Prof. Rudiger Lautmann, Ph.D., University of Bremen
Pedophilia: Should It Be a Given?
Questions on the Occasion of a Book
As I write this, precisely six months has passed since my book Attraction to Children came out. In it, I reported the results of a survey of pedophilic men which had been prepared, carried out, and evaluated by a team of people over the course of several years of work. l An unusually large number of questions have been directed towards us, sometimes intensely critical, sometimes well thought out, sometimes openly curious. Counting among the remarkable reactions was even the much discussed silence on the part of some. Most of the inquiries came from the mass media. An entire series of pedophilic men had made their presence known. Some sexual scientists' reviews were positive; others responded with quiet embarrassment. The more animated the response got, the more questions were posed; I shall try to comment on and grapple with them here. They shed light on the status of the social discourse on pedophilia.
Why Do They Study Pedophilia?
Many reasonable bases may be cited for making adults' sexually-tinged love for children - that is, pedophilia - the subject of a research project. Admittedly, though, these reasons pale in comparison to the following extraordinary bonus which was recently received by way of a letter:
"I have just read a draft copy of your book Attraction to Children. I "gulped it down," as one who had almost died of thirst would do with a cup of water. I have been wandering in the wilderness for several years now. It is mysterious, exciting, menacing, hostile, beautiful, and completely surprising. Nothing, seemingly, is as broad and wide as an unidentifiable boulder, insanely iridescent in the harsh sun. And stones, which would seem to render the route somewhere between arduous and impassable. Stumbling blocks, dry and thorny undergrowth, ravines, and chasms incite fulmination: Why was I just left in this wilderness?" (D.M.) 2
In actuality, these love-relationships constitute a sort of blank spot on the map of our knowledge. Even the experts said: You can't get anywhere near these men. (Not to mention pedophilic women, who also may, perhaps, exist, and who we have tried, absolutely in vain, to track down.)
Anyone who approaches a form of sexuality as a sociologist also looks, through the lens of social inequality, at the prevailing attitudes. He pays close attention to who stands "above," and who stands "below." As far as public opinion is concerned, there is nothing lower than a so-called 'child molester.' No one wants anything to do with them, even in the sexual science arena. For me, this massive devaluation has functioned as an impetus. In sociology, hierarchies, prejudices, and scandals are subjected to close inspection. We ask professionally: What actually lies beneath that?
Pedophiles are caught, almost helplessly, in a Catch-22. On the one hand, they declare that they truly love and erotically admire children. On the other hand, precisely because of that, they are treated particularly harshly by the justice system; however, they do not deny, and do not distance themselves from, what they of course do again and again. The confessions and needs of these men have moved me. In spite of their generally desperate situation, many seem completely unpathological, even healthy - at peace with their desires.
Is Pedophilia a Taboo Subject?
Because my research report has just recently come out, I have been dealing with excited reactions of every sort. Many of them were quite nice. Two reviews mentioned that "it took a lot of courage" to write about this. (K.R.B., S.Q.) The truth is, I must have overlooked certain risks there, given that I do not at all regard myself as being particularly courageous. That I should have produced a "provocative book" (S.W.) - well now, because people have allowed themselves to be provoked, this obviously means that it has gone against some things they had taken for granted. The book takes "the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. The pendulum swings between sympathy for the tragedy of the adults involved, and a radical rejection of them; between benevolent understanding and a more profound concern and fear for the affected children." (D.G.)
"Pedophilia is, as it has always been, a taboo subject." (S.W.) A younger colleague declared to me insistently that "a taboo on such a sensitive subject will not simply allow itself to be called into question; the taboo has a social function." (V.K.) And whoever stirs up a secret, whereby he talks about it - what happens to him? One doubts whether one will still be able to take him seriously. Whatever he writes "sounds like euphemisms, and rouses suspicions of minimization." (B.v.S.) What is at stake here is credibility and competency, and thus, the elementary prerequisites of a scientific endeavor.
In a similar vein, as some interviewers and even institutional colleagues have said to me, my book has been interpreted as an "apologia." I was said to be soliciting sympathy for pedophilia, and describing it as not harmful. (C.B., P.L.) When I asked my (actually well-meaning) colleagues why they found it to be an apologia, they read the following section of it back to me: "Instead of rejecting them out of hand, as far as what the child-lovers had to say about the children's manifestations of willingness is concerned, I suggest that we take a look at their own accounts." (pg. ???) Furthermore this says that, in the highly inflamed climate which dominates today's discussions of adults' sexual contacts with children, even the mere act of picking out a small group of pedophiles is enough to be labeled an apologist. (M.M.) "A statement like 'there is true pedophilia' IS an apologia; it lacks distance." (V.K.) And many of my female colleagues have made additional comments, to the effect that they cannot understand why I would get involved in a project like this.
