The inevitable pedantry over Epstein and the false authority of Pornhub

You knew it was coming, because it always does. A man rapes a child, and rather than focusing on the “rape” part of the crime, they fuss over the age of the child, and what specific category the man belongs to. All the focus gets put on the rapist rather than the rape, and the victim is reduced to some kind of perverted scale. The biggest jerk this time around is Katie Herzog, who splits hairs with the worst of them.

Pedophilia is defined by the psychological establishment as a persisent attraction to pre-pubescent children. Obviously, the onset of puberty varies by individual, but it is the prepubescent element that distinguishes pedophila from other paraphilias, or aberrant sexual desires. As far as we know, Epstein’s attraction was to teen girls, and while many of us may find this icky (I do), isn’t actually all that abnormal: “teen,” for instance, was the most popular Pornhub search term in the U.S. in 2016. Plenty of men are attracted to young women. There may even be evolutionary explanations for this, as female reproductive capacity begins to decline in our 20s. The difference is that decent men know better than to act on it.

Oh, fucking hell. Porn sites shape human behavior, you don’t get to use them to justify the normality of a behavior, and you especially don’t get to use them to support “evolutionary” explanations. Herzog may have found a year in which “teen” was most popular, but a different article says the most popular search term was “stepmom” (incest seems to be popular; let’s invent an evo-psych justification for it!), and in 2018 it was “lesbian”, with “teen” in 12th place, well below that evolutionarily significant practice of “anal” at #6.

These declarations from Pornhub about what is most popular come out all the time, and they get gleefully reported by the mainstream media. It’s almost as if a porn company has discovered a great way to get free advertising. But that couldn’t be, could it?

Throwing in the “evolutionary explanation” is also annoying. Humans have plenty of excess reproductive capacity, especially given our ability to limit infant mortality. You don’t need to have babies with 16 year olds to be reproductively successful! The best strategy for our successful reproduction is a stable social environment, fair distribution of resources, economic security, access to health care, and an absence of abuse of women and children. Oh, and peace, rather than war. I guess since “socialism” doesn’t show up as a popular search term on Pornhub, that can’t be true.

Here’s the bottom line, though: Epstein was an abuser who violated the consent of children. I don’t give a flying fuck what borders you stencil in over his victims, he is a child rapist.


  1. garnetstar says

    Also, let’s be clear on where this ends: searches on Pornhub, no matter what they are “inspired” by, are fantasies. Epstein was arrested for his actions.

    Though many people, for whatever reason, may search out something that is forbidden, by law or by their own morals, few act on those illegal impulses. Those who do are criminals.

    Pornhub users indulge in fantasies, by using media tha was (presumably) created legally, by people of legal age who consented to participate. Epstein’s actions had victims.

  2. doubtthat says

    There is legitimately no situation outside of debates among academic psychologists where the distinction between pedophilia and other technical terms is useful or important.
    And (trigger warning regarding Epstein’s crimes) as I said on another thread, the descriptions of Epstein’s crimes indicate that he raped women violently as they begged him to stop. He would be a rapist regardless of his victims’ ages.

  3. says

    There are adult performers that specialize in looking underage. Epstein could have restricted his selection a bit and sought consent and he wouldn’t be in jail now. Bad decision.

  4. says

    “teen,” for instance, was the most popular Pornhub search term in the U.S. in 2016. Plenty of men are attracted to young women.

    I see one more problem with this conclusion that doesn’t necessarily follow the premise. I don’t know about other people, but a huge chunk of all the porn I have consumed involved scenes that I would never want to enact in real life. The porn I watched wasn’t even about my fantasies, I was simply watching all sorts of random things for the sake of satisfying my own curiosity. My reasoning was approximately: “I have heard that some other people like {whatever}, I should search for {whatever} and take a look at it.” When it comes to porn, I’m comfortable watching a wide variety of it, and that also involves lots of things that I’m personally not really into and that I definitely would not want to do in my own life. I have watched teen porn. I have watched rape porn. I have watched pretty much everything there is just because of curiosity.

    Plenty of men are attracted to young women.

    A more accurate statement would have been, “Plenty of men are attracted to anything that even remotely resembles a human female, and that includes also young women.” If some man was attracted exclusively to teenage-looking women, the obvious solution would be to hire 18+ years old sex workers who appear visually younger than their real age. If somebody fantasized about rape, it would be perfectly possible to role play such a scenario with a consenting partner. There can be no excuses for the crimes this monster committed, and I find it sickening that some people try to justify his actions.

  5. PaulBC says

    The point is that a minor cannot give legal consent. Also, there is a power differential. I don’t give a damn about Epstein’s specific kinks. What he did was evil.

  6. PaulBC says

    The converse point is that I am not going to judge Epstein’s sickest fantasies or anybody else’s as long as they show an understanding of right and wrong and it guides their behavior. Epstein fails on that count.

  7. Ross Thompson says

    At the end of the day, what difference does it matter if he was motivated by paedophillia, ephebophillia or not being a good judge of people’s ages? None of those is a term of law; he is accused of statutory rape, in which the perpetrator has sex with someone the state deems too young to be able to grant consent. It doesn’t matter why they did it, and it doesn’t matter if the victim was an enthusiastic participant; it’s still a crime and hair-splitting over exactly how far they are below the age of consent doesn’t do anything, from a legal point of view.

    Of course, there will be people who will excuse him on the grounds that having sex with a 13-year-old is not that bad, so long as you’re not a Democrat.

  8. gijoel says

    Even if his victims were over the age of consent his actions would still be considered rape. He’s an abusive creep that needs to go to prison.

  9. doubtthat says

    This is sort of a strange discussion. Epstein’s mistake was doing crimes? I mean, yeah…
    It’s like saying, “If Jeffrey Dahmer just kept mannequin heads in his freezer, he wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble.” Well, that’s true, but it doesn’t really tell us much.
    Epstein is a serial rapist, a sex trafficker, child sex slave pimp, and depending on how he got his money, probably way more than that. True, if he did legal things with consenting adults, instead, he’d be ok, but this seems like an uninformative tautology.

  10. Ross Thompson says

    Gijoel: I’ve not looked into the circumstances of his crimes, because I suspect they would be infuriating and depressing. So while I’m confident that you’re right and his victims weren’t enthusiastic participants, I wanted to avoid getting into that discussion as one more thing that’s irrelevant and that I couldn’t speak to. They’re below the age of consent so it’s a crime QED and all this garbage about how they’re post-pubescent is worth nothing in a court of law.

  11. says

    I would also note that pornhub only links to legal content so “teen” presumably means 18+. Not that it matters, just sayin’.

  12. cartomancer says

    Thanks PZ, you made me go and search for “socialism” on Pornhub. I was disappointed to find they didn’t have anything. “Social media” was the closest it got.

    What about us sexually frustrated lefties who want good socialist porn while we’re (ahem) seizing the means of production? Surely some kind of worker-owned twink cooperative could be established to provide me with this vital service?

  13. Ridana says

    Basically what she’s saying is that when rich and powerful men get caught with kids, it just means that it’s time we re-visit age-of-consent laws and work on revising them to be more in line with rich and powerful men’s tastes. Otherwise, you know this will just keep happening, and that money could be better spent on orgies or something instead of defending them in court and rustling everybody’s jimmies.

    Ok, she probably wasn’t saying that last part, but the parenthetical disclaimer in this sentence, “Adults having sex with minors is both morally and legally indefensible (at least by contemporary Western standards [emphasis added]),” certainly supports my interpretation in the first part.

  14. says

    I would also note that pornhub only links to legal content so “teen” presumably means 18+. Not that it matters, just sayin’.

    I consume porn, and though I’m certain I’ve never searched for the term “teen” I’ve seen it attached to the titles of videos and they are pretty liberally applied to people who clearly aren’t in their teens. It seems more to be a metaphorical category, indicating younger performers.

    From what I’ve noticed (which is, of course, biased by my gender and orientation), age categories tend to get attached to women in a video but not to men. Further, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a 4-part system for categorizing women, which appears (without expert study or access to specific records that allow verifying of ages for a broad and/or random representative sample of women performers), that corresponds roughly to something like:
    18-30: Teen
    25-50: MILF
    45-65: Mature
    60+: Granny

    In short, people know that porn is artificial, and that part of the artifice is lying about one’s age. There must be a ton of videos labeled “teen” that don’t involve any teen performers, but “teen” can be reliably used to indicate “younger looking than performers labeled MILFs”. I don’t think that porn consumers are so stupid as to believe that literally all the videos labeled “teen” include only 18-19 year old actors. Moreover, though they are very, very silly and not at all “believable” there’s an entire category of “schoolgirl” porn that appears to be firmly attached to the “teen” search term. A subset of that is “cheerleader” porn. (And, yes, I’m talking about porn involving only women characters, though that in itself isn’t always enough to make something “lesbian porn”. Het “schoolgirl” and “cheerleader” porn exists as well, however.) I have actually watched a couple of these videos and they’re always play-acting a naivety and sexual ignorance that simply isn’t plausible for most 14 year olds, much less 18 year olds, while for legal purposes they sometimes include lines that establish the characters as high-school seniors or, more rarely, new arrivals to college. The existence of these sexually curious 18-19 year olds who have never heard of french kissing or recreational spanking could hardly be more transparent a contrivance.

    The only reasonable interpretation (based on my flawed and idiosyncratically biased observations) is that a search for “teen” indicates only a general preference for legal porn performers on the younger-looking end of the spectrum. No one – or at least no significant percentage – among porn consumers could possibly think that a search for “teen” on a legal porn site like pornhub yields actual 14-16 year olds who accidentally and all-reluctantly end up in sexual situations they had never imagined.

    Katie Herzog could more plausibly have asserted that searching for “action movies” is a reliable indicator of murderous intent.

  15. says

    There are adult performers that specialize in looking underage. Epstein could have restricted his selection a bit and sought consent and he wouldn’t be in jail now. Bad decision.

    See, that’s the part that convinces me that he’s an unredeemable monster. If he had wanted consensual sex, he would have been able to get more than he could handle. He had money, looks, and flashy friends. He could easily have convinced some lady to keep him company, if that’s what he wanted.

    What he wanted was to rape someone. That was the whole point, as evidenced by his actions. If he had wanted something else, this would never have happened.

  16. call me mark says

    I long ago reached the conclusion that a “teen” model in porn is a woman who doesn’t have breast implants.

  17. cartomancer says

    Crip Dyke, #14,

    I suspect you’re probably right as far as there not being a general system for categorising male porn performers by age in heterosexual porn. Gay porn, however, most definitely does do this.

    Though, rather than there being anything as complicated as your four-stage system, we generally only have two age categories – “twink” and “mature”. “Twink” generally refers to people under 30, “mature” to people over 30. Indeed, there is one well known porn production outfit called “Men over 30”, which is kind of our equivalent to Granny Porn. Turning 30 is essentially death as far as most gay men are concerned. You can take your ugly, post-youth body somewhere else, and refrain from offending the eyes of the beautiful people with it, thank you very much. I turned 30 five years ago (which means I am no longer able to lie convincingly about not having done so), and it is broadly true – nobody pays you much attention anymore. Though please don’t feel any sympathy, because I too find hideous old codgers my own age sexually repulsive – I’m just as bad as the rest of them.

    So basically you have the 18-30 group, which is by far the most populous, and the 30+ group (though, in practice, there is almost never anyone over 50), which is a niche speciality on a par with bondage or furries. The only exception being a pairing of a mature actor with a twink actor, which is more common because it gives us wheezing elderly folk the opportunity to imagine that the beautiful people might still find us attractive.

    As to the phenomenon of an exaggerated pretense of sexual inexperience, we don’t really have that. Occasionally there will be a conceit that this is a “first time” video, and one of the characters hasn’t had sex before, but the general assumption is that gay men all know – instinctively and automatically – how to do sex, and so even when that is part of the plot, it is never made an issue of or highlighted in any way. Gay men just don’t seem to find sexual inexperience alluring in the way some straight men do – quite the opposite in fact. Though, in reality, some of us do find very sexually experienced people, who have had thousands of partners, intimidating, because we feel we can never measure up and our own inexperience may show through.

    I guess the difference is that in straight porn, the female actor is the object of desire and the male actor is… well, I’m not sure really. Is he a cypher that straight men are meant to ignore? Is he an audience surrogate that they’re supposed to identify with? Either way, in gay porn both actors present elements of idealised partner and idealied self-image, so the distinction is not so absolute. Straight men don’t seem to have the same hang-ups about their own age that gay men usually do – perhaps because they’re not so worried about other people finding them attractive as we are.

  18. cartomancer says

    Incidentally, in the case of discussing sexual encounters with the very young, the terms “paedophilia” and “ephebophilia” tend to get thrown around. These may have clinical usages (though I suspect, as with most things psychology, those are very vague), but from a linguistic standpoint “ephebophilia” should strictly denote a primary attraction to men between the ages of 18 and 20 – since that is what epheboi were in classical Greek culture. The term most definitely is gendered, and is used to denote those who have just reached adulthood and are being prepared for their citizen duties as mature adults. In Athens there was, for instance, compulsory military training – ephebic service – between the ages of 18 and 20. The word comes from ἐπί (early, on the edge of) + ἥβη (young manhood).

    Which is entirely beside the point in this case, I should hasten to add. This is about rape and sex trafficking, which are horrible crimes whatever the age or gender of the victims.

  19. twarren1111 says

    My point is this: while yes, understanding the nuances of why how different forms of rape occur is a vitally important thing to study and know about, for Epstein this distinction is a distraction in terms of the context of his case.

    But, as a nation (in fact, the world should be addressing sexual deviance) we MUST rigorously study all the nuances in order to best understand how to to address the issue in all aspects of our society.

  20. says


    Thanks for the education!

    I guess the difference is that in straight porn, the female actor is the object of desire and the male actor is… well, I’m not sure really.

    I’m not really sure either. From my viewing, which certainly seems enough to make some judgements, though I’m not at all sure that I actually consume more porn than “average” – either for the general pop or for queer women – it seems that porn with no men in it at all is typically labeled “straight” or “heterosexual”. (I could be an above average consumer, but who knows?) In those cases, the male actor is … literally non-existent. Certainly the men appear to be unimportant for categorizing the porn. Visit the home page of YouPorn, for example, and you don’t see a bunch of videos being suggested like, “Guy wearing glasses gets his weltanshaaung waxed!”. “Redhead” is seemingly used without regard to the color of men’s hair, etc.

    On the other hand, and something I didn’t think of when I wrote my first comment (which I should have thought of), I actually consume erotic stories more than I ever do video porn. In erotic stories on sites like there can be quite a bit of attention devoted to creating a fully realized masculine character. I suspect, however, that that is because text-porn is much more often created by women for audiences where primary consumers and many if not most paying customers are women.

    As a final aside, even though I visit the Literotica website on a regular enough basis, I can’t remember if there even is a “teen” category (though I’m sure there must be a “teen” search-term tag) or other age-based category. That’s a curious data point, though it may say more about my psychology than anything else.

  21. PaulBC says

    cartomancer@17 “I guess the difference is that in straight porn, the female actor is the object of desire and the male actor is… well, I’m not sure really.”

    The proxy for the viewer, I always assumed, though I imagine people get off in a great variety of ways.

    I mean, to be blunt, I assume most straight men look at blowjob porn not because they want to see some other guy’s penis but because they are imagining it’s theirs. (It’s probably way more complicated, to be sure, and varies by individual.)

  22. PaulBC says

    And yeah, not to stray too far from the point that Jeffrey Epstein is a criminal who preyed on numerous victims over many years while getting away with it. I don’t care about his motivations. i want to see justice done.

  23. blf says

    I presume the male actress is dinner.

       A Shakespearean actor at a show on acting Shakespeare once described the difference between actor and actress thusly (paraphrasing from memory): “An actor keeps her clothes on.” It seems to me that distinction can also be used for males, hence male p0rn actress.

  24. brain says

    I don’t give a flying fuck what borders you stencil in over his victims, he is a child rapist.

    Well, no. He is a teen rapist.Do you think it’s less wrong?

  25. doubtthat says

    Are “teen” and “child” mutually exclusive?
    Child: a young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.
    Anyone 13-17.9999 in the United States is both a child and a teen.
    Epstein’s victims are as young as 13 and 14. Who knows how young they were on his island.
    He his a child rapist, a child sex trafficker, a child sex pimp. That he also raped, trafficked, and pimped older teens and women 18 and over does not change the reality of his crimes.
    This is a very, very odd hill to die on.

  26. lumipuna says

    It’s bizarre that the apologists are arguing “It is normal for aging man to find teen girls attractive” while implying “It is normal for aging man to not be content with adult women’s company”.

    I mean, I don’t know how much “hebefilia” is formally recognized but there’s probably a reason the term was invented in the first place – it describes something that stands out from the mainstream. It’s no justification for creeping on teen girls anyway, but forgoing teen girls is hardly a major constraint on most men’s sexual options.

  27. PaulBC says

    It’s normal to admire Swiss precision engineering, but if I steal your Rolex, it’s still a crime, and I can still go to jail for it. Honestly, WTF is the excuse supposed to be here?

  28. brain says

    @28: yes, they are mutually exclusive unless you want to be a pedant dumbass that on purpose does not understand that “teen” here means “teenager” to indicate someone who is not a child anymore but isn’t an adult yet.
    And so, from what I read, Epstein is a teen rapist but not a child rapist. Again, do you think this makes any difference about his moral and the evilness of his behaviour? I don’t.

  29. doubtthat says

    “Teenager” does not mean “no longer a child.”
    There are several definitions of “child”: prepubescent; pre legal majority, “an immature or irresponsible person.”
    Pre legal majority is obvious – anyone engaged in statutory rape is, by definition, raping a child.
    Prepubescent is obviously relative to the individual, but there are a good number of 13-14 year olds who fall in that category.
    The last category, though, is typically what is meant when a 30, 40, 50 year old adult is assaulting 14, 15, 16 year olds. That is a mature person taking advantage of an immature person.
    So, legally, Epstein is a child rapist. Based on the puberty definition, Epstein is probably a child rapist. Based on the concept of “maturity,” Epstein is a child rapist.
    Yes, I do think raping children makes a difference. Just like there’s a difference between manslaughter, second degree murder, and first degree murder. All bad, but there is an extra level of depravity when raping children, which is what Epstein did.
    Again, very, very bizarre place to plant your flag. And, again, your child/teen distinction is just incoherent.

  30. doubtthat says

    Have you spent any time with a 13 or 14 year old lately? Recall that Donald Trump was accused of assaulting a 13 year old at Epstein’s apartment:
    The victims named in the complaint are as young as 14:
    But most important thing here is definitely to argue that 13 and 14 year old rape victims aren’t “children” based on…something.

  31. says


    he is exactly as evil as he actually is, regardless of how we describe the particular acts in question. in that sense, no it doesn’t matter if he’s called a pedophile rapist, an ephebophilic rapist, a teen rapist, a child rapist, or a narfleflarglebartle rapist. The map is not the territory. The description of his evil is not the actual evil.

    Having said that, there is a particular stigma associated with child rape that is not (or not as strongly) associated with the rape of adults.

    there is also a clear overlap between the definitions of “child” and the definitions of “teen”. A 14 year old is very much a “child” for many, many purposes, and you won’t hear any principle of any k-8 school anywhere in the USA say, “We have 425 children and 108 teens”. They’ll just say, “We have 533 children,” and no one will accuse them of lying. No one will accuse them of insulting the maturity of the 7th and 8th graders. Because a 14 year old is a child in the USA. Period.

    Now maybe you can find some other language and some other culture where words roughly corresponding to the English words “teen” and “child” are used in ways that never overlap (you might try in Hebrew spoken by orthodox Israeli jews), but we’re not talking about other languages. We’re not talking about other countries or cultures. We’re talking about English spoken in the USA.

    The only possible reason for insisting that Epsteins crimes did not victimize children, but rather only victimized teens, is to shield Epstein from that extra bit of stigma that attaches to rapists whose victims are generally considered helpless and blameless. Patients under a rapist’s care. Kidnapped victims held in cages. And, yes, children.

    It may be horrifying and ridiculous that society still tries to partition the blame between rapists and their victims. It may be reprehensible that this shields many rapists from well-deserved stigma. Yet it is the case. And you, now, are engaging in pedantry that can only serve the purpose of (partially) protecting Epstein’s reputation. That would be bad enough, but you can’t even get your pedantry correct.

    Now put the scissors down before you run away. You might hurt yourself.

  32. PaulBC says

    I can repeat “Jeffrey Epstein, child rapist” many times in the timespan it takes someone to concoct a labored and pedantic explanation of why the phrase might not hold. I suggest that as the most effective rhetorical technique if it’s important to make the label stick.

    I think it is going to be more of a challenge to deliver justice through the court system than in popular perception.

  33. brain says

    Ok, I see that in the US a 14yo is a child. It’s not like that in my country, and if you try and call them that way you get very nasty answers.
    Probably “child raper” is correct using the US legal definition of “child”, not so using the common, biological one. This is the one I was referring to.

  34. Dunc says

    There is no “common, biological” definition of the word “child”. The meanings of words are culturally determined. “Child” is an English word, so we use English definitions. The first definition listed by the OED is “A young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.” The legal age of majority in the UK is 18 (except in Scotland, where it is 16). In the US it is also 18, except in Alabama and Nebraska, where it is 19.

    The only places in the world where the age of legal majority can be lower that 15 are Iran (9 years for girls, 15 years for boys) and Saudi Arabia (based on physical signs of puberty, with 15 as the upper limit). Therefore, almost everywhere in the world, there is a significant overlap between “teenagers” and “children”.

  35. brain says

    Dunc: a child is a child. When puberty begins, you become something else, call it whatever you want. Where I live, a 14yo is not a child. I already said that in US the legal term “child” also covers 14+, so we are not speaking of major age or anything like that.
    Biologically, no puberty->child, puberty-> not child. If you want to go on hairsplitting or glass climbing, do it by yourself.

  36. Dunc says

    Dunc: a child is a child. When puberty begins, you become something else, call it whatever you want.

    OK, I’m going to assume that English is not your first language… Is there something unclear about the definition where it states “below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority“? That seems pretty clear to me – if someone is below the legal age of majority, they are a child, according to the established and universally-accepted meaning of the word. There is only one place where the onset of puberty and the legal age of majority are explicitly linked, and that is Saudi Arabia. Are you arguing that we should be following their lead in deciding who is or is not a child?

    Since I’m assuming English isn’t your first language, I should perhaps also point out that the term “teen” does not mean “someone past the age of puberty, but not yet an adult” – it means “someone whose age ends in the suffix -teen, i.e. between the ages of 13 and 19”.

    Biologically, no puberty->child, puberty-> not child. If you want to go on hairsplitting or glass climbing, do it by yourself.

    You do realise that you’re arguing about the meaning of a word with both the dictionary and several native English speakers here, right? The term for a child before the onset of puberty is “prepubescent child”. We have a specific adjective for that precise concept, which would be entirely unnecessary if the word “child” automatically implied “prepubescent”. Don’t try and tell me what common words in my native language mean.

    Also, “glass climbing” is clearly an idiom from whatever your native language is that doesn’t translate into English, so I have no idea what you mean by it.

  37. brain says

    “below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority“?

    Ok you are ignoring what I wrote. Have a great day.

  38. poeducker says

    When I was surfing PonHub, I was dumbfounded when I started getting referrals to child porn (naked 10 yos & naked 6 yos.) I stopped this by clicking on ‘Block element’ in the drop down box in my computer.
    So, PornHub does too show gen-u-wine child porn. Or was this just the CIA/NSA @#$!ing with me?

  39. Chakat Firepaw says

    @PaulBC #22

    cartomancer@17 “

    I guess the difference is that in straight porn, the female actor is the object of desire and the male actor is… well, I’m not sure really.”

    The proxy for the viewer, I always assumed, though I imagine people get off in a great variety of ways.

    Viewer proxy is one use, the other main one is someone less attractive, (defined broadly), than the viewer to generate the fantasy “if this ugly scrub can get these hot babes….”

  40. John Morales says

    When I was a young ‘un, I watched some porn. But then I got to have actual sex.

    So yeah, for me, watching porn is like watching other people eat food.
    Good for them, but I’d rather eat my own food.

    (I remember when I got married, my friends decided to stage a ‘stag night’ for me, and then were upset I didn’t enthusiastically embrace the concept or watch any of the porn. Bah)