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Author Topic: Hebephila and Sexual Safety
Heather
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I'm going to put this here, because I think it's a discussion that both young adults, adults and parents should be involved in, or at least pay attetnion to.

Recently, I have been volunteering a little time in a venue which encourages discussion from pedophiles and hebephiles with those of us who do not have those condtions. The goal is to help provide support and encouragement for those people to try and deal with those conditions, to remain passive (and not become active molesters) and to establish some adult-to-adult relationships which can help them. Needless to say, it is very difficult work, but it is also very enlightening to get in their heads a little bit, in terms of being better able to see the dangers.

Basically, there has been a lot of safety discussion around pedophilia (adults being attracted to young children) but less given to hebepihlia (or properly, "ephebophilia") which is of great concern with the age group at this site.

Ephebophilia is a condtion (or paraphilia) in which "an adult is responsive to and dependent on the actuality or imagery of erotic/sexual activity with an adolescent boy or girl in order to obtain erotic arousal and facilitate or achieve orgasm. An ephebophiliac may be of either sex. Ephebophilic activity may be replayed in fantasy during masturbation or copulation with an older partner." The target age group for a hebephiliac's attraction is 13 - 18.

Obviously, this gets sticky. But many of us see a lot of relationships in which a teen is under 18 with an adult in their mid-twenties and up. Clearly, not all of those situations are hebephilic in nature, but plenty of them may well be.

There are a lot of misunderstandings with someone who has this condition. A hebephiliac is unlikely, for instance, to attack or rape, and instead, prefers to begin with a friendship and seduce the younger object of thair attraction slowly and gently. Very few of them will be honest in expressing what is driving the desire to do so. Therefore, it is obviously very murky when a teen is involved with an adult thinkming the adult is intersted in them because they are very mature, when in fact, it may be their youth and immaturity that that adult is drawn to.

The main issue at hand here in my mind is that someone who is a hebephiliac does have a psychological condition, and it is a very decepetive one. Anyone --regardless of age -- who is involved with someone with a serious condition should be aware of such a condition if it's possible, as may be obvious.

I'd like to start a discussion on the topic here so that we can all help each other in assessing means of being safe, being educated about this, and simply being aware. I'm happy to answer as many questions as I'm able, and also can contact an expert on the subject if any of these questions are over my head, which they may well be.

But the place to start, I suppose, is asking if anyone is even aware of this condition, what it can mean to them, and how to find warning signs.


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ann
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I was not aware of a a differentiation between pedophilia and hebepihlia. I'm glad you brought this up, and I hope you share what you ethically can from the group you are participating in.

I've known two adults who I've suspected of being inappropriately attracted to mostly teenagers. One was gay, one heterosexual. One thing that both these men had in common was plenty of defenders. I wonder if, like Mary Letorneau (I have the spelling wrong) -- the teacher who molested her 13-year old student and insists they were in love -- if hebephiles tend to make an effort to elicit support for their actions to justify themselves? Either by acting misunderstood, or posing as the only caring protector of the young person, or suggesting that the young person is mature enough for their attention. I also noticed that both these people chose young people who were particularly vulnerable -- in inexperience or in family circumstance. What would help me is strategies to break down the culture of tolerance that can grow up around these incidents, for if I ever see it happen again. I actually heard comments like "Oh, but she looks older" and "but he didn't actually DO anything to her" or "it's not like she's a child" in relation to one of these incidents. And it's easy to condemn this tolerance from a distance, but it was pervasive in that case, and probably is in others.


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Heather
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Those are really excellent questions and insights. I'll do my best to address them.

In my experience and my understanding, hebephilia and pedophilia (and nebiophilia) are conditions which tend to also go hand-in-hand with other conditions, like narcissism, clinical depression, and/or a general immaturity and even infantilism. I think you'll find that most adults who are attracted to children not only feel more comfortable themselves WITH youths, but are often of the impression that they *understand* children and teens better than other adults, peers, or even the teens themselves do. So, when you hear that sort of person doing what sounds a lot like rationalizing their behaviour or making excuses, I think more often than not, they really don't think they are doing any such thing, as delusional as that sounds to us. Many of them truly think that a teen or a child CAN give consent, many of them think they ARE caring for children (passive as well as active pedohiles and hebephiles), and many of them think they truly do have very unique relationships with children.

It pays to mention that in most cases, from our cultural and psychological vantage point, pedophilia and hebephila are considered to be mental illnesses, and in many way like what I just mentioned, they certainly manifest like other types of mental illness (namely, a divorce from a more objective and accepted reality). To answer another one of your questions, most people with these condtions do not want to attack anyone. They would rather get what seems like consent to them, but what is really acquiesence, or simply allowance by the child/teen. Because of that , they do seem to tend to find very vulnerable or needy children or teens because they are most likely to go along with the relationship, as a result of simply needing any care and attention they can get.

The real problem is that on some small level, they have a point. In *our* culture this is unacceptable. In many other cultures, and at other times in our culture, it is and was consdiered perfectly acceptable. In the middle ages, women were often married at 12.

Now, for myself, what I know from being a child and teen who had some experience with two pedophiles, and from what I know from working with children, I feel very safe in saying that in our culture a child CANNOT give consent, IS trauamatized on many levels by not only sexual assault of this nature, but even by sexual advances or overtones, and that neither a pedophile/hebephile or a victim (if they have acted upon this) are going to be healthy and happy.

This is just the tip of the icebrg, but hopefully, it's a start.


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Heather
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I'm basically dually having this discussion here and at the forum I'm volunteering at, so a comment was made today by a pedophile which I thought was really cutting it to the chase:

"In my opinion {pedophiles and hebephiles} will cover up their true intentions of what they want from a relationship, informing the child that the love them and want their love in return and that they'll do anything they can for them. In reality their agenda begins with and ends with the sexual side of the relationship."


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Heather
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Oddly, I have gotten scads of private mail about this post, and yet there are very few replies here, which concerns me a little bit.

To answer nearly all of the emaill (which was almost identical), yes, if you're 15 and a 25-30 year old is very interested in you, you are probably dealing with some degree of hebephilia. Yes, that may mean that when you're done with puberty, he may no longer find you at all interesting. In fact, it's pretty likely, and if this is the case, then yes, if he tells you he'll be with you forever and knows he has this problem, he's probably lying. And yes, it is a sex crime and it is pretty serious in terms of it's implications and consequences.

Some other people asked for things to watch out for.

A good way to tell (and again, legally, you really cannot be sexually involved with an adult if you're a minor) is to ask things like the history of his (or her, though it's more rare) relationships. How many of them have been with those his own age? What DOES he like about you? Has he been married, independent, and so forth? Is he open to meeting your parents?


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Pittied Fool
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What about the opposite? I never thought of it as a "ilia" (or I guess, as a disorder... or whatever), but a lot of teens seem to be attracted to older people. I don't really have a question, or comment. I just... got to thinking... what about them?

But I almost get offended. I'm 21, and my best friend is 16. But my attraction to her isn't her age, or her immaturity. It's her maturity. Of all people I know, very few are as mature as her.

But I can't help but sit here and think "Do I have a problem, and I am just justifying it to myself?"

And, as I recall... or maybe it's the same justifying-ness running through my head, but when I first met her, I thought she was much older. I wouldn't have talked to her if I knew she was younger (not to be rude, but age IS more than a number, it's a scale of maturity... it's not always accurate, but that's exactly what it is).

Was I aware? No, I'd never heard of it, or anything like it. But it does make me paranoid. I don't wanna be any of those things. And by now, I'm pretty much afraid to say anything.

