Sex offender. The term sends chills up the spine of most of us.
I’ve known a number of sex offenders, including several pastors and church leaders who have been convicted of sex with minors. I’ve also known many victims. You very likely know some perpetrators and victims as well, you just may not know it as most don’t exactly advertise this part of their lives. Sadly, there’s fair chance that you are a victim yourself.
I’ve recently been touched by this yet again and again know both the perpetrator and victims. I’ve lost a lot of sleep the past few weeks struggling with it and trying to understand it. These posts are as much for my own quest in trying to sort through it as to communicate anything.
To understand sex offenders, it’s important to first understand guys in general. In Summary:
Guys crave sex often with a variety of cute young girls.
Guys – This is just about every male over the age of about 5. Not men, not boys, not males, but guys. Rich and poor, black and white, short, tall, fat, skinny, Republican, Democrat, bald, Libertarian, Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Hindu, and Muslim. But age 5? Really? Do you remember how quickly the girls lost interest in playing doctor but the guys didn’t? There are a lot of 11-year-old guys who have an extremely strong interest in exploring something other than the local fishing hole.
Crave – I could almost have substituted the word need here. Almost. Guys desire, their craving of sex, can be extremely strong. It is second only to breathing, drinking water (when near death of dehydration), and eating (when near death of starvation).
Sex – In some ways this ranges from checking out a cute girl in class to intercourse. For the most part though, post puberty anyway, it’s stimulation and orgasm – preferably with a variety of cute young girls (or second best, nude pictures of them). Love and affection are not a part of this. Guys just want sex.
Often – For younger guys, sex in the afternoon may be just a prelude for that night. For older folk, often might be next year. Hopefully.
With – An image in his mind, a picture, or best of all, the real thing.
Variety – Guys like variety. A lot of variety. This is what drives Hugh Grant to seek out prostitutes when he has Elizabeth Hurley at home or why Peter Cook was having an affair with 18-year-old Diana Bianchi while he was happily married to Christie Brinkley (the happiness ended when Brinkley found out). I could go on and on with similar examples. Every time this happens with someone famous you’ll hear commentators on TV wondering why fill-in-the-blank went out for sex when he had so and so at home. The answer is variety.
Cute – In the eyes of the beholder, but critical. Sometimes.
Young – Girls start to become sexually attractive to guys at puberty. This is by God’s design so don’t shoot the messenger. There’s a reason so many models are between 14 and 17 – sex sells and these are the most sexually appealing (Michael Kors gets credit for recently refusing to use anyone under 16, a statement that caused some ripples in the industry). Recently on Foxnews.com, the stories that garnered the highest number of clicks, by a significant margin, were those about high school cheerleader skirts being too short.
Depending on what study you read, the peak of her attractiveness is anywhere from 15 to 22. Combining data from several studies gives us something like this for the age of girls that guys are most attracted to and the age of guys that girls are most attracted to:
It’s important here to distinguish between a guy’s ‘animal sexual nature’ and that within a loving context. A guy in love with his 40 or 70 or whatever-year-old wife will find her just as sexually attractive, or more so, than any other women of any age. AND, most guys are not as shallow as their sexual nature might make them out to be – they can still have a very deep abiding love regardless of sexual attraction.
Now, let’s distinguish between what is psychologically normal and what is legal. Attraction to a pre-pubescent, by someone more than about five years older, pedophilia, is generally considered abnormal, while attraction to a post-pubescent, ephebophilia or teliophilia, is normal. A thirty something guy attracted to a 10-year-old pre-pubescent girl is a pedophile while a thirty something guy attracted to a 14-year-old post-pubescent girl is normal.
Legally though we draw the line for acting on this attraction at somewhere between 13 and 18, depending on the state or country. In the US most states are between 16 and 18, Europe ranges from 13 to 16, Asia is 13 or 14 for those countries that have an age of consent. In Islamic countries it’s usually either puberty or 9 (though slightly more complicated under Sharia).
So, while it’s normal for a 30-something guy to be sexually attracted to a 14-year-old girl, it’s not legal for them to do anything about it.
