For almost 20 years, I spent virtually every night of my life in the same manner: Sitting in front of my computer and either trawling the Internet for child pornography or looking at the pictures and videos that were already a part of my collection.
The Atlantic features this month a first-person essay by David Goldberg, a pedophile in Canada convicted of possession of child pornography. I read his essay and was struck by its amazing lack of remorse and its depth of narcissism.
I spent much of my time in the days right after my arrested reflecting on my childhood. Was there some horrible trauma, an incident of abuse perhaps, that I had covered up which lead to my pedophilia. Was there some anomaly in my formative years that skewed my sexual development? I asked my sister, an experienced therapist, for her help, but she assured me that as far as she knew, nothing of that kind happened to me. I was the victim of an unhappy childhood and a psychologically disturbed father. I had all the symptoms of arrested development, which left me at the emotional level of a 10-year-old. But there was nothing remarkable or unspeakable about my childhood.
He is first to declare himself a victim. Goldberg is, in his own words, a "role model" and someone who cares and can help.
I knew my job as a local newspaper editor and my hobby coaching baseball had both come to an end. Yet the overriding thoughts in my head were not of my past, but more of my future. I knew that I was in a unique position to help others understand the bewildering life of a pedophile. I had never asked to be cursed with this sexual attraction, and I had never hurt a child. In fact, I was always a good role model as a coach, and an upstanding citizen throughout my days. It was the nights that were a problem.
That phrasing was astonishing to me. First, to describe coaching the very children who sparked his sexual desires as a "hobby" suggests to me a remarkable disconnect from his actual deeds. Building model ships is a hobby. Raising budgies is a hobby. Placing yourself in the vicinity of those whose images sexually gratify you is not a hobby. And the whining insistence that he was "always a good role model" and "an upstanding citizen" except at night seems to imply he suffered no more than an imbalance in his circadian rhythm.
But with that mentality, the thought of children as victims becomes gratuitous and insincere.
When someone hears the word “pedophile”, they immediately think of a child molester. Yet the majority of pedophiles do not molest, but instead spend hours looking at child pornography. And as those numbers grow, so does the number of child victims.
I am not advocating the cross-generational lifestyle. In fact, there is never an instance when an adult should engage in sexual behavior with a child. But until we as a society learn that help for those who view child pornography is a far better alternative to incarceration, we are doomed to see the continued proliferation of this problem.
So the children who are swept into pornography are victims, but . . . wouldn't that be better than having them actually molested because, as Goldberg points out, it is a "far better alternative to incarceration." Let him have his child porn because - despite no evidence to support his allegation - "the majority of pedophiles do not molest, but instead spend hours looking at child pornography" and prison time is nasty and inconvenient.
And it is all about him.
Despite my arrest, I am one of the lucky ones.
Because he sees the illness of his habit, is remorseful to the victims in the images and videos, and will seek help to prevent future such conduct?
Because I was arrested in Canada, I was only given a 90-day sentence. Had I been arrested in the U.S., I could have served many years with hardened criminals.
How many millions of pedophiles throughout the world aren't as lucky as I? How many will never seek help, too scared of the legal and social consequences? How many will continue to create the demand that fuels a malicious child pornography market? Is locking them away for a while the answer? Will the day ever come when we, as a society, reach out and offer them the help they so desperately need?
Perhaps Roman Polanski will host a telethon.
A question to be asked is for what purpose has The Atlantic chosen to give David Goldberg a sympathetic forum? There is an accompanying article on what can be done about pedophiles; however, that question is not answered with any specificity. Instead, the suggestion that we, not the pedophiles, must change is voiced:
In my experience, pedophiles are the most likely to commit their offenses when they feel that they have nothing going for them in their lives and that therefore they have nothing to lose. People are most likely to do the most desperate things when they feel the most desperate. Unfortunately, much of the current social systems greatly increase rather than decrease these people’s feelings of desperation.
My greatest hope is less about treatment, however, and more about prevention. Despite the fact that many people imagine sex offenders to be insatiable predators or ticking time bombs, only 10−15 percent of sex offenders commit new offenses. I believe we can prevent a much greater number of victims if we put greater energies into early detection and provide support before the first offense occurs, rather than relying only on stronger and stronger punishments after the fact.
I would be curious to know why "only 10 - 15 percent of sex offenders commit new offenses" (and note, it is not saying that only 10 - 15 percent of pedophiles commit offenses, as sloppy reading might lead a person to think). Perhaps it is because of punishment, and their removal from the proximity of future victims.
Is it just another sexual orientation? In the sense that a pedophile is "born that way," perhaps it is correct to consider it as such. But as the second article points out, considering ti as such opens a Pandora's box.
In studies, pedophiles show signs that their sexual interests are related to brain structure and that at least some differences existed in their brains before birth. For example, pedophiles show greatly elevated rates of non-right-handedness and minor physical anomalies. Thus, although pedophilia should never be confused with homosexuality, pedophilia can be meaningfully described as a sexual orientation. Scientists have more specifically called it an “age orientation.” Caution has to be used, however, so as not to confuse the scientific use of the phrase “sexual orientation” with its use in law. Because the phrase “sexual orientation” has been used as shorthand (or as a euphemism) for homosexuality, there exist laws and policies barring discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” These were not likely intended to refer to pedophilia.
Good intentions aside, would this be a likely result?
David Goldberg got 90 days for possession of child porn.