An academic book that suggests the moral status of pedophilia is unclear, has some prominent social conservatives saying that we are now on a familiar, troubling path toward normalization of things once considered unthinkable.
Prominent defenders of traditional marriage highlighted on their social media pages Sunday a book called Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis by Stephen Kershnar, who is a professor and chair the philosophy department at State University of New York at Fredonia. The 168-page work, which was released last year and recently came to the attention of conservatives, examines the moral status of sexual relationships between adults and children, explores whether those who engage in that kind of sex "have a disease, act wrongly, or are vicious," and engages the surrounding legal issues.
Publisher Rowman & Littlefield describes the book on its website as thus: "This book provides a philosophical analysis of adult–child sex and pedophilia. This sex intuitively strikes many people as sick, disgusting, and wrong. The problem is that it is not clear whether these judgments are justified and whether they are aesthetic or moral. By analogy, many people find it disgusting to view images of obese people having sex, but it is hard to see what is morally undesirable about such sex: here the judgment is aesthetic."
Social conservatives have long pointed that redefining marriage amounts to a "slippery slope" and will lead to other previously inconceivable cultural shifts, but are often told that they are being irrationally extreme.
In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, said that while he does not believe that pedophilia will be mainstreamed in the next few years, since most American are still repulsed by it, books like Kershnar's indicate yet another dark front in the Left's strategic war on Judeo-Christian moral norms.
Particularly disturbing to LaBarbera and others was this line from Kershnar's book: "Adult-child sex involving willing participants has an unclear moral status."
"Kershnar is injecting nuance and situational ambiguity to chip away at the near-universal understanding that sex between adults and kids is always wrong," LaBarbera said, adding that "Sex radicals have learned from the successful campaign by 'gay' militants to normalize once-taboo behaviors and concepts like same-sex 'marriage.' Now they are in the 'study' phase on pedophilia," LaBarbera said.
Already the shift has been taking place, and central to understanding how this happens is observing how the language frames public discourse about sexuality issues. As noted by the The Independent (UK) in April, some psychologists are now referring to pedophilia as a "sexual orientation," giving it a degree, however small, of seeming legitimacy even as laws forbidding adult-child sex and child porn remain on the books. Yet others are even proclaiming themselves to be pedophiles though they stipulate they are "virtuous" in that they never intend to act on their impulses, as Todd Nickerson did in a 2015 Salon essay.
"Social conservatives must sound the alarm on any effort to mainstream adult-child sex. For the sake of vulnerable children, we must take this seriously — and not be intimidated by charges of scare-mongering," LaBarbera told CP.
But doing so presents a Catch-22, he continued, because even engaging Kershar's work "legitimize[s] this as an issue worthy of debate — thus creating the notion that there are two legitimate opinions on pedophilia."
"There are not. Sex with children is inherently exploitative and immoral; it corrupts and victimizes kids, who often grow up to have perverse desires toward children themselves. Those like Kershnar who seek to make a case for pedophilia — or certain types of pedophilia — must be exposed and rebutted," he concluded.