Someone asked me recently:

If gay people get to have sex with other people of the same sex because they are born gay, do pedophiles who feel they are born that way get to have sex with children?

In a word, No. But that answer has nothing to do with how someone was born, and everything to do with the other party.

Being born with a particular sexuality is never carte blanche for sex with any particular person. Being born straight does not give a man right to sex with any woman. She has to say yes, because ethical sex requires the consent of the other partner. Sex without consent – with a mentally retarded adult, a woman who is passed out drunk, or anyone who says no – is rape.

Pedophiles can never have the sex they desire because no child can give consent for adult sexual acts. Children, by definition, do not have an adult body, an adults morality or understanding of consequences, or an adult sexual awareness. There is no way for them to give informed consent for adult sex.

Pedophilia is a difficult topic, with some people labeling all pedophiles sick while others make a distinction between the desires of a pedophile and the actions of a child molester. Given how common child brides were across history and in some cultures to this day, the desire for sexual relationships with youth seem pretty widespread. Some modern research supports the idea that some people may be born pedophiles, making their sexuality as natural as heterosexuality or homosexuality.

(I did some research on pedophilia for my book and found great articles that helped expand my understanding like here, herehere , and here. And here is a support group for people looking for help.)

But in the end the origins of the desire for sex with children do not matter. Even if pedophiles are “born that way” they do not get to act on their desires because they are only half of the equation, and the rest of us are here to protect the rights of the other party. Healthy societies must protect the innocent first, and then offer help to those with unwelcome attractions.

Ethical sex requires the consent of both parties, and a child who can never give adult consent deserves to be left alone.