Pedophile Paranoia

January 21st, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  6 Comments

From our friend, the inimitable DaddyTypes, we learned about a new mom-op-ed in the WSJ–original home for the now fully meme-ified Tiger Mom excerpt. This new essay is from Lenore Skenazy, whom I look kindly on, despite her own adventures in book-opportunism and master self-branding. The topic this time?  Man-mania, HISteria, paraBOYa, or whatever else you want to call the irrational fear of men as predators around children.

Last week, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Timothy Murray, noticed smoke coming out of a minivan in his hometown of Worcester. He raced over and pulled out two small children, moments before the van’s tire exploded into flames. At which point, according to the AP account, the kids’ grandmother, who had been driving, nearly punched our hero in the face.


Mr. Murray said she told him she thought he might be a kidnapper.

And so it goes these days, when almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it “Worst-First” thinking: Gripped by pedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.

Consider the Iowa daycare center where Nichole Adkins works. The one male aide employed there, she told me in an interview, is not allowed to change diapers. “In fact,” Ms. Adkins said, “he has been asked to leave the classroom when diapering was happening.”

That is freaking insane, and if that kind of presumed guilt were levied against any other group, lawyers would be circling in the water.

But like any good trend-argument story, the examples here are curated from the raw fringe of male experiences. I’d wager that most encounters with the male species are handled with a lot more common sense. Still, we feel it. It’s at the playground, on playdates, in volunteering for school: that little touch of suspicion about what our motives are, who that kid is to us.

Something Skenazy didn’t quite hit on in her piece, though, was the extent to which men do this to each other. I don’t trust the other fathers any more than they trust me, I imagine. We’re all socialized. And it is, of course, a load of crap: just because most pedophiles are men doesn’t mean that other men should have to bear that shadow.  I have no idea what the hell a pedophile must be made of. That is one part of sexuality that doesn’t exist on a spectrum or a continuum. So I’m unimpressed by collective suspicion. Glad to see Skenazy is too.


  1. Non-pedo dad says:

    January 21st, 2011at 8:46 am(#)

    I agree that actual incidents in which a do-gooder man (or teenage boy) is accused of being a pedophile are few, so direct damage from the “all men are kidnapper pedophiles” thinking is probably infrequent. However, because most men know that there’s even a remote chance that they could be accused of being a pedophile just for helping a child, they are reluctant to help children except in the most dire circumstances. Pulling kids out of a burning car counts as dire circumstances. But if I saw a lost child in a grocery store, I wouldn’t go anywhere near them (I’d find a female store employee to help the child instead). Indirect damage from the “all men are kidnapper pedophiles” thinking is likely very common, and it just ends up hurting the kids.

  2. Clark Kent's Lunchbox says:

    January 21st, 2011at 10:33 am(#)

    Guess it’s a good thing superheroes actually don’t exist, I mean, what with the tights, and the “bulge” and everything. Totally suspicious.

    Seriously though, being not only a stepdad, but one who’s home full time with two little girls, it’s a double whammy, and yeah, I’ve gotten those looks of “Yep, totally got to be a perv.” Enough so that I’m self-conscious about it. On the flip side, though, you can never be too cautious when it comes to this sort of stuff, so it doesn’t piss me off either.

  3. Dad On The Run says:

    January 21st, 2011at 12:52 pm(#)

    I opined on this article and subject on my own page as well. I disagree with the sentiment in the comment above regarding not helping a lost child immediately. Honorable men should not be afraid to offer advice to others (including Moms), offer a helping hand to anyone, or to comfort/aid a lost or frightened child. The fear of incrimination can be intimidating, but those with bigoted opinions can give me all the looks they want… I know who I am and I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about being convicted of a crime just because someone thinks I look like I could be a person who would commit one. Men need to stand up against the idea that we are less a part of the parental unit and the community when it comes to children. By acting as though we are doing something wrong if we interact with children we further the misconception.
    There are lines which can be crossed as far as what is socially acceptable when interacting with children and I have had to warn people off (men and women) or walk away from strangers who seem to be taking an unhealthy interest in my daughter, but my concern rises from how they act more than what they look like or what sex they are.
    Of course we have to face the facts; most pedophiles are men, but its very important to remember most men are not pedophiles.

  4. Jack says:

    January 21st, 2011at 2:44 pm(#)

    On a couple of occasions I have had mothers “suggest” that I not use the men’s room in public places. I understand that they had children in there, but I wasn’t going to not use it to make them feel better.

    The overwhelming majority of men are not dangerous. It is good to be cautious, but that only goes so far.

  5. Dan says:

    January 21st, 2011at 4:09 pm(#)

    My 2 year old daughter is noticeably less comfortable around men. Forget about letting them diaper. Probably because they’re generally bigger, less toddler-aware, and not as sweet to her. Fine with me.

  6. DownWithHumans says:

    March 30th, 2011at 3:22 am(#)

    Enjoy the paranoia people.
    Humanity EARNED IT !!!!

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