Is pedophillia a sexual orientation – Seto

In this paper, Seto proposes that pedophilia, that is currently thought of as a conscious choice, is actually closer in it’s patterns to a sexual orientation. He acknowledges that this is a pretty out there. With convincing comparisons with regards to the onset, the romantic behaviour and the stability of pedophilia, Seto is able to build a case that challenges current ways of thinking but leaves some ethical questions in the mouth.

Why am I covering it? Because as Seto mentions early in the paper, pedophilia is predominantly a masculine infliction.

Seto, Michael C. “Is pedophilia a sexual orientation?.” Archives of sexual behavior 41, no. 1 (2012): 231-236.

The definition of a sexual orientation that Seto sets out is that an orientation is found early in puberty through a process of discovery with ” awareness of sexual interest preceding self-identification”. Once the orientation is discovered, it is stable and efforts to change it fail. Indeed, Seto finds sources that state orientation is innate and thus re-orientation is both pointless and cruel.

Seto’s argument then progresses by comparing this to the established work on pedophilia. With regards to discovery, the evidence shows that pedophilia arises for the majority of those surveyed, before adulthood with fantasies and 1/4 being aware of before the age of 15. Furthermore, Seto mentions this discovery is stable, using court cases to illustrate how re-orientation ‘therapy’ fails in most cases and how users will re-offend even after 40 years after their first offence. Furthermore, Seto identifies how interviewed pedophiles mostly saw or aimed for a loving relationship with a small minority being solely ‘genitally orientated’.

If the current thinking and legal stance is that pedophilia is a mental health problem that can be cured in similar ways to depression and bipolar disorder, Seto shows how this view is damaging to victims (as treatment is ineffective in it’s preventative nature), to offenders and to society.

Seto’s closing thoughts, however, diverge from his concise argument into reflecting on the wider impact of seeing pedophilia as an orientation. He points out obviously that seeing pedophilia as a sexual orientation does not detract from the harm that child abusers cause, child abuse would still be wrong, however, the treatment methods and discrimination against pedophiles would have to be thought over in the context of the anti-discrimination act. This debatable discrimination manifests in the aforementioned damage the existing view has on society with a surprisingly heartfelt appeal from Seto in the closing paragraphs;

“Given the anxiety and fear elicited by pedophiles in contemporary societies, it is highly unlikely that citizens would support the expansion of legal and civil rights to other sexual orientations. Nonetheless, this challenging and complex discussion needs to take place. Accepting that pedophilia is a sexual orientation akin to heterosexuality or homosexuality ,rather than a preference that is chosen or somehow learned, may influence the direction of this discussion”

In conclusion, Seto demonstrates that pedophilia shares many traits with sexual orientations while maintaining a realistic focus on the harm that child abuse can cause. They methodically go though the similarities but ignore the dissimilarities between pedophilia and sexual orientations and also doesn’t mention the potential dissimilarities between pedophilia and its’ current category of mental illness. to finish on the note that;

“Pedophiles will remain hidden if they continue to be hated and feared, which would impede efforts to better understand this sexual orientation and thereby prevent child sexual exploitation.”

If you are affected by anything in this paper then the BBC has comprehensive pages helping people who’ve suffered sexual abuse and Virped is a network of pedophiles focused on non-offending.


Given the heavy nature of the paper, I did break with my style writing. I’m not going to summerise this paper with humour as it’s sobering both in content and subject matter. Next week? I don’t really know but hopefully it’ll be a good paper. Have a great week!

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