I’m a new father and I can’t change my son’s diaper without getting strongly aroused. I also get nauseous, my pulse races and I start sweating profusely. I’m trying to really step up and help my wife to show her she can count on me, but this problem is causing me terrible stress and it’s getting worse, not better. I’m now at the point where even thinking about changing his diaper gives me these symptoms and I don’t know how much longer I can hide it from my wife because I’m running out of plausible excuses. I never considered myself a pedophile until now, but I guess that’s what I am? What the hell am I supposed to do now? Why is this happening to me? I thought I genuinely loved my son, but is that just a lie?
There is no reason to question your love for your son. I’m sure it’s quite genuine and strong, as is the natural way for most new fathers. It’s only certain kinds of severe trauma that prevents us from experiencing the instant bond that God has hardwired into both male and female parents. If you were having trouble bonding emotionally, you would feel a sense of indifference towards your son. The fact that you feel the normal fatherly affection towards him indicates your ability to bond is intact, and that’s a good thing.
I understand how frightening and confusing this is for you, but there are ways to logically sort this out. Meanwhile, there are practical things you can do to help reduce your anxiety, however those things will likely only make a minor difference until you start working on the psychological side of it.
You’re going to need to read my book on pedophilia, because dealing with an issue like this requires education and in-depth self-analysis, both of which the book will supply. The book will also help your soul to stop panicking so intensely, which is vital, because a panicking soul only makes this kind of issue worse by putting pressure on your already stressed out mind.
You’re dealing with two issues here. The core issue is psychological trauma which needs to be addressed. Psychological trauma causes your mind (specifically your subconscious) to feel forced to try and function under an enormous amount of stress. It’s like having a terrible backache yet still having to go about your daily business. When you’re dealing with physical stress (pain, hunger, fatigue, etc.), your margin for handling problems calmly and wisely is severely diminished. When you’re dealing with psychological stress, the same thing happens. Notice how much this issue with your son is starting to affect how well you can function between diaper changes. When the activity of diaper changing entered your life, it triggered immense stress that your mind has been working hard to suppress. It’s a bit like having a can of soda suddenly explode and make a sticky mess all over your kitchen. When triggers like this happen on a psychological level, your mind feels unable to keep its stress contained, and stress that was being kept well under wraps suddenly erupts and spews everywhere. Like the sticky soda residue that is all over your kitchen, that mess of uncorralled stress is difficult to clean up. Your mind is probably so frazzled at this point that it feels it can’t get all of that stress stuffed back into a box again, so it’s now trying to press on in spite of it.
So then, the core issue here is psychological stress. That stress has always been there, but as long as your subconscious had the resources to keep it suppressed, your conscious remained oblivious to it, which is why you haven’t noticed symptoms of pedophilia before now. But I would caution you to perhaps think a bit more about this, because it’s very likely that you have been having symptoms trying to surface, but you’ve been working hard at suppressing and/or ignoring them. A very common area that pedophilia symptoms will surface is in the bedroom when you’re trying to have intercourse with your wife. Finding it difficult to focus on her, finding it difficult to hold an erection, and wanting to escape her presence as fast as possible afterwards would all be completely normal symptoms in your situation. It would also be completely normal for you to experience anxiety when trying to have sex with her–symptoms that are similar to the anxiety you’re experiencing with your son: extra sweating, knots in your stomach, a racing pulse. These symptoms do not mean you don’t love your wife or find her physically attractive. They occur because you are inwardly afraid (likely terrified) of sexual interactions in general–especially people interacting with you in a sexual way. This is a learned, rational fear that is based on past experiences that you’ve had.
Now while the core problem is psychological, we have a second problem of your soul responding to what your mind is doing. Your soul is the part of you that cares about the issue of morality. To feel calm, your soul needs to be able to view you as a reasonably good man, according to how it currently defines that term. Because your soul does not understand why your mind is reacting the way that it is to your son, your soul is making its own assumptions about what these responses mean. Here is where many souls will leap to the conclusion that something is wrong with you deep down–that you’re some kind of amoral creep or “sick pervert.” Souls typically panic at this point, because they are not only feeling blindsided by an immense problem that they didn’t see coming, but they can’t identify a quick fix. If your soul is also trying to cultivate a personal relationship with your Creator (God), then it will also panic over what He thinks about all of this, and it will once again assume the worst.
Because the spiritual reaction to pedophilia is usually so intense and negative, it is vital to help both your soul and your mind at the same time. Getting your soul to quickly change the way it is currently assessing your mind’s behavior is critical, because we need to pull your soul off the road of “I’m a complete scumbag who can never change.” It’s thinking like this that drives many pedophiles to start considering soul-driven suicide, which is a tragic waste. The very fact that your soul is so horrified by what’s happening to you indiciates that you have strong moral character, and we certainly don’t want that to be snuffed out over a fixable problem.
The good news here is that we can help both elements at the same time with the right approach. This is what my book is designed to do, and based on feedback I’ve received from other pedophiles, it is proving to be very effective at calming souls and getting them onboard with helping minds recover instead of hindering that process through constant shaming and bullying. So I want you to get into that book as soon as you can, because the sooner your soul starts to understand what’s really going on here, the sooner it will start to calm down and become the suppotive ally that your mind really needs.
Now let’s talk about your symptoms. Why are the diapers being such a strong trigger? The problem here is that changing diapers involves forcibly exposing someone’s private areas. Your son is too young to say “Please give me some fresh undies.” He’s also too young to handle this issue for himself. But he’s not too young to fuss and protest. The combination of you exposing his privates and him acting distressed by what you’re doing is pretty much guaranteed to pitch any mind into panic if that mind is dealing with certain kinds of sexual trauma.
Sexual traumas occur when something happens to us that we interpret as a form of sexual violation. There are many ways for these experiences to occur without anyone actually trying to harm us. In cases of pedophilia, those experiences happen to us when we are young, typically before we reach puberty. Due to their lack of life experience and their innate sense of personal boundaries, young children can easily feel violated by experiences in which no one was trying to harm them (see Why Are Children So Easily Traumatized?). Young children are also very good at sensing when someone is trying to violate their personal space or handle their bodies inappropriately.
When these kinds of experiences occur in childhood, children often do not have any chance to get properly debriefed at the time. Not only do many children feel incapable of translating their stress into words, they also feel like there is no safe person available at the time for them to talk to. As a result, children feel forced to “suck it up and soldier on.” To do this, their minds usually try to suppress all of the fear and confusion that their traumatic experiences caused.
Now every mind has its own personality, which results in differences in how minds attempt to cope with this kind of stress. When children are sexually violated, it’s normal for them to become psychologically fixated on the subject of sexual interactions, which often leads to an obsession with masturbation. Some children will also feel a strong compulsion to molest other children—to try to reenact what was done to them in an effort to understand it.
Regardless of what coping strategies your mind uses to get you through childhood, once puberty hits and you enter adulthood, things get a lot harder. As the sex drive becomes fully activated, the subject of sex becomes much more of a focus. The problem is that this subject is already associated with intense fear and confusion, and this causes sex to automatically feel like a scary, negative, threatening activity.
Your subconscious’ top priority is to protect you from harm. One of the ways it does this is to create body maps. A body map divides your personal anatomy into different touch zones, each of which is rated at a different level. No touch zones are areas of your personal anatomy which your mind does not want other people to touch ever for any reason. Neutral zones are generally open to the public, meaning that a total stranger can touch you in those zones without your mind feeling threatened. Between these two extremes, there are other zones which your mind is okay with other people interacting with in certain settings. Let’s use some examples to make this more clear.
In many cultures, shaking hands with a stranger is a considered a common social greeting. If you live in a culture that practices this custom, your mind will probably flag your hands as being a neutral zone on its current body map. Your stomach, however, would not be listed this way, which is why you would not be okay with some random person putting their hand on your stomach. The way your mind maps your body directly affects how you respond to being touched.
Ears are not usually included in neutral zones, meaning that you’d find it alarming if a stranger reached out and touched your ear. But if you went to see an ear doctor, you would probably be fine with him touching your ear as part of his examination process. This demonstrates how your mind uses different maps for different situations. In real life, your subconscious is currently maintaining a large set of these maps and it is constantly changing which one it is focusing on as you interact with different people. The map you use for your wife is different than the map you use with your friend, and that’s a different map than the one you use for your boss or coworker. Some maps are very similar, with only a slight difference in zoning. Other maps are significantly different.
If you were not dealing with trauma, the map you use with your wife would look significantly different than the maps you use with other people. As your safe, intimate partner, your wife would be only person who your mind would want to touch your private areas, as it would associate her touch with physical and emotional pleasure. This is how it would be if you were both in a good psychological place and you had a healthy, functional relationship. But since you have a background of trauma, it’s far more likely that the map you use with your wife has your private areas flagged as a no touch zone. Once your mind flags your privates like this, it is extremely uncomfortable with your wife physically interacting with that part of your anatomy. When this is the case, yet you force yourself to keep going through normal sexual interactions in which everyone is naked and her hands are moving all over your body in an unpredictable, unrestricted fashion, that is extremely stressful for your mind. When you want to be a good husband, and when you truly do love your wife, you can feel like you are doing the right thing by pretending to like this kind of interaction while you internally put enormous effort into denying how distressed you actually feel. This is the common bedroom experience for married pedophiles: they are trying to fake liking something that is actually terrifying them, yet they feel like they have no justification for being upset, so they just soldier on.
So what does this mean for your mind? Now you’re living in a house with a person who you feel unsafe with, and every night you feel trapped in a room where you have to submit to terrifying things happening to your body. Then you add a baby to the mix, and suddenly you are the one feeling forced to do the violating by having to physically touch your son’s body in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. Well, your mind can only take so much before it loses it. These symptoms you’re experiencing are a form of psychological panic which is being triggered by you piling on more stress than your mind can deal with.
Now in real life you are not violating your son by changing his diaper. You’re actually being a good father by helping your son get his basic needs met, and you’re protecting him from all kinds of physical misery (such as diaper rash) by giving him fresh pants. But that’s not how your mind is interpreting this situation. Due to the extremely negative concepts that your mind has linked to the general act of exposing private parts and not respecting someone’s boundaries this whole diaper changing thing feels like some horrible act of sexual assault on your part. Again, this is not a correct interpretation of what you’re doing. Due to your own life experiences, you’re interpreting this situation through a very warped lens.
So why the sexual arousal? This is one of the most confusing symptoms that occurs, but once again there is rational logic causing this bodily reaction. We have to start by understanding that your subconscious controls your sex drive. While your physical hormones can certainly play a role in triggering arousal, your subconscious is a far greater influence—so much so that it can actually override your body’s efforts to control when you become aroused.
In cases of sexual trauma, the general concept of sexual arousal gets linked to extremely negative concepts, like violation and danger. But there are also many neutral concepts that make it onto this list as well—things that have no natural connection to sex. For example, a boy who was molested by his grandfather in a kitchen can grow into an adult who becomes sexually aroused when he enters a kitchen—especially one that has similar features to the kitchen that he was originally assaulted in. The kind of arousal experienced in this case is a fear based arousal. Due to his experiences as a boy, our man’s mind has flagged all kitchens as potentially dangerous places. As soon as the man enters a kitchen, an automatic alarm gets triggered in his mind. His mind immediately checks its mental archives to see why it set that alarm in the first place. The memory of his grandfather molesting him in a kitchen as a boy is already being kept in his mind’s “quick access” files. His mind instantly scans through that file, and which causes it to suddenly focus on the subject of sexual violation. It is this sudden shift of focus that triggers the physical arousal that the man experiences. It’s essentially his mind saying “Yikes! I need to prepare for a sexual attack!”
Today when you’re changing your son’s diaper, certain details about that experience are causing your mind to run through a similar process. An alarm is being automatically triggered—an alarm that your mind has strategically set to go off whenever you enter a certain kind of situation. That alarm is causing your mind to review some of its traumatic memory files, and some of those files contain negative sexual themes. It’s sudden intense focus on those sexual themes is what’s causing the physical arousal you’re experiencing.
Your body is very dependent on your subconscious, and very affected by what your subconscious is doing. When your mind intensely focuses on the issue of sex, it can easily force your body to have an arousal response. It’s rather like the way a father’s obvious anxiety will force his child to feel anxious as well. The boy might have been playing happily until he noticed the sudden shift in his father’s mood. The fact that he depends on his father makes the boy feel extremely concerned about his father’s welfare. So if his father is in trouble, the boy automatically feels like he is in trouble as well.
