Defining deviancy up, down, and every which way

Career bigot Linda Harvey is quite dismayed that Alan Chambers, Exodus International’s “ex-gay” president, admitted that homosexuality has no “cure” and he’s still attracted to men:

This shows very poor judgment as the leader of this ministry to, first of all, be experiencing this and secondly, to announce it to the whole world. Of course a person can leave homosexuality; there are thousands of people who have done it and God’s word clearly states that he can deliver us from sin. And the proud, open sinner who is publicly proclaiming it as good in defiance of God’s word? It is highly questionable that such a person is saved. […] We would not be making this exception for well-adjusted adulterers would we? How about a compassionate pedophile? What about incest like two brothers involved in homosexuality? Why not just defy God’s word on this?

Yes, it’s the old “gays are like pedophiles” angle: not just a difference of moral outlook, but a disconnect from reality so wide and deep that no distinction is made between acting on one’s desires in a way that results in raping children, and acting on one’s desires in a way that results in pissing off Linda Harvey. It’s revealing that such a false equivalence is even necessary for them to make. We don’t see them arguing the reverse – “pedophilia is just as bad as homosexuality!” – even if this is exactly what their equation of homosexuality to pedophilia entails. Pedophilia is able to stand alone as a Very Bad Thing. Homosexuality isn’t, which is why the comparison to pedophilia is needed. Its perceived Badness must be elevated.

A largely unrecognized implication of this claim is that the corollary of “Did you seriously just compare us to pedophiles?” is indeed “What the hell? You really think pedophiles are no worse than gay people?” And those who make this argument probably didn’t expect, or intend, that some people might agree with them in exactly the opposite way: that pedophilia should be considered just as acceptable as homosexuality. On one side, we have St. Petersburg banning “the promotion of homosexuality and pedophilia”. On the flip side, we have Reddit users endlessly defending pedophiles by comparing them to gay people:

If we as a society can accept that one can be born gay, why do we feel that pedophilia is a behavior which is chosen?

That’s the same kind of thinking as a anti-gay supporter. It’s not his choice to have the attraction, nor is he acting upon it.

I disagree with you. I think it is genetic, along with being homosexual. I have quite a few friends who are gay, and they have known since they were 4-5 years old that they liked the same gender as themselves. They can remember back to PE class changing in the locker room, etc.

That surely wasn’t a choice… it was predetermined.

Being gay, I tend to agree with this, and I think this is the reason why I’m so sympathetic towards pedophiles. I didn’t choose to like guys, and so I’d imagine they didn’t choose to like kids. And, I don’t think they should be thrown in jail just for liking kids (or possession of child porn, which I think is a problem with the person who made it, and not the person viewing), but, I do believe they should get help in order to manage their urges.

In all seriousness though, maybe being a pedophile isn’t a decision any more than being gay is, which would make treatment…very complicated.

Does the LGBT community accept pedos for who they are? Not child molesters but people attracted to younger people. do they accept them as being in the same boat as them since its not really their choice to be attracted to who they are attracted to?

Homosexuality is a significant deviation in ‘normal’ sexual behavior shared by a fairly large number of adults. Likewise, pedophilia is a significant deviation from normal sexual attraction shared by a fairly large number of adults, although not as prevalent as homosexuality. I think there are legitimate similarities that can be discussed as long as everyone remains mature.

Heterosexuality, homosexuality, and pedophilia to me are very comparable.

There would be no problem with pedophilia if it weren’t for that the fact that children cannot consent to sex. How is pedophilia any different that people are strictly attracted to a certain race, a certain body time, or a certain sex (same or opposite)? The only difference I can surmise is the issue of consent.

No because then it’d be putting it out there that I am one and I equate any counseling on the subject matter to “praying out the gay”. It’s who I am and there’s zero chance that I’d hurt anyone so therapy isn’t for me.

You would be right in saying it is involuntary, and the notion that people would choose to be a pedophile, like you said, is just ludicrous. For me I have no control over my thoughts, however, I have complete control over my actions. That is the most crucial and the absolute crux of my argument here. The same goes for gays, lesbians, people who are into beastiality, you name it. Sexual desire is ingrained into your mind. Only the strongest of people are actually able to block out their thoughts, something that I hope one day I can achieve.

