What Is Hebephilia?

Hebephilia is the sexual preference for early adolescent children (those roughly ages 11 to 14). Some evidence suggests that hebephilia is a distinct and discernable erotic age preference. But whether it qualifies as a mental disorder is an ongoing source of debate, and some experts argue that an attraction to prepubescent versus pubescent individuals is the key. Attraction to a preteen or teen who is capable of reproducing is itself a valid reproductive behavior, no matter how stigmatized in contemporary society. For this reason, there was much debate as to whether hebephilia belonged in the DSM 5. It was not included.

Hebephilia Facts and Controversy

Unlike pedophilia, which is roundly condemned, hebephilia sparks strong debate. Works of fiction like Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita have popularized and fetishized hebephilia, causing many to ask why it isn’t classified as a mental disorder. Hebephilia has recently come to prominence on an international scale due to the Catholic Church’s sexual misconduct scandal, involving multiple young boys and girls being assaulted by priests and prompting safety questions. How do we as a society handle those individuals who have a proclivity for hebephilia? What precautions need to be taken to keep young children safe from sexual harassment and assault?

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