crimeCriminologyillnessMental Health

Does drawn paedophilic images encourage or discourage behaviour?


Source: uleem odhit


Before we answer the question, it would be best to understand peadophilic disorders better.

According to diagnostic manuals:

The WHO’s ICD-11 describes pedophilic disorder as “characterized by a sustained, focused, and intense pattern of sexual arousal […] involving pre-pubertal children“. Therefore, it excludes pubescent children and diagnosis requires persistent and intense sexual attraction towards children.

The APA’s DSM-5 defines pedophilic disorder as a paraphilic disorder concerning a sexual attraction to prepubescent children/sexual focus on children. There are three criteria for diagnosis:

  • Criterion A is: “Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger)“.

  • Furthermore, Criterion B requires the individual to have “acted on these sexual urges” or that these “cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty“.

  • And Criterion C states that the individual has to be “at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children” concerned by Criterion A.

Note: According to the DSM, if an individual is not distressed by their impulses, have never acted on their urges, and their impulses do not limit their function, a person do not have a pedophilic disorder but rather pedophilic sexual interest, which in a previous version was sexual orientation but was retracted following controversy.

In summary, a sex offender that commits child sexual abuse is not automatically a pedophile; it is often the case according to research (i.e. see Finkelhor) that these sexual abusers are opportunistic criminals who do not actually have a sexual preference for children.

Regarding attraction towards pubescent children, it would not be pedophilia anymore, but hebephilia. A further distinction can be made, as Sykes and Seto notes:

Hebephilia represents a sexual preference for pubescent children (those in Tanner Stages 2 or 3 of sexual development). It can be contrasted with the better known paraphilia of pedophilia, which refers to a sexual preference for prepubescent children (Tanner Stage 1). Hebephilia has been incorrectly equated to a sexual preference for adolescents, which would encompass both young adolescents who are pubescent in appearance but also older adolescents who are sexually mature. A sexual interest in sexually mature adolescents, though socially sanctioned, is not uncommon.

Regarding hebephilia, whether it can be considered a mental disorder is highly debated. It is necessary to understand what constitutes a mental disorder (i.e. the epistemology of mental illnesses). For example, if we consider mental illnesses to be harmful dysfunctions, then pedophilia is a mental illness because, as Seto explains:

From a biological perspective, being sexually attracted to nonfertile, prepubescent children would have been maladaptive in the past (because sexual behavior with prepubescent children would not have led to successful reproduction) and likely continues to be maladaptive now, regardless of place or time.

However, the same is not necessarily true for sexual attraction to postpubertal children. As Rind and Yuill explain, “[w]hen a mechanism functions as designed, but its expression is maladaptive in the current environment, the individual is unlucky, not disordered.”

Following their “[e]xamination of historical, cross-cultural, sociological, cross-species, non-clinical empirical, and evolutionary evidence and perspectives”, they concluded that:

The evidence indicated that male heterosexual hebephilic interest, rather than being dysfunctional, is at the lower end of a functional range of age preferences, and that male homosexual hebephilic interest is either an evolved but functionally neutral capacity or a naturally selected mechanism. Given the evolved nature of these interests, hebephilic preference (i.e., hebephilia) becomes an expectable distributional variant. The presumption, then, is that this preference is not dysfunctional.



As far as I know, there are no studies directly studying the topic, especially drawings such as those defined “loli”. I will attempt to provide an overview of what is arguably known and comment on how it relates to the question. It is a long reply, which I will divide in two comments, because I believe such a delicate/contentious topic requires a bit more in-depth considerations.

As a premise, studying pedophilia in itself is difficult, as they have little incentive to identify themselves even to medical doctors and therapists (because of the stigma, the amalgamation of pedophilia as a paraphilia and the criminal behavior that is child sexual abuse, fear of being outed for being a pedophile and of the social consequences, etc.). Therefore, many studies focus on child sexual abusers, which are not always pedophiles and cannot be considered at face value representative of pedophiles who do not act. Citing Seto:

The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is unknown. Epidemiological surveys with the questions that are needed to identify pedophilia—particularly those having to do with persistence and intensity of sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, arousal, or behavior involving prepubescent children—have not yet been conducted. Ever having thoughts of sex with a prepubescent child or even ever having sexual contact with a prepubescent child would not be sufficient to meet the standard diagnostic criteria for pedophilia because persistence and intensity are two key features of these definitions.

Check the first link for a long discussion on the topic, but pedophiles are not necessarily child sexual offenders and, less obviously, child sexual offenders are not necessarily pedophiles. Citing Finkelhor:

But among [child abusers] who are [caught], most are not pedophiles. In fact, about half of all victims are post-pubescent, ranging in age from twelve to seventeen, so that most of their offenders would not qualify as pedophiles. Moreover about a third of offenders against juveniles are themselves juveniles (an even larger share of the offenders against young juveniles are juveniles). These young offenders are also not pedophiles, but include a mixed group of generally delinquent youth and youth who engage in somewhat impulsive, developmentally transitory behavior. Even among adults who victimize children under thirteen, at least a third or more do not qualify as pedophiles. The equation of sexual abuse with pedophilia is thus misleading.

Then there is also the question of hebephilia, in regard to which it is debatable if can be considered a mental illness (i.e. is it a dysfunction?).

Let’s step back and ask: is there a relationship between pornography and sexual abuse? This is a highly debated topic. I would suggest the consensus is that increased availability of pornography in recent decades has not contributed to increasing the rates of sexual offences internationally, however the debate is ongoing. Following year of publication:

Kutchinsky studied the availability of pornography compared to the incidence of sex crimes in Denmark, especially child molestation:

The unexpected outcome of this analysis is that the high availability of hard-core pornography in Denmark was most probably the very direct cause of a considerable decrease in at least one type of serious sex offense, namely, child molestation. Between 1965 (the first year of the availability of hard-core pornographic pictures) and 1969 (the year of the repeal of the Penal Law ban, and of peak production), the number of cases of this type dropped from 220 to 87. The implication of our conclusion is that a large number of such offenses have been avoided since the late 1960s, because potential offenders obtained sufficient sexual satisfaction through the use of pornography, most probably combined with masturbation.

Diamond analyzed the incidence of sex crimes (rape) in Japan, Shanghai and the US associated with the availability of sexually explicit materials (SEM). He focused on “Japan, a country quite different from those in the West. In regard to pornography, in Japan the swing from prudish and restrictive to relatively permissive and nonrestrictive was dramatic. Some limited data from Shanghai and new data from the United States follow“. He was particularly interested in Japan, because:

Currently , not only are visuals with pubic hair and exposed genitalia present, but available are cartoon images of hard-core sexual encounters in manga as well as in adult reading materials. These can be pictures and stories involving bestiality, sadomasochism, necrophilia and incest; the characters involved may be adults, children or both. Essentially, anything goes.

He concluded that:

It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims

On the topic of virtual child pornography, Malamuth and Hupin reviewed the literature on pornography and concluded the following:

Taken together, the two lines of independent lines of research (one focusing primarily on groups of offenders, the other primarily studying non-forensic samples with varying degrees of risk profiles) complement each other very well by their strengths and limitations. Importantly, the two lines of research support similar conclusionsexposure to nonconsenting pornography (child or adult) can “whet the appetite” or “add fuel to the fire” for individuals with a relatively high risk for offending (revealed either by a previous conviction for offending or by scoring highly on risk factors for sexual aggression). On the other hand, individuals with low known risk for sexual offending (revealed either by lack of previous behavioral offenses or by scoring low on risk factors) do not show any evidence of increased risk for sexual offending as a result of exposure to such pornography.

Following their review of literature, Ferguson and Hartley concluded “that it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior”:

Considered together, the available data about pornography consumption and rape rates in the United States seem to rule out a causal relationship, at least with respect to pornography availability causing an increase in the incidence of rape. One could even argue that the available research and self-reported and official statistics might provide evidence for the reverse effect; the increasing availability of pornography appears to be associated with a decline in rape.Whatever the explanation is, the fact remains that crime in general,and rape specifically, has decreased substantially for the last 20 years.Concurrently, availability of pornography has increased steadily in the last 20 years.

Returning to Diamond and colleagues, they studied the Czech Republic for the following reason:

Following the effects of a new law in the Czech Republic that allowed pornography to a society previously having forbidden it allowed us to monitor the change in sex related crime that followed the change.

They concluded:

The most obvious and significant finding is that since 1989, with the shift from a political system with its total ban on SEM and anything that might be considered pornographic to the present regime and the wide spread availability of SEM in various media from publication to films, CDs and the Internet, the incidence of reported sex related crimes has not increased. Perhaps most critically, child sex-abuse, despite a brief upswing toward its pre-democracy rate, resumed a decline that had begun, for unknown reasons, in the early 1970s. The lesser sex related crimes of peeping and indecent exposure also dropped significantly and appears to have reached a low and steady state. This is interesting since child sex abuse and so-called ‘‘hands off’ ’sex crimes are supposedly the most resistant to change (Marshall,2005).

In their discussion, they argue:

Issues surrounding child pornography and child sex abuse are probably among the most contentious in the area of sex issues and crime. In this regard we consider instructive our findings for the Czech Republic that have echoed those found in Denmark (Kutchinsky, 1973) and Japan (Diamond & Uchiyama, 1999) that where so-called child-pornography was readily available without restriction the incidence of child sexual abuse was lower than when its availability was restricted […]

We do not approve of the use of real children in the production or distribution of child pornography but artificially produced materials might serve.



