Paedophilia - an old phenomenon or a new disease?Author: Angelina Dimovska
“The great media interest for the cases of paedophilia in Macedonia has brought to surface the deviation which has always existed, but was never talked about since it was treated as a shameful subject to share with the public,” - thinks Nelko Stojanovski, PhD, professor of social pathology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje
“The media look for exclusive stories that would sell the newspaper. And the cases of paedophilia are precisely that. The number of such cases is not far bigger than in the past, only this problem is not considered a taboo any more. In the past, people did not want to speak publicly about it. Paedophilia is discussed more openly nowadays, more on these cases is written in the media, thus an impression is made that the frequency has increased,” Stojanovski says.
The sociological and social changes in the past few decades, which have democratized media space, have brought about changes in the information offer, which started making more room for the dark sides of human nature. Scandals, swagger and sex, the three “S”-es which giggle human curiosity, have reigned the newspaper pages and have occupied the initial striking minutes on the radio and TV-programs.
The sociological explanations say - the media are competing for circulation, and these issues achieve the goal.
On the other hand, the greater open-mindedness of people about what was previously considered as taboo issue, is assigned to the collective expectation for an efficient dealing with such deviation. This also speaks about the increased hopes that the published media would accelerate institutional participation in solving these deviations. This resulted in more frequent information on paedophiles and their victims in the media.
But theoreticians also warn on the negative sides from such increased interest of the media in cases of paedophilia.
“The more frequent articles on paedophiles can have an opposite effect. Since today’s “liberal” society goes to extremes, soon we may face a problem of caressing a child in public” Stojanovski says.
These news are equally consumed by both children and adults, as well as the victims and the institutions which should deal with such phenomena, so opposite effects are possible.
“Children, which are more and more familiar with this problem through the media, can abuse it for their own purposes. For instance, they may unjustly accuse a professor of abusing them. One should be careful on how to display this deviation and what repercussions it may have in inciting unfounded suspicions with children,” Stojanovski says.
A disease or not?
“Paedophilia is not a psychiatric problem,” considers the neuropsychiatrist d-r Pavle Pavlov.
“No one has ever undergone treatment from paedophilia. It is not a disease. In the past, paedophiles were considered as part of the sexual psychopaths. But it is not a disease since it neither progresses nor can be cured, there is no change, it is a static condition,“ says d-r Pavle Pavlov from the neuropsychiatric center PZO “D-r Pavlov” from Skopje.
The latest world research on this subject has shown that paedophiles have fewer white blood cells in the brain, which contain nerves for transmission of information. The way in which the brain regulates and processes sexual orientation in particular is a focus of further research, the world scientists believe. With the new discoveries, new methods can be developed for controlling paedophilia.
The new study has asserted that the paedophiles’ brains are different from the brains of people without such predisposition. As the scientists claim, parts of the brain are covered that are responsible for estimation of sexual stimulation. Since here the information of sexual character are estimated, and the connection with this part of the brain is partly interrupted, it is possible that for this reason the brain interprets these information “incorrectly”. This study has actually denied the previous belief that paedofilia is a result form a childhood trauma or sexual abuse.
Paedophiles can control their behavior and should take responsibility for their crimes. If they are not capable of choosing their own sexual preferences, that does not mean that they cannot influence on what they do.
Cultural history of paedophilia
Despite the absence of precise statistics and data, sexual relationships between adult men and children have always existed. The attitude towards these relationships has been changing its course throughout history.
In the hierarchical structure of Ancient Greece, sexual relationships between adult men and beardless boys have always been a comprising part of “education” of the boys. And of the pleasures of the adults as well.
In the 18 century, after the French Revolution, the moral and ethics were no more an exclusive responsibility of the church, but have become a problem which the government tried to deal with. But the criminal laws in that time still did not provide punishments for sexual relationships between adults and minors or children. There were punishments only for raping and murdering children.
From 1830 to 1890, in two thirds of all documented sexual offenses in London, victims were the children. The institutional and educational sources from the 19 century, still, show a less dramatic picture, with an ambiguous line between physical and sexual abuse of children by their teachers or priests.
