Derek W. Logue of
Published 14 July 2019


The mainstream media and American society as a whole tends to use the terms “sex offender” and “pedophile” interchangeably. At times, news reports use the erroneous term “convicted pedophile.” This article examines the differences between people diagnosed with pedophilia and people convicted of a sexual offense. People can be forced to register without having a clinical diagnosis of pedophilia, and a clinically diagnosed pedophile is not listed on the public sex offense registry if he or she has not omitted a sexual offense.


The major premise needs to be stated repeatedly: “Pedophile” is a clinical term, “Sex Offender” is a legal term. You cannot be convicted of “pedophilia” but you can be convicted of a sex offense. There is no such thing as a “convicted pedophile.” You can be a pedophile without committing a sex offense. You can commit a sex offense and not be a pedophile. In order to understand the differences, we must begin with a proper definition of each term.

“Sex Offender”

The definition of the term “sex offender” is pretty straightforward—“A person who has been found guilty of one or more sex crimes.”[1]

This means anyone convicted of adult rape, a prostitute or person paying for prostitution,[2]  a teenager engaging in various sexual acts with a teenager,[3]  a public urinator,[4]  a teenager engaging in sexting,[5]  or someone who viewed a nude picture of someone ages 16 or 17 (even if it is legal to engage in sexual intercourse with the person in the picture)[6]  can be classified as “sex offender” without engaging in sexual activity involving a prepubescent minor.

According to a 2009 US Department of Justice study, about a third of sex crimes committed against juveniles were committed by other juveniles; Roughly 6% of the juvenile offenders age 16 or 17 committed an offense against someone under the age of 12. Also, the single age in which we find the most people accused of committing a sexual offence is age 14[7]  Thus, at least 94% of juvenile offenders would not even be allowed to be clinically diagnosed as a pedophile under the DSM-V because the diagnoses requires the person to be “at least 16 years old, and at least 5 years older than the child in the first category. However, this does not include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.”

Many current classifications used on those who have committed a sexual offense against a minor are based on the classical typology of “situational/ regressed” versus “fixated/ preferential” offender types. Those who commit sexual offenses into minors can fall into a continuum between the two types rather than be pigeon-holed into one of the two main types.

According to Lanning:

“The situational-type child molester does not usually have compulsive-paraphilic sexual preferences including a preference for children. He may, however, engage in sex with children for varied and sometimes complex reasons. For such a child molester, sex with children may range from a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ act to a long-term pattern of behavior. The more long-term the pattern, the further down the continuum he may move.” (Lanning describes certain subtypes based on primary motivations based on feelings of inadequacy, regression (poor social skills), or being morally indiscriminate.)

“Preferential-type child molesters have definite sexual inclinations. For many those inclinations or preferences include children, and they are the ones it would be most appropriate to refer to as pedophiles… Within this category at least four major patterns of behavior emerge of seduction, introverted, sadistic, and diverse.”[8]  

The point is that a number of people accused of a sexual offense, even a sexual offense against minors, could not meet the clinical diagnosis for pedophilia.


What is a pedophile? Pedophilia is currently classified as a mental disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), in order for pedophilic disorder to be diagnosed, the following criteria must be met:

  • Recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 years or younger) for a period of at least 6 months.
  • These sexual urges have been acted on or have caused significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other
  • important areas of functioning.
  • The person is at least 16 years old, and at least 5 years older than the child in the first category. However, this does not include
  • an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.
  • Additionally, a diagnosis of pedophilic disorder should specify whether the individual is exclusively attracted to children or not, the gender that the individual is attracted to, and whether the sexual urges are limited to incest.[9]

The Mayo Clinic states the following:

“Pedophilia is a clinical diagnosis usually made by a psychiatrist or psychologist. It is not a criminal or legal term, such as forcible
sexual offense, which is a legal term often used in criminal statistics.” [10]  

WebMD, citing sexologist Ray Blanchard, PhD, adjunct psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, states the following:

“What is a pedophile?”

“A pedophile is a person who has a sustained sexual orientation toward children, generally aged 13 or younger, Blanchard says. Not all pedophiles are child molesters (or vice versa). ‘Child molesters are defined by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires,’ Blanchard says. ‘Some pedophiles refrain from sexually approaching any child for their entire lives.’ But it’s not clear how common that is.”[11]

Writing for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, FBI Profiler Ken Lanning writes:

“Although the use of the term child molester has been commonplace for a long time, publicity and awareness concerning sexual victimization of children has resulted in more frequent use of the term pedophile. One problem is the fact the term pedophile has both a less precise lay definition and a more precise diagnostic definition…”

“Technically being labeled a pedophile is a psychiatric diagnosis that can be made only by qualified psychologists or psychiatrists. For many, therefore, the word is a diagnostic term, not a legal one…”

“There is still confusion, even among professionals, with regard to the terms child molester and pedophile. For many the terms have become synonymous. For them the word pedophile is just a fancy term for a child molester. The public, the media, and many child-abuse professionals frequently use the terms interchangeably and simplistically refer to all those who sexually victimize children as pedophiles. There is no single or uniform definition for the word pedophile….”

