Christopher Ryan Ph.D.

Sex at Dawn

Is Pedophilia Worse than Murder?

OK to show killing kids but not sex with kids?

Posted Dec 22, 2010

Shortly after Sex at Dawn came out, I started receiving emails from a guy who wanted to enlist my support in his campaign to change the laws prohibiting sexual relations between adults and children. I  guess he figured that since Cacilda and I had

questioned the notion that monogamy came naturally to our species, we'd question just about anything. He was wrong about that. You won't find my signature on any petitions to make pedophilia legal. To the contrary, I'd like to see the current pope and many of his bishops in prison for having covered up and enabled the systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy.

But I have to wonder about the recent arrest of Phillip Greaves, the author of a book about pedophilia. The law prohibits the visual depiction of sex involving children, but Greaves' book contains no pictures—only words. I'd agree with most readers that words describing or advocating sex with children are offensive and probably dangerous in some ways. But is that reason enough to arrest Greaves and others who write such words?

I doubt it. I don't hear anyone talking about outlawing books about murder, rape, genocide, or torture. Nor, for that matter, do I hear much talk of outlawing the visual depiction of these crimes, which is a constant presence on TV. To be clear, I don't think these things should be prohibited. Hell, I'm a big fan of Deadwood, The Wire, and I even

contributed a chapter to a recent book about Dexter, a TV show centered on a lovable serial killer.

How can it be perfectly legal and respectable to make movies in which kids are dismembered with a chain saw but it's illegal to write a book about having sex with them? Am I missing something or is this a wide-open window into the soul of an utterly irrational society?


Book news: We're thrilled that Sex at Dawn has been named one of NPR's Favorite Books of 2010. Our book's also been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award (with some really amazing books we'll be honored to lose to!). For book-related daily updates, "like" our Facebook page or Twitter account.

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