Today, the following maxim is employed quite openly: Whoever does not speak of "abuse" should keep quiet about pedophilia. A divided discourse exists: On one side discussion is allowed; on the other, it is not. Public attention is directed exclusively towards the sexual side of the goings-on, in order to stir up indignation. Such perceptual blinkers do not allow one to notice how condemnation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: By narrowing the view to that which is bad by definition, then, of course, it is unimaginably hideous. The images people have in their minds arise independently from the images which one could obtain by taking a look for oneself. The images are already there, and no amount of contradicting information will erase them.
Do You Have Children?
He who pleads a case takes sides. Actually, sociologists have often spoken as advocates for silent or oppressed population groups, without, mind you, then having their credibility placed in question. In my research report, I made it clear that I myself was not a child over (which some pedophilic readers already found to be an unnecessary distancing). Through some of my earlier books, I had also made clear that I am a gay man, and thus equally so, a gay researcher. 3 One sympathetic journalist was struck by the fact that, in the book, it was emphasized that no one in our research team evinced a sexual preference for children. "Are they afraid of being defamed?" (B.v.S.) No! I probably stressed this because, up until then, most of the research which had been done on pedophilia was done by people who had a personal stake in it, and therefore, approached the issue from an entirely different perspective. I think that, from the outside, one sees a sexual activity differently than when one is personally involved in it.
But of course, this time around, all of the above was not sufficient to convey an impression of neutrality, and satisfy the demand for objectivity. (It may well be that, in the present battle of opinions, a neutral, "objective" analysis is not even being asked for.) People constantly wanted to know from me: "So, what do you think about pedophilia now?" This even in my research group.
In a world in which incestuous fathers, rapist men, mothers pulling at their little sons' penises, and all too experiment-happy older brothers seem only to be multiplying exponentially - there, everyone is "somehow affected." The old standby of the sex-fiend, who was held up as a rare specimen (signs: candy, a stamp collection, etc.), was abolished as an interpretational figure in the mid l980s. 4 Since then, no one can stand on the sidelines, stay quiet, or remain above such matters any longer.
One journalist, who made no secret of her disconcertment at my book, was especially resourceful. Sometimes, in the course of an interview for a general-readership publication, at the conclusion of the printed text, she would poise the question: "Do you have children?" R.L.: "No." (P.B.) With these five words, everything that was said before that was made to seem unreliable: Only parents can assess what is harmful to children.
Here, what is different is lit only diffusely. Is pedophilia necessarily parent-hostile; is it perhaps in the opposite camp to that of the family of origin? I think not. Pedophilic men usually cultivate a relationship with the children's parents, who are of course obliged to spare their offspring from any and all burdens. Also, many pedophilic men would themselves like to live together with their little sweethearts, in a family-like setting.
In the heat of the moment, I am almost tempted to turn the tables on them. In and of itself, the current critique of the family is quite far from my own thoughts; indeed, I am actually a well-known fan of family/marriage/marriage-analogous-partnership way of life. Some of the tensions inherent in the relationship between the child and the family should probably not be overlooked. If families were that healthy, then there probably wouldn't be any abuse to talk about. And, how competent are parents in the sexual concerns and affairs of their children? The sexual misery of all adults has its origin in their families of origin. Of course, when the child's sexual stirrings become more obvious, concealment, secrecy, and diffidence are the order of the day. All of this can be better seen from the outside. Worry is an inherent part of parenting (even today there is the anxious question, whether one has always done the right thing); but they do not have a monopoly on expertise.
Should the Children Be Interviewed As Well?
"The author must admit: The children themselves were not interviewed." (S.W.) How, exactly, would or could we have been able to do that? A moral outcry - from the parents, first of all - would have chased away any researcher with intentions of that sort. But what is intended as a criticism of our data collection method, simultaneously sheds a curious light on (at any event, pre-existing) parental privileges which are akin to the ownership of property.
Children can, at best, be interviewed as victims, for example, by psychologists within the context of criminal investigations against alleged perpetrators. A whole series of long, drawn-out, and costly court proceedings provide an interesting picture of how children's statements can jump all over the place when it comes to substantiating the allegations. This alarming chapter from current-day criminal proceedings (characterized by few legal protections for the accused, weak evidence, and finally, unendurably long prison sentences) only goes to show just, how audible the deafening silence of our sexual science surrounding this has become.
The following suggestion is, indeed, well taken: "First of all, every passage in which the interviewees describe and frequently interpret the children's behavior as seductive is in urgent need of proof; i.e., for these same scenarios to be described by the children themselves." (P.R.) Admittedly, it is unlikely that any child would be able to report completely independently of the condemnations all around them. It is, of course, also true that neither can any adult neutrally, retrospectively portray what happened at a given time. Consequently, the desire to investigate the children's experience borders on the impossible. (The upshot of this is that the preexisting picture of how things are remains inviolate.)
