What are hebephiles?

In this blog we will discuss what hebephiles are.

We will also briefly discuss what hebephilia is, the debate around it in the field of psychology and criminology, and the possible treatments for hebephilia.

What are hebephiles?

A hebephile refers to an individual who is primarily attracted to children between the ages of 11-14 years old who are showing the first signs of puberty. 

The term hebephile comes from the Greek Goddess Hebe who is regarded as a protector of youth, ironically. 

It is to be mentioned that this age group might differ due to delays in development etc, however the individuals that are hebephiles are usually attracted to children who have reached either the 2nd or 3rd stage of the Tanner Physical development stages.

During these stages the child is entering puberty and there are some signs such as growth of pubic hair, growth of breast buds, growth of armpit hair etc. 

Hebephiles are primary characteristed by their seuxal interest in adolescents however they might pursue relationship with adults inroder to use it as a place hoolder or a cover for their sexual interest in children. 

Hebephiles tend to manipulate and abuse children by holding the power that they have over children even as they develop into mature adults because of the fact that they still share characteristics with children in terms of mental maturity- so this makes it easier for them to prey upon these children. 

Hebephiles often seek out positions of authority that allow them to be in contact with children such as within the educational sector, religious settings, foster and child care settings that allow them to exercise their authority over these children. 

The prevalence of hebephilia is not known when it coems to pubesent children however, researchers believe that the rates of hebephiles is higer than that of pedophiles within clincial and correctional/ incarcerated populations of sex offenders.(Blanchard et al. 2009)

What is hebephilia?

Hebephilia refers to the strong sexual interest and attraction towards pubescent children which is persistent. 

The definition of hebephilia refers to the attraction of a child who has just entered the early stages of puberty by an adult, above the age of 18. So the attraction is between someone who is older than 18 towards a child who is 11-14. 

The attraction is usually towards individual who are showing Stages 2 and 3 of the Tanner Physical development stages which include:

  • Breast “buds” start to form
  • Pubic hair starts to form
  • Acne first appears
  • Armpit hair forms
  • Height increases at its fastest rate (healthline)

Hebephlia is different from pedohilia because of the ages of the population that these individuals are attracted to. Unlike pedophilia who are attracted to children who have no signs of sexual maturity, hebehilia involves attraction to sexual maturaltion. 

Is hebephilia a mental disorder?

Hebephilia is not recognised as a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition however, it is and has been a hotly debated topic.

One side of the argument is that hebephilia can be considered a diagnosis thorugh distinciton and it should be considered one as it has been recorded that it occurs more than pedophilia. 

The argument that hebephilia should be considered a mental disorder was pushed by a 2009 research paper by Ray Blanchard and colleagues. 

They argued that while the diagnostic criteria for pedopphilia involves sexual interest in 13 years or younger, most common age of victims were 14- meaning that there is some difference between perpetrators who sought out younger children than 13 versus those who were attracted to children above 13.  (Blanchard et al. 2009)

It is this difference that these researchers believed that sexual offerencers could be grouped differently from peodphiles due to the differences in sexual maturation fo the victims and that the DSM-5 could better account for these differences if there was an existing criteria for hebephiles. 

Blanchard and his colleagues suggested that this could be done by splitting the criteria for pedohilia between attraction towards children younger than 11 and attraction towards children between the ages 11-14 which included pubescent children.

However, the other end of the argument pushes forward that there is a lack of data and the concern that the diagnosis will offer perpetrators a loophole to get treatment instead of serve for their crimes. 

What causes Hebephilia?

The causes of paraphilias and other sexually deviant behavors have not been fully understood and there is no conclusive evidence that there is one specific cause for pedophlia and hebepilia. 

However, Alice Dreger for The Atlantic highlights that research suggest that one of the best theory that seeks to explain what causes pedophilia is caused by atypical wiring in the brain anatomy which makes an inidvdidual predisposed to such behavior and responses making it more likely that they will develop such tendencies when they are exposed to such learnings as they mature. (Derger, TheAtlantic)

While this theory still needs to be consolidated with much resqeach, what it is suggesting is that a person who has pedophlic tendencies will have a certain enemy in their brain that makes them more susceptible to develop such behaviros and tendenises is they witness or experince sexual assults during childhood themselsves or another negative expercies related to sex during their developmental years. 

What are the possible treatments for Hebephilia?

When it comes to hebephilia, there is a gap in literature and research done on the possible treatments due to the fact that there is still a large ongoing debate about whether it is a legal issue or a mental health disorder. 

Due to the lack of research and the conflicting debate about what this particular condition is, there is also no conclusive nor a universal treatment strategy that is used by professionals to treat someone with hebephilia. 

