Friday, April 9, 2010

Philia Friday: Love For Every Age

The saying goes "Age ain't nothing but a number"...this is not exactly true, especially when it comes to one's sexual desires for another.  While some may simply cause raised eyebrows if discovered others, especially when acted upon, can get a person in very serious legal trouble and brand them as an outcast for life.  While to the larger public the specifics of which term is most appropriate for which sexual preference may be irrelevant it is rather important to mental health professionals and law enforcement...and, in some cases, it may be beneficial to, well, know your pervert in the end.


This is the one that virtually everyone knows; a term thrown out to just about every sex predator and pervert that seems attracted to any being under the age of consent (generally 16-18 in the US depending on the state).  The truth is though it's become more of a "go-to" pop-culture based word than a true term in the public these's overused and incorrectly at that.  According to it's definition (as found in the suggested revisions for the upcoming DSM-V, the diagnostic book used by mental health professionals) pedophilia is the sexual attraction to those aged eleven years and younger.

Keeping this more specific and more accurate definition in mind we can see that certain groups of sex abusers do not, in fact, qualify as pedophiles...such as the vast majority of online predators that seek out kids in chatrooms and social networking sites (these types will be discussed next though).  It also becomes clear that other predators do qualify such as certain priests that find themselves in the news as part of the Catholic sex abuse scandals and the pediatrician from Delaware who made headlines after it was discovered he may have sexually assaulted more than a hundred of his patients - some as young as three months old (he also seems to have been a sadist, not true of all pedophiles).


The term is far less used, but far more accurate, when dealing with those whose sexual preferences come in under the age of consent laws.  For this reason alone it might be why the DSM-V will likely have it listed as a specific "type" of pedophila...the fact it's been gaining increased attention and usage over the years are also likely reasons.  Hebephilia, in its definition, is the sexual attraction to those aged eleven to fourteen.

Now, by the definition alone, most could see that many "pedophiles" are, in fact, hebephiles.  The fictional Humbert Humbert of Nabokov's Lolita would be one and so would R. Kelly, Michael Jackson (if his sexual preferences for young boys were as suggested and rumored), and a few of those female school teachers (such as Debra Lafave and Mary Kay Letourneau) who made splashes in the news for sleeping with their then 13 and 14-year-old male students.  Most of the online predators that chat up young tween and teen girls and boys, try to lure them into taking risque photos and meeting up somewhere far away from a guardian's careful eye, would also fall into the category of hebephile.


Ephebos means "one arrived at puberty" in Greek and ephebophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to those 15 to 16 years of age.  It is not currently nor is it to be in the revision of the DSM.  Now part of this could be due to the fact that, in certain states, 16 is the age of consent - it could be a touch confusing to label someone with a mental illness when what they're doing is perfectly legal.  Another part could be because it's a touch more socially acceptable to lust after them; frequently those in this age range are the ones jokingly (though sometimes accurately) being described as "jailbait".  In pop-culture they are the tempting cheerleader, babysitter, or jock that seem to already have a sex life of their own, even if it's just developing.  Naturally the parents of these teens would, in reality, rather adults (and other teens) stay far away from their 15 and 16 daughters and sons.

So who are the ephebophiles?  Hard to say, there really isn't as much data on these individuals as there are for the first two discussed (studies tend to focus on pedophiles and hebephiles more).  At a sweeping, completely research-baseless, guess I'd think it'd be some of those online predators again and some other teachers that have found themselves embroiled in sex scandals with their students.

Few More Age Philias:

There are a few other "philias" based on the age of the object of one's desires as well.  The next in the age continuum is teleiophilia meaning the sexual attraction to those 17 and older (teleios is Greek for "fully grown"); basically it covers pretty much everyone who's attracted to the normal age range for the average individual.  After that there's gerontophilia which, if broken down, is rather clearly the sexual attraction to the elderly...this one is considered very rare (perhaps Harold from the movie Harold & Maude had it though).  Some are also pushing for the use of the word infantophilia to describe those with a sexual attraction to those who are under the age of six (as of now it is not classified in the new DSM, though pedohebephilia - the sexual attraction to both those under 11 and 11-14 years of age - will be).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Ephebophile sounds a lot better than pedophile, even if it isn't that much better, apparently.
On a completely serious note, I blame my lack of social confidence in high school, I don't think I've mentally moved on from ogling 15/16 year old girls yet. Still, I'm only 20, so I don't think it's *that* bad if the legal age is 16 anyway. Still, society frowns upon liking girls who are in school, even if they are legal. Ah well. I always draw the line at 14 though. Always.