To better understand their own situation in society, a person with one or more discriminated social identities can often find it helpful to learn from the bodies of work, concepts, and ideas other marginalized groups have been developing to deal with oppression. Yet, exclusion and seperation frequently happen among, as well as in between, different stigmatized communities, impeding an exchange of thoughts and tools for making society a better place.
One of the areas where a lack of communication seems to have led to various problems is the intersection between feminism and minor attraction. In other words, we believe that reading feminist literature can offer a lot of insights for MAPs and their allies both on an individual level as well as in regard to activism. Therefore, we hope that the following list of concepts that originated in and/or have been expanded upon by feminist theory alongside a short description of how they could be used in the context of MAPs’ sociopolitical struggle might be interesting to some readers.
Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the concept of intersectionality maintains that all forms of systemic discrimination are woven together, and thus, can only be fully understood and reduced most effectively when addressed together. A concrete example of this would be that, according to this theory, the liberation of gay people will never be complete until the voices of gay MAPs are listened to rather than rejected by teleiophilic gay people. To only fight for the rights of people as long as they are teleiophilic would mean to inevitably reproduce the patterns of oppression and exclusion in dominant heterosexual culture gay liberation has been trying to overcome, undermining efforts of getting rid of such patterns entirely.
Importantly, intersectionality also holds that in many cases where different forms of discrimination intersect, a partial analysis of only one of those forms won’t be sufficient to comprehend the situation. For instance, young MAPs grow up in a society in which people frequently both state to care about the wellbeing of youth while also wishing MAPs to be dead. At first glance, this might appear contradictory. However, if one considers that apart from prejudices against MAPs, an ageist attitude causing people to ignore the views and feelings of young people factors into such statements, it becomes clearer how a person can adhere to such inconsistent beliefs.
Other examples for intersections of stigma against MAPs and other forms of discrimination are:
- e.g. the idea that girls and women can’t be MAPs due to prejudices of girls and women not having a sexuality, especially not one that is seen by current society as “aggressive”
- e.g. people justifying the devaluation of opinions and feelings of MAPs with flawed studies ascribing them lower cognitive abilities (i.e. the perspectives of people who have or are presumed to have less cognitive abilites seen as inferior to others)
- people justifying discrimination against MAPs based on their view of minor attraction as an illness (i.e. if a group is seen as ill or disordered it would make it okay to stigmatize it), often calling MAPs “sick” in a derogatory way or attacking them with other ableist language
- e.g. the image of a stereoytpical MAP often being used in media being that of a white person (i.e. the sexuality of people of color being already stigmatized as “aggressive”, therefore a white MAP being more shocking to a white audience as it contradicts the racist narrative of white people having a “pure” sexuality)
- e.g. young MAPs not being believed to be MAPs when coming out as minor attracted (i.e. young people being seen as not having a sexuality, especially not one that is seen by current society as “aggressive”)
In the context of social issues, privilege refers to the advantages a person has due to one of their social identities not being discriminated against. Since every individual has multiple social identities, it is possible to experience discrimination in one area of one’s life while being privileged in another. Despite privileges granting advantages, it is crucial to keep in mind that they can also come with a high prize (see hegemonic masculinity below). Likewise, experiences with discrimination have the potential to be opportunities for learning and to give an individual a unique perspective different from that of the dominant group (see standpoint theory below).
Teleiophilic privileges in current Western societies are so ubiqutous that most teleiophiles aren’t aware of them. One of them, teleionormativity, causes this lack of awareness as it makes teleiophilia appear as the assumed “standard”. This “standard” is so thoroughly enforced that most MAPs growing up likely don’t know any other MAPs in their social environment, let alone (knowingly) have minor attracted peers, support groups, or minor attracted characters in the media they consume. Another privilege teleiophiles enjoy is reading or hearing about their sexuality mostly only in positive contexts whereas the language that is used when research or the media talk about minor attraction is almost always “poisoned” by very negative words such as “abuse”, “urges”, or “offend”. While using negative words when talking about a sexuality isn’t prejudiced in itself, the lack of more positive sounding media discussing minor attraction probably contributes significantly to how many MAPs see themselves.
One of the advantages male MAPs have due to their experiences with stigma is that, as opposed to male teleiophiles, their sexuality doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of being male, incentivising (if not forcing) them to question these expectations. Common prejudices directed at (male) MAPs are that they’d just be “too afraid of adults to date them” (thus failing to fulfill the male stereotype of being confident) or that they’d be too unattractive for anyone to want to be in a relationship with them (thus failing to fulfill the adult male stereotype of being sexually active, see also literature about lookism). Moreover, the media often depicts stereotypical (male) MAPs as weak, shy, and in various other ways as what is seen in current society as “unmanly”.
