Pedophile, Child Lover, or Minor-Attracted Person? Attitudes Toward Labels Among People Who are Sexually Attracted to Children

Arch Sex Behav. 2022 Nov;51(8):4125-4139. doi: 10.1007/s10508-022-02331-6. Epub 2022 Sep 29.

Abstract

The primary label for people who are sexually attracted to children ("pedophile") is conflated with sexual offending behavior and tainted with stigma. In the present pre-registered mixed-method study, we therefore investigated attitudes and preferences regarding "pedophile/hebephile" and other labels among 286 people who report a stronger or equally strong sexual attraction to prepubescent and pubescent children than to adults. Overall, quantitative data showed acceptance of "pedophile/hebephile" as well as a range of alternative labels in a personal (Labeling Oneself) and a professional context (Being Labeled by Others). "Minor-attracted person" and "pedophile/hebephile" received generally higher support than other terms and appeared to be least divisive across three major online fora. Qualitative data revealed four themes: "Contested self-labels," "Person-first language and pathologizing sexuality/identity," "Stigma and shame," and "Reclaiming the pedophile label." Our results allow deeper insight into reasons for adopting certain labels over others, as well as difficulties of finding a non-stigmatizing label. We discuss limitations of the study and practical implications for clinical and research contexts.

Keywords: DSM-5; Hebephilia; Identity; Labeling; Mixed-method; Pedophilia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Pedophilia*
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sexual Behavior