www.philia.ws

    September 2000

    Defining Adult Attraction to Minors

    As Australia's Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority comments:
     

      The Macquarie Dictionary defines "paedophilia" as: "sexual attraction in an adult towards children". . . . In the medical and sociological literature phrases such as "true paedophilia" and "genuine paedophilia" are used to refer to biologically pre-pubescent children. . . . Some academic writers who use "paedophilia" to refer to pre-pubescent children use the word "hebephilia", or sometimes "ephebophilia", to refer to the sexual attraction of an adult to an adolescent (ie. to someone between the stages of puberty and adulthood). However, these terms appear to be rarely used outside academic writings.


    The above statement only begins to plumb the complexity of the problem of finding adequate terminology for adult attraction to minors. Here, to show the full intricacy, is a listing of the etymological, clinical/scholarly, and lay definitions of words that are commonly used to refer to minor-attracted adults. (The clinical/scholarly and lay meanings are given according to how the words are commonly used, not how the words are defined in the dictionary. Multiple meanings are due to different authors using the same word in different ways.)

    PEDOPHILE

    Etymological meanings: Pedo- or paedo- is derived from the Greek word paidos, meaning "boy" or "child." Paidophiles seems to have been used in ancient times primarily to refer to a man who fell in love with male adolescents.

    Clinical meanings: An adult who is attracted to prepubescent children. More narrowly, certain criteria are usually set forth to define the form that attraction takes.

    Lay meanings: An adult who is attracted to prepubescent children; an adult who is attracted to minors; an adult who molests minors; an adolescent who is attracted to or molests younger children.

    HEBEPHILE

    Etymological meanings: According to the Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon, the legal term hebe meant "the time before manhood, at Athens sixteen years of age"; according to another ancient source cited by Liddell-Scott, the time before fourteen, and according to an ancient source on Sparta, the time before eighteen. More generally, the word meant "youth."

    Clinical meanings: An adult who is attracted to adolescents; an adult who is attracted to adolescents younger than eighteen.

    Lay meanings: The word is not commonly used in lay speech.

    EPHEBOPHILE

    Etymological meanings: According the Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon, the word ephebos meant "one arrived at adolescence" a youth of eighteen years or older, according to most ancient sources. The word was also used to mean "boy" or "young girl."

    Clinical meanings: An adult who is attracted to adolescents; an adult who is attracted to adolescents younger than eighteen; an adult who is attracted to adolescents eighteen and older.

    Lay meanings: The word is not commonly used in lay speech.

    PEDERAST

    Etymological meanings: As in the case of pedophile, pederast is derived from the Greek word paidos, meaning "boy" or "child." Paiderastes was a synonym of paidophiles, referring primarily to a man who fell in love with male adolescents.

    Scholarly meanings: A man who is attracted to boys, primarily male adolescents. Less commonly, a woman who is attracted to boys, or a woman who is attracted to girls.

    Lay meanings: A man who is attracted to boys, primarily male adolescents; a man who has anal sex with boys.

    IN SUMMARY

    It should be clear from the above that all terminology that presently exists for adult attraction to minors is either imprecise, etymologically incorrect, unfamiliar, or all of the above.

    Choosing appropriate terminology is therefore a case of choosing the lesser evils. At the Philia sites, an attempt has been made to choose terminology that is as much as possible precise, etymologically correct, and familiar. Unfortunately, none of the terms used can fulfill all of these requirements.

    Adults who are attracted to minors are referred to as minor-attracted adults, a term which may smack of political correctness to some, but which describes precisely the indicated group.

    Adults who are attracted to prepubescent children are referred to as pedophiles, in accordance with long-standing clinical usage.

    Finding a term for adolescent-attracted adults is especially difficult. The clinical world seems unable to agree on whether adults attracted to adolescent minors are hebephiles or ephebophiles; moreover, both terms are little known to the lay world. As a result, adults who are attracted to adolescents are referred to at the Philia sites as pederasts. Although this gender-neutral usage of the word is not an entirely satisfactory solution, the term pederast at least has the virtue of being familiar to the average person.

    In addition, terms used by minor-attracted adults to refer to themselves are used where appropriate. The term non-pedophiles is used to refer to people who are neither pedophiles nor pederasts.

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    © 2000 Heather Elizabeth Peterson