I came across this article this morning and I wanted to share some thoughts about sympathy and sexual orientation.
Social darwinism is probably better understood and more influential than the complexities of Darwin’s natural selection and evolution, even though there is good reason to spend time trying to understand Darwin’s ideas and little reason to spend time on Ayn Rand’s warped economic romanticism.
So, James Cantor asks, do pedophiles deserve sympathy? If you are willing to set aside all of your punitive media and cultural programming and consider Cantor’s work, you have my respect. I have thought about the subject of sexual orientation long and hard for a variety of reasons. I have considered the idea that just as most folks are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex, some other folks are sexually attracted to members of their own sex. I can accept that. It’s not my experience, but is our own experience the yardstick by which everything in the universe must be measured?
I have read and tried to increase my understanding of transgender life. As a boy now trapped in an old man’s body, I can imagine how it might feel to have the experience of being a girl trapped in a boy’s body or vice versa. Decades of volunteer work in sexual assault response and domestic violence work have sensitized me to some extent to a wide range of human orientation and experience.
Catch the movies: Boys Don’t Cry or the documentary The Brandon Teena Story if you don’t understand this situation at all.
Maybe you just need to stretch a little to build sympathy and understanding of human sexuality and orientation.
Well, most of us would need to stretch a lot to build sympathy and understanding of human sexuality and orientation if the obscure object of desire (thanks to Luis Bunuel for his work) was age-inappropriate. Sexual attraction to children is really hard to comprehend for most of us, and if you can’t comprehend it, it’s going to be really hard to build sympathy for folks whose sexual orientation may include attraction to children.
Cantor asks a good question here. A question that leads to questions about our prison-industrial complex, about our ability to imagine and support folks whose very brain structure may criminalize them. If you can, try to imagine the number of folks out in the community who are pedophiles, but not child molesters in Cantor’s important definition.
I have always had sympathy for gay guys who are so deeply in the closet that they marry a woman who does not perceive that their sexual orientation is intellectually constructed, not innate (and I do believe that orientation and our internal experience of ourselves are male or female is innate). I also have sympathy for the gal in this situation who may eventually have a bad time if/when their spouse decides that they can no longer fool themselves about their sexual orientation.
Cantor challenges me to consider the plight of pedophiles who are in lifetime of resisting their sexual attraction to children. That has to be struggle. I hope we can do more to help these folks in their struggle and in that process, become better human beings ourselves, and protect our children and grandchildren.
Do pedophiles deserve sympathy?
Editor’s note: James Cantor, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, is a psychologist and senior scientist at the Sexual Behaviors Clinic of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. He is editor in chief of “Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment” and blogs at Sexology Today.