Quite remarkable is a new study by the Bielefeld pedagogue Georg Neubauer and his research group, who have done sex education work with children and youth since 1982. In his new project on Sex Education and Sexual Abuse," the team interviewed special-needs pupils and other visitors at a youth center. "In group discussions, the sexual abuse of youth was rarely talked about. Thus, sexual contacts (including sexual intercourse) between boys and adult women were not defined as sexual abuse or rape, but rather, were evaluated as positive experiences. (In stark contrast to that stands the evaluation of sexual contacts between adult men and boys. We ran into difficulties when trying to talk with boys about this, because it touched on what, to them, was the disgust-laden and repugnant sphere of homosexuality." 5 Another stumbling block is getting information from the junior female partners involved in pedophilia!
The fact is, all of the data concerning child sexuality that is collected is collected from adults. Sometimes, they are asked to look back and describe their own development. Other times, care-persons (as a rule, the mother) are asked to observe and report on the behavior of the children in their charge. When I, after careful examination, lend broad credence to the pedophilic men's accounts, I am simply following every tenet and tradition of research. What would improve the result would be to subject the interviewees' narratives to hermeneutic analysis (suggestion by M.M.). This seems sensible to me.
Even when all sorts of other, more costly possibilities are dreamed up, the method of choice is still to interview pedophiles about their relationships and longings. This is, by far, the most considerate as well as most economical way to proceed. Rather than fundamentally criticizing or even rejecting it, we would do better to put our heads together to figure out how to optimally employ survey and assessment instruments.
As of this point, no major objections have been made concerning the cross-section of our interviewees. We gained initial access through so-called self-help groups, to whom we were permitted to introduce ourselves. In addition to that, we sought out and found interview partners via local newspapers. In the end, we had a very wide catchment area - from emancipation groups to pedophiles living in hiding. .
We have conducted several hour long conversations, and the interviewees were quite eager to make their remarks. There were very fluid narratives, which were somewhat halting only in reference to sexual activities. The men wanted to open up, perhaps because we were the first people who were not interested in oppressing them on account of their sexuality. And we opened ourselves up like tourists - nay, ethnologists - in order to scout out and describe a hidden subculture.
Who Are the "True Pedophiles?"
There are adults whose desires (preference) are directed towards children. True pedophiles love their young partners. First of all they erotically desire them. Sex actually comes second.
Within this characterization lies, as has become clear to me in the meantime, a fair degree of offensiveness. Our study defined the concept of the pedophile, distinguishing him from practitioners of incest, abuse, and sadism. And we showed that such men do, indeed, exist.
Our thesis went as follows: Desire for children is a free-standing and differentiable sexual form. The child-like, as an autonomous object of sexual desire, manifests itself even when it is partially able to detach itself from the dimension of age; namely, when "adults" are eroticized because, and to the extent to which, they seem childlike.
What created an uproar, therefore, was the notion that the sexual form of "pedophilia" is distinguishable from the phenomenon of "sexual abuse." The fact that pedophilia indeed is a free-standing sexual form manifests itself in its complex construction which, in its essential dimensions, looks quite different from incest and abuse. As such dimensions I name the following: the forms of communicating with the child, being acquainted with the latter's needs (example: being prepared for the end), improving and arranging living spaces and organizing leisure time activities, contact with the parents, establishing rules for what kinds of language will be used, as well as refuge from intervention by child protective authorities. (The book by Rainer Hoffmann describes these dimensions.)
Erotic moments show themselves in the initial making of an acquaintance. A pedophile initially looks, for example, at the child's face, which is a mirror for his or her, character. For a great number of our interviewees, only after that did one's glance fall on his or her physical characteristics. Other pedophiles like to go about things in the opposite order; both are analogous to inclinations shared by all adults. The initial approach is a very complex event. The pedophile's glance wanders to playgrounds or other locations where children gather, through the crowd, searching for a child who holds his gaze, who looks back at him, and who does not immediately look away. Consequently, he is searching for one of those rare children who might be amenable to getting involved in such a relationship.
It is certainly well-known that this happens in other sexual subcultures. Why should pedophiles by any different? While public opinion does regard them as monstrous, the truth is, in the main, they themselves do things which, in our culture, are typical of all interpersonal dealings. Whereas a portion of their action-repertoire is "normal"- namely, characteristic of complete intimacy - the other part is "specific"; i.e., marks them as pedophiles.
