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Human sexuality

Definitions of terms involving sexual
attraction towards children and youths

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Some of the following terms have multiple definitions. In particular, there is little agreement on the exact age ranges of sexual attraction by pedophiles, hebephiles, and ephebophiles. Occasionally, authors will interchange terms, causing great confusion.

The causes of these deviant feelings of sexual attraction are unknown. There is no available treatment that can change their attraction. However, there are counseling methods that greatly reduce the likehood of the indiviual acting out their desires by engaging in sexual abuse.

In the mental health and counseling communities, terms like pedophiles, hebephiles, and ephebophiles refer to feelings of sexual attraction, not to actual sexual activity. Unfortunately, these terms are often used in the media to refer to individuals who do sexually abuse children or teens. We recommend that one uses terms like "abusive pedophile," "abusive hebephile", and "abusive ephebophiles" to refer to those who act out their fantasies through sexual abuse.

According to Wikipedia:

"In law enforcement circles, the term "pedophile" is sometimes used in a broad manner to encompass a person who commits one or more sexually-based crimes that relate to legally underage victims. These crimes may include child sexual abuse, statutory rape, offenses involving child pornography, child grooming, stalking, and indecent exposure." 5

Massive public anger was focused on the Roman Catholic Church as a result of allegations sexual abuse of young people by priests as well as accusations of cover-ups by the hierarchy. Unfortunately, much of the anger was misdirected:

bullet The vast majority of abuse by priests who victimize persons under the age of 18 has taken the form of ephebophilia -- involving post-pubertal youths who are often 16 or 17 years of age.

bullet Yet most of the public has the impression that most of the abuse is pedophilia-- involving young, pre-pubertal children.

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Starting in the late 1950s, several pedophile groups were formed to lower the age of consent laws or abolish them entirely. They gained essentially no traction with the public and have mostly disappeared except for the survival of a few websites. The North American Man/Boy Association (NAMBLA) is perhaps the best known group in this field. They were organized in 1978 It is sometimes mentioned by anti-gay groups which imply that it is a very large organization. However it currently consists only of a web site maintained by a few enthusiasts. According to investigator Benoit Denizet-Lewis:

"There are no more annual conventions, no more public appearances, no more city chapters, no more NAMBLA contingents in gay-pride marches, no more eager new recruits. Times are so bad, in fact, that most NAMBLA members would just as soon not talk about them."

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Definition of terms:

  • Boy lovers: A term used by to describe pedophiles who are attracted primarily to young boys.

  • Chronophilia: An umbrella term that covers sexual attraction to young children and teen, including pedophilia, hebephilia, and ephebophilia. Anonym is: Teleiophilia.

  • Ephebophila: Preferred definition: A condition in which an adult, usually male, is primarily sexually attracted to older teens, aged 15 to 19.
    Sometimes used to describe sexual preference for pubescent and adolescent boys. 3 Derived from the Greek word "ephebos" which means "one arrived a puberty,"  and "philia" which means "love."

  • Girl lovers: A term used by pedophiles who are sexually attracted primarily to young girls.

  • Hebephilia: A condition in which an adult, usually male, is primarily sexually attracted to 11 to 14 year old pubescent children. 6

  • Infantophilia: A rare form of pedophilia in which the primary interest is a child 24 month or younger.

  • Lolita syndrome: Synonym for hebephilia. "Lolita" is a book written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955 that describes the sexual attraction of a man with a pubescent girl.

  • Paraphilia: An umbrella term which includes many conditions in which an adult's sexual arousing fantasies involve non-human objects, the infliction of pain, non-adults, or other non-consenting persons. Some examples are: ephebophila, exhibitionism, hebephilia, fetishism, frotteurism, pedophilia, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, transvestite behavior, and voyeurism. It is derived from two Greek words: ''para" means "beyond" and "philia" means "love for."

  • Pederasty: A condition in which an adult, usually male, is sexually attracted to post-pubertal adolescents (14 to 17).

  • Pedophile: An adult or older teen who is primarily or exclusively sexually attracted to a prepubescent child or children, typically aged 13 or younger..

    According to the American Psychiatric Association:

    "A person who over at least a 6 month period has recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (age 13 years or younger). The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children. Not to include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12 or 13 year old (straight or gay). Individuals with pedophilia generally report an attraction to children of a particular age range. Some individuals prefer males, others prefer females, and some are aroused by both males and females. Pedophila involving female victims is reported more than pedophilia involving male victims." 1

    As noted above, the term is sometimes misused in law enforcement circles to include any criminal activity victimizing persons under the age of consent, which is 18 years-of-age in many North American jurisdictions. More details.

  • Pedophila: A condition in which an adult or older youth, usually male, is sexually attracted primarily to pre-pubertal children -- those aged 13 years or under.  It is derived from two Greek words: ''pedo" means "child;" and "philia" means "love for." Most are attracted to children in a specific age group (e.g. 5 or 6). Fewer are attracted to young people of any age up to puberty.

  • Phebophilia: Alternative term for Ephebophilia. Derived from the Greek words ''phepius" whic means "youth;" and "philia" which means "love for."

  • Teleiophilia: An adult who is mainly or exclusively sexually attracted to adults. It is derived from the Greek word "teleios" which means "full grown," and "philia" which means "love for."

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Additional notes:

An unknown percentage of pedophiles act on their feelings. They molest children, and become an abusive pedophile. Others do not abuse, and are not a threat to children.

Concerning ephebophiles, hebephiles, and pedophiles:


Some are of the exclusive type where the individual is sexually attracted only to young persons. Others are of the non-exclusive type where there is also some attraction to other adults.  2


They may be sexually attracted to children of the same gender, the opposite gender, or to both genders.


Most mental health specialists agree that there is no cure for these disorders. However an ephebophile, hebephile, and pedophiles may be successfully treated so that they no longer act out their feelings of attraction by abusing young people.

The meaning of the term "pedophile" is in transition. Many people use the term to refer to a child rapist/molester. Law enforcement agencies often define it as including only those abusive pedophiles who have been found guilty of abuse in court. Unfortunately, this leaves no term for a person who feels sexual attraction to children, but does not act on their feelings.

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  1. Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, American Psychiatric Association, (1994).
  2. "Interview with Frederick S. Berlin," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1997-SEP-8, at:
  3. "Ephebophilia," Wikipedia, as on 2011-AUG-16, at:
  4. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, "Boy Crazy," Boston Magazine, 2001-MAY, at:
  5. "Pedophilia," Wikipedia, as on 2011-SEP-19, at:
  6. "Hebephilia," Wikipedia, as on 2011-SEP-07, at:

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Copyright © 2002 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAY-8
Latest update: 2011-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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