Because this arousal you’re experiencing is psychological, not biological, and because it is being triggered by your mind focusing on traumatic memory files, merely visualizing the act of changing your son’s diapers (which is an entirely mental activity) is enough to trigger the alarm, the memory review, the terror, the focus on sex, and the physical arousal. But here’s a vital point to understand: your mind is not saying “I want to violate my kid because that sounds fun.” Instead, it’s saying, “What the hell happened to me when I was a kid? Why was I treated so horribly? Why was my body violated in that way?” In other words, interacting with your son’s anatomy is bringing to the foreground your own unresolved stress over what happened to your anatomy in the past.
So how do you stop this chain of events from happening? You help your mind get answers to its own questions and you help it regain a sense of power and control over what happens to your personal body. The sooner you feel like you can effectively defend your own body, interacting with other people’s bodies will stop freaking you out. Again, what you are experiencing is a fear-based arousal, and that is an entirely different concept than desire based arousal. Even pedophiles who are actively violating kids are not doing so out of a sense of lust, but out of a sense of fear and in an attempt to resolve their own distress over what happened to them in the past. It’s important to realize that not all pedophiles have the capacity to turn into child molesters. Minds have different personalities and they use different defense methods. For many minds, physically violating another child feels like an extremely threatening concept that will do nothing to help it resolve its own stress. So the common stereotype that “all pedophiles are a dangerous threat to children” is simply not true. That is an over-simplification of a problem that is very complex and varied from person to person. But that said, this kind of mental stress will continue to worsen over time, and allowing it to do so does put you at risk of developing new negative symptoms, some of which can result in you harming yourself or others. So it is vital to start working on this issue asap.
Now in an ideal world, you would let your wife know what’s happening here so that she can help you lower your internal stress levels. But you’re not going to be able to explain this issue in a helpful way until you get a better handle on it yourself. If you drop a bomb like this on your wife and you do a bad job of communicating what’s going on, she will panic and default to relying on common stereotypes for guidance. Since pedophilia is widely portrayed as an incurable problem which indicates a person is “warped” on a core level, your wife will naturally conclude that she must get herself and your child away from you as soon as possible if that’s the only information she has at her disposal. So timing matters here, as does your ability to communicate what’s happening with you in a way that helps your wife see that this is a fixable problem.
Both you and your wife need to understand the principles I explain in my book, as it will help you both keep a grip on the fact that this problem does not mean your entire marriage has to be thrown out the window or that we should ban you from being a father. Your son desperately needs you to be an involved father in his life, and you will be quite capable of succeeding in that role if you get proper help for this issue. And let’s just have a moment of honesty here: there are countless issues that cause adults to be terrible parents and there are more ways to abuse a kid than sexually. So let’s not whip this up into the ultimate worst case scenario or pretend that your wife is perfect just because she’s not struggling with this particular issue. This is a problem that is fueled by psychological stress, and there are many ways to reduce your stress levels early on so that you can retain your ability to function.
Identifying the specific details about the diaper changing process that are upsetting your mind is very useful here, because often those details can be adjusted. For specific ideas, see Parenting When You’re A Pedophile.
In an ideal situation, we get you out of diaper changing duties entirely so that we stop thrusting your mind into such an anxiety-triggering situation. There are plenty of other ways you can step up, such as holding your son, reading to him, taking him on stroller rides, feeding him (once he’s bottle ready,) and keeping him entertained so your wife can focus on other tasks. Yes, we do need you to understand the mechanics of diaper changing for emergency situations, but you’re really not equipped right now for doing that regularly. You could probably use to stop dressing him as well. Things like socks, shoes and jackets are probably going to be alright for you, but your wife should do the pants, shirts, and onesies. When you interact with your son, you will do best if he is clothed from his shoulders to his knees, as exposed thighs and torsos are common triggers in these situations.
If you are currently in a relationship with God, it is vital that you ask Him to help you with your recovery process. God views pedophiles very differently than they view themselves, and if you saw the potential in you that He does, you’d have a lot more hope for your situation. While stress of this magnitude cannot be instantly fixed, it can be gently reduced over time. As your mind gets help in resolving its distress over certain experiences that you have been through, it will change the way it views sex, privates, and diaper changes. As those changes accumulate, you’ll reach a point where you no longer experience fear-based arousal. So there is definitely hope for this issue, and the sooner you start working on it, the sooner you’ll experience your stress levels decreasing.
This post was written in response to Ashamed.