If I were free tonight, if I could walk out of here, I would go to a shopping mall and kidnap, rape, and murder, just to feel the physical pleasure of sex.” 1

Jack Trawick -- Serial killer

Trawick was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of two women, and openly confessed to the murder of several others. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, Jack suffered from "a lifetime of severe mental illness." By the time he was eleven years old he was diagnosed for schizophrenia for which he received a variety of treatments. Equal Justice suggests that "killing broken, mentally disabled people as a response to the problems and violence that are sometimes associated with mental illness is immoral."2 It is a point worth considering. But in this brief article I would to focus on a different question: What sort of social policy should a case like this lead us to adopt? Let me suggest the following:

  • We should view all heterosexual men as extremely dangerous.

  • We should conclude that all heterosexual men are sociopaths who are incapable of empathy -- in other words, that they are monsters.

  • We should list all heterosexual men who have shown any interest in sex on a registry so that everyone would be able to know where such dangerous people live.

  • We should make it impossible for men who are sexually aroused by women to live within 1000 feet of any place where women live or congregate.

  • We should give a negative mental health assessment to any male children who shows even a little interest in sex.

  • Any male child that actually engages in sex play should be indicted and convicted of a felony.

  • We should make it almost impossible for any adult male who is attracted to adult women to find a place to live, or a job.

  • We should make it very difficult for heterosexual men to socialize with each other for fear that they will reinforce each other's propensity for violence.

After all, this is how we handle the issue of "pedophiles."

But this is different, some might claim. Pedophiles really are monsters. They are psychopaths. Any of them would rape and murder a five year old girl if given a chance, and leave her dismembered body in the woods. Let's look at an example:

Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) was the founder of “Self Psychology,” and was one of the most influential psychological thinkers of the twentieth century. Being rather ignored by his parents and when he was about 10 or 11, he formed a close bond to his tutor, a young man who was perhaps 20 or 21 years of age. Their relationship had a sexual dimension to it. The two would kiss and hug each other as they lay together naked on Kohut's bed, and this led to fondling each other gently, and to sucking each others penises.

As he describes the relationship many years later, "I had this private tutor, who was a very important person in my life. He would take me to museums and swimming and concerts and we had endless intellectual conversations and played complicated intellectual games and played chess together. I was an only child. So it was in some ways psychologically life-saving for me. I was very fond of this fellow." The assessment of his biographer is that those years with his tutor were “extremely happy ones,” maybe “the happiest years of his life... .” 3

We can see such a relationship as good, bad or ugly, and can debate whether it should be criminalized. But surely one thing is clear: Kohut's tutor was no more similar to the deranged man who rapes and murders a 5 year old girl in the woods, than the average heterosexual man is similar to Jack Trawick. The relationship the tutor had with Kohut was not his first step toward his becoming a serial rapist and murderer of small children.

People who are attracted to minors to a greater extent than others have little or nothing in common with each other except for that attraction. The Kohut example, along with many others that can be found in the literature on the subject, attest to that diversity. In a scientific review of the literature Okami and Goldberg assert that "the image of the pedophile as a violent child rapist/murderer has been a part of sexual folklore, but has been thoroughly debunked by numerous scientific studies." Their most general conclusion is that "relatively little may be stated about the personality or phenomenology of pedophiles and sex offenders against minors."3 In other words, to answer the question in the title of this article, adults who are attracted to minors exhibit the same range of personality characteristics as heterosexual males who are attracted to adult women, or any other group of people selected on the basis of their dominant sexual orientation.

The rhetoric on the TV and in the newspapers, the beliefs and attitudes of the average person on the street, and indeed, our whole social policy with regard to dealing with adults who are attracted to minors, and with sex offenders, are all grounded in a belief that has no scientific support: the belief that sex offenders, and minor attracted adults in general, are pretty much like Jack Trawick, except that they would target children. It is hard to see how basing our social policy and practice on images that are right out of Gothic horror films, and on assumptions that have been scientifically refuted, can have a beneficial outcome for anyone.

1. From a letter that Jack Trawick sent to Helen Pajama, in an unpublished manuscript.

2. <http://eji.org/deathpenalty/jacktrawick>

3.< http://www.shfri.net/shfp/wrong/wrong.html>

4. Okami and Goldberg. Personality Correlates of Pedophilia: Are They Reliable Indicators? Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 29, No 3, 1992, pp. 297-228. (Although this review is somewhat dated, little has been found since then that would significantly alter its conclusions.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Download from, Joomla templates by a4joomla