I have already discussed the issue of sexual grooming after having read Child Pornography and Sexual Grooming by Suzanne Ost. Now to approach the difficult topic of child pornography. Why difficult? After all, shouldn’t we be able to have a rational discussion about such an important issue? Well, as I will argue, the reason it is made difficult is precisely to discourage a rational discussion. This is part of the politics of this issue.

As Ost reveals in her book, the issue of child pornography has been largely decided under the pressure of moral panic. As a result the debate is deeply irrational, confused, contradictory and down right hypocritical.

Make no mistake. Child pornography exists and it is a serious problem. But it is here we face our first confusion. A confusion that is deliberately manipulated by those who benefit from moral panic. Any photograph or film that depicts a child engaging in a sexual act is evidence of child sexual abuse. For this reason police and professionals working in this area prefer to use the term child abuse material. When they uncover this material one of their main goals is to identify the child and rescue them from their abusers. This is as it should be and the police are becoming increasingly sophisticated and successful at tracking child abuse material. I support this approach and support better funding.

However, the term child pornography is used in a variety of polemical ways and this is the subject of this series of posts. For this reason, and this is absolutely essential to understand, I make a distinction between child abuse material and child pornography.

Mary Whitehouse

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