There were those who scoffed at my contention that Abercrombie and Fitch, the edgy retailer, was paving the way for mainstream pedophilia when it began marketing breast enhancing bikinis to girls as young as eight.
There were those who railed against my contention that the French edition of Vogue was kindling pedophilia and embracing it with its racy depictions of 10-year-old Thylane Lena-Rose Loubry-Blondeau in heavy makeup, a plunging neckline and stiletto heels.
There were others who suggested that I had a problem with breastfeeding, in general, when I took issue with The Breast Milk Baby, which encourages little girls to wear a vest that has flowers in place of larger nipples and nurse the doll.
But, now, there should be no doubt that our culture is poised to begin embracing pedophilia as a lifestyle choice, just like homosexuality. A group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals called B4U-Act, which has representatives from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, gathered recently in Baltimore to organize their push to change the negative perception of pedophiles and encourage them to get help in a nonjudgmental environment.
While B4U-Act is not representative of mainstream psychiatry, and while the American Psychiatric Association (APA) did not participate in the group’s meeting, psychiatry has a history of caving into cultural pressure to stop defining controversial illnesses as pathological. You won’t even find ego-dystonic homosexuality—meaning, homosexual impulses that cause an individual to feel distressed and which that individual does not want to give into—in the DSM, anymore.
Some of the goals of B4U-Act are worthwhile. Encouraging pedophiles to seek psychiatric treatment to resist their pathological urges is a good thing, not a bad thing. I wish every pedophile would get help before ever hurting a child. And the group is absolutely right in asserting that some pedophiles—perhaps the vast majority of pedophiles—never actually do commit a crime. They live with their erotic desires for children without ever acting on them.
Dr. Fred Berlin, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, bonafide genius, and truly decent person, is quoted on the website of B4U-Act. His treatment protocols for sexual offenders and others with such impulses do indeed vastly reduce the likelihood that such individuals will hurt children, and his efforts are to be lauded.
But what the members of B4U-Act fail to realize is that there are some impulses worth repressing from consciousness—like the impulse to rape children. There are even thoughts worth repressing—like fantasies of having sex with children. When a society stigmatizes certain actions and thoughts—thereby driving them out of mainstream consciousness and into the shadows—that isn’t always a bad thing.
The group also fails to recognize that there are consequences to removing all moral judgment from a profession. Psychiatry, for example, has become hostile to suggesting that alcoholics are actually choosing their drug over their families and jobs and other responsibilities—and that making that choice is morally reprehensible. Why isn’t it all right for psychiatrists to take a hard line against pedophilia and see it for what it is: a desire to violate and injure children that is both pathological and morally reprehensible and to be resisted by every means possible?
I’ve told more than one of my patients that his real diagnosis, given his behavior in embracing drugs, instead of his family or employment, shouldn’t be alcohol dependence or heroin dependence, but “scumbag.” And I then have quickly added that they can do better than that—that they must choose to do better than that, because, deep inside, they are good and decent and lovable. I tell them they can find the courage to do the right thing, instead of the wrong thing. Yes, I sometimes use the word “wrong.” I judge them. It helps.
I would not hesitate to tell a pedophile that his desires are to injure and torture a child—that they are morally wrong—and that it is his responsibility to ferret out the source of those destructive desires and extinguish them. I wouldn’t for a moment commiserate about how hard it is to live in a society that criminalizes the acts he is moved to commit.
Suggesting to pedophiles that their thoughts and impulses are “understandable” and that they won’t be judged by the members of B4U-Act is the kind of message that encourages them to push harder to change what they think of as unfair laws that keep them from their base desires.
I hate to say I told you so, but . . . well . . . OK, I won’t.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.