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bettie
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Pittied Fool, I believe it can be very healthy to have friendships with people who are not the same age as oneself. Yet, there is a reason for concern when a relationship between a young person and an adult escalate from friendship to physical, sexual attractions and acting on them. If you have a platonic friendship and have others as well with people of various ages, then I am not sure what the concern is. If your relationship with your friend has romantic or sexual overtones or is in fact of that nature, an examination into your attractions could be useful. Like Miz S said, people who are attracted and aroused by adolescents does not leave the people involved healthy or happy very often.

Reread what Miz S wrote above. Ask yourself those questions but turn them around. Hopefully, it will help you figure things out.


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Heather
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There is no need to be paranoid.

Look at the history of your life: are you MOSTLY drawn to people younger than yourself who aren't adults? If so, is it their immaturity you are drawn to? Do you find relationships with people your own age or older very difficult? Do you find yourself holding all of the control in your relationships with those younger than you?

If most of the answers to questions like those are no, you don't really have anything to worrry about. I know that in my teens -- because I lived independently, was very inteeligent, and found my peers to be a bit behind me in a lot of development -- I too gravitated to those older than I was simply because I had more commonality with them.

If the teens attracted to those older than then aren't so because of commonality, it could be for a lot of reasons. It could be what they aspire to. It could be a passage they are moving through to adulthood where adolescence isn't very appealing, or seems "old." It could also be because they need to be taken care of, but don't want the care of their parents anymore. Lots of reasons. many of them aren't unhealthy at all.

I think it's safe to say that if we're always honest with ourselves and others, there is no real need to be paranoid about ourselves or our lives, or hidden agendas.


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Treehuggin_Hippeeechick*~
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A week or 2 ago I mailed you with my problemo involving me and the older guy...older being the operative word @ 32. I just feel really torn cause on one hand I'm like, he honestly thought I was in my 20s as I do look much older, we had loads in common and I didn't tell him my age until I was about to leave and when I did he completely freaked out ( we were gonna um... go to his)and said no, he wasnt gonna do that and we'd have to talk tomorrow cause it really stressed him out. Then on the other hand, I'm 15, and I know it's really weird. I did tell him I'm 17, cause 15 is just way too young, and 17 may be young but at least it doesnt make me jail bait. My friends that met him too agree that the age gap is kinda odd but he did seem really into me and really nice. he rang me once i'd got to my friend's house ( we'd been out clubbing ) and we talked for ages and we've talked lots since. The thing I'm worried about is (he doesn't know about my family circumstances by the way)... my dad has been terminally ill for years now and passed away the other day. it never crossed my mind till i read an article on it the other day but it is common that girls in their teens without fathers like older man and in a weird subconcious way they are looking 4 their dad. I don't know If I am, but looking back, in relationships I've had that guy's usually been 18/19 and kind of looking after me in a strange way. I really need some advice from ppl cause I don't know what to do. I really like this bloke, Sam, and wer'e meant to be going out somewhere soon. But as much as i like him, i value myself more and dont know if i'm just being really naive and will regret this forever. HELP!!!
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Heather
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Well, I already gave you mine. I'm not that impressed with either of you lying about your ages initially, and I think this guy is bad news, for you, and for any minor.
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Gumdrop Girl
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the topic of age gaps is resurging, so I'll bump this.

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Moth
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::wonders curiously:: I don't think pedophilia is ever a good thing, but in other cultures, I know that sometimes adults sexually instruct older adolscents that are on the verge of adulthood. What do y'all think of this? Is that right, or wrong? Does that make our problem with adults having sex with adolescents a purely cultural thing? ::doesn't know, and looks for other opinions::
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shh
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What I don't understand is, what if people are capable of maintaining healthful relationships with people their own ages, but they are also turned on by thinking of young people?
Is it wrong to think young people are attractive in a sexual way, if a person never does anything about it (ie pornography or sex)?

