When is Pedophilia not Pedophilia? When it’s Hebephilia: a predatory sexual attraction to early adolescents. It’s no less legal, no less morally unjustifiable and to act upon it is to be no less of a monster.
At a time when the moral values we’ve wrestled with for many years are showing signs of gaining the upper hand, a glimpse into the mindset of one man shattered the fragile, opaque veneer like boiling water on cold glass. The volatile depths revealed are darker and more sinister than many could have imagined.
Milo Yiannopoulos made a “controversial statement” about the age of consent, arguing that at Thirteen an adolescent boy can be mentally developed enough have a consensual, sexual relationship with an older man. Going so far to say these relationships are actually healthy and form sturdy ground for future sexual developments and relationships. His argument was aimed primarily at the “gay community”, thirteen he said was the age at which a young man would develop the curiosities and actively probe for answers to the sensations harboured deep within. Citing a study, but not naming it, was justification for his statement that early adolescents, particularly boys, were capable of consensual intimacy and in fact actively searched for it. A study by The British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003 and published after review in 2004 concluded that males and females were similarly effected and age of abuse had little correlation to the likelihood of being effected mentally. (the study was conducted with abuse victims aged 16 and under)
‘Pro-Pedephilia’ Ken Plummer former Head of Sociology at Essex University and still associated with the university published a personal blog where he hoped to change the worlds view of pedophilia “by applying sociology to the field of paedophilia we may partially relativise it, humanise it, normalise it, and politicise it”. Mr Plummer showed an understanding that quantitive differences between the two distinctions exist, stating “studies suggest that relationships with children under 6 are rare – and that relationships with early adolescents are the most common”. He also said that the relationship between Pedophilic/Hebephilic adults and their targets is about the “love of children” and not “they’re after fucking little kids, ain’t they”. This statement is precursor to his theory that the very notion of pedophilia as coital is a spin by the press to demonise those who harbour such feelings. Further down Mr Plummer reasoned, “Indeed, in some cases the child can be seen as “inviting” the relationship, and – according to Mohr – “most children could have avoided the experience if they wanted to”. At the time of writing I couldn’t find the actual Blog post but I did find a blog written to Essex University asking about Ken Plummers status that recited excerpts from the blog as well as a bibliography from published works.
Another angle more focused on Hebephilia and what the author fells it is not, rather than is. Robert Lindsay on a personal blog site “Beyond Highbrow” wrote an article in 2014 decreeing that “All Normal Men are Pedophiles” In it he argues “The definition of a pedophile is a man who is exclusively or preferentially attracted to minors age 12-under” pointing out that the age wavers somewhere between 11 an 13. He also said “the truth is that many pedophiles are actually hebephiles” and later went on to decree Hebophilia to be a subset of Pedophilia that is more a crime of statutory rape than a crime against a minor. Mr Lindsey is strongly apposed to Hebophilia being linked to Pedophilia, an anecdote about someone he once knew traveling the world in search of twelve to fourteen year olds to have sex with, preferring the Third World because the chances of arrest are minimal. This person he says “was not someone I would call a Pedophile”.
Counter arguments to these sentiments are many and varied. People from all walks of life have debated, studied and worked on solutions to reduce and punish the actions of sexual predators. Pro or even borderline theories are few and contradictory in nature, some are even linked to convicted Pedophiles/Hebephiles. There is little sensationalism, but a preference for the distortion of words and their meanings.
The mental health ‘bible’ DSM5 rejected an attempt in 2011 to have Hebephilia put in as a mental illness.The editors of the DSM rejected the proposals on grounds that it is not a mental disorder but a sex crime. By defining Hebephilia and Pedophilia more succinctly it is hoped that a clearer, more effective solution can be afforded to the mentally disordered Pedophile and the predatory Hebophile who has no regard for legal and societal boundaries. It was also thrown out because to find younger people attractive is not uncommon, Calvin Klein found years ago the human psyche has a natural lean towards youth when it came to advertising. The music industry is a prime example of this. Justin Biebers boyish looks made him a popular choice with a post teen generation, so too did Britney Spears when she appeared provocatively dressed as a schoolgirl in her first music video. However, to take that further into the realms of sexual harassment, uninvited sexual contact and rape is a violent criminal act that should be treated as such. Extra attention needs to be paid though with the adolescent mind. It is in a constant state of fluxing and the ever increasing pressures all the way from peers to parents are difficult enough to navigate. Young peoples brains are still physically moving and these formative years where children transform into young adults are tough on the body and the personality being framed.
After an overview of research Laurence Steinberg, said in 2005 “Adolescence is often a period of especially heightened vulnerability as a consequence of potential disjunctions between developing brain, behavioral and cognitive systems that mature along different timetables and under the control of both common and independent biological processes. Taken together, these developments reinforce the emerging understanding of adolescence as a critical or sensitive period for a reorganization of regulatory systems, a reorganization that is fraught with both risks and opportunities.” The adolescent mind isn’t incapable of making informed decisions, but the combination of big changes and limited ‘wordly’ experience leaves them susceptible to manipulation, it is one the reasons pre-teens and teens are targeted in the first place. The meteoric rise of the internet and permanently attached cameras also opens young people up to a new wave of exploitation and blackmail that even a ‘street smart’ adult would have difficulty escaping once trapped.
The issue of Hebophilia not being the same as Pedophilia is true in description and legitimacy of mental disorder, but it carries the same risks of harm, the same risk of psychological damage and the same life sentence to its victim; it is a sex crime for good reason.
It must not be normalised or defended through questionable semantics, if as Romeo said “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” then the same must be said of its thorns and how deep they cut.