But perhaps the most controversial presentation of all was by Philip Tromovitch, a professor at Doshisha University in Japan, who stated in a presentation on the “prevalence of paedophilia” that the “majority of men are probably paedophiles and hebephiles” and that “paedophilic interest is normal and natural in human males”.
Myself I tend to think that paedophilia is rare while hebephilia is entirely normal.
After a fierce battle in the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which produces it, a proposal to include hebephilia as a disorder in the new edition of the manual has been defeated. The proposal arose because puberty in children has started ever earlier in recent decades and as a result, it was argued, the current definition of paedophilia – pre-pubertal sexual attraction – missed out too many young people.
And that’s an interesting point. Earlier puberty is meaning that a hebephile might today be attracted to 12 year olds whereas in times gone past this might start at 15 or so: the age of marriage or at least betrothal in may past societies. And I do think it entirely normal that men be attracted to women in that first flowering of their womanhood.
Even so, there really is now no shortage of evidence about the harm done by child abuse. In the latest frenzy about the crimes of the past, it’s worth watching whether we could, in the future, go back to the intellectual climate which allowed them.
But that’s the real point. It’s entirely possible to state that hebephilia (or even paedophilia) is entirely natural but also to state that we don’t wish it to happen and thus to organise society so that, to the best of our ability, it doesn’t. Both salmonella and rape are “natural” but we do our best to curb both of them.