Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. 2018, 369-382
To be a pedophile, according to the World Health Organization, is to have a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age. Pedophilia is widespread—approximately two percent of the adult population is primarily sexually attracted to children—and world-wide, approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12 boys, is a victim of sexual abuse. Most researchers working on pedophilia are psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists. How might ethicists contribute to the discussion? In this chapter, we ask, and seek to answer, three distinctively ethical questions about pedophilia: (1) Is it immoral to be a pedophile? (2) Is it immoral for pedophiles to seek out sexual contact with children? (3) Is it immoral for pedophiles to satisfy their sexual preferences by using computer-generated graphics, sex dolls, and/or sex robots that mimic children? We hope to show, through our discussion of these questions, that an ethical investigation of pedophilia can help advance our understanding of how pedophilia should be understood, assessed, and handled.