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"I've been a pedophile for 20 years," Mr. Distasio said at the pretrial hearing. "The only reason I'm charged with rape is that no one believes a child can consent to sex. The role of my ministry is to get these cases out of the courtrooms."

In the days that followed, some pedophiles supported that position online, agreeing with Mr. Distasio that mentally handicapped, prepubescent boys could consent to sex with their teacher.

That same logic is applied by the pedophiles to child pornography, which many of them said should be legalized. "Where is the problem?" from child pornography, a pedophile who used the screen name Writer said in an online posting. "Once again, the underlying issue is the repressive belief that sex is intrinsically sinful."

In making these arguments, pedophiles often demonize parents and other adults as cruel, unloving people who exert authoritarian control over children and stand in the way of minors' sexual freedom. "Anti-pedophiles are NOT about protecting children," a man who called himself Christopher wrote. "They are usually the ones who are beating (they call it spanking) or emotionally neglecting their children."

But their arguments often seem contradictory. While maintaining that they can be trusted with children, some pedophiles said they would not allow minors in their lives to be with other adults attracted to children. "I guess coming from the inside, I know a bunch of the bad stuff that can happen," one man wrote.

Many pedophile sites conduct surveys to learn about the attitudes of their contributors. While none of these surveys are scientifically valid, they do reflect the thinking of some people who traffic in these sites. And not surprisingly, a large number of the surveys are about sex.

For example, on one site, pedophiles were asked if they would "have full intercourse with a little girl." Seventy-four members responded. Only 17 replied no. The same number said that they might. The largest group—over 54 percent — said that they would.

Some attached comments to their survey response. One man provided descriptions of the acts he would repeatedly perform on an 8-year-old to prepare her. The words—too graphic to be printed here—raised no criticism on the site.

But in other discussions, pedophiles cautioned that some comments were too dangerous. When one man described in lurid terms his fantasies about molesting an infant girl, the response was quick. "This is best not discussed," a man calling himself garvy wrote, adding that someday, pedophiles would need evidence proving that they cared only about children's best interests.

"Such posts," garvy concluded, "will be very damaging to the Cause."

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