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Mehitabelle
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Boy, am I glad I found this topic. *bump*
For one thing, I've found myself in a situation that's kind of blurry. I'm eighteen, in college-- I met a guy at a hymn-singing thing, and he's written me a letter. There's been nothing to indicate that he's interested in me sexually, but he's much older than me, in his thirties. We really hit it off when we met, and I was a little shocked to find out how old he was. Anyway, I'm not quite sure how I should proceed-- do I ignore him, even though I think I might like to get to know him better, or write him back, keeping my wits about me and my antennae up? Legally, it's not a problem, but I feel like there's still an element of sketchiness even with getting to know each other platonically.
(On the same topic of legality and sketchiness-- I got a really creepy vibe from that age of consent website that you linked to, and I was wondering what your thoughts on this were.)
Also-- Miz Scarlet in particular, but anyone with relevant knowledge-- is there any advice you might be able to provide for friends of people who have confided that they have one of these conditions? Somehow I don't think there's a group like PFLAG for it.

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Heather
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(Which age of consent site, Mehitabelle?)

What's tricky about what you're asking is that you're a legal adult, and probably also pretty much through with puberty and look like an adult, so chances would be pretty slim you're dealing with a hebephile. Just like pedophiles are drawn to those pre-puberty, hebephiles are drawn to those mid-puberty. Obviously, this stuff can all be murky and mutable, but to cut to the chase, it's not considered unusual or a philia for older adults to have attraction to younger adults. And all of that terminology is about sexual or romantic attraction, not platonic friendship.

Which is not to say that always evens out all the scales. All too often it very much does not, and all too often there tends to still be dysfunctional power dynamics at hand in those sorts of relationships and attractions. But not always. I had one of the best romantic relationships of my life, which still remains a strong friendship over a decade after it was finished, with a man who was 36 to my 21 when we first got involved, and we were together, including living together, until I was 25 or so. He remains one of my favorite people in the world.

Ultimately, I'd say the advice for something like this is the same as it would be for any relationship -- do what you want to and feel comfortable with, and assess as you go. If you end up having a friendship that works for both of you, no biggie. I know I've always had friends at a myriad of ages all through my life, and most folks at least have one or two people they're close to on some level who aren't in their generation.


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Mehitabelle
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ageofconsent.com. Linked to in a different thread about this issue that I probably should have mentioned. Whoops.

Also-- to clear things up-- the third question, the one about what do you do if your friend-- was unrelated to the first two, and also more important.

Thanks for the reassuring answer, though. I think I may just have been being hypersensitive? hyperaware? hebejeebied?


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Heather
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Thing is, I guess, in a very general way, there's really nothing to be heebejeebeed (and I love using that as a verb, nice one) about.

In other words, some people are very attracted to blondes. Some people are very attracted to girly boys. Some people are very attracted to men in their fifties. Others are very drawn to those in their teens.

None of those sexual variants in and of themselves are icky or problematic. It's how they may be acted on, and how they may be dysfunctional or even damaging in a given culture that get tricky or potentially icky. With something like an attraction to teens, it's actually biologically insanely normal for people of any age to be attracted to those in their late teens or early twenties on a physical level. Now, when it comes down more to emotional issues, power imbalances, the world we live in, etc., then it can get weird and dysfunctional, but the attraction itself? No big, even if it may seem odd or weird to many of us. I mean, I'm not attracted to teenagers myself, but, for example, I'm attracted to very butch women, and plenty of people don't get that, either.

In terms of support when you ARE talking about hebephilia (which again, in your case, is unlikely just given your age alone, and because you're apparently talking about friendship, not sexual attraction), no there isn't really any large scale support, primarily because it's too dangerous for those who are, because our culture has artificially extended the age of childhood so much legally and culturally that no distinction is generally made between pedophilies and hebephiles, and more importantly, pedophiles, hebephiles and child molestors, who are almost always mutually exclusive.

There are a few online arenas if you do searches, however, but again, given our culture, I'd seriouly suggest anyone investigating them proceed with serious caution because the net is not an anonymous places and those distinctions truly are not made.


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