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“Pedophilia”

Not to get too thick in the weeds of apologetics here, but it’s certainly true that use of the term “pedophilia” in the context of the Mark Foley scandal should be resisted. What Foley was up to was sleazy and wrong (and, it seems, possibly illegal) but being attracted to older teens isn’t pedophilia. I think the gay angle clouds people’s thinking about this.

You’ll see on the right a photo of Scarlett Johannssonn in Ghost World. She was born on November 22, 1984 and the film was released in 2001, so it would have been shot was she was sixteen years old. I think it’s rather self-evident that to classify anyone who thinks this is a picture of an attractive woman as a pedophile would be to drain the term of any real meaning. One could fairly subject a much older man actively persuing a sexual relationship with a sixteen year-old to all sorts of criticism, but pedophilia isn’t a plausible candidate.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, it’s possible for something both to be wrong and to not be pedophilia. Lots of things that aren’t pedophilia are wrong. I’m trying to defend the English language here, not Foley’s conduct.

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