Having a sexual attraction to children is not normal and never will be, an expert has said following an article that suggested hebephilia – the attraction to pubescent children – is natural for males.
The Daily Telegraph article, 'Paedophilia is natural and normal for males', noted that a number of controversial academics argue it is normal for men to find children sexually attractive, following the high-profile cases of Rolf Harris, an alleged Tory party cover-up of abuse and the on-going Operation Yewtree.
However, Ray Blanchard, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, says this is not the case and that there is no evidence to support these ideas: "Saying all men are hebephiles or all men are paedophiles is a profoundly misleading and untrue statement," he told IBTimes UK.
Blanchard has authored a number of studies on hebephilia and in 2008 suggested it be introduced to the DSM-5 – the American Association of Psychiatry's classification and diagnostic tool of mental disorders.
Pedophilia, hebephilia and teleiophilia explained
Hebephilia involves the sexual attraction towards pubescent children. Very roughly, this most commonly involves girls aged between 11 and 14. It involves Tanner stages two and three – which indicate early puberty.
Paedophilia is sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children in Tanner stage one.
Paedohebephilia involves being attracted to children of all ages.
Teleiophilia, a term coined by Blanchard, is an adult being sexually attracted to other adults.
Not without his critics, Blanchard was accused of supporting its inclusion in the DSM-5 to uphold current legal frameworks, while others said his proposals to include hebephilia and paedophilia under the umbrella term paraphilia did not go far enough.
One of his biggest critics, Karen Franklin, claimed hebephilia is normal for men because in terms of evolution and reproduction, it is beneficial to be attracted to a girl when she becomes fertile: "She claims hebephilia is adaptive," Blanchard said.
"There are two responses to that. One is that from what empirical evidence there is suggests that if anything hebephilia is not adaptive (part of evolution). I did a direct study comparing paedophiles, hebephiles and teleiophiles and found hebephiles had fewer biological offspring than teleiophiles who are attracted to physically mature partners.
"There is no objective evidence that hebephilia is adaptive, which is to say it resulted in more offspring being left behind by the hebephilic individual compared with the teleiophilic individual."
In his second argument, Blnachard says that if Franklin's idea that hebephilia should not be a mental disorder is right, then, as a consequence homosexuality should be put back onto the DSM-5 as their sexual preference is not adaptive.
"I don't think she thought it through when she wrote it. I think it was the first thing that came to her mind – 'ah ha hebephilia must be adaptive'. I don't think it crossed her mind that the result of this argument is that homosexuality should go back into the DSM, because gay men and lesbian women have very very low fertility rates."
Blanchard said that there is a "frantic argument" over the normalisation of hebephilia, with some turning to research that shows normal men – teleiophiles – in laboratory conditions, will become very slightly sexually aroused when shown naked images of children in comparison to pictures of rocks and trees.
"But saying that normal men respond at some microscopic level to physically immature physique, is not the same thing as saying normal men prefer the immature physique."
But when does a man become classified as a hebephile? A 17-year-old boy being attracted to a 14-year-old girl may not seem so unusual, but a 50-year-old man having the same attraction would be abhorred. "I would say by the time a man is 20 if he prefers 13-year-old girls to other 20-year-old girls he's a hebephile," he said.
"Paedophiles don't just drop out of the sky. They're paedophiles when eight, they're paedophiles when they're 10 and they're paedophiles when they're 20. It's just that the fact that there is something abnormal about them isn't detectable until adulthood and it becomes clear to themselves and or others that their age interests are inappropriate.
"The patient isn't changing, the physical context of their behaviour which makes it look acceptable or unacceptable is changing."
And is hebephilia ever normal? "No."