At present we are all being regularly exposed to media statements about pedophilia, particularly as if it is mostly a Roman Catholic Clergical problem. The mistaken view abounds that celibacy is a cause for such pedophilia. We think that some of the knowledge common to all sensitive clinicians needs to be stated.
Pedophilia is not caused by celibacy. Pedophilia is a preference or need to be hostile in a sexual manner to people that are not able to control their own environment, namely children. Pedophilia is a hostile act more than sexual even though sex is used to express that hostility. Terrorizing, torturing, inflicting debasement are not sexual acts as such, but rather hostility expressed via sexual activity.
The ideas that sexual energy is like the tons of water behind a dam is also a false premise about sexual tension. Sexual tension can be and frequently is discharged by masturbation or by what many teenagers learn to call "wet dreams" where no physical contact of any kind is needed for discharge. Just like the biological need to partake of food, the type of food partaken of will often depend upon how and where we were raised. Some of us will hunger for rice and beans while another will want a bagel and lox. Our experience dictates how we want to satisfy our nutritional needs just as it does all of our other needs.
Often, but not necessarily always, we may find that the pedophile has themselves been sexually abused as a child and/or abused in other degrading ways. Sad to say, the emotional maturity that is required for the adult level of interpersonal functioning called marriage is not likely to be available to someone who needs children as sex objects.
Not all sexually molested people molest others. Some molested people grow up unhappily and suffer miseries that degrade and limit their lives without inflicting themselves upon others. Unfortunately the molestation that a person experienced may cause them to limit their own sexual and other feelings as well as activities. Partly as a defense against a fear of harming others, some molested people may not be able to engage in satisfying intimate contact of any kind. Getting close to people may be equated with being hurt and or hurting others which in some people will cause them to almost totally inhibit contact with others.
We find that the individuals who have been harmed but who do not harm others are often quite available for therapeutic help.
We ourselves do not treat the individuals who hurt others because among many more psychological reasons than we can address in this simple article, we do not work with the courts, public agencies and such that we would have to be involved with. Any person committing a crime such as pedophilia would have to be reported to the police, courts, etc. making it more likely that a large public clinic's staff of secretarial, and other help would be needed to keep up with the paper work alone.
Sadly enough we often hear from lay people that they feel they cannot comprehend why a molested person may molest others. Often people say, "if they know how they felt, why do they do it to others?" The molester who acts out may be viewed as not being able to identify with the victims feelings because that brings them face to face with their own horrible experience as a victim. To avoid feeling the helplessness, pain and anguish that lies in their unconscious mind, the molester may identify with the perpetrator who harmed them, unconsciously, because this may allow them a feeling of power, no matter how distorted that feeling of power is. The connection of sex with causing pain may not be one that the molester can give up because that would make them feel too vulnerable to being a victim again. Power may be equated with victimizing.
Some individuals will not harm others, but instead continue the hurting of themselves, in a masochistic syndrome, and manage to avoid hurting others, yet still connect sex with pain. These individuals often can be helped through "talk therapy."
Masochistic feelings, even wild fantasy may be a part of normal sexuality but if it upsets you to have these then it would be best to talk to a therapist about the difficulty you have accepting the great difference between thoughts and actions.
People who have been raised in authoritarian settings may need to identify with the power of the authoritarian persons in their history while others may seek satisfaction in reliving a victim's status, but all without causing any actual harm.
Those who need to actually engage in the hostile acts of molestation and forced sex may require heavy medication for help in exercising control. The practice of interpersonal talk therapy works with people who find that fully understanding the feelings and reasons for their actions and attitudes helps them to exercise the gentle control of themselves that lets them realistically feel that they can truly be themselves.
Many of us like to think that we already know enough about ourself, but the ability to gently direct ourself is a good measure of the adequacy of our self-knowledge.
Dr. Lehrer, Psychologist