The debate on sexual abuse of children continues in France and England around the 1850s as a result of the rise of the middle class and the romantic concept of a child, as well as the introduction of new scientific disciplines - psychiatry and forensics.
When in 1885 the series of texts “In memory of modern Babylon” appeared in the British newspaper “Pall Mall Gazette”, sexual abuse of children become a top-theme for public discussion. The series of articles that wrote about child prostitution have cultivated the picture of an innocent girl, borrowed from the novel “Alice from Wonderland”, in a series of photographs of naked children. A quarter million people went out in the streets of London as a sign of protest.
Similar protests, a century later, in 1996 took place in Brussels, Belgium, as a response to the possible police negligence in the case of the paedophile Mark Ditro, who in the 1990s sexually abused and murdered several young women.
The responsibility of the society on sexual abuse of children gained more strength throughout the history. Even though children were considered as sexually innocent, not always were they believed for their testimony in the courts for these crimes. The skepticism for their testimony was great and was supported by the new scientific studies and by the Freudian interpretation of child sexuality.
The moral panic for sexual abuse of children in the 19 century was followed by a series of warnings in the media. The image of sexual psychopaths was finally defined in the 20 century, along with the increased cognition in forensic science, women’s movement, psychoanalysis and the sexual revolution. The feeling of social responsibility culminated with the verdict of a preschool teacher, sentenced for sexual abuse in 1983 in California. The panic reached its climax in the last few years of the 20 century, after the appearance of child pornography, chat-groups on the internet and the series of child murders and abuses in the USA and Europe. An overall accusation, on the other hand, occurred when the Pope publicly apologized for all sexual abuses of young boys by the Catholic priests, thus admitting this deviation in the church as well, the greatest moral dam.
The “Lolita” phenomenon
Lolita began as a novel, and ended as a symbol of sexual attraction of young girls, that is to say, adolescents.
The novel “Lolita” was written by Vladimir Nabokov between 1949 and 1955. The contents buils up around the middle-aged professor Humbert Humbert, who was desperately in love with a young girl, Lolita, whom Nabokov described with the term “nymphette”. While Nabokov explained the theme of the novel as an aesthetic description of an extremely erotic desire, the obvious paedophilic context of the novel was characterized as scandalous. The manuscript of the novel was first refused by the American publishers, and then by the English, and was then prohibited by the French Minister of Interior. When finally “Lolita” appeared, it became a bestseller in only three days.
The film directed by Stanley Kubrick on this novel, with James Mason in the leading male role, was also considered as controversial. And recommended for adults only. In 1977 a remake was made by Adrian Lyne. Humbert was played by Jeremy Irons.
The problem that this film poses about sexuality directed towards a young girl, as Nabokov named her “nymphette”, remains as an upsetting cultural field for discussion.
Nabokov is really telling a fiction story, but the world of arts also remembers such examples from real life. The proneness of the pop-star Michael Jackson to children took him to court, and for such intimate pleasures the director Roman Polanski was also a suspect. In this context, well known are the life experiences of the rock’n’roll star Jerry Lee Lewis and the immortal Charlie Chaplin.
Life sentence for paedophiles
The First Children’s Embassy in the World - Megjashi requested life sentence for paedophiles, since in their opinion, particularly the minimum punishments that the judges pass are the greatest incitement for paedophiles. The experience has shown that in the largest amount of cases paedophiles get away with probation, or with 6 - 12 months of prison. Therefore, at the beginning of this year rigorous sentences were introduce. So, the minimal provided sentence is 3 years, and the maximum is life sentence.
The First Children’s Embassy in the World - Megjashi has pointed out several examples in the world as how to solve the problem with paedophilia.
“In Norway the paedophiles are implanted with microchips, so the police always knows where they are, and the same is expected in England. In Denmark chemical castration is conducted to paedophiles recidivists, which is what the president of France advocates as well. In the countries considered as less civilized the only verdict for the offenders is death penalty,” states Megjashi.