can be learned
2. Search for the conditions
3. Wrong thinking or cognitive distortion theory
4. The dynamics of the human soul
5. The feminists' model
6. The biological model
7. The historical approach
8. A social construct
9. The demonology
10. Models I miss
11. Minding the p's and the q's
We will follow Dennis Howitt, 1995, chapter 5 & 8.
The subject of the book is not 'people with pedophilic feelings', but 'sexual offences against children'. However, both subjects are so frequently put on par with each other, that we may say that the models he mentions are the models of thinking about both subjects.
I represent these
models here with my own names and a short explanation in my own words.
It might be clear that the choice of a model certainly will influence ones answers.
Howitt remarks that the simplicity of some of the models has a risk:
"The risk is that offenders are understood in terms of relatively simple formulae for action which stifle judgement rather than aid it." (p. 158)
Mentioning of the
next models does not imply that I agree with each model. I only mention them.
Remarks made by me are indented.
Children play sexual
games with each other and enter intimate relationships. This clearly pleases
them, the behavior rewards itself. Rewarded behavior is learned. In the teenage
years, youth often experience parents and other adults as hostile, and peers as unpleasant. A teenager might avoid those people and stay in
in childhood. If these fantasies are rewarded with pleasant feelings, the
behavior will strengthen itself.
Treatment, in this model, is based on the idea that behavior has been learned, thus might be unlearned.
This behavioral theory fails to answer several questions.
For this type of treatment, the therapist needs the power to reward, thus reinforce the behavior, or to punish in order to unlearn the behavior. Thus, the very basis of this type of treatment is the use of power.
In this model, one investigates convicted pedophile people. One investigates their characteristics and the circumstances before the offence. Then, one views these data as the cause. In practice, researchers found a large variability of characteristics and circumstances.
According to Howitt, the evidence of this theory is weak or absent. Nevertheless, the model is frequently used. The source of the data is quite one-sided: only data from convicted people or people following treatment are used. Whichever problem one might investigate, the use of alcohol or cars, obsession with possession or sexual relationships, if the researcher only investigates convicted people, the research will result in a false picture.
concerned have, so has been concluded, problems with romantic relationships with
adults. There may be a variety of reasons for it. Contrarily, relationships with
children fit well with the personality of those people. They might be still childish
themselves, or socially disabled. Or they might be egocentric or narcissistic.
Or they might like to have power over other people. Also, the inhibitions may be
weak, or weak in certain circumstances.
The remedy is: teach them to avoid certain situations.
One of the simplicities of this model is the assumption that "the offending serves to directly relieve sexual tension. [...] This may be mistaken in a proportion of cases." (Howitt, p. 135)
A standard bias in this kind of research is known as 'selection on the base of the dependent variable'. This means: one only investigates people with pedophilic feelings and does not use a control group.
Doing so, one might conclude that there are many people with a narcissistic personality in the investigated group, but one does not conclude that this is also true for the general population. Having no control group, the researcher does not investigate the narcissistic people in the control group. So, one does not discover that only a few people of the controls have pedophilic feelings; most are hetero-attracted. Thus, narcissism may not be seen as a discriminating factor. This still happens by lack of the use of control groups. This way, misunderstanding creeps into society.
People who commit
pedophile deeds are people who think wrongly. Their way thinking is distorted.
They fool themselves with ideas they like. For instance, by their way of
thinking they gloss over their porno addiction. The are experts in manipulating
people and justifying their false ideas. These people always place the guilt
Prevention is, in this model, not to allow those people to access porno and not to allow them to stay in the family.
The remedy is here: teach them to think correctly.
In the practice if the treatment center, these people are forced to express 'correct thinking' as it were their real ideas. If they don't, treatment will never end.
Here, we see the state as Orwell's thought police.
Howitt says about this model: "Some theories of paedophilia have a moral-cum-ideological basis. [...] Such approach often have little basis in systematic research and theory; nevertheless their capacity to attract publicity makes them influential. They may be advocated during training courses for professionals and thus gain currency away from the public record." (. 136)
Since Freud, it is a common opinion that people with deviant behavior do not necessarily have a deviant or sick personality. Nevertheless, some people like to express the contrary. In the human soul, psychic forces may be at work - may be old unresolved conflicts - but that may not be a reason to refer to them as perversions. Remember that masturbation has been viewed as a perversion. Especially since Kinsey, behavior that was viewed as deviant, appeared to be quite normal.
