A big problem with a discussion about this is a confusion of definitions, so the first thing to do is establish the vocabulary. What is pedophilia?
www.b4uact.org is an advocacy group to help pedophiles, and it has its own definition.
We use this term to refer to adults who experience feelings of preferential sexual attraction to children or adolescents under the age of consent, as well as adolescents who have such feelings for younger children. It is important to realize that these sexual feelings are usually accompanied by feelings of emotional attraction, similar to the romantic feelings most adults have for other adults.
Yes, but not only pedophiles. The American Psychiatric Association defines a pedophile to be a person at least 16 years old who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children and has either engaged in sexual activity with a child or feels distressed by the feelings of attraction. The term “minor-attracted person” includes not only pedophiles, but also adults and adolescents preferentially attracted to children but who have not interacted with them sexually and do not feel distressed by their feelings. It also includes adults who are preferentially attracted to adolescents (rather than pre-pubescent children), and who may or may not have engaged in sexual activity with them.
Non-criminological researchers note that many minor-attracted people live within the law (see our fact sheet). Such people are involved in the work of B4U-ACT, and more are known by people who work with B4U-ACT.
Important points to note.
"Minor-attracted person" could be an adult sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children, an adult romantically attracted to pre-pubescent children, or both. A pedophile is specifically someone at least 16 years of age that is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children. However, we have to distinguish between adults who have a "preferential" attraction to pre-pubescent children, and those that may have experienced a brief attraction at some point in their life. Presumably, there are many shades of preferentiality.
Of course, all these definitions are arbitrary, but it's helpful to establish the language so we can meaningfully discuss this without talking past each other.
The fact sheet they link to is interesting.
Important points to note:
- We do not accurately know how many pedophiles with preferential attraction to pre-pubescents exist.
- You do not choose to be a pedophile, the same way someone doesn't choose to be a homosexual.
- Human sexuality is extremely complex, we do not know why humans become attracted to pre-pubescents. We do not even completely understand why adults become attracted to adults.
- Pedophiles, in general, do not have abnormal psychological problems other than being attracted to pre-pubescents.
- These studies assume we understand what it means to be "sexually attracted" or "in love" with a thing.
- The American Psychiatric Association assumes that pedophilia is abnormal, but ephebophilia is normal.
- Many stereotypes placed on pedophiles have not been tested scientifically, have been proven false, or the results are inconclusive.
- Child molestation is not necessarily correlated with pedophilia. Child molestation is a violent act, not a sexual one. Rape in general is violent, not one born out of sexual passion.
I would also like to discuss lolicon, especially with Paulus since he sort of understands what it's all about. Even though I constantly argue that lolicon does not necessarily have anything to do with this thing we call "children", I assent to the fact that it could. I remember reading about a sex offender that said he started looking at lolicon as an alternative to real children. But do people with a preferential attraction to lolicon eventually develop an attraction to real children? This is a tough one, and I will also assent to the fact that my own anecdotal evidence is useless here.
(Bear with me, you'll see why I'm bringing this up.)
We could discuss pedophilia and lolicon in a number of ways.
- The nature of pedophilia. What is pedophilia? What does it mean to be attracted to a child? Is the word "child" culturally defined? Is sexual attraction to a child different from sexual attraction to someone in your age group? What's an age group?
- The social problems/morality of pedophilia. Why are pedophiles vilified so strongly in society? When did this vilification begin? Have social attitudes toward pedophiles changed the way pedophiles act? Have social attitudes created more, or less pedophiles? Why do people make child pornography? Why do people view child pornography? Is having a sexual relationship with a child wrong? Is having a "love" relationship with a child wrong? What does popular media portrayal of pedophiles say about society? What happens when we compare pedophilia cross-culturally?
A simple definition of lolicon is simply drawn or animated depictions of children in sexual contexts. For me, this definition is not satisfying, because it rests on a huge number of assumptions concerning what a "child" is, the ontology of animation etc. The definition is more political than it is based on a sound philosophical/aesthetic foundation.
From wikipedia concerning the origin of lolicon:
The "lolicon manga" genre closely related to manga media began with Hideo Azuma's works, such as The machine which came from the sea (海から来た機械, Umi kara kita Kikai?), in the early 1980s. Azuma had been publishing some sexual manga featuring girls in his own self-published magazine Cybele before that time. Azuma's works became popular among schoolboy readers because most of the pornographic manga up until then had featured mature women influenced by gekiga, but Azuma's works are not pornographies in a strict sense though they contain many sexual elements. Following Azuma's success, some pornographic manga magazines, such as Manga Burikko and Lemon People, began featuring prepubescent girls. Throughout the 1980s, notable lolicon mangaka who published in these magazines include Nonki Miyasu, Kamui Fujiwara, Yoshito Asari and Aki Uchida.
More definitions if you're not familiar:
- Manga are Japanese comic books.
- Anime are Japanese cartoons.
- Doujinshi could be magazines, comic books, even video games, etc. that are basically fan works based on existing copyrighted material. Doujinshi are often openly sold in Japan because the anime industry that these copyright infractions are actually making them more money since it becomes free-advertising, despite fans making money off it.
- Hentai has become a blanket term that refers to pornographic anything in the 2D medium, it could be manga, pornographic anime, video games ... whatever. Hentai is actually a Japanese word that means something like "pervert", and an abbreviate of the word hentai is simply "H". If you pronounce "H" like a Japanese person, you end up with "ecchi". Ecchi outside of Japan usually refers to somewhat softcore 2D pornography, basically anything without intercourse, the characters depicted could be nude, or not. I've actually heard "ecchi" used in much the same way as "hentai" in conversation, meaning pervert.
- Lolicon can refer to hentai featuring young girls, or it can refer to a person that enjoys that type of material. This is another annoying word because in Japanese, I've heard lolicon refer to a pedophile. From now when I say lolicon, I don't mean pedophile, I mean lolicon, like the actual material featuring young girls. A lot of people use the word "loli" to refer to young girls.
I don't like the rest of the wikipedia article on lolicon, and I would advise against reading anymore than I quoted, if you have a question, ask me instead. The article isn't netural, and I don't find it very informative either. I didn't even like the paragraph I just quoted, it's misleading.
The current dialogue concerning lolicon is often simply silly. The reason is because there are so many philosophical and aesthetic issues that must be addressed, otherwise we're going to be affixiated on this ridiculous political controversy that goes in 99% of discussions. I don't think I've been in a single helpful or enlightening discussion about this matter, ever, other than briefly in a thread Paulus recently made.
My biggest contention is that lolicon doesn't have anything to do with children at all. That's why I don't like the definition that lolicon is "animated art featuring children or characters with child-like characteristics", because I would argue that lolicon is lolicon, and children are children. The 2 do not necessarily have any relevance to each other.
I sort of bring this up in an old thread Exploring the 2D Complex. Essentially I argue that the 2D world is an entirely different universe. When people are sexually attracted to lolicon, they aren't attracted to child-like depictions, they are attracted to a subcultural archetype created by a discourse between artists and consumers. Anime subculture is characterized heavily by this discourse, and a lot of anime (projecting these archetypes) that was produced after the rise of the internet are products of an intricate and on-going discourse between the creators and consumers and the archetypal outcomes. If anything, lolicon is simply another archetype on the same level as all the other archetypes that have been created.
Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to explain this concept to someone who has never been exposed to it due to the insular nature (and the relative newness) of the subculture. It's like trying to discuss pedophilia with someone who doesn't know what a child is, and has never seen one.
Anyway, I am simply attempting to drive a wedge between lolicon and child and showing that this controversy surrounding lolicon is a mere misunderstanding, the biggest misunderstanding probably being a linguistic one, since we are constantly tempted to employ the word "child" in the context of lolicon, when child has nothing to do with it.
My next point following this, is concerning what it means for a pedophile to be attracted to a child. For example I just made the point that a "loli" is a thing with certain characteristics that have been defined through a cultural discourse. Is it possible that a "child" is also a thing with certain characteristics that have been defined through a cultural discourse in exactly the same way? We all think we know what a child is, but is "child" a thing that can be defined outside of a culturally influenced context? Obviously, age groups across cultures have widely differing responsibilities and roles. A child in our culture is going to have different expected roles at certain ages. Is it possible that society has created a "child" and minor-attracted persons have fallen in love or become sexually attracted to this conception? This brings up other interestings thoughts about all of our relationships. Do we ever really interact with actual people? Is it possible to become attracted to a person, the actual person? Or just the many projections of socio-cultural discourse?
But of course, someone will bring up the ethical issue that a child doesn't know what they are doing, and they are more likely to be emotionally damaged by the experience if we look at it from a medical standpoint (an undeveloped brain?). But this point seems somewhat dubious to me. It seems there is definitely a line to draw at a certain age, but that age could be very young (toddlers). Just think of how many people (both men and women) who end up "emotionally damaged" as a result of sexual relationships. When people say that children are more likely to be emotionally damaged, this usually is not based on any scientific analysis, but is a mere assumption. We forget how many adults are emotionally damaged from sex.
Not only that, but ageism is very prevalent in this society. Children simply do not have a lot of rights, not much is expected out them, they're often seen as straight up stupid and too inexperienced to handle anything. It seems obvious that the stereotypes and oppression imposed on children will affect the way we view adult-child relationships. Medical studies on the developing brain are dubious because many medical researchers assume something called a "teenager" actually exists. The results of the study are significantly afflicted with confirmation bias just because it's socially acceptable to openly criticize and vilify younger people for no real reason. Perhaps there a period where the body experiences many changes (during puberty), but I doubt there is much difference between young people and older people. The brain is extremely elastic, and is developing right up until you die of old age. Society's conceptions of the expected roles and capabilities of teenagers and children will certainly have an impact on what we view as socially permissible sexual practices.
It is interesting that the American Psychiatric Association classifies pedophilia as an abnormality, but not ephebophilia. Why? Often people will either bring up the point that children are emotionally harmed from sex with adults (and I just pointed out that may be dubious), or they will point out that children are not sexually ready (pre-pubescent), so having sex with a pre-pubescent child doesn't make any practical sense. They can't get pregnant, or they can't impregnate anyone. But look at all the things that humans are sexually attracted to that do not necessarily have any practical function (think of all the fetishes), or what I just discussed, hentai, which is very popular, although most people will not admit openly that they get off to that regularly. So, would having a preference for hentai (no matter what archetype you like) be an abnormality? Why would being into bondage be helpful to procreation?
That's all I have to say for now, just throwing out loads of ideas there. Most of the discussions I've seen about pedophilia have honestly been extremely stupid, I trust we can act differently.