Meet pedophiles who mean well

The men behind are attracted to children but devoted to denying their desires

Topics: Sexual abuse, Editor's Picks,

Meet pedophiles who mean well (Credit: iStockphoto/xrrr)

Nick Devin is a happily married man in his mid-60s with four grown children. “I have advanced degrees from prestigious universities, a very good job, a lot of friends and am well-respected in my community,” he writes on his Web site. “In short, I have a very good life.”

But he’s also a pedophile. While he experiences some attraction to adult women, he only fantasizes about pubescent boys — and none of his family or friends know. He says he’s never acted on his desires, though.

Devin is the co-founder of a new organization for men like himself: Virtuous Pedophiles. “We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away,” reads the group’s Web site. “But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever.” The goal of the organization is to offer support to pedophiles who want to live virtuously and to raise public awareness about the fact that such pedophiles exist.

It’s hard to know just how many there are of these “gold-star pedophiles,” as sex columnist Dan Savage calls them. James Cantor, a clinical psychologist and editor in chief of the scientific journal “Sexual Abuse,” says, “In my clinic, roughly half of the people who commit an offense against a child is pedophilic. We do not know, however, how many pedophiles there are who never commit any offenses and never come to our attention.” That’s because very few pedophiles will voluntarily out themselves, given the stigma; and due to mandatory reporting rules, which are open to interpretation, non-offending pedophiles can reasonably fear being reported to the police.

Ethan Edwards, the 57-year-old co-founder of Virtuous Pedophiles, is attracted to girls as young as four and has sexual fantasies about them, but says he’s never abused a child. “I basically have no problem avoiding abusing anyone,” he told me. “That’s just not an issue. When I’m with a child, I’m attuned to her and could never lose sight of the danger to her of anything I did.”

Our conversation took place through Google chat because he feared that a telephone interview might expose his true identity. (Edwards is a pseudonym, and so is Devin.) Even still, he asked me to promise that I wouldn’t turn our chat over to “hacker types” who could determine who he is.

Edwards, who raised three daughters of his own but never experienced any attraction to them, says he would never cross that line, “even if there was a zero percent chance I would be caught,” because of the damage it could do to the child. His ultimate sexual fantasy takes place in an alternate universe of sorts where children can actually give meaningful consent.

Devin, who was himself sexually abused as a child, similarly explains his ability to resist his desires. “I recognize that sexual contact with a child can be harmful to the child, and I’ve always been firmly committed to making sure that nothing I do will ever harm a child,” he told me in an email. “I refuse to let my problem become someone else’s problem.” It doesn’t hurt that he’s “always had a very good life — lots of friends, close family, loving wife and children, academic accomplishments, athletic accomplishments, a good career.” There is too much to lose.

“My sexuality has never been the central part of my life,” says Devin. “It kind of remains in a box inside my head but never controls me, and I go about my life.”

Cantor believes that a group like Virtuous Pedophiles could help prevent child abuse. “It is hard to imagine someone who would feel more isolated than someone who recognizes he is sexually interested in children. In my experience, it is in those phases of greatest desperation that a pedophile is most likely to do something desperate, risking harm to a child,” he says. “Mutual support among people who share the same daily battle with their own desires can go a long way in addressing the extreme isolation, serving as a potential pressure valve, adding layer of protection, helping pedophiles to keep their behaviors under control.”

Support is a major aim of the site, beyond even raising awareness in the outside world. Devin and Edwards posted an anonymous plea on the site from a 20-year-old man struggling with attraction to young girls. “I wish with all my soul that I could have a brain that’s wired normally,” he writes, and goes on to explain that he’s scared of seeing a therapist for fear of being reported. “Even the friendships I have are in danger of falling apart because I can’t just keep saying ‘I’m fine,’ and I can’t talk to anyone about my problem. I think about suicide a lot.”

“Almost any group in the world can hold a convention, look out on a sea of faces, and say, ‘these are people like me,’” says Edwards. “We can’t.”

There is plenty of community to be found online for pedophiles who are not so adamant about the harmfulness of child abuse. The message board BoyChat is filled with justifications for adult-child sexual contact, and commenters recently caught on to the existence of Virtuous Pedophiles. “[T]his site promotes self-hate,” said one commenter. “Personally, not only do I find it offensive, it is quite slanted towards the idea that mutually willing sex with kids is harmful,” said another.

Devin doesn’t have much sympathy for this point of view. “The problem is that even if the pedophile thinks the kid is enjoying it at the time, he may be wrong. Remember, the pedophile is prejudiced here; he wants to think the kid is enjoying it. Moreover, even if the kid is enjoying it at the time, he can still be harmed.” He points to a case where a pedophile had sex with a kid and thought he was enjoying it. “A few years later, the kid jumped off a bridge.”

Edwards wants to shine a spotlight on the sort of pedophiles that don’t make the evening news. “I hope people start to realize that virtuous pedophiles exist,” he says, and “that many are no danger and shouldn’t be branded as dangerous without evidence.”

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 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows



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>