Chinese Malaysian, American Literature at Osaka University, Japan.
Today, the topic of pedophilia remains as a current social/political sensitive topic. There are several theories regarding the formation of pedophilia. First, it can be traced back to one’s childhood. A person who has received sexual abuse at a young age might become an abuser in his or her later life. Of course, this is not a 100% fact, but many cases are derived from this incident. Second, pedophilia might be a form of neurological disease, as some researchers suggest. Instead of parental instincts, it is sexual instincts that pedophiles are evoked by encountering with young children.1 Third, according to Dr. Sarah Goode, a senior university lecturer and researcher specializing in pedophilia, pedophilia might be “one extreme of a spectrum of normal male sexuality.” More specifically, while some men are sexually interested in adult women; some find them sexually interested in children; and some can be sexually aroused by both children and adult women. Dr. Goode’s theory is based on the fact that most of the pedophiles are not exclusively attracted to children because they do find themselves attracted to women of all ages as well. If that so, then I think all these years we have been neglecting this spectrum of sexuality and thus unable to assist this hidden community, finding an effective solution to the problem of child abuse.
Before looking into the problems which we face in present Western society about pedophilia, let me cite some statistics of child sexual abuse. According to Dr. Goode, “one in six children will be sexually abused before the age of sixteen, that breaks down into one in four girls and roughly one in eight boys.” The numbers of pedophiles in the UK are about 50,000 to 100,000 in 2018. Globally, it is challenging to tackle the exact numbers as many predators are hiding among the majority and looking for bait on the internet. This appears to be the first problem of pedophilia. Potential child sexual abusers are everywhere, and they use the internet as a way to get closer to their desires. However, ironically, it is reported that about 70 to 80% of child sexual abuses are happening within the family or extended family (second problem). This explains why it is so difficult for the police to stop the problem. Under these two issues lies the widespread of child pornography (third problem), which might serve as a bedrock of child sexual abuse today. Regarding the problem of child pornography in Japan, Dan Kanemitsu holds an opposite viewpoint. As he claims, “[t]here is a child being harmed, on the one hand, and then there is a depiction of a child being harmed. There is a big difference between the two.” (Varley, 2018). He further argues that comics related to child pornography “provide a ‘venting mechanism’ for those with pedophilic fantasies” (Varley, 2018). Indeed, the cultural and social background of Japan is different from countries such as the UK and the US. Nevertheless, I would argue that the psychological impact of child pornography on one’s psyche is quite significant that in a sense it might lead one to act on one’s pedophilic fantasy.2
The fourth problem—which is what I want to focus the most—is our limited and biased understanding toward pedophilia. What do we understand pedophilia except saying that pedophiles must be child sexual abusers? Dr. Goode’s questions are worth thinking in this respect. She asks, “if you’re sexually attracted to children, what are you supposed to do? How do you supposed to live your life?” A proper answer to this is: I would never hurt a child even I am attracted to him/her. In fact, as the documentary called “The Pedophile Next Door” shows, there are people who are pedophiles and yet have never acted on their attraction to children. They are usually struggling between their uncontrollable sexual instincts and moral conscience. However, the only message they hear from society is that
“You are a pedophile. You are an evil monster. We hate you. You’re going to go and sexually abuse and probably rape and murder children. And there is nothing you can do about it because you are a pedophile. You are going to do that stuff. And when you do that, we are going to lock you up in prison.” (“The Pedophile Next Door,” 2014)
This message given by us does not help in keeping children safe. However, instead, it increases social and psychological pressure onto pedophiles, which increases the risk of child sexual abuse. Hence, as Dr. Goode suggests, we must first understand what pedophilia is to offer help or let them seek advice before becoming child offenders. To do this, we should change the only message we have been spreading all this time to:
“Okay, you are a pedophile. But you are also a moral person who can make moral choices. And you can choose never to break the law, never to offend; you can choose to keep children safe.” (“The Pedophile Next Door,” 2014)
Alternatively, by offering help without judging the fact that they are pedophiles, we can reduce the number of child sexual abuse. Hence, this radical idea might be worth trying.
Unlike Dr. Goode’s suggestion that focuses on before, most of the current solutions are based on the fact that after pedophiles have become sexual offenders. In the UK, there are: the enforcement of law and prison, the establishment of Childline (children can call and report about child abuse cases), the encouragement of online safety education by parents to their children (parents are encouraged to spend more time in their children’s world, the online world), the formation of “circles,” a system constructed upon volunteers’ monitoring of the behavior of released pedophiles, offering them support (70% successful rate). Although current solutions are well established, the method of talking to pedophiles only after they have become offenders might not be a good idea. Instead, a better approach is to listen and understand pedophiles. Give them voices, and lead them to make a moral decision.
- Regarding the formation of pedophiles in Japan, the obsession with pedophilia can be traced back to the self-defense psychological mechanism Japanese men have toward adult women. According to Yukihiro Murase, a professor of human sexuality at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University, “Japanese men feel threatened by adult women. Many men are incapable of relating to adult women on an equal stance” (Larimer, 1999).
- In Japan, many Japanese men think that sexually objectifying young girls is not taboo. This allows men to fantasize/objectify young girls of all sorts of ages, beginning from newborn to eighteen. As a result, as psychiatrist Hiroki Fukui also claims, “the awareness in which children need to be protected from a potential sexual predator is ‘so low’” (The Manilla Times, 2018). He continues to note, “we need to realize this situation in Japan is not normal.” Furthermore, in Japan, the idolization of young girls is also problematic. Under a young-girls-are-better-than-adult-women cultural norm, some girls begin to think that “the audience is crazy about them because they are small girls […] their value will reduce once they get to the age of 18” (The Manilla Times, 2018). Regarding this, Hiroki Fukui responds, “[a] society that allows children to have such a twisted self-identity can never protect them.”
Humphries, Steve., and Herzog, Rudolph. “The Pedophile Next Door (True Crime Documentary).” Real Stories. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClRxuu-Pd4Y
“‘Little Idols’: Japan’s Dark Obsession with Young Girls.” The Manilla Times, 26 January 2018. https://www.manilatimes.net/little-idols-japans-dark-obsession-young-girls/376551/
Larimer, Tim. “Japan’s Shame.” 19 April 1999. Time. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2054271,00.html
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. London: Penguin Books, 2011.
Varley, Ciaran. “Is Japan turning a blind eye to paedophilia?” BBC. 7 March 2018,
Text © Lay Sion Ng
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