The moral structure of pedophilia is simply this: the welfare of children is subordinate to the sexual gratification of adults.
Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, established a charity called The Second Mile, for boys, mostly fatherless, who were living in troubled homes. It is not clear that he did so initially to lure boys into a trap. But that is what eventually happened, according to the testimony of the men who recalled with shame and disgust their initiation into sodomy.
Raymond Lahey, former Catholic bishop of Antigonish, was apprehended in the Ottawa airport and his computer files scanned. They contained nude pictures of boys. Lahey resigned in disgrace. The Canadian press tried hard to conceal the sex of the children, and suppressed any report about the exotic destinations to which the bishop commonly flew. One isn’t to inquire too closely into travel agencies that do a hopping business flying men to places like Thailand, which teems with boy prostitutes. And girl prostitutes too; apparently Thailand is a favorite sweating-off ground for Korean businessmen.
We should be thankful that the Sanduskys and Laheys are still considered monstrous. But in contemporary America that condemnation rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning.
We should be thankful that the Sanduskys and Laheys are still considered monstrous. But in contemporary America that condemnation rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning. No one can simultaneously explain why their actions were so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: fulfill thy desires.
It may be argued that the boys were too young to give genuine consent. They were dupes. That may be true of the boys in Pennsylvania, but it cannot be true of the hardened street children in Bangkok. But the horror, the disgust, is out of all proportion to a memory of being duped. If somebody tricks a boy into giving him fifty dollars for a lump of fool’s gold, the boy now grown will look back on the incident with irritation and contempt for the trickster, but not with any horror. The shame of Sandusky’s victims arose not from the trickery, but from the act itself into which they were tricked.
Besides, the fact that a child cannot give genuine consent is not in itself morally decisive. We compel children to do plenty of things for their own good—or for what we say is good. A public school teacher in Toronto has written a set of lessons requiring young children to imagine wearing clothes appropriate for the opposite sex. He’s been congratulated, not by the wary parents, but by a school board that insists that teachers are “co-parents.” What he’s doing, of course, is subjecting naïve children to an exercise that promotes his own sexual aims.
No, it isn’t how Sandusky and Lahey did what they did, or under what circumstances, that explains the disgust. It’s what they did—but nobody wants to acknowledge that.
The reason for that reluctance becomes clear, if we keep in mind the moral structure of pedophilia. Sexual gratification trumps. Thank goodness that for now, there aren’t many men who are sexually attracted to youngsters. In that single case, we raise the banner for the children. But in no other case.