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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2010

1 - The modern day phenomena of child pornography and sexual grooming

Summary

In order to contextualize the problems of child pornography and sexual grooming in the contemporary social and legal arena, this chapter examines their modern-day presentation, medical definitions of paedophilia, aetiological theories of sexual offending against children and popular social constructions of the ‘paedophile’. It also explores parallels between child pornography and grooming, the way in which the internet has shaped their contemporary forms, and further reveals something of the broader framework within which I will be exploring critical tensions throughout the rest of book.

The occurrence of sexual acts involving children is certainly not a new phenomenon. Child prostitution and sexual abuse have occurred throughout antiquity. Since the Middle Ages it has been a criminal offence to have sexual intercourse with girls under the age of consent in England, although until the late nineteenth century the age of sexual consent was much lower than it is today. It is also true that child pornography has existed in various forms throughout history, from Ancient Greece to Victorian England. It is essential, however, to consider child pornography and grooming specifically within the context of the society in which we currently live, given the existence of a number of significant factors that impact on the nature and perceived prevalence of both phenomena and shape public attitudes towards them. However, at the same time, care needs to be taken when discussing and presenting the contemporary realities of child pornography and grooming.