Child Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a taxonomic term used in academic literature to distinguish most adult-child sex as a separate category with unique and innate harmful properties. It was popularized by American moral entrepreneurs and sexual abuse/trauma theorists of the late 1970s and early 80s. This influence, has since percolated throughout western culture, law, medicine and other sciences such as psychology. While modern CSA theory is arguably rooted in feminist critiques of power-difference, it also owes a lot to long-held conceptions of childhood as a unique and special period of life, and moral/religious views on sexuality as a topic which can be analyzed and governed through the lens of "valid" and "invalid" subtypes. Much of the early amplification of CSA-adjacent discourse can be ascribed to religious and moral entrepreneurs such as Judianne Densen-Gerber and Lawrence Padzer.
Since the conception of CSA, a generalized moral panic has ensued, peaking with a variety of more specific mass hysterias (such as Satanic Ritual Abuse in the 80s/90s), and continuity themes (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in the 00s and 10s). This moral panic is one of three distinguishable panics concerning adult-youth sexual contacts since the industrial revolution, and we are at the beginning of a fourth.
As applied to Minor Attracted People (particularly pedophiles), CSA represents a key development in the late pathologization and early problematization stages of the problem-cycle:
1. Identification (turn of 19th/20th Century) > 2. Pathologization (20th Century, inc. postwar era) > 3. Problematization (explosion of discourses and taxonomies, late 70s+) > 4. Normalization (starting early 21st Century).
As each stage has corresponded roughly to a specific panic, this would seem to imply that we are due a moral panic over the normalization of pedophilia.
A large, but not yet critical number of experts now hold that the concept of CSA is empirically invalid and pseudoscientific. This view is also unsurprisingly held by a number of Minor Attracted People and is also sometimes expressed in a round-about way by laypersons - particularly those who lived long before contemporary CSA panics. This article will argue from such a position.
Notwithstanding the lack of scientific support for such a theory, CSA has attained the status of a monolithic belief system, or orthodoxy that may not be challenged, even by personal experiences contradicting its narrative. As well as causing pre and post-conditioned harms via social stigmatization and legal processing, the dangers of CSA as a belief system also extend to unprosecuted sexual interactions believed to be consensual and non-traumatic when they took place. Consider for example, a person - male or female, who had a voluntary contact with an older person at the age of 12, and is now an adult. In most western cultures, they are left with two options:
- 1. Stay silent, and assimilate society's shame, as their experiences are deemed to have been invalid.
- 2. Speak out, only to incur the full wrath of a shