StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University

December 8, 2018

“Let’s Be Mature About Pedophilia:” Disorder or Sexual Orientation?

In the wake of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) movement, new sexual orientations have been cast into light. Pansexuals, Demisexuals, and Asexuals are just a few of the emerging sexualities covered under the umbrella of representation within the LGBTQ community. However, not all sexual orientations are welcomed in this community. In an attempt to spread misinformation and hate within the LGBTQ community, a homophobic smear campaign advertised the idea of LGBTQ leaders fighting for the rights of pedophiles (using the acronym LGBTP–Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Pedosexual). This ad sparked outrage among members of the LGBTQ community, but also led to new questions, including whether or not pedophilia should be normalized into society as a sexual orientation. Despite the negative stigma surrounding pedophiles, as well as the current conception of sexual identity, psychologists and scientists are actively working to showcase how pedophilia is indeed an “unchangeable sexual orientation.”

In order to spread awareness about pedophilia as a sexual orientation, experts highlight that the sole difference between pedophilia and other sexual orientations is that, to live out a pedophilic fantasy would end in disaster.1 Psychologists and scientists alike do not condone child sexual assault. They, like many of us, believe it is a horrendous crime that should always remain a crime and be punished accordingly. But many mental health professionals already hold pedophilia to be a sexual orientation, given the nature of its definition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition–the DMS-5.2 Pedophilia is defined as the “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children of 13 years of age or younger.”3 Sexual orientation refers to whom an individual is sexually and romantically attracted. Despite this “widely held” view among mental health professionals that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, “people are uncomfortable talking about pedophilia that way since there seems to be, currently, an idea that sexual orientation is something that we should kind of respect and honor.”4 Psychologists also emphasize that sexual attraction to children and the choice to harm children by acting on an individual’s sexual desire are two separate things.5

Child Abuse is Abuse | Courtesy of Flickr Commons

Pedophilia does not become pedophilic disorder, however, until the person has experienced personal distress and impairment caused by the burden of their fantasies and urges regarding children for over a period of six months. Although having pedophilic disorder and/or being a pedophilia is not a crime, when one acts out by either watching child pornography or sexually abusing a child, their disorder does not excuse their behavior and their crimes are prosecuted.6

A major case against pedophilia being labeled as a sexual orientation is that it will decriminalize child sex abuse. Although many people relate being a pedophile with acts of child sexual abuse, only fifty percent of people who sexually abuse children are pedophiles. The other fifty percent are not specifically attracted to children, and often look to children as sexual surrogates due to their lack of social skills in maintaining appropriate emotional and sexual relationships with adults. Moreover, these abusers who are not strictly attached to children are said to suffer from an impulse-control disorder.7 It is also estimated that up to three percent of the male population has some form of pedophilic interest.8 “The cases [of pedophile child sex abusers] that we see are, of course, the cases who have been unable to resist their sexual interest…Those are the cases that hit the news,” Dr. James Cantor recalls.9 Criminals like Earl Bradley and Pedro Lopez who have raped and molested hundreds of children before imprisonment have been the only picture of a pedophile the media has painted. However, men like Dr. Cantor and Ethan Edwards aim to showcase the thousands of “gold-star” pedophiles in the world.

“Pedophile Butterfly” used to signify attraction to both girls and boys | Courtesy of Google Images

Ethan Edwards is a pedophile. Despite Edward’s awareness of his attraction to young girls early in his life, he has never touched or caused any harm to a child. As Edwards began accepting his romantic, and at times sexual, attachment to girls as young as four, he sought out a therapist to discuss his pedophilic thoughts, and he then co-founded Virtuous Pedophiles. Virtuous Pedophiles, also called VirPed, is a website with a community of over two thousand, non-offending, “gold-star” pedophiles of all sexes and ages. Within this online community, pedophiles can anonymously provide peer support and information about available resources to help one another not hurt children as well as live a happy, productive life. Additionally, Virtuous Pedophiles aims to combat the stigma that every pedophile is a child molester who seeks to hurt children. These “gold-star” pedophiles have never sexually abused children and vow to never give in to their urges. “Our highest priority is to help pedophiles never abuse children.”10

To further the case of pedophilia as being unchangeable, scientists have discovered physical features and similarities among pedophiles. For instance, a common trait found among pedophiles is an IQ ten to fifteen points lower than the average IQ. A team of scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health also found that, on average, pedophiles are shorter than other men, and three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous. These two physical characteristics are determined before birth, leading scientists to conclude that the explanation for pedophilic behavior is, to an extent, prenatal.11

