Title: Some Case Studies of Adult Sexual Experiences with Children
Author(s): Chin-Keung Li
Affiliation: Dykebar Hospital, Scotland; Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, England
Citation: Li, C.K., “Some Case Studies of Adult Sexual Experiences with Children,” Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 20, Numbers 1-2, 1990b, pp. 129-144.
Pedophilia is always considered by mainstream society as one form of sexual abuse of children. However, analysis of the personal accounts provided by pedophiles suggests that these experiences could be understood differently. This paper attempts to document some aspects of the pedophiles' construction of their sexuality, to provide illustrations of how these individuals understand themselves.
This study was based on interviews with 27 male volunteers who had had some type of sexual contact with boys or girls. The men were recruited through psychiatrists, a pedophile organization, and via advertisement. The proportion of subjects attracted to boys was not specified, however, when the sexual preference of subjects was indicated, it was always for boys. The purpose of the study was to document how these men understood their sexual feelings and behavior.
One-third of the subjects said they believed that their sexual feelings were a natural, innate part of their constitution. For example, Tom, a 25-year-old attracted to boys since adolescence, said, "it is inherent in me, it is just something that comes naturally to me...it's always been there."
Over half described specific characteristics they found particularly attractive in children, so that relationships and sexual activities with them were more pleasurable than with adults. They described children as having positive qualities such as gentleness, warmth, generosity, innocence, honesty, affection, and perceptiveness, while they saw adults as selfish, narrow-minded, materialistic, and without depth of feeling. The subjects felt they did not have to put up a social façade with children as they did in relationships with adults.
For example, Nick, who was 33, said about his relationships with boys: “I enjoyed their company. Lots of things come into it. Sex, to me, sex is a very small part…’cause I’ve had hundred of relationships with boys without sex coming into it.” He said the affection, love, and boisterous play gave him much pleasure and a sense of fulfillment. He treasured most his 3-year non-sexual relationship with a prepubescent boy. He felt accepted by the boy’s family, and when they moved away, he experienced a tremendous loss.
Another said, “Children get involved in sex with each other, because they don’t feel it’s wrong, you see. Now you can meet a child and you can say to a child, should we play doctors and nurses or whatever, and they know what you’re talking about, and they do it to each other, sometimes they are willing to do it with an adult...I suppose, you can say that I’m slightly immature, haven’t lost my childhood. Childhood is a very, very short time in your life, goes too quickly, and it’s very sweet, you know, it’s all innocent.”
A majority of subjects expressed the importance of love, affection, and closeness with children. According to the author, for them, the sense of emotional contact with another person was as important as, if not more important than, the excitement of sex.
For example, Ben, a 36-year old businessman, realized in early childhood he was attracted to males, and as he got older gradually realized he wanted a stable love relationship with a young teenage boy. He said, “As emotions become more involved, and the relationship becomes longer established, so does the child’s involvement become greater. The bond develops out of a mutual need for love and affection. The bond is nurtured and develops further out of both of us doing things for the other person even though we’re not necessarily particularly interested ourselves, yeah?” (p. 138)
Four subjects talked explicitly of romantic courtship and love. The author writes that the experience “is sometimes emotionally very intense, comparable to that which obtains in the socially acceptable forms of heterosexual courtship, and the partners can sense subtle cues from each other.”
For example, Paul, a 57 year old greens keeper said about his encounter with a 13 year old boy: “He stopped, my blue eyes and his brown eyes just met. For seconds, which seemed like hours, neither of us spoke…He thanked me profusely [after Paul gave him directions] and slowly mounting his bike and rode away, giving me a smile, the likes of which I had not seen for many years. It was obvious that something between us had clicked. I was transfixed, I started trembling, my legs weakened, I could not concentrate on my mowing.”
About one-third of the subjects defended their behavior in terms of cultural relativism and sexual liberation, feeling that human sexual practices are culturally conditioned and therefore pedophilia was not a priori abnormal, but rather a normal pleasure-seeking activity.
For example, 74-year old Simon, a respected member of his community, said, “I don’t go out encouraging boys for my pleasure. I only encourage boys who come to me and want me to have a bit of sex play with them, and that has always been my angle. I have never ever forced a boy.” (p. 136) He said he had a “special knack” of relating to boys, and easily established relationships of trust with them.
The author concludes:
Perhaps some researchers will find in these personal accounts evidence to “pathologize” the individuals concerned, but such an attempt at reducing a person's life to a diagnostic category or an etiology masks the complexity of human existence. Like every one of us, a pedophile is constantly in the process of creating a personal world to anchor his existence…This reducing of a person into a narrow category is part of what has been called the “discourse of sexuality” which permeates western society, and it controls the life of individuals through deploying such labels of sexual identities as “the homosexual,” “the lesbian,” “the impotent male,” “the pedophile,” etc. These labels imply that the essence of the individuals concerned is thoroughly known and that these people must be placed in certain well-defined positions in society (e.g., as outcast, prisoners, or failures). Within such as scheme of things, individual personhood becomes impossible.
...total relativism is not the answer, as it would only lead to solipsistic chaos. Personal life, though individually subjective, must nevertheless be lived in the context of a community, because this is the form that human existence has taken throughout our development, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically speaking. Therefore it is important that the pedophile takes into consideration reality as construed by the community in which he finds himself, not necessarily to submit to society's demands, but in order that he can construe reality more adequately if he wants to continue living in this community. The discrepancy between pedophiles’ views and those of mainstream society has to be examined critically to see if there is any possibility of achieving an optimal balance between individual rights and collective responsibility. In dealing with this problem, it must be borne in mind that the viewpoint of mainstream society cannot simply be taken as correct and that of the pedophiles taken as suspect. (pp. 140-141)