To clear this up for you, being a pedophile is not a choice. At least for me. I can’t imagine that there are many people out there who want to be a pedophile to be honest. I would put it in the same boat as being gay/lesbian, it is uncontrollable and simply your sexual preference.

Here’s a horrible thought: Imagine that pedophiles are born that way and they are not actually cured by therapy any more than gays are. And here the world is, dragging their reputations through the mud because of a few bad eggs, and trying to ‘cure’ them.

You are right in that children cannot consent (which, in fact, many times they can. Who hasn’t fantasized about having sex as a kid?), but I chose my sexuality just as little as a gay person. I didn’t decide to become a pedophile, it’s not like I said “Hey, I think I’m gonna be attracted to children”.

Yes, I do take offense when people call it a disease, because it’s not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me, physically or mentally, and I would need not visit a psychiatrist for this. I do have a friend, however, who is a pedophile just like me, and he had to to talk to a psychologist because he had got the impression from society that it was wrong, that who he was is shameful and evil.

Yeah, just like gays should get help for being homosexuals? Fuck you, having a different sexual orientation doesnt make you sick. This kind of shit, saying that people who has a different sexual orientation are “sick” leads to depression & suicide.

Look, if some 16 yo gay kid made a video on youtube saying how is bullied and discriminated for being gay then everyone would try to support him… While pedos have NONE of that support. Isnt that hypocrysy?

Your situation is akin to the situation of homosexuals 50 years ago (or even now) where people tried to “cure them”, to cure their homosexuality. Now people think that pedophiles are “sick” and need to be put on a mental institution. I HATE what has happened to you and I sincerely, completely give you my support, because I was in a similar situation myself. We need to keep fighting so no more kids are placed in your situation.

YOU ARE NOT SICK. YOU ARE NOT A “PERVERT” OR HAVE AN “ILLNESS”. Its just another sexual orientation.Please, dont ever give up and think you are worthless. I wish I could hug you 🙁

I think its funny when people are pro gay rights but are so ignorant about pedophiles and think they are bad people. Well yes, to do sexual things or take advantage of a child is bad but just like being gay they are born that way, I am sure most people do not want to be attracted to children.

It pains me to think that there might never be a “cure” for your “condition.” I put those words in quotes because I HATE having to use them. Like I said, your attraction to children doesn’t make you a bad person, it just has unfortunate consequences. The only reason society would want to “cure” you is to avoid those consequences. I hope I don’t sound like I think you need to be dissected on an operating table or something. I also hate having to use those words because many people have talked similarly about “curing” gays, which even if possible, would be totally stupid and unnecessary. It seems to me that both homosexuals and pedophiles are similarly wired in the brain from an early age (in most cases), its just that pedophilia comes with repercussions that being gay doesn’t.

Well, I certainly don’t consider it to be a disease. I think that the jury is still out on it being a sexuality. I think that some people are afraid that recognising that it most likely forms in the same way homosexuality does and at the same time as sexuality is determined, gives acting on it some sort of legitimacy. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. I don’t think that is an illness, no.

(I stopped here not because I ran out of examples, but because I was too disheartened to continue.)

In a world where people recognize that homosexuality is clearly not morally objectionable, dishonestly equating it to pedophilia won’t necessarily succeed in making homosexuality seem worse than it really is. It could just make pedophilia seem better than it really is. Linda Harvey and other homophobes don’t seem to have predicted the full scope of the moral chaos they’ve introduced with these ignorant claims. The problem with placing arson, murder and eating ice cream on the same level isn’t just that people might turn against ice cream. They might also side with ice cream, along with the rest of the ethical bundle – glossing over the key fact that any momentary weakness which ends in eating ice cream won’t burn anyone’s house down.

Defining deviancy up, down, and every which way
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27 thoughts on “Defining deviancy up, down, and every which way

  1. 1

    On the flip side, we have Reddit users endlessly defending pedophiles by comparing them to gay people…

    Sorry to sound paranoid, but I strongly suspect that many, if not most, of the people saying shit like that are actually right-wingers pretending to be liberal and saying stupid evil shit to make liberals look stupid and evil. It’s an old COINTELPRO tactic, and I would never put anything like it past the party of Karl Rove.

    Seriously, I’ve met some pretty airheaded liberals, and none of them were ignorant of the important differences between sex with adults and sex with kids.

