We get letters: An error in my terminology

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I received the following e-mail from Tim. Tim says…

Hey Trench – I enjoy reading your blog but thought I’d point out an error in your terminology.

You commonly refer to men attracted to teenage girls as ‘pedophiles’ when this is not the case. Attraction to teenage girls is considered ‘hebophilia’ which actually is not considered a mental disorder, as it is biologically normal to be attracted to post-pubescent individuals.

We as a society have chosen to infantilize teenagers when it comes to sex but treat them as adults when they commit crimes. It seems a little out of whack to me. Thoughts?

I checked the archives because I could have sworn I got this e-mail before. I guess it’s because this is an argument I’ve heard before.

First off, you may want to learn the terminology yourself of the various concepts you’re discussing. A brief Google search would show you that hebephilia, which is what I believe you’re trying to spell, is the sexual attraction to early pubescent girls ages 11 to 14. Ephebophilia is the adult sexual interest in mid-to-late adolescents ages 15-19. This what I believe you’re actually trying to defend. The problem with these terms, along with the term pedophilia, is that all three indicate the sexual desire of children, hence why the term pedophile is often used interchangeably. Whether you consider it ‘biologically normal’ is irrelevant since having sex with minors is illegal in all 50 states.

When you say that we ‘infantilize teenagers when it comes to sex but treat them as adults when they commit crimes’ you’re comparing apples to oranges. Crime, especially murder, has clear lines that everyone knows. Murder is wrong, you will be arrested and you will go to jail. Sex is drastically more complicated than that. Children, of either sex, who are exposed to sexual activity or content at too young of age can end up having unhealthy or abnormal idea about sex. Predators know this and use this naiveté to prey upon their victims.

It seems like your e-mail can be summed up with a phrase that a multitude of predators have used when they say that ‘age is just a number.’

4 Replies to “We get letters: An error in my terminology”

  1. I am the sender of the subject email and just wanted to quickly respond to you…

    Age is in fact just a number when you are dealing with post pubescent teenagers. The human brain does not magically become ready for sexual activity on its 18th birthday. Some people mature much earlier than others, as I’m sure you know. So why do we pretend that nobody under the age of 18 is ready for sex? And why do we assume anybody who has sex with someone under that magical age is a monster? The age of 18 years has no biological significance and seems to have been chosen arbitrarily by our government.

    That being said, the law is the law, and right or wrong we should all be expected to abide by it. Where I have the issue is lumping someone who has sex with a 16 year old in with someone who has sex with a 10 year old (a true pedophile).

    1. Where I have the issue is lumping someone who has sex with a 16 year old in with someone who has sex with a 10 year old (a true pedophile).

      So you have no problem with a 40-year-old having sex with a 16-year-old and think thats completely healthy?

  2. I think in some cases it can be no less healthy than a 40 year old and an 18 year old, which we have deemed acceptable. It depends on the individuals involved and the situation.

    1. Who has deemed it acceptable? Most people I know go by the half your age +7 rule as an acceptable dating age guideline and not the “old enough to bleed, old enough to breed” guideline.

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