No studies have directly investigated the number of men preferentially attracted to boys. A few have investigated the number with deviant sexual arousal in general, or the number attracted to girls. Some studies have investigated the percent of adults who exhibit any attraction to children at all, rather than those who are preferentially attracted to children or adolescents. A few researchers have tried to base estimates on studies of offenders or theories about the cause of minor-attraction.
Most men have some feelings of attraction for minors, but not preferential feelings.
- One researcher at the University of Toronto found that on average, homosexual men attracted to adults showed an arousal response to adolescent boys that was 62% of their response to men, and arousal response to pre-pubescent boys that was 19% of their arousal level to men. (Heterosexual men showed similar patterns of attraction toward females.)1
- Researchers at California State University and the University of Southern California asked 99 male college students about their sexual feelings and fantasies. Twenty-two percent of them admitted some attraction to children, and 4% admitted to masturbating to a sexual fantasy involving a child. Subjects were not asked about preferential attraction, or whether the children were boys or girls.2
- Clinical and forensic psychologist Jack S. Annon writes that almost every male has some kind of arousal to paraphilic stimuli. (Paraphilic sexual feelings and activities include voyeurism, frotteurism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, and rape, among others.) Annon cites studies which have found anywhere between 17% and 53% of normal men exhibit paraphilic sexual arousal patterns.3
No study has specifically addressed preferential attraction to prepubescent boys, or to adolescents of either gender, among non-criminal samples.
- A British study found that of men born in 1953, by the time they were 40, 0.1% had been convicted for a sexual offense involving a boy under 16.4 However, it is known that many offenders are not preferentially attracted to minors. In addition, an unknown number of men who are preferentially attracted to minors do not act on their feelings or are not reported.5
- Other prison studies have suggested that 0.5% of men are preferentially attracted to underage boys.6 This would translate to roughly 500,000 men in the U.S. Again, however, prison studies are unreliable.
- Gordon Hall and colleagues studied 80 adult heterosexual male volunteers from the community and found that over 25% of them were sexually aroused by pre-pubescent girls at least as much as they were by adult women.7
- Based on his theory that attraction to minor males has a hormonal basis, a University of New Mexico researcher predicts that 7% to 10% of men are preferentially attracted to underage boys. If correct, this would mean that there are 7 to 10 million such men in the U.S. However, many of them may be able to suppress their feelings in favor of those toward adults.8
"Introduction and A Biosocial Overview," in Feierman, J. (ed.), Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1990a, pp. 1-68.
Jay Feierman from the University of New Mexico explains his hormonal theory which predicts a 7% to 10% prevalence of men attracted to boys, based on a 5% prevalence of men attracted to men.
Hall, G.C.N., Hirschman, R., & Oliver, L.L., "Sexual Arousal and Arousability to Pedophilic Stimuli in a Community Sample of Normal Men," Behavior Therapy, vol. 26, 1995, pp. 681-694.
Hall and colleagues describe their finding that according to both self-reports and physiological measurements, over 25% of the men in their sample of volunteers were sexually aroused by pre-pubescent girls at a level equal to or greater than their arousal to adult women.
Smiljanich, K. & Briere, J., "Self-reported sexual interest in children: Sex differences and psychosocial correlates in a university sample," Violence & Victims, vol. 11, no. 1, 1996, pp. 39-50.
Kathy Smiljanich and John Briere report that 22% of their sample of male college students admitted some attraction to children (although the word child was not defined). Four percent admitted having a sexual fantasy involving a child in the past year, and 3% admitted they might have sex with a child if they were assured it would not be detected or punished.