For those gasping at that last statement I’ll offer two thoughts:
I can go out today and pick 10 girls, one of each age from 12 to 21. If I line them up in random order and ask people to tell me their ages, knowing that there is one of each age, the younger girls will receive numerous votes of being over 18 and the older, numerous for being under 18. If, for example, the majority believe the 14-year-old to be over 18, how then can we say that it is abnormal for a guy to be sexually attracted to her? Or for him to be sexually attracted to the 21-year-old who looks 15?
Second, consider this, Song of Solomon is an erotic sonnet written by a 40-something guy about his likely 13-year-old bride. Should we rip it out of our Bibles?
Guys crave sex often with a variety of cute young girls.
The title of Steven Arterburn’s book Every Man’s Battle sums it up well – sexual temptation is a battle for just about every guy every day. Dealing with sexual temptation is probably the number one topic in Christian men’s groups, yet few men actually live up to the ideals set forth in these discussions.
In Christianity, and to some extent in society, we are taught that there should be no sex outside of a monogamous marriage and that masturbation and porn are sins. The problem is that this is quite contrary to guy’s, often extremely strong, sexual nature.
I cannot stress enough how minute the difference in crave and need can be and how critical a role often and variety can play. It’s called a sex drive because it drives. And often doesn’t take directions very well.
There are two things, other than ED, that keep guys sex drives in line, that keep them from having sex twice a day, every day, with a variety of cute young girls; beliefs, and self-control. Our sex-drive says one thing, our beliefs, Christian, legal, or other, say something else, and self-control bridges the gap.
Some guys have almost zero sex drive and others have an enormous over-powering sex drive. Some have the same drive throughout most of their life, others have significant peaks and valleys. On an imaginary scale of 0 to 10 most are about an 8 much of their life.
Self-control, seemingly anyway, also varies across a continuum and it is self-control and guys efforts to exercise it, that keeps their sex drives in reasonable check. But what is self-control? How much can be taught and how much is genetic? Is there an upper limit for each of us beyond which we have no control? If we don’t learn it early in life, can we still learn it later in life?
There is far more that we don’t know about self-control than that we do know. I completely failed in every attempt at any kind of relatively brief discussion of it for this post, much less how it relates to controlling our sex drive. So I’ll leave a more in-depth discussion for later. What we do know is that there does appear to be a strong genetic component, but this is only a starter and self-control can often be taught and learned. We also know that there is a significant and direct correlation between a person’s level of self-control, genetic or learned, and their success in life.
If we were to plot the sex-drives and self-control of 33 average guys we’d likely get something like this (a hugely simplistic view, but good enough for discussion):
Each dot above represents approximately 3% of the guy population.
The three dark green dots represent the approx 9% of the guy population who are able to fully control their sex drive. These are the guys who never look at porn and never have an affair. Note that these are not all people with extreme self control or with low sex drives, but guys who posses enough self control relative to their sex drive to keep things in check.
The dark red dot represents the perhaps 3% of the guy population who have an extremely difficult or impossible time controlling their sexual urges. This is where you will find the perpetrators of stranger rape or the guys who’ll visit enslaved or trafficked prostitutes.
The four light red represent the estimated 12% who find it very difficult to control their sexual desires. They will nominally violate others to satisfy their sexual urges. These are the guys who commit date-rape with their drunk date or do something with folks who are underage. This is the teacher who coaxes a 15-year-old girl in to bed with him and, after her, plans his next. These acts are nominally consensual – but they’re not.
In between these extremes lay the majority of the guy population, the 77% who have relative control over their sex drive and keep their activities within relatively appropriate boundaries – they aren’t purely monogamous, but they don’t take advantage of others. The light green are the 9% or so of guys who look at porn, but nothing else. The chartreuse (greenish yellow) are those who might slip up once or twice with a visit to a prostitute or perhaps with someone they work with. The yellow are the majority – they look at porn, visit consenting adult prostitutes, and may have an affair. The orange are those on the edge of relative acceptability who often have numerous affairs and will have affairs with married women (for most guys there is an unwritten rule that you never hook up with another guys wife.)
