I have been drawn to children — ages about 5 to 15 since the age of about 30. The only time it becomes a sexual attraction is with girls who appear to be at least 19 or 20 — still highly inappropriate, given my age, I know. Also, rarely, am I attracted to a woman older than say, 35 or 40. When it comes to children under about 15, I am simply taken by their beautiful skin, silk-like hair, perfect features, etc., but, thankfully, never have sexual urges towards them. Sometimes they look so absolutely perfect that I just want to stare at them (if in a picture or movie — not in a public setting because I realize it wouldn’t be normal or would be misread as sexual attraction). Is there somewhere I could learn more about this or do I have a one-of-a-kind condition?
It is unusual to be attracted to children. It’s good that you have not acted upon these urges but you can’t think of them as normal. People are not commonly attracted to children. It is outside the norm. Anything outside the norm is abnormal.
Approximately 1% of the male population is sexually attracted to children. The latest iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders, makes a distinction between pedophiles who desire sex with children and those who act on their desires. Just because an individual has an unusual, erotic interest doesn’t necessarily mean they have a mental health disorder.
But not everyone agrees. As Margo Kaplan argues in The New York Times, pedophilia is a mental health disorder and we should acknowledge it as such (rather than as a crime). She goes on to say that it’s not only the right thing to do but such a recognition would advance the efforts of protecting children.
There are individuals who live with pedophilia but don’t act on it. There are even websites that provide support for people who are attracted to children but (they claim) would never have sex with a child. They say they know it’s wrong but just want support from other people with similar affections.
Some recent research suggests that pedophilia is not a choice. MRIs of sex offenders with pedophilia show abnormal levels of white matter in their brains. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous than non-pedophiles. They also score lower on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.
A 2015 Swedish study analyzed over 21,000 convicted sex offenders. The researchers were trying to answer the question of whether sex offending runs in families. It was their contention that it does and their explanation was that genetics (and not environmental factors such as family members learning it from one another) played a big role in whether or not someone engages in sex offending behavior.
This attraction just started in your 30s. No one can predict how it will change. It was not always there. It was not there in the first 30 years of your life. It’s important to investigate why this attraction has developed and how to prevent it from growing stronger.
You should see a therapist to look for an explanation and how to handle it. Hopefully, therapy can eliminate these urges and most importantly, prevent you from acting upon them. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle