Earlier this week, Salon posted a video titled “I’m a Pedophile, Not a Monster” in which a self-proclaimed pedophile describes his experiences and how he realized his attraction, and tries to explain the difference between pedophiles and child molesters. Not surprisingly, the video has generated some heated debate, with some claiming it normalizes immoral behavior and downplays the danger to children while others laud the man for being honest about his struggle and criticize his critics’ moralism.
There’s no doubt about it: it’s a difficult video to watch, but in addition to the inherent difficulty of its subject matter, some of the video’s production aspects are problematic in and of themselves. Specifically, there’s a short sequence that occurs at approximately the 0:25 mark where the video shifts from the pedophile to footage of a young girl dancing. While the pedophile is shown in a very matter-of-fact and straightforward manner — that footage looks like it’s shot with a webcam — the dancer’s footage, which lasts about 10 seconds, is more stylized, shot in slow motion as she leaps and spins.
Within the context of the video’s subject matter, it’s hard not to see that segment as something akin to a pedophile fantasy reenactment; note that the girl is depicted in a rather romanticized, even fetishized manner, and the segment occurs while the pedophile recounts lusting after a five-year-old girl that he once babysat. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to infer that we’re intended to see this young dancer in a way similar to how the pedophile saw the young object of his desire — such is the power of editing to put us in another’s shoes.
Given the overall queasiness brought on by the video’s mere concept, that short visual flourish is over-the-top and unnecessary. If someone wanted to label it “exploitative,” I’m not sure I could disagree. (I can only imagine the discussions that occurred in the production booth while the video was being made.)
If I try and consider it charitably, maybe Salon thought that putting us inside something akin to a pedophile fantasy would help make the man’s story more compelling, interesting, and affecting. But given the extremely problematic nature of pedophilia, and the very real danger posed by sexual attraction to children — no matter how virtuous one tries to be about it — one can’t escape the feeling that this particular aesthetic choice was unnecessarily sensational and deeply misguided.