Therefore, there is also a clear line between homosexual and heterosexual. Some of my pedophilic readers were not fully in agreement with this. "So long as you do not show me on a two-peaked distribution curve on the basis of all sexual orientations, I simply do not believe in a relatively sharp demarcation. This would, of course, mean that youth in a certain age span would show a "lover-dip" - a for me quite improbable assumption." (W.T.) ·
For me personally, the dissimilarity between homosexuality and boy-oriented pedophilia was a surprise. I had originally thought that boy lovers were a variant of a gay orientation. However, one must make a distinction between pedophilia and homo/heterosexuality. Someone who loves girls is not even "able" to be sexually intimate with a woman. To this extent he is not heterosexual, but rather, loves girls. And a man who gets involved with boys is more likely to be with an adult partner who is a woman, rather than a man. The most salient aspect is that an adult is, as a rule, declined.
Another writes: "I am of the opinion - obviously in contrast to the majority of your conversational partners - that the desire for (sexually mature) boys already had a lot to do with homosexual longings. It is the "pre-manly body, sweet and tangy" (Thomas Mann) which, based on my observations and experiences, attracts most boy lovers, without, by the way, requiring a lot of experimentation beforehand. Of course, from time to time it also happens that men who originally thought of themselves as homosexual, over time, choose younger and younger partners, thereby landing in the realm of pedophilia as well." (F.)
Both of these letter-writers think about young men ("sexually mature boys" in the case of F., "lads" in W.T.'s case). Actually, something has recently come to the foreground, which was not discussed separately previously. Same sex inclinations towards children, youth, or adults had, in the past, been regarded as equally bad. Only recently has pederasty gained in stature.
A stroke of the legislator's pen has made this possible: Some pederasts were excused from the pedosexual grouping. Now they even have their own magazine, which explicitly refers to itself as the "heir to ancient Greece." KOINOS (since l993) seeks to develop "the language of the boy," and overcome existing moral boundaries. What are discussed here are boys between twelve and eighteen years of age. I would like such a journal not to be regarded merely as a tactical move, which one uses in order to expand the legal breathing room, and thus, the allowed age limits. Rather, I sense an effort to present a particular type - the emergent man - as object-partner. This would be pederasty in the strict sense; or, we could refer to it ironically as the New Good Old Student Days.
Does Every Sexual Act With a Child Constitute Abuse?
To this question, there are two equally simple as well as diametrically opposed answers. One says: Obviously, and without any question, using a child sexually is abuse. The other says: In the broad spectrum of sexual acts with children, there are some which need not be called 'abuse.' The contrast could not be greater. It is, for the time being, of a more logical nature, and is not based on actual empirical knowledge.
That is to say, anyone who declares any sexual contact - without exception - to be sexual abuse means this in a conceptual sense. To them, pedosexual acts equate from the very outset - and consequently, without further empirical verification - to a crime. (And then, general grounds are cited for this equivalency.) On the other hand, anyone who differentiates among pedosexual events perhaps into the three categories of exploitation (using a child as a mere sexual object), sadism (pleasure from pain and violence), and pedophilia (the relationship with the child plays out in the triad of love eroticism-sexuality is, by way of definitions, creating a logically tiered interpretational frame, without requiring any empirical information for it.
Therefore, the quarrel between the two positions is, for the time being, of a tautological nature, and therefore, quite futile. Definitions should be of help in classifying experiences; but they still do not provide any information about actual reality. Behind the struggle over proper terminology are, first and foremost, ideological and sexual-political positions. What is at stake here are how children are conceptualized and the development of mature human beings. The battle of the sexes also plays a part in this. (Still, a great deal more could be said about the ideological nature of the campaigns for and against pedophilia.) In struggles of this type which are designed to shape public opinion it is also necessary to invest concepts with specific meanings. Thus the words "pedophilia" and "sexual abuse," beginning with a flood of American publications, came to be used interchangeably; all potential distinctions were discarded, which is to say, denied. For the campaign, this was a victory; for sexual science, a defeat.
In order to go beyond what is, in the end, an unproductive argument over terminology, one must again give greater consideration to theory and empiricism. What are our ideas about sexual socialization? How are intergenerational relationships, including sexual ones, actually brought about? Following the din of the campaign to protect children from abusing men, we must think things through again, and investigate anew.
On the Current Status of Research
Up until now, it was customary for sexual contacts and relationships involving an adult and a child to be regarded as all of a piece: in the criminal law, in sexual medicine, and in child protection literature. Differentiating between exploitative and loving acts was expressly rejected. Moreover, it was merely entertained as a theoretical possibility that a given portion of contacts with children might not be harmful, and would not be regarded as serious. Studies which would be able to substantiate this very hypothesis are not accepted for publication in virtually any of the scientific journals. The moral nature of all these decisions is quite clear; the position is that there is no need to research this.
Removing pedophilia as a construct from the collective term "sexual abuse" would be irresponsible if this form of sexuality were just as harmful for the children involved as rape, incest, harassment, and other assaults undoubtedly are.
