Is my boyfriend a pedophile?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

current_problem: I have been dating my boyfriend on and off since I was 14 years old, while he was 20. We are 6 years apart. We would see each other secretly for years until I was about 16 and then we made it public that we were dating. Our relationship has been great then horrible but we’ve always loved each other.

My family is convinced that he is a sick man and that I’m brainwashed and that he will always be a predator. But I have never thought that about him. I felt it just so happens we fell in love and forgot about age. Although now that I’m 20 the age he was when he pursued me I’m thinking why the hell would I ever go after a 14 year old…that is sick. And now that I’m remembering, I remember him asking me to go to a hotel with him at the age of 14 and I’m thinking maybe he is a predator and what if we get married and have kids one day will he be after them, does he have a sickeness. I mean I have seen him with children and he isn’t any different then any other man I don’t know what I believe.

My mother keeps trying to convince me that what he did when I was that age was wrong and even though now we are 20 and 26, then it is was wrong. Is he a pedofile or could he have been extremely immature or could it be that at the age of 14 I looked about 20 or maybe both or does he just love me. Or is a he a pedofile for pursuing a 14 year old girl no matter how old I look?

A: Pedophiles are people who are sexually attracted to children who are younger than the age of consent. They may be exclusively attracted to children or also be attracted to age appropriate people. Some are predatory. Some are opportunistic (meaning that they don’t go actively looking for kids but if the opportunity presents itself, they’ll take it). Whatever the case, the primary issue is one of sexual attraction to children.

That being said, it is also true that sometimes people can look like they have pedophilia when there is another explanation for getting sexually involved with someone who is inappropriately younger. Sometimes the older person is quite immature and is attracted to a mature younger person. They meet somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the younger person really does look a lot older and the adult wasn’t aware of the age difference. Sometimes the older person is cognitively limited and is attracted to someone younger because he or she is at the same intellectual or developmental level. It’s possible that your boyfriend falls into one or more of these categories.

I suspect that the only way to calm your mother would be to ask your boyfriend to go for an evaluation by someone who is an expert in pedophilia. Yes, it will be embarrassing. Yes, he maybe shouldn’t have to do it. But your mother’s fears and your family’s anger are understandable. If you two really are thinking about getting married, it would be better to have everyone’s blessing. It’s equally important that you go into a marriage with no doubts about the man you love. I hope your boyfriend is mature enough to put up with a few hours of uncomfortable questions by an expert in order to win a lifetime of better trust.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Aug 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Is my boyfriend a pedophile?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/08/24/is-my-boyfriend-a-pedophile/