Roy Moore, Hebephile

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.

More on the importance of correct terminology:
Is What Louis CK Did Rape?


  1. This is an interesting topic to find on this site. As a fairly conservative, albeit somewhat liberal in many issues, American male, I find myself straddling a tenuous position of many subjects. But, having spent many years as member of the law enforcement community, investigating various crimes of sexual misconduct, I found this to be an interesting topic. How do we as a society look at the Roy Moore’s of the world, through the prism of today’s morals and values? Certainly, if you use a historical perspective, then yes, certain behaviors were considered more accepted. But those applications or rules of conduct are best left in the history books, and have little or no acceptable value in today’s society. The article cited a passage that read “forty years ago this was more acceptable In Alabama.” That would be the mid to late 1970s. I find this fascinating having been the youngest growing up with two older sisters. I just couldn’t imagine this as being thought of as normal. Another factor often overlooked, is to look at this with a more global perspective. Here in our country (at least in most of the US), this is not the norm. But, other countries have some very different ideas about children, and marriage. Surprisingly these are not all third world nations. Some of the richest countries in the world differ quite a bit from our norms here. But, back on point about abusers/psychological disorders. We need to tread very carefully when labeling these behaviors. Each one can be very distinct from the other. And to paint with a broad stroke here may be doing a grave disservice to the victims of these behaviors. Yes, by law, these behaviors are categorized by type and serverity. As they should be. Some behaviors may not exactly fit the criteria as crimes. And please remember sex crimes are the most difficult cases to prosecute. I often felt like a prosecution, or trial had a way of victimizing the individual a second time. I could continue on these issues in length, having spent many a day and night in the forefront of these cases, but I won’t. Reliving or re-telling them can be somewhat daunting at times. But, if you know or suspect someone is the victim of a crime, please contact someone in the law enforcement community. These cases can be evaluated by a professional, and at the very least, the proper recommendations can be made. I do have to touch on one last aspect of these case that is not often spoken about. That is the aspect of false allegations. These cases may be markedly low in comparison, but they do exist. Revenge, in my opinion, being the primary motive. And, yes a rare occurrence of monetary gain, or defamation. It’s very easy to cast a net of suspicion over someone when it comes to such allegations. A phrase I often heard was “its very difficult to put the toothe paste back in the tube once it’s out” I’m not saying that’s the case here, but I’ve seen so many reports on these cases in the media, already being discussed as if there was some definitive diagnoses or verdict of judgement, I would warn against drawing conclusions from the media version. Unless, of course they publicly admit to their transgressions, as has been occurring all too often.

    Thank you for your time.

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