Here’s the definition of hebephilia, according to Psychology Today:
Hebephilia is the sexual preference for early adolescent children (those roughly ages 11 to 14). Some evidence suggests that hebephilia is a distinct and discernable erotic age preference. But whether it qualifies as a disorder is the source of debate as critics believe including it in the DSM [The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of health care professionals in the United States] would pathologize a reproductively valid behavior. The DSM workgroup on sexual disorders is the main proponent of hebephilia, and much of the supporting research has been done by them. The disagreement has been strong and at times nearly unanimous; a straw poll conducted by the American Association of Psychiatry and Law resulted in a vote of 2 for and 31 against inclusion of hebephilia in the DSM. Whether or not hebephilia will ultimately find its way in remains to be seen.
Pedophilia, which many people in the media have accused Roy Moore of, is defined as follows (again, by Psychology Today):
Pedophilia is defined as an ongoing sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. [It] is considered a paraphilia, a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. Pedophilia is defined as the fantasy or act of sexual activity with children who are generally age 13 years or younger.
On the one hand you have progressive outlets all over the place crying “pedophilia!” about Moore, calling up images of mentally ill people with often uncontrollable urges toward pre-pubescent elementary school kids not old enough to reproduce. For example, you have the twitter hashtag #RoyMoorePedophile and this Daily News headline calling Moore an “accused pedophile.”
On the other hand, you have Alabamian focus group members unbelievably defending Moore like this:
…It was a different world. Forty years ago in Alabama, people could get married at 13 and 14 years old. My grandmother, at 13, was married, at 15, had two children and a husband and a job. If Roy Moore was guilty, if he was at the mall hitting on this 14-year-old, 40 years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies that would be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.
Let’s be clear: while it’s not accurate to call Moore a pedophile, it is accurate to call him a child predator, because 14 year olds are minors well under the age of consent, puberty and “40 years ago” be damned!
As this Washington Post opinion piece argued, misnaming Moore a pedophile dismisses “his willingness to exploit the unequal power structures of gender and age to victimize young girls who couldn’t stand up to him”:
Like Moore’s alleged victims, the vast majority of those who suffer child and teenage sexual assault are girls. But this does not demonstrate that the United States is a nation of men afflicted with pedophilia. Rather, what we should take from the sobering statistics about assault and abuse is that many men use the power of their gender and age to target those who are particularly vulnerable and those they can pressure into silence.
Here’s another problem with calling Moore a pedophile: any exaggerations or missteps on the part of righteous progressives can be used as fuel to fire up the partisan delusions of ignorant people fed a steady stream of fake news. Just look what happened with the Moore accuser who admitted she’d added a date and location to Roy Moore’s signature in her high school yearbook: that little, left-out detail was all that was needed to brand her a forger, liar, a charlatan, a fake! (Never mind the fact that those two things — her sexual assault by Moore and her adding notes to her yearbook — are in no way mutually exclusive.) For those looking for any excuse to believe Moore, this yearbook revelation has chipped away at the credibility of all his other corroborated accusers.
I appreciate the desire to give Moore some sort of shaming label, his own scarlet letter. Though both terms denote seriously problematic (criminal if acted upon) sexual interests, I’ll admit “hebephilia” just isn’t as catchy — or inflammatory — as “pedophilia.” But if you’re going to call Moore anything, then for the sake of clarity and accuracy, you should probably call him a hebephile. It may not be a recognized paraphilia, but maybe that’s okay — it doesn’t give Moore and his ilk the excuse of a mental disorder. He’s just a manipulative guy who, like so many others, ignored morality/ethics/the law/the will of his vulnerable victims and abused his power to get what he wanted — and who should be held accountable. With the growing awareness of the #MeToo movement, it’s becoming clear (finally!) that an adult targeting teens…or a boss exposing himself to an employee…or a celebrity grabbing someone’s pussy without their consent…is predatory behavior that’s unacceptable, unconscionable, and unforgivable (accept for maybe the citizens of Alabama).
And then there’s also the term “creep.” You can certainly call Roy Moore a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic creep unworthy to serve in U.S. Senate. I won’t begrudge you that.