01 August 2019

“In the street they’re real, in a picture they’re not”: Constructions of children and childhood among users of online child sexual exploitation material

This article examined child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) users constructions of children and childhood online and offline, and explored how this influenced their crimes. When participants referred to children offline, many claimed they adhered to norms and constructions surrounding children’s learning, protection, irrationality, inexperience, asexuality, and innocence. However their perception of children in CSEM was different. They were seen as less or not “real,” and as sexualised. The author noted that this rendered children in CSEM as being fundamentally different, which facilitated offending, assisted in overcoming barriers to offending, and allowed participants to hold conventional beliefs about children and childhood while engaging in online activity that was incongruent with these beliefs.