Sarah Taylor

April 19, 2022

-The Blaze


A University of New Hampshire professor’s remarks about pedophilic sexual relationships have simultaneously made headlines and raised eyebrows.

What are the details?

Professor David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, suggested that he believes it is not “effective” to presume that a pedophilic relationship starts because of a “predatory or criminally inclined adult.”

In a recent panel discussion titled “Sex Crimes Against Juveniles Involving Elements of Voluntary Participation: Implications for Prevention and Response,” Finkelhor suggested that children may be the ones initiating sexual activities with adults who aren’t otherwise “criminally inclined.”

“If young people are initiating sexual activities with adults, or enthusiastically involved, we can’t be effective working with them if we assume that all such relationships start with a predatory or criminally inclined adult,” Finkelhor reasoned during the March online discussion. “We’ve seen in the discussion, young people bridle at being forced into this box of being seen as the victim of a predator, and so there are reasons for learning about what the dynamics are and how to talk about them so that we can better help the young people who are in these situations.”

He added that there’s a lot of “ambiguity about and discussion and lack of consensus about what to call these kinds of episodes,” and added that he’s opted to coin the phrase “voluntary elements to the sexual relationship between the child and considerably older partner.”

“It can be a kind of manipulation of consent, it can be ambivalence about something that an adult takes advantage of, it can be about actual curiosity the child has to discover sex or do things that adults do,” he explained. “It can actually represent a very enthusiastic kind of participation on the part of the child who really feels very positively about the adult and sees themselves as wanting to have some kind of relationship.”

“It can actually involve the active initiatory seduction of an adult by a juvenile,” Finkelhor added. “So there’s a pretty wide spectrum here. In my view, maybe what I’m talking about starts here at the curiosity/enthusiasm and goes to the seduction end of the range here, but there could be debate about where we would want to draw the line.”

What else?

Following outcry, Finkelhor told the Daily Wire on Monday that his remarks were taken out of context and insisted that he “clearly said that all these kinds of crimes are illegal.”

“The point that I was making was that we can’t identify them if we assume that everybody who was sexually abusing children is identifiable from the kind of predator model where they had prior sexual interest in children and they were forcing themselves on a child,” he said.

He added that some related crimes take place because both young people and adults are “unaware of the statutory sex crime laws.”

Professionals, he added, ought to take “more time educating people about why this is a crime” and spend more time “discouraging young people from allowing themselves to be seduced by an adult’s flattery and interest.”