Is Banning Pro-Pedophilia Books the Right Answer?

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Courtesy of Amazon, via CNN

On Oct. 28, a book called The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct went on sale in Amazon’s Kindle store. Three weeks later, following negative media attention and vows of boycotts by hundreds of angry customers, the retail giant pulled the book. Of course, the book wasn’t the first or only one of its kind for sale by Amazon — and certainly not the only one available on the Internet.

Initially, Amazon defended selling the book, stating that removing it would be tantamount to censorship: “Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; however, we do support the right of every individual to make their [sic] own purchasing decisions.” (More on TIME Special on Pedophilia)

And although the company didn’t go on to explain why it removed the book — you can assume it was a public-relations decision — it is noteworthy that several other books sympathetic to pedophilia have been available on the site for years. The public furor over these texts centers around the concern that they condone or encourage potential pedophiles. It is also, as Salon staff writer Tracy Clark-Flory keenly notes, a “classic case of the general public successfully uniting against an easy villain — with little gained beside the reinforcement of social norms.”

So the question is, can books like these really increase the abuse of children? Clark-Flory reports:

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.

The book’s author, Philip R. Greaves II, claims that it’s important to educate others about what he calls “pedosexuality” — no penetration, but kissing, fondling and other “loving” behavior is allowed — which he argues is not necessarily harmful to children. Clark-Flory reports that this premise is fundamentally wrong, and that Greaves wrongly assumes that most child abuse involves violent behavior:

Berlin…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.” … The reality is that most cases involve just “kissing, fondling and non-penetrating behavior,” [Dr. Gerry D. Blasingame, vice-chair of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending,] says, and the reality, based on the countless police reports he’s read, is that children report these experiences as frightening and confusing.

Greaves reveals in his book that he was “introduced” to oral sex by an adult woman at the age of 7 — which might help explain his own leanings toward children and his confusion over classifying such behavior as harmful. That early experience may have warped his view of the abuse, confusing him and causing him to recast it as positive. (More on What Do Pedophiles Deserve?)

So while a guide to pro-pedophilia is horrifying, of course, Clark-Flory makes the good point that rather than continue to vilify those with this psychiatric disorder — or the books they write — it might do more good for both pedophiles and their victims if we focus on encouraging treatment rather than ignoring the existence of these ideas.

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