“Labeling all child molesters as pedophiles is, however, confusing. There are clear differences between the types of individuals who sexually abuse children, and law-enforcement officers handling these cases need to understand that and make such distinctions when appropriate. For me, not all pedophiles are child molesters. A person suffering from any paraphilia can legally engage in it simply by fantasizing and masturbating. A child molester is an individual who sexually molests children. A pedophile might have a sexual preference for children and fantasize about having sex with them, but if he does not act on that preference or those fantasies with a child, he is not a child molester…”

“In addition not all child molesters are pedophiles. In my experience, many child molesters are not pedophiles. A pedophile is an individual who prefers to have sex with children. A person who prefers to have sex with an adult partner may, for any number of reasons, decide to have sex with a child. Such reasons might include simple availability, opportunity, curiosity, or a desire to hurt a loved one of the molested child. The erotic imagery and sexual fantasies of such individuals are not necessarily recurrent, intense, and focused on children; therefore, these people are not pedophiles…”

“Many child molesters are, in fact, pedophiles, and many pedophiles are child molesters. But they are not necessarily one and the same. Often it may be unclear whether the term is being applied with its diagnostic or some other definition. Most investigators are not qualified to apply the term with its diagnostic meaning. In addition labeling all child molesters as pedophiles is potentially confusing and counterproductive. Not everyone using the Internet to facilitate having sex with children or trafficking in child pornography is a pedophile. To avoid confusion with a mental-health diagnosis and possible challenges in court use of the term pedophile by law enforcement and prosecutors should be kept to a minimum. Distinctions between the types of child molesters, however, can have important and valuable implications for the law-enforcement investigation of sexual exploitation of children.”[12]

These quotes are merely a cross-section of the general consensus view among clinical professionals and experts in sex crimes there are differences between pedophiles and those labeled by society as “sex offenders.” Furthermore, they understand there are differences between a pedophile and someone who commits an offense involving a minor.


Not to be confused with pedophilia, a paraphilia is “a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. A paraphilia is considered a disorder when it causes distress or threatens to harm someone else. A paraphilia can revolve around a particular object (children, animals, underwear) or a particular behavior (inflicting pain, exposing oneself) but is distinguished by a preoccupation with the object or behavior to the point of being dependent on that object or behavior for sexual gratification.”

“Paraphilias include sexual behaviors society may view as distasteful, unusual, or abnormal. The most common are pedophilia (sexual focus on children), exhibitionism (exposure of genitals to strangers), voyeurism (observing private activities of unaware victims) and frotteurism (touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person). Fetishism (use of inanimate objects), sexual masochism (being humiliated or forced to suffer), sexual sadism (inflicting humiliation or suffering) and transvestic disorder (sexually arousing cross-dressing) are much less common. There is also a category of paraphilias—known as Other Specified Paraphilic Disorders—which encompasses behaviors not covered by the already named diagnoses, such as those involving dead people, urine, feces, enemas, or obscene phone calls.”[13]

It is important to understand the difference because pedophilia and paraphilia sound the same but is not; all pedophiles are paraphiliacs but not all paraphiliacs are pedophiles. A prime example of this is the use of Gene Abel’s 1986 report “Self-Reported Sex Crimes of Non-Incarcerated Paraphiliacs.” The report title is confusing because not all paraphilias are criminal; at the time, homosexuality, transvestitism and transsexualism were considered paraphilias, the subjects were all called “sex offenders,” and those they engaged with were considered “victims.” Subjects averaged at least two different paraphilia diagnoses, thus the numbers overlap. What is overlooked by those citing this study was that even though self-reports overestimate risk, half of those engaged in acts against female children had only one victim, meaning that overall, committing sex offenses against children do not necessarily mean offenders exhibit a lifelong pattern of risk.[14]


The good news is the fixated offenders are relatively rare and that situational offenders are amenable to treatment. There is an overall consensus that those in the situational category are more treatable. Dr. Robert Weiss states, “Typically, regressed/situational child sex offenders and sexually addicted sex offenders are the groups most amenable to treatment. As long as these individuals are willing to admit to their offense(s) and are fully assessed for concurrent addictions/mental health disorders, the right treatment can be extremely helpful.[15]  Michael Hersen notes, “Treatment response has been shown to be quite different within subgroups of offenders. For example, situational offenders against a single girl have proven to have a more positive response to treatment than predatory homosexual pedophiles or rapists.”[16]  Dr. Barry Maletzky also lists situational offenders (including most categories of child molesters) as the least likely to reoffend and predatory offenders (including those diagnosed as pedophiles) as more likely to reoffend.[17]

“The majority of fixated child sexual abusers are individuals who sexually assault male children who are not related; regressed child sexual abusers often consist of incest offenders or offenders who sexually assault female adolescents.”[18]

Okami and Goldberg’s 1992 study writes, “Only a small portion of convicted sex offenders against minors are actually preferentially attracted to children. In spite of this fact, studies typically use the word ‘pedophile’ interchangeably with terms such as ‘child molester,’ ‘sex offender,’ ‘abuser,’ and ‘rapist.’”[19]

Among those convicted of sexual offenses, very few offenders could even meet the most basic criteria of clinical pedophilia. Few studies give reliable numbers. The State of Montana estimate in 2011 stated 4% of the population of those convicted of sex offenses were classified as pedophiles.[20]  But that is a single, obscure study.

People want to know how many people in society as a whole suffer from pedophilia. There is no way to know for sure. Dr. Michael Seto once wrote a book that estimated that as much as 5% of the population could be attracted to pre-pubescent children, but lowered the estimate in later research to between 1% of the general population. Dr. James Cantor estimates the number is closer to 0.5%. But, as Cantor has stated, “Because paedophilia is so secretive and so few people are willing to admit it, there is no meaningful way to get a reliable estimate.”[21]


We have to be cautious in our approach to the issue. Current statistics are incomplete at best and can be misrepresented to suit a personal agenda.

One example of this is from a site called “The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse” that is run by a self-professed pedophile activist known by the online persona TNF_13.[22]  Interestingly, his conclusion that “90.64-96.2% of pedophiles do not molest children, even after underreporting is accounted for” is based upon the same faulty logic that ensnares anti-pedophilia researchers. There are a couple of glaring errors with this report:

  1. TNF_13 states, “We know that juveniles are the victims of approximately 66% of sex offenses, which means we can estimate that 66% of sex offenders have crimes against juveniles, or .17292% of the population.” As stated earlier in this report, about a third of sex offenses involve juvenile offenders, of which only about 6% could even meet the base criteria for a pedophilia diagnosis. Despite recognizing earlier in his report that pedophilia can only be diagnosed in people ages 16 or above, he neglects to break these numbers down to reflect this fact.
  2. In declaring that “roughly a third of sexual abusers are pedophilic,” TNF_13 relies on a single study that utilized penile plethysmographs (a test that lacks any uniform standard) and subjects were largely referred to by courts.[23]  (This test also found that those who merely looked at child pornography on the internet and had no contact with children scored higher on this “pedophila test” than those with contact offenses.)

The problem with publishing estimated numbers as merely “illustration” is that people want a hard number so estimations tend to be used and abused. While TNF_13 uses a personal estimation to conclude few pedophiles offend, other studies have used equally misrepresented numbers to state the opposite of this report’s conclusion.

A second example came from a statement by the Pope (which may have been misreported by the interviewer) in 2014 that suggested 2% of the clergy are “paedophiles.” The group “Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests,” claims that number is closer to 5.6%. [24]  In reality, both numbers are inaccurate because they overestimate this number. Both likely used a 2002 John Jay College of Criminal Justice report that found roughly 4.2% of Catholic priests had been “plausibly” accused of abuse, though the report also included adolescents. Historian Philip Jenkins stated that would lower the number to about 1%-2%. Interestingly, 40% of these allegations in the 52-year study were from 1975-1980, the advent of the child sexual abuse panic.[25]

But “plausible” does not mean that the crime actually occurred. There is no way of knowing without a criminal investigation. Second, this report has established that even a sexual offense against a minor does not necessarily mean the perpetrator is a “pedophile.” As reported by Psychology Today:

“In summary, the report states that clergy sexual abuse of minors in the American Catholic Church is a historical problem with the vast majority of cases occurring from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s. You might find surprising that 94% of all cases occurred before 1990 and that 70% of clergy offenders were ordained as priests before 1970. . They conclude that these numbers, as well as the style and type of abuse is fairly consistent with other large organizations (think public schools, boy scouts, and so forth) with men who had unsupervised and unlimited access to minors during the last half century (and most especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s).”

“The report concludes that the vast majority of clergy sex offenders are not pedophiles at all but were situational generalists violating whoever they had access to. Pedophiles, by definition, seek sexual gratification from pre-pubescent children of one gender and target this age and gender group (especially while under stress). Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whoever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.”

“The researchers conclude that there is no causative relationship between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual victimization of children in the Church. Therefore, being celibate or being gay did not increase the risk of violating children. So, blaming the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on gay men or celibacy is unfounded.”

“Overall, the profile presented by the John Jay researchers (who, by the way, are non-Catholics working in a secular state run university) of the typical clergy sex offender in the Catholic Church is certainly quite different than the stereotype typically presented in the press during the past decade.”[26]


If we want a key understanding of the issue of sexual abuse prevention, we have to start with an accurate definition. Ken Lanning writes, “In written and spoken communication definitions are crucial to understanding…The important point, then, is not that these terms have or should have only one definition but people using the terms should communicate their definitions, whatever they might be, and then consistently use those definitions. Failure to consistently use a definition is often a bigger problem than defining a term. Many will define a child as anyone younger than 18 years old but then make recommendations such as ‘never leave your children unattended,’ which clearly does not apply to all children meeting that definition.”[27]  Using the term in the proper context helps address the issue properly.

We need to understand the difference between people convicted of a sex offense and a “pedophile” because strategies aimed at pedophiles will not over non-sexual motivations for abuse. Dr. David Finkelhor explained to Vice Magazine, “‘It is very important for the public to understand that most child molesters are not pedophiles,’ Finkelhor told me over the phone. ‘[Many people] have the impression, when you talk about someone being a pedophile, that they have a permanent and unalterable sexual interest in children and, therefore, they are going to be dangerous under any circumstances and under any form of management—and that’s not true,’ he says, adding that pedophiles constitute a minority of those who sexually abuse children, or who are child molesters. While pedophiles are, specifically, primarily attracted to prepubescent children, the majority of child molesters need not be. But why, then, would they abuse kids? The reasons are myriad, according to Finkelhor.”[28]


Unfortunately, attempting any fact-driven dialogue or even a dialogue that questions the dominant paradigm is met with fierce resistance. If you are going to talk about pedophilia in any manner that does not conclude with a blanket statement about the inherent evil of those given the label and the need to be eradicated, you are likely going to face an accusation of “normalizing pedophilia.” There’s no set definition of this term but it is generally bandied about when a dissenting opinion on society’s blind hatred for pedophilia is discussed.

For example, In 2014, Margo Kaplan, assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law, Camden, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times declaring Pedophilia was a disorder, not a crime. She writes:

“By some estimates, 1 percent of the male population continues, long after puberty, to find themselves attracted to prepubescent children. These people are living with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescents that often constitutes a mental illness. Unfortunately, our laws are failing them and, consequently, ignoring opportunities to prevent child abuse…”

“Part of this failure stems from the misconception that pedophilia is the same as child molestation. One can live with pedophilia and not act on it. Sites like Virtuous Pedophiles provide support for pedophiles who do not molest children and believe that sex with children is wrong. It is not that these individuals are “inactive” or “nonpracticing” pedophiles, but rather that pedophilia is a status and not an act. In fact, research shows, about half of all child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims.”

“A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice. Recent research, while often limited to sex offenders — because of the stigma of pedophilia — suggests that the disorder may have neurological origins…”

“Our current law is inconsistent and irrational. For example, federal law and 20 states allow courts to issue a civil order committing a sex offender, particularly one with a diagnosis of pedophilia, to a mental health facility immediately after the completion of his sentence — under standards that are much more lax than for ordinary “civil commitment” for people with mental illness. And yet, when it comes to public policies that might help people with pedophilia to come forward and seek treatment before they offend, the law omits pedophilia from protection.”

“The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with mental disabilities, in areas such as employment, education and medical care. Congress, however, explicitly excluded pedophilia from protection under these two crucial laws.”

