I am a pedophile.
I have written that sentence a scant few times, spoken it aloud only once. And yet here I am, exposing it to a limitless audience, baring my deepest, most horrible secret to anyone who comes across it. I do not know what drove me to this point after years of hiding, though pseudonymously publishing this on a site run by someone else isn’t exactly ‘coming clean’. Regardless, after I decided to take the opportunity to put my true self, and my existence, down into writing.
There are people like me everywhere. All around you, perhaps among your closest friends or family. But before a panic rises, before I am flooded with requests to help identify these ‘monsters’, let’s return to a basic definition that no one remembers any more.
Not all pedophiles are child molesters. Not all child molesters are pedophiles. A pedophile, or one who suffers from pedophilic disorder, is defined in the DSM-5 as “a psychiatric disorder in persons 16 years of age or older typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interested towards prepubescent children”. A child molester is, obviously, someone who acts out sexually in some way with a child, whether that be overtly through molestation or covertly through exploitation. One cannot legally be accused or convicted of “pedophilia” in any country, regardless of what you read in news articles. While men make up the majority of convicted child molesters, there are also many women who struggle with pedophilic thoughts, though they seem to less often ‘cross the line’. Those are the facts we are working from, facts that are not argued in psychiatric circles despite mass distortion among the general public.
This is not about definitions or semantics. This is about me, one man trying to work through a curse that has threatened to end his life more than once.
The first inklings of my sexuality came during puberty, as it does for most. I found myself attracted to the friends of my younger sister, nine when I was thirteen. It was not concerning initially, after all they really were not all that far separated from me. These girls were pretty, with their lithe bodies, sparkling personalities, and emotional openness. They were everything I really felt I needed. I pursued a few of them as far as was appropriate, with most parents accepting of the silly ‘crushes’ while I remained young and nearly prepubescent myself. This changed swiftly, and I learned to not be so overt about my attraction, as it became creepy the moment I started to sprout facial hair.
When I hit high school and my sexual fantasies continued to revolve around ten-year-olds, that was when I began to get worried. It was not normal, I found myself unable to masturbate to thoughts of the girls that had turned me on just a few short years before, now having to turn to their younger sisters in turn. As the girls I loved grew up, my attraction to them waned and disappeared, as they entered junior high school and I realized they just were not sexually alluring to me. But those who had younger sisters, entering into the middle to upper grades of elementary school, those girls reminded me what I liked. Masturbation turned to writing out my fantasies, page after page of sexual material, thousands of words and hours of editing poured into stories that no one would ever see. After orgasm, after finishing a story, I would be filled with dread. Who was I? What had I done?
When I read the definition of pedophilia, at age sixteen, I knew I had one final chance to turn things around. But soon I was seventeen, eighteen, nineteen — continuing with a sick attraction that became less and less justifiable, if ever justifiable in the first place. People around me dated, talked about girls, and I participated as best I could. I wondered, hoped even, that deep down everyone was like me and just much better at hiding it. The idea of being alone in this attraction was too much to consider, but over time I realized that I was alone. Other people saw little girls as children. Why did I see them the way I did?
When I was in college, I knew I had to break it. I was filled with obscene fantasies revolving around children — children — and I knew how wrong it was. My family was excellent, my upbringing perfectly normal. No incidents in my past warranted this. I could not be a pedophile. While I had had a few non-serious girlfriends during high school, never going past attending dances, I now decided to pursue a serious sexual partner. If I could not will this sickness out of myself I could, if you will excuse the obscenity, fuck it out.
You could say I loved the girl, in a way. I do not know, though she filled a gap I needed at the time. She was the same age as me, a classmate, and I made it fairly clear from the beginning that I was serious about our relationship. It escalated quickly, my first time kissing in years, first time ‘slow-dancing’ since I was an acne-ridden teen. But there was no sexual spark. No attraction. It sounds bizarre, but I often prayed for some sort of arousal to occur when we were together, when her lips were against mine. But it was like she was a statue, just an object that happened to be there with me. This did not stop me, though it should have, and our first night together was one of the most humiliating of my life. Someone in the prime of their youth should not have to deal with erectile dysfunction, failure to perform, all the other things I experienced. But when she was there before me, undressed, ready, willing — I was, if anything, disgusted by her. Her body was not attractive, sex with her was not something that caused me excitement. I closed my eyes – I fantasized about the bright-eyed girls that filled the dark parts of my brain and yet there was nothing for her, the woman with me.
