Dad, when I grow up, I want to hate myself

It was in the 90’s, back when I was a mediocre but good martial artist. After a good bout of sparring, I was heading to my car, blackbelt over my shoulder, and reasonably hot looking, or so I was told.

I had to pass a dance studio on my way. As I approached the hallway near the exit, two young girls, 10sh, were in the lobby, both in dance attire. As I turned from them to walk out, I heard one whistle and say, “Nice butt!”

I am not one that got noticed much in life. In fact, as a 20ish man, I still had never had a good date, a hug, a kiss, or a relationship. I turned back in disbelief, a kind of “you-talking-to-me” look, and there they were smiling, giggling and looking right at me.

I turned tale and got the hell out of there.  At this time, the program To Catch a Predator was all the rage. People loved watching mentally ill or troubled men being set up at “kids” houses.  I was convinced that it was my day to be the infamous star of that program. But that moment had an impression upon me. It kind of felt good.

Just like when the 11-year old at the driver’s bureau, with the short ponytail, came up next to me when I was filling out paperwork. She looked up at me, smiled and as she turned away, her ponytail brushed my nose. I still recall the smell. It was the shampoo Pert. The mom yelled at her, smiled at me, and said, “Don’t mind her. She is only flirting with you.”

No, I did not mind because, she, too, noticed me. There are many more, yet that is not the real point of this essay, but it relates as life experiences often do. All of this is in my book.

We all are lonely. Everyone looks for human connection, some kind of connection.  

The girl with the Pert-smelling hair may have saved my life. I was near suicide. I lost my job, all my possessions, and was forced to register a junkie old car in place of the new one I lost to repossession. At 23, I went bankrupt. Heartbroken because an appropriate-age girl would not date me, I had little left to live for. I also had not yet processed my 17 years of abuse. But those two incidents gave me some hope.

I don’t know why girls liked me.

Years later, I often think of minor attraction. The Pert girl aroused me. I could not help it. It’s a physiological response. Her hair was in my face. I did not invite it. I froze. I am a child sex abuse survivor after all. But she was somewhat more beautiful than a woman to me because women are deliberate, and there is a difference between unicorn spontaneity and the calculated planning that can put off one compromised. In the last few years, after my childhood friend was tragically killed, something changed in me.

Why do these girls like me?

Years later I figured much of this out. Now, after two decades of marriage, I am alone. I now realize that I am no longer hot. I am just an old, fat pervert, the “Dirty old man” in your otherwise happy Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. I am smart. I am well educated. I am kind, and I am warm, but women my age look like grandmas, and I still feel like a little boy next to them. I don’t mean this in a sexist way. I, too, look like them. But aging is not particularly desirable to the evolutionary process. This remains a fact regardless of political leanings or opinion-charged fads that often influence “scientific inquiry” (who funds what science research): an older person is less fertile than a young one, and even before puberty, humans have more eggs than any other period in their lives. That matters. Yet, our fear of that, as I explain in “The Death of the Artistic Girl” drives our ignoring of it.

I am in the supermarket. I see a young girl. She is beautiful. Then I hear this loud noise coming down the isle. It’s mom barreling toward me. She is big, stocky, pear-shaped and loud. If she had femininity or beauty, it long since departed. I had that sexist thought, “My God, how did “that” make this girl so beautiful? It was a mean thought because maybe I wanted to be attracted to the woman and not the girl who was just starting development. There is nothing all that attractive about adults getting older because the next step in life is death. The next step for youth is living. It’s that simple.

Do you want to look at the dying or the living?

The idea that anyone under 18 is asexual and unattractive is the kind of misleading our culture does so often when it’s afraid of something. It’s not about attraction; it’s about harm. Scientists, whether evolutionary, biological, or psychological/behavioral miss the mark because they focus in the wrong direction. They assume that attraction to youth is a maladaptation. It is not. Any species, trees, animals or humans follow a bell curve in terms of typical and atypical. All are needed. Atypical is what ensures our survival because those are either the first to adapt or the first to parish. Minor-attraction will never, ever parish because if it does, we all die.

Herd immunity does not start with the masses, the medium of the bell curve. Gay people make up about 4.8% of our population. Those attracted to kids roughly, on the low end, make up about 3%. Typical heterosexuals make up about 98% (consider that there is some overlap in these percentages: one likes children and adults). These populations are persistent through time and successful at reproduction, not because these are disorders but because they are necessary orientations that ensure genetic variation.

In fact, attraction to kids is much more common because sexual attraction is not simply about who has the largest hips and largest breasts, and many men that gawk at young girls or boys would never, ever, ever identify as “minor-attracted.” If you have a daughter let me ask you this: When did men start looking at her? I will give the answer: 9-11 years old.

One young man said this to me in a workshop, “Professor, we look at women, and girls are sometimes mixed in with them. We jerk off and move on. No big deal. Sir, you need to have more self-confidence.” In that workshop 90% of the men found a 9-year old girl both sexually appealing and physically,  attractive. It turns out, we are no longer in caves but have the internet, and that visual world changes things considerably. What does it do? It provides limitless opportunity for sexual fantasy with a variety of people and things.

Is there a Pedo-Dog?

Let me make this disturbing point. Your dog, if he is not neutered, will hump your leg. He will also hump your neighbor’s leg. When you let this big Great Dane outside, he tracks down a prepubescent girl he knows. She is walking to school with her friend. He jumps up on her shoulders and proceeds to, well, you know the routine. The girls find this funny, but the question remains, is this a pedo dog? Is the dog maladaptive? Will the dog be put on the registry? Will veterinary versions of Setos’, Cantors’ and Blanchards’ study the pooch’s brain matter? Will we put him down because he did something “sexual” with the girl? The video apparently was on social media and was pulled own, of course, but it seems we like dogs more than people. However, plenty of people, in the millions, thoroughly enjoyed the video if I recall correctly.

I found myself envying the dog’s freedom. It inspired this poem: “Canine Mindfulness.” No, I don’t want to assault poor, 10-year old girls. And this article is not a justification for child abuse. Dogs do things for reasons. They are always right.

Rover, let’s call him, was simply sniffing out his opportunities. We sniff these out online and on beaches in public spaces. There were no canines in heat, but we are always in heat. Something about this particular girl was fascinating to him. Something about difference and taboo is fascinating to us. He chose her, not the other girls or boys. Why? I find this fascinating. What do we choose to pleasure ourselves with, really?

It turns out that this dog is pretty exclusive in terms of his choices, but environment plays a role. Did he know she was a she? I bet he did. But our expanded masturbatory and even romantic interests have taken on new meaning with the opportunity of the internet.

The point in this ridiculous but fearfully accurate example is that our standards and mores have nothing to do with the evolution that drives us. There is no morality in nature. That is in our heads. There is, though, an ethical underlining. Like humans, dogs do reproduce with adult mates. Unlike us (we are always kind of in heat) there is a horny cycle more for females, but male dogs are always horny so that they get more and more opportunity. For human beings, we also look for opportunity, we also sex play (though we criminalize some of this), and penetration, it turns out, is very rare with adult and minors whether animal or human. But dry humping is for many dogs a daily opportunistic routine, so are our predilections. We explore and seek opportunity. We are not separate from the nature we try so much to separate from. Western thought is largely a conscious attempt by theorists to move us away from ourselves.

I think many answers are here in terms of minor attraction, sexuality, and the premise that much of this behavior we criminalize is actually been our behavior for tens of thousands of years. Such a claim may bring out the censors and moralists, but my goal is not to say it’s okay for a horse-dog or an adult to sexually engage children. Rather, in true science, and in theory (this is what I am doing here), we need to explain behavior and observe it, not deny and politicize it. If we see that humans have done such inappropriate behavior for tens of thousands of years, then maybe that behavior is unacceptable in a civil society but prevalent in evolutionary history. In other words, such is not maladaptive at all. Such may explain some sex offenses. Some may explain our attractions to kids, and a more realistic view may help us to de-predator those with attraction to children because such has been around as long as human beings themselves. In recognizing this, we will have a more realistic approach to those that do offend, and can help those with attraction from offending by helping to destigmatize their attractions.

Credits: Tongli Sex Museum, China

After all, people have also had sex with animals for centuries, the most popular ones, dogs and horses. It seems Rover is not alone.

This long foray is not only about me, these young girls and a Great Dane with a penchant for young ladies with backpacks. It’s about the reality of human sexuality and the ugliness that those with minor-attraction face. Let’s turn now to them.

Now as a soon-to-be social worker, one that has sat in prisons working with child killers, molesters, and mostly guys that “thought it was a good idea at the time,” I had some questions for the minor-attracted community (non-offending pedophiles, hebephiles, etc). Though not research, they were generous with their time. Given the hate and misunderstandings they face, I truly appreciate their willingness to respond. If you want to know something, ask those that live it first, or the science is nothing but junk in a silk suit.

