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Merciless Doctrines: Child Pornography, Censorship, and Late Capitalism



This article argues for a feminist analysis of the disavowed biopolitics of child pornography and, in turn, of the occluded pedophilic libidinal economies of late capitalism. Moving beyond a dominant critical paradigm that reads child pornography censorship legislation as a contemporary moral panic, I argue that the consolations provided by such critiques function to mask the cruel regulation of the body within child pornography. I also explore an internal cultural contradiction between the claims that child pornography censorship legislation is policing the virtual through intensified technologies of control and discipline and the actual practices of such technologies.
Merciless Doctrines: Child Pornography, Censorship, and Late Capitalism
Author(s): Abigail Bray
Vol. 37, No. 1 (September 2011), pp. 133-158
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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[Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2011, vol. 37, no. 1]
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Abigail Bray
Merciless Doctrines: Child Pornography, Censorship, and
Late Capitalism
Not simply the evocation of emotion but laws governing it can become,
in varying degrees, the arena of political struggle.
—Arlie Russell Hochschild (1979, 568)
Alison Adam observes: “Child pornography is rarely the topic of ac-
ademic discourse” (2002, 135).
Although pornography has been
the topic of feminist discourse, the specific problem of child por-
nography is rarely addressed in the pivotal “pornography-as-violence”
versus “pornography-as-representation” debates (Smart 1989, 116).
The silence about child pornography is all the more uncanny once one
acknowledges that the complex feminist analysis of child sexual abuse
of the past couple of decades has yet to theorize the global online dis-
tribution of child sexual abuse material.
Moreover, while various read-
ings of children’s sexual subjectivity have been produced by a theoretical
I want to thank Adrian Howe, Paul Bowman, Rosalind Gill, and Robbie Duchinsky
for their generous intellectual support during the drafting of this article. Thanks also
to V. Zachariadis for years of political inspiration and friendship.
Adam (2002) argues for a feminist cyberethics capable of addressing the multiple
problems presented by child pornography on the Internet.
There is no mention of child pornography in any of the following works: Sontag
(1969), Smart (1989), Gibson and Gibson (1993), Huntley (1998), Cornell (2000),
Ciclitira (2004), or Shrage (2005). Even Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon
(1988) have barely addressed child pornography. Christine Harrison (2006) suggests
that this gap has thwarted interventions into child pornography.
For example, the subject of child pornography has only two footnotes in Bass and
Davis (1994). Paula Reavey and Brendan Gough (2000), Sara Scott (2001), Nancy
Naples (2003), and Paula Reavey and Sam Warner (2003) do not mention child por-
nography. There is the briefest of mentions in Warner’s (2009, 229) otherwise com-
prehensive analysis of feminist theorization of child sexual abuse. The theorization of
child sexual abuse has yet to examine child pornography because, one could venture,
the focus has been on challenging the pathologization of survivors rather than on
politicizing child abusers (Alcoff and Gray 1993, 279). However, Anne Cossins (2000,
2001) argues that child pornography is an expression of dominant masculinity.
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134 Bray
interrogation of the reification and regulation of sex within late capi-
talism, the commodification of child sexual abuse material remains a
neglected subject.
And within the literature on the paradigm shifts
occurring within cybercultures, the topic of child pornography is hardly
addressed, even though it is one of the fastest growing Internet industries
(Bell and Kennedy 2000; Jenkins 2009, 37).
Child pornography censorship legislation, in contrast, has attracted a
significant amount of critical interest. Within the past thirty years, nar-
ratives detailing the oppressive impact of moral panics about child sexual
abuse have dominated critiques of child pornography censorship legisla-
tion across the disciplines. In brief, civil libertarians, sexual radicals, and
cultural feminists claim that child pornography censorship legislation is a
symptom of the intolerant panic politics of late modernity, one of the
more powerful technologies of surveillance and control that have emerged
from a dispersed child sexual abuse moral panic, and as such a reactionary
response to an exaggerated threat. Within this context, child pornography
censorship legislation—not child pornography—has become the proper
object of oppositional thought. If child pornography is a taboo topic
within feminist theory, it is largely due to the triumph of this critical
paradigm over the past thirty years.
Two dominant narratives about child pornography censorship legis-
lation emerge within the critiques of moral panic. First, it is argued that
the principles of advanced liberal societies are threatened by the paternalist
intrusion of this legislation into the private sphere. Second, such legislation
is argued to have produced perverse forms of self-governance through
the installation of the “pedophilic gaze” (Adler 2001, 256) within the
self. Indeed, child pornography censorship legislation is frequently re-
cruited as yet another (Foucauldian) example of the tyranny of juridical
discourses that discipline the autonomy of the neoliberal (male) adult.
However, there are troubling ways in which these by now routine claims
about the discursive tyranny of censorship legislation are both averting
and discrediting a critical analysis of the tyrannical sexual regimes that
children are subjected to within child pornography. “In all of this,” writes
David Oswell (2006), “the child slips in and out of view” (259). How is
this critical blind spot symptomatic of a broader failure to theorize the
cultural politics of pedophilia? How can feminist theory begin to think
through the unthinkable scene of child pornography in order to create
The following useful work has laid the ground for an analysis of the commodifi-
cation of child sexual abuse material but has yet to explore it: Stephens (1995), Giroux
(2000), Gill (2008), McRobbie (2008).
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SIGNS Autumn2011 135
an interventionist analysis of the commodification of child sexual abuse
within late capitalism? Why is child pornography unthinkable? What kind
of hidden political investments enable us to criticize child pornography
censorship so easily? What or whom are we excluding or censoring here
in the name of a generalized critique of exclusion? Which bodies, sub-
jectivities, knowledges, and ways of looking are sacrificed by this hidden
logic of disavowal? How do we interrupt this logic of sacrificial disavowal
by resignifying the excluded?
Given the triumph of this critical paradigm, it is likely that attempts to
theorize child pornography from a feminist perspective will be discredited as
yet another symptom of a reactionary moral panic discourse. The long and
successful history of intellectual risk taking within feminism would suggest
that the possibility of being discredited is worth it. This is not to suggest that
strategies are unimportant, however, or that the tactical mistakes of radical
feminism should be ignored. For Carol Smart (1989), the pornography-as-
violence model of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon merely
leads to a “shared platform with the moral right and the slippage into law
and order rhetoric” (116). Expressing a dominant theoretical position within
feminist theory, Smart writes that “it is the problem of the pornographic
genre and not pornography as such which needs attention and [the] law in
the form of censorship is a singularly unsuitable means of dealing with this
problem” (3). Yet even the most intellectually expansive analysis of the genre
will reach this critical limit: consensual adult-on-adult pornography is different
from child sexual abuse material.
The terms of the pornography debate, in other words, need to be recon-
ceptualized in order to take into account this excluded and irreducible dif-
ference. Moreover, current child pornography censorship legislation is a sin-
gularly unsuitable means of dealing with the problem because current
legislation is unable to govern the Internet.
Yet this failure does not mean
that censorship should be abandoned in favor of an endless theoretical in-
terrogation of the genre of child pornography that retreats from a critique
of the unprecedented commodification of child sexual abuse within late cap-
In what follows, I contextualize an original analysis of the content of
See Akdeniz (1997, 2008), Hughes (2000), Carr (2001), Jenkins (2001, 2009),
McDonald (2001), Group of Specialists (2002), Harrison (2006), and Oswell (2006).
Also see the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at
lems/child_pornography/summary/. This document makes it clear that Internet service
providers refuse to help regulate child pornography because they do not want to threaten
their profit margins. Censoring child pornography is too expensive. But too expensive
for whom?
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136 Bray
two child sexual abuse Web sites—Passed Out Pussy and Chutney’s
Boys—within recent research on the unregulated expansion of the online
child sexual abuse industry in order to draw attention to the limits of
discourses so concerned with moral panics. In short, I argue that the
singular failure of child pornography censorship legislation suggests that
anticensorship and pro-sex discourses appear to complement rather than
oppose existing forms of oppression. In contextualizing the history of the
anti–moral panic discourse, I link pro-sex anticensorship arguments to
broader post-Enlightenment narratives about censorship that idealize the
liberatory force of pornography by equating the pleasures of sexual trans-
gression with the expansion of democratic freedom. In this vein of schol-
arship, the aristocratic writings of the Marquis de Sade are read as revo-
lutionary texts. Such narratives inform Gayle Rubin’s influential 1984
essay, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sex-
uality,” in which she provides a Foucauldian critique that continues to
dominate anticensorship pro-sex feminist narratives about pornography
and avant-garde celebrations of Sade.
For Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer ([1944] 1979), however,
Sadean sexual transgressions are not reducible to optimistic narratives
about the Enlightenment’s liberatory break with the power of sovereign
law. The jargon of Sadean transgression installs, at a deeper level, the
survival of the strongest as a universal law of nature. Unlike the “optimistic
writers” who “merely disavowed and denied” (Adorno and Horkheimer
[1944] 1979, 118) the exterminatory force of the Enlightenment, Sade’s
celebration of strong self-mastery as “the transvaluation of all values” and
“the courage to do what is forbidden” (97) describes the disavowed af-
fective grounds of the Enlightenment’s predatory war against the weak.
If Michel Foucault has argued that self-mastery is an ethical practice,
a critical and oppositional self-fashioning that liberates the (male) subject
from a state of intellectual “immaturity” (Foucault 1991a, 351; 1991b,
34; see also McNay 1994, 150–61), returning to Adorno and Horkheimer
reminds us that the self-mastery promised by Enlightenment reason has
a predatory function. Instructions in Sadean self-mastery contain the “feel-
ing rules” (Hochschild 1979) necessary to reify, dominate, and exploit.
The dominant predatory affects (contempt, stoic indifference, cruelty) are
transmitted through a liberal discourse of scientific reason, freedom, pro-
gress, antiauthoritarianism, survival, and self-mastery. In effect, Adorno
and Horkheimer argue that the Enlightenment intensifies premodern sov-
ereign violence by transvaluing predatory cruelty as the conduct of the
free modern subject.
Expanding on feminist critiques of Foucault’s disavowal of sexual vi-
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SIGNS Autumn2011 137
olence against women and children, I argue that Foucault’s failure to
theorize the regulatory effects of sexual violence, and in particular his
disavowal of sexual violence against children, is a form of political cruelty.
Like Linda Martı´n Alcoff (1996), I unapologetically argue that “the dan-
gers of adult-child sex are significant enough to warrant a general pro-
hibition” (129) and that it is important to unsettle the legacy of Foucault’s
own “disenabling ambivalence” (111) about pedophilia and pedophiles.
Theorizing child pornography through this critical reading of Foucault,
I wager that the deregulated online child sexual abuse industry crystallizes
the masked normalization of sexual cruelty within late capitalism. Urging
an expansion of Florence Rush’s (1980) early critique of the cultural
politics of pedophilia, I argue that it is vital that child pornography become
a feminist issue.
Foucault, Rubin, and the case against child pornography censorship
The idea that legislation prohibiting child pornography is spurred by a
moral panic is central to a 1979 discussion among Foucault, Guy Hoc-
quenghem, and Jean Danet, published as “Sexual Morality and the Law”
(Foucault 1988). Here Foucault argues that the regulation of child pros-
titution between 1830 and 1880, along with laws against child pornog-
raphy, have produced a “new penal system, a new legislative system” (276)
and a “new medical power” that govern “the relations between child and
adult sexuality” (277). For Foucault these new forms of governance are
“extremely questionable” (277). Hocquenghem then goes on to add that
the pathologization of sexual relations between children and adults has
“constructed an entirely new type of criminal,” namely, the pedophile,
who becomes a new “dangerous individual,” and that this is “an extremely
grave step from a political point of view” (278). In melodramatic terms
that are now part of the hegemonic critical paradigm, Hocquenghem states
that “the crime feeds totally upon itself in a manhunt, by the identification,
the isolation of the category of individuals regarded as pedophiles. It
culminates in that sort of call for a lynching sent out nowadays by the
gutter press....Onetriggers off secondary effects of man-hunting,
lynching, or moral mobilization” (278, 283). That far more men have
committed acts of fatal sexual violence against children than vigilantes
Steven Angelides (2004), e.g., uses Foucault to argue that child-adult sexual en-
counters are empowering for children (171). He also writes that “cultural anxieties
about children and sexuality were energized largely by what Pat Califia has called the
‘Great Kiddy-Porn Panic’ of the late 1970s” (166).
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138 Bray
have against men who are “regarded as pedophiles” is a historical fact lost
in this lofty disgust with the violent stupidity of the tabloid-reading masses.
For Foucault these radical shifts in knowledge and power around chil-
dren mean that sexuality will become a “roaming danger, a sort of om-
nipresent phantom, a phantom that will be played out between men and
women, children and adults. . . . Sexuality will become a threat to all
social relations” (1988, 281). This will produce a “new regime for the
supervision of sexuality” (281) through legal knowledge and knowledge
produced by psychiatry. Discourses that seek to govern child and adult
sexual relations will construct “a universal danger, and this represents a
considerable change. I would say the real danger lies there” (281). The
bodies of children who have suffered from sexual assault are excluded by
alarmist claims about the “real danger” posed by the “new regime” of
prohibitions against child sexual assault.
Foucault also transvalues such legislation as an abuse of children: “To
suppose that a child is incapable of explaining what happened and incapable
of giving his consent are two abuses that are intolerable, quite unacceptable”
(1988, 284). For, after all, Hocquenghem mockingly observes, “the legal
form of an intersexual consent is nonsense. No one signs a contract before
making love” (285; emphasis added). The transvaluation of child protection
discourses as an “intolerable” abuse of children is enabled by the romanti-
cization of child-adult sexual relations. It is hard to see how replacing child
sexual assault with “making love” provides any conceptual tools for unsettling
the regulatory powers of child protection discourses.
For Teresa de Lauretis, Foucault’s dismissal of child sexual assault as a
“bit of theatre” (Foucault 1990, 32) is a moment of “paradoxical con-
servatism” (de Lauretis 1984, 94) in his theorization of sexuality and
power. Adrian Howe (2008) also argues that Foucault’s lack of interest
in men’s sexual violence and his casual dismissal of child sexual assault are
indicative of a significant blind spot in his theorization of sexuality, sub-
jection, and power. Indeed, Foucault’s analysis of the transition from
premodern sovereign power to modern disciplinary power fails to account
for the continuation of male sexual violence, which functions as a form
of sovereign power within the private sphere (Westlund 1999). While these
critiques are important, Alcoff’s reading of Rubin’s uncritical acceptance
of Foucault’s position calls attention to how his disavowal of child sexual
assault enables many of the pro-sex anticensorship arguments of sexual
radicals. Paradoxically, far from being oppositional, such arguments inform
a hegemonic critical paradigm and are central to critiques of child por-
nography censorship legislation that fail to challenge the unregulated com-
modification of child sexual abuse within late capitalism.
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SIGNS Autumn2011 139
In Rubin’s influential Foucauldian essay on sexuality and the law, pro-
hibitions against child sexual assault are recruited as yet another example
of reactionary morality. The desire to protect children from sexual assaults
leads to “erotic hysteria” ([1984] 1999, 146). “The laws produced by
the child porn panic are ill-conceived and misdirected,” argues Rubin
(146). “They represent far-reaching alterations in the regulation of sexual
behavior and abrogate important civil liberties” (146). Pedophiles are one
of the “stigmatized erotic populations” (148) and the “lowliest” of the
“despised sexual castes” (151). “Cross-generational encounters” are
robbed of a language of “affection, love, free choice, kindness, or tran-
scendence” (153). Those “individuals who prefer cross-generational en-
counters” are “erotic dissidents” (156).
Child pornography censorship legislation is nothing more than a typical
moral panic: “the white slavery hysteria of the 1880s, the anti-homosexual
campaigns of the 1950s, and the child pornography panic of the late 1970s
were typical moral panics” during which “the public behaves like a rabid
mob” (163). Significantly, during her seven-page critique of antipornog-
raphy feminism, Rubin does not once mention child pornography, even
though child pornography censorship was central to her previous argu-
ment. Rubin ends her passionate defense of persecuted erotic populations
with the statement: “It is time to recognize the political dimensions of
erotic life” (172). To the contrary, given the rapid commodification of
child pornography on the Internet, it is time to recognize the cultural
politics of pedophilia.
The critique of moral panic operates in both Foucault and Rubin as a
metanarrative founded on the exclusion of power imbalances between
ages, classes, and sexes. This mobilization of the concept of moral panic
in the erasure of the political specificity of child sexual abuse is, unfor-
tunately, a common if hidden tactic in the literature on the cultural politics
of child pornography censorship. A perception across disciplines that child
pornography censorship is a symptom of a dangerous child sexual abuse
moral panic appears to be intensifying.
This expert position has also
become attached to broader anticensorship libertarian narratives within
the mass media, such that child pornography censorship legislation is
emerging as the source of a range of cultural anxieties about threats to
democratic freedom.
Significantly, a dispersed meta-panic about child sexual abuse moral
panics now transmits neoliberal middle-class “feeling rules” about the
See Rubin ([1984] 1999), Foucault (1988), Higonnet (1996), Jenkins (1998),
Critcher (2002, 2009), Kleinhans (2004), Danay (2005), Sandywell (2006),Munster (2009).
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140 Bray
kinds of “emotion work” (Hochschild 1979) required to overcome the
political violence of the intolerance inherent in moral panics. As Arlie
Russell Hochschild (1979) argues, “rules for managing feeling are implicit
in any ideological stance; they are the ‘bottom side’ of ideology” (566).
In short, the ideology of anticensorship discourses privileges tolerance as
an affect that marks the superiority of the sexually confident progressive
middle-class Western neoliberal individual (Bray 2008). In this way, this
meta-panic can be read as an ideology that produces rules for managing
feelings that regulate public emotions about child sexual abuse.
Among the various claims made about child pornography censorship,
some of the dominant assertions are that such legislation is responsible
for the discursive incitement of a pedophilic gaze, the debasement of
relationships between children and adults (Danielsen 2008), the vilifica-
tion of children’s sexuality (Kincaid 1998; McCreery 2004), “erotic in-
justice and sexual oppression” (Rubin [1984] 1999, 149) and an inten-
sification of “sexual stratification and erotic persecution” (157), the
persecution of avant-garde photographers and of artists in general, an
“infringement of freedom of expression” (Danay 2005, 171), “legislation
by tabloid” (Franklin and Lavery 1989, 26), the consolidation of anti-
feminist bourgeois hegemony (Huntley 1998, 79; Levine 2002), the un-
precedented policing of the virtual, “a drastic expansion in the surveillance
and policing of children and images of children” (Kleinhans 2004, 24),
and a “networked expansion” of the post–September 11 police state
(Munster 2009, 5), a “sentimental logic” that infantilizes the neoliberal
citizen (Berlant 1995, 393), and negative victim mentalities and reactive
victim cultures (Jenkins 1998).
In short, child pornography censorship
legislation is argued to constitute a significant threat to the practice of
freedom within advanced liberal cultures. How might pro-sex anticen-
sorship discourse about pornography as freedom underpin this particular
cultural anxiety?
Pornography and the jargon of transgression
Since the Enlightenment, pornography has been attached to dominant
narratives about power and freedom. Scholars across the disciplines have
argued that pornography played a vital role in challenging the authority
of the state during the French Revolution, to the extent that pornography
On the incitement of a pedophilic gaze, see Adler (2001), Goldstein (2003), Kleinhans
(2004), and Danay (2005); on the persecution of artists, see Rubin ([1984] 1999),Higonnet
(1998), Smith (2004), and Munster (2009).
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SIGNS Autumn2011 141
was mobilized as a picaresque political weapon against not only the church
but authority in general. Pornography was directed against hegemonic
religion, carnivalizing power and reveling in obscenity in order to produce
narratives about the abject underside of the clean and proper body of
authority. Robert Darnton (1996), for example, argues that many cen-
sored prerevolutionary texts used pornography as a way of questioning
the regime. Like Lynn Hunt (1993, 329), Darnton argues that pornog-
raphy played a central role in the democratic dissemination of ideas and
the generalized promotion of literacy. With the writings of Sade, however,
“pornography...became identified with a general assault on morality
itself, rather than a specific criticism of the irrationalities of the ancien
re´gime moral system” (Hunt 1993, 330). This enabled another narrative
to emerge, one in which the libertine is idealized as a countercultural
hero, a subject whose courageous commitment to pleasure refuses the
sexual misery of an oppressive culture and creates alternative becomings
(Stallybrass and White 1986; Suleiman 1990; Felski 1995). In this context,
it is the pervert, not the poet, who becomes the world’s unacknowledged
legislator, questioning and recreating the law through sexual acts that are
now heralded as the materialization of the antiauthoritarian zeitgeist. A
certain biopolitics of sexual transgression emerges that transmits the gov-
ernmentality of the radical self: the conduct of freedom is performed as
tolerance for sexual transgression. By continually risking censorship, the
pornographer and the pornographic body became emblematic of all that
strives to overcome the always already oppressive law.
As Rita Felski (1995) argues, contemporary critical theory has inherited
many of these ideas such that transgression, desire, and perversion have
become redemptive categories of cultural criticism (176). Such ideas are
also foundational to key narratives within the post-Freudian New Left that
mobilize a nostalgia for a prelapsarian Eden of polymorphous perversity
in order to construct libertarian utopias. There, desire would finally be
restored and alienated labor reduced, leaving “men free to devote an
increasing number of hours to playful and erotic pursuits” (Robinson
1972, 165; emphasis added). The conflict between desire and authority,
sexuality and the state, is also frequently mystified as a conflict between
life and death, between survival and the destruction of the world. A tol-
erance for sexual transgression—an ability to withstand the expansion of
one’s sexual boundaries and gain pleasure from doing so, and the liber-
ation of the self from sexual inhibitions—has become a hegemonic marker
of sexual self-empowerment. The celebration of the libertine as a dissident
who broadens the intimate work of democracy while questioning insti-
tutional norms has now become a key feature of neoliberal government-
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142 Bray
ality: to pursue sexual empowerment is not merely to pursue pleasure, it
is also to conduct oneself as a progressive neoliberal subject.
The revolutionary thrust of pornography, however, appears to be rad-
ically overestimated when one takes into account the hegemonic corporate
pornification of mass culture in the past few decades (McRobbie 2008).
Within this context, pornography censorship discourse and not pornog-
raphy itself emerges as a counterhegemonic anticapitalist force. However,
the counterhegemonic potential of pornography censorship is contained
by the coding of such discourses as moral panics. This process has inten-
sified around child pornography: to think the scene of child pornography
is to encounter “outlawed emotions” (Jaggar 1989, 160), to upset the
privileged place given to tolerance in the feeling rules of hegemonic pro-
sex anticensorship discourses.
Self-mastery and child pornography
Not only does the critique of moral panics prohibit an affective response
to child pornography, but a critical analysis of child pornography is also
foreclosed. An assumption that a moral panic has successfully censored
child pornography has led to the belief that the child sexual abuse industry
has retreated into deeper subcultural recesses of the Internet and has
effectively shut down production (Higonnet 1996; Kincaid 1998; Levine
2002). As a consequence, the idea that child pornography is illegal and
difficult to find is often cited as the reason scholars have yet to analyze
such material (Tate 1990; Jenkins 2001). But, as Richard Collins (2006)
observes, the idea that “network governance and self-regulation [are] both
pervasive and effective” is a dominant “myth” in “scholarly discussions
of the internet” (337). This myth dominates the literature critiquing moral
panics about child sexual abuse, which frequently assumes that threats to
children’s sexual innocence produce legal reactions that are “swift and
punitive” and that exemplify “social control at its fiercest” (Critcher 2009,
27). However, the social control of online pedophile communities is far
from fierce, for the expanding online child sexual abuse industry exists
without any effective regulation because regulation threatens the profit
margins of Internet service providers.
The censorship of child pornography has become a form of Internet self-regulation,
which in turn has become a covert form of responsibilization, in that the majority of material
is reported by Internet users and responsibility for regulation rests with citizens (see the
Inhope press release, https://www/ Although cen-
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SIGNS Autumn2011 143
Describing or even mentioning child pornography is also read as “in-
citement to discourse” (Foucault 1990, 17). Expressing a popular Fou-
cauldian narrative, Judith Butler (1990) argues that the very act of speaking
out about child pornography intensifies the erotic effect: “These prohibi-
tions of the erotic are always at the same time, and despite themselves, the
eroticization of prohibition” (111). Less sophisticated versions of this nar-
rative argue that describing child pornography, as Robert J. Danay writes,
“masks our secret prurient interest in sexualized children” (2005, 164;
emphasis added) and, paradoxically, publicizes the pedophilic gaze. The
pedophilic gaze, it is argued, has spread like a “disease” (Danay 2005, 167)
from the courts into mainstream culture, so that today “the public spectacle
of the sexualized child, whether on television or in the courts, simultaneously
beguiles and disgusts us” (166–67; emphasis added).
The pronouns “our” and “us,” like the term “pedophilic gaze” (Danay
2005, 155), are degendered, implying that women are now suddenly
equally beguiled by, or as Danay also puts it, “attract[ed] to” “sexualized
children” (167). As it is well known, however, that the vast majority of
pedophiles are men, the majority of the children who are sexually abused
by them are girls, and the “sexualized child” is also, more often than not,
a girl. This disavowal of gender relations demonstrates that a hidden pol-
itics is at work in Foucault-inspired critiques of child pornography cen-
sorship legislation. As feminists have long argued, the erasure of men’s
responsibility for child sexual abuse has been deployed to disavow the
“man question” (Howe 2008) in expert and hegemonic discourses about
sexual violence against children.
Although such positions are claimed in
the name of loosening the interpretive coils of the “psy complex,” the
assertion of a pedophilic gaze forecloses a political reading of child por-
nography by pathologizing such readings as themselves pedophilic.
timately, what is excluded from critical view by this particular Foucaudlian
strategy are the children within child pornography.
sorship depends on such reports, the process of reporting is shrouded in secrecy and silence.
As David Oswell (2006) concludes, “this is surprising given that child sexual abusers have
historically taken advantage of the veils of secrecy that forms of authority might permit”
(259). On moral panic and responsibilization, see Hier (2008).
See Rush (1980), Gordon (1988), Armstrong (1994), Reavey and Gough (2000),
and Warner (2009).
“Psy complex” is a term central to critical psychology. It refers to the ways in which
psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis are involved in the social control of populations.
See Ingleby (1985) and Rose (1999).
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Passed Out Pussy and the cultural politics of pedophilia
Despite the claims of the Foucauldian paradigm that child pornography
is illegal and rare, I was able to access a heterosexual child sexual abuse
Web site merely by Googling the word “sex.” Indeed, child pornography
experts argue that such material is accessible and vast (Quayle and Taylor
2002, 350; Chase and Statham 2005, 11–12). The first hit under “sex”
was, which featured a large advertisement for “Passed Out
Pussy: extreme videos of drunk young girls fucked to pieces and ruined
for life!!” The Passed Out Pussy home page offered this description: “Our
speciality is young girls drunk or drugged before they are brutally abused!!
. . . Some guys help a girl home when she has had too much to drink.
We say, call your friends, bring out the camera and then take turns to
fuck that drunk slut to a pulp!! Make sure you film every minute of her
humiliation and brutal fuck that passed out little fuck hole so hard that
her grand daughters will be sore!!” The home page featured 222 videos
of young girls being raped and promised consumers access to thousands
more. The majority of the girls were thin, white, and short. Although it
claimed that “all models depicted are at least 18 years old at the time
photos and videos were taken,” there were many photographs of girls
who appear to be 13 or 14. In other words, the Web site fits the UN
definition of child pornography.
As Logan M. Jones (1998) argues in
his discussion of the UN legislation against child pornography, “it is largely
perceived that paedophiles are the main users or consumers of child por-
nography; however, according to EPCAT, a large segment of the [male]
population is interested in pornography featuring pubescent children in
According to Article 2(c) of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child
Prostitution and Child Pornography of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, child
pornography is defined as “any representation, by whatever means, of a child [under 18] engaged
in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child,
the dominant characteristic of which is depiction for a sexual purpose” (UN General Assembly,
Resolution 54/263, May 25, 2000, Previ-
ously, in 1999, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated: “Legislation on child
pornography had also been amended as from 1 January 1999, and would henceforth apply to all
kinds of media, including the electronic ones. Virtually any association with child pornography
images, including possession, would constitute a criminal offence. The parliamentary Committee
reviewing the law on sexual offences would also consider whether current dual criminality required
for jurisdiction on crimes committed abroad against women and children should be waived.Persons
maintaining electronic bulletin boards were legally obliged to prevent any further distribution of
messages that obviously contained child pornography under a law that has entered into force on 1
May 1998” (Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Summar y Record of the 522nd Meeting,”
January 22, 1999, Geneva,
680256713003e9623?; emphasis added).
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SIGNS Autumn2011 145
their teens” (69).
Clearly this Web site—and the genre of Lolita
porn—demonstrates that the line between child sexual abuse material and
consensual adult-to-adult pornography is, as feminists have long pointed
out, deliberately transgressed in order to maximize profits (Rush 1980;
MacKinnon 1987, 171; Dworkin and MacKinnon 1988, 46).
Several photographs appear to be of drunk or drugged girls with their
hair in childish pigtails and semen streaming from their mouths. One
image is of a distressed girl vomiting semen. Many images feature young
girls being raped in their bedrooms by overweight grey-haired men who
appear to be old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers. These par-
ticular images suggest that Passed Out Pussy is celebrating child sexual
abuse within the family home. Seventy photographic stills from videos on
the home page show young girls screaming while they are being raped,
two more show girls with knives held to their throats, one shows a gun
being held to a girl’s head; many girls are pictured being tortured, bound
and gagged, and raped by groups of laughing men, some of whom are
wearing military uniforms. Girls are shown forced to drink alcohol, with
beer bottles inserted into their vaginas, unconscious on couches, floors,
beds, in the woods, and on dark streets next to piles of rubbish. Indeed,
many of the images of girls invoke murder scenes and draw on the codes
of snuff pornography.
The Web site suggests that these are amateur videos made by men who
have intoxicated young girls in order to film them being gang raped, and
users are invited to contribute their own rape videos to the Web site.
Before the Web site mysteriously vanished after I criticized it in an e-
journal of social and political debate, the material was updated on a daily
basis, was hosted by, the Internet’s largest distributor of
pornographic DVDs, and was connected to Ransom Productions Ltd. and
Internet Media Productions, both of which are mainstream UK-based
companies (Bray 2009).
As Frigga Haug (2001) argues, the expansion of the child sexual abuse
industry within late capitalism has made it “abundantly clear that this is
not about perverts but about markets and profits: about exploitation and
children as objects of trade” (71). By claiming that the young girls on
Passed Out Pussy are models who are eighteen or older, the child por-
nography industry protects itself and alleviates consumer anxieties. As the
Web site puts it: “Note: Yes this site is extreme, disgusting, immoral,
bordeline, unbelievable and gruesome but it is 100% legal.” Indeed the
EPCAT is an acronym for the organization End Child Prostitution/Child Pornography
and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.
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Australian Media and Communications Authority judged that Passed Out
Pussy was not child pornography. In other words, a major male-dominated
Western regulatory body did not contest the veracity of a pro-rape Web
site’s claim to be featuring models who are eighteen or over.
Challenging the legality of this Web site would require gathering vast
amounts of forensic evidence about the age of the girls at the time they
were filmed. This would cost law enforcement agencies a great deal of
time and money. Any girls who were proven to be eighteen or older would
then also have to testify that they had been raped when drunk or drugged
and filmed without their consent. It is not hard to imagine how traumatic
it would be for young girls to testify that their rape had been commodified
as pornography and distributed on the Internet by men they know. The
very name of the Web site, Passed Out Pussy, shames girls as drunk or
drugged sluts in order to justify their ritualistic sexual humiliation. Issues
of agency and consent are overburdened with misogynist narratives that
punish girls for being “up for it,” for exhibiting the compulsory sexual
agency of the new raunch culture of postfeminism (Gill 2008). The ad-
vertisement of footage of child rape is also masked by the liberal por-
nography-as-representation discourse, which deflects the legal gaze by
recourse to dominant ideas about the nebulous connection between fan-
tasy and action. The presence of this Web site within mainstream por-
nography suggests that this discourse has been successful at overcoming
the censorship of child pornography. While the screams of these raped
girls will be heard indefinitely across the Internet, it is unlikely that the
law is listening: the historical silence that has surrounded child sexual
abuse has been expanded through the Internet.
For early feminist critics of the phenomenon, such as Rush, silence is
a key feature of the cultural politics of pedophilia. Documenting the sys-
tematic historical minimization of child sexual abuse across a range of
disciplines in our recent past, Rush explores the cultural imaginary of a
pedophilic libidinal economy in literature, mass media, and pornography.
While Rush’s groundbreaking book, The Best Kept Secret: Sexual Abuse of
Children (1980) is one of the now largely forgotten classics of second-
wave feminism, it is important to recall that her critique of the pedophilic
imaginary moves beyond a simple outing of incest. From overt celebra-
tions of child-adult sex to the widespread romantic trope of what Rush
calls the “little girl/grown man combination” (117), pedophilia is polit-
icized as a core technology of desire within masculinist cultures, producing
a multiplicity of narratives that eroticize gender relations as a seduction
game between adults and children. The idealization of the child-woman,
with her “childlike fragility in a well-developed body” (117), and the
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SIGNS Autumn2011 147
eroticization of vulnerability, powerlessness, dependency, and (physical,
emotional, and mental) weakness are read as infused with the sexual pol-
itics of pedophilia. In other words, Rush locates the biopolitics of pe-
dophilia as a central technology of control and not a marginal pathology
that afflicts individual deviants.
Rush’s argument, then, is not merely about outing the secret of child
sexual abuse, it is also about critiquing pedophilia as a normative tech-
nology of desire. Rush attempts to unmask the multiple codes of pedo-
philic desire within a range of straight- and queer-acting narratives that
pass as nonpedophilic, an effort designed to interrupt the regulatory im-
pact of pedophilic sexuality. Quite simply, Rush challenges us to think
through the possibility that pedophilia is a dominant, yet coded and un-
named, economy of desire within late capitalism. However, outing the
pedophilic sexual cruelty of Web sites such as Passed Out Pussy requires
thinking past the regulatory effects of the hegemonic critiques of moral
panics and considering the uncomfortable possibility that the deregulated
commodification of child sexual abuse is one of the best kept open secrets
of the Internet.
Chutney’s Boys
I now want to turn to another Web site that distributes child sexual abuse
material without government, law enforcement, or industry regulation.
Chutney’s Boys is a homosexual pedophile blog that is linked to what is
possibly a child pornography distribution center, another blog called The
Male Beauty.
The Male Beauty, which is hosted by Blogger, Google’s
blogging platform, bears a “Blogger content warning.” Obvious links to
child sexual abuse material are embedded throughout the home page of
It should be noted that James R. Kincaid’s (1992, 1998) much-cited work admits that
pedophilia is a dominant cultural imaginary but degenders pedophilia and ignores the work of
Rush (1980). In this respect, the originality of Kincaid’s theoretical intervention not only depends
on an unacknowledged debt to feminism, but his work can also, quite problematically, be read as
suppressing a feminist critique of the cultural politics of pedophilia.
I came across The Male Beauty and Chutney’s Boys while researching photographer Bill
Henson, whose works are featured on The Male Beauty. I reported The Male Beauty to the
Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), to the Australian National Association
for the Prevention of Cruelty and Neglect (NAPCAN), and to Bravehearts, an Australian non-
governmental organization. The ACMA ruled that the site did not constitute child pornography
(e-mail from ACMA, August 26, 2009), and NAPCAN told me that it was an eighteen and over
site. As a last resort I reported it to, an anti–child pornography hacking Web
site. The Web site was hacked but reappeared.
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148 Bray
The Male Beauty. The Male Beauty has a number of “followers,” several
of whom advertise themselves with photographs of boys who appear as
young as five or six. The profile of one follower, “Prince Caspian,” offered
a link to Chutney’s Boys. “Chutney” is slang for the mixture of semen,
feces, and lubricant that issues after anal sex. Entrance to the site, also
hosted by Blogger, is flagged by another notice from Google: “Content
Warning: Some readers of this blog have contacted Google because they
believe this blog’s content is objectionable. In general, Google does not
review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog.” In other
words, the $80 billion global industry that is Google does not care to
participate in the supposed intolerance perpetrated by “some” unnamed
customers. Any objections, hints this content warning, will be lost in the
well-known abyss that separates Google, Internet service providers, gov-
ernment censorship bodies in different countries, and individual consum-
ers. All this throws doubts on the sincerity of Google’s recent entry into
the Financial Coalition against Child Pornography and the veracity of the
corporation’s guiding maxim, “Don’t be evil.”
The title of the blog, which objectifies children to the point that they
become merely an orifice exuding chutney, lends a cruel humor to the
claim that the blog is “an aesthetic appreciation of teenage boys.” Indeed,
this phrase appears to be subcultural code. The first photograph is listed
as having been posted by “BenWin” on Friday, February 27, 2009, and
comes with the words “anyone still here?” The photograph is an amateur
shot of two thin, naked male Caucasian children on a bed. They appear
to be about six or seven years old. One of them is underneath a faceless
older man who is holding the boy down by pushing on his back with his
hands. The child’s face is pushed into the pillows. The other child is lying
next to them, his face partially turned away from the camera, his arms
above his head. His expression is vague, as though he is drugged or in
On Google’s “don’t be evil” maxim, see “Code of Conduct,” http://investor See also the Financial Coalition against
Child Pornography at
LanguageCountrypen_US&PageIdp3703, as well as the National Center for Missing
and Expoited Children press release, “Google Builds Software Tools to Help Find Child
Victims,” April 14, 2008,
Servlet?LanguageCountrypen_US&PageIdp3644. For discussions about the symbiotic re-
lationship between the Internet and child pornography, see Hughes (2000) and Group of
Specialists (2002). Ian Buchanan (2009) writes that “as Google’s negative responses to
requests from US law enforcement agencies for assistance in tracking down users of child
pornography illustrates, Google thinks that governments shouldn’t be allowed to impinge
on its market” (151).
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SIGNS Autumn2011 149
shock. A large bottle of white lubricant is lying between him and the other
child. The children’s bodies are glowing, suggesting they have been oiled.
There is an unmistakable sense of violence in the photograph.
Accompanying this opening photograph is a series of comments posted
by visitors to the blog:
Khaam Nowab said...
Been hoping you were coming back from the nuke on Ben Win.
Thank you very much.
February 27, 2009 9:27 PM
samwise4b said...
Of course I’m here. Even though theres been no updates the entire
backlog is here! And that makes me very happy.
*looks down*
yes, VERY happy.
February 28, 2009 8:37 AM
Amars World said...
February 28, 2009 11:03 AM
Anonymous said...
March 3, 2009 6:25 PM
Jessie said...
If I was rubbing lotion on that boy I think my cock would be
rock hard.
March 4, 2009 11:43 AM
crash said...
yep, we’re still here
March 5, 2009 9:41 PM
Anonymous said...
Im here and NICE new photo
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150 Bray
by the way of boys getting lotion rubbed on them. Any more
photos from this series?
March 9, 2009 7:54 AM
Happy said...
Your blog is genius. On my first visit I got up to go to the wash-
room and realized I was soaked!!! And it wasn’t urine!
March 13, 2009 9:35 AM
shenandora said. . .
I think he is being fucked by an old man
March 15, 2009 6:51 PM
Here, this homosexual pedophile community celebrates its triumph
over what is probably an attempt to hack the Web site. Scholars and law
enforcement agencies have noted that members of the online child sexual
abuse industry are aware that it is unlikely they will be caught and are
often openly contemptuous of efforts to control the industry (Jenkins
2001; Adam 2002; Harrison 2006). As Philip Jenkins (2001) observes in
his study of pedophile groups on the Internet, “in their own minds they
are dissidents and rebels, persecuted victims in the struggle for universal
sexual liberation” (141).
Beneath this Google-enabled celebration of child sexual abuse, there
is a series of photographs of scantily clothed anonymous children, all with
digitally enhanced genitals. The comments on the photographs are cel-
ebratory, upbeat, humorous, hip: “After hidden assets come VPLS!!! (Vis-
ible Penis Lines). OK, Hidden assets and VPLs are pretty much the same
thing. But, by calling them different names...wegettopost twice as
many!!! (Like we couldn’t just post them anyway!!!)” (emphasis added).
There are children on the beach, in bedrooms, walking down the street,
in kitchens, in living rooms, talking with friends—children as young as
five, all with digitally enhanced genitals. There are young boys dressed
up as women, posed in women’s lingerie on beds, lying naked and un-
smiling in adult bedrooms, a black-and-white photograph of a three-year-
old boy, primary-school-age boys dressed in macabre costumes, photo-
graphs from a primary school dance. Some of the children are smiling,
others look frightened, and many look as though they are in shock. There
are numerous photos of several boys within their homes accompanied by
upbeat, excited promises that more photos of these particular boys will
be arriving soon.
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As research into child pornography argues, the majority of children
who have been coerced to pose for photographs will not be discovered,
just as the majority of pedophiles will not be brought to justice.
if these children are found and the abuse stopped, their images will con-
tinue to circulate as a global commodity. In effect, the Internet has rad-
ically expanded the commodification of child sexual abuse without sub-
stantive interference from any regulatory bodies.
Cruel self-mastery
The commodified spectacle of child pornography and the practice of child
sexual abuse indicate that Foucault’s (1990) argument about the transition
from the violent threat of visible sovereign power to invisible disciplinary
biopower is conceptually and politically flawed. While such a transition
might have affected white, middle-class, heterosexual, Western men, the
bodies of their others—children, in this case—are still controlled by the
violence of sovereign cruelty. For Adorno and Horkheimer, however, the
disciplinary practice of self-mastery coexists with sovereign cruelty so as
to intensify the subjection of the weak. Modern self-mastery is not merely
a break with premodern sovereign power but rather the crowning of the
strong as instruments of predatory capitalism.
Adorno and Horkheimer ([1944] 1979) identify the following key
technologies of cruel self-mastery as the disavowed foundation of pred-
atory capitalism: the elimination of emotion, the celebration of self-pres-
ervation, and the transformation of bodies into profit machines (86); the
rule of terror (88); an expansion of “extreme criminal license” (89; em-
phasis added), which is only regulated when it threatens profit (90); “an
adaptation to injustice at any price” (91; emphasis added); the celebration
of sacrilege (94); the “self-discipline of the criminal,” “callousness,” “free-
dom from the bite of conscience,” “apathy,” and “stoicism” (96); the
bureaucratization of sadism; the war against “the weak and unsuccessful,”
contempt for compassion, and “freedom from social constraint” (97); the
naturalization of oppression, violence, injustice, and tyranny (100); the
As Adam (2002) remarks in her discussion of child pornography on the Internet,
although police in the United Kingdom monitored the child pornography Web site Won-
derland Club for two years, only seven men were given prison sentences (of eighteen months)
and the majority of children were never found. As Christine Harrison (2006) points out, “it
has been argued that many offenders have little fear of being apprehended” (372), and “there
is also a recognition that the social processes that support patriarchal and masculine practices
frequently operate to underestimate the extent of violence, to collude with the denial of
perpetrators, and to minimize the impact of violence on survivors” (366).
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152 Bray
dismissal of the voice of the victim as mere ressentiment of power (100);
and the cult of strength and the hatred of women and all that is feminine
(102). For Adorno and Horkheimer, these nefarious technologies of con-
trol are the underside of Enlightenment ideology and the becoming of
“the fury of the capitalist elements” (86).
Such technologies of cruel self-mastery depend on the strict regulation
of emotion. The injunction “be cruel” carries another: “do not be emo-
As I have argued, the child sexual abuse moral panic paradigm
operates to regulate affective responses to child pornography and in so
doing masks the expansion of the online child sexual abuse industry within
late capitalism. However uncomfortable, it is necessary to consider the
possibility that this form of regulation is a technology of cruel self-mastery.
The Foucauldian critique of child pornography censorship legislation is
conceptually, factually, and politically flawed; it is a critique that mocks
political concerns about the commodification of child sexual abuse ma-
terial within late capitalism as little more than a hysterical moral panic or
as yet another example of disciplinary power. It is also significant that
while the triumph of the Foucauldian critique has led to a broad retreat
from the subject of child pornography within feminist theory, organiza-
tions such as the United Nations are not ashamed to name and legislate
against the global distribution of child sexual abuse material. As Andrea
C. Westlund (1999) argues, “Foucault’s unmasking of the sinister side of
disciplinary practices should not lead to denial of the usefulness of the
law” (1046).
I want to end with a quotation from a court transcript, a quotation
that Danay (2005) argues is an acute example of the pedophilic gaze, in
order to draw attention to what is at stake in the regulation of affects
surrounding child pornography. During the “sentencing hearing for an
individual convicted of possessing child pornography” (163), the content
of child pornography, which experts are now arguing is increasingly com-
mon on the Internet, was described:
A crying toddler is shown gagging on a man’s sperm. A little girl
As Adorno and Horkheimer ([1944] 1979) point out here, for Immanuel Kant, free-
dom is the rational control of emotions: “Unless reason takes the reins of government into
its hands, emotions and inclinations will be in control. ...Enthusiasm is bad. Calmness and
decisiveness constitute the strength of virtue” (95–96). And for Sade, “let your features
express calm and equanimity” (96). The celebration of “the serene command over the emo-
tions” that allows men “to do, and to continue to do, everything without any feeling” (101)
is a key but neglected narrative within the Enlightenment that is potentially useful for fem-
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SIGNS Autumn2011 153
is shown being mounted by a German Shepherd. Children are shown
masturbating each other. Children are shown in bondage. An adult
male is seen forcing his penis into a child’s mouth, and then ejac-
ulating in her mouth. The toddler is heard crying “No, No.” An-
other picture shows the rape of a handcuffed and hooded child.
Perhaps the most poignant scene and one which will stay in my mind
forever, is the image of an adult male ejaculating into the vagina of
a child. The child has a soother in her mouth. (quoted in Danay
2005, 163)
Predictably, the suffering of these children is swept aside to make way
for theoretical genuflection. Outing the content of child pornography,
even within a court of law, is read as politically dangerous. Following
Foucault, and Foucauldian critiques of child pornography, Danay unmasks
this description as a perverse symptom of the child sexual abuse moral
panic discourse that now governs “us” with a pedophilic gaze. To take
the risk of a rhetorical essentialism: a feminist is no more governed by a
pedophilic gaze when reading about child pornography than she is gov-
erned by the desire to rape women when reading about sexual violence
against women. Danay ends by cautioning against the “hysteria” (191)
of child pornography censorship. Indeed this appears to be the favored
pathologizing term of the moral panic critics. There is a gender subtext
here: breaking a silence about the content of child pornography is reg-
ulated through recourse to a term—hysteria—that has long been used to
pathologize women who are child sexual abuse survivors.
If we have now reached a point in history where an affective response
to child pornography is regulated as a dangerous moral panic, repolitic-
izing the outlawed emotions associated with these moral panics might be
a necessary first step toward opening up the possibility of a feminist critique
of the online child sexual abuse industry. It is significant that after ex-
amining the textual content of child pornography Web sites, Jenkins, a
scholar who began by critiquing child sexual abuse moral panics, has
shifted to arguing in favor of a moral panic about child pornography, as
well as for the transnational censorship of online child sexual abuse ma-
terial. That no such equivalent feminist critiques exist suggests that one
of the hidden political agendas of the hegemonic critical paradigm is the
regulation of feminist critiques of child pornography by painting them as
Danay is quoting from R. v. Hardy, 238 M. J., para. 6 (Man. Prov. Ct 2000).
That Sigmund Freud’s concept of female hysteria was founded on the suppression of
child sexual abuse, and that this pathologizing label is now used to discredit thepoliticization
of child sexual abuse, is surely significant (see Irigaray 1985, 34–40).
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154 Bray
mere hysteria or moralizing. Preventing the online commodification of
child sexual abuse would require the unprecedented transnational regu-
lation of the most sophisticated tool of late capitalism. This is a global
and radical project. Yet, for Foucault (1991b), “the historical ontology
of ourselves must turn away from all projects that claim to be global or
radical” (46). It is this very imperative that has become the ideological
truth claim of a form of thinking that has retreated into the practice of
intellectual self-mastery. While the difficulties such a project presents are
multiple and profound, it is clear that the commodification of child sexual
abuse material on the Internet is a feminist issue that requires urgent and
careful attention.
Social Justice Research Center
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... The logic of these virtual spaces (watching games or pornography on phones or computers) extends into the real spaces of organised sex parties, 'unregulated' cage fighting (Salter and Tomsen, 2012) and sites of sex tourism, much of which has been facilitated and co-ordinated using new media platforms. These 'murder boxes' may facilitate darker and instinctual elements of social behaviour, which are foregrounded and celebrated in these spaces and online cultures focused on them (Bray, 2011). This substrate of apparently contained activity is made deniable or capable of being suppressed in the domain of public life which looks towards notions of tolerance, social equity and progressive changes that include new attempts at consciousness raising around women, sexuality and ethnicity. ...
... These spaces are relatively new, but more importantly they invoke a different kind of engagement with others that invokes a deep capacity to engage, direct and connect with our desires -to rampage, to rape, to degrade, to observe (Bray, 2011;Salter 2017). Whether we believe the impact of these engagements with real and virtual environments and actors is another question. ...
... Such developments only affirm Haug's (2001) warnings that the deregulatory trends of neoliberalism have facilitated the ascendence of otherwise submerged cultural and economic forces to recruit paedophilic desire to capital ends. Bray (2011) locates this "paedophilic libidinal economy" in the contemporary demand for children's bodies online, fuelled by the reluctance of governments to intervene in such perverse market dynamics. Nonetheless, as public concern about online harms escalates, governments are proposing a raft of reforms to incentivize or require technology companies to prioritise user safety. ...
Full-text available
This article examines how technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation has flourished within the laissez faire regulatory frameworks of neoliberalism, and argues that political economy should play a more central role in theorising about child sexual abuse. Drawing on the case study of Omegle, a livestreaming website that matches strangers via webcam, the paper illustrates how deregulatory trends have produced an alignment between the sexual interests of child sexual abusers and the economic interests of some online service providers. The paper suggests that intersecting political ideologies and economic structures have increased opportunities for child sexual exploitation and decreased formal and informal controls, while recruiting paedophilic desires and exploitative subjectivities within processes of capital accumulation. The paper explores the implications of political economy for theories of child sex offending, which have typically focused on the psychological, social and legal dimensions of child sexual abuse while overlooking the role of capitalist structures and imperatives.
... Crucially, as power is productive, censorship would only reinforce the desirability of pornography, for 'prohibitions of the erotic are always at the same time, and despite themselves, the eroticisation of prohibition' (Butler 1990, p. 111). Speaking about the censorship of pornography is already part of the incitement to discourse (Bray 2011). After all, MacKinnon (1983, p. 644) herself admitted the futility of legal action, for the misogynist state would 'putatively prohibit pornography enough to maintain its desirability without making it unavailable or truly illegitimate' . ...
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This paper reconstructs Michel Foucault’s account of pornography by placing it into his theory of power. To explain the novelty of Foucault’s position, it counterpoises it with anti-pornography feminism and its analysis of the modern state. The paper argues that Foucault considered pornography to be a strategy of biopower to regulate individual sexual conduct. By inciting the discourse on sex, pornography participates in the production of truth about sex. Through confession, its consumers discover their sexual identities, becoming self-regulating. The result is a proliferation of sexualities, but also their rigidification and categorisation, leading to a mass deployment of perversion.
... Multiple forms of power come into play, including patriarchal power in the family, adults' power over children, and the different positions of girls and boys in educational settings and the public sphere. Institutions, including economics and "state agencies and public policy," also commit and permit violence against children differentially, according to race and class (Bray 2011;Richie 2012). ...
This article examines how technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation has flourished within the laissez faire regulatory frameworks of neoliberalism, and argues that political economy should play a more central role in theorising about child sexual abuse. Drawing on the case study of Omegle, a livestreaming website that matches strangers via webcam, the paper illustrates how deregulatory trends have produced an alignment between the sexual interests of child sexual abusers and the economic interests of some online service providers. The paper suggests that intersecting political ideologies and economic structures have increased opportunities for child sexual exploitation and decreased formal and informal controls, while recruiting paedophilic desires and exploitative subjectivities within processes of capital accumulation. The paper explores the implications of political economy for theories of child sex offending, which have typically focused on the psychological, social and legal dimensions of child sexual abuse while overlooking the role of capitalist structures and imperatives.
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Those of us with embodied experiences of gender diversity and sexual assault have and continue to be subject to psychiatric diagnosis and categorization that pathologize our acts of dissociation within a medical framework. In this paper we adopt Karen Barad's new materialist ontology of agential realism to argue that agentially cutting psychiatric discourse on dissociative symptoms could materialize new realities for embodied people which have been excluded to the psychiatric realm of abjection via gender diversity and sexual assault. Specifically, we explore how approaching dissociative symptoms not as dys-function but as forms of agential dislocation from hegemonic norms of race and gender could open new political horizons by naming relations of dominance.
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Doubling down on difference in time of stress or economic hardship can serve to pacify insecurity. The tradition of conceiving of madness or mental difference as an impairment to be “fixed,” for example, has its roots in eugenic insecurities that surged in America after the Civil War transformed much of the (formerly slave-based) U.S. economy (see Ben-Moshe, 2020; Whitaker, 2001). This recourse to essentializing a real or imagined difference and then “splitting” from the different or otherwise “managing” them thus has a powerful explanation in terms of market economics. As Lilian Cicerchia (2021, p. 18) argues in her recent paper, “Why does class matter?”, Essentialist ideas, whether biological or cultural, naturalize social differences by resolving a social contradiction between the normative expectations of the market and its differentiating reality, which is why racism and sexism have a class character under capitalism. What Davis’s work reveals is that this recourse to “fix” difference in times of insecurity occurs not only within and between social groups but within the subject herself.
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Child sexual abuse material is now recognised as a major social problem however, prior to the internet, disclosures of victimisation in abuse material were the subject of sceptical scholarly commentary. The veracity of the sceptical position has been subject to limited empirical scrutiny. The aim of this study is to analyse the content of a sample of 1004 images of pre-internet abuse material. The pre-internet sample was analysed according to the characteristics of victim/s, perpetrator/s and severity and setting of abuse, which were then compared to a pre-existing dataset of 34,561 contemporary abuse images. The findings of the study underscore the severity of pre-internet abuse material. The comparison between the pre-internet and contemporary sample found that the average age of girls abused in abuse material has decreased, and the severity of the material has increased. The study highlights the significant abuse experienced by abuse material victims prior to the internet, and suggests the popularisation of the internet is linked to a trend towards more serious offending against children in abuse material. The consistent role of the home as the major site of abuse material production poses significant challenges to prevention, early intervention and prosecution.
This chapter discusses the relationship between leisure societies and emerging forms of social harm. This contribution scrapes away the veneer of civility, narratives of declining violence and notions of tolerance to examine the harms associated with pornography, videogames and sex tourism. Common to these examples is how new media systems generate experience-spaces that proliferate within everyday social conduct but whose harms tend to be denied. Such spaces are characterised by the representation or engagement of (un)willing subjects and dehumanising scripts. The mechanisms of these spaces are explored, their increasing everyday quality and mainstream social position and the kinds of social harm that may be linked to what is described as a kind of ‘murder box’ of enclosed, brutalising image-spaces. The chapter discusses whether leisure societies both create the conditions for the emergence of these boxes, and also the denial of harms associated with them.
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New media formats and technologies raise questions about new-found abilities to indulge apparently limitless violent and sadistic curiosity within our culture. In this context, the mainstreaming of sex and violence via mobile and screen media systems opens important questions about the degree to which these influences are harmful or indicative of deeper social problems. In this article, we offer a preliminary analysis of the consequences of these new media zones, acknowledging their allure, excitement and everyday cultural position. In particular, we focus on a distinctive hallmark of much online pornography and massively popular violent video games—the offer of unchecked encounters with others who can be subordinated to violent and sexual desire. We suggest that a key implication of these zones of cultural exception, in which social rules can be more or less abandoned, is their role in further assisting denials of harm from the perspective of hyper-masculinist and militaristic social value systems.
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What happens when you sex violent crimes? More specifically, what happens when you make men's violence against women the subject of a conversation or the focus of scholarly attention? The short answer is: all hell breaks loose. Adrian Howe explores some of the ways in which this persistent and pervasive form of violence has been named and unnamed as a significant social problem in western countries over the past four decades. Addressing what she calls the 'Man' question-so named because it pays attention to the discursive place occupied, or more usually vacated, by men in accounts of their violence against women-she explores what happens when that violence is placed on the criminological and political agenda. Written in a theoretically-informed yet accessible style, Sex, Violence and Crime-Foucault and the 'Man' Question provides a novel and highly original approach to questions of sex and violence in contemporary western society. Directed at criminologists, students and, more widely, at anyone interested in these issues, it challenges readers to come to grips with postmodern feminist reconceptualisations of the fraught relationship between sex, violence and crime in order to better combat men's violence against women and children.
This chapter analyses how some of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concepts have been used in relation to the Internet, focusing mainly on their concept of the rhizome. It suggests that people should not start with the idea that the Internet might be a body without organs, or a rhizome, or anything else for that matter, and stresses the need to first consider how a new assemblage such as the Internet actually works in order to develop the appropriate concepts. The chapter challenges the idea that the Internet is somehow expressive of a new kind of politics and contends that it is simply another institution used by capitalism to extract surplus value from the economy.
Child sexual abuse is a global problem that negatively affects many women and girls. As such, it has long been of concern to feminists, and more recently mental health activists. This book draws on this revolutionary legacy, feminism and post-structuralism to critically examine current perceptions of women, girls and child abuse in psychology, psychiatry and the mass media, and to re-evaluate mainstream and feminist approaches to this subject. The book aims to contribute to the ongoing development of a knowledge-base for working with abused women and girls, and demonstrates the need to question the use of formulaic methods in working with abused women and girls. It calls for an explicit concern with politics, principles and ethics in the related areas of theory, research and practice. Using research into women who have been sexually abused in childhood, and who are detained in maximum security mental health care, Sam Warner explores and identifies key principles for practice. A social recovery model of intervention is developed, and case study examples are used to demonstrate its applicability in a range of practice areas. These include abuse psychotherapy; expert witness reports in child protection; with mothers of abused girls; and with women and girls in secure care contexts. This thorough investigation of this emotive issue provides a clear theoretical and practical framework for understanding and coping with child sexual abuse. This book will be of interest to anyone who works with children and adults who have been abused. This includes clinical psychologists, therapists and other professionals that work in mental health, psychotherapy and social services; and legal settings within both community and secure care contexts. It should also be essential reading for students and academics in this area.