The outrage against the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama is entirely fitting, but the terminology is not. Moore is not a pedophile. If you believe his accusers, as we do, he is a powerful man who has serially harassed and even assaulted teenage girls.
The difference matters. Moore’s alleged crime was not a sexual orientation toward children. It was his willingness to exploit the unequal power structures of gender and age to victimize young girls who couldn’t stand up to him. To understand Moore as a monster outside medical or societal norms is to ignore the ways that his position enabled him to take advantage of his alleged victims. Much like the claims of sex addiction offered by other powerful men in recent weeks, accounting for sexual abuse with a diagnosis of pedophilia obscures the way that abusive behavior fits into our everyday sexual system that privileges powerful men to take advantage of the younger, the female and the less powerful.