What to fear from “The Pedophile’s Guide”

Furor over the e-book is predictable, but experts explain the strange, troubled thinking behind its creation

Topics: Sexual abuse, Broadsheet, Amazon.com, Children, Love and Sex,

What to fear from "The Pedophile's Guide"

The appearance of the e-book “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love And Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct” by Phillip R. Greaves II has garnered a predictable response. Customers threatened to boycott, the media got involved and, after brief resistance, Amazon yanked the book from its virtual shelves. The 47-year-old’s self-published book claims to be an attempt to “make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow.” And the controversy it’s kicked off is a classic case of the general public successfully uniting against an easy villain — with little gained beside the reinforcement of social norms. So, I spoke with some experts on pedophilia about the potential impact of Greaves’ book, and the psychological mechanisms that may be at play behind his argument that an adult “kissing and fondling” a child isn’t “that big of a problem.”

Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins, compares the potential impact of books like this to pro-anorexia online support groups. “There’s literature out there on the Internet suggesting that it’s OK to be [sickly] thin and that society shouldn’t force you into a different lifestyle,” he explains. These sites might not be making women anorexic, but it certainly encourages them to engage in self-harm and, in Greaves’ case, harm to others. Dr. Wesley B. Maram, a forensic and clinical psychologist, agrees: “Somebody who is struggling with pedophilia” might “feel support seeing this.” He says “it may give them some comfort, it might encourage them.” However, pulling the e-book from Amazon doesn’t solve that particular problem. Amazon made a savvy business decision, perhaps, but ultimately it won’t do much to stop the book from being distributed. Not only is the material likely to pop up elsewhere, but there are countless other online resources for pedophiles looking for a sense of community and pointers like those offered up in the book. The book has been merely banished to the darkest corners of the Web.

You Might Also Like

The actual arguments made within the book are based on a false premise: that a pedophile can have a healthy sexual relationship with a child, as long as they follow certain guidelines. Berlin, who loomed large in Daniel Bergner’s fascinating book “The Other Side of Desire,” puts it plainly, “In my opinion, no child is worse off for not having been sexual with an adult, and lots of kids are confused and troubled and certainly potentially harmed by the experience.” He allows that not every child is “harmed permanently” by such experiences, but he says, “I do think every child is wronged.” Dr. Gerry D. Blasingame, vice-chair of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, points out that Greaves’ restrictions — penetration is off-limits, but “kissing,” “fondling” and other “loving” behavior is allowed — wrongly assumes that most sexual abuse is physically violent. The reality is that most cases involve just “kissing, fondling and non-penetrating behavior,” he says, and the reality, based on the countless police reports he’s read, is that children report these experiences as frightening and confusing.

Interestingly enough, part of Greaves’ evidence that “pedosexuals,” as he calls himself, do not necessarily harm children is that he was “introduced to oral sex” by a woman at the age of 7. Berlin speculates that Greaves’ childhood abuse could be the foundation for his current philosophy. He adds, “I have no way of knowing, but it’s possible his interest in children might have developed because [he] became warped as a consequence of that early life experience.” As Blasingame puts it, there are “lots of streams that feed into the river of sexual development,” and early sexual abuse actually alters the brain’s physical makeup. He says people tend to develop “thinking errors” surrounding abuse, what’s called “splitting” in therapist-talk: “If my father was physically abusive and I’m a child it would be very difficult to think of my father as a bad guy,” he explains. One way for a child to reconcile his love for his father with the sexual abuse he’s experienced is to recast it as a positive, loving experience.

The upside of this controversy is that we’re having a conversation about the harm of pedophilia. The downside is that the conversation is largely limited to condemnation. “It’s so easy to demonize these people because the emotion tied to these things is understandably so strong,” says Berlin. He points out that we are constantly delivering public service announcements to people struggling with depression, eating disorders, drug abuse and the like, telling them to “come and get help” — but rarely do we direct that same message to pedophiles. “What I wish society would recognize is that good people can be afflicted through no fault of their own with these attractions,” he says. “To simply demonize these folks rather than reach out and help them is not serving their interests, or our interests as a society.”

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>