On the sexual response of little boys:
“…orgasm, which involves still more violent convulsions of the entire body; groaning, sobbing, or more violent cries sometimes with an abundance of tears (especially with the younger children)… culminating in extreme trembling, collapse, loss of color, and sometimes fainting…pained or frightened at approach of orgasm… The males in this group become similarly hypersensitive before the arrival of actual orgasm, will fight away from the partner and may make violent attempts to avoid climax, although they derive definite pleasure from the situation.”Alfred C. Kinsey Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.161
I don’t have any pedophiles on my current caseload. I have had well over a hundred over the years. I am in no way an expert on the topic, but I have read some, listened some, and thought some.
Pedophiles often choose victims that are the same age they were when they were first molested themselves. That isn’t always the case – some perpetrators aren’t especially fussy about the age or sex of their victims, for example – but it happens often enough that it is our working hypothesis before we gather a history. Also, we keep that age in mind whatever history we are told, as later information sometimes substantiates that hypothesis.
There is often an intense conflict and ambivalence lasting into adulthood among the molested who become pedophiles themselves. “Did I enjoy the experience?” For some, the answer is not clear, especially when the perpetrator is still young himself. The description from Kinsey, above, based primarily on reports he received from pedophiles, may help explain this. The responses described are clearly of a child being traumatized, and only a madman would think otherwise. Yet it may be that there is physical pleasure or release of some sort in the forced sexual act. If some sort of proto-orgasm can be forced on an unwilling subject, then a horrible dissonance would set in. Emotionally horrifying, physically pleasurable (or at least anxiolytic) – what is a child to make of that? If the abuse is repeated, the dissonance only grows worse. With no ability to think abstractly, and no one to interpret the experience for him, what would a child think? The divisions of mind that say “I like this person…but I don’t like what he’s doing…this is frightening…but I feel some relief afterward…this is wrong…I must be bad…” are simply impossible for a seven-year-old to sort through. Pedophiles use this ambivalence to rationalize the act. One will often hear them claim “Kids need love too… they enjoy the experience, you can tell,” and the like.
Yes, people can rationalize anything, can’t they? Pedophiles conveniently reinterpret just about anything a child might do as sexual excitement or pleasure. NAMBLA members apply their false retrospectives to their victims and conclude “they like this.”
If you extend that conflict forward in the developing personality, you can see the trouble it can cause – a sexualized child, uncertain about the conflicting pictures of what he should grow up to be. As an adult, it is common for them to resolve the conflict by claiming that they mostly enjoyed the experience of molestation. Because in a retrospective consideration of one’s sexual thoughts and acts there are often no bright lines, they think of their adult sexual experiences as being quite the same as their childhood ones. They conclude that seeds are flowers, so to speak, because the journey from one to the other has a continuity. And in retrospect, all continuities look inevitable. Especially if it rationalizes our current behavior. Pedophiles deeply resent any suggestion that they are trying to recruit. They prefer to think of themselves as “discovering” boys who would like sex with men but don’t know it yet. This is rubbish, but it’s convenient to think that. There is also the common refrain that the problem for the child is not caused by their action, but by society’s overreaction. Many perpetrators take a primitive pleasure in this competition between themselves and the society, and find the constant rehearsal of their sophistical arguments an important part of their self-definition. They are the enlightened few – all the literature they read assures them of this; we are the ignorant masses. They very much enjoy thinking this way, and dare I mention it – it is a sexual pleasure for them to offend against norms in word as well as deed. It is a vampiric joy, resolving their own conflict by becoming the aggressor who tormented them.
When you actually know boys who have been sexually abused recently, the myth is exploded. They don’t like it, they fear it and hate it – often especially the dissociation or absence that is part of what the perpetrator calls “orgasm.”
We have a thousand ambiguities and conflicts we have to resolve in moving from childhood to adulthood, and even on less extreme issues, the choices often have costs either way. This particular conflict is beyond the reach of children to resolve. They are damaged.
Additional note: there are varieties of offenders, though I have lumped them together and generalized here. Some are true sociopaths, seemingly untouchable by any real emotion. Others are more sad sacks, immature schmoes who actually are at a child’s age in their sexual development. There is much in between. But this matters little if at all to the damaged child. The perpetrator learns to rationalize any behavior and becomes a secret menace. Whether they go there through intent or tragedy has no effect on the victim.