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Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not A Crime

Pedophilia is one of the most stigmatized mental disorders. In popular culture, it is associated directly with child sexual abuse. This is as far from the truth as it gets.....

Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not A Crime

Pedophilia develops with age and is generally, self-discovered. It is not, by any chance, a choice


  1. Pedophilia is not the same as child sexual abuse
  2. It is not a choice, but a disorder of sexual preference
  3. There is no evidence, as of yet
Pedophilia is one of the most stigmatized mental disorders. In popular culture, it is associated directly with child sexual abuse. This is as far from the truth as it gets. The general public takes pedophilia under a very negative connotation, wanting to shun the pedophiles who commit the atrocious crime of seeking pleasure in sexually abusing children. Let's be real, we all want such molesters to be punished for their crime. But pedophilia is not a crime, per say. It is not the act of sexually abusing a prepubescent child, but instead is a mental disorder that a fraction of the population suffers from, though they might not act on it.

First of all, what is pedophilia?

Pedophilia is termed as pedophilic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and the manual defines it as a paraphilia involving intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children that have either been acted upon or which cause the person with the attraction distress or interpersonal difficulty.

Pedophilia is not the same as child sexual abuse.

What people fail to keep in mind is that pedophilia is not the same as child sexual abuse. It is quite common for a pedophile to feel attracted to a child but not act on it. These are the kinds that know that their attraction to prepubescent children is wrong and they do not molest children.

Pedophilia is not an act, sexual assault is. This incorrect use of the term "pedophilia" needs to be avoided because although people who commit child sexual abuse are sometimes pedophiles, the meaning of the terms does not concentrate on it. Not all people who have sexually abused children are pedophiles. Only when an offender has a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children is when he can be called a pedophile.

Researches also show that some pedophiles do not molest children. Many child molesters do not have a strong sexual interest in prepubescent children, and are consequently not pedophiles.

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What cause them to act on their disorder?

Study suggests that pedophiles who commit child sexual abuse do so because of other anti-social traits in addition to their sexual attraction. There motives are unrelated to pedophilia, and can be stress, marital problems, or the unavailability of an adult partner.

Pedophilia is not a choice.

No one with a morally correct background chooses to become a pedophile. It is not in one's hand to choose who they are sexually attracted to. Pedophilia develops with age and is generally, self-discovered. It is not, by any chance, a choice. It is a disorder of sexual preference, and is phenomenologically similar to a heterosexual or homosexual sexual orientation. But pedophilic acts can cause harm. The best way to deal with it and refrain from it is to go to a therapist.

What causes pedophilia?

Studies show that pedophilia can be a result of the brain's failure to recognize which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response in the body. M.R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains. It is also seen that pedophilia is more common in men than in women, but this can be a wrong assumption to make as not many people who have this disorder come forward with it because of the fear of the society and because of their fear of being mistaken for a child sex offender. That's why the studies of the pedophilia and its treatment are limited to the sexual offenders only.

No evidence of a cure.

There is no evidence, as of yet, that pedophilia can be cured.

Studies suggest that attempts to cure pedophilia in adulthood are highly unlikely to succeed because its development is influenced by prenatal factors.

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Treatment might help.

Though, like any other mental disorders, we cannot eliminate the disorder fully from an individual, treatment might help in repressing the desires to act on the underlying attraction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy along with proper medication can help an individual to manage his/her urges and avoid committing crimes.

Due to the stigma surrounding the illness, a pedophile can't seek out treatment without avoiding the risk of losing his status in the society. An offender should be held responsible for his conduct - but not a pedophile for their underlying attraction.

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The fact that pedophilia is so despised in the society and isn't talked about as openly as it should be is why we haven't been able to help the cases of pedophiles who want nothing more than escape their current state. Whenever we do talk about pedophilia, we often mistake it for an offence rather than a mental illness. Acknowledging that pedophilia is a mental condition and should be sought help for, will not only help people affected from the condition but also help in minimizing the harm caused to children because of it.


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