What long term effects do children's sexual experiences with adults necessarily have? Contrary to what one would expect, reading the scientific literature raises more questions than it answers. In many writings, the age difference and moral disapproval of such acts are sufficient to render the affected child a 'victim' (case in point: David Finkelhor). 6 But of course, this merely signifies a choice of wording which, while presuming harm, does not, of course, establish it.
As Allie Kilpatrick demonstrated convincingly in her overview of the research, there are prerequisites for as well as types and extents of negative consequences which, as of this point in time have only been clarified in a fragmentary way. 7 Kilpatrick compared the existing psychological studies on long term effects. First of all, she pinned down the methodological framework within which the problems in this area of research have arisen: how concepts were defined (e.g.: How closely related must the participants be for it to constitute incest? What acts are "sexual?" Up until what age is someone a "child"?), what samples or cross-sections were studied (e.g.: sample size? from what social statuses, found in institutions, or in the field, control groups used?), and finally, how the consequences of the sexual acts were measured. The majority of the studies examined evidenced shortcomings: unclear concepts, small and distorted samples, no examination of causality, etc. Those studies which did, to some degree, correspond to normative standards of psychological harm actually do report the presence of harm however, above all, as a consequence of incest.
Many level headed social scientists do stress that pedophilia, in the strict sense of the word, should not be lumped together, for theoretical and political purposes, with sexual abuse. Included among such distinction-drawing voices are Gisela Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, Kurt Freund, Berl Kutchinsky, and Eberhard Schorsch to a person, with a broad perspective on all sexual phenomena. On the other hand, speaking in favor of "lumping together" are those who talk exclusively about rape and abuse (e.g., Elisabeth Trube-Becker). They consistently characterize these problems less as sexual ones, and more as ones of patriarchal domination.
Where Do We Draw the Line Between Pedophilia and Child Abuse?
The criteria are as follows: voluntariness, and harm. The two are to be examined independently of one another.
The abuser is one of those numerous men and they are, overwhelmingly, men who, though he does sexually approach children, he does not actually crave a sexual partnership with the puerile form. Pedophiles, on the other hand, are persons who find children erotic, love them, and establish a friendship with a child, in order to subsequently find sexual fulfillment with him or her.
The concept of child abuse incorporates the notion that the youngster is harmed. As far as contacts with true pedophiles are concerned, this harm is highly questionable. They proceed extraordinarily cautiously, and have far less sex than is generally assumed. What they are aiming for is by no means sex per se, but rather, first and foremost, an erotic relationship with the child. They behave no differently than do those of us whose partners are other adults: We establish an intimate relationship, in which sex can also take place, when the other party is agreeable to it. This consent is given by the child in a quite neutral way. Mind you, this will inflame the debate over whether children really can consent to sex.
Can Children Consent to This Kind of Sex?
I cannot imagine that the human ability to engage in sexual acts is suddenly switched on when he reaches the age of majority, or, when he becomes a lawful object of sexual desire; that is, at the age of fourteen. I think that the ability to engage in sexual acts is something which evolves from birth onwards. Therefore, from very early on, a child is made ready for sexual acts with himself and with others. To the extent that a child has developed, he can also agree to a sexual interaction; that being said, sex always means something different to a child than it does to an adult.
Precisely because the latter notion is so universally held however speculative it may sound the point remains a tricky one. The reason why it remains so difficult is because we know little about children's sexual yearnings. Many proceed based on the assumption that the child is really unable to consent to this, which is something that should be reserved for adults. In that sense, of course, we will already have solved our problem in advance, and must cease investigating issues relating to agreement and consent.
It is my impression that what we have here is something akin to a natural correspondence of wishes, which does not mean that the two have consented to the same thing, but rather, that the child has agreed to the aforementioned forms of the pedophiles' wishes, and then allows to happen, to and with himself, something which he personally finds pleasurable. It may be that in terms of sexual development, children vary even more among one another than adults do. That is why there may well be "suitable partners" for pedophiles, notwithstanding the fact that we as outsiders, based on our own experience, would scarcely be able to conceive of it.
In actuality, the problems arise only later on, when the child is told that he has done something immoral and impermissible here. Then the child would begin to doubt his own ability to consent. The readiness to rashly and exclusively view sexual advances towards children within a perpetrator-victim paradigm is questionable. Here the sexual pedagogue sees an "incapacitation situation for the child." Offering assistance or exposing the situation without the child's consent means, according to Neubauer, "once again a boundary violation and hindering the competence to decide and act. The 'victim' stigma fosters the impression that children, teenagers, and women are helpless and must be protected, because they do not seem to know what is right and good for them." The authors suspect "that it is less the abuse, and more the victim stigmatization, that impedes children's development." 8
The idea of sexual self determination is no mere linguistic notion, which would be attained only in ethical reflection. In addition to the normative element, it would comprise a personality and action image which must be suited to a particular group of persons. Autonomy is culturally and, above all, generationally dependent; it is an empirical concept.
