Charles, I think you offer about as good and generous a defense of that article one could make. But I still have a basic problem with it. Ultimately, the piece follows exactly the strategy one would suggest to start the “important conversation” and then a campaign in favor of humanizing pedophilia.
Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Replace pedophilia in the article with a desire to rape. Call it rapophilia. No doubt there are no small number of men out there who have a strong innate urge to forcibly rape people. They just can’t help it. It’s what they are into. No doubt some number of them never act on that urge and they struggle with their demon.
How would that op-ed read? Would Salon publish it? Would readers be expected to sympathize with the author?
I consider pedophilia the desire to rape children. Even when it is not violently forcible, I consider sex with children to be a kind of rape because children cannot offer anything like informed consent.
You nod to the idea that social taboos have their place, but the main thrust of the essay is to attack the social stigma against pedophiles. I am hard pressed to see what good can come of that. For that reason alone — though I can think of others — I think Salon made a mistake running that piece.
No doubt it is a cruel fate to be born having a sexual desire for children. But I cannot see how the net sum of suffering in this world would be lessened if we were to have a more accommodating and tolerant attitude toward pedophiles. I’m not a big fan of slippery-slope arguments, but this seems like one place where they apply.
Taboos, like any bright and clear rule, will create winners and losers. That in itself is no argument against a taboo. Launching a campaign — and that’s what Salon was doing — to lighten the taboo against pedophilia is not, to my mind, commendable.