Virtual child pornography as potential remedy against child sexual abuse


  • Laure Es, van



This study focusses on the potential effects of virtual child pornography on the sexual abuse of children, which is a widespread problem. Recent news items about child sexual abusers have brought the issue of pedophilia into the public eye. The media uses these two terms interchangeably. However, there is an essential difference between pedosexuals (those who sexually abuse children) and pedophiles (those who are sexually attracted to children). It is important to notice that not all pedophiles abuse children and not all pedosexuals feel sexually attracted to children. The research question is if virtual child pornography can prevent pedophiles from converting their fantasies into sexual acts. Literature retrieved by a search using PubMed. Sixty-four articles dealing with child sexual abuse, pedophilia, possible treatments for pedophilia and the effects of (virtual) child pornography were analyzed. Furthermore, information on treatment in the Netherlands was requested from the Hotline Child Pornography and an interview was arranged with Jules Mulder, therapist of pedosexuals and pedophiles at forensic psychiatric center De Waag in Utrecht, The Netherlands.Pedophilia is manifested mostly in downloading child pornography. The amount of child pornographic material available has increased dramatically. Earlier research on the characteristics of child pornography downloaders showed that there is great diversity among them; pedophiles are present in all layers of society. Despite that not all pedophiles act on their feelings there is still an elevated risk of abusing young children sexually. Therefore, preventive treatment is very important. Unfortunately, there is limited research performed on treatment for pedophilia. Experts suggest that impulse control is the highest achievable and pedophilia cannot be cured. Child pornography can be used for impulse control. Research performed in various countries showed that when downloading child pornography was allowed, the number of sexually abused children decreased. Child pornography can provide pedophiles in their sexual needs and may prevent that they will abuse young children in the future. However, the provision of child pornography as part of a treatment gives rise to an ethical dilemma, because it indirectly maintains sexual child abuse. Therefore virtual child pornography could be a solution. Further research is needed on the effects of virtual child pornography, taking into account the heterogeneity among pedophiles.


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