"My daughter and I have a healthy close relationship," a person with the screen name Sonali posted. "We have been in a 'consensual sexual relationship' almost two months now."
The daughter, Sonali wrote, is 10. Whatever guilt Sonali felt for the relationship was eased by the postings of other pedophiles. "I am so happy to find this site," Sonali wrote. "I thought having a sexual attraction to my daughter was bad. I now do not feel guilty or conflicted."
In that, Sonali was demonstrating what experts said is the most dangerous element of the pedophile Internet community: its justification of illegal acts. Experts described the pedophiles' online worldview as reflective of "neutralization," a psychological rationalization used by groups that deviate from societal norms.
In essence, the groups deem potentially injurious acts and beliefs harmless. That is accomplished in part by denying that a victim is injured, condemning critics and appealing to higher loyalties—in this case, an ostensible struggle for the sexual freedom of children.
Pedophiles see themselves as part of a social movement to gain acceptance of their attractions. The effort has a number of tenets: that pedophiles are beneficial to minors, that children are psychologically capable of consenting and that therapists manipulate the young into believing they are harmed by such encounters.
"Every human being, no matter the age, should be allowed to have consenting mutual sexual relations with anyone they wish," a man calling himself Venn wrote. "All age of consent laws must, and forever, be abolished."
Those same types of comments online are now turning up in court. For example, a man known by the screen name Brother Peteticus is among those who have argued online for legalizing sex with children. In real life, he is Phillip J. Distasio of Rocky River, Ohio, who was arrested last year on charges of raping two autistic boys who were his students. In court this month, Mr. Distasio, 34, portrayed himself as following the dictates of his own religion, and made arguments frequently expressed by the online community.