Analecto

21 de junho de 2019

What I learned by reading “About ‘pedophilia’ as a concept”.

Filed under: Saúde e bem-estar — Tags:, , — Yurinho @ 17:29

“About ‘Pedophilia’ as a Concept” was written by Frans Gieles. Here’s what I learned by reading his text.

What is pedophilia?

The fact that something is constantly in the news does not make a certain subject easier to discuss. To discuss something, it is always good to start by the defining some keywords. However, one thing that is clearly noticeable is that a person who talks about pedophilia rarely defines what pedophilia is. Defining a word requires that the meaning of the word be described and circumscribed. The same must be done with the “connotations” of the word, that is, with the ideas that the term invokes. Because the meaning of “pedophilia” is taken for granted, people who discuss pedophilia assume that the listener’s concept of pedophilia is the same concept they have.

The purpose of the text is to critically appraise the concept of pedophilia, that is, to know to what extent this word has meaning, if it still means anything. This task is made harder by other terms that are poorly-defined: the terms “child”, “adult” and “sex”. When talking about attraction to minors, it is necessary to define the age of the child or adolescent and make clear what libidinous acts we are talking about. When an adult and a child get to have sex, what is such “sex” about: carnal conjunction (penetration) or some other libidinous act? Is the sexual aspect of the relationship the most important one? What if the person is attracted to children, but there’s no sexual aspect in his trait with children whatsoever, is the person still a pedophile?

Pedophilia: the social construct.

The original meaning of the term “pedophilia” is “love for children”. Some people still use this term in this way today. As time went on and sexuality became something to be studied from a psychopathological point of view, the non-normative forms of sexuality went from being immoral to being sick. So the meaning of the word “pedophilia” changed to “love, including sexual, for children”, such love coming to have the same connotation as desire. However, this meaning does not imply an action: not all people who feel sexually attracted to children have sex with them, according to this definition. Over time, the connotation of “desire” came to encompass the ideas of “predisposition” and “passion”, so that the idea invoked by the term “pedophilia” became “predisposition (perhaps difficult to control) to have sex with children”. Even though children aren’t idiots, they are still pretty vulnerable and a relationship should be judged by its quality. So, as the concern over this issue grew, pedophilia was also seen as abuse of power by an adult over a child, attaching a negative charge over adult/child relationships, creating the modern concept of child sexual abuse.

None of this is included in the original concept. The changes in the meaning of the term are relatively recent as well. The negative judgment that we make of pedophilia is also very recent. It was not like that a few centuries ago. Labeling is a social process and, as such, has consequences. If you attach a negatively-charged label to a behavior, that behavior is discouraged.

A bad concept.

Now, the term “pedophilia” is often used as a label for a range of very different behaviors. If a lot of things can be called “pedophilia,” the label becomes inaccurate. For some people, pedophilia is an exclusively carnal thing, that must include penetration. For others, penetration doesn’t need to exist, as long as there is some lewdness implied in the acts. For a third group, there needs to be no lewdness: an adult who befriends a child must have a problem… For a fourth group, a friendship only becomes pedophillic bad if it’s “too physical” or “touchy”… It’s also worth mentioning that, depending on who is speaking, “pedophilia” can be a feeling or an act. So, for some, having those fantasies makes you a pedophile, but, for others, you are only a “real” pedophile if you act on those urges. For those who claim that pedophilia is an act of power abuse (rather than an erotic feeling), pedophilia is a crime, not a mental disorder. Still, it’s better to judge and evaluate actions than to judge and evaluate people.

Because of the dissent about the meaning of the word, prevalence rates of pedophilia are always inaccurate: it may be something that exists in everyone or that only afflicts that unlucky 1% of the population.

Consequences of labelling.

From an academical point of view, the concept of pedophilia should not include murder, prostitution or rape, as not all pedophiles (maybe even not most) engage in such practices. If you include all of that (murder, prostitution, rape and só on) in the concept of pedophilia, but also kisses, hugs, games, favors, even when not sexual, as long as there’s some age disparity between participants, the word loses meaning: everything becomes pedophilia. Even psychiatrists began treating pedophilia as a moral judgment, virtually applicable to any adult who is very close to a child, even if the relationship between the two is not sexual.

If all intimacy between child and adult is considered pedophilia, an accurate discussion of the phenomenon becomes impossible: there would be too much to consider, because the concept would be too broad. With the growing concern over this problem, an accurate label needs to be used. If it does not happen and each person has a different concept of pedophilia, then we might start suspecting of harmless acts that used to be acceptable in the previous generation: if an old man sits a little girl on his lap, people no longer think that he is the grandfather of the girl or that such gesture would be a display of chaste affection.

If pedophilia is bad and all intergenerational behaviors are pedophilia, then, the reasoning concludes, all intergenerational behavior is bad. This implies that “pedophile” is no longer a scientific category, but a form of cursing, a bad name, that is given to someone who does something that I disapprove of. Because “pedophilia” has become a word that encompasses too many things, it has become a void concept. In fact, pedophilia as a concept is as broad as it is vague. It became a derogatory term, something you say to bad-mouth someone, a personal attack.

The making of a social stigma.

It’s not only a personal attack, but a pretty powerful one: the word “pedophilia” disrupts reasoning. This enables the “P-word” to be used as a distraction, so that both government and people are diverted from the topics that really matter (unemployment, injustice, poverty, poor education, lack of sanitation, public insecurity, poor health, among other problems that also affect children). For some people, several social maladies can be traced to the pedophilia problem. That gives people the false sense that everything is the pedophile’s fault, that killing pedophiles will solve all problems in society (not very different from what is done today in Brazil, with the term “communist”, which also became a cursing). Putting all the blame on a single segment of society is comfortable and spares the subject from evaluating his own actions, exonerating him from his share of guilt for the malfunctioning of society.

An accurate concept of pedophilia should describe the feeling, impartially, without implying an action. If this can not be done, one must abandon the term and invent a new one (such as “attraction to minors”). Assuming that the term “pedophilia” must be abandoned, it should be replaced by something more clear, close to the common language, to eliminate the possibility of misunderstanding and wrong labelling.

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