To be a male MAP, then, means to be in a continuous decision process of wether one tries to fulfill these expectations as much as one can regardless, or if one rejects them and constructs one’s own personal idea of what being male can mean instead. To quote John Paul De Cecco, professor of psychology and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Homosexuality from 1975 to 2009 in a Paidika interview from 1988:
“The persons I have met here in Amsterdam who identify as paedophiles certainly don’t impress me as being stereotypical macho American males, thank God, but in many ways they are also extraordinary brave and pioneering men, which is part of the male stereotype. So what I guess this means is that they show a kind of androgyny, this incredible nurturance, and yet this rather fearless dedication that shows that maybe men can be men in a way that does not require brutal force. In other words, that men can be powerful, but powerful in a moral way, that there can be a kind of moral power that can combine with nurturance, so that power and nurturance don’t have to be seen as opposing attributes. So I think that these men redefine what it is to be a man.”
Although De Cecco seems to misunderstand feminist theory in other parts of this interview and this quote (like any other quotes on this blog) should therefore not be seen as an endorsement of the rest of text it was cited from, it shows the valueable role (male) MAPs play in transforming or overcoming traditional conceptions of gender.
Yet, despite this potential, male MAPs are, like any male person, at risk of being influenced by hegemonic masculinity, i.e. harmful notions of what being male is supposed to mean according to patriarchal culture, such as not expressing any emotion except for aggression or a tendency to compete rather than work together. Or as the essay “Educating Ourselves: Toward a Feminist Position for Boy Lovers” from 1983 puts it:
“Women should listen to boy-lovers. And boy-lovers should listen to women. […] Male pedophiles have valuable knowledge that is unthinkingly rejected by society. They must grasp the concept of similar, and even greater, bodies of knowledge they themselves reject. […] The woman-hating culture does not pass over men who love boys. […] Male boy-lovers, just like other men, participate in preferential employment, promotion, education, the emotional security of belonging to a superior caste, and the thousand little advantages given them in the male-oriented culture. […] It is not so much that sanctions against women are more subtle than those against boy-lovers, but rather that they are so accepted and common as to attract no notice, and that in America they are now enforced more by vigilantes than by the courts.”
According to standpoint theory, different marginalized groups have a unique perspective on social issues due to their status as “outsiders”. If those perspectives are ignored or neglected in favor of the ones of the respective privileged group, it is likely that the resulting picture is biased or incomplete. In regard to public and academic discourses about minor attraction, it is often only the voices of teleiophiles which are given a platform. One consequence of this is that, according to standpoint theory, a lot of research on minor attraction, MAPs, and their situation in society that has been carried out by teleiophiles is likely to have flaws, even if it was done with seemingly “neutral methods”. Standpoint theory emphasizes therefore that such “neutral approaches” are less objective than those that start from the lives and experiences of the oppressed (see also strong objectivity).
Moreover, a lot of studies in the field of minor attraction have been conducted by male, white, cisgender, and otherwise very privileged researchers focusing on male, white, cisgender and otherwise privileged MAPs, complicating the question of how accurate the picture sociology and other disciplines draw of who MAPs are and what perspectives and wishes they have even more.
To solve these issues, an approach standpoint theory might suggest would be to put more effort into amplifying the voices of MAPs, especially of those MAPs with multiple marginalized identities.
Following this line of thought, we would like to add that this blog post was written by two MAPs who are pretty much privileged in every possible respect except for our sexuality (especially Finlay). Because of this, we want to point out that it’s likely that this post is in some way biased or ignorant in some way of the issues a lot of other MAPs might face. Nevertheless, we hope it’ll be helpful or interesting to some people and we very much appreciate feedback in the comments to make possible correction to this post or learn and improve for future ones.
-Finlay and Peace
- John Paul De Cecco, Winter 1988, Paidika 1 (3), p. 2-10
- Camilla, 1983, Educating Ourselves: Toward a Feminist Position for Boy Lovers, NAMbLA Journal 6, p. 7-9
- Carin Marie Freimond, 2009, Navigating the Stigma of Pedophilia: The Experiences of Nine Minor-Attracted Men in Canada
- Walker et al, 2016, Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue
- Allan G. Johnson, 1997, The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy (for a shortened version of the book see here)
- bell hooks, 2000, Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics
- Kimberlé Crenshaw, 1991, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality,
Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color, Stanford
Law Review 43(6):1241-1299.
- Sandra Harding, 1992, Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is Strong Objectivity?, The Centennial Review
- R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, 2005, Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept, Gender and Society.