Child Pornography

Black Mirror’s “Shut Up and Dance” episode, featuring a storyline involving child pornography

“It’s really a form of internet addiction. People get trapped in a bubble where they move from adult porn to teenage girls and then younger and younger [children], not thinking of these girls as being the same age as their own daughters, or even younger.”

“It’s as if they have two identities: one in the real world, where they aren’t abusing their daughter or daughter’s friends, and another in the virtual world.”

Nick Banks, the chairman of Nota, the National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers, reported in the Irish Times, back in 2013.

In April, earlier this year, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reported that over the past year 68,092 cases of illegal child sexual abuse imagery were identified and taken down:

  • A 417% increase in online confirmed reports over two years,
  • Against a 118% increase in illegal child abuse imagery over the previous year

Their report also examined trends emerging from the 2015 data and found:

  • 69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or under
  • 1,788 of victims were assessed as aged 2 or under
  • 34% of images were category A — which involved the rape or sexual torture of children

This is obviously horrific. Looking at images of children for sexual gratification is pathetic, disgusting and in no uncertain terms, it is wrong. There are also a number of cases where men end up viewing these indecent images, but slid here through an unhealthy addiction to pornography. So there will be men who gravitate towards this material because they’ve been abused, there will be men who arrive here because they find such images arousing and there are men who drift or stumble here because of downward spiral in porn; chasing younger and younger women. None of these motivations can be condoned, but can we afford the blanket label of paedophile, when arguably some of these men could have been or could be the men in our own circles. The men who raised us as children. At least, what does it mean to be a paedophile and everything else a man is?

The Irish Times article mentioned above, goes on to detail that:

“… a child-protection charity, Terre des Hommes Netherlands, said it had identified three Irish men, all living in Ireland and two of them fathers, who had attempted to access child pornography or abuse online. The men were among 1,000 people identified in an international sting operation that the charity staged.

The Irish men were seeking to pay for virtual sex with 10-year-old Sweetie, a Filipino child. Sweetie wasn’t real; she was an online avatar created by Terre des Hommes Netherlands to snare the men and publicise the problem. When Sweetie appeared online, 20,000 men in 100 countries swarmed the site over a period of about 10 weeks; 1,000 of them were seen via their own webcams and identified.”

That’s not an insignificant number and though many will be caught, can anything else be done to inhibit the motivation of men interested in pornographic images of children? The same article includes comments from a man charged with downloading these images and mentions he has a wife and two children.

‘It was a huge burden. I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t really about the 13- and 14-year-old girls. It was about being in this zombie-like state.”

John, a bodybuilder and keen cyclist, says he dealt with the stress of shift work and a crumbling relationship by escaping into child-sexual-abuse websites. To him, the images were of maturing pubescent physiques; he came across them after starting with adult pornography. The more extreme the images became, the worse he felt.

One morning three years ago, while his wife and children were staying at his parents’ house, John was awakened by two gardaí standing over his bed. “I confessed right away. It was almost a relief, as if I wanted to get caught.”

“It was a compulsion to find the perfect body,” he says. “When I felt real self-loathing, I didn’t care. I hated myself for what I was doing. In this world of escapism I lost respect for myself. I knew it was wrong, but I was caught in a cycle. It was as if another personality took over.”

John committed a serious crime. I also feel, in some small way, we share some of the responsibility for driving sexual deviance underground.

That if we had more of a porn amnesty in the first place, of course it would never eradicate child pornography, but it might reduce it or make the circles that distribute such content more visible. Maybe.

There must be research out there to show the forces and factors in life that might contribute to someone ending up in John’s position. This situation is both disturbing and sad. I don’t want to see children abused and exploited in this way, but I also feel that even engaging with porn in the first instance can be an isolating action (people are reluctant to admit they access porn). Once you find yourself in solitary confinement, the temptations of the matrix are more accessible than resolving tensions at home. If intimacy with a partner is evaporating, it is easy to drift towards a laptop, mobile or tablet and go online. We are curious creatures, it is so easy with the Web to find quickly ourselves somewhere we never intended.

In 2014, Wired reported that 80% of visits to the ‘Dark Net’ were for pedophilia materials. Arguably awful and yet unsurprising. However, Pornhub also reports that “teen” is one of its most popular categories. I haven’t looked into the nature of this content, but could we consider that it’s a very fine line between searching for young girls who look underage, but aren’t and those who look underage and are?


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