Something We Should Understand Better

Jan 16, 2023 by John Lockton

Have you ever asked yourself why men are drawn to molesting boys? Can future molesters be identified at an early age and can something be done about it? I’ve had to study the unattractive subject of child molestation in depth to accurately discuss the subject in some of my writings. My bookshelves contain many medical volumes and treatises on child molestation, not the happiest additions to my library. What causes men to molest boys turned out not to be what I thought. The "common knowledge” is that men become child molesters because they have been abused as youngsters. Not so. When one puts child molesters to lie detector tests it turns out that only 30% or less have themselves been molested. (When questioned most molesters claim to be molested as children to excuse their molestation.) The 30% is not too far off the numbers from the general population—20% of boys suffer sexual abuse before 18 and almost one-third of girls. So what causes it, and what causes the priest or teacher to become sexually attracted to boys?

In simplest terms, it is the result of arrested development. At a certain point in life, a young boy turns some of his attention from his parents and starts focusing that attention on other boys. As the boy grows into adolescence the normal progression is for the boy's attention to also turn to girls, and for his attention to be on those his own age, both boys and girls. The child molester does not move to this new stage. His development is stunted. He continues to focus his attention on the young boys who were the center of his life when he was younger.  

Now for the details. At an early age child molesters feel deprived of a normal life and feel different. Usually, this is the result of how their parents have treated them. One child molester writes, “While my physical needs were well taken care of, the family operated in a very cold, detached, and formal fashion. Communication was an exercise in intelligence and civility rather than sharing of feelings. They behaved as though Victorians, seeming to feel that if you could keep life polite and strictly formal you could deal with it. Demonstrations of affection were nonexistent, never any hugging or kissing. I was cut off from others at a profound level. A kind of permanent loneliness kept me from connecting with others and enjoying life fully.” With no love for or from his parents, he turned his love to other boys. “When around twelve or thirteen I received an electric train set at Christmas. When I unwrapped the present and saw what it was, I focused on how I could set it up in the basement as a means of luring neighborhood boys into spending time down there with me.”

Many different family situations can cause a boy to feel deprived of a normal life; for the future child molester, something else appears as a strong feeling of being cheated. He is a victim. Cheated out of a normal life. And cheated by life he feels entitled to do what he wants, including having sex with a boy. Later this feeling of being cheated and being a victim is what keeps the child molester from taking responsibility for his actions. He is the victim, not the boy he is abusing. He doesn’t have to take responsibility for anything. He is as he is, and it is not his fault. “The lousy world cheated me of a normal life and made me this way."

What completes the road to the hell of being a child molester is fantasying. Few boys who feel cheated by life become child molesters. The future molester stands out by increasingly withdrawing into a fantasy world as his sexuality awakens. Instead of doing what most children do—experimenting with things, questioning everything, learning to deal with feelings and fears—he withdraws into a fantasy world, fantasizing about the other boys on whom he has centered his life, armed with his self-created sense of being “different.” At first, the fantasies are general. Later very specific--what he will do with a certain boy, how the boy will respond, a fantasy world in which the future child molester controls everything: the thoughts, impulses, bodies, and particularly sexual actions of the victim—the start of planning eventually converts to action. Most child molesters fantasize at length about their target boy before doing anything.   

So that's the recipe. A boy who is introverted and has no or little relation to his parents, feels he is different and cheated by life, and is given to fantasy. There are thousands of boys who fit this description and who will never be child molesters. But if your son does meet these criteria and is always playing with younger boys, seeks baby sister jobs with younger boys, and sometimes disappears for hours with a younger boy, watch out.

Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered the approach a predator takes to his victim is lengthy and planful rather than spontaneous, rarely a sudden act of molestation on a vulnerable boy. The predator looks for an attractive child who is alienated from his family and seems to be living in a separate world from others, lacks self-esteem and confidence, perhaps picked on by brothers and sisters and schoolmates. Once the target is identified he then gets close to the family; befriends the family in every way he can, in order to understand how the boy relates to his parents and other family members and to later have the family accept the time he spends with the boy. Most boys have conflicting emotions regarding their parents, particularly the isolated boy. The abuser attempts to exploit the natural feelings of frustration and anger towards parents, befriends the boy on a level the parents never do, and gets his trust to a point he is told the boy's secrets (all boys have secrets). Through careful steps, the boy is brought to see the predator as the central person in his world, his best friend, his confidant in all things. The next step is to slowly introduce sex, first only through off-color comments and jokes. Then if the introduction of sex talk goes well there is a carefully choreographed sexual contact of minor nature, the first of many “secrets” not to be shared with the parents. 

The process of bringing the boy into the sexual control of the predator can take as much as a year, with gradual increases in sexual contact, often at some point resistance from the boy which the predator overcomes with bribes, gifts, and threats of telling, and finally complete submission. In almost all cases the predator is someone known to the family, a relative, an old friend, or a new acquaintance who has wormed his way into the family in a burst of friendliness. And again surprisingly, for the predator, it is all about control. Intercourse/sexual penetration usually doesn’t happen. Instead, the predator wants absolute control over the boy and every aspect of his sexual life, seeking to have him do to himself and the predator whatever the predator's fantasy desires. Men who molest boys feel they have little control over their own lives. Molestation satisfies the desire for control and sexual desires at the same time. One of many misconceptions is to think that child molesters are different from the rest of the world. Outside the molestation, he can be a loyal friend, cherished relative, good employee, a responsible member of the community, and other than Catholic priests, he is often married. If the indications are there, an adoring attitude of your son toward someone, a lot of time spent separately by your son with him, (I have tickets for the ball game. Want to come along), don’t dismiss the fellow as a possible predator just because, “He is a really good guy.”

There is little literature that deals with child molestation from the standpoint of the molester. “Death in Venice,” by Thomas Mann, is often cited. However, that wonderful book never plumbs what it is in the man’s background that causes him in maturity; ostensively a happily married man, to suddenly have a sexual attraction to a boy. And when did you last read an article about what caused a priest or teacher whose molestation is front page news to have become a molester? More understanding of what causes child molestation would arm us better to prevent it. Also, too little is written about what parents should look out for to guard against their children not only becoming victims of child molesters but also becoming child molesters. Most parents tell their children not to talk to strangers. That’s not where most boy molestation comes from. It’s from those the family knows and trusts. And I can tell you having read many accounts, that predators are fiendishly clever in becoming best friends with a family without the family knowing their goal is their boy. And how much is being written about what parents should do if their son seems to focus on younger boys?

This blog only touches the surface of a complicated subject. Case histories with additional information can be found in: “Predator,” by Doctor Anna Salter, and “Conversations with a Pedophile,” by Doctor Amy Hammel-Zabin. And my newly published novel,  “Odyssey’s Child,” also touches on the subject of child molestation, and does so unlike most other literature by discussing in detail what causes a man to become sexually attracted to boys.   

Whether you want to learn more about the subject of this blog or want a highly readable, entertaining, "can’t put it down” story, I invite you to read “Odyssey’s Child.” Published by Waterside Productions, available on Amazon, it is “Life of Pi” set in the Caribbean with a man aboard as dangerous to the boy as the tiger in “Life of Pi,” the two of them together on a 1,500 mile two month voyage in a small boat, a modern “Odyssey," remarkable people on land, life-threatening perils at sea, and always the joy of life that is the Caribbean.