    1. Leo

      There is a problem that liberals make some pretty dumb arguments, though. Just yesterday, I saw a dumb argument brought up from Pamela Gay’s TAM speech. From a New York 5th grader (so I am told):

      Who are we to judge… We must learn to accept all differences… If we judge people like this, this is a form of prejudice. We must learn to accept all differences. …In conclusion, I hope that everyone understands how important it is to respect everyone for who they are.

      This apparently was made as an argument for same-sex marriage, and it’s an argument I’ve heard from liberals before. It’s a bad argument as it opens the door for such comments as those ZJ posted.

  2. 3

    I think it is genetic, along with being homosexual. I have quite a few friends who are gay, and they have known since they were 4-5 years old that they liked the same gender as themselves. They can remember back to PE class changing in the locker room, etc.

    That surely wasn’t a choice… it was predetermined.

    This kind of thinking scares me. So because I was attracted to kids when I was five that means it’s okay that I’m still attracted to kids when I’m 25?

    Reddit melts my brain.

    1. 3.1

      Might you explain to me where exactly the comment you quoted says anything along the lines that attraction as a child towards other children and attraction towards children as an adult are to be equated? Because I clearly read it as saying that those “4-5 year olds” discovered their attraction to the same sex (yes, it says “gender” in the citation, sue me) at that age. Not an attraction towards children per se – which isn’t even mentioned in the paragraph!

  3. 4

    This is also a problem with “born this way” arguments, in my opinion. If you get everyone in the world to concede that gay people are born the way we are, yet people still believed in the immorality of our sexual acts, they could legitimately claim that gay people ought to be celibate.

    That’s about where I stand when it comes to pedophilia–whatever causes attraction to children is immaterial so long as people don’t rape children–and indeed, choosing to be attracted to children would be immoral.

    For being gay on the other hand, once I have stopped being ashamed of being gay, or pansexual for that matter, I realize how ludicrous it is that people still think anything is wrong with same-sex attraction. It’s not as if we need to produce more babies, or need much different guidelines on how to have sex safely. It’s not as if thousands of years of tradition have produced such great, stable, peaceful societies that there is any reason to expect that changing family structures would be a bad idea. As ZJ said in this article, many people use this comparison to pedophila to pretend to find evidence that homosexuality is wrong. No. If you do make a choice to focus your sexual preferences on people of the same sex, it is not immoral.

    1. Leo


      I certainly wish more people would push the “there is nothing wrong with being attracted to a person of the same sex” argument (and those similar to it) as opposed to the “born this way” or, as I mentioned in another comment, the “accept/respect other people’s lifestyles” arguments which can be turned into arguments to excuse behavior that is legitimately bad. (And the thing with pedophilia that makes it wrong, as I hope many of us realize, is consent.)

    2. 4.2

      That’s the argument I was going to make. The “born this way” argument has been successful in raising acceptance of LGBT individuals, but it completely misses the point. We should accept LGBT individuals and lifestyles not because they’re naturally occurring, but because it’s the consenting behavior of grown adults. Even if every LGBT person chose who they were attracted to, it’d still be no one else’s business to interfere.

      Pedophiles may be born that way, but they are a real danger to children, and any reasonable society should protect those children. As far as we can tell, sociopaths are also “born this way”, that doesn’t mean we should accept the behavior that arises from their sociopathy.

  4. 5

    I have sympathy for pedophiles, because I also imagine that it isn’t a chosen compulsion. However, the clear distinction to make every time that this trope comes up is that PEDOS =/= GAYS. Homosexuality when acted out to its fullest extent only leads to having sex with a person of the same sex. No child rape is immediately implied with that anymore that heterosexuality immediately implies child rape.

  5. 6

    Doesn’t matter if it’s a choice or genetically programmed. If the expression of your sexuality harms another person (or animal) then there is no “right” involved. Consenting adults can do whatever they like, children cannot consent. No one would ever argue that someone who is born a sociopath gets a free pass to kill people, but somehow when sex is involved all the rules change.

    It blows my mind that this can even be an argument in these people’s minds.