“It’s time to revisit these categorical exclusions. Without legal protection, a pedophile cannot risk seeking treatment or disclosing his status to anyone for support. He could lose his job, and future job prospects, if he is seen at a group-therapy session, asks for a reasonable accommodation to take medication or see a psychiatrist, or requests a limit in his interaction with children. Isolating individuals from appropriate employment and treatment only increases their risk of committing a crime.”

“There’s no question that the extension of civil rights protections to people with pedophilia must be weighed against the health and safety needs of others, especially kids. It stands to reason that a pedophile should not be hired as a grade-school teacher. But both the A.D.A. and the Rehabilitation Act contain exemptions for people who are ‘not otherwise qualified’ for a job or who pose ‘a direct threat to the health and safety of others’ that can’t be eliminated by a reasonable accommodation…”

“A pedophile should be held responsible for his conduct — but not for the underlying attraction. Arguing for the rights of scorned and misunderstood groups is never popular, particularly when they are associated with real harm. But the fact that pedophilia is so despised is precisely why our responses to it, in criminal justice and mental health, have been so inconsistent and counterproductive.  cknowledging that pedophiles have a mental disorder, and removing the obstacles to their coming forward and seeking help, is not only the right thing to do, but it would also advance efforts to protect children from harm.”[29]

It did not take long for the online backlash to begin. The NY Times reported, “The article caused a stir, attracting over 1,200 reader comments. Many of these responses were rejected by our moderation staff, particularly for vicious attacks against both the author and commenters who expressed some measure of sympathy for pedophiles…When comments were closed on Tuesday afternoon, 993 of the 1,237 comments submitted were published. Reader reaction to the Op-Ed essay was mostly negative, but a wide range of views was expressed. Ms. Kaplan said that was also the case in her email inbox, which, unlike the Times moderation platform, does not have a profanity filter.”[30]

Kaplan herself told PhillyMag, “I am getting more emails of support than I ever expected. I’m shocked. I expected to get maybe 95% negative emails, but I’ve gotten so many positive ones. The online comments, though, are pretty uniformly negative, and a lot of people haven’t even read the article.” When asked where the positive emails were coming from, Kaplan responded, “A lot of people I don’t even know. There’s a former prosecutor, a judge, a nurse. Individuals with family members who have pedophilia.”[31]

Other media outlets, primarily right-leaning news outlets, responded with fear-mongering and outrage.

Fox News wrote, “Should you have to hire pedophiles and rent them rooms? … The world Kaplan envisions is one in which pedophiles don’t need to hide their disorder any longer and can legally insist that, say, a school system assign them to custodial duty at a high school, rather than a grammar school; or that the military create reasonable housing accommodations for them on base to keep them far from any playground; or that a corporation that provides day care for employees not assign them to tasks near the children who attend it. Presumably, a hotel that decided to install a kiddie pool would have to allow laundry personnel with pedophilia not to collect towels from areas where little boys and girls are playing in bathing suits…”

“Well, guess what. Well-focused shame still has a place, even in the halls of law and medicine. The need to hide impulses, like the impulse to rape children and feeling guilty about it, and taking it upon oneself to control the impulse or go to jail for giving into it, can be part of a reasoned legal and public health strategy to prevent it. Being shunned should be a decent heads-up that it’s time to get help and stay away from temptation – or else. The correct response to someone who declares he is a pedophile and asks for a room at your hotel, preferably away from little kids, is to tell that person that there are no rooms available for him and to get lost.”[32]

CNS News writes, “Here’s a tidbit of information The New York Times left out of the bio of a professor who argued pedophilia is ‘not a crime’ in a recent Op-Ed – she’s also a President Obama supporter.[33]

The Daily Caller argued that the proposal to give people diagnosed with pedophilia reasonable protections under the law “a loss for the 99 percent of non-pedophile American citizens and voters, because it would eliminate their longstanding civil right to simply and cheaply exclude pedophiles from mainstream society or from jobs near children.”[34]


The term “Normalizing Pedophilia” goes beyond the use of the “P-Word” as a mere insult because it represents a Chicken Little mentality (i.e., “The Sky Is Falling!”). The message is a slippery slope—if we allow a particular unpopular thing to happen, then it will lead to the “acceptance of pedophilia.”

For example, when Congress debated a new version of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, those who opposed this hate crimes bill, which added sexual orientation or perceived gender identity as falling under the targets of hate crime laws, labeled the bill the “Pedophile Protection Act.” Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) told The Hill the hate crime bill amounted to a “pedophile protection act,” and is meant to create “thought crimes” and protect “sexual idiosyncrasies.”[35]  In an interview with Rep. King, Sean Hannity asks, “Is it safe to say that Democrats were willing to protect pedophiles but not offer the same protection to servicemen and women?” to which King replied, “Absolutely true.”[36]  The bill passed despite the efforts of the Republican dissenters, yet no one has been prosecuted under the law for hate crimes against registered persons or people accused of “pedophilia.”

A 2019 “Chicken Little” article in The Federalist proclaims the following over-the-top professions:

  • Equating Sex Ed with Pedophilia: “Activists for normalizing pedophilia are on the move. Public acceptance of adult sex with children is the next domino poised to fall in identity politics. It’s being sustained, among other things, by the rapid sexualization of children in the media and in K-12 education…
  • Comparing Transgendered issues to Pedophilia: Unveiling pedophilia as ‘just fine’ will likely be an ambush if we aren’t prepared. It promises to be as swift as the ‘transgender tipping point’ campaign that shrewdly coincided with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015. It will be accompanied by a defiant campaign to paint any resistance as a relic of outdated morality that oppresses the rights of an identity group and the civil rights of any children caught in it…
  • Schools AND Transgendered folks are injecting folks with pedophilia: Our public schools, with the backing of the highly politicized American Academy of Pediatrics, are also now in the business of nudging any young child to get injections of puberty blockers if he or she claims to be transgender. Some states are now threatening to take away custody from any parent who is not on board with that. K-12 classrooms are becoming labs in which kids are being programmed to serve such agendas…
  • Mass Media and Academia are in on the act, too: There are two main avenues to legalizing adult sexual relations with pre-pubescent children: 1) to designate it as a sexual orientation; and 2) to lower—or abolish—the age of consent for sexual activity. Both efforts are on track by pedophilia advocates, especially in academia and in the mass media…
  • The Media published an unpopular voice, therefore they are normalizing pedophilia: There has also been a rash of publishing in popular magazines. The idea of the “virtuous pedophile” was unveiled in Todd Nickerson’s Salon article “I’m a Pedophile, but not a Monster.” Salon actually removed the article, although it’s still archived on the internet. Nickerson says he would never act on his urge and never has. He also has a website called “Virtuous Pedophile,” ostensibly for helping celibate pedophiles resist their urges…
  • Because A, then C: The other turning point in legalizing pedophilia would come with repeated claims in public discourse that prepubescent kids can enjoy and consent to sexual relationships with adults. Furthermore, denying children this avenue of expression with adults, the argument goes, violates their civil rights…
  • Equality Laws equal pedophile rights: Just about all of today’s so-called “anti-discrimination” laws include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) classifications. Once pedophilia is classified as a sexual orientation, then it’s protected under that umbrella, which covers all areas of life: employment, education, medicine, housing, business, military, even the parish life of churches, family life, and much more.

The Federalist article’s Chicken Little article ends with, “For those just waking up, we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re on a speeding train through the Twilight Zone. And the hyper-suggestibility of most folks in this age of internet-induced mass delusion will get us there even faster.”[37]  It is an interesting statement from an article engaging in a delusion.

The Beverly LaHaye Institute (published on the website “Concerned Women of America,” a fundamentalist Protestant organization) published a report linking a 2011 symposium held by the treatment organization B4U-ACT (calling a “pro-pedophile group”) with efforts to “normalize child rape” and the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM in 1973. The CWA report argues the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder (and later discussions about gender identity) has created a blueprint for “pedophiles” to gain “acceptance.” It criticizes B4U-ACT for stating people suffering from sexual attraction to minors can overcome the struggles and contribute to society, adding, “If homosexuality can be arbitrarily removed, what will prevent the APA from arbitrarily removing pedophilia?”[38]  Based upon the tone of the article, the CWA seemed more concerned with linking gay rights with pedophilia and maintaining stereotypes than looking at the subjects in an objective manner.


While Americans are allowed to express a number of unpopular viewpoints thanks to the US Constitution, that has not prevented people from attempting to suppress that viewpoint. The dominant paradigm is that pedophilia is an inherent evil because everyone who commits a sexual offense against a minor dooms the child to a lifetime of suffering from which there can be no recovery. (Again, people combine the status of having a mental condition with a crime.) The act of discussing pedophilia in even a neutral way or in any way that does not conclude in total condemnation leads to accusations of “normalizing” or “promoting” pedophilia and public outrage.

Many people seem to forget an opinion or a mere discussion about a subject does not mean there is a blind acceptance of that viewpoint. If we discuss the events of a historical event, such as why the Nazis rose to power and how they were able to pull off the Holocaust, it is not an acceptance of the practices of Nazis, but an attempt to understand the subject.

In her book “Harmful to Minors: The perils of protecting children from sex,” Judith Levine pinpoints two sources of political articulation of sexual fears in our current society:

  • Feminism: Exposing widespread rape and domestic violence
  • “Religious Right:” Women and children need special attention[39]

Below are a few controversies in recent years in which people questioning the victim narrative have been silenced or attacked by those accusing researchers of being “pro-pedophile.” It must be noted that between the two main sources of modern Predator Panic noted by Levine, most feminist-driven discussions like the campus rape controversy and the #MeToo Movement do not focus as much on children as on women, whereas politically right-leaning groups focus more often on children. Thus, conservatives, particularly religious fundamentalists, are often at the center of many of the recent the controversies.

The Rind Study Controversy

In 1997, psychology professor Bruce Rind from Temple University and doctoral student Philip Tromovitch from the University of Pennsylvania published a study finding that the general consensus associating CSA with intense, pervasive harm and long-term maladjustment was incorrect; not every victim of abuse was scarred for life, according to this study.[40]  Public reaction to this peer-reviewed study was negative but mostly quiet until it was picked up by Laura Schlessinger’s radio show, followed largely by conservative crowds. Other conservative groups soon joined the fray, like the “Family Research Council” (a fundamentalist Protestant activist group) and the “Leadership Council on Mental Health, Justice, and the Media” (a group that defended the “repressed memory” myth).[41]  The American Psychological Association backtracked from defense of the peer-reviewed study in a publicly published letter sent to Representative Tom DeLay.[42]  A number of states passed resolutions condemning the study; the106th Congress unanimously passed HRC. 107, a resolution condemning the study; HRC 107 was sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and cosponsored by 46 Republican congressmen (including later disgraced Rep. Mark Foley) and one Democrat.[43]

Judith Levine’s Book “Harmful To Minors”

Judith Levine’s 2002 book reviewing various American sex education practices and sex offense laws was also subject to backlash because Levine questioned abstinence-only education and drew a similar conclusion to the Rind study. Even before the book was published, the work inspired controversy, largely among conservative-leaning media commentators and activist groups.[44]  Minnesota politician Tim Pawlenty (who was running for governor at the time) called the book “trash”; anonymous emails and phone calls to the publisher told them to “burn in hell.”[45]  Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute, called the book “every child molester’s dream—and every parent’s nightmare.”[46]  Laura Schlessinger stated several times the book was another attempt to legitimatize adult sexual abuse of children.[47]  

