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Pedophilia and the Brain

Could pedophilia be ingrained in everyone's brain?

Can we prevent pedophilia or rehabilitate people who have pedophilic behavior? Studies have shown that differences in a person's brain can have an effect on their sexual behavior. Do these differences in the brain (that we are not in control of) account for someone being a pedophile, or is there an aspect of voluntary will towards being attracted towards children? There is more research that needs to be done to determine if it is possible to prevent pedophilia and rehabilitate, rather than punish pedophiles, for something they might not even be in control of.

There are three major neurobiological theories which aim to describe why a person may be a pedophile or exhibit pedophilic behavior. The first theory states that differences or problems in the frontal lobe, specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, may explain pedophilic sexual behavior in individuals (Tenbergen et al.). The second theory states that differences or problems in the temporal lobe can lead to more deviant sexual desires, including pedophilia (Tenbergen et al.). The third theory states, “differences in the sex dimorphic brain structures affected by the masculinization of the male brain would more strongly affect pedophilia development.” (Tenbergen et al.).

The book gives an example of a 40-year-old man named Alex, who began to show interest in child pornography. Later when he went to the doctors, it was discovered that he had a large tumor in his orbitofrontal cortex. This idea of a difference, in this case, a large tumor, in the orbitofrontal cortex can cause a shift in sexual behavior which may lead to pedophilia, is exactly what the first theory states. After having the tumor removed, it is said that Alex’s behavior and sexual preferences returned to normal. But we cannot completely blame differences and tumors in the orbitofrontal cortex as the reason for pedophilia. The majority of people who have had tumors in the orbitofrontal cortex did not show any sign of pedophilia or any other sexual behavioral changes, so we cannot definitively say that problems in the orbitofrontal cortex are the reason for pedophilia (Tenbergen et al.). The book goes on to raise the question of, is pedophilia something that people naturally have in their brains but is hidden by having a healthy brain? This would be an interesting topic to continue researching and doing studies on.

The book touches on the topic of jail and rehabilitation. If a person who is a pedophile is not in control of the changes or differences in their brain, is it fair to send them to jail immediately? I believe that there should be some sort of procedure for dealing with pedophilia. If an individual is arrested for child pornography, they should be sent to a rehabilitation center to see if they can change their ways. They could have research done and possibly have a procedure done to alter the brain. If they show they have changed they are free to go but must be on parole and check in with a counselor. And if they are arrested again for pedophilia, they will go to jail.

But there are some unethical ideas with my belief of what could work. First, there is the issue of a procedure to an individual's brain to see if they can change the behavior. This could be considered unethical and possibly dangerous. The book talks briefly about lobotomies and how those completely changed individuals, and not for the better. Second, if a rehabilitated pedophile is released freely back into the world, there is the chance of that person committing another act of pedophilia. We run the risk of letting a child molester possibly have another chance to molest a child. And the final issue with this idea is not about ethics, but more about how the general public would react. I would speculate the majority of people would probably not want to pay taxes to have a rehabilitation center for pedophiles, as well as not wanting them to have a second chance to go free in the world.

There is a large stigma about pedophilia (rightly so), but in order to help individuals recover and to prevent it from happening in the future, there needs to be more research about the brain's role in those who are pedophiles. The best way to solve a problem is to figure out how to prevent it from happening or how to prevent it from happening again.

Works Cited

Eagleman, David. Incognito: the secret lives of the brain. New York, NY, Vintage Books, 2011.

Tenbergen, Gilian et al. “The Neurobiology and Psychology of Pedophilia: Recent Advances and Challenges.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9 (2015): 344. PMC. Web. 15 Nov. 2017.

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