ABSTRACT

Deciding that one is ‘a paedophile’, given the hugely stigmatised nature of such an identity, is a major step for anyone to take. For many, the effect is to set one apart from ‘society’ and from one’s friends and family, who often are unaware of this secret and hidden self-identity. I was interested, in this study, in how such identities were first constructed and how, over time, they might develop and become further adjusted and negotiated, particularly in relation to both the wider culture (Hollywood films, well-known novels and so on) and the specific pro-paedophile subculture existing on the Internet. Sexuality is a large part of self-identity, particularly perhaps in con-

temporary Western culture where there is a strong emphasis on sexual selfdetermination and sexual experience, pleasure, prowess and fulfilment. Not only is sexuality bound up with one’s experience of self in that sexual pleasure is considered so central, but also – as one grows into one’s twenties and thirties – there is an increasing expectation of coupledom, of settling down in a stable and committed relationship and, in time, considering parenthood. Despite radical changes in how relationships are perceived in Western culture, it is still the statistical norm for people to be married and for people to be parents. As with homosexual men and women who find themselves at odds with the mainstream emphasis on normative heterosexuality, paedophiles may feel themselves set apart from ‘straight society’ in relation to their attitude towards sex with their peers and in their expectations about what life is likely to hold. There is a social expectation that adults will have their closest and most intimate relationships with their sexual partner. Where people do not have a sexual partner, often they miss out on emotional warmth and comfort as well as the physical release that sex can offer. Loneliness can be compounded by feelings of failure and difference, in a social world where it can sometimes feel that ‘everyone’ is happily partnered except oneself. These

experiences of loneliness are widely shared by many individuals at points in the life cycle (for example, widowed people will share some aspects of such isolation) but for people with a primary sexual attraction to children there is likely to be a sense of being condemned to isolation without end. As well as the physical pleasure and emotional friendship which romantic

relationships lead to, the relationships are also important in themselves, as a source of excitement, meaning and focus. The feeling of ‘being in love’ is not only psychologically but culturally important, with a whole greetings-card industry cashing in on the sentimentality of St Valentine’s Day, the patron saint of romantic love. Wherever we turn in our daily lives, we are likely to be confronted by love songs – on the radio, on the television, in the shopping malls. Such songs can be a constant reminder of what society expects of us, of what we ourselves expect of our lives. Our contemporary Western society embraces the cultural norm that if we want, we do. No barriers should stand in the way of fulfilling our desires, our potential, our personal happiness. We are all enjoined to live the dream, be yourself, have it all, you owe it to yourself, because you’re worth it. Strong cultural, popular psychological and advertising messages suggest to us that we have the right to be happy, and this is true particularly in the realm of personal relationships and sexuality. It is part of what modern Western society understands as comprising mature adulthood. Once one is an adult, then one is sexual and expected to fulfil that potential. From the teens onwards, an adult is expected to be in a sexual relationship, or recovering from one, or gearing up ready for the next one. Barriers which still exist in more traditional societies have largely been lifted in contemporary secular society. Divorced or widowed people, people within sexually unfulfilling marriages, people with disabilities – all are now expected to go out there and get sexually active if they possibly can. Even older people are not exempt. Sexual desire was traditionally seen as something that diminished as we aged, releasing people to wisdom or contemplation. Not any more: any diminution of sexual appetite or prowess is now seen as a medical condition, to be treated with hormone replacement therapy or Viagra. Thus, sex is now seen as something intrinsic to our personal and social well-being, something we are expected to do whether we are married, single, partnered, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, queer or any number of sexual orientations and variations. Except paedophiles. Paedophiles desire what they cannot have. How do you live your life, and build your identity, on desiring what you cannot have? The author Quentin Crisp once remarked that he was turned off by

homosexual men. He only experienced sexual desire for straight men, men who would find the idea of sex with another man revolting. He was in a ‘double bind’, an irresolvable dilemma arising from contradictory demands (as discussed, for example, in Bateson 1972). Paedophiles can find themselves in a similar situation. Beyond the everyday frustrations and misery of seeking sexual and emotional fulfilment, for paedophiles there is the double bind of desiring what is normatively highly valued in contemporary society – a sexual

relationship – while at the same time knowing that sexual behaviour with children is normatively forbidden and illegal. This sense of ‘forbidden love’ can lead to despair, frustration and anger, as quotations from the respondents illustrate. In this chapter, Section I explores a somewhat unexpected finding on the

respondents’ views on sex with adults. Section II then sets out the sources (books, films, individuals and websites) which respondents cited as having shaped their view of themselves. Because of the importance of websites in particular to this sample, Section III looks at this issue in detail and it is returned to again in the chapter on where respondents obtained support.