Because men attracted to boys constitute a hidden population, they are usually only studied when they come to the attention of law enforcement authorities. Thus, most conclusions about their behavior are based on criminological studies. Such studies suffer from two shortcomings:
A small number of studies have identified minor-attracted men through means other than their commission of sex crimes--through community surveys, therapists, or pedophile groups.
Some studies have found that minor-attracted men have many different attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about children and adolescents, with sexual desire possibly subordinate among them. These men often interact with children or adolescents in non-sexual ways that are playful or affectionate, and sometimes establish close, affectionate, non-sexual friendships with them.6
University of Utrecht researcher Theo Sandfort writes that the interaction between men and boys in such relationships may be frequent, sporadic, or occur in pulses. Sometimes the man is a friend of the parents, and interaction takes place mostly in the boy's home. The mutual emotional involvement varies from relationship to relationship. Some men who are attracted to boys refrain from sexual activity because the boy does not want it or because the man believes it would involve too much risk.7
Some of the friendships between boys and men who are attracted to them become sexual. Sexual activity may be initiated by the man with the boy’s apparent willingness or encouragement, or by the boy himself.8 However, this is not inevitable. Some men may have many affectionate relationships with boys, but only very occasional sexual contact.9
Both criminological and non-criminological research reports that sexual practices with pre-pubescent children are usually of the kind considered to be less severe, resembling sex play more than sexual assault. Studies have found that the most frequent activities are cuddling, caressing, fondling, and masturbation, followed by fellatio. Least common is anal intercourse.10 Sexual relationships with adolescents may be more likely to involve fellatio or intercourse.
Researchers have written that sexual activity can occur in the context of various kinds of relationships.
One study found that most of the boys who had sexual contact with men in the context of affectionate relationships kept up a close relationship with the man for over three months. In some cases the relationship lasted for several years, but the sexual component rarely lasted over one year.15 Some studies have found cases where the sexual component of the relationship ended by mutual desire when the boy reached adulthood, but the two remained close friends long into the younger one’s adulthood.16
Some men who are attracted to underage boys make unwanted advances toward them, but refrain when the boys resist. Some compel boys to participate in sexual activity through subtle pressure, bribery, threats, or actual physical force. 17
Both criminological and non-criminological studies are consistent in their findings that aggression, force, and violence rarely occur in adult-minor sexual interaction.18 In fact, University of New Mexico therapist Jay Feierman writes:
Sexual violence and sexual brutality themselves, however, are a separate issue from adult human sexual behavior with children and adolescents, which is not associated with sexual violence and brutality any more than is adult/adult sexual behavior.19
Bradford, J.M.W., Bloomberg, B.A., & Bourget, D., "The heterogeneity/homogeneity of pedophilia," Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottowa, v. 13, no. 4, pp. 217-226, 1988.
This criminological study by three University of Ottawa researchers actually examines convicted child molesters rather than a representative sample of pedophiles. It describes the sexual activities involved and who initiated them.
Ingram, M., "Participating victims: A study of sexual offenses with boys," in Constantine, L.L. & Martinson, F.M. (eds.), Children and sex: New findings, new perspectives, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1981, pp. 177-187.
British child counselor Michael Ingram describes cases of man-boy sexual interaction that occurred with 74 prepubescent boys he saw in his practice. All but two cases involved boisterous sex play and/or affectionate interaction. The overwhelming number of incidents involved boys who participated willingly.
Sandfort, T., Boys on their contacts with men: A study of sexually expressed friendships, New York: Global Academic Publishers, 1987.
Based on his study of 25 boys who had ongoing sexual relationships with men, University of Utrecht researcher Theo Sandfort describes how the relationships began, what occurred in them (both sexual and non-sexual activities), the boys’ feelings about those activities, how the power difference operated in the relationships, and the impact of the opinions of parents and friends.
Savin-Williams, R., And Then I Became Gay: Young Men's Stories, New York: Routledge, 1998.
Based on his study of gay and bisexual youth, Cornell University psychologist Ritch Savin-Williams describes sexual relationships that some of them had with men, how the boys felt about those relationships, and the function that they seemed to serve for the boys.
Virkkunen, M., "The child as participating victim," Cook, M. & Howells, K. (eds.), Adult sexual interest in children, London: Academic Press, 1981, pp. 121-134.
Helsinki University psychiatrist Matti Virkkunen describes research findings that in many sex offenses by men against boys, the boy encouraged the sexual advance.
West, D.J. & Woodhouse, T.P., "Sexual encounters between boys and adults," in Li, C.K., West, D.J., & Woodhouse, T.P., Children’s sexual encounters with adults, London: Duckworth, pp. 3-137, 1990.
British researchers D.J. West and T.P. Woodhouse describe three studies of men who had had sexual interactions with adults when they were boys. Incidents involved willing encounters with women and men, as well as unwanted advances from men.
Wilson, G. & Cox, D., The Child-Lovers: A Study of Paedophiles in Society, London: Peter Owen Publishers, 1983.
Based on their study of 77 men who had sexual relationships with minors, British psychologists Glenn Wilson and David Cox describe the men’s feelings about these relationships. To provide a closer look at their behavior and attitudes, the authors present detailed case studies of ten of the men.