This is, approximately, reality. Any random group of 33 guys, from the corner bar or local Baptist church will look something like this. A random group of 33 Evangelical pastors will look like this as will a random group of 33 union auto workers or 33 attorneys. A random group of cops, that former Minneapolis police chief Tony Bouza describes as “a bunch of libidous type-A’s”, will likely have a few more reds and oranges.
If you plot all of the Presidents of the United States from the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt through Bill Clinton, based on what we know of their sex lives, we’d get this (each dot represents one specific president):
Monogamy is not a trait of our leaders.
President John F. Kennedy, the only dark red dot, was willing to risk his marriage, political career, and the security of our nation to have a variety of cute young girls. By some estimates he had sex with as many as ten different girls each week during his campaign. When asked what he’d likely do after his second term in office, his wife Jackie once replied “He’ll probably take a job as the headmaster of an exclusive, all-girls prep school.”
How do you think a random selection of 33 movie stars would look? How about NFL, NBA, or MLB players? Congress critters? How about Biblical patriarchs?
My wife sums this all up: “Guys can be such jerks!”
Conclusion to Part I
A very common phrase uttered by women when they find out about some guy’s sexual affairs is “but he was such a good husband and father”, as if these are mutually exclusive.
They are not mutually exclusive. If you marry a guy, and I do highly recommend it, his sex drive is part of the package. And it’s intentional. And by God’s design. These very same guys, most anyway, from greens to reds, are also very caring and loving husbands and fathers (and cops and auto workers and pastors and engineers.)
I’ve vetted this with a number of pastors; Baptist, AG, and non-denominational. The general response is somewhat begrudging agreement. Begrudging because this goes so drastically against what the Christian church has taught in recent years. Agreement because it is the reality that they see in their churches.
One pastor, who has counseled hundreds of engaged couples and followed most through their marriages, commented that he “doesn’t want to let guys off this easy.” Then agreed that it may not be a question of letting guys off easy, but recognizing reality vs a fairytale.
With a tremendous amount of effort guys may be able to move up one-level on our self-control scale; from orange to yellow for example. Is green a realistic choice for every guy? In solitary confinement maybe. In the real world I’m not so sure.
None of this is to say that it is in any way OK for guys to look at porn, visit prostitutes, or have affairs. It is simply a look at the reality that we all share.
According to some psychologists there are a fairly large number of guys who are somewhat sexually attracted to older pre-pubescents. However, they do not act on these attractions nor do they even have a desire to act on them.
 There is some debate if it is more difficult for guys to remain sexually monogamous today than in times past. The argument mostly along the lines that girls today dress in ways that are far more sexually provoking (thin, suction-tight black leggings with no panties being the number one item recently put forth) and that media present a lot more sex than in the past. While I agree that these are valid issues, I’m not sure that they make that much real difference. The average guy has a highly developed imagination, and bikini or burqa makes little difference. Guys get themselves just as worked up and horny checking out bundled up snow-bunnies in the chalet as bikini babes on the beach. Interestingly there appear to be more problems of sexual misconduct in burqa-clad Islamic countries than in nudist cities in Europe.
Historically, be it 1950, 1650, or 1050bc, it appears that guys had just as much sex with just as many different girls as they do today. I don’t think much has changed except the recent willingness of girls to provide it for free, saving guys from having to work for it.
This is not to say that it’s necessarily OK for girls to dress provocatively. Doing so still sends a message that they may not intend. The very strong message that most guys get today, from dress, teasing, sexting, and other stuff, is that sex is OK and free for the asking. There’s an old but still true axiom that guys date girls who’ll put out but want to develop relationships with and marry virgins whom they respect.
Something I’m curious about is if virginity at marriage impacts likelihood of divorce. I’ve found studies that look at this, but none with conclusive evidence one way or the other or that sufficiently isolate this issue from related causes.
For more you may want to research Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiment, including his and others follow-up on what happened to the participants later in life, ability to teach non-delayer’s to control their impulses, and other related research. On the economics side you should also explore intertemporal choice.