Neubauer et al.'s survey shows what notion of abuse is held by children themselves. It is, surprisingly, a narrow definition, limited to rape and unwanted approaches by strangers. The children were provided with criteria, according to which they would, or would not, permit an approach. Sexual advances were, to the group studied, an everyday occurrence, and were not always assessed as being negative or unpleasant. "Moreover, they made it known to us that they had developed a competency to be able to deal with these routine approaches. The public and scientific debate should, therefore, also be oriented towards children's and teenagers' life-situations." 9
Only when the old icons of the 'asexual child' and a latency period are wiped from our minds will we get a clear picture of voluntariness and self-determination. Neubauer et al. conducted an impartial inquiry; and their results were remarkable. "In our work, we were able to discover that children under ten years of age already have ideas about what sex could be, and what they define, for themselves, as sexual abuse. On the one hand, they would allow sexual advances when, to them, the person seems nice. . . . On the other hand, the children made it known to us that they absolutely felt they were in a position to deflect such approaches." 10
But The Power Imbalance Between Adults and Children!
Even we had initially presumed that an imbalance of power between adult and child clearly exists. However, in the course of our interviews, we were surprised to what extent the men themselves were obliged to proceed with caution, in order to simply establish as well as maintain contact. Obviously, children also have at their disposal means by which to keep the man away from them, thereby bringing some measure of balance to the relationship.
In sexual intimacy, the participants stand, as it were, naked before one another disrobed of the attributes of their outside lives. Here, dominance comes into play differently than it would elsewhere. With money, intelligence, or physical strength I might be able to buy from someone, talk someone into, or compel genital contact with someone but never the self-abandon upon which sexual longing is based. In an erotic exchange, all power gradients have merely shifted their meaning: Although dominance does function as a symbol, it does not bring about any kind of fusion.
So then, who says that a sexual encounter is only successful if the partners are socially equal? A given individual (myself, for example) may well desire that this be so; but this is not the only conceivable case. Regarding this, let us now have a look at the history of the ideas about love.
The philosopher Genot Bφhme writes: "Eros as a type of love relationship between two persons was shaped by Greek boy-love. . . The fundamental structure of eroticism consists of its asymmetry: The Greek verb "erato" (I love) denotes only the man's relationship towards the boy, not vice versa. (...) Lover and beloved are not equal, they do not mutually love one another, and that love is a definitively unequal game. . . Initially the beloved doesn't even know what it's all about; he is the naive one, the uninitiated one, the 'innocent one,' who is only drawn into the love affair through erotic intrigue. All of the lover's efforts are directed towards drawing the beloved into the game. But what he is able to attain is by no means requited love; at most, the beloved simply allows himself to become involved in the affair, and gives the lover what he wants." 11 And so forth the entire passage is worth reading, and is quite thought provoking. Not that today's pedophilic relationships would be procured in just such a manner, no. Rather, it is a matter of the different question of equality in love in our culture.
Pedophiles keep an eye out for the physical, mental, and sexual well-being of their child counterparts. The awakening of genital desire is their primary goal. But they soon discover that the child does not experience sex in the same way that they themselves do: It is not lost on him that a child above all a younger one initially experiences self-directed desire. They cannot expect at least initially that the child will have an interest in the adu1t's genitalia. At most, curiosity, the need for information, and things of that nature may be detected.
Nothing a child could do would impede things as much as simply staying away. Every single one of the pedophiles we interviewed feared that the child would simply stop showing up. They long for the next time. Consequently, they do not actually have power over the child. With their authority, pedophiles can only direct children to a very limited degree. Also, they seek out not frightened children, but rather, self-confident boys and open minded girls. And nowadays they do not rely on intimidation; i.e., that they are the adult, are bigger, are learned, and have more money.
Here we must also consider the historical evolution of childhood. The change in the relationship between different generations is described by Neubauer et al. as follows:
"Today's norms are not discipline and strict obedience, but rather, the fostering of chi1dren's independence, willingness to cooperate, and ability to communicate, which is not engendered through authority, but rather, through partnership-analogous, argumentative behaviors. This evolution has led to a reduction in the degree of power imbalance, as well as conflict, between parents and children. The relationship between the generations is, therefore, more liberal and open; but at the same time, it has also become more fragile, more emotional, and more complex." 12
From that, I conclude that the dimensions of the power equilibrium must be determined by today's childhood relationships, not those of previous decades.
Does the Pedophile Dump the Child When He or She Becomes 'Too Old' for Him?
Several times, 'sympathetic' reporters have asked me at what point the children would lose their pedophilic appeal, and what would then happen to them. What is behind that is obviously the notion that the children would get 'thrown away' after they had been made use of and had become unattractive.