The NY Times write, “In response, the University of Minnesota Press has agreed to set up an extraordinary two-month review of the way its press acquires and reviews books, to be conducted by people from other academic presses… A number of civil libertarian groups signed a letter written by the National Coalition Against Censorship saying that the move undermines academic freedom and ‘invites future attempts at intellectual blackmail’… he book does not, in fact, endorse pedophilia. What Ms. Levine does argue is that the fear of pedophilia is overblown and that the age of consent should be lowered in certain circumstances.”[48]  Despite the controversy, the book won an LA Times Book Award and the publishers were commended.[49]

The “Pedophile Book” opened its Kindle store in 2007, allowing people to self-publish their books in electronic format. Self-publishing an eBook takes “less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.”[50]  One such book was “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct” by Philip Greaves. In the week preceding the media blitz, Greaves had reportedly only sold a single copy of the Ebook.[51]  

Backlash was swift and severe once the book made headlines. Techcrunch wrote, “Amazon customers are letting their feelings be known about such a book. Of the 59 customers reviews of the product, 58 give it the minimum 1 star (while one joker gave it 5 stars). And it looks like just about all of them are from today, and they’re all basically either calling for a boycott of Amazon for carrying such a book, or for Amazon to remove it immediately. A few of them say they’ve called or email Amazon and that the company has said it’s looking into it… Another comment says that over 100 negative reviews have been deleted so far, but they keep coming in. This could get very ugly…. It is currently the 158,221st best-selling Kindle book in the store. That is terrifying.”[52]  

Initially, Amazon defended the sale of the eBook. Amazon issued a statement that will no doubt fuel the outraged comments multiplying on the “Pedophile’s Guide” Amazon page. “Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” it reads. “Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.” As a private company, Amazon has the right to sell whatever it wants as long as it’s legal, and as such, offers books that cater to Holocaust deniers and other hate groups, as well as graphic dog fighting and cock fighting videos. Adult (legal) pornography, while available in book and magazine form, is not permitted in the Kindle e-reader store. This is possibly because of its iTunes partnership with the notoriously porn-free Apple which removed both “Ulysses” and the “Kama Sutra” from its own book store.[53]

Less than 24 hours later, the eBook was removed from the Amazon Kindle store. In the 24 hours since the controversy began, sales of the book skyrocketed, and landed at #96 on Amazon’s Top 100 list. By the time the eBook was removed from Amazon, over 3000 reviews had been posted.[54] Not content with getting one eBook removed, the online witch hunters sought out all other obscure books that seemingly promote pedophilia and threatened boycotts until the books were removed.[55]

Controversial Polk County FL sheriff Grady Judd bought a printed copy of the book in order to arrest the author (who was a Colorado resident) on charges of “distribution of obscene material depicting minors engaged in conduct harmful to minors.” Sheriff Grady Judd told ABC News, “My goal is for him to eat processed turkey in the Polk County Jail on Christmas.”[56]  Ultimately, Greaves pleaded no contest to the charges and was allowed to return to Colorado, serve 2 years of probation, and avoided sex offense registration.[57]

Susan Clancy’s “The Trauma Myth”

Susan Clancy already received backlash from taking on the repressed memory myth in a previous book, so she was expecting her 2010 book similar backlash. Clancy was not attempting to rationalize sex between minors and adults, but was calling for an approach to the effects of sexual abuse that was based on evidence over opinion. As Clancy told Salon in 2010:

“The title refers to the fact that although sexual abuse is usually portrayed by professionals and the media as a traumatic experience for the victims when it happens — meaning frightening, overwhelming, painful — it rarely is. Most victims do not understand they are being victimized, because they are too young to understand sex, the perpetrators are almost always people they know and trust, and violence or penetration rarely occurs. ‘Confusion’ is the most frequently reported word when victims are asked to describe what the experience was like. Confusion is a far cry from trauma… If you really want to help people, if you’re really trying to prevent and treat a social problem, you have to describe the problem truthfully. For 30 years we’ve been working on preventing sexual abuse. But we’ve skirted around what sexual abuse really is.”[58]  

Reason Magazine adds, “To be clear, she does not suggest that sexual molestation isn’t traumatizing—just that it traumatizes victims in a different way than was commonly understood. But when she began putting this out there, it was not taken well by her peers in the psychology community or by feminist activists. Clancy was accused of victim blaming and of being a ‘friend of pedophiles.’ At the very least, critics asked, why did it matter? If the new trauma paradigm had mobilized mass attention and opened Uncle Sam’s pocketbook for research studies, child abuse hotlines, training programs, and awareness campaigns, then why quibble over the psychological particulars? The answer, to Clancy, is simple: ‘To truly help victims, our theories need to be based on the empirical knowledge—and not on assumptions, politics, and lies.’ As she interviewed more and more survivors of childhood sex abuse, Clancy realized that misinformation about trauma was further victimizing them and causing even more psychological harm.”[59]

While Clancy attempted to clarify her position repeatedly, she still became a pariah in lay and academic circles. The press “crucified” her as a “friend of pedophiles,” colleagues boycotted her talks, and advisers suggested that continuing on her trajectory would rule out an academic career. The book was bashed in online reviews. The NY Times reporter laments, “Science is sometimes no match for conviction, and often, evidently, good writing is not either.”[60]

“Pedophile Apologists”

The subtitle of a 2018 ARC Digital article asks, “Is it all right to use the scholarship of sexual abusers? What happens when the scholarship itself is in the service of sexual deviancy?” The author attacks the writings of Thomas O’Carroll, a British citizen with two prior sex crime convictions. The article states the artilcle is “amateurish” and “an exemplar of motivated reasoning.” The reporter focuses on O’Carroll’s background instead, adding, “At 73 years old, O’Carroll has long been a bogeyman for both the left and the right — not to mention the children he has violated. To the right, he’s the perfect condensed symbol for the Sexual Revolution’s true telos — the nihilistic destructuring of human relations. To the left, he’s an albatross, a useful idiot for conservatives intent on establishing a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. He’s also a testament to the degraded standards of iinterdisciplinary scholarship.”

