Hebephile is a newly proposed category of diagnosis in which men’s sexual preferences are oriented towards children who are on the verge of their puberty, which roughly form the age of the category of 11 to 14 years old. In contrast, pedophiles are a commonly used term for individuals who are attracted to children but it is much more complex biologically. Pedophiles, in contrast to hebephiles, are attracted to prepubescent children. Biologically speaking, there are more categories for individuals attracted to children other than pedophile and hebephile such as ephebophile (ephebos, a Greek word meaning ‘one arrived at puberty’) who are attracted towards teenagers who are usually 15 to 16 years old. Another category is of teleiophiles (teleios, a Greek word meaning ‘full-grown’) who are sexually attracted to those who are 17 years or older. We can also very rarely find gerontophiles (grottos, a Greek word meaning ‘old man’) who are attracted to older aged people. We commonly call sex offenders as a pedophile but it is much more complicated than that even some scientist has defined have defined a further category in pedophilia that is ‘infantophilia’. Infantophilia is a category for those who are sexually attracted to children aged below six years.
Hebephilia is clearly a horrible concept. The most disturbing thing is that sexual attraction towards pubescent children is not uncommon. The age of consent is 13 in many parts of the world which include the United States and in many other parts of the world, it is 14 which might legitimize hebephilia.
Hebephiles are attracted to teenagers who show some signs of sexual maturity but still they are young and are still physically and mentally not grown up enough. However, hebephiles are categorized by their primary sexual interest in pubescent children and the total exclusion of adults of relationships with adults. Hebephiles usually have this attraction towards pubescent children just to have their control over the victim. Their action might be considered rape in many jurisdictions.
Traits of Hebephiles:
It is a common assumption that men feel sexually attracted to and prefer pubescent girls over ladies as they find them more attractive. This is usually a trait of hebephile who find a girl as young as 11 years old attractive and try tactics to start a relationship with them. The common traits of hebephile are as follow:
- Feeling sexually aroused when they are looking at or are getting in touch with children or early youth
- Sexual fantasies about a situation where children or early youth is involved
- Using child pornography (images of children being sexually abused) for sexual gratification
Reasons behind being hebephiles:
Researchers have been unable to pinpoint the reasons behind sexual attraction towards early youth but it has been investigated by many researchers that sexual orientation develops before birth. Others have argues that inside church setting sexual attraction towards children is the result of celibacy but there is no evidence for that. Empirical evidence has shown hebephiles in churches had this sexual orientation long before they entered churches.
Diagnostic criteria and symptoms of Hebephiles:
Hebephiles are diagnosed when the following symptoms are present in individual:
- Sexually preferring pubescent children over adults
- Spending an enormous amount of time thinking about pubescent or early youth
- A large number of sexual fantasies about pubescent children
- Sexual urges related to pubescent children or early youth
- Sexual hobbies in young adults
- A large amount of time spent thinking about teenagers
Treatment for Hebephiles:
To treat hebephiles a number of psychotherapies can be used such as:
- Behavior therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Drug therapy
Hebephiles cannot be treated if the situation is not apparent in front of the individual and they seek out treatment. Normally people learn to accept their fetish and manipulate situations around them to have sexual gratification in a way they want it. Thus it is important for an individual to feel obliged to cope with their fetish.
Hebephilia: A mental disorder:
There has been a long debate in the psychological community that either hebephilia should be diagnosed as a mental disorder which indicates some pathology in the brain or it should just be considered as deviant in an individual’s sexual orientation. If it is categorized as a mental disorder than it might give rise to a number of issues such as a person who sexually abuse pubescent children might then use mental illness as a defense.
Ray Blanchard argues vociferously about including hebephilia in the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder of American psychological association. He is a psychologist of the University of Toronto. In the latest Archives of Sexual Behavior, Ray Blanchard and his colleagues provided evidence that people who are usually diagnosed with pedophilia are not really pedophile but hebephiles as they were not much interested in prepubescent children but in early adolescents.
