Wednesday, April 29, 2015



One interesting topic that comes up in talking about child sex abuse is pornography. I am not just talking about “child pornography”, but that is the main focus here. A common statement that comes up when discussing pornography is the statement 'I'm not hurting anyone'. I think this statement needs addressing. First of all, if the person making that statement is someone who has viewed pornography- child exploitation or not- they probably have no idea how that pornography is made. To be fair, I do not either. What I do know is that making sexual images of yourself, or allowing them to be made, in exchange for money always brings up concerns regarding choice. 

Ethical Concerns

If someone is selling their body for money- prostitution, pornography, whatever- then there is an economic reason that they are allowing these images to be made, and most people I know do not choose their economic situation. Add to that already complex issue of choice the fact that most images end up somewhere on the internet and you have a slew of ethical issues addressing the viewing of pornography- and so far all I have thrown ideas around about is adult pornography. When an image ends up on the internet, there is no controlling who can see it, search it, view it, download it, or use it. There is also no controlling how that image is used.

Add just the second issue- the issue of the internet- and apply it to child rape. The children in the videos or images of “child pornography” are not old enough to understand what is happening to them. They have zero choice in what is happening, how it happens, when it happens, or who sees it. My point is that viewing pornography of anything other than something that someone uploads themselves, for free, and erotic art that is drawn has a great deal of ethical issues surrounding it. You, whether you view adult, child, or any kind of mainstream pornography, impact the person in the picture simply by viewing it. Chances are, the impact just from wondering who has viewed it and who has not is immense.

Creating Virtual Demand

I have tried to capture as best I can the impact that pornography of any kind can have. No matter how you view it, you when you view an image, the fact that the image was viewed by an IP address is logged. If nothing else, you participated in the popularity of what you are viewing and led more people to see it. Pornography is not victimless, ever, even if it is adult pornography. This is because viewing it, even from the privacy of your home, creates a demand. Not only do you demand more pornography because of its addiction, you create the psychological demand for more to be created by indirectly telling the creator, statistics counter, and the internet in general "I want this". Clicking on an image sends that message, whether that message is intended or not.

Therapeutic Definitions

When it comes to “child pornography”, the psychological definition is far more important than a legal definition. After all, a legal definition of “child pornography” could make a 12-year-old who sends a nude picture of themselves a "distributor of “child pornography”". You could also have children who were filmed or photographed, nude, that were not all that affected by the act and were not traumatized by it. And yes, there have been cases where teens are charged for sexting pictures of themselves, or possessing images of themselves or others. 

A therapeutic definition of "“child pornography”" means that if there was a victim, in other words, if there was trauma to a person who had their picture or a video taken, then it is “child pornography”. What matters most to the issue of pornography, particularly “child pornography”, is whether or not someone was harmed, forced, or coerced into producing the content by their economic situation, manipulation, violence, threat of violence, etc. Only the person involved can tell you that. 

Some opt to use different terminology for “child pornography”, like 
child sexual exploitation material. I appreciate the rationale behind using more accurate terminology, but there are some longer terms that present a challenge for most humans (child sexual exploitation material is fairly long to type, and CSEM will just confuse people, for example). I use “child pornography” with definitions like that in mind, and I use a therapeutic definition for similar reasons. The respect needs to be to the perspective of the victim, not how surrounding society reacts to the issues.

For a much bigger picture on why “child pornography” impacts its victims, see 
this story and this one. It is disturbing beyond words. If you are or have viewed “child pornography”, you should read it. If you are a victim, you should use caution in reading it, as it may be triggering. However, I think it would still be of value to victims as well as offenders or at-risk peoples. There is also a great research paper, as well as a study, that discusses these issues as well.

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