Ok I didn’t want to create a discussion but I feel like I really need to say this because it really makes my throat tie up. There have been a tendency to fling around the word “pedophile” towards people in fandom lately, and not in an appropriate way. Now pedophile is meant to mean a sexually developed person being attracted to someone that is not (prepubescent), but I’ve seen the word exclusively used at 20+ year olds people dating 17-18 year olds, or sometimes even teens at 18-19 for dating people two years their junior. These people claim they are trying to “protect the kids” by using this word like a slur, even though they’re often aware they are using it incorrectly.
Why do people use this word even though it’s fundamentally not at all what their cause is representing? For the same reason people bring up the holocaust or Hitler trying to win arguments - because it’s an incredibly negatively loaded word that just about everyone is sure to recognize as such, and they are trying to win points by pulling at the emotions associated with it rather than the actual facts of the situation.
Does it matter? YES. By misusing a word like this you trivialize VERY REAL child sexual abuse. An older teen is sexually mature and can initiate and even force these relationships of their own accord. A teen can be a sexual predator towards younger and older people. A child have not yet developed these urges or interests and would never ever take part of these activities willingly. While there can be a definite power imbalance at play with a late teen/adult turning it into an abusive relationship, it is not the same as the kind of fear that is used to keep a child silent about something they never wanted to be a part of. It is disgusting, is triggering, and it is disturbing to see these two being acknowledged as the same thing.
“So should you not use the word at all?” Uh, yes of course you can, in a situation where it’s actually applicable. You should however not use it in a way that makes is seem like any less than what it is, which is a blatant projection of power wherein one party is always forced into it with threats of hurt or rejection from their loved ones or something else fueled out of desperation.