Browsing Youtube the other day I found myself clicking on the video called “Inside the Life of ‘Virtuous’ Pedophile” and was astonished by the topic. Virtuous pedophiles are the people who struggle with pedophilic disorder, meaning that they unwillingly experience sexual feelings towards children but made a choice not to act on these desires and not hurt children in any way. I took it further and researched the online community to learn about its story, agenda and see if this issue is something that can be taken seriously.
To be able to talk about pedophilia and its position in the nowadays society we should first determine what pedophilia is and how it has been contextualised in history. Any kind of topic that touches sex offence is in one way or another linked to the issue of consent and, in our case, the age of consent. It is important to mention that at different points of the history the age of consent has been changing, for example, in the period from 1285 to 1875 the law stated that people can give their consent as early as when they reach ten years old. It was changed in the mid-Victorian period (1875) to thirteen and then changed again in 1885 to sixteen. Another noteworthy fact is that although the term pedophilia is usually used in regard to someone who molests children, it is not always the case. Pedophilic disorder from a traditional point of view is the form of paraphilia – a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. However, not everyone who has this disorder is a child molester and not every child molester has pedophilic disorder, even though these are very often merged together. Criminologists Stan Cohen and Leslie Wilkins (1964) use the term “deviancy amplification” to describe the potential outcomes of alienating a certain group from the society. It means that when a group is isolated from the community, it promotes the development of their own norms and values, which society thereafter perceives as even more deviant than previously. It provokes the increasing negative reaction towards that group and makes them even more isolated and, in turn, encourages ‘isolation-induced’ deviance and makes the group more and more criminally orientated. All of this contributes to the context of pedophilia in the contemporary world and sets the scene for Virtuous Pedophiles movement, which is essentially the community of people who feel that their condition does not make them evil and that they therefore should not be marginalised as such.
The idea behind the VP movement is that pedophilia should be perceived and treated as a mental illness, such as depression or OCD. The movement started back in 2012 when Nick Devin and Ethan Edwards, who use these pseudonyms instead of their real names, launched a website called VirPed.org and, as put in their own words, “The goal of the organisation is to offer support to pedophiles who want to live virtuously and to raise public awareness about the fact that such pedophiles exist.” The law in the United States dictates that therapists must report any illegal incidents that they were trusted with but the reporting rules are open to interpretation, which means that non-offending pedophiles can be reported to the police for “posing danger” and be put on the watchlist. It makes it difficult for the people with that disorder to come forward with it to anyone at all, even when trying to seek help and therefore, they are left with no choice but to keep it a secret, which from the psychological point of view can cause the disorder to develop further.
The demographics of the Virtuous Pedophiles movement is not consistent in the slightest. The general perception is that all pedophiles are middle-aged men, which is not true. The community consists of people of all ages and although there is no statistics of how many women identify as virtuous pedophiles, they are definitely making up a significant part of the community. One of the most famous virtuous pedophile is Gary Gibson, the founder of ASAP – Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention, a non-profit organisation that focuses on helping people like Gary to overcome their desires and get help in fighting their disorder. Gary is married to Tabitha Abel, who is aware of his sexuality and supports him on his journey. The couple appeared in one of the episodes of the popular talk-show Dr. Phil after their former foster daughter claimed that she recalled him sexually abusing her during the three month that she and her sister spent at Gary and Tabitha’s house. Gary was not found to be guilty, as there was no evidence to prove the girl’s claims. He was even willing to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence but his lawyers advised him against it.
It is impossible to determine whether every person struggling with pedophilic disorder who claims to be ‘virtuous’ actually says the truth and indeed avoids any sexual activity with and around children. However, what is absolutely certain is that the research of pedophilia and other disorders related to it should be approached with care and caution but approached nevertheless. There are a lot of videos on Youtube that criticise and make fun of the people who openly talk about this disorder because it is presumed that they are trying to legalise pedophilia, which is not the case. It is evident that although child molestation is a crime and should always stay this way, pedophilic disorder should be treated as a medical condition and people struggling with this illness should be able to seek help without the fear of being prosecuted.
Here are some of the extracts from the VP forum boards:
And here are some of the negative comments on the topic I found on another non-VP-friendly forum: