In the sex research literature about paraphilia disorders, the attraction to individuals under the age of 18 is divided into three main categories. The first is pedophilia. Individuals with pedophilia are attracted to prepubescent children. Those diagnosed with pedophilia have expressed recurrent, intense, sexually arousing, fantasies and urges or behaviors involving the sexual activity of children 13 years or younger and have acted upon these urges.
Hebephilia is the second and it involves individuals who are sexually attracted to postpubescent children and/or young adolescents, usually between the ages of 11 and 14. Though it is not an official diagnosis, some researchers strongly believe that it should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the guidebook mental health professionals used to diagnose psychological conditions.
The third category is a ephebophile. It derives from the Greek word ephebos meaning “one arrived at puberty.” It is the term used to describe individuals who are sexually attracted to 15 to 19-year-olds.
If we were to categorize your sexual interest based on your letter, it would seem that ephebophile would be most appropriate. In addition, you mentioned being attracted to individuals of legal age. In the sex research literature, the term used to describe the latter category is teleiophila, which is a sexual preference for adults.
I’m not certain of your specific question but it seems prudent to avoid tracking these underage individuals on social media. That should help to decrease your interest in these individuals as well as reduce your sexual fantasies. Your main goal should be attempting to decrease these thoughts and behaviors by avoiding anything that would intensify them.
Not only is it morally wrong for an adult to pursue a child or adolescent sexually, it is illegal. If you were to carry out your sexual fantasies and become involved with an individual under the age of 18, you could be charged with a sex crime, be incarcerated and be labeled as a sex offender. Sex offender laws in the United States are particularly harsh. Sex offenders are mandated by law to be placed on registries. These registries are public and can be viewed by anyone in the world via the Internet. The registries include a picture of the convicted perpetrator, where they live and a description of their crimes. The stated goal of the registry is to inform the public about dangerous individuals who live in their communities.
Sex offenders also have specific restrictions on where they can live and with whom they can live. Some sex offenders are not even allowed to interact with their own children.
If you are struggling with these desires and believe that you might act on them, it would be wise to seek treatment. Treatments often involve assisting individuals in managing or controlling their sexual interests and behaviors. Generally speaking, research indicates that individuals who have sexual interests in children and/or adolescents undergoing treatment are less likely to commit offenses towards children and/or adolescents compared to those not in treatment. Seeking treatment can prevent you from engaging in behaviors that could lead to trouble in your life.
I wrote a general response to your inquiry because a specific question was not included. If you’d like to write again to ask a more specific question about this issue, please do not hesitate to do so. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle