Oh, I dunno, maybe... this one:
In 1976 the National Council for Civil Liberties, the respectable (and responsible) pressure group now known as Liberty, made a submission to parliament's criminal law revision committee. It caused barely a ripple. "Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in with an adult," it read, "result in no identifiable damage … The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of paedophilia result in lasting damage."
It is difficult today, after the public firestorm unleashed by revelations about Jimmy Savile and the host of child abuse allegations they have triggered, to imagine any mainstream group making anything like such a claim. But if it is shocking to realise how dramatically attitudes to paedophilia have changed in just three decades, it is even more surprising to discover how little agreement there is even now among those who are considered experts on the subject.
A liberal professor of psychology who studied in the late 1970s will see things very differently from someone working in child protection, or with convicted sex offenders. There is, astonishingly, not even a full academic consensus on whether consensual paedophilic relations necessarily cause harm.
So what, then, do we know? A paedophile is someone who has a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children. Savile appears to have been primarily an ephebophile, defined as someone who has a similar preferential attraction to adolescents, though there have been claims one of his victims was aged eight.
But not all paedophiles are child molesters, and vice versa: by no means every paedophile acts on his impulses, and many people who sexually abuse children are not exclusively or primarily sexually attracted to them. In fact, "true" paedophiles are estimated by some experts to account for only 20% of sexual abusers. Nor are paedophiles necessarily violent: no firm links have so far been established between paedophilia and aggressive or psychotic symptoms. Psychologist Glenn Wilson, co-author of The Child-Lovers: a Study of Paedophiles in Society, argues that "The majority of paedophiles, however socially inappropriate, seem to be gentle and rational."
Legal definitions of paedophilia, needless to say, have no truck with such niceties, focusing on the offence, not the offender. The Sex Offenders Act 1997 defined paedophilia as a sexual relationship between an adult over 18 and a child below 16.
There is much more we don't know, including how many paedophiles there are: 1-2% of men is a widely accepted figure, but Sarah Goode, a senior lecturer at the University of Winchester and author of two major 2009 and 2011 sociological studies on paedophilia in society, says the best current estimate – based on possibly flawed science – is that "one in five of all adult men are, to some degree, capable of being sexually aroused by children". Even less is known about female paedophiles, thought to be responsible for maybe 5% of abuse against pre-pubescent children in the UK.
Debate still rages, too, about the clinical definition of paedophilia. Down the years, the American Psychiatric Association'sDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – "the psychiatrist's bible" – has variously classified it as a sexual deviation, a sociopathic condition and a non-psychotic medical disorder. And few agree about what causes it. Is paedophilia innate or acquired?Research at the sexual behaviours clinic of Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health suggests paedophiles' IQs are, on average, 10% lower than those of sex offenders who had abused adults, and that paedophiles are significantly less likely to be right-handed than the rest of the population, suggesting a link to brain development. MRI scans reveal a possible issue with paedophiles' "white matter": the signals connecting different areas of the brain. Paedophiles may be wired differently.
This is radical stuff. But there is a growing conviction, notably in Canada, that paedophilia should probably be classified as a distinct sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality. Two eminent researchers testified to that effect to a Canadian parliamentary commission last year, and the Harvard Mental Health Letter of July 2010 stated baldly that paedophilia "is a sexual orientation" and therefore "unlikely to change".
As society continues to place pressure on the acceptance of disordered behaviors as something other than disordered, we really can't be surprised when said same society widens the net as to other behaviors needing to be legitimized.
Yea, that slippery slope.
The more we set God aside, the more we forget Him, the more this sort of thing will come to the forefront and, more threateningly, the more those of us who find problems with it will be ostracized as intolerant, bigoted and out of the main stream.
But you knew that.