,an age limit must be set fir the purpose of consent.
    As for having a govt agency—well,the moment the govt gets involved it will only create a bigger mess.I am against the govt’s involvement.

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  12. Wow, that really is an interesting line of thought.

    Having been abused several times as a child by several men, I think any pedophile will act upon his urge if the circumstances are conducive. I am saying that because despite the fact that percentage of pedophiles are insignificantly small, what are the chances that I met the very aggressive ones.

    So while most of them may stick to just watching child pornography, they might act on their urges if they find even the tiniest little chance.

    Me: I’m sorry that you were abused – don’t know what to say…

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    • Don’t worry, I always feel that one should get over these things and help others instead of brooding over it. It never really goes away but I try and see to it that others learn from these experiences.

      Me: You have a very good attitude…I’m glad…

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  13. Yes Sraboney, you are very right.

    The problem with current laws related to sexual activity, are because of their being based in this premise that all sex is only for producing children, and could not be for pleasure, and that all marriages are only for raising kids, and not for fulfillment that having a life-partner provides. So unfortunately, these laws are not keeping in with the trends especially in the urban areas. The worst example of this attitude is the law on adultery, which makes females look like commodities owned by their husbands.

    section 497 of IPC (click).

    Probably, the best possible thing to do, is to raise all the ages of consent to 18 years. Yes, this would make teenagers having sex among themselves illegal. But we could have something like close-in age that I have discussed in the post linked by Quirky Indian.

    Also to be honest, I have been to rural places, and the fraction of marriages that occur below the 18 years is very small. So things have indeed improved a lot.

    What I wanted to point out is that without education, understanding of human reproduction and acceptance of genuine gender equality, merely changing the laws and enacting them much more strictly will not improve the situation, because the communities that indulge in child marriages, do not find what they are doing wrong, including the victim herself! They do not do it with a feeling of “I am getting away”. They find it right! Because of its being based in tradition. 😦

    I still feel there is some justification in keeping the minimum age of homosexual contact at 18 years, because by indulging in it, no matter how good the lubricant used, the passive partner is fundamentally consenting for physical harm, which is much more imminent than say with vaginal sex at age, 16. Of course, there is no logic behind illegality of oral sex, if not forced upon. But even for medical procedures that are entirely to benefit patients, parents’ consent when the patient is under 18 years is mandatory.

    So my take on the issue is that currently law is not confusing, but is inconsistent in the age at which a person is considered mature enough to consent for sex. Fundamental problem is in striking a balance between protecting naive people against exploitation and doing so without curbing their personal liberty….

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  14. …What currently needs to be done is to first follow the existing laws strictly, meaning all adults involved in marriages of girls below 15 years should be punished under the provisions of law. Also, it is a wrong concept that all child marriages involve immature girls and mature males. Unfortunately, this is the message sent out by the popular TV program, but the fact is majority of them involve grooms who are also equally immature and naive (which then technically disqualifies it from being termed pedophilia). Should a naive groom be punished for merely doing what his parents/relatives asked him to? Are people in their 5th or 6th class (the greatest extent to which these people get educated) even taught about human rights or that marriage below 18 and 21 years is illegal? How fair would it be to punish a 12 year old boy for committing statutory rape on a 10 year-old girl? Also, how fair would it be punish those who do not understand what they are doing is illegal/unethical? To make them truly deserving of punishment, adequate awareness needs to be created about the existing laws. This can only be done with girl child’s education, which unfortunately countless governments since independence have overlooked.

    So once with strict application of law, people understand that marriage under 15 is imminently going to invite punishment, then the minimum age of consent for sex could also be further raised to 18 even with marriage. This would be accepted and adhered to better by the people as compared to merely raising the age of sex for females. Not unlike the way the government increases the prices of petroleum products. 😉

    One of the questions readers have raised is how to recognize who a pedophile is? Here, I just wanted to point out that once the rhetoric and sanctimonious shouting down of pedophiles stops, their coming out with their problem is much likelier. We will no longer require to ‘hunt down’ pedophiles. Then, that they voluntarily seek treatment for their condition would become much more likely once they understand that people will treat them with sympathy and not distancing hatred. Because as it is, children are vulnerable and even with all this hatred we have not been able to curb pedophilia.

    Butterfly,

    Curiously, the cycle of propagation you have alluded to where in an abused child more likely turns into a pedophile, has been disproved. You could read more about it in the wikipedia article.

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    • No, No. I was not in any way alluding to that. What I was trying to say is that any pedophile can turn from passive abuse like just watching child pornography to actual abuse if he/she ‘gets the chance’. Given the right circumstances, he/she might try their hand at actual abuse.

      Since the discussion was on whether people who just watch pornography might not be so bad as the ones who attempt it. My take on it is that :they will abuse if the opportunity is good enough and if they can get away with it. It could be the mildest form of abuse, but they will try if they can.

      I hope I clarified myself. 😀

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  15. whoa , really heavy stuff !very interesting reading though , both post and the comments. dunno what to say , it’s a bit too intense. but speaking strictly for myself , this – unlike , say , adult homosexuality – is something that makes me feel sick. i think anybody that can feel sexually attracted to children is diseased in the head. i thought Bhagwad raised some very valid points too.the essence of that was the question as to where one draws the line for “children”. what about sexually active 15-16 years old ? as somebody said its ok for them to have consensual sex among themselves. but then what about between adults and them ? i think from a moral or psychological perspective its quite repugnant, but biologically ?…lots of grey areas there…i guess best thing is to just stick to the 18 laxman rekha !

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  16. –Off topic–

    Bones,

    I just read http://twitter.com/Boneschats/status/8953721485 tweet.

    1. Firt e-mail that person to take it down as plagiarism is a serious offense.

    2. If he doesn’t then put up a post on your blog with the original post link and also the plagiarized one.

    3. Then tweet about it with links and all of us will RT and spread the word.

    4. If this guy has a twitter id then we will also add it and make him take it down.

    Me: Thanks for the advice…He’s said he’ll ask the moderator (???) to take it down but the post is still there…

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  17. I must say, Sraboney you have some very evocative thoughts about subjects, which till afew years ago, would have been abs taboo1 But you are right about the “good paedophile” question.I like your enquiring mind.

    Me: 🙂

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  18. Interesting post…

    Like Butterfly even I am of the opinion that viewing child pornography increases the chance of a person succumbing to his desires when the moment is right..nd as mentioned children are used for producing pornographic material..

    if these people can be brought out for seeking suitable treatment, it would be well and good.. but then I do think that some of these people seek a child since he/she is defenseless and since the act can be committed without consent…

    I do not think there can be good paedophiles unless the criminal seeks out treatment and reforms..

    as for Bhagwad’s statement..
    No one is so fragile as to be harmed from sex per se.

    I found it inhumane and insensitive…. I dont know how one can have a sensitive mind towards the peadophile but not for the victim…

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