    1. 6.1

      Could you please quote the piece where the comments actually say that engaging in non-consenting sexual acts is “right”? I seem to have missed it because to me it seems that several of those comments actually concur with you on the whole “not right when there’s no consent” thing.
      To highlight where I get my impression from:
      “Not child molesters but people attracted to younger people.”
      “There would be no problem with pedophilia if it weren’t for that the fact that children cannot consent to sex.”
      “to do sexual things or take advantage of a child is bad”

  6. 7

    In a world where people recognize that homosexuality is clearly not morally objectionable, dishonestly equating it to pedophilia won’t necessarily succeed in making homosexuality seem worse than it really is. It could just make pedophilia seem better than it really is.

    That may be, but it’s begging the question. Linda Harvey and the redditors would ask, is the equation in fact wrong, is it in fact dishonest? If the equation is valid, then it doesn’t make pedophilia seem better than it really is, it makes pedophilia seem better because it really is better. To refute this, we can’t just say the conclusion is absurd, we need to attack the substantive arguments behind it.

    Most of the reddit comments show great ignorance of homosexuality, pedophilia, and mental disorders. For example, there was one that claimed that homosexuality is genetic (not known), and that therefore pedophilia is also genetic (questionable inference), and it’s implied that this makes it okay (naturalistic fallacy). Another said we should avoid calling it “sick” because it will cause suicide (so why doesn’t this argument apply to other disorders?). Most people don’t think about this topic very critically, and are just blindly associating various facts they’ve been told about gay people (ie it’s not a choice, it starts at an early age, it’s morally neutral, it’s not a disorder).

    But a few comments were limited in their conclusions, and I can’t disagree with them. I think it is quite reasonable to believe pedophilia is not chosen, and that treating it might be difficult. To this limited extent, the analogy is correct.

  7. 8

    I, too, had to stop reading those comments you quoted, but not because I was disheartened by the attitude displayed in (most of) them. I was disheartened by the fact that an you put them up here, ZJ, without even the hint of an argument against them. Well, apart from the “Pedophilia is able to stand alone as a Very Bad Thing”. Yeah, that really sounds like a strong argument to me, don’t you think?
    Look, ZJ, I can understand you’re upset that these people – to use your words – are “dishonestly equating [homosexuality] to pedophilia”, seeing as you’re a lesbian. But you present no argument as to why pedophilia is so much worse than homosexuality. Just one sentence along the lines of “pedophilia leads to more cases of child molestation” and I wouldn’t have written this comment. But you didn’t and I wrote and now I feel like justifying myself:
    From the complete lack of arguments in your text I have to assume one of two things about your dismay with this issue – and I may very well be very wrong with these, if so please correct me.
    Either you’re equating pedophilia, which etymologically means sexual attraction towards pre-pubescent children, with actual sexual abuse of children, which is not an attraction but a serious crime (and I am of course not even thinking of defending such a horrendous act!). I don’t exactly think it is likely you’ve confused those terms although pedophilia nowadays is used synonymously with sexual abuse of children since the comments you quoted point this one out. But you never know when there’s no real context…
    Or you’re thinking that those not condemning pedophiles by pointing out that they did not choose their attraction to children (other than the actions by child molesters which do choose their actions!) are somehow therefore arguing that pedophiles should be allowed to act upon their attractions – meaning to molest and/or sexually abuse children; analogous to how homosexuals didn’t choose their attraction to the same sex and are (and bloody well should be!) allowed to act upon their attraction. One can not condemn people with a specific attraction but condemn those acting upon it because it simply cannot be acted upon without causing severe harm to another human being in the instance of pedophilia, other than with homosexuality. This is the key difference and it is the one being made by several comments you claim are “equating” those two very different things. They’re not. There are some troublesome comments among them (those of the “I would never therefore I don’t need no therapy” persuasion), but I didn’t glimpse a single one that actually tries to argue that sexual “relationships” with children should be permissible (yes, that one with the child porn is right on the edge and it has me worried).
    Other than that I really don’t see what your beef is with these comments – well, apart from being linked to something commonly seen as despicable, but that would be even less of an argument now, wouldn’t it?
    Either way, seeing you of all people fall into merely rhetorical rambling sustained by no discernible argument whatsoever about positions you yourself simply don’t like is a disappointment. In case you’re interested in looking into some arguments yourself, here’s what Dan Savage wrote about “gold-star pedophiles” in his column – those people who are attracted to children but try their humanly best not to succumb to their attractions:

