Think for a moment what comes to mind when you hear the word, “pedophile”.

Perhaps you think of an older man with a creepy smile. Maybe he has the classic “pedo glasses” or “pedo ‘stache”. He doesn’t have a lot of friends (if any) and he hangs out in the park or where ever kids are, promising them free candy or toys or a puppy if they come in his windowless van. Whatever he’s doing, he’s always thinking of one thing – entrapping children.

Now think for a moment of someone else. A pretty young teenage girl. Long blonde hair. She’s very popular at school. She’s involved in a lot of different extracurricular activities at school and in the meantime she’s working at a kid’s club. A boy compliments her and she laughs and blushes.

This girl can also be a pedophile.

A lot of people don’t realise this because of a thing called stereotyping. But stereotyping happens to every major group of people, and if that group is being oppressed or vilified in any way, you can be sure that people will only see the ugliest, most horrible stereotype possible.

Just look at the way suffragettes, Jewish people, Romani, among other stigmatized people have been portrayed in the media. Even though we now know they aren’t like the propaganda we see, they were once portrayed as vile and unattractive people, and people believed it. Even closer to home, we can look at how gay people were portrayed in the past in the retro cautionary film from the 1960s, Boys Beware.

Boys Beware on YouTube

Here, they are portrayed as pedophiles are portrayed today. Nowadays, people know that most gay people are not like the predatory figures you see in this film. They do not, however, know that most pedophiles are not like the predatory figures you see in this film, and it appears that this “creepy” identity has been cut-and-pasted right onto pedophiles.

Most people of today would believe that Boys Beware is an inaccurate representation of most gay people, but an accurate representation of most pedophiles. In reality, this is simply not the case. This film is more likely to show the predatory behaviour of a stalker or would-be rapist. Remember that many researchers have confirmed that most sexual offenders against children are not pedophiles, but situational offenders. (Blaney, Paul H.; Millon, Theodore (2009). Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology (Oxford Series in Clinical Psychology) (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press, USA. p. 528.)

Now think for a moment of someone else. Someone you know. Someone close to you.