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Hello Dr. Robert

I am a 23 year old male from Florida, My wife just had a baby 6 weeks ago. The first time I held my son I got an erection and its always on my mind and it wont get out of my head. Also when I go out in public with him and my wife I get them. This is ruining my life, am I a pedophile because I get a semi erect when I hold my son? I have never had any sexual thoughts about him. I have been around kids all my life I come from a huge family, my fathers one of 9 and my mom is one of 8 I have close to 70 first cousins alone, most of which are younger and Im around them on a weekly basis and I have never had this happen. My sister had a child young and moved back home and I help raise him from birth and not once did this happen. Is it possible that you can wake up one morning pedophile? I have read alot about the subject because (because its taring me apart) and what i can see I dont meet the criteria, I dont have sexual fantasies about children I dont get sexually aroused when I see them or think about them, just this summer I was home from school playing with my brothers kids a one year old boy and a baby girl and I didnt get erect, and then a few months later, this happens. We read all the baby books and where doing things for the baby all the time before he was born and this was the furthest thing from my mind. Im afraid if I dont stop worrying about it Im going to make myself a pedophile. Please help I cant go on thinking like this, its ruining what is supposed to be the happiest time of my life.

I was wondering where could find you response on your website. Is there a place where I can search for it?


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photograph by Walter Chappell, all rights reserved

Hello, M--

No, I do not think you are a pedophile, and I think you should stop worrying about it. If you were a pedophile, you would be having all kinds of thoughts and fantasies about having sex with young children, and you are not having those kinds of thoughts. Just getting an erection when you hold your son does not mean that you are a pedophile.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, the late photographer Walter Chappell, became famous—some would say infamous—for an image he made of himself holding his young son. In that powerful black and white print we see only the torso of the man (Walter) who is holding the infant on his chest. The man has a large, firm erection. Walter was arrested by the United States authorities while attempting to cross the border from Canada with this photograph which the authorities said was pornographic. Well, I knew Walter confidentially and intimately. We traveled together, camped out together, photographed together, and exhibited our work together in two-person shows. For a time, Walter lived with me and my wife, Catanya, and the three of us shared many magic moments together.

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Walter Chappell and Catanya, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1985
© 1985, 2008 Robert Saltzman

Walter was no pedophile; he liked women--not children--in that way. Far from being an expression of pedophilia, the erection in Walter’s photograph was intended to represent the sense of empowerment, fertility, naturalness, and sexual mastery which Walter must have felt upon holding this child who had "come from his loins." In other words, that photograph was a celebration, not of pedophilia or child pornography, but of male sexuality--that generative power which fertilizes, which impregnates, and without which the human race would simply die out.

Walter was a life-long nudist whose work in photography expressed his belief that the human body and human sexuality should not be something hidden, nor something pornographic, but rather a focus of honest, open-eyed interest and a source of creativity. Unfortunately, I do not have a print of that particular work of Walter's which I wish you and my other visitors could see in conjunction with your letter, but my photographic archives do contain many of Walter's masterful prints of his images which I value highly, and in which I continue to find inspiration. He was a wonderful artist, and a great man.

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Walter Chappell, shortly before his death, in his studio with his companion, Linda Piedra
photography by Stu Levy

I imagine that the impetus for your erection was similar in nature to the impetus for Walter's erection which he was proud to show in his photograph--the feeling of masculine power a man can get from being with a fertile young wife and with a son produced by hot sexual intimacy and orgasmic bliss. A young man, a young woman, and a baby—certainly there is something undeniably sexy about that trinity. But nothing about those sexy feelings has anything to do with pedophilia. Therefore, my advice is this: put your mind at rest, enjoy your new family, and appreciate--non-judgmentally for a change--the power and beauty of the male generative force which produces erections at all hours and in all situations, even when one is not even thinking about sex.

On the Ask Dr. Robert Archives page, visitors can find links to this page, as well as to every one of my other replies to questions for "ask the psychologist."

Be well.


© 1966 Walter Chappell
George Eastman House Collection

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page last modified December 2, 2008

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