Reconstructing paedophilia: an analysis of current discourses and the construct of close relationships

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Ancient religious law also acknowledged sex between men and very young girls. The Jewish Talmud allowed that a girl over 3 years of age may, with her father's permission, be engaged to a man by sexual intercourse (Rush, 1980). Sex with a girl younger than three would not be illegal, but invalid for the purpose of engagement. In ancient Christian tradition this age was 7 years (Rush, 1980). For three hundred years, up until the 20th century, the age of sexual consent in England was 10 (Green, 2002). The decision to increase the age of sexual consent in England was encouraged by concerns regarding child prostitution, not by concerns regarding paedophilia. [...]

Approaches such as the cognitive distortion theory rest on a moral and ideological basis in that it assumes a type of conscious mental manipulation of reality on the part of the paedophile that is both self-serving and self-exculpatory. For example, if a paedophile should refer to the sexual activity he enjoyed with a child as 'a game', it could be labelled 'redefining the abuse as something desired by the child' and 'minimising the offence'. Such approaches, however, often have little basis in systemic research and theory (Howitt, 1995) [...]

As stated above, one of the most prominent difficulties regarding the moral condemnation of paedophilia is that paedophilic attraction is a much more common phenomenon that it is purported to be (Green, 2002). Research supporting this suggestion, some of which will now be presented, comprises both clinical and self-report studies. In Briere and Runtz's (1989) study of 193 university male students, 21% reported some sexual attraction to small children and 7% indicated that they might have sex with a child if not caught. In another sample involving 100 male and 180 female undergraduate students, 22% of males and 3% of females reported sexual attraction to a child (Smiljanich & Briere, 1996) Clinical research has physiologically validated the self-report studies of non-clinical, non-paedophile-identified volunteers. In such a study by Freund, McKnights [McKnight?], Langevin and Cibri [Cibiri] (quoted in Green, 2002), it was found that non-paedophilic community volunteers showed significant penile tumescence in response to images of female children as 6 years of age. The extent of the reaction increased with the age of the stimulus person.

In another study, heterosexual males demonstrated erections in response to pictures of pubescent and pre-pubescent girls (Quinsey, Steinman, Bergersen, & Holmes, 1975). The men's erections averaged at 70% and 50% of their responses to adult females and for pubescent girls respectively. In a sample of 66 males recruited from hospital staff and the community, 17% showed a penile response that was paedophilic (Fedora et al., 1992). In another a study by Firestone, Bradford, Greenberg and Nunes (2000), nearly one-third (27.7%) of a comparison group of unselected young men, who were compared with homicidal and non-homicidal child molesters, showed a positive paedophile index, indicating their principal arousability by visual paedosexual stimuli.

These studies support the argument that paedophilic attractions a common feature in many 'normal' males, and, as such, a general phenomenon in society (Green, 2002). Finally, it is interesting to note, as Sternberg (1998) points out, that even in adult-adult relationships, the image of the child be be re-invented. Men are often attracted to women who, in certain ways, resemble infants having big eyes or soft skin. These men will also refer to their loved ones as cute or cuddly, use baby talk when being affectionate or use diminutive nicknames for their lovers. Women engage in the same behaviour by enjoying the 'little boy' aspects of their partner. Sternberg (1998) names this the parental protection tendency: A person seeks not only to be protected by his or her partner, but also to protect him or her. The notion of seeking the child within one's love object is, in part, also a social creation. Furthermore, some theorists argue that western civilisation has, to a significant degree, eroticised the child (Kincaid, 1993; Levine, 1995).

source: Scientific article 'Reconstructing paedophilia: an analysis of current discourses and the construct of close relationships' by Jonelle Naudé; Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science at the University of Stellenbosch; Supervisor: Mr C. Petty;; December 2005