Ephebophilia has been variously defined as a sexual preference in which an adult is primarily or exclusively sexually attracted to postpubescent adolescents or a criminal behavior consisting of sexual abuse of pubescent or post-pubescent minors. It comes from the Greek: έφηβος
(ephebos) variously defined as "one arrived at puberty", "a youth of 18 who underwent his dokimasia and was registered as a citizen (Athens)", and "arriving at man's estate"; and φιλία (philia) "love/friendship".
Ephebophilia, as most strictly defined, refers only to an attraction, not to actual love relations or sexual activity (although these can be involved). It is used in contrast with pedophilia, which is an attraction to pre-pubescent individuals. In more casual usage, however, pedophilia is often used more broadly in the western world, to describe an attraction to any person younger than the legal age of consent. For example the term "pedophile priests" is frequently used instead of "ephebophile priests" or "pederastic priests", in the context of the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases, although much of the sexual behavior involved was with adolescent (i.e. post-pubescent) teens.
- An alternate term, less widely used, is hebephilia.
The nature of ephebophilia is unresolved, and a variety of perspectives are held. Some regard ephebophilia as merely a milder form of pedophilia, in which the object of attraction is closer to what is "normal" than with a true pedophile. According to one theory, ephebophilia is a chronophilia, i.e. a paraphilia in which the paraphile's sexual/erotic age is discordant with his or her actual chronological age, and is instead concordant with the age of the partner.
Others argue that a consistent preference for adolescents is merely normal attraction to individuals at or near the peak of their sexual capability, and reflects a biologically "normal" reproductive strategy (in contrast to a preference for pre-pubescents, which does not and is therefore pathological). However, sociobiological research shows that primate males, particularly bonobos and chimps, tend to not prefer young females, but older, more mature females. This has been noted by primatologists such as Frans de Waal.
Attraction to adolescents is not commonly regarded by psychologists as inherently pathological, only when it interferes with other relationships, becomes an obsession adversely affecting other areas of life, or causes distress to the subject. An exclusive attraction to adolescents that produces relationships can lead to difficulties when the younger person in such a relationship reaches adulthood.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Sexual desire that includes adolescents along with older individuals is common among adults with either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation; this is not labeled "ephebophilia" because the attraction to adolescents is not exclusive of adults. In some cultures, for adults to include adolescents among their sexual interests is considered normal, such as those in which adolescent girls have routinely been married to adult men. Nonetheless, an open attraction to adolescents may be ridiculed or disparaged in some cultures as inappropriate or unhealthy, compared to forming a relationship with "someone your own age"; an attraction to adolescents is something one is expected to "grow out of". In Japanese society, the attraction of men towards teenage girls (high-school students) is a visible cultural phenomenon, and also in some case attraction of men towards pre-teen girls. The manifestations of such attraction, such as lolicon art, school uniform fetishes, and sexual relations with teenage girls (e.g. enjo kōsai) are tolerated more than in much of the Western world.
While ephebophilic desire is not regulated by any statute, aspects of sexually expressed ephebophilia may be against some laws. Depending on the age of consent in a given jurisdiction, an adolescent may be capable of giving legally-recognised consent to sexual activity. If the younger partner is below that age, it is commonly criminalised as statutory rape, regardless of whether the younger partner agrees to - or even initiates - the activity. Reasons given for this include:
- Some adolescents are unable to understand the physical, emotional, and social consequences of sexual activity.
- Adult sexual relations with adolescents can be an abuse of power, using psychological coercion.
- Sexual relations with adolescent girls can lead to pregnancy and parenthood, for which adolescents may not be prepared emotionally and/or financially.
Relationships between adults and adolescents that do not include sexual activity are generally legal, assuming no other laws regarding child welfare are violated. For example, a romantic relationship with an adolescent below the age of consent is generally legal, especially when the adolescent's age is above the age at which their parents could consent to marriage. In other jurisdictions, this may be illegal.
- Age disparity in sexual relationships
- Child sexual abuse
- Child sexuality
- Pedophilia and child sexual abuse in fiction
- Pedophilia and child sexual abuse in films
- Pedophile activism
- ↑ Child sexual abuse in the churches. Australasian Christian Legal Convention. URL accessed on 2006-05-30.
- Ames, A. & Houston, D.A. "Legal, social, and biological definitions of pedophilia." Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 19, 1990, pp. 333-342.
- Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1990.
- Percy, William A. Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
- Sex Scale and Age Preferences
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