Only a few belong to the Exclusive Type - the ones who are tempted solely by kids. Nine tenths of all pedophiles are male. They are fascinated by preteen females, teenage males, or (more rarely) both.
Moreover, at least one fifth (and probably more) of the population have pedophiliac fantasies. The prevalence of child pornography and child prostitution prove it. Pedophiles start out as "normal" people and are profoundly shocked and distressed to discover their illicit sexual preference for the prepubertal. The process and mechanisms of transition from socially acceptable sexuality to much-condemned (and criminal) pedophilia are still largely mysterious.
Pedophiles seem to have narcissistic and antisocial (psychopathic) traits. They lack empathy for their victims and express no remorse for their actions. They are in denial and, being pathological confabulators, they rationalize their transgressions, claiming that the children were merely being educated for their own good and, anyhow, derived great pleasure from it.
The pedophile - similar to the autistic patient - misinterprets the child's body language and inter-personal cues. His social communication skills are impaired and he fails to adjust information gained to the surrounding circumstances (for instance, to the kid's age and maturity).
Coupled with his lack of empathy, this recurrent inability to truly comprehend others cause the pedophile to objectify the targets of his lasciviousness. Pedophilia is, in essence, auto-erotic. The pedophile uses children's bodies to masturbate with. Hence the success of the Internet among pedophiles: it offers disembodied, anonymous, masturbatory sex. Children in cyberspace are mere representations - often nothing more than erotic photos and screen names.
To the pedophile ...
I. Sex with children is "free" and "daring"
Sex with subteens implies freedom of action with impunity. It enhances the pedophile's magical sense of omnipotence and immunity. By defying the authority of the state and the edicts of his culture and society, the pedophile experiences an adrenaline rush to which he gradually becomes addicted. Illicit sex becomes the outlet for his urgent need to live dangerously and recklessly.
The pedophile is on a quest to reassert control over his life. Studies have consistently shown that pedophilia is associated with anomic states (war, famine, epidemics) and with major life crises (failure, relocation, infidelity of spouse, separation, divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy, illness, death of the offender's nearest and dearest).
It is likely - though hitherto unsubstantiated by research - that the typical pedophile is depressive and with a borderline personality (low organization and fuzzy personal boundaries). Pedophiles are reckless and emotionally labile. The pedophile's sense of self-worth is volatile and dysregulated. He is likely to suffer from abandonment anxiety and be a codependent or counterdependent.
II. Sex with children is corrupt and decadent
The pedophile makes frequent (though unconscious) use of projection and projective identification in his relationships with children. He makes his victims treat him the way he views himself - or attributes to them traits and behaviors that are truly his.