Things ended between us shortly thereafter. It is difficult to stay with a guy who fails to bring to the table one of the more important items in a sexual relationship, so I do not hold it against her. Then it was time for cure number two, and that was therapy. I researched therapists, though in my particularly rural part of North America pickings were slim. Choosing a fellow who seemed kind enough, I attended therapy with him for about six months before I decided to broach the subject of my sexuality. While my decision was made, it ended up meaning nothing. During a session, one of the few following my choice to try and tell him, my therapist mentioned something about a child molester in the news, and how disgusting he found that man. That was all it took. I shut my mouth, quit therapy a few weeks later, and decided that I was going to give up.
Trying to find a community to join was not a conscious choice, not really. But eventually I ended up in an online group of pedophiles, talking about the struggle I was facing, contending with both those who saw a bright future for us and those who were on the cusp of killing themselves. These people made me feel less alone for a time, like there were others out there. Of course nothing is as it seems, and as one disappeared for child pornography, another for molestation, another after, yes, killing himself – I realized that the community was not going to do anything for me. Then I moved on to another venue, this one not revolving around pedophiles, rather for young people with different life struggles. After several months in that group, talking through the depression and anxiety that spring from my pedophilia, I revealed to a couple people that I did in fact struggle with being sexually attracted to children. These people, then my closest friends and confidantes, told me the world would be better without me, that I should kill myself rather than continue to exist just to hurt children. The devastation of that rejection stays with me to this day, and just writing about it makes me question ever allowing this to be uploaded into any public sphere.
Despite all this turmoil, the self-hatred and hatred from others, the fantasies continued. I allowed myself to fall into them late at night, otherwise presenting myself as the world-wise confident single man. During my time struggling with my sexuality, my disease, my disorder, my monster (you can pick which you prefer to call it) there has been more than one girl I have found myself obsessed with. Trying to be near her, spend time with her, on occasion even attempting to ingratiate myself with her parents. None of these went very far, nothing that could be thought of as specifically untoward. I will pick one specific example to see how my mind works, this particular story involves the closest I have ever come to crossing the line, a position I never want to return to.
Many years ago, one of the biggest temptations of my life presented itself. My niece was born. This hurts to write. It hurts to admit. She was a baby, then a toddler, and I felt nothing. Much like I had felt when I clambered atop my girlfriend years previous, this was just a body that held no interest for me. But I knew it was coming.
Some may wonder what, exactly, it is that turns me on about a subset of person that most cannot comprehend as sexual beings. I do not fantasize about raping children, nothing forced or painful. My fantasy would be to find myself in a loving relationship with a prepubescent girl. My ideal girl is between eight and twelve, depending on when puberty finds her, and is an intelligent, sweet, cute child. Her sexual characteristics do not matter much, or matter in lack thereof – that she have no breasts, no pubic hair, no signs of maturity. I would love to find myself with a girl like that, doing things people who love each other do together, from going to the movies to walking in a park to sitting and talking about one another’s lives. And yes, like everyone’s fantasies, mine extends to sex. While I could titillate both myself and those with my monster who are reading, I will settle for saying that my fantasies are for gentle, slow sexual experiences in which we both experience pleasure and neither of us experience anything remotely unpleasant. I know how disgusting that sounds to those who have made it this far. All I can say is I am sorry.
I am not a rapist or a sadist, I am just a pedophile. I want nothing more than to love a girl in every way, but I am not deluded into thinking it will ever come about.
My niece continued to grow, all-too-quickly reaching an age where I felt attraction stirring. When I visited her home, my heart leapt upon seeing her, and not just in a familial way. When she sat on my lap I started to notice her physical presence, the proximity of her body to mine, the thin layers of fabric separating us, my hands floating dangerously close to where they should not go. I would shake my head, push her off my lap, try and calm the hormones. It became a war of attrition, with me deciding that holding hands in public was alright. Then hugs became okay again, often accompanied with her gleeful childlike leap into my arms. Then sitting on my lap was allowed as long as I controlled myself. Walls I had spent a long time building came crumbling down. I was losing myself to the monster and I was starting to accept it.
Soon my fantasies were all about her. Those little things that should mean nothing; days she wore a skirt, days we got to go swimming, began to mean far more than they should have. I know I did cross the line as I got her more used to my affection. Then the last straw fell, on a day like any other, the two of us alone together, first cuddled up and watching TV, me basking in her presence, feeling the tumbling rush of emotional and sexual attraction. Then we were wrestling, my hands on her narrow torso. In the fray, she touched me there, accidentally, asking what had happened, not understanding it was my erection.
It was another line. The final line and I was standing upon it, about to take a plunge I knew would end only in pain for everyone in my life. I backed away from her. I apologized and made an excuse. I fled.
My visits to her home ceased. Within weeks I requested and received a job transfer to a distant major city, and I was gone. In the past several years I have seen my sister and niece only a few times, during holidays, and never allowed myself to be alone with my niece. Not ever again. I cannot trust myself and I would do anything to not hurt her.
The initial weeks in my new home were the hardest, accompanied with severe depression, an inability to leave the house, a drinking problem that spiraled out of control as I sought any outlet I could to prevent myself from dealing with what I had nearly done, with what some reading will say I did do.
I now try to never allow myself near children. I am dangerous to them and they to me, though the danger I pose comes from a place of purpose, while theirs is innocent and unintended. At times I cannot avoid interaction with a child, and the accompanying arousal from a life spent monastically far from my attraction is not something I can deny.
Slipping back into alcohol and recently to self-injury when I err in a major way is my automatic reflex. These mistakes are few, but sometimes when I hug a child, or find myself walking in the park just to be near them, I know I am not doing what I should. Following orgasm, when the arousal subsides, I am filled with shame for whatever brought me to that point. While I have taken an anti-depressant for some time, one which dulls my sex drive, it is not nearly enough to tamp down the rush of lust when I see a child I find attractive. Every day is a struggle, at least every day in which I find myself with unfettered computer access, free time to go outside, or on social visits to people with children. These days, of course, far outnumber days without. It is a fight I face day-by-day.
That is who I am today. I am a single man, working in an office, marching beside you to the train with my tie on. I still have my fantasies. My attraction remains inside me, like a drop of poison bubbling below the surface of my every action. I can go a day or so without thinking about girls, as my age increases and my testosterone decreases. With effort I can avoid fantasies for weeks at a time.
Keeping my mouth shut when pedophiles come up is easier than you might think. I have never spoken up in either direction, except the socially appropriate agreements as necessary, and I do not plan on becoming a crusader. Hearing people talk about how revolted they are by pedophiles or how all pedophiles should be murdered does hurt me, but at this point in my life I have heard it from nearly every person I have ever cared about.
If I had the option to take a pill that would remove all sexual desire, I would take it. Not even to just remove my attraction to children, just remove it all. I would love to.
I will never have a fulfilling sexual relationship. I know I will never fulfill my fantasies. I know I will die alone. I know if anyone ever knew that would be the end of my life as I know it, and not just my life but the life of so many around me, starting with my family and spiraling outwards. I know that despite my efforts no one will ever thank or congratulate me.
And I know I am not the only person facing this. Some may make mistakes, may act out in ways they will regret. Still others may find a way around their pedophilia, find the edges of their sexuality and break free. Others will end their lives rather than face their bleak future. We are all alone, all islands. For us it does not get better and never will.
To those of you reading this that are the same as me – I recognize you and your effort. I am sorry you have to bear this. Be strong. I wish there was more I could do for you.
To the vast majority of you reading in horror and revulsion, I am not asking for pity. I am merely trying to show you a group of people you may have never considered before, outside the automatic reflex of disgust.
And to Paul, for giving me the space to write this, thank you. The first time in my life I have ever even considered that just maybe I am ‘okay’ was in a Mental Illness Happy Hour episode months ago, where at the end you talked about how we should not beat ourselves up over our sexual attraction, that we neither choose nor control it, and as long as we do not hurt others we should cut ourselves some slack. Thank you. To you it was likely a throwaway bit at the end of a long episode, but for me it really meant something, and I listened to it over and over, heart feeling partway healed knowing there was at least one person out there who maybe, just maybe, did not hate me.
Paul’s note: I waited a month or so after he sent me this, weighing the benefits of people understanding him and people who suffer similar afflictions and the possible negative reactions especially from survivors, but ultimately I decided it would be worth it.
All of his emails were sent from an account that is untraceable, but I have to say, I don’t think that was necessary because with the exception of the wrestling incident which he seems to have learned from and made life changes to prevent from happening again, he is a hero on a certain level. Someone fighting a terrible inner war, taking responsibility for that part of himself, and sacrificing a larger life with adult connections to protect the innocent. As an alcoholic/drug addict I know the power of compulsion and it is no small feat to stifle sickness when it radiates through your every cell.
I think the world would be a better place if instead of writing off people, saying “they don’t deserve to live” we try to understand the person behind the sickness and show that part of them love and compassion. I think the highest form of love is when it doesn’t come easily, when something in us questions whether others will approve of our extending it. Love and compassion can co-exist with consequences, boundaries and legal justice.
He recently sent me this email about the piece he wrote.
“I would be equally happy for it to just disappear…it was cathartic to write and I am worried about it hurting other people. It is your choice though. Maybe the podcast would be an easier way to warn people away… Not everyone can understand that I am human and that is fine. I just don’t want to force my existence on them and demand their attention and/or pity. If that makes sense. I don’t know. You do this far better than I. 🙂
I will probably check in again in a few months or something. It is strange to feel like you are my friend, but baring one’s soul tends to have that effect.”