Outing (Directors: Sebastian Meise and Thomas Reider): Sven is a young German man who faces the cam­era at the very begin­ning of this har­row­ing film and con­fesses his (unwanted) sexual attrac­tion to young boys. His con­fes­sion and par­ti­cip­a­tion in the film is an attempt to ensure that he never acts on this desire. It’s an admir­able goal and an extremely cour­ageous step, and yet Sven’s life is never going to be easy. Directors Meise and Reider incor­por­ate some of Sven’s family’s home videos of his own child­hood to remind the viewer that someone that many would con­sider a mon­ster grew up in an envir­on­ment that looked pretty nor­mal.

Sven tries to fig­ure out why he is the way he is, and we learn that his father was with­drawn from the fam­ily and that his mother never expressed affec­tion for him. Perhaps his pedo­philia is an attempt to hang onto his child­hood or to exper­i­ence child­hood in a way he never did. Nonetheless, he knows his desires are dan­ger­ous, even if he can’t change them. The film­makers fol­low Sven over a period of four years, check­ing in with him every few months to see how he’s doing. Although he is an intel­li­gent man with a valu­able pro­fes­sion (he’s an archae­olo­gist), he doesn’t seem able to con­nect with his co-work­ers or neigh­bours. Years of keep­ing his secret as well as his lonely child­hood have left him unable to form attach­ments eas­ily, and he is con­stantly search­ing for a ther­ap­ist who can help him man­age his feel­ings. We over­hear an inter­view with one who warns him that his social isol­a­tion only makes it easier to act on his attrac­tions, since there’s “noth­ing to lose.” The irony is that because he’s unable to talk about his situ­ation with any­one other than fel­low pedo­philes, he lacks a peer group who could keep him from harm­ing a child.

As the film goes on, he seems to depend more and more on his online com­munity, a group of pedo­philes who all claim not to have acted upon their desires. But they share fantas­ies and pho­tos of “cute” (though clothed) chil­dren. It’s dif­fi­cult to watch, since it only seems to inflame Sven’s desire for a “rela­tion­ship” with a child. Even though he knows this is inap­pro­pri­ate, he seems to want to test his lim­its and when he feels he’s suc­ceeded (sleep­ing in the same bed with his young nephew, for instance), it makes him bolder, want­ing to get even closer. It’s creepy but also heart­break­ing, know­ing that he has had so little human affec­tion in his life.

The chal­lenge is that there are very few ther­ap­ists who know how to help people like Sven. These desires are unex­plain­able, and seem unchange­able. He meets an older man who, after twenty years of largely unsuc­cess­ful ther­apy, opts for cas­tra­tion sur­gery. It removes some of the sexual urgency, but not the fantas­ies. When Sven first dis­covered his pedo­philia at the age of 16, he tried to kill him­self. Facing a lifelong struggle at such a young age, he’s doing his best to appear optim­istic, but des­pite his nervous smiles, it’s hard not to see the strain and fear on his face every time he speaks to the film­makers.

Outing is an act of bravery from both film­makers and sub­ject. A ther­ap­ist actu­ally tells Sven he’s put­ting his life in danger by out­ing him­self, and in another heart­break­ing moment, Sven acknow­ledges that someone might kill him, and that “it wouldn’t be so bad.” There are no happy end­ings in this story. Either Sven struggles with his desire for the next 50 years, opts for drastic sur­gery, some hate­ful per­son kills him, or he stumbles and hurts a child and ends up in prison, where pedo­philes are not par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar. He didn’t ask for these desires and des­pite his vali­ant efforts, he may not be able to res­ist them forever.

The film doesn’t have any answers, but it does put a human face on a real prob­lem that nobody wants to acknow­ledge. And in a soci­ety that uses sex to manip­u­late ever-younger con­sumers, people like Sven have a more dif­fi­cult road than ever. The final title card reveals that there are more than 250,000 people like Sven in Germany alone, people strug­gling against their pedo­philic desires, who don’t want to hurt chil­dren, who hate them­selves for not pos­sess­ing a socially-accept­able sexual self. If we really want to pro­tect chil­dren, we need to do a lot more to help these people and not wait for them to offend and then just lock them up. Hopefully Sven’s des­per­ate act of cour­age will do some good.

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