I don’t think I would fit anyone’s definition of pedophilia, but at one point would have answered yes for babies given how the question is worded. When my babies were newborn, the sight of them would make me want to jump their dad. It was a powerful reaction that I hadn’t been expecting but that made sense to me given the obvious evolutionary benefit of keeping my provider close and happy.

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Is there any way to convey the idea, in the question, that arousal might make the pedo to go for the babies instead?

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This is so interesting, thank you for writing it up. I liked that I was prompted before reading to predict my answer to "whether pedophiles will self-assess as being likelier to act on pedophilia if they consume erotic content". My guess was that the "slightly interested in children" crowd would say "more likely to act on it if I consume erotic content" and the "extremely interested" crowd would say "less likely to act on it if I consume erotic content". The following data doesn't confirm or deny that. Do you know if there's a difference?

The polyamory correlation being stronger than any other gender/sexual/romantic orientation factor was so surprising to me! It's even stronger than the childhood sexual assault one, which is one of the factor I would have guessed in advance would most correlate with pedophilia.

"people who found situations erotic where they themselves were experiencing disgust-grief-despair, were also more likely to express interest in pedophilia." !!! huh. Really curious about causal arrow direction.

This would be a low ROI thing to implement, but it would have been SO interesting for me to see this data in particular in fine-grained quiz format, like "guess that the average pedophilia score of someone with [factor]", "draw your guess as to what the curve is" before seeing the answer for each one. I would have been oohing and ahhing for like an hour

Because – pedophiles have like the highest "effect on culture" to "data about them" ratio of any group I'm aware of, so each piece of info in this post felt important/meaningful? With other phenomena, I have plenty of at-least-sorta-data-based priors about who does the thing and why. With pedophiles this wasn't the case, so as I read this I could kind of feel my virgin neurons struggling eagerly to update.

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Interesting, thanks. Did you look at separating out those who *only* indicated interest in children/toddlers and not in adults? I've always heard child sex offenders are split between those who are only attracted to kids, and more opportunistic ones who are primarily attracted to adults.

Might explain the 'body count' split if you have a bunch of people only attracted to children not acting on their desires vs those who generally have high sexuality and are not very discriminating. Or it could just be another example of weirdness clustering, since most people are going to be low-average in sexual partners.

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Yes this would be very interesting !

I once was a jury on a pedophile trial (the victim was 8 year old boy), and his priors were basically indecent exposure with 16 year old girls victims, so didn't seem like he was absolutely fixated on a specific age, more like an opportunistic sexual predator.

Really made the issue clearer to me.

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"Note the big difference in the ‘extreme’ category. This is an effect I’ve seen in a few other fetishes so far, where people who say they’re extremely into a thing have a meaningfully earlier onset of the fetish than everybody else. I think this is some evidence of a different subcategory of fetish - the one that hits much earlier, and results in a much more intense version of that fetish."

This is very interesting, but it's a different explanation to the one I first imagined, which was that paedophilia in particular might be associated with an earlier age of onset, due to something like the mechanism described in the recent ACX post (https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/what-can-fetish-research-tell-us) where people's sexual desires imprint early on their young peers and then get stuck.

Is it possible to plot age of fetish onset compared to other respondents/other fetishes?

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That's what I thought as well. People who start masturbating when they're 4-8 are probably thinking of other people that are 4-8. And some percent of them never change their preferences.

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I would've interpreted the "attraction to penis/vagina"/"attraction to masc/fem" male results as pretty obvious--pedophelic males are attracted to androgenous bodies because kids have much more androgenous bodies. I certainly wouldn't interpret it as correlated with bisexuality.

Not sure what's going on with the female group

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This is really interesting. I'm a pedophile, but I never experienced sexual abuse, did not have sex until I was older than twenty, and did not masturbate until I was 17. I am outside the bounds for the strongest indicators of pedophilia.

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I'm not Jewish, no.

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Am I missing something?

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Fascinating. A couple things that stick out to me-

1. These numbers are really human-sized. Pedophelia rates of 3.5% for guys -- that's like one kid across two coed sections of 11th grade English class was a pedophile. 1% of guys indicating interest in toddlers means that you'd have had 2 in a coed graduating class of 400. Ditto average pedophilia scores being in the range of .1-.2... those numbers are large.

2. Following on (1) -- the number of people it takes to make things substantially worse is not actually that many. See eg https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2023/04/new-york-city-fact-of-the-day-5.html for one way this can play out... or just think through the fact that the .6% of females + 3.5% of males who expressed any pedophilic interest are responsible for the fact that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse (from https://victimsofcrime.org/child-sexual-abuse-statistics/ -- seems like it's mostly in the age range discussed in this stack)

3. Numbers for some of these are certainly biased by the age distribution of respondents:

- The fact that men seem to age into pedophilia suggests that the prevalence estimates here are underestimates

- Percent having subjected nonconsensual sex is another thing that increases with age, so would expect that non-pedophiles aging into sexual assault would shift that line down at the full population level

- etc

4. That pair of "What age did you first have sex" by pedophilia graphs are so, so sad

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> - The fact that men seem to age into pedophilia suggests that the prevalence estimates here are underestimates

Wait, did I miss something? Isn't the very obvious take that pedophiles are kids who become sexualized as kids, and so their sexual interests gel on other children, remaining on children in adulthood?