None of our interviewees reported any such thing. The men only withdraw sexually from their young boyfriends and girlfriends, once their age limits have been exceeded. They themselves are frequently surprised when contact is kept up. Frequently cases are reported of things turning into decades-long friendships. Presumably, the less intervention there is into these pedophilic friendships, the more likely it is that this (changed, but still) close relationship will manifest. The children are not, as a rule, left by the wayside.
Obviously, the pedophilic relationship is inherently transitory; the man knows that the boy or girl will grow out of his/her childhood; he sees and observes this process, sometimes even with a certain degree of relish at the child's development. Even pedophiles with a monogamous partnership lifestyle foresee an eventual separation. Given that the end is always "physiological" in this way, and thus, as the facts of physical maturation draw near, the degree of sorrow would be modest. (Usually, the relationships end because one of the parties has moved away or the parents intervene/break it off, etc.) In the ideal situation, the relationship is able to be maintained over the course of several years (in order to then turn into a non-sexual friendship), and this 'natural' end therefore means there is no "loss."
How Is Pedophilia To Be Judged?
Children grow up under some quite varied conditions: good, less good, poor, and even, destructive. Only a few situations could be characterized as ideal; and this category probably does not include what a pedosexually-interested man has to offer his beloved. But, it could still be a lot better than the environment from which such a child comes, which is precisely the reason why he or she is approachable in the first place. Where no one else is looking after a child appropriately, then, a pedophile can place himself in a position to rescue and support him or her. Under the given circumstances of a particular case, this may, then, be regarded as the best thing that could happen to the child.
So, when pedophilia is characterized as not being the "best" form of sexuality, that's really not the point. In particular cases, it absolutely can be the second best thing; that is, when the best option is not attainable. In that case, it may mean a stroke of luck for the child. Here is what Eberhard Schorsch has to say regarding this: "Statements regarding harm are (and can only be) applicable following a more precise examination of individual cases." 13
Should the Abuse Paragraphs Be Changed?
Reader F. writes to me: "The fact that this for pedophiles essential aspect was left out of the book was a bit disappointing for many of those concerned, particularly given that one had already been exposed to some very firm statements from you on this complex issue. (I am thinking of your support for the idea of granting sexually mature young people the right to sexual self-determination.) I am already aware of the fact that, strictly speaking, this was not part of the book's focus; nevertheless, many of those with pedophilic inclinations would certainly have expected at least some comment regarding what might be, in your opinion, the crimino-legal implications of your results."
It seems to me that, to have made claims, in my book, regarding the prevailing criminal law would have been inappropriate. "As is," the entire book is already a plea for a new assessment of pedophilia, which is also how a whole series of people posing questions about it have understood it. Strategically, I have always held that one must distinguish between two steps, taking just one at a time: first, elucidating what pedophilia actually is; the drawing of criminal-political conclusions is only done later on.
If something really can be undertaken in the area of the criminal law at the present time, then it is an appeal to the courts to treat pedophiles differently than has been done up to this point. As of now, they are punished particularly harshly as ideological offenders; this I am explicitly against.
Applying Paragraph 176 StGB to actual cases of child sexual abuse is right and proper. On the other hand, I feel that prosecuting pedophiles is unjust. Thus, I would like there to be the following consequences in the application of the existing regulations: that the inclination towards children, when lived out with decency, simply not be subject to prosecution.
What are problematic are the new regulations in Germany and Austria, according to which the mere possession of child-pornographic material is punishable. The idea behind this is to impact production by drying up demand. Meanwhile, anyone who collaborated in such production was already punishable. Its sale was also forbidden. However, because they could not get to the producers, and were unable to stop the traffic in it, now, they start with the customers.
Consequently, the new criminal norm is based on a goal which, even if the prohibited activity were halted, still would not by any means be attained. It is not the possession of child pornography that violates a legal right, but rather, the preceding activities. A rational criminal politics, however, only permits the personalization of a direct violation of rights (or, the attempt thereof). This principle has now been violated.
A large number of pedophiles have, or had, extensive collections of images. Provided that one wishes to look at genitalia, pornography is a ready-made way to do that. The typical child abuser, on the other hand, would probably not have any interest in such depictions. Once again, pedophiles are criminalized in and of themselves, without a showing of any harmful behavior on their part beyond some assumed effect on morality.
Are Pedophiles Happy?
This might appear to be a rhetorical question, in light of all of the prejudgments and exclusions which are directed at child lovers. Branded as monsters, life cannot be exactly easy for them. Little by little, the mechanisms of social control shine their light into every recess within which pedophilic yearnings were, previously, able to be lived out. Recently (in the fall of 1993 in Germany), with the exception of the possession of provocative images, engaging in the relevant activities on trips to foreign countries was also made punishable.
Never has the social pressure been stronger than it is today. The police, the justice system, and youth authorities grow ever more merciless. In addition to that, public opinion and morality have become more and more focused on the issue. Although crushed as if by millstones by these social controls, as it has always done, this sexual yearning lives on. The reality of this situation certainly does make a strong impression.