In the tradition of Jung, an erotic desire toward children is viewed as normal. The young child is attractive for every human, and the loss of the inner child creates the desire to have children around, making our lives complete. This is universally human.
One can see this if women want to have baby after baby; nobody will label this as pathologic.
It is only in Western society that children are viewed as asexual beings.
Jungian psychologists point to the existence of erotic feelings and desires, just as there exist other feelings like jealousy and rivalry between parents and children. These feelings are even necessary for a healthy development. Later in human life, these feelings are resisted and denied -- or repeated in the role of the adult who likes to nourish a child.
This is as such normal and known by all parents. It is not pathologic, unless there is an obsessive desire, or if other feelings dominate, for instance the wish only to dominate, or if only a part of the personality falls in love for only one aspect of the other's.
This is typical for the Jungian way of thinking: if one person, as a whole personality, has a loving relationship with another, also as a whole personality, nothing is wrong. Jungians point to the intense love between mother and child, and they tell from treatment practice about women who cannot let loose of their child and so hinder its development to independency.
What is said here above, is named 'the normal or primary pedophilia'. There is nothing wrong as long as it is not the only desire of the person, and as long as one does not avoid contacts with adults because of fear. There is a problem if someone withdraws into her or himself, only is motivated by her or his own satisfaction and feelings, and only uses another human for ones owns lust. This is not particular for pedophile relationships, it may happen in any kind of relationship. Some persons are blocked in their relationships with adults because of this, and because of that relapse into a relationship with a child, maintaining their egocentric (or narcissistic) attitude. This is not good, nor healthy.
What about the
rules of society?
In the Jungian psychology, these rules belong to the superego. A human first receives this from the parents. Whoever dislikes her of his parents, has a weak superego - or has a good one, but does not listen to it. Another possibility is a split in the personality, in which case the superego is not well integrated. A part of the personality does not listen to it.
To be short: there is nothing wrong with pedophilic feelings as long as it concerns the love of a whole adult for a whole child, and as long as there are no excesses or other psychological illness.
In this model, therapy means: becoming conscious of these inner forces and resolving old unresolved problems.
Of course, there are also psychologists and psychiatrists who have other ideas. They presuppose a distortion, and thus, by definition they will see a distortion and they will search for the causes. Whoever searches for a while in any human psyche, will always find something.
The Jungian psychologists used to take a woman as a routine example for a human with pedophilic feelings. For feminists this is unthinkable, thus this does not exist at all. It is the man who suppresses his wife and children and who indulges his passions -- all men, and men have obtained the political power to do that.
This model has its source in the refuge centers for women who fled from their husbands. Many of these women have told about forced incest in their youth. After that, this kind of incest became the model for all sexual contacts.
The notion 'within the family' has been extended via 'within all dependency relationships' to all relationships between adults and children.
The notion 'sexual' has been extended to nearly all expressions of bodily intimacy then labeled as 'sexual abuse'.
The notion 'unpleasant' has been extended to 'always very harmful'.
By extending al these notions, one was able to put pedophilia on a par with sexual abuse -- of course only done by male predators. These men have distorted thinking. They wrongfully sexualize relationships, just because men do knot know any other kind of intimacy except sex.
In this model, the remedy is: deprive men of power, remove them from the family, force them to change their thinking and their behavior. Thus: use power on them.
This model can, says Howitt, be contradicted, or at least "be regarded as suspect given the lack of reliable evidence for pedophiles' concern with power" (p. 148) and even with sex. Whoever investigates pedophilic relationships and the adults involved in it, only seldom find a desire for power and in many cases no desire for sex. Frequently these relationships show "an unproblematic and affectionate relationship in which reciprocity rather than exploitation dominates." (p. 149)
In the Netherlands, this model is represented by Nel Draijer. She used a very broad definition of 'sexual abuse', thus she found quite a lot of cases. Recently, her conclusions are combated by Han IsraŽls.
This model has had a formidable influence, also in the Netherlands. Removing men from their family has became a routine practice, just like the enforcement of treatment, which continues until the men have learned to think (politically) correct.
'It is in the genes' is an attractive idea for people with pedophilic feelings as well as for society: 'There must be a pill for it!' But things are not that simple. If one investigates the hormones, one cannot know if the differences found, for instance the amount of stress hormones in the brain, may be the cause or the result of social stress or the stress caused by a lawsuit, for example.
