Editorial: What is and what isn’t pedophilia

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Graham County Courthouse

Column By Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

There’s a new term floating around that seeks to replace the word pedophilia for non-offending individuals. A “minor-attracted person” or MAP refers to a person who is sexually attracted to children but does not sexually molest them.  

Allyn Walker, author of a book, “A Long, Dark, Shadow: Minor Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.” The controversy centers around the argument that not everyone who is attracted to children will sexually abuse them. Walker doesn’t want this group of people to be labeled as pedophiles.  

As a therapist with over 30 years of experience, I agree that non-offending individuals need access to mental health counseling. These suffering individuals who want help need to have a safe therapeutic place to receive treatment with trained behavioral health therapists.  

However, having sexual fantasies about children without acting on the crime needs to be a focus of therapy. But, the first goal is the protection of children. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology defines pedophilia as “a paraphilia in which sexual acts or fantasies involving prepubertal children are the persistently preferred or exclusive method of achieving sexual excitement. The children are usually many years younger than the pedophile (or pedophiliac). Sexual activity may consist of looking and touching but may include intercourse, even with very young children.” (www.dictionary.apa.org/pedophilia

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) lists “Pedophilic Disorder” as a mental disorder (page 697). It also states that “individuals who have never approached a child sexually but who qualify for the diagnosis of pedophilic disorder on the basis of subjective distress.” 

A statement released in 2013, reported, “The American Psychological Association maintains that pedophilia is a mental disorder; that sex between adults and children is always wrong, and that acting on pedophilic impulses is and should be a criminal act.” 

Obtaining and viewing child pornography is a crime, even if an individual does not engage in the sexual molestation of a child. Child pornography is not a victimless crime. The children in photos and videos are victims. And individuals who view child porn are doing harm to the victims and to themselves.  

In her book, Walker writes that it’s a misconception to believe that “all pedophiles are offenders” because pedophiles and sex offenders are “two entirely distinct groups.” Can a person be reported to the police and be arrested for his/her thoughts without the behavior?  

“Individuals with attractions to minors are generally considered equivalent to individuals who commit sexual offenses against children. In reality, minor-attracted persons (MAPs) and minor-targeting sex offenders are two separate groups,” writes Walker in her dissertation, which is the foundation of her book. Visit www.academicworks.cuny.edu

However, Walker cites other opinions that consider pedophilia to be a sexual orientation akin to homosexuality, bisexuality, or heterosexuality. The latter three categories of adults need to stand together against any type of pedophilia as a natural sexual orientation.  

So, should pedophilia ever be labeled as a sexual orientation, will it be considered a protected class? And will this allow the sexual molestation of children by adults to be legal?  

Again, non-offending individuals who report mental distress need access to therapy with trained professionals. Treatments need to be studied and researched to develop evidence-based counseling.  

In my opinion, the new phrase “minor-attracted people” for non-offenders is absurd.   

Melissa Martin is an opinion-editorial columnist. She lives in Ohio.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author. 

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