Can pedophiles be happy under these circumstances? In their love relationships: yes, absolutely. With their lives: no. Their biographical misfortune cannot be separated from the depth of their yearning and the occasional attainment of their desires. No one who does not have to would choose the pedophilic way of life. Every one of them has tried to take a different path. But attempting to conform does not work.
The misfortune consists not of the fact that the children grow up, and consequently are lost as objects of desire. Quite the contrary: The eroticization of transition is well-versed in farewells; the liking lives on regardless. The misfortune results from the extreme devaluation, which became even stronger in the 1980s. Behind that they suffer especially from second-guessing, responding with self-reproach and withdrawal. The dissonance between their inner ideal and social degradation can tear the soul in two.
Nevertheless, I do not want the ideal type of pedophilia which I have portrayed in my book to seem merely Utopian. These adults described successful relationships with children in so many interviews, and a whole series of the men we questioned convinced us that they did in fact live up to the highest standards of the ideal type of pedophilia.
As I gather from many inquiries and reviews, news of this sort also made an impression on others. Thus, Petra Reinfelder characterized as remarkable every passage in the book "in which pedophiles describe with what sensitive attentiveness they observe children, following and interpreting their reactions, just to make sure they are not doing anything wrong, anything the child does not like. It is certainly likely that this is done in part out of self-protection; in addition, they want to avoid attracting attention as 'child molesters.' But it also shows a sensibility, as well as a sophisticated affection, towards children, from which so many 'normal' people who are fond of children as well as parents and teachers could learn a lot." 14
In fictional works as well, which are often far ahead of science as far as visualizing sexual scenarios is concerned, there are depictions which demonstrate the liveliness and viability of pedophilia. What have made a particular impression on me here are stories by Griedrich Krohnke. 15
In this heading, I have posed a question. The answers to it are diametrically opposed to one another: "Yes, that's obviously the case," says one. "No, this is just window dressing in the end, they're all abusers," says the other. And both sides are absolutely convinced that they are right. Consequently, our scientific inquiry is in a tight spot: It does not represent any interests; neither those of the child-lovers, nor those of the children and their protectors.
In my book, I focus, in generational terms, on how men structure their erotic-sexual relationships with boys and girls. The self-reports of those interviewed confirm that true pedophilia does exist.
The prominent American sex sociologist William Simon recently predicted that pedophilia will likely continue to constitute a significant share of sexual deviancy ("perversion"). But Simon also suggests that the current discourse "approaches the horizon of p1ausibi1ity." 16 This is what I believe: The social climate between the generations is changing, and this includes the sexual climate.
l. Rudiger Lautmann (1994). Attraction to Children: A Portrait of Pedophiles, Hamburg: Ingrid Klein Verlag.
Additional important publications by those in our research group include:
Rainer Hoffman (1994) The Rules of Pedophilic Interaction: Frameworks, Rituals, Dramaturgy, Ph.D. Diss., Bremen, (soon to appear as a book).
Marina Knopf (1993) Sexual Contacts Between Women and Children, in: [German] Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 6, pp. 23-35.
(1993); Michael Schetsche (1993) The "Sexually At-Risk Child": Continuity and Change in a Social Problem , Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus.
2. All names are abbreviated by initials.
3. Most recently: Rudiger Lautmann (Ed.) (1993) Homosexuality: A Handbook of Theory and Research History, Frankfurt/M.: Campus Verlag.
4. For a more detailed discussion on changes in patterns of interpretation, see Michael Schetsche, 1993 (Footnote 1), pp. 127-203.
5. Georg Neubauer, Inge Emmerich, & Dirk Achterwinter (1993) At-Risk Situations in Iso1ated Areas: Sexual Abuse. In: Center for Childhood and Youth Research (Eds.): Transformations of Childhood, Opladen (Leske), pp. 163-181.
6. David Finkelhor (1979) Sexually Victimized Children. New York: Free Press.
7. Allie Kilpatrick (1987) Childhood Sexual Experiences. Journal of Sex Research , 23, 173- 196.
8. Neubauer et al. (Footnote 5), pgs. 166, 170.
9. Ibid. pg. 177.
10. Ibid. pg. 178.
11. Gernot Bφhme 1985) A Pragmatic Approach to Anthropology. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, pp. 101-102.
12. Neubauer et al. (Footnote 5), pg. 168.
13. Eberhard Schorsch (1993) Perversion, Love, Violence. Stuttgart: Enke, pg. 171.
14. Book review in Sόddeutsche Zeitung, Vol. 7, May, 1994.
15. Published by Rosa Winkel (Berlin) and Ammann (Zurich).
16. William Simon (1994) Deviance as History. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23: pp. 1-20.