Well, let's investigate the brains! "Indeed, pedophiles tend to be psychologically similar to men in general" (Howitt p 152). "It is notable that the left brain hemispheres of offenders tend to be smaller than those of normal controls, although pedophiles were more like controls than sexual aggressors against adult women or incest offenders." (p. 153)
Thus, no pill. Lust diminishing drugs and (chemical) castration are used, but only "single case studies of this sort tend to be a triumph of hope over evidence" (p. 156) "One could claim [...] that the placebo was actually more effective than the real drug." "One should be cautious about the likely success of chemicals on pedophilia" (p. 157).
Intimate relationships between adults and children appear to exist in all cultures and at all times. Mostly this has not been viewed as a problem. Many cultures have initiation rituals in which men, not the fathers, initiate the boys in the secrets of the male existence -- and not only hunting. Many cultures have adults from outside the family, to whom nearly the whole education of the children was entrusted: the 'pedagogues' and the 'nurses'. It appears that the incest taboo, at least between the children of a family, is not biologically anchored but culturally.
Historians tell us that the place of children in society has changed in the course of times. In earlier times, children were normally part of society. Extended families slept altogether nude in large box beds. Nowadays, children live in an apart children's world, they sleep in their sterile and lonesome bed rooms. This change of position in society coincided with the growth of education given in schools. Also the industrialization plays a role. Gradually, the roles and places of children and adults became split.
Dante's love for Beatrice has become famous; his beloved bride was nine years of age. In the course of time, the age thought to be adequate for sexual contact became higher: the child was declared to be asexual. However, also the juvenile criminality, and their sexuality, increased (Howitt, pp 235, 236). One might remember the - in our view absurd - fear for masturbation and the also absurd measures against it.
These data might put the fear for pedophilic contacts in our culture in perspective. Or should we think that other people and cultures were only dull and that only we have seen the light? Whoever thinks so, might do good to enter therapy and investigate her or him self's obvious narcissism.
At all times, there has been evidence of children's sexuality. Only we refuse to acknowledge it. If we might see a glimpse of it, we declare that 'this must have happened because of seduction, and never from within,' so we believe nowadays. People who have other ideas about this are said to have false believes. They should change their attitude.
In the Netherlands, the late Dr. Edward Brongersma has used this historical approach. He is severely rejected because of that.
A social construct is a phenomenon that is brought to live by a society's words, after which it comes to live in the humans' mind. People suddenly see that phenomenon as reality and then one can say it exists in reality.
A classic example is 'the fate as the will of the gods' in ancient times. More modern is the concept 'homosexuality' or 'the homosexual'. In times past, this did not exist as a concept. There only were 'homosexual' acts of people. Many terms were used for it, but not homosexuality or homosexuals.
Foucault, in particular, has explained this process of labeling and so creating social constructs. Brongersma also used this approach to explain the concepts 'pedophilia' or 'pedophiles'. The concept of the 'innocent' - to be read as 'asexual' - child is also such a social construct. Children who masturbated, who did not obey this construct, have known this. Nowadays, the concept 'sexual abuse' and the matching concept 'victim' are such a construct. As a concept, it did not exist, but now that it is constructed everyone sees it everywhere. Were people just too dull to see it before? Have we finally seen the light? No, say the constructionists, we have constructed it ourselves.
To keep a construction as a true reality, sometimes an adaptation of reality is needed.
We saw this here above speaking about the feminists' view. The concepts 'family' and 'sexual' are extended. Female intimacy with children was matched with caring love only, while male intimacy with children exclusively was matched with rape and abuse
Brongersma, quoted by Howitt (pp. 240, 241) mentions the next adaptations of reality:
Sexual activity became the criterion for 'pedophilia', in spite of the fact that many pedosexual acts have no pedophile motives at all, while many 'pedophiles' have no sexual contact with children at all and do not want it anyway.
Incest with young girls was put on a par with friendship with teenage boys. By doing so, the latter was deemed to be as violent as the former. Each glimpse of intergenerational intimacy became matched with violence by definition.
Research became biased by ideology. If each sexual contact is named 'abuse', and if the child is always named 'the victim', one loses the objectivity needed for research. The researcher will find a lot of victims. One puts on a pair of rose colored glasses and concludes that the world is rose. (The same reproach was used against Brongersma: he should romanticize relationships.)