The main question was this, “If you could take a pill to change your attraction, would you?” This turned out not to be an original question. We will get to that, but this came from a time that I asked a person I was close to this: “If you could take a pill that got rid of your schizophrenia, would you?

Person: “Yes, absolutely!”

Me: Would you take a pill to change your attract …” He cut me off, “No way.”

His age of attraction was prepubescent girls. 

Yet I knew he bathed in shame over it. I knew he hated himself.

I posted the questions and others on Twitter. This one stood out. I want you to read it out loud slowly:

Yes, I am an exclusive MAP and yes, I wish I could take that pill and forget who I am. I hate every fiber of my being for what I am. I hate myself beyond all words. I have for the longest time, wanted to just leave this world due to what I am. My hatred towards myself just never goes away. I hate my attraction, I hate my sexuality. The social stigma and just knowing that I like what I do, kills me. I don’t worry about someone hurting me. I worry about the other option

anonymous (boldface is for emphasis)

We can laugh about “pedo-dogs” and further shame and humiliate those we don’t identify with, but this comment of all those I got, made me cry. I worked with killers. Little makes me cry (yes, that is troubling), but the depth of hate, shame, and disgust in this GOOD person’s words makes me cry every time I read it.

As one experienced sex therapist told me in a session, “Those with pedophilia are the saddest ones.” And from B4U-ACT, “Few can ever get over the shame and even move to the next step.”

No, it is not this person’s sexuality that is the problem. It is stigma. This individual is no monster. I find someone very human, in much grief and pain. I want to say to the person so many things, but I worry that they will hurt themselves. Who wouldn’t want this person to get help? Who among you wants to help this person?

Others, seemed to also want the pill, but the reasoning became more convoluted. In general, most wanted the pill not to get rid of their attraction but to “add” one so that they could feel real romance and love, that they could have what so many of you take for granted.

There were others, female MAPs included (yes, they do exist and more than you think) that were hesitant about such a pill. I sensed guilt for their partners (yes, many are married and many have kids) and a fear that the pill would change who they were, much like the battle-worn soldier that finally wins the war only to find out that he now has nothing to do or live for. “If I take it,” one said, they don’t know who or what they’d become.

Another was blunter in noting that, it their experience, pills seldom work, and I would have to agree. Another wrote me suspicious of this pill wanting. Pills don’t bring happiness. Many prosaic refills remain unfilled.

In sum, the answers were a mixed-up stew, but the presiding answer was, “We’d take the pill” because we want to be loved and not hurt anyone.

Such an answer has nothing to do with attraction, what I was actually asking. Put another way, “Would you stop loving those you wish you could be with?” That was my question, the real translation. But I knew that would be even a more painful soul-searching process.  

Interestingly, Celibate Pedophiles asked my same exact question years ago and has kept an ongoing survey of the results. What interested me the most were the two answers at the opposite of each other.

Of a total of 886 respondents, 28% or 244 chose the following question: “I would take a PBG [Pedophilia-Be-Gone Pill] pill regardless of any other factors below, and I think my attraction itself is morally bad or a cause for shame.”

20% or 179 chose this answer: “I wouldn’t take any pills because attractions are part of making a person who he is.”

Maybe more interesting is what the third-place question at 18% or 157 that noted: “I would take a PBG pill regardless of any other factors below, though I don’t think having the attraction is morally bad or a cause for shame.”

There is not much we can do with the third question because participants did not note a specific reason why they’d take an attraction-altering pill. Such an answer is ambiguous. If not shame, if not to take away arousal but leave platonic interest in children, if not getting more attracted to adults, and not out of fear that their child will be a pedophile, then why?

Nonetheless, most fell into this “bipolar” category of shame verses identity, with a big ambiguous chunk in the middle. Without more data, what I see here confirms the conditions minor-attracted people are faced with. How many gay or heterosexual, adult attracted people feel this way? It becomes clear to me that shame is the major driver involving minor-attraction, and many are still trying to fit in to this sexual binary that we call orientation, straight or gay.

 Making Big Problems Smaller Ones

I was 24 and wanted to help girls. Gymnastics became a lifelong dream. I saw many destroyed and compromised around me. I decided to be a gymnastics coach. I went to a gym to interview the coach. While there, I knew immediately which girl had the emotional problems, about 9. She went outside and ransacked my car, stole my fuzzy dice (remember those). I forgot what else. Then the new team lined up. It was summer. They all had shorts on, but in one swoop, they all dropped their shorts while standing in a straight line.