    1. 8.1

      I wasn’t intending to make an argument against it because I expected it would be obvious. This seems to be an error I continue to commit, but reiterating the oh-so-controversial beliefs of Why Pedophilia Is Bad seemed to me like it *would* be merely unneeded rhetorical rambling. Anyway:

      I do not trust any given group of people to control themselves so well that they will successfully be able to refrain from sex, completely, for their entire lifetime. Pedophiles are a group of people. I do not trust pedophiles to be able to control themselves well enough that every single one of them will refrain from any sex for their entire lifetime. Pedophiles failing at celibacy results in the molestation of children, who cannot consent to sex. The molestation of children is harmful. Therefore, pedophilia in its own right presents a problem – regardless of whether any individual pedophile molests children or not.

      If it weren’t for pedophilia there would be no child molestation. It is the cause of child molestation. That makes it a problem. I don’t see why so many people object to this conclusion.

      1. Thank you for your reply and for clearing up my misunderstanding of your position. Also, sorry for assuming your position less well thought out than it turned out to be – It’s getting a tidbit late here.
        To clarify myself: I do not find your argumentation laid down here “oh-so-controversial” – quite the contrary, really. I do not object your conclusion. I wrote that if you had written an explanation along those lines I wouldn’t have written above comment, for the simple reason that I do agree with your position on this. Maybe I just missed your stringent style of argumentation in this post…

        I do however disagree with you in two other instances:
        a) I would not see a simple explanation of one’s position as “merely unneeded rhetorical rambling”, at least not if it is a position on a subject where a lot of people stand on the same side (condemning pedophilia) but for different reasons like conflating definitions, drawing bogus conclusions from misunderstood viewpoints or rational analysis of consequences.

        b) I’m not sure that pedophilia is the sole cause for child molestation. It is a very difficult subject to get trustworthy information on but from what I’ve read from several psychologist it seems to me that a sadistic personality disorder (the interest of inflicting real harm unto another person as opposed the kinky variant) might also be a cause of child molestation. I don’t know any reliable numbers as to how many cases might be inspired by this instead of pedophilia, but I’m skeptical of a purely mono-causal viewpoint.

        1. I agree with point b, essentially: if nobody had a sexual attraction to children, that would not be enough to stop child rape. (TW more on rape below)

          Some people really just want to rape anyone vulnerable enough, especially physically vulnerable, and that might mean small women, or children. I wouldn’t call that a sexual orientation because they’re not.attracted to people, only to power/violence/something. In fact it seems pretty common to have straight men, actually attracted to women, who rape boys often not because they get sexual gratification, but because they can, it expresses dominance. I’m sure we’ve all heard of societies where this has been common practice. All this could also be called pedophilia, but not the kind (I think) we’ve been discussing.

          Tl;dr One can have sex, pleasurable or not, with people one is not attracted to. If those people are children it is not sex but is rape–which again can be done outside the perpetrator’s orientation.

        2. I’ll third Aniota and hall_of_rage here: it seems very unlikely that pedophilia is the only cause of child rape. I’m not even sure it’s the primary cause.

          The idea that pedophilia is the key factor seems much too close for comfort to the false linking of sexual desire and rape in general. A substantial connection between intent to dominate and otherwise have power over others has been shown in cases of adult rape, so I don’t understand why it would be different in the event the victim is a child.

          That child rape occurs in situations where there is a large power gap, as in the Catholic Church, between parent and child, educational institutions, and so forth surely can’t be coincidence.

      2. If it weren’t for pedophilia there would be no child molestation. It is the cause of child molestation. That makes it a problem. I don’t see why so many people object to this conclusion.

        From what I’ve read the majority of child molesters do not meet the clinical guidelines for pedophilia – the majority are “situational offenders” or driven by sadism rather than attraction.

    2. 8.2

      I disagree with Aniota, Zinnia is not obligated to give an argument “as to why pedophilia is so much worse than homosexuality”. She can just declare this outside the scope of this particular blog post.

      But in general, I think it is important to look at the arguments. After all, many redditors clearly don’t think it is as obvious as ZJ does. We can also disagree on the details–for example, I disagree with the prediction, “If it weren’t for pedophilia there would be no child molestation.” We could also disagree on the best response to pedophilia, whether it is social, medical, or legal, or some combination thereof.

  8. Ben

    The basic tenet behind describing the human sexual interests under discussion here is that erotic interest in children versus adults is just as integrated into a person as is erotic interest in males versus females. Pedophilic men experience penile erections when they view erotica of children in the same way that teleiophilic men experience erections when they view erotica of adults (e.g., Blanchard et al., 2001). Both gay and straight men show little reaction when viewing erotica of the less interesting age group in the same way that both gay and straight men show little reaction when viewing erotica of the less interesting sex (e.g., Freund et al., 1973; Freund, Watson, & Rienzo, 1989).

    Blanchard, R., Klassen, P., Dickey, R., Kuban, M. E., & Blak, T. (2001). Sensitivity and specificity of the phallometric test for pedophilia in nonadmitting sex offenders. Psychological Assessment, 13, 118–126.

    Freund, K., Langevin, R., Cibiri, S., & Zajac, Y. (1973). Heterosexual aversion in homosexual males. British Journal of Psychiatry, 122, 163–16

    Freund, K., Watson, R., & Rienzo, D. (1989). Heterosexuality, homosexuality, and erotic age preference. The Journal of Sex Research, 26, 107–124.

  9. 11

    Playing the paedo card is a pretty-much-guaranteed converstation-stopper. It should be considered a fallacy in the same vein as Reductio ad Hitlerum. (Should we call it “Reductio ad Pædophilium” ?)

  10. 12

    This post is very disappointing to me. In my eyes, shaming someone for an aspect of themselves that they have no control over is never OK. I thought this idea was embraced by the LGBTQ community at large, but apparently there are exceptions.

    I think that similarities between homosexuality and pedophilia can be drawn. Similarities between heterosexuality and pedophilia can be drawn as well, as with bisexuality, pansexuality, or any other sexual orientation. The similarity between all these topics is that the matter being discussed is the category of one’s sexual attraction. Same goes for a person who might prefer Blondes over Brunettes, or like a girl (or guy) in Fishnet Stockings. It’s simply a matter of what a person is sexually attracted to, no more and no less.

    Also keep in mind that stereotypes about pedophiles are just as inaccurate and harmful as stereotypes about gays, or about transgender people, or about Hispanic people, or about Irish people. It’s hypocritical to object to the use of stereotypes towards one group while using them towards another group.

    The distinction needs to be made between the realms of thoughts and actions. Do we really want to get into the Thought Police game, and start deciding which thoughts and feelings are Moral and Permissible and which are not? That seems to be the function of the Christian Right, and I want no part of it.

    I wish I didn’t have to include the disclaimer that I’m not a pedophile, nor do I condone or excuse child molestation or rape, but it seems necessary.

  11. 13

    KNessJM beat me to it, but I’d like to reiterate it.

    I think the condemnation of pedophiles has reached the level of policing thoughts in popular culture. It is a witch hunt, and it has reached the point that people cannot even seek help or an outlet for their desires that is ‘safe’ and does not involve the harm of actual children, for fear of destroying their entire lives if someone even SUSPECTS they have desires like that. People like this need help, not condemnation.

    A fundamental distinction has to be drawn between thoughts and actions. There ARE pedophiles who understand that ACTUALLY performing a sexual act with a minor is harmful to them, and aren’t actually out to molest children. I don’t think these people should actually be condemned, so long as they aren’t actually abusing children. Thought should simply never be criminalized, no matter the content.

    However, the moment any pedophile actually plans to act out his fantasies in the real world, or aid someone else in doing so, they have crossed into the territory that deserves condemnation. The difference between pedophilia and homosexuality is that homosexuality is a sexual desire can be acted upon in a way that does not necessarily harm another human being.

    Again, same disclaimer as KNessJM: I am not a pedophile, and I have zero tolerance for child molestation or abuse of any sort.

  12. Kat

    My soul is cringing at all the pedo-defenders in this post. If you were molested or knew someone who was, maybe you would think differently. Reddit is a bastion of lolbertarian mra pedophiles and rapists ( who threw a titty fit when their precious jailbait/photobucket phishing subreddits were closed. They actually argue that child pornography is a victimless crime and people who watch it are innocent. Fuck them and fuck anyone who defends them.

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