However, there has been stides that has been made in the treatment of pedophelia, so we will discuss the treatment of hebephilia- a similar sexual devsincy.

Sharie Stines an author for PsychCentral writes that the various possible treatments and interventions for paraphiblia such as pedohelia includes the following:

Androgen Deprivation therapy

This therapy is a drug intervention where the drugs work to decrease male hormones also known as androgens such as testosterone through chemical castration. 

This form of therapy is based on various research that finds that chemical castration is effective in treating paraphilias more so than psychotherapy due to which pharmacological treatments such as this is the treatment of choice. 

In these treatments, there are three medicaitons that are used to diminish the sex drive of sexual offenders including pedophiles. These medications include:

  • Progestogens
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
  • Competitive testosterone inhibitors.

These medications are administered for three to ten months to show some result however, these drugs do have serious side effects and are expensive. 

However amongst the three, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists are preferred due to less side effects and are observed to be more efficient in clinical trials. It is also possible that this treatment will be effective in treating hebephiles. However, there is still a lack of research for the use of this drug treatment for hebephiles but it is possible that it might be effective.  (Stines, PsychCentral)

Specific Serotonin ReUptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Other medication treatments for pedohilia also include some specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors which been found to be effective for treating sexual disorders as it is assumed by some experts that paraphilia also include compulsions as that of people who have OCD. 

Thus, certain medications that treat OCD- SSRIs like Sertraline, have proven to be effective for paraphilias and in treating the compulsions of paedophiles. However, there is still a lack of research for the use of this drug treatment for hebephiles but it is possible that it might be effective.  (Stines, PsychCentral)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

One approach in treating paraphilias including pedohiles and possibly hebepiles is though CBT with the effort mostly directed towards restructuring thought patterns and eliminating behaviors that involve erotic behavros towards minors.

Various methoids that can be used in treatment includes conditioning approaches, behavior skills training, social skills, empathy training, and trying to address the underlying sexual arousal pattern as well as association something negative with inappropriate sexual thoughts in the form of aversion therapy. (Stines, PsychCentral)

These forms of treatments are given to sex offenders maintly after they have been incarcerated and are in group settings in most cases through therapeutic confrontation.  However, there is still a lack of research for the efficacy of these forms of treatments both for paedophiles and hebephiles but it is possible that it might be effective. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what hebephiles are.

We have also briefly discussed what hebephilia is, the debate around it in the field of psychology and criminology, and the possible treatments for hebephilia.

FAQ related to Hebephiles

What is considered ephebophilia?

Ephebophilia refers to an adult individual who is primarily attracted to children between the ages of 15-19 years old who are in their post-puberty stage; usually teenagers who are minors. 

What is Teleiophilia?

Teleiophilia refers to sexual interst and attraction to adults. This term was coined by Ray Blanchard in 2000. 

Is Hebephilia common?

The prevalence of hebephilia is not known when it coems to pubesent children however, researchers believe that the rates of hebephiles is higer than that of pedophiles within clincial and correctional/ incarcerated populations of sex offenders.(Blanchard et al. 2009)

What drugs treatments are avilable for pedophilia?

In these treatments for pedophilia, there are three medicaitons that are used to diminish the sex drive of sexual offenders including pedophiles. These medications include:

  • Progestogens
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
  • Competitive testosterone inhibitors.
  • SSRIs

Who introduced the idea of hebephilia as a mental disorder?

The argument that hebephilia should be considered a mental disorder was pushed by a 2009 research paper by Ray Blanchard and colleagues. 

They argued that while the diagnostic criteria for pedopphilia involves sexual interest in 13 years or younger, most common age of victims were 14- meaning that there is some difference between perpetrators who sought out younger children than 13 versus those who were attracted to children above 13.  (Blanchard et al. 2009)

References

Hebephilia. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia#:~:text=Hebephilia%20is%20the%20strong%2C%20persistent,to%203%20of%20physical%20development.

Hebephilia. PsychologyToday. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/hebephilia

Hebephile. CriminalMindsWiki. Retrieved on 22nf Feb 2022.https://criminalminds.fandom.com/wiki/Hebephile#Etymology

Blanchard R, Lykins AD, Wherrett D, Kuban ME, Cantor JM, Blak T, Dickey R, Klassen PE. Pedophilia, hebephilia, and the DSM-V. Arch Sex Behav. 2009 Jun;38(3):335-50. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9399-9. Epub 2008 Aug 7. PMID: 18686026.

Dreger. A. What Can Be Done About Pedophilia? The Atlantic. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022.https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/what-can-be-done-about-pedophilia/279024/

Treating Pedophilia. Psych Central. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022. https://psychcentral.com/pro/treating-pedophilia#1

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