Self-Discovery
Why I'm Not a 'Pedophile'
by David Em

THE "PARAPHILIAS" -- the category of sexual "disorders" into which the psychiatric establishment places "pedophilia"-- are founded upon moral judgments, as even John Money (the former Johns Hopkins University professor who has been the concept's biggest recent proponent), has pointed out.  However, the history of the terms and their definitions goes back much further than Money.

During the Victorian era, forensic psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing wrote one of the first volumes on sexology, called Psychopathia Sexualis.  It became very popular and a big seller, published in 12 editions as late as 1939 (my copy was printed in 1945, from the twelfth edition).  It is also reputed to have been largely plagiarized from his students.  I wouldn't be surprised if half of it were fabricated out of, well, not "thin air," but out of existing myths.  This book introduced the term "paedophilia" into the "medical" literature.  What is most important here is that each heading in the section containing the discussion of "pedophilia" began with a number from the German criminal code.  For example: "6.  Violations of Individuals Under the Age of 14 (Austrian Statutes, 128, 132; Austrian Abridgement, 189, 191; German Statutes, 174, 176.)"

In the table of contents, this section was listed as "Immorality with persons under the age of 14.”  Cases of this "violation" are divided into "Non-Pathological Cases" and "Pathological Cases.”  Among the later are several different kinds of cases, including those motivated by the "morbid disposition, a psycho-sexual perversion, which may at present be named paedophilia erotica.”  (here there is a footnote citing an 1896 article by Krafft-Ebing -- if anyone could find this article, I would love to have a copy).  This is the history of the word "pedophile," and this is one of the many reasons why I studiously avoid using the word in my writing.

Today, in the common parlance of the US, the word is almost synonymous with "psychopath," and is generally understood to apply to someone who is beyond help, out of control, and a danger, or at least a potential annoyance, to young people.  Notice that I also avoid, where possible, using the words "child" or "children.”  Like the "p" word, these words are associated with a mythology well suited for social control.  "Children" are helpless and must be protected; they are incapable of doing wrong, because they can't make their own decisions, etc....  The Western ideology of childhood, as I understand it, is rooted primarily in the writings of medieval Church scholars.  The writings were turned into widespread practice after the rise of industrial capitalism, when the newly powerful "state" borrowed the ideas and educational techniques and adapted them to institute compulsory "education"/ indoctrination.

Consistent with the idea that "children" are to be seen and not heard, is the fact that the "p" word is always defined (officially) to exclude the will of the young person.  Taken together, these two words are derived from, and lend support to, a very oppressive ideology which serves to keep young people effectively enslaved in Western countries.

I also have a personal vendetta against the "p" word, having identified with it at the age of 12, isolating myself from my friends and fearing my future for the next 15 years.  It seems now as if the word were a ball and chain around my ankle.  I have known two boys who tried to understand me as a "pedophile," and it simply was not possible, for they could not see themselves, in their mid-teens, as "children.”  To them, I was gay, and strange.  They both liked me a lot, but my own self-image ultimately presented insurmountable obstacles to our friendship.  I don't mind being an unusual character, but to be labeled with a word that has such strong associations in the American mind is a fate comparable to death for me.  My task now is to make up for some 15 years of lost time.

Finally, there is the matter of multi-dimensionality.  As others have observed, there is no reason to organize one's sexuality only around age or sex.  Since moving to San Francisco, I have discovered that of all the different types of people, the palest ones (white guys) generally age the fastest, and usually have the most body hair (as I understand, scientists are just now figuring out that the substance which colors the skin also inhibits aging).  I have discovered that there are guys over 30, and even over 40, who make decent sex partners, at least occasionally, if I only open my mind to what can happen, and worry less about what can't happen.  I have found that some people of color look as good at 22, or better, than many white guys look at any age, and yet, I still am attracted to people similar to those who turned me on when I was 12.

I have no word to describe this "orientation," but it is very real, and it is shared, in general terms, by an awful lot of San Francisco's "gay" men.  The truth is, however, that our "orientation" is not on a Cartesian scale, it is in a multidimensional space, often pointing in different directions at once, even on a given dimension; and this space is so complex as to be effectively individual.  You and I may agree that a certain person looks good, but if we explore our range of attractions, we will likely find significant areas with little or no overlap.  The lexicon of Krafft-Ebing, Hirschfeld, Money, and the American Psychiatric Association serves to obfuscate this essential truth, and to force us into molds which confine and contain us for use as pawns in political battles.

From the NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 2, Pg. 14, Aug. 1995.
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2008

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