To differentiate between these sexual orientations, Blanchard and his colleagues conducted a study on 881 men. Participants of the study included both straight and gay individuals. They conducted laboratory experiments using Phallometric testing. Phallometric testing is also known as penile plethysmography. In the experiment, participants were shown different visual images of women belonging to different age categories. Phallometric testing is an objective measure of sexual arousal as it measures the changes in the blood volume changes in the penis. It measures sexual arousal to what is being shown on the display even if the viewer denies being attracted to those on-screen display. It means that Phallometric testing does not let away liars. Nothing prurient was shown in the display but rather the images resembling in a medical textbook. Each display was followed by the following narrative:
“You are watching a late movie on TV with your neighbors’ 12-year-old daughter. You have your arm around her shoulders, and your fingers brush against her chest. You realize that her breasts have begun to develop…”
The result of the experiment indicated three discrete categories of men having a different sexual orientation. Some men had the strongest penile response to the prepubescent children which are known as pedophiles. Other responded strongly to the pubescent children, which are known as hebephiles and yet others showed the strongest penile response to adult which are known as teleiophiles. Although it should b noted here that these categories were not mutually exclusive to each other. Some telephone also showed a strong penile response to pubescent children too and some hebephiles showed a strong response to prepubescent children. Thus these are categories are overlapping but the author of the experiment indicated that true hebephiles or pedophiles can be empirically distinguished through this technique. This will indicate the rage range will result in the strongest penile response in men. The results of their experiment also indicated that hebephiles are more common than pedophiles or any other sexual orientation to children.
In the next half of their article, Blanchard and their colleagues argued that hebephilia should be categorized as a different mental disorder in the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders distinguished from pedophilia. Many other researchers working in this field are opposed to this idea of adding making a distinction between hebephilia and pedophilia.
Hebephile and Evolution:
Today we view men in our society who are attracted to young girls or children as disadvantaged but this was not always the same in history. Evolutionarily and historically speaking, hebephiles especially ephebophiles had cut-throat competition. According to evolutionary psychologists, distinct points in youth are highly correlated with the perception of attractiveness and beauty. From the perspective of survival, it makes sense for straight men as it is a biological fact that the reproductive value of women declines steadily with age but engaging in sexual intercourse with prepubescent is completely useless. But this is not the case for hebephiles as they are attracted to a teenage girl who has just come to the right age, is physically attractive and beautiful, with brand new fertility, and ensures paternity for the male.
Movie and Books on Hebephiles:
As the literature is a depiction of society. If hebephilia is part of our society, no matter how horrific it is, it has been depicted in well in books and movies. Hebephilia through an evolutionary perspective has been very well depicted in the film Pretty Baby. In pretty baby, the role of 12-year-old protagonist, Violet Neil, is played by Brooke shields who is a daughter of a prostitute in 1917’s New Orleans. Violet Neil’s virginity goes to the highest bidder in the auction.
The most renowned fictitious pedophile character is Humbert Humbert, a protagonist in the novel Lolita written by Nabokov. It should be noted that Humbert Humbert was more hebephile than a pedophile as it is apparent from Humbert’s description of ‘nymphet’. After describing them as “pale pubescent girls with matted eyelashes” he explains:
“Between the age limits of nine and fourteen, there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as nymphets.”
In a similar manner, a protagonist of the novel Death in Venice by Thomas Mann’s can be considered as hebephile.
Michael Jackson is a person who suffered the most from his hebephilic orientation. Even after his death, his name is remembered as entangled with the sinister phrase “little boys”. It should be noted that he was not the first famous celebrity that suffered from the disgrace of being categorized as hebephile. Michael Jackson’s own first wife, Lisa Marie Persley, was the outcome of hebephilic attraction as Prisciallia was the center of attraction of Elvi’s eye when she was only 14 years old, only one or two years older than the boys which Micheal Jackson used to molest.
There was another very famous incident of scoundrel Jerry Lee Lewis. It became part of headlines when 23 years old singer of ‘Great balls of Fire’ married only 13 years old girl who also happened to be her first cousin.
Hebephile is a newly proposed category which classifies the individual who are attracted towards pubescent children and early youth, in contrast to a pedophile who is attracted to prepubescent children. They have sexual fantasies related to pubescent children. It has not been classified as a mental disorder.
FAQs about Hebephiles
- Is hebephilia a natural disease?
Hebephilia has not been categorized as a mental disorder or a disease it is still a crime to engage in sexual activity with young children. Although it should be noted that some individual has sexual attraction towards children which is not a product of natural selection.
- What is Ephebophilia means?
Ephebophilia is a category used to classify individuals who have sexual attraction towards mid to late teenagers which constitutes the age bracket of 15 to 19 years old.
- What is pedophilia?
Pedophilia is an experience of intense sexual arousal, attraction, and fantasies towards unusual sexual objects, situations, and individuals.
Allen Frances (2011). Hebephilia is a Crime, Not a Mental Disorder. Retrieved from: Psychiatrictimes.com
Jessie Beering (2009). Pedophiles, Hebephiles, and Ephebophiles, Oh My: Erotic Age Orientation. Retrieved from: scientificamerican.com
Psychologyfacts.com: 9 Facts About Hebephilia Behind Being A Hebephile 2019