Recently, an actor named Anthony Rapp disclosed that the actor, Kevin Spacey, sexually assaulted him when Mr. Rapp was 14 and Mr. Spacey was 26. Since then, other men have disclosed similar behavior on Mr. Spacey's part, although these men ranged in age (at the time) between 17 and "in my twenties." The disclosures have set off a hailstorm of angry tweets, blog posts and conversations about Mr. Spacey's audacity in coming out as gay at the same time he apologized for what sounds like the sexual assault of a minor. The gay community, after years of educating the public that homosexuality and pedophilia are not related, is understandably angry with Mr. Spacey for seeming to blame his behavior on the fact that he is a gay man. Mr. Spacey says, in his apology, that he doesn't remember the incident (I suspect he does), but proceeds to apologize in one of those post-modern quasi-apologies that seem to benefit the perpetrator more than the victim. I am a fan of Mr. Spacey's acting, but I am not a fan of his seemingly predatory behavior.
Having worked for nearly forty years in the field of sexual deviancy, I have encountered many men of Mr. Spacey's ilk, men both confused and acutely aware of their sexual behavior, but unwilling to step forward and stop it before trouble comes knocking. But I am not here to offer conjecture on Mr. Spacey's sexuality. What I am most concerned with is how some have responded with his assault of Mr. Rapp by calling Mr. Spacey a pedophile. I have so far seen no evidence of that being true.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - V (DSM-V) describes a pedophilic disorder as intense and persistent sexual fantasies or behavior involving prepubescent children occurring over at least a six-month period (I'm paraphrasing here). I have always described to men in treatment with me that my definition of pedophilia is a person whose primary erotic interest is in prepubescent children. A true pedophile represents an absolute danger to young children and indeed is most eroticized by them.
While it's easy to crowd men who sexually assault minors all under one umbrella, it serves no gallant purpose to do so. There are other descriptors which work better and, in Mr. Spacey's case, may actually describe his behavior better. For example, ephebophilia, while not described as a disorder, is a sexual attraction to mid to late adolescents (those 15-19 years of age). In other words, not prepubescents, but those decidedly past puberty. Hebephilia, while also not described as a disorder, is a sexual interest in pubescent minors, or those who are going through or who have recently gone through puberty (those under 15). Anthony Rapp may very well fit into this category. Neither of these classifications describes pedophilia.
It is important that we make this distinction as we discuss the issues emerging in the news on a daily basis. Let's not call sexual assault sexual harassment. It diminishes sexual assault to do that. Let's not call ephebophilia pedophilia. It diminishes pedophilia to do that. And let's not take a "boys will be boys" attitude with any brand of inappropriate sexual behavior as it diminishes our newly emerging societal integrity to do so. What Anthony Rapp talks about is sexual assault, pure and simple. It is an adult male taking indecent liberties with a minor male. This does not, by definition, make Mr. Spacey a pedophile. Instead, it makes him a jerk with a very real sexual problem.