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ctrl-f males who reported being pedophiles were older

i find your mechanism intuitively appealing, but how does it explain sexual attraction to toddlers?

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Ah... I glossed over that because I'm a gen-Xer, and all the ages registered as "young." The age effect does look genuine, given the enormous sample size, but still rather small, and it doesn't have the dose-response pattern medical doctors like to see when nailing down an effect from a drug. It's clearly different from the effect I proposed in my comment below - scroll down, or just recall what Aella noticed:

"People who report extreme interest in pedophilia also reported beginning to masturbate a full ~2 years earlier. And the highest pedophilia rating came from the masturbation-onset age group of 4 years old!"

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I remember reading awhile back that pedophilia was correlated with left-handedness, detached earlobes, and experiencing a head injury at around ages 11-12. The article then said that this clearly shows that the correlations were probably just random chance. I couldn't find the source now.

I doubt your questions could confirm these correlations, but something to think about if you collect more data.

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I would be unsurprised by a robust correlation with left-handedness -- handedness is a fundamental dimension of individual physiologial variation that is deeply related to brain structure. See eg https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00009/full (note that left-handers are much more likely to be inconsistently handed)

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I believe handedness. I do not believe the bit about detached earlobes. Attached are a recessive trait. Detached the dominant trait. It is hard for me to see how something that belongs to the majority to the population is going to be predictive of paedophilia. I mean, I get how it is possible---namely the attached are just less likely than average, but it still doesn't make much sense. I can't possibly see the mechanism of action there.

The correct way to phrase it would be that attached earlobes REDUCE the likelihood of paedophilia. But you can't say that a normal physiology trait predicts paedophilia. That is absurd.

[By the way, it is attached earlobes that are correlated with paedophilia though one should keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of people with attached earlobes are not paedophiles. Not detached. Source: https://www.yourtango.com/health-wellness/two-physical-traits-pedophiles-have-common ]

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As a pedophile (who has never been involved in any kind of sexual assault), I found myself asking: What does this all mean? I ended up thinking about the data as well as how it should affect our priors about pedophiles, and I wrote it up in a deep dive blog post. If you are interested, you can find it here:


This kind of research is incredibly rare and I'm really grateful to Aella for doing it, even if the primary purpose of the work wasn't pedophilia. I hope it catalyzes more!

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

When I answered the age of first masturbation question, I had to completely guess because I had almost no idea. It could have been anywhere from 4 to 13. I think a "do not remember" option might have been helpful for this question. If this poor memory of my childhood is unusual, I expect it was related to being a victim of sexual and physical abuse as a child, so I'm more distrustful of the masturbation section than most of your results given that pedophilia is correlated with childhood abuse.

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Aella, orgasms train sexual interest:

> !!! Even among people who said they weren’t sexually assaulted as kids, people interested in pedophilia seem to report masturbating way earlier. I don’t know exactly what this means but it seems like an important clue.

Yes. Even though it's generally impossible to completely change a person's sexual responses through conditioning, it *is* possible to shift attraction and arousal patterns by changing sexual partners, fantasies, and pornography consumption, even for males. In a sense, it's simple Pavlovian psychology. People's eyes seem to glaze over when I cite studies, so here's a study with n = 1:

In late adolescence, I had a type of woman that I liked who was similar to my girlfriend and actresses I saw in films growing up. After many years of marriage, the type of woman I like is now more similar to my wife.

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What was the agreement scale used as a proxy for "age you first had sex"?

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*question: At what age did you first have penetrative sexual intercourse?

I haven't had sex

12 or younger

>> sexage = 11


>> sexage = 13


>> sexage = 14


>> sexage = 15


>> sexage = 16


>> sexage = 17


>> sexage = 18


>> sexage = 19


>> sexage = 20


>> sexage = 21


>> sexage = 22


>> sexage = 23


>> sexage = 24


>> sexage = 25


>> sexage = 28


>> sexage = 34


>> sexage = 38


>> sexage = 45

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In the plots after this sentence, it looks like you're plotting an agreement scale, rather than this sexage variable:

> !!! Even among people who said they weren’t sexually assaulted as kids, people interested in pedophilia seem to report masturbating way earlier. I don’t know exactly what this means but it seems like an important clue.

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ty, fixed!

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Important clue to what, if you don't mind? I'm just interested in your thinking along this line.

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In your "Pedophilia Rates By Gender" and "Percentage with pedophilic interest, by gender" graphs, you made a mistake by making the red color mean men and blue - women, which doesn't really make sense for enbies. Even if you interpret "men" as "assigned male at birth", and women as "assigned female at birth", the graph is still inconsistent, because then trans men and trans women would be swapped.

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Seto has been all over the place with respects to his prevalence estimates, looking at some of Cantor's specificity values even using a cut point of 0.0sd, pedophilia seems pretty rare, interestingly he doesn't seem to provide the hebephilia values using the 0.0sd cut point, lots of problems with phallometric research but would be cool if you could do a similar post on other chronophilias.

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