So, in case you have not heard, the infamous Larry Sanger thinks he is wise in philosophy and can prove that sexual attraction is inherently evil. I say Larry Sanger has nonsense arguments that are easily debunked, and in fact, I have already spent time debunking arguments similar to his. In any case, Mr. Sanger apparently believes that one word can mean two different things and the basis of part of his argument is that pedophilia is the sexual attraction to children AND the sexual abuse of them, and in doing so presents an argument known as equivocation, a logical fallacy.
He starts off his philosophical argument (which is frankly an insult to the field of philosophy) by stating that child rape is bad, which is… okay, if that is what you need to lead with, then I have a lot of questions. A LOT of questions. Why do you feel the need to point that out? What makes you believe this statement is necessary? How is this not a presumption of what people believe? So many questions.
He then moves to something even less logical: The suggestion that an unchosen condition is an “evil mental disorder,” which is easily addressed. Is the sexual attraction to children a choice? I have covered that question both from an experiential point of view and a scientific one, and the short answer is no. The only logical option in terms of ethics and morality, then, is that such attraction is of itself morally neutral, or amoral, not immoral or evil or good. This is basic philosophy: An event must be volitional in order to be ascribed morality.
He also errs in calling this attraction a mental disorder. It is more accurate to say that the distress that can possibly arise from having the sexual attraction to children is a mental disorder, which again, being non-volitional, means that such is not subject to morality. Of course, he also equates mere attraction with the desire to rape which does not work that way for any other sexual attraction under the sun, so he again uses a faulty assumption to prop up his argument.
He claims that sexual attraction, in this case to children, poses an inherent threat to children. Well, to that point I raise another: Are adult-attracted males attracted to females inherently a threat to females? No, but they can be. Are adult-attracted males attracted to other males a threat to other males? Again, no, but they can be. To claim that the sexual attraction to children poses such an inherent threat is special pleading in ignorance of the available research. Therefore, his analogy to people who want badly to rape women is not an analogy to people attracted to women, but people attracted to rape. Do I need to draw a Venn diagram here? I doubt it.
Of course it is here that Mr. Sanger begins falling even further into special pleading, this time making an alcoholism analogy, which is an analogy that compares sexual attraction to… addiction? Really? Not only does Mr. Sanger wade into an area he is clearly unfamiliar with (as it is well-known that those struggling with addiction cannot be forced to become sober, they must be in circumstances appropriate to doing so), to compare sexual attraction – not sexual thought, pornography, or fantasy, but attraction – to chemical addiction is to fail to comprehend the available science on how sexual attraction as a whole works. Perhaps we can chalk this up to the failure of public schools to teach up-to-date sexual education as a matter of course, I am not sure.
Here, he defeats his own special pleading by saying that the sexual attraction to children is not somehow unique, though he characterizes this attraction as a “desire for sex with children” which is inaccurate and laughable. Is adult attraction the “desire for sex with adults” or the sexual arousal to adults one finds attractive? Clearly the latter. Minor attraction of course operates the same way. He then claims that minor attracted people do not possess the self-control to not act on their attractions because they lack the self-control to change their attractions. As there is no volition involved in sexual attraction – which is again separate from arousal, thought, or fantasy – it is preposterous to think that people can change their sexual attractions. In fact, many now consider attempts to change sexual attraction to be unethical. Is Mr. Sanger arguing that these ethical concerns be dismissed merely because of his use of special pleading? One would hope not.
It is clear throughout the rest of his arguments that he makes no attempt to be logical or consistent with his arguments in regards to other sexual attraction patterns and that his reasoning – which is based heavily on exploiting the ignorance of his readers on these topics – is sound, when in fact someone such as me with no degree in philosophy whatsoever can identify the weaknesses of his position and conclude that he has merely created a wordy exercise in propaganda, not a philosophical argument that holds a candle to the available research on the topic.
For a more exhaustive rebuttal to his many ramblings about how he believes minor attraction works, please see my own exhaustive list of articles that pre-exist his philosophical rambling.