Pedophilia and bestiality: sex by an adult with a child and sex by a human with an animal. Most people consider the former to be disgusting and the latter to be twisted. Both of these activities are illegal in many countries. And that’s the way it should be, right? We all feel that both pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. But why is that exactly? What is it that makes us so creeped out by the thought of an adult having sexual intercourse with a child? Or the noise of the neighbor enjoying the companionship of his dog a little too much? And in what way do both pedophilia and bestiality differ from rape? Aren’t they ‘just’ rape, but disguised in a different form? Let’s take a look at these questions.
I believe that – as it is with all matters in life – you have to come to understand why it is that you find something right or wrong, and that you should not just take society’s word for it. After all, there are many societies in which gay marriage is believed to be morally wrong or even illegal, but that doesn’t imply that gay marriage is in itself morally wrong or illegal, right? Of course not. It is morally wrong or illegal because the society in which it is morally wrong or illegal made it so. And so it is with pedophilia and bestiality. However, in contrast to gay marriage, there might be more compelling reasons to make pedophilia and bestiality wrong and illegal.
Let me ask you the following question: what is it that you find so repulsive about grown up men (and women) having sex with (little) children? Responding with, ‘They are children!’, is not an argument; merely a shout of disgust. A better – but still unsatisfying – response would be, ‘Children aren’t outgrown yet. Therefore an adult who has sex with a child does not have intercourse with a “complete” human being, only with some entity that has the potential of becoming a fully developed human being. And it is not until someone is having intercourse with a full-grown member of his own species that he is engaged in a “normal”, or “morally right”, endeavor’. But that’s nonsense, right? That would imply that sex with any person who is not believed to be ‘fully developed’ according to the moral rules of society would be an act worthy of condemnation. Also, if you make this claim, you might be asked to answer the question of when it is that someone is fully developed; when someone has ‘reached’ his full potential as a human being. When he has reached the ‘normal’ IQ-level? When her breasts are ‘sufficiently’ matured? When he has got the ‘right’ amount of hair on his chest? These measures seem utterly arbitrary and incapable of explaining our repulsion with pedophilia, let alone bestiality.
The reason why we find sex by adults with children – and sex by humans with animals – inappropriate (to say the least) is because we believe that the someone, or the ‘something’, we have sex with should in potential be able to assent to you and itself engaging in the sexual transaction. Note the prefix ‘in potential be able to’. Why is the addition of these few words so important? If we would skip them, the act would still be worthy of our condemnation, right? If you engage in whatever kind of relationship with another person (whether this is trading collector-cards, selling a motorcycle or having sex), it is always ‘appropriate’ to make sure that both parties agree to the deal, right?
That’s true, but somehow we find pedophilia and bestiality to be different from – or even ‘more wrong’ than – rape. Thus, it cannot only be the absence of mutual agreement for entering into the sexual transaction that explains our repulsion with both pedophilia and bestiality. No, it is the fact that a child or an animal does not even possess the capability of making a conscious decision to enter the deal or not. They don’t even have the sense of consciousness required to deliberately consider the ‘pros and cons’ of having sex with a person. And where in the case of rape, the rapist doesn’t take into consideration the intentions of the person being raped, the case of pedophilia and bestiality is different because children and animals might not even have – or at least not to the same extent as human adults – the potential to consciously reflect on the situation they’re in, and hence to decide whether or not to engage in a (sexual) transaction. And it this absence of potentially being able to consciously reflect on the situation, of consciously (ab)using another living creature while knowing that it is – in principle – incapable to consent with ‘the deal’, that we as a society seem to find more inappropriate than the act of don’t paying attention to another person’s intentions. And that’s why we think that the former should be punished more severely than the latter.
But what do you think?