August 21, 2006

On the Web, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach – New York TimesPeter Singer once made an energetic defense of bestiality by considered from first principles whether it was “bad”. In that spirit I’ll examine pedophilia. First, let me state that I absolutely DO NOT support pedophilia!! It is interesting, however, to look at the issue without our cultural baggage. The central question is whether or not sexual contact with minors (let’s say less than 16) is harmful. Before our modern times, various cultures have married off girls as young as 10. Ancient Greek and Roman societies condoned sex between adult males and adolescent boys. Though we may now shudder at these examples, they have existed widely without, as far as we can tell, harmful effects on the children. Sexual relations doesn’t have to include full penetration; it could simply be touching. That would push the age even lower (before puberty) to the point where children might feel some kind of pleasure. I don’t know if they do, so I can’t guess at a lower bound. So sexual contact between adults and children has been going on for far longer than our modern period which bans it.

There is a second, trickier question. Children may be emotionally damaged by pedophilia because our society keeps telling them how awful the child should feel. As an analogy, Americans think public nudity is horrifying, while Europeans couldn’t care less. American children are taught to be ashamed of their bodies, while European kids are not. Therefore, simply telling children that they should feel bad about something will cause them to feel bad about it. The same applies to adults, too. Since pedophilia violates social norms, minors will be emotionally hurt by it. But this is a lame excuse. The act is not intrinsically bad, it is bad only within the context of a culture that considers it bad. Anyway, all morality falls into this grey area. When in Greece, do as the Greeks do.

But social mores could change. The radical and rapid change in attitudes about gay people is an excellent example of this. What was once considered a mental disorder and an affront against nature is now practically celebrated on the Bravo cable network. Could the same happen to pedophilia? What about polygamy, swingers, or general pornography? These things are changing slowly. Personally, I would brutally slaughter anyone who touches my kids, but that’s because I’m still rather conservative about pedophilia. I doubt I’ll relax that view.


3 Responses to “Pedophilia”

  1. I think there’s reason to believe that cross-generational sex was abandoned because it was determined to be harmful to children.

    For one thing, the ten year old brides you mention were always the exception to the rule and were regularly left to ripen by their husbands before being taken to the marriage bed. Furthermore, even in ancient Greece, it was an act of affectionate submission for you men to service their teachers. While there was little shame in receiving sexual favors, adult males who enjoyed giving homosexual pleasure were considered demeaned.

    It could be debated that the growth of Judeo-Christian religion in the area put an end to the prevalence of open and accepting homosexuality altogether, never mind between generations, but by the same token, it could be argued that religion is always a way of controlling the people and encouraging them to behave in ways which benefit the overall society.

    Many sexual taboos were put in place for a reason. Sex before marriage is sinful because a woman without the benefit of outside support could not adequately support her children. There as a biological imperative for the continuation of the species.

    The same imperative drives us to protect our children from adult/child sex. If we remove all possibility of shame as a factor, little girls could be damaged physically from both sex and child birth. Little boys can of course also be damaged physically.

    In the wild, younger animals are kept from mating by older animals. Watch Meerkat Manor and you’ll see adult females controlling their place in the pecking order by keeping younger females from breeding. This competition protects the species from losing otherwise healthy young females to death or damage from too early breeding.

    Socially, sex with children has never been and act of respect or love, but rather control and manipulation. Physically, it is painful and potentially damaging. Put the two together, and I believe it creates a moral absolute, without having to go into religious and societal norms whose further damage can’t be ignored.

    There ya go.. It’s just plain bad.

  2. projectshave Says:

    If you define “children” as pre-pubescent, I’ll concede simply because I don’t want to persist in supporting pedophilia. It’s too creepy. However, post-pubescent girls can and have been having sex without emotional or physical problems for a very long time. So adults having sex with a 14 year old post-pubescent girl is not harmful. Frankly, there are girls that age having sex with older teen boys who are physically adult males. And some get pregnant and give birth without any physical problems. And your last paragraph (“never been an act of respect or love”) is BS. How do you know?

    FYI: Both my grandmothers were married at 13-14. Started having kids when they were 15-16. It was the norm in India at that time and place.

  3. Tessa Libertine Says:

    I must concede, I was thinking of clinical definition of pedophilia referring to pubescent and prepubescent children.

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