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What is Paedophilia?

Paedophilia (pedophilia) is a sexual disorder in which a person experiences sexual feelings towards pre-pubescent children. For some people, this is associated with sexual feelings exclusively towards children, whereas for others, they might experience sexual feelings for both children and adults.

To be classed as a paedophile, the individual typically needs to have experienced intense feelings, urges, or fantasies over a prolonged period of time. The disorder is more commonly found in men and is only rarely found in women.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual feelings for children, support is available. Head to our Prevention Page to find resources available in your country.

Related terms

Hebephilia: A sexual preference for pubescent (i.e. early adolescent) individuals, typically aged 11-14

Ephebophilia: A sexual preference for late-stage adolescent individuals, typically aged 15 and 16

Paraphilia: A sexual arousal to something regarded as unusual, although what’s considered unusual may vary depending on culture, time and place. The term paraphilia is sometimes preferred by therapists to other terms such as “sexual deviance” because it has less judgemental connotations.

Is a paedophile and a child sexual abuser the same thing?

Paedophilia concerns the feelings, urges, or fantasies an individual experiences. Child sexual abuse refers to the actions – either consuming and sharing Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), or committing a contact offence – that a person can take. Someone can experience sexual feelings for children and never act on them, and therefore never become a child sexual abuser, or someone can sexually abuse a child without feeling sexual feelings for them.

To highlight this difference, several online support groups of people suffering with paedophilia exist, such as one called Virtuous Pedophiles, in which they acknowledge having a sexual interest in children but do not act on that attraction.

Conversely, below is a list of different kinds of child sexual abuse offenders and how they may relate to sexual preferences.

  • Preferential Offenders: who are motivated by sexual interests exclusively felt for children (i.e. paedophiles/hebephiles).
  • Commercial Offenders: who facilitate child sexual abuse for financial gain and who may not have sexual feelings for children
  • Situational Offenders: who take advantage of opportunities to engage with CSAM and minors, and who may have a range of paraphilic desires.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual feelings for children, support is available. Head to our Prevention Page to find resources available in your country.

What is Paedophilia?
22.09.2021 - by INHOPE
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If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual feelings for children, support is available. Head to our Prevention Page to find resources available in your country.

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