I recently asked a question, now deleted, about whether or not pedophilia can be considered a sexual orientation.

(It asked "Is pedophilia a sexual orientation?" and received an answer that used certain definitions to show that sexual orientation did not include pedophilia. The claim itself was not addressed.)

It's based on a notable claim that pedophilia is the equivalent of heterosexuality or homosexuality.

I had thought the claim was pretty clear-cut, however some people took this as an issue of definitions and semantics.

The only answer to the question doesn't answer the question I wanted to ask, at all. I can admit that was a problem with my wording of the question. I have an proposed edit, although I have been told that it would be unacceptable to edit the question after it has been answered.

I'm pretty sure that is policy, although I can't find that written anywhere.

So, what should I do in this case? The question I want to ask is much closer to "Can pedophilia be considered equivalent to heterosexuality and/or homosexuality?".

That is much closer to the actual claim and would yield answers showing studies in support of or against the claim, rather than quoting from definitions (which do not address the claim).

So, what can I do here? Should I post a new question clarifying what I mean?

Surely editing an existing question to clarify meaning is preferable to posting a new, very similar yet distinctly different question?

  • The question is now deleted (I added my vote to the delete vote of the community).
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 16:04

6 Answers 6


I'm keen that we don't end up in a cycle of unclear questions and inappropriate answers.

Asking "Is A like B?" is not a scientific question. It doesn't specify the criteria, and is hence unfalsifiable. I could probably come up with ten ways that paedophilia is like heterosexuality, ten ways it is like homosexuality, and ten ways it is not like either of them. It wouldn't be a test of a claim; it would be a test of my lateral thinking skills.

Asking "Is paedophilia equivalent to sexual orientation?" has the same issue. Obviously, they are not identical. From that point, arguing whether they are equivalent is just calling for opinion on what equivalence means.

Presumably, there is some particular aspect of paedophilia you wish to compare to sexual orientation; some criteria you want to use to judge their equivalence. This is a good point to look at the quoted claim.

“Pedophiles are not simply people who commit a small offence from time to time but rather are grappling with what is equivalent to a sexual orientation just like another individual may be grappling with heterosexuality or even homosexuality,” emphasized Van Gijseghem.

My reading of this quote is saying that paedophilia is equivalent to sexual orientation in two particular dimensions:

1) that some people "grapple" with their sexual desires, rather than making a reasoned choice about what their desires should be.

2) that their sexual desires last for a long period, rather being an occasional whim.

Are either of these statements ones you are doubtful about?

(Note: Many members of the straight and of the LGBT communities don't seem to "grapple" with their sexuality, but to be proud of it. Similarly, members of organisations like NAMBLA appear proud of their desires.)

  • Removed a long thread of posts - StackExchange is not a forum. Don't use the comment system to have a conversation.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 16:05
  • Pity the discussion was removed, didn’t see it. So would “is pedophilia a sexual orientation” suffer from the same problems according to you (assuming that all terms are rigorously defined within the question body, and be in accordance with what either most people or the medical establishment understand by them)? If not, why not? Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:24
  • I edited Sonny's question to clarify this point, as you cannot see the question any more. The original question was exactly this, but didn't define the terms. The answer provided used standard, rigorous definitions to show the answer was no. My prediction in the comments, which was fulfilled, was that such an answer would be unsatisfying.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:49
  • @Konrad The answer provided relied on definitions from the free medical dictionary, a less than reputable source. Other sources such as WebMD list pedophilia as a sexual orientation. Which is why the claim was not addressed, and a game of meaningless semantics entered into. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:59

Your question, to me anyways, seems like merely a meaningless game of semantics.

What is a sexual orientation? How does one define homosexual? If someone lives their whole life attracted to or interested in the same sex, but only actually has sexual experiences with the opposite gender, does that make them homosexual? Bisexual? What if one has primarily same sex attractions for years, then gradually develop opposite sex attractions? Homosexual? Semi-homosexual? Part-time-homosexual? What if someone is sexually attracted to the same sex but only wants romantic relationships with the opposite sex? What if someone is only ever the insertive partner, never the receptive partner? Are they still homosexual?

Kinsey's studies found out that most people are somewhat bisexual. 25% of OKCupid's self identified straight users answered "yes" to the question "have you ever had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex?" We have the term men who have sex with men to identify men who have sex with men who don't identify themselves as homosexual. The comments on this question further illustrate the problem with the term homosexual.

It isn't a clear enough term to make comparisons to, nor would any comparison be meaningful. The concept of homosexuality is just another way people try to divide other people in neat boxes, but not everyone fits.

  • Psychiatric disorders tend to have distinct symptoms and causes. At the moment many psychologists seem to hold the view (I'm not sure if it is a consensus) that pedophilia is a result of environment and separately, that it can be treated. This is not consistent with a sexual orientation. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:55
  • @Sonny [citation needed]
    – Sam I Am
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 17:35
  • The question about pedophilia on the front page lays out the differences and criteria. Is there something you require more evidence for, other than which I have provided? If so, what? Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 23:06

Is pedophilia a sexual orientation?

This is not necessarily a bad question. But this is more of behavioral, ethics related and what is accepted in our society. I voted this question up and then it was asked again in a different way which was kind of not nice.

While the question is good, does it really fit this site?

May be not. I can answer it with my personnel opinion but how can you prove it in the light of science or a notable quotation that this is indeed an orientation? who's quotation would be enough? Will a single author claim be acceptable? Or Do you want to find a gene that is responsible for being pedophile?

I don't think science has touched this subject at all why a person is gay or straight let alone pedophile? So while it is good question and worth discussing, probably it is not on topic and better off deleted. There is got to be some rules for this site.

  • I asked the question again because the original question was basically voided, since people were making it about definitions rather than addressing the claim. The new question was an attempt to exclude similar unproductive answers. Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 17:31
  • The claims made about pedophelia being a mental disorder attribute to it many symptoms that are defining as a disorder and not applicable to an orientation. The claims that pedophilia is a sexual orientation and not a mental disorder refute those claims. I think this question can be addressed with the evidence we have available, even if the answer is "we don't yet know". Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 17:33
  • I have never heard from any criminal who said 'this is my sexual orientaion, I should be allowed to do this'. Neither any society has said this should be allowed as sexual orientation. Ppl will always through in things for question that is not worth taking someone time. As I said it is not a bad question, but moderators here thought it is not appropriate for the site, so they rule. If something cannot be proved "now", I mean that question is clearly off topic. It should be answerable, that is one criteria of the question.
    – TheTechGuy
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 20:21
  • 1
    Check out the organization, B4UACT - (www.b4uact.org) which denies that pedophilia is a mental disorder and advocates it as an orientation. The question is answerable on this site, the only problem is when people make it about definitions and ignore the actual claims. Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 0:48
  • @SonnyOrdell Your reference says exactly the opposite: "Pedophilia is listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders".
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 1:25
  • @Sklivvz it is not uncommon to quote from a source to establish what you are arguing against or disputing. If you look around their site you will see they disagree with pedophilia being a disorder. There is even a presentation to that effect. Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 17:58

What about "is pedophilia innate?" or "has pedophilia ever been cured?"

  • Removed a long thread of posts - StackExchange is not a forum. Don't use the comment system to have a conversation.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 16:05
  • Asking if pedophilia is innate does not answer if it is closer to a disorder or an orientation, which is more than definitions. Asking if it has or can be cured is a loaded question. Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 17:29

The organization B4UACT is an advocacy/support group of sorts for pedophiles (NOT child molesters).

I think this section from their FAQ shows that they disagree it is a disorder since it lacks any of the defining characteristic of a disorder and is solely an orientation/preference.

Why do you say that minor-attracted people are stereotyped?

Popular beliefs about minor-attracted people are not supported by the evidence. Research shows that they are no more violent or aggressive than the general population, nor do they suffer from psychopathology or personality disorders. As a group, they do not share any particular characteristics or behaviors other than their feelings of attraction. For more information, see our fact sheet.

Emphasis mine.

That is a pretty clear claim to me. Is there really no way to question it without getting lost in definitions?

  • On their "fact sheet" they say that pedophilia is a recognised medical disorder. They can't have it both ways...
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 20:42
  • 1
    @Sklivvz They are stating that it is a recognized medical disorder because that is what they are challenging. When someone quotes a claim in a question on Skeptics.SE, it doesn't mean they accept the claim as true... Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 22:23

I ended up asking this on the Cognitive Sciences SE. The answer after editing is now quite good.

I think it's a shame the question could not be asked on this site and a reference laden answer provided, rather than some nonsense pasted from the "free medical dictionary".

In future, we should not be so quick to close questions that are addressable and answerable because a few people consider it an issue of semantics.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .