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Pierre Tremblay




Université de Montréal

Case postale 6128, Succursale Centre-ville

Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada

Tél.: 514-343-7065 / Fax.: 514-343-2269

cicc@umontreal.ca / www.cicc.umontreal.ca

Social interactions among paedophiles * Pierre Tremblay** International Centre for Comparative Criminology University of Montreal May 2002 * This research was funded by the Canadian Ministry of Justice and sponsored by the International Bureau for Children's Rights. The fieldwork benefited from the support of Luc Granger, Eric Beauregard, Alexandrine Chevrel, Line Bernier, Christine Perreault (Solicitor General of Canada), Bernadette Lamoureux, France Paradis (Philippe Pinel Institute), Claire Deschambault, Oscar Biais (L'Amorce) and the help of my colleagues (Jean Proulx, Marc Ouimet, Richard Estes, Neil Weiner, Elena Azaola). Views expressed in this paper are those of the author. They do not engage in any way the views of the Ministry of Justice or other governmental agencies who facilitated the field work. A first draft of the paper was written in March 2001 and revised in September 2001 and May 2002. The September 2001 version was translated in Spanish by J.A.Lewis and E.Azaola and is included in E.Azaola and R.J.Estes (eds) La Infancia como Mercancia Sexual en America del Norte (forthcoming).

** Professor, School of Criminology, Researcher, International Centre for Comparative Criminology, University of Montreal. Address all correspondence to: Pierre Tremblay, School of Criminology, University of Montreal, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3J7.

E-mail: pierre.tremblay@umontreal.ca


1. Introduction 1 Pool of Motivated Adults 3 Pool of Suitable Targets 4 Focus of the Current Research 7

2. Data and Method 8

3. Market-Driven Subculture of Hebephiles 14 Off-the-market Cliques 19

4. Web-Driven Exchange Forums for Paedophiles 23

5. Individual Commitment and Social Disclosure: Evolving Patterns 32

6. Conclusion 42 References 46

1. INTRODUCTION Sexual behaviour is shaped by constitutive and regulative norms. Regulative norms define the appropriate patterns of erotic behaviour. They restrict the range of appropriate erotic stimuli (pornography laws) or target "courtship disorders" such as voyeurism, exhibitionism and "toucherism". Constitutive norms define the domain of erotic partners. Adultery and "sodomy" statutes restrict the range of appropriate range of adult sexual relationships. Age of consent prohibitions define what is believed to be the appropriate onset and age differentials of individuals engaged in sexual relationships. In this paper we concentrate on offenders violating age of consent prohibitions.

West has observed "that an extraordinary upsurge of awareness of sexual abuse of children has occurred in recent years, aided by media presentations of adult recollections of childhood experiences of molestation. Writings on the subject have proliferated enormously, alerting social workers and other professionals to any hint of improper sexual behaviour towards children" (West, 1987; p. 40). Lieb, Quinsey and Berliner (1998) have documented the "intense legislation and public attention on sex offenders" of the 1990s and the somewhat chilling diffusion in America as well as in Europe of both registration and community notification statutes and the increased severity of criminal sentences meted out. In Canada, a predominant proportion of offenders sentenced under the 1977 Dangerous Offender legislation have a history of sexual offending. Recommendations that priority attention be placed on identifying and prosecuting both "long-term" as well as violent sex offenders were adopted by the Canadian Parliament in 1997 (Lieb et al., p. 86). A 1995-1996 survey (Ouimet, 1997) of sex offenders convicted in Quebec to a prison (federal) sentence of two years or more indicates that a majority (66%) could be labelled as either paedophiles (38% of their victims were younger than 12) or "hebephiles" (28% of victims belonged to the 13 to 17 age group). Thus more than half of all federal sex offender inmates could be considered as age of consent offenders.

As could be expected, the younger the age of the victim, the more serious the perceived harm of the offence, and the higher the likelihood that the convicted offender will receive a federal prison term. Only 18% of suspects in police sexual assault cases were accused of sexual intimacy with children, yet they represent 38% of all federal inmate sex offender admissions (Ouimet, 1997). By contrast, individuals prosecuted for unlawful sexual behaviour with other adults represent 56% of all police sexual assault cases but only 35% of offender admissions. It is quite likely that the increasing stigmatisation of age of consent offenders has driven the overall increase in sexual offences reported to the police since the late 1970s in England (West, 1994); in the United States (Lieb et al., 1998); in Canada (Ouimet, 1998) as well as in other European countries. Much of this increase may be due to the increased reporting, prosecution and conviction of offenders engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour with minors. A definite account of this increase in the rate of age of consent offences known to the police or the associated arrest rates has yet to be undertaken, partly because law enforcement statistics have not, until recently, routinely cross-tabulated complainant and suspect characteristics.

It is quite tempting to argue that this upward trend in age of consent offences is primarily triggered by improved social support for complaining victims and greater readiness on the part of the police to prosecute (West, 1994; p. xii). The feminist movement has given a powerful impetus to the current awareness of sexual abuse of children that has occurred in recent years, and to the morale crusades against juvenile prostitution, pornography and child abuse (Okami, 1992; p. 118). I develop, here, an alternative perspective and question whether this upsurge in public sensitivity would have been successful without an actual increase in the rate of age of consent offences. One possibility is that there has been, in Canada, as well as in other developed countries, an increase in the number of individuals motivated to act out their sexual preferences. Another possibility is that there has been a concurrent increase in the number of youngsters willing to share sexual intimacy with adults.

Pool of Motivated Adults Robert Merton's seminal paper ("Social Structure and Anomie", 1938) argued that societies or social groups in which individual success is perceived as the ultimate measure of self-worth are more likely to experience higher aggregate levels of property or market crimes (Rosenfeld and Messner, 1998; pp. 164-5). Merton's basic insight - the "motivational insight" - is that "structural and cultural conditions can set into motion causal processes that motivate members of particular groups or strata to disproportionately engage in criminal behaviour" (Chamlin and Cochran, 1997; p.


Modern culture, however, does not simply emphasize monetary success but also" selffulfilment". Charles Taylor (1991) suggests that terms like "narcissism", "hedonism", "moral laxism" do not adequately "recognise that there is a powerful moral ideal at work here, however debased and travestied its expression might be. The moral ideal behind self-fulfilment is that of being true to oneself (Taylor, 1991; p. 16). Trying to explain this moral ideal as "simply" an expression of self-indulgence misses the point. "The point is that today many people feel called to be who they are, feel they ought to do this, and feel their lives would be somehow wasted or unfulfilled if they didn't do it" (Ibid.; p. 17). Such an ideal implies that knowing right and wrong does not simply involve a utilitarian calculus of expected costs and benefits but requires instead the recognition that "each of us has an original way of being human - an idea that has entered very deep in modern consciousness. It is also new. Before the late 18th century no one thought that the differences between human beings had this kind of moral significance" (Ibid.; p. 28).

A related theme is that we have come to think of ourselves as beings with "inner depths".

"Being true to oneself is thus not given but requires effort, time, aptitudes as well as a discovery process: "Being true to myself means being true to my own originality, and that is something only I can articulate and discover. In articulating it, I am also defining myself. I am realizing a potentiality that is properly my own. This is the background that gives moral force to the culture of authenticity, including its most degraded, absurd or trivialized forms" (Ibid., 1991; p. 29). A third theme is the modern preoccupation that "equal chances allow everyone to develop their own identity, which includes the universal recognition of difference, in whatever modes this is relevant to identity, be it gender, racial, cultural, or to do with sexual orientation" (Ibid., 1991; p. 50). The ethics of authenticity has shaped the politics of equal recognition and its implicit assumption that "denied recognition of individual differences can be a form of oppression". It has also increased the perceived seriousness of those offences that could endanger the process by which individuals develop their identity. "Love relationships are not important just because of the general emphasis in modern culture on the fulfilment of ordinary life. They are also crucial because they are the crucibles of inwardly generated identity" (Ibid., 1991; p. 49).

Charles Taylor's analyses are important in two ways. They account for the current moral and legal crusade against "sexual exploitation of children and adolescents". More interesting, they also predict that even though the rate or number of adults attracted to prepubescent or young adolescents may have remained constant over time, we should expect an increase in the proportion of those who will be willing or "morally compelled" to actualize their "originality" and express "who" and "what" they are. Of course this implies that, all else constant, the stronger the cultural emphasis on sincerity and authenticity, the higher the rates of age of consent offences. This basic pattern should account for variations in rates across societies (for example, a higher rate of age of consent offenders in the more affluent countries). It also implies that within a given society, social groups and occupations who are strongly exposed to this cultural emphasis will also experience higher rates of such offences (for example, higher rates of age of consent offenders among the more affluent social classes or the more creative professions).

Pool of Suitable Targets

An increase in the prevalence of adults motivated to seek sexual relationships with juveniles may not trigger an upward trend in the incidence of age of consent offences if their opportunities to act on their inclination are simultaneously curtailed. "Opportunity" could be defined as the amount of time adults and juveniles are free to interact intimately in the absence of appropriate supervision.

To the extent that juveniles assume work and reproductive roles at an early age (as in traditional societies), the prevalence of juveniles free to engage in sexual relationships with adults should also increase. This implies that rates in age of consent offences should be higher in economically disadvantaged societies. Since sexual attractiveness and freedom from parental supervision increases as a function of age, we should also expect the search for suitable interaction opportunities to be less constrained for adults seeking young adolescents than for those attracted to prepubescent children.

Within a given age group, interaction opportunities may also vary over time. Research on the daily activities of adolescents across cohorts suggests that in affluent societies time spent under no parental supervision has increased dramatically over time for both male and female teenagers (Felson, 1998). What may be true for teenagers, however, may not be true for other age groups. One of the subjects interviewed mentioned having noticed a significant shift in guardianship during the mid 1980s in Montreal: fewer unsupervised children in the public parks and in the streets, more suspicious life guards monitoring the public swimming pools, more vigilant parents supervising their own (as well as others') children in parks and playgrounds, and a significant increase of surveillance of school areas. If this observation has some merit, we should expect the proportion of age of consent offences involving unacquainted parties ("strangers") to have increased for young adolescents but decreased for prepubescent children. Suitable interaction opportunities may also vary by gender. To the extent that that girls are more closely supervised than boys, we should expect that adults seeking sexual intimacy with boys and male adolescents will be provided with a wider range of interaction opportunities than adults attracted to girls and female adolescents. Testing this particular hypothesis requires, however, a prior assessment of the prevalence of individuals attracted to juveniles of either sex.

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