The "P" Word (Why Journalists Need to Stop Conflating "Pedophile" With "Sex Offender")
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
As a journalist, you know that you would never think of using the "N" word to describe a black person in a story you are working on. Did you ever think that using "pedophile" to describe a sex offender might have the same effect?
Don’t get me wrong: I get it. I know that word sells. It turns what would possibly be a horrific story of child sex abuse into something that potentially people will want to click on, read, or watch so they can direct the hatred they have inside of them towards what is a widely acceptable form of disgust.
But did you ever take a moment to think that, by using that word without knowing for a fact that the person who offended was actually attracted to children, you might actually be contributing to more sexual abuse against children?
Let me explain.
I will use the example I started with. If you were reporting on a crime committed by someone of color, you know that you would get reprimanded pretty quickly if you would use a derogatory term to describe that person -- and for good reason. Using those terms lumps people together into categories and DE-humanizes them.
I know I don’t I need to tell you that, yet you still feel it’s okay to do that to pedophiles. Why? Because they are all sex offenders and it doesn’t matter? That is the same thing as saying that all people of color will be criminals.
Think of that young person of an minority race having to read day in and day out that they are nothing but criminals. Eventually, they would start to believe that and internalize it. "If that is what they think of me, then what is the point? I might as well be what they say I am."
I am not saying that, if you don’t stop conflating pedophilia with sex offending, all pedophiles will go on and abuse because they can’t see any other way. I am more pleading with you to take into consideration that some might.
Pedophilia is the unwanted attraction to prepubescent children. That. Is. All.
Attraction Does Not Equal Action.
You can be a pedophile and never abuse a child, and you can also abuse a child and not be attracted to children.
Imagine waking up in a world where heterosexuality was not the norm. Imagine if you acted on your attraction, you know that you would ruin a life so you purposely choose not to act.
Now imagine that anytime someone did choose to act on that attraction, they were automatically grouped with people like you who chose the moral high ground? How would you feel? How would you react?
I myself am “minor-attracted” and have been since I entered puberty -- perhaps even earlier. I am 41 years old; I have been dealing with the hatred and disgust that is thrown at people like me for around 29 years. Still, through all those years I still have decided that I do not want to harm a child.
By now I have almost become numb to it all, but I am writing this to play to your better natures for the next generation of people born with this attraction. I’m asking you to think of them.
What if someone in your immediate circle is a pedophile? What if that person is your child? Would you not want to protect them from hearing or seeing this type of hatred thrown at them? Would you not be calling your news station or local paper, telling them they need to get it right?
I am asking you to do your research like you were trained to do. There are many resources out there (such as this site) that will help you understand the difference between those who have this attraction and those who actually abuse.
We have a non-exhaustive list of Resources and Proper Terminology for you to use without having to even go anywhere else. I am also more than willing to answer any of your questions you might have: just fill out the form on “Contact Us”.
Let me end with this: the whole reason I chose the title of this post is that I feel that people have stolen the word “Pedophile” from the people who actually are that. They have taken something and made it mean something else.
I have told numerous people that, when talking to someone that it is safe to discuss my attraction with, I can’t even bring myself to say that I am a pedophile without thinking that I am actually saying I am offender.
I know I am NOT AN OFFENDER and don’t ever want to be, so shouldn’t it be OK for me to be able to use a word to describe part of myself without feeling like I am?