Why am I like this? What we know about why people experience pedophilia.

One of the most common questions we get here at Talking for Change is “why am I like this?”.   

For many people, pedophilia is understandably confusing. Pedophilia is having sexual thoughts, urges, fantasies, arousal, and/or behaviour involving children that do not go away. Usually, it is toward children under the age of 10 or 11 (when attractions involve children experiencing puberty, around the ages 12 to 14, this is referred to as hebephilia).  

So, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Am I a pedophile? Does thinking of children in a sexual way automatically make me a pedophile? Does my interest in child pornography make me a pedophile?” or similar questions, it’s important to know that not every person who has pedophilia has acted, or will ever act, on their sexual interest. 

The answer to the big “why” question is still being studied, but science tells us that a sexual interest in children likely starts in the womb or very early in life. There is also evidence that pedophilia is similar to or a type of sexual orientation. Some people may believe that individuals with pedophilia are interested in children because they were sexually abused as a child. While some people who were abused as children go on to later sexually harm a child, there is no clear link between childhood sexual abuse and someone’s sexual interests. What this science is telling us is that having pedophilic attractions is out of someone’s control and is unlikely to change. 

Because of this, preventing sexual abuse is more likely to be effective when we focus on behaviour (i.e., helping people to not act on their sexual interests) rather than trying to change their interests.  

This is where Talking for Change comes in. We understand that there is a difference between sexual interest and sexual behaviour, and we are learning more and more that many people with pedophilia do not want to offend; they want help to learn how to keep children safe. There is a level of compassion alongside the urge they are trying so hard to fight.  

Many people with pedophilia find therapy beneficial to help with their sexual interests and the distress that they experience; to allow them to not be so hard on themselves; and to understand that they are not damaged as an individual.  

And especially with the many messages from society communicating that these individuals are dangerous or evil, individuals with pedophilia have trouble getting the help they need to live healthy lives and to help keep children safe. But the good news is, our program aims to make it easier for people to access support and help. Visit our Get Help page to learn about your options.