Brongersma also points to the fact that, since 'the pedophile' exists as a construct, it always concerns another person; one exiles the own 'pedophilic' desires out of the conscious and one 'sees' it, on a larger scale, exclusively within other people, not within oneself. This phenomenon creates the pedophobia.
Brongersma points out that everyone worries about children's' sex, but that nearly nobody worries about the violence children experience in authoritarian educational relationships. (Only recently this changed, at least in the Netherlands.)
The sociologists among the constructionists first critically look at society; they view the individual in that context. Howitt mentions and quotes Plummer as one of these sociologists. If there are 'deviant individuals', one should not look only to these individuals, but first to the society that creates and cherishes those deviations. If one sees an adult full of neuroses and perversions, have a look to the society that creates these neuroses by repressing children's sexuality.
Take for instance anorexia. One can only understand, thus cure, this as long as one looks to the society and its idol 'the slender woman'. Research as well as therapy that does not see this, is one-sided and conservative.
The same holds true for addictions and for child sexual abuse. It is this society and its ideology that creates children with a cry for contact and intimacy with adults - but continues labeling the adults who answer that request as distorted and the children as their victims.
In the meantime, it is not the psychology that highlights the phenomenon (or construct) of 'pedophilia', but the demonology, a word play of Howitt (pp. 244 & further). He mentions that the amount of sexual contacts between adults and minors has been stable since the twenties. The demonization is not caused by a growth of the cases. "The real issue lies more in the ways in which abuse is constructed than in any other shifts that might have taken place." (p. 244) The public has a role in this process: scientists do not go before the public to give information, but scientists follow the public and give that information the public wants to hear.
The zeal of the child protectors has no limits. There are many cases known in which a false diagnose of 'sexually abused' has caused more bad than any good. There is more at work here than merely moral panic. Where a dominant ideology is loosing grip, one creates an irrational, untrue and devilish complot. The amount of attention devoted to sexual abuse - and the large amount of money of the sexual abuse industry to combat that devil - does not come from professionals, their work, research or discussions, but from political activists, especially feminists, says Howitt.
The demonization of the male pedophile is not a rational process, based on solid research. Diagnosing is done by unreliable methods like the anus-test and the dolls-test. Police officers have used very reprehensible methods of interrogating.
It has been always men who were accused. Falsely the idea was propagated that it did not concern lonesome acts in bedrooms, but that there should exist organized global networks.
The fading churches were glad for it: Satan had revived. The treatment centers were glad: they gradually have loosed the gays as clients. The more a pedophile man was labeled as distorted, the more they could treat - and earn.
The public and the 'experts' reinforce each other in these false visions. It seemed logical: of course, this are not normal men, but men who are abused in childhood. Oh.. do they not remember this? No problem: the false memory syndrome was created. And wee betide the one who shows nuance or understanding: be sure that hey themselves are 'pedophiles'!
What I miss is the evolutionary model. There might be an evolutionary explanation of the fact that there exist people who, beside the parents, feel attracted to children. Indeed these people might help the parents with their caring task.
I also miss a spiritual explanation.
If humans are born with these feelings, or develop them, why is this?
If there do not exist pure accidents, and if all has a meaning, what is the meaning of having these feelings?
If the human being has to accept her or him self just as she or he is, which meaning can be found, and how to fulfill this?
Might there be any connection with former lives?
Shouldn't every human soul once have to live consciously with these feelings?
Howitt has pointed to the simplicity that characterizes some models and their conclusions. It is not difficult to differentiate between
Models that search for an answer from a limited angle, and thus give a limited answer
Models that ask questions and try to find a honest answer, that search the answer in a broad context
The feminists' model
Behavior can be learned
Search for the conditions
The biological model
The dynamics of the human soul
The historical approach
A social construction
Models worth investigating
#10. An evolutionary model
The three models in the left column are, as has been said, limited in their presentation of questions and in their range of responses. However, their popularity is far from limited: they dominate public thinking, media and they dominate people who see themselves as experts. Together, they have started or supported the process of demonizing or scapegoating.
Scapegoating or demonization is
not the main subject of this essay. Nevertheless, we cannot avoid giving
attention to it. Those who study the phenomenon of pedophilic feelings, for
whatever reasons, will inevitably be confronted with it. Those who read
this, even those who have merely a general interest in the subject, cannot avoid the fact that
the demonology has outstripped the psychology and sociology and even reasonable
In the next chapter, I will explore the demonization or scapegoating process.