In the beginning of this year I wrote about an article in The Guardian that was sympathetic to pedophilia, and attempted to destigmatize it by using the same sort of talking points used to destigmatize homosexuality.  Now, two articles have appeared in The Atlantic that are offering more of the same.

I, Pedophile” is written by David Goldberg, a Canadian journalist who was convicted of for purchasing and viewing child pornography. While he agrees that child pornography is wrong, he questions whether jail time for such crimes is appropriate. As in The Guardian article, Goldberg describes pedophilia (or the Orwellian term employed by Goldberg, “the cross-generational lifestyle”) as a “sexual orientation”:

The main query that I am convinced will always be without an answer is why I am a pedophile. It is the equivalent of trying to determine why someone is heterosexual or gay. We don’t choose our sexual orientations. If we could, believe me, no one would choose mine.

It’s not just a journalist describing pedophilia as a sexual orientation.  The second article, “What Can Be Done About Pedophilia?”, written by Alice Dreger, features a Q&A with Dr. James Cantor, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and a specialist in pedophilia.  He, too, describes pedophilia as a sexual orientation: “Thus, although pedophilia should never be confused with homosexuality, pedophilia can be meaningfully described as a sexual orientation.”

In and of itself, such a description is not shocking. Indeed, “sexual orientation” seems to be an appropriate description of what pedophilia is.  And yet, “sexual orientation” is so closely associated with homosexuality and gay rights that it poses a problem.  Homosexuality has been justified as just another sexual orientation, no different than heterosexuality.  What happens, then, when we lump pedophilia in the mix as well?  If sexual orientations are just facts that need to be accepted about human sexuality, and pedophilia is just another sexual orientation (just as inborn as heterosexuality and homosexuality, according to Dr. Cantor), then why oppose pedophilia as being abnormal?

While neither Goldberg, Cantor, nor Dreger are advocating for the social or moral acceptance of child molestation (adult-child sex), speaking of pedophilia as a sexual orientation (that is inborn and unchangeable) may serve to soften society’s moral opposition to such desires and behaviors, and that worries me.  While we should seek to better understand pedophilia and promote compassion for those who struggle with these sexual desires, we must not normalize or moralize pedophilia.


HT: Wesley J. Smith