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COMMON MYTHS - What psychology says
Myth: Youth and men attracted to younger boys are child molesters.

Truth: People attracted to younger boys have the ability to act responsibly just as much as anyone else. Research shows that many do not force, coerce, or manipulate younger boys to have sex with them. Many refrain from sex. And most child molesters are not primarily attracted to children, but rather try to have sex with them because of social or marital problems, alcoholism, or the unavailability of peers.1,2,3

Myth: They are aggressive and want power and control over their sexual partners.

Truth: Studies find that they have low levels of aggression, and many interact with boys in non-sexual ways and sometimes develop close relationships with them. Researchers who have examined the thoughts and feelings of men attracted to boys report that many find emotional contact as important as, or more important than, sexual activity. Researchers say their feelings and fantasies resemble those of normal heterosexual men’s regarding women. Both non-criminological and criminological studies find that even when they do engage in sexual activity, it resembles sex play rather than sexual assault and often occurs with the boy’s willingness or initiative. This is not to say that it is responsible or ethical, but rather that it is not violent; an overwhelming number of studies show consistently that violence, force, and aggression are rare.1,3,4,5,6,7

Myth: They are attracted to younger boys because they have been sexually abused.

Truth: No studies outside of the criminal justice system have been conducted to examine this assumption. Even among sex offenders against children, only a minority experienced childhood sexual abuse. Also, most sexually abused children or youth do not go on to abuse younger children or youth.8

Myth: They are psychosexually immature or fear relationships with peers.

Truth: There is no evidence to support these common beliefs. These theories have not been investigated scientifically, but rather assumed. They may simply lack interest in peers rather than fear them. Similarly, the belief that they are psychosexually immature has been assumed based on the types of behaviors that occur when they are sexually active. Research shows it usually involves exhibitionism, fondling, and/or masturbation rather than intercourse.3

Myth: They are social misfits—they have poor social skills, low intelligence, and trouble holding down jobs.

Truth: This assumption is based on studies of sex offenders, which give biased results. Even these studies, when well-conducted, have failed to find any particular personality profile among offenders. Studies of men attracted to boys have not found lower intelligence among them; in fact, many are successful professionals. Some studies have found shyness, loneliness, low self-esteem, and isolation, but such feelings may be the result of society’s reaction to their sexuality.3,7,9

Myth: They are psychopathic or neurotic.

Truth: Again, the few studies that have actually examined this belief have used offenders and are therefore misleading, or they were otherwise poorly conducted. One well-conducted study concluded that men attracted to boys or girls show no sign of psychopathy or mental disorder. Researchers have concluded that little clinically significant pathology is found among them.3,7,9
1Ames, A. & Houston, D.A., "Legal, social, and biological definitions of pedophilia," Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 19, 1990, pp. 333-342.
2Gieles, F.E.J., "Helping people with pedophilic feelings," Lecture at the World Congress of Sexology, Paris, June 2001.
3Okami, P. & Goldberg, A., "Personality Correlates of Pedophilia: Are They Reliable Indicators?", Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 29, No. 3, 1992, pp. 297-328.
4Hall, G.C.N., Theory-based assessment, treatment, and prevention of sexual aggression, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
5Li, C.K., "Some Case Studies of Adult Sexual Experiences with Children," Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 20, nos. 1-2, 1990, pp. 129-144.
6West, D.J., "Boys and Sexual Abuse: An English Opinion," Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 27, no. 6, 1998, pp. 539-559.
7Wilson, G. & Cox, D., The Child-Lovers, London: Peter Owen Publishers, 1983.
8Garland, R.J. & Dougher, M.J., "The abused/abuser hypothesis of child sexual abuse: A critical review of theory and research," in Feierman, J. (ed.), Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1990, pp. 488-509.
9Langevin, R., Sexual strands: Understanding and treating sexual anomalies in men, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1983.

Adapted from MHAMic, a site containing extensive scientific information on sexual attraction to boys.

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