Kinds of capture
Pedophilia has turned into a big monster blob on both sides: the victim and the perp. We need to do a lot of sorting. Imposing destructive sexual practices on people who are still developing (which takes us up to the early twenty-year-old) is probably the result of different motives and opportunities.
Human developmental phases
It’s fairly well accepted that childhood is divided into developmental phases, that they are not the same from person to person, from culture to culture, and so on and that even a child with deficits can compensate (esp. with help) and function happily.
Why do these girls have only hairdos as age indicators?
Prenatal: growth and development in the womb, responding to the mother’s body as its environment.
Birth to walking: includes the acquisition of beginning language.
Walking and talking to maybe six years old: basic motor skills.
Forming identity that is self-aware: six to nine or ten when adrenarche ends long bone growth and begins puberty.
Puberty from first signs of secondary sex characteristics to full reproductive capacity.
Full reproductive capacity to full ability to manage physical and emotional life.
From demi-adulthood to true maturity at maybe 25 or later.
For purposes of sorting what our culture calls pedophilia, I think of three categories: 1) babies and infants; 2) adrenarche children; 3) adolescents. We do not criminalize the sexual abuse of young adults, either male or female, short of rape. (If we did, we would have to criminalize the military.)
The most convincing possible explanation for attempting sexual relations of any kind with babies and toddlers might indeed be the cross-firing of adjacent neuron matrixes: the confusion of nurturing with sex. Kissing and caressing an infant is continuous with cleaning and feeding (nursing) but it can get too intense. On the other hand, lack of proper care is a form of physical abuse. Babies who fail to respond with pleasure, who fail to settle and be comforted after distress, or who cannot perform as expected, can trigger abuse, even from a loving mother.
Abuse of animals is closely related to abuse of children.
This is not the same as the sexual use of babies. There exists a sexual cruelty that gets focused on this age group and on their sexual organs. This seems to me to be very like the abuse of some animals, esp. pets that are small and “child-like” or “baby-like”. Puppies and kittens. Chicks. It’s as though the impulse to nurture and cuddle can be cross-wired with destruction and suffering. I've seen toddlers go back and forth over this threshold, seeming to cradle a small pet or toy but suddenly throwing or squeezing it.
Screenwriters and novelists seem to think of pedophilia as mostly addressing children from six to twelve -- elementary school children for whom the technical term, as I understand it, is “adrenarche” because it is ended by the adrenal glands maturing enough to trigger puberty. This is the age of many storybook heroes from the Little Prince, to Christopher Robin, to Pippi Long Stocking, but in reality we actually know least about these age groups. They’re cute, they’re verbal, they’re individuals, but they change daily and no one seems to study them as a formal category. They are marginally old enough to manage themselves and maybe to be babysitters. With inadequate parents, they can become surrogates.
A bloody sock that was a clue.
It seems as though these kids are often sexually abused for the satisfaction of their awareness of danger, their vulnerability, their total terror response, and the soft tenderness we associate with females. They might be able to bargain, to argue, to respond in ways that can be overcome, with the “overcoming” providing satisfaction to the abuser. Also, they are useful for labor-based domination, ag work, carpet-making. They can learn basic skills, including sexual ones. Everything can become “normal” to them, so therefore the potential for distortion of personality and development is high.
The vulnerability of adolescents is in part their belief that they know what they’re doing, that they are adult, that they are “complete” and can’t be changed, and therefore that they are up for adventure. Their physical bodies are close to complete but their emotional component is unformed and vulnerable. Their thinking is confined to the world they know, which may be very confined, particularly when it comes to their sense of self. They are low-hanging fruit for flattering predators.
With this very sketchy sorting of victims, let’s add what scientific knowledge has recently suggested about the person with sexual desire for contact with them. I doubt that any of the predators moves outside one of the specific categories above, which suggests that the abuse of toddlers is quite different from the abuse of teenagers. I suspect that the ones who abuse infants are the hardest to understand.
Adolescents are in some circles sexually active.
Abuse of adolescents is nearly a mainstream cultural norm, esp. in high poverty, low education, drug-dependent, relatively isolated circles. My suggested evidence is that persons whose offenses are against this age group are often ignored by police and courts, esp. in minority contexts -- even if the laws are on the books, which means secrecy to avoid public outcry or embarrassing powerful people. English upper class boarding schools are notorious but have in the past been exempted from criticism or intervention.
Scientific research into what drives pedophilia is very dangerous -- not to children, but to innocent people who fit imaginary criteria suggested by incomplete studies. The tendency to want to prevent abuse can mean prosecution without evidence of crime and then an impulse to extinguish, to punish, to sequester, and so on until pretty soon we’ve got concentration camps for fancied pedophiles. We’re close to that now, except that the maintenance of lists and monitored reports doesn’t function. Abusing pedophiles is just more abuse, creating more victims. It doesn’t help offenders and doesn’t prevent abuse. The only ones who benefit are those who enable child abuse as a money-making privilege, since their commodity will be more precious.
Dr. James Cantor
Dr. James Cantor has been researching the accessible and measurable particulars of the brains of what we call “pedophiles” for fifteen years. The studies I’ve read about so far do not define the ages of the children involved. My own suspicion is that some offenses, esp at the infant level -- as suggested by research -- may be organic disturbances in the brain, wiring mistakes at the deep levels of instinct, maybe even pre-mammal. I’m not sophisticated enough to suggest which brain structures, but Dr. Cantor’s research has recently noted the difference that is in the amount of white matter of the brain, which is composed of the connections among neuron bodies (white because they are insulated with fat). The connectome is faulty or at least different.
We know that some people have conditions that cause them to see numbers as colors or sounds, metaphors made palpable. This is thought to be because the parts of the brain that keeps track of such things are so close to each other that they have cross-wired. The electro-chemical reports of color leak over onto numbers and become blended. Cantor’s suggestion is that something like this might happen in a person who responds inappropriately to a baby.
Not far from here on the East Slope of the Rockies where once there were many lagoons of an inland sea, one can discover the nests of the maiasaurus, the “good mother” dinosaur, long before mammals. Nevertheless, her brain instructed her to mate, to give birth (via eggs), to bring food to her hatched babies, to defend them possessively, to eat and defecate for herself, to clean the nest. These instincts are still embedded in the human brain, at the deep center where they are close together.
At the mammal level there are impulses to destroy babies. Mink are notorious for killing their kits if things are noisy or otherwise scary. The defense mechanism crosses over to kit murder. Ordinary house cats will eat kittens who die, recycling nutrition, cleaning the nest. I’m saying that the deeply unconscious coded instructions and the triggers for such mechanisms might have some part in the formation of an abuser. They aren’t moral deficits but mechanism malfunctions. Not that they shouldn’t be prevented vigilantly, addressed vigorously, and compensated for in terms of damage. But that it’s a different kind of problem than one handled by moral means.
Cross-wiring can work both ways.
In fact, another recent development is that of the “virtuous pedophile,” which is someone who has the impulse to act out inappropriately but who is also acutely aware that it is wrong and has the moral capacity to prevent any kind of harm to a child. Offering themselves for study is so helpful that one must call them a “God send.” These people prove that we are not dinosaurs after all.