Physiology happened yet again for me. I remember standing in the doorway entrance of my house. I asked my mom, “Mom, I got kind of turned on looking at these girls. They were not teenagers. They were … younger. Is something wrong with me?”

My mom brushed it off, “Oh, honey, you are a man. There is nothing wrong with you. You were not prepared for that, them dropping their shorts. You are fine.” This is the same woman that caught me masturbating at 14 with penis in hand looking at a magazine. She said, “Honey, I know you may have to do that but it is against Jesus. I never did that. I never had to. But if you have to, think about someone you love.”

That’s the problem. Jesus never had a documented sexuality. Jesus never had a healthy romantic and sexual relationship with one person. Neither did I.

For me, sex was shame. For me, sex was trauma, and for me sex and relationships, wholesome relationships can and will never happen. There will never again be someone to love. No one will ever love me back the way typical people love back. I spent 40 years feeling I did not deserve sexual pleasure or love. The only difference now is that I know it. I know my shadows well and never deny.

I try, in the end, as an agnostic, to be like Jesus in one respect. I tell the complete truth no matter how it hurts and how scared I am of it. If someone harms me, as a good Catholic would say, then I shall be at the right side of the cross. Most of the responders were not worried about them harming kids, but most worried about being harmed.

And that is okay. As we recovering Catholics say, it’s the cross we were given, but if nature gave it and not God, or if God is nature, there is nothing maladaptive about it.

I decided not to be a gymnastics coach. I gave up a lifelong dream.

The people that tweeted me are not child molesters. There is no such thing as a child predator or a “skilled pedophile” nor more than there is a pedo-dog, a rampaging lion or often a conscious grooming process. There is the following: one, big myth that was built to provide the feeling of safety, the feeling of NORMAL, but that very world in which we all live is what is killing us. We are trying to be what everyone else wants us to be. We are trying to be what we think we would want. Child abuse is horrible. I lived it for 17 years, but if we fault only these guys, we are mostly looking in the wrong direction.

And there again, the agnostic thinks of God, “I am what I am.” And what Jesus says, “Don’t you know that you are all gods?”

We are all, all of us, capable of great harm. Know that well because as another philosopher put it, “When good conquers evil, good becomes evil.” When Floyd died at the hands of officers, did good become evil?

I would never take that pill because I like who I am. I like me. No, I love me. God gave me to myself, and no one has the right to take myself away from myself. And I feel I have to write this, not even God can. He knows that well. I learned to love myself because I don’t harm anyone, and I accept myself. I accept responsibility to make the best choices I can under the circumstances. They may not be the ones you would make or recommend, but you are not myself.  I am ethical. I am ethical in my profession, and I take my skills, my attraction and put it to good use. When you live with something for 40 years, every day, in the words of Daddy Pig, in Peppa Pig, you become “a bit of an expert” in it.  I never harmed a single one, but that does not mean I am risk free. I never met anyone risk free but those that thought so. Those individuals worry me, whether minor-attracted or not.

I am here for you. I am not for the abuse of children. Even for those that harmed or feel like harming, they need accountability and a path toward healing and wholeness. They are not bad, but they did a bad thing.

Let science distinguish you, label you, study your brain, your blood, your genome, your target attraction, and anything else about your body and behavior, but because I am not a good scientist, because I cited God and Jesus (and Daddy Pig) in the article, and because I can never be a good researcher, I will be here and tell you this: in this life all we have is how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others. In Dr. Yalom’s words, we are the ones that make meaning in our lives. We are all gods. Take the path of least harm and find joy in knowing your problems because we all will always have problems. Just because we have shadows does not mean we have to be the shadow or always look at our shadows. We have to simply acknowledge that they are there.

If I had those pills, I would not give them to you. I would throw them away. They are bad, unnatural, just like so much of the angry human world. I would hold your hand through the painful process of learning to love yourselves and take the journey of damning the shame that damns so many of you. It may always suck, but it does have to suck always.

Published by EarlY

I have a PhD in literature and criticism and have taught literature, technical, and research writing for over 16 years. I am also a graduate student in social work in my final year. My focus area is with men that suffered past abuse, sex offending against children and with paraphilia. I will also complete my sex therapist certification by next year as well.

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