A writer for The American Conservative writes, “Try to wrap your mind around the fact that a peer-reviewed academic quarterly has just published this convicted pedophile’s philosophical argument for legalizing the rape of children. The reader who sent me Lee’s column added:

There’s apparently a whole community of pedophiles on Twitter. They call themselves “MAPs” (minor-attracted persons). Many of them euphemistically refer to themselves as protectors of children and anti-abuse activists. Some like to use the label “NOMAP” (NO=”non-offending). The same people will also note their “aoa” (age of attraction) in their profile. It’s utterly surreal that the great and good at Twitter are scouring the platform of anti-trans content but are perfectly content with tolerating pedophile community-building…many (most?) of these people also identify as trans, queer, or gay.”[61]

The paper in question, “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal: Virtue Ethics and Child–Adult Sex,”[62]  states the intent of the paper as follows:

“This response challenges Malón’s virtue ethics, as applied to child–adult sexual relationships, in three ways: (1) by contesting the view that sex is an exceptional aspect of morality, to which a virtue approach needs to be applied; (2) by contesting the view that virtue ethics succeed, where other arguments fail, against the moral admissibility of child–adult sexual relations; (3) by proposing that, far from necessarily condemning child–adult sexual relationships as falling unacceptably short of virtuous ideals, a virtue ethics approach is capable of seeing such relationships as instantiating an ideal, or at least constituting one element of such an instantiation.”

As with the “Pedophile Book,” critics feel O’Carroll cannot even be allowed to express an unpopular viewpoint, especially when the viewpoint comes from a suspect class. In this instance, O’Carroll was twice-convicted of a sexual offense and is questioning the belief that all adult-minor interactions can be argued from a philosophy/ ethics standpoint. But while the popular viewpoint is silencing a person advocating for sex between adults and minors is virtually universal, there is a little apprehension about publishing (or censoring) individuals that identify themselves as NOMAPs (“Non-Offending Minor Attracted Person, i.e., a person suffering from pedophilia but vows not to engage in sexual abuse of children). had published an article by a self-professed NOMAP in September 2015 entitled, “I’m a pedophile, but not a monster.” [63]  The article discussed Nickerson’s struggles with the condition of pedophilia and his gratitude for “Virtuous Pedophiles,” an online community for fellow NOMAPs dedicated to a life free from abusing children. A article questioning Salon’s subsequent removal of the article opined, “No reasonable reader could construe this as pro-pedophilia. Nickerson is explicitly saying his condition has hampered his life immensely and that he is simply hoping to scratch out a decent existence without hurting anybody. That’s the entire point of the article — nowhere does he defend sexual contact between adults and minors. Why, then, was his article deleted? It sounds like Salon won’t ever provide an explanation…  Unfortunately, by deleting this article, originally with no explanation, and then with a bland, corporate-PR one, Salon is sending the signal that it did something wrong by publishing it in the first place. It’s ceding ground to the many people who have endlessly and thoughtlessly parroted the pro-pedophile charge. Society should want articles like this published. Articles like this, in the long run, help keep children safe from pedophiles.”[64]

Dr. James Cantor believes that allowing pedophiles to have a voice has educational and prevention value. “Without somebody like Ender providing that kind of image, the only kinds of images that these other pedophiles see are the ones who commit offenses,” Cantor told VICE. “That doesn’t help anybody. If anything, it’s making it worse.”[65]  A reporter from VICE followed members of Virtuous Pedophiles over the course of a year and despite initial nervousness, discovered those suffering from pedophilia were the same as people not suffering from pedophilia.  “On the way over, the reality of what I was doing began to sink in and I started to feel nervous. However, after meeting Gary and being welcomed into his life for the week, I grew so comfortable that my perception of him came to be defined less and less by his sexual proclivity. This turned out to be the case with the others, too. From what I saw, they were regular people trying to get on with life in much the same way that anyone else does, all while having to tackle a burden that they did not choose to bare.”[66]  There point made is that there is no better way to understand the issue of pedophilia than to talk with those struggling with the feelings and choosing not to act on it.

PizzaGate and QAnon

Debunked conspiracies like the Satanic Ritual Abuse scares of the 1980s have been revived thanks to the Internet. The two conspiracy theories “PizzaGate” and the writings of a person (or persons) posting as simply “Q” have revived the once-debunked notion that high-ranking members of the government are running an underground pedophile ring.

The PizzaGate conspiracy theory began when 4chan and Reddit users scoured hacked personal emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Among the emails were a series of emails describing dinner plans between John and his brother Tony, a lobbyist. Since 4chan users used the term “cheese pizza” as a euphemism for child porn (CP), and because apparently adults must not like pizza, the conspiracy theorists concluded the emails were secret codes for a clandestine pedophile ring. These conspiracy theorists spread rumors of kill rooms, underground tunnels, Satanism and even cannibalism emerged in fabricated stories and on social media. This theory reached its peak when Edgar M. Welch entered Comet Ping Pong, a local eatery owned by an associate the Podesta brothers, armed with an assault rifle with the intent of finding the underground bunkers mentioned in the conspiracy.[67]

James Alefantis and his restaurant, Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C., faced a number of threats by those believing in PizzaGate. Rolling Stone reports, “The home addresses and phone numbers of Alefantis and his employees were published online. Comet would receive 150 menacing calls in a single day, Alefantis says, so he unplugged the phone. People reviewed Comet on Yelp and said there were chopped-up baby parts in their food… Strangers filmed his house and questioned his neighbors, he says. Any person or organization connected to him also got sucked in. A non-profit art gallery whose board he chaired received angry calls. Any trace of Alefantis’ life found in public records or social media — an old home address, an event he had attended — was used against him. The FBI dismissed the threats. Threats only tapered off after legal pressure forced promoters of PizzaGate (like Alex Jones) to back off.[68]