Additionally, scientists have found significant evidence of multiple structural abnormalities in the brains of pedophiles. Within the brain of a pedophile, there is a decreased volume of gray brain matter, GM, in the central striatum, affecting the nucleus accumbens, orbital frontal cortex, and cerebellum—all of which play an important role in addictive behaviors and impulsion control. The lack of GM “burdens pedophiles with repetitive urges and thoughts,” despite their knowledge that the activities they want to engage in are illegal and would harm children.12 This lack of GM furthers the idea that pedophilia is a preexisting condition that did not develop over time.13

Dr. James Cantor | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dr. James Cantor, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, has found, after  a decade of work, that pedophiles have less white matter in the brain. White matter serves to carry messages throughout the brain and without it, the “cross-wiring” of stimuli occurs. This cross-wiring takes the stimuli that evokes nurturing and protective reactions in adults and instead evokes sexual reactions.14

Let’s be mature about pedophilia. As research continues to develop on the other possible agents within the brain to showcase that pedophilia is indeed biologically rooted–at least in some cases–pedophilia being a sexual orientation is a reality to many professionals in mental health. Unlike the LGBTQ movement, thousands of pedophiles, such as the over two thousand in the Virtuous Pedophiles community, do not wish for their orientation to be “normalized” and promoted in society. Instead, they wish to be understood and receive help in controlling their attraction to children.

Neurobiologists, psychologists, pedophiles, and parents all agree that child sexual abuse should remain illegal—no one denies this fact. And although pedophilic tendencies develop before birth, that does not serve as an excuse for ever harming a child. But, when there are pedophiles that constantly fight their urges given to them by abnormalities they had no control over, Dr. James Cantor supports the idea of help being afforded to them as soon as possible to combat the possibility of pedophilic thoughts becoming inhumane actions against children.15

“There is nothing in any research that says somehow they are not responsible for their behavior… I think society as a whole would be better off if these people had an alternative. If they had someone or someway that they can turn to some group, some institution, some help line in order to prevent them from going from just a pedophilia to an actual child molester.” -Dr. James Cantor16

As author of this article I would like to clarify that I do not believe that pedophilia belongs in the LGBTQIA+ community, nor do I believe it is acceptable to hurt children. First and foremost, children cannot give consent. Sexual assault of a child, child pornography, and any other crimes against children will and shall always be illegal. My interest in this topic was sparked when I came across studies suggesting that pedophilia could somehow be treated in the brain. My curiosity that one day in the future people could “treat” a pedophile interested me, and I wrote the article to better understand this argument. As I stated in the article, “Neurobiologists, psychologists, pedophiles, and parents all agree that child sexual abuse should remain illegal.” I, like all of you commenting and reading, strongly hold that all sexual abuse of children should be criminally prosecuted. I felt I must revisit this article given the current political climate, and how it seems more people are trying to support the idea that pedophiles belong in the LGBTQIA+ community. As the author of this article, I had no intent to push this outlandish idea and I hope the readers know I in no way support child molesters and child sex abusers attempting to be normalized in society.

  1. TEDx, “Pedophilia Is a Natural Sexual Orientation | Mirjam Heine | University of Würzburg,” June 20, 2018, YouTube video, 6:19-6:28.
  2. Diana Tourjée, “Most Child Sex Abusers Are Not Pedophiles, Expert Says,” Broadly, VICE,   April 4, 2016,
  3. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: Edition DSM-5 (Virginia: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013), 697.
  4. Diana Tourjée, “Most Child Sex Abusers Are Not Pedophiles, Expert Says,” Broadly, VICE,   April 4, 2016,
  5. CNN, “CNN Weekend Shows – Psychologist Discusses Treatment of Pedophiles,” June 27, 2012, YouTube video, 1:12-1:44.
  6. Phil Pruitt and Chance Seales, “Can Pedophilia Be Treated Like Any Other Mental Illness?” WTVF, October 13, 2018, illness.
  7. Phil Pruitt and Chance Seales, “Can Pedophilia Be Treated Like Any Other Mental Illness?” WTVF, October 13, 2018, illness.
  8. TEDx Talks, “Let’s be mature about pedophilia,” April 13, 2018, YouTube video,
  9. CNN, “CNN Weekend Shows – Psychologist Discusses Treatment of Pedophiles,” June 27, 2012, YouTube video, 2:30-2:40
  10.  Virtuous Pedophiles,
  11. Laura Kane, “Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?” The Star, December 22, 2013,
  12. Michael Cochran and Meghan Cole, “Inside the Mind of a Pedophile,” Neuroanthropology, August 27, 2012,
  13. Timm B. Poeppl et al., “Association between brain structure and phenotypic characteristics in pedophilia,” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 47, issue 5, (2013),!.
  14. Laura Kane, “Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?” The Star, December 22, 2013,
  15. CNN, “CNN Weekend Shows – Psychologist Discusses Treatment of Pedophiles,” June 27, 2012, YouTube video, 4:42-4:54.
  16. CNN, “CNN Weekend Shows – Psychologist Discusses Treatment of Pedophiles,” June 27, 2012, YouTube video, 3:18-4:16.

Tags from the story

child molestation


sexual orientation

Recent Comments

Leeza Cordova

This article left me curious as to what exactly “gold-star” pedophiles do in order to stop this urge, and how they are rewarded. It also surprised me to know that 3% of the male population has these thoughts, which made me wonder if anyone that I know has it. Personally, I would not not consider this a sexual orientation, and I think that many of the people who have these liking should seek help in order to not help anyone.



9:42 am

Averie Mendez

I liked how unbiased this article was. The research you did was very apparent, and it shows in all of the information provided. However, I don’t believe pedophilia should be considered a sexual orientation. To lump it into the LGBT community feels almost like normalizing or justifying the sexual attraction to children. It’s comforting that these people are attempting to reach out for help, but it’s difficult for me to view pedophilia as anything more than a mental illness.



9:42 am

Makenzie Santana

This article was very well written, considering that this is such a sensitive and uncomfortable topic of discussion. I don’t really understand how it had come to be seen by anyone that pedophilia might be considered a “sexual orientation”, as it feels like it’s some way of trying to normalize the acts of such. I had so many questions as to how this was almost pushed into the LGBT community and how anyone could of possibly thought that there might be any support from them for something like this. Making the fight side tracked and could also possibly bring the LGBT community a step back from their rights. Knowing this information angers me as well.



9:42 am

Brianna Nevarez

This article is very well written, it expresses both points of view clearly and effectively. However, I stick to my viewpoint that Pedophilia is something that should stay illegal. It cannot be treated as a sexual orientation because it a fantasy that would hurt children. There is nothing more pure than a child, nothing more innocent than them. Hurting or molesting a child who cannot give consent is not acceptable, even if this condition or mentality was developed in the womb.



9:42 am

Priscilla Reyes

I applaud the author for having the courage to describe the efforts and reasons why scientists are considering pedophilia a sexual orientation. I agree in that the intentions of these scientists are good, but it does put the children at a vulnerable position. The more a pedophile is in tune with his or her desires and feelings, then it is to expect that they will act on it. Pedophilia should still be considered a crime, because a child cannot give consent nor would understand what they’re getting themselves into.



9:42 am

Tyler Reynolds

In all honesty, I’m not surprised that there are people out there normalizing pedophilia. There’s a reason they put a “+” at the end of LGBTQ+, they couldn’t assign a letter for every made up “sexuality”. I have no doubt that there will be people, if this hasn’t already happened, that claim zoophilia(attraction to animals) or technosexual(attraction to robots) is normal and should be accepted. Instead of becoming a better person and rejecting dark desires and urges, these people are told to wallow in whatever fantasy or fetish they desire. All the while, their mental afflictions continue to harm and damage them.



9:42 am

Oscar Ortega

This article is incredible. It always remains unbiased and offers precise facts. It neither demonizes nor romanticizes pedophilia and never clouds it’s overall message that pedophilia and child molestation are two separate things, and that the latter is inexcusable. As mentioned, pedophilia itself is not something that is often actually questioned by those outside the scientific community, and the idea that pedophilia as a condition is the result of biological factors instead of purely mental ones is a thought-provoking one, and one supported by evidence and study. Being mature, this article poses an idea that it supports through data and reason very well, and does an incredible job of educating people about a topic rarely actually thought about.



9:42 am

Joseph Radicke

I think this was a well written article and it must have taken quite a bit of courage to pick such a controversial subject. I won’t give my opinions on this subject but I did like the way the author put this together and expressed the views from both sides. While I don’t agree with pedophilia being a sexual orientation, this article lets you hear from pedophiles who have never acted on their urges and gives you a better understanding of what they are thinking and feeling, and why. I can also completely understand why the LGBTQ community does not want pedophilia to be included into their category, and I agree. Having a teenage daughter myself, a sexual assault on her by a pedophile is perhaps one of my greatest fears for my kids.



9:42 am

Octaviano Huron

In no way, shape, or form should pedophilia become “normalized” as a sexual orientation. The urges and fantasies that these people have are disgusting, and I hope that they continue to get their desired help and never harm any children. Although the article gives scientific evidence to prove that these tendencies aren’t technically the pedophiles’ fault, it also states that acting on their tendencies IS their fault. Overall, very well-written.



9:42 am

Victoria Salazar

I think this article and other forms of awareness are needed for this cause. Although I do not agree that pedophilia should be seen as a “sexual orientation,” I do think that people need to be aware that it is a real disorder that starts at a biological level. I am glad that it can be agreed among neurobiologists, psychologists, pedophiles, and parents that although it is a real disorder, it should not be “normalized.”



9:42 am

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