I, Pedophile

Child pornography should end. As an ex-convict, I ask: Is prison the most effective way to address demand?

It was shortly before 3:00 a.m. on May 30, 2012 when I turned off my computer for the last time. I slid my recliner over three feet and tucked myself into my bed, for another sleepless session of self-loathing and self-pity. Later that morning, I would not be at my friends’ home as I had planned to help them celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, I would find myself sitting on the hard wooden bench of a police holding cell.

For almost 20 years, I spent virtually every night of my life in the same manner: Sitting in front of my computer and either trawling the Internet for child pornography or looking at the pictures and videos that were already a part of my collection. No matter how many images I found and regardless of how sleep deprived I felt, nothing would stop me from continuing this perverse pursuit. It was my own carelessness that finally got me arrested, when I used my credit card to order some films that had images of naked boys, although none of these movies were of a sexual nature. One police officer later told me he thought I had gotten caught on purpose, because, subliminally, it was the only way I would stop. He was right about the latter, but not the former. No one who is a pedophile wants to get caught and have their horrifying secret revealed to the world.

In fact, there were some nights—but not too many—when I would dare to sit in my chair after my computer was turned off and imagine how it would feel to get arrested. Would I fall to the ground in the fetal position, would I throw up, burst into tears or perhaps even have a heart attack? When that day finally came for me, I did none of those. After the lead detective read me my rights and asked several questions regarding my computer, a strange calm washed over me. I knew my job as a local newspaper editor and my hobby coaching baseball had both come to an end. Yet the overriding thoughts in my head were not of my past, but more of my future. I knew that I was in a unique position to help others understand the bewildering life of a pedophile. I had never asked to be cursed with this sexual attraction, and I had never hurt a child. In fact, I was always a good role model as a coach, and an upstanding citizen throughout my days. It was the nights that were a problem.

Over the months that followed my arrest, my journalistic instincts took over. I wanted to know how a lifetime of lusting after young children could seem so normal to me on an emotional level, even though I knew rationally that it was a completely deviant lifestyle. I would spend my days longing to get back onto my computer, the way a gourmand anticipates a scrumptious feast. Yet when the computer was turned off, I despised myself for being so aroused while looking at pictures of young children whose lives had been destroyed thanks to their unwilling participation.

I spent much of my time in the days right after my arrested reflecting on my childhood. Was there some horrible trauma, an incident of abuse perhaps, that I had covered up which lead to my pedophilia. Was there some anomaly in my formative years that skewed my sexual development? I asked my sister, an experienced therapist, for her help, but she assured me that as far as she knew, nothing of that kind happened to me. I was the victim of an unhappy childhood and a psychologically disturbed father. I had all the symptoms of arrested development, which left me at the emotional level of a 10-year-old. But there was nothing remarkable or unspeakable about my childhood.

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David Goldberg has worked as a crime reporter, sports reporter, and newspaper editor in Montreal.

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