For a contrary position, see Tokunaga, who for example openly opposes Malamuth. He conducted a meta-analysis of “22 studies from 7 different countries” which sampled “from a general population. Sex offender/clinical studies were not included (see Allen et al., 1999; Seto & Lalumiere, 2010)”. Tokunaga found an association between pornography consumption and physical and verbal sexual aggression, with the association being stronger for the latter (verbal) than the former (physical). These are defined as:

Following the CDCP (2014), physical sexual aggression was defined as the use or threat of physical force to obtain sex, and verbal sexual aggression was defined as verbally coercive but not physically threatening communication to obtain sex,and sexual harassment.

What does this tell us? There are several caveats. Studying trends in sex crime in recent decades is complex. Research in criminology using both official statistics and crime surveys show that official crime rates have kept increasing even though victimizations were decreasing: people were reporting more (people appear to become less and less tolerant for such behaviors). However, this arguably makes results such as Kutchinsky’s and Diamond’s interesting, although they provide circumstantial evidence. It cannot be said that availability of pornography of any kind has in fact contributed to reducing sex offenses, but their data does suggest that it did not contribute to increasing sex offenses.

Tokunaga’s meta-analysis suggests that pornography in general may contribute to aggressive behaviors, but there remains the issue of interpreting these behaviors and their intensity. In any case, aggressive behaviors do not automatically translate into actual offenses such as rape. And, of course, his paper was not about child sexual abuse.

Taking it all together, even if it can be argued that pornography may contribute to aggression, it is necessary to question the strength and impact of this association considering trends in crime rates. I am refraining here from getting into the literature on attitudes, beliefs, behavioral intentions and behavior (the relationships are not straightforward), and the determinants of criminal behavior itself (such that for child sexual abuse, many abusers are opportunistic and known by the victims, not roaming preying strangers).

I conclude with two papers. First one by Galbraith regarding the lolicon phenomena and what it embodies. In it, he notes:

According to Takatsuki Yasushi’s fieldwork among fans, the peak age for a lolicon idol is 12, when secondary sex characteristics emerge (Takatsuki 2010: 14-15). As Takatsuki sees it, lolicon is different from pedophilia, which is directed at children before secondary sex characteristics emerge (Takatsuki 2010: 18-20). Lolicon also encompasses asexual desires, discussed below.

It is pertinent to question whether ‘lolicons’ are actually attracted to real-life children, or whether they are attracted to specific characteristics of, say, ‘moe cartoons’, i.e. “Responding to the new legislation, Fujimoto Yukari comments thatmanga and anime are ‘not always about the representation of objects of desire that exist in reality, nor about compelling parties to realize their desires in reality.'”

Second paper is by Hessick who criticizes the conflation between child sexual abuse and child pornography in the legal arena:

On its face, the preventative punishment argument appears to be the most defensible reason for increasing child pornography sentences. That is because punishing behavior in order to avoid the risk of future crime is a well-established feature of modern criminal lawHowever, as noted below, there is little empirical evidence demonstrating that significantly increasing sentences for possession of child pornography will lead to an appreciable decrease in child sex abuse. In any event, even if punishing possession with longer sentences might lead to some decrease in contact offenses against children, it would not suggest that possession of child pornography should be punished more harshly than contact offenses.

And I think that’s the conclusion one can make as of now. We need more research, but it is hard for reasons stated before, because it’s taboo and because of ethical issues.




The Sociological Mail


  1. P.O.R 21 July, 2021 at 02:59 Reply

    As a map and a minor, these drawings have helped me with my urges, attraction to prepubescent kids and wanting to have sex with adults/elders, when therapy isn’t an option. I’ve been in this discussion a lot and I can 100% tell you that lolicons are attracted to anime. Hating on maps (yes maps, they hate sex offenders of course but they also hate maps) is very active and pretty much unavoidable but that’s just part of the price when fighting to keep your safety plan. I can also safely say 99% people against lolicon don’t actually care about victims, they only care about hating maps. I haven’t yet encountered someone against lolicon that actually knows about pedophilia and csa, it’s just been teens calling everyone a pedophile and making up scenarios(which goes along with misusing terms and spreading misinformation). No matter how many times I tell people they should be leaving this topic to the professionals cause it has consequences on maps, victims, and regular people (who are being treated as bad as sex offenders and punished as badly as those who view and encourage csa), I just get ignored. Lastly, even if you didn’t find anything, thank you for studying this. It feels terrible having issues and feeling like nothing will ever get better for you, so I’m glad people are researching pedophilia and looking for ways to help us manage it 🙂

  2. P.O.R 21 July, 2021 at 03:08 Reply

    I’m not sure if my comment went in so hopefully this isn’t a repeat: As a map and a minor, lolicon has helped me control my urges, wanting a ‘relationship’ with a kid and wanting to have ‘sex’ with an adult/elder, in a time where therapy isn’t an option

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