Doctors in Canada say pedophilia is a sexual orientation that is partly wired in the brain and can’t be changed.
After a decade of research, Dr. James Cantor and his team at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health say some people are born pedophiles, meaning they are primarily sexually attracted to children.
Researchers say one to five percent of all men are pedophiles.
“It’s become harder and harder to explain pedophilia on just (early childhood events),” said Cantor. “It’s either purely biological or a mix of biological and experiential. But pure experience can’t explain these data.”
Cantor says physical traits, determined before birth, are predictors for pedophilia — making it “prenatal.”
Researchers examined male sex offenders using MRIs and found that they have less connective tissue in their brain than other criminal offenders.
Cantor described these sex offenders as having “cross-wiring” in the brain. Things that typically inspire nurturing or protective responses from adults, evoke sexual reactions in pedophiles.
But pedophilia expert Dr. Michael Seto says sex offenders and pedophiles must be distinguished.
“Not all sex offenders who target children are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are sex offenders,” said Seto, forensic researcher with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
He said only 50 to 60 percent of sex offenders are pedophiles.
Canada recently announced tougher punishment for child predators, but Seto said this is a misguided. He says these measures will “further drive individuals underground.”
“It could also lead to problems that decrease the likelihood they can successfully be integrated,” he said.
“Right now, it's really slanted so that the treatment services are for people who have gotten into trouble,” he said. “Obviously, we need that, but I think where there is a big gap is in terms of prevention. How do we reach people who are sexually attracted to children and are aware of it?”
Seto argues that labeling pedophilia as a sexual orientation could prevent child sex abuse.
“Pedophiles will remain hidden if they continue to be hated and feared, which would impede efforts to better understand this sexual orientation and thereby prevent child sexual exploitation,” he wrote.