In keeping with the conservative nature of the PizzaGate conspiracy believers, a sequel of sorts known as “QAnon” formed in late 2017. As with PizzaGate, QAnon started on 4chan. The NY Times gives readers the “short version” of QAnon:

“Q claims to be a government insider exposing an entrenched, international bureaucracy that is secretly plotting all sorts of nefarious schemes against the Trump administration and its supporters. The character uses lingo that implies that he or she has a military or intelligence background. It’s a stew of various, but connecting, conspiracy theories that generally hold Mr. Trump as a conquistador battling a cabal of anti-American saboteurs who have taken over government, industry, media and various other institutions of public life in a plan to … well, the overarching goals of the nefarious actors are not clear.’[69]

Arc Digital describes QAnon this way:

“For those fortunate enough not to know, QAnon purports that a government insider with “Q level clearance” (a high level security clearance) is leaking clues about a hidden, epic battle between President Trump and his allies on one side, and the deep state and a satanic cabal of pedophiles on the other. This person (or people), who claims to be close to President Trump, is known as ‘Q.’ Q leaves “breadcrumbs” of top secret information on the fringe message boards 4chan and 8chan. The messages are cryptic, but followers eagerly decipher them, finding hints of the apocalyptic, behind-the-scenes battle Trump’s waging against the secret pedophiles…”

“Pizzagate and QAnon’s theories have these five elements in common:”

  1. “Originated with a ‘government insider’ on 4chan” (PizzaGate began with posts by “FBI Anon”)
  2. “Fixated on child abuse and pedophilia”
  3. “Secret codes used by the evil conspirators”
  4. “Satanic panic”
  5. “Promised punishment of hated elites”[70]

With the July 2019 arrest of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (on the same charges in which he was convicted in 2005), conspiracy theorists see it as “vindication.” Since Epstein was convicted in 2008 for soliciting a teenage prostitute, the ongoing civil suits, and the 2019 arrests are for the same incidents, there is no new information not already known to the public. Also, what is problematic for the current social climate driven by partisan politics is both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are linked to Epstein (QAnon is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory). Other prominent people are linked to Epstein, from high-profile attorneys like Alan Dershowitz to Hollywood stars like Woody Allen to TV personalities like Katie Couric.[71]  

The Epstein arrest has revived the QAnon conspiracy, which seemed to be on the decline in the weeks prior to the arrest. Other QAnon theories never came to pass and it seemed QAnon was fizzling out. As noted on VICE, “There have been 73 ‘Q Drops’ since the beginning of May and there was a significant lull in June, leading some to speculate that the release of the Mueller report had been the final nail in the coffin for the movement, whose slogan is “trust the plan.” But Epstein’s arrest seems to have reenergized QAnon: Since Epstein’s arrest over the weekend, there have been 52 Q Drops.”[72]

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. As noted in The Atlantic, “Fears of systematic, underground child abuse have run through popular conspiracy theories for centuries. One of the oldest anti-Semitic canards held that Jews were murdering Christian children and using their blood to bake matzo. More recently, in the 1980s, America was gripped by the “Satanic panic,” as parents became convinced that their day-care centers were filled with Satanists ritualistically abusing their children… Anna Merlan, the author of Republic of Lies, says allegations of pedophilia are central to some of the most widely circulated conspiracy theories on the internet today. She attributes this in part to the simple horror of the crime. ‘If someone is abusing children, there is no worse thing to be,’ Merlan said. Conspiracists tend to weave their narratives in ways that conveniently implicate their political enemies while sparing their allies. But, Merlan added, ‘conspiracy theories aren’t based on nothing’—and with every new #MeToo allegation, convictions deepen among the true believers.”[73]  PizzaGate/ QAnon feels like a culmination of decades of not just accepting conspiracy theories, but of society suppressing theories that offer a viewpoint that is contrary to popular opinion.


The definition of “pedophile” and “sex offender” continue to be erroneously used interchangeably. The use of the term “Pedophile” has evolved into an insult and a device for instilling fear in American society.  Experts in the field of sexual abuse prevention warn against misuse of the two terms. In order to discuss sexual abuse prevention, we must adopt an honest approach to both.

“Sex Offender” is a legal term used to denote someone convicted of a sex offense, but that term is also used as an insult. (Also, the term “sex offend-ER” is an adjective, not a noun, thus describing a person by a single action.) Registered Persons can be convicted of a variety of crimes that could include serious offenses like rape or child molestation, but in some cases, juvenile sexting, public urination, or prostitution cases can land a person on the public sex offense registry. Very few people convicted of sexual offenses meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis for pedophilia.

Pedophilia is a diagnosis given by a medical professional, not a legal authority. As such, nobody in America can be “convicted” of “pedophilia.” There is no state, federal, or territorial criminal statute called “pedophilia.” Not every sex crime against a minor can be attributed to “pedophiles” because roughly a third of sex crimes against juveniles are committed by other juveniles, and many acts of molestation are conducted by “situational” offenders, i.e., those without a primary attraction to children. In addition, a person can have clinical diagnosis of pedophilia without ever acting out sexually with a minor.

Defining the terms and stating differences these facts is not “normalizing” either “child rape” or “pedophilia” any more than honest discussions about past events like the Holocaust or American Slavery is an endorsement of either act. The mere act of creating proper definitions is neutral and does not imply blind support of the action. Definition is merely the human way to understand the issue through the use of labels. But improperly using the labels can lead to a host of other problems.

Unfortunately, there is a very visible effort to silence any effort to come to an understanding by use of the vague but scary-sounding term “normalizing pedophilia.” Because there are too few honest discussions about sexual abuse and those who engage in it, the most absurd theories proliferate, including wild conspiracy theories about underground child sex rings, such as with the PizzaGate/ QAnon theories.

An honest solution to a problem requires an honest approach, and the honest approach begins with an honest definition.


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