Excesses dominate negative picture of pedophiles

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By: Frits Bernard

We live in a time of fast changes. What at one stage is considered to be acceptable can all of a sudden be deemed dangerous and threatening. People have lately begun to see pedophilia as nearly the biggest problem in society, possibly a greater danger than battery or murder. It has bred strong feelings of insecurity. Cases of erotic relations between children and adults that become known cause extreme fear, especially because of the usually extensive press coverage. But are the press reports unprejudiced?

Everyone agrees that not all pedophiles are good people. Yet, one gets the impression that incidents involving pedophilia are exaggerated by the media. Fear is a logical result of negative news coverage. Pedophiles are continually associated with violence and crime. From research it has been concluded that the terminology which is used in the press greatly influences readers. If terms such as 'sexual offender' or 'rapist' are used, a press item paints a strongly negative picture which almost forces negative opinions on readers. If on the contrary there is mention of a relationship between a younger and an older male or female, the sentiments may differ totally. We have now reached a state where the original meaning of the word 'pedophilia' (love for children) has been replaced with an opposite definition (crime against children).

Freud has mentioned the replacement of the initial meaning of terms with opposite meanings. Presently, no more than one percent of the news coverage of pedophilia is nuanced. It is also becoming more and more difficult to publish objective research results in scientific journals, especially in the United States. This development certainly won't have a positive effect - on the contrary. Research into the results of pedophile contacts which shows that such contacts aren't always harmful is disposed of with the argument that the research results aren't important and are out of focus. Pedophilia is not to be tolerated, is unacceptable; it isn't a scientific problem, but a 'moral problem'. With pedosexuality being called indecent behavior, we've gone back in time.

Wasn't it Magnus Hirschfeld [1] who repeatedly said, "Oper scientiam ad justitiam"? People have believed in this for years, and now the moralists appear to be back. I think that we are actually facing a political problem. Pedophile sentiments (mutual sentiments between adults and children) have, in all likelihood, always been a component of human behavior. At any rate we can come across descriptions of such sentiments in the literature of many cultures, both past and contemporary ones. The pedophile component is stronger in some humans than it is in others. Also, the feelings related to this component will sometimes be strongly manifest and sometimes slumber in the background, depending on one's disposition and on the circumstances. Goethe expressed it in the following way: "Nichts Menschliches ist mir fremd." Everything seems to indicate that it's a human quality (trait), which makes it impossible to define 'the pedophile'. Scientists have divided people into many groups and this has caused confusion. The pedophile doesn't exist; there are only pedophile feelings. Already in 1974 [2], after having carried out scientific sexologic research, I came to the conclusion: 'a portrait of the pedophile? There is probably no such phenomenon. In the end, it's always about a human being in their relation with other people. Whether the partners in a relation are the same age or differ in age widely actually doesn't matter, as long as the relation is experienced in a positive way by both partners. Portrait of a pedophile? This may be an irrelevant question, as to all appearances a pedophile is a human like you and I.' And with this, everything is said. May the above thoughts contribute to the heated discussion which has been provoked by recent tragic incidents and by the reactions to those incidents in the press.

[1] M. Hirschfeld: Geschlechtskunde; Julius Puttmann, Stuttgart 1930
[2] F. Bernard: Pedofilie; uitgeverij Aquarius, Bussum 1974 (p.103)

source: 'Excesses Dominate Negative Picture of Pedophiles' by Frits Bernard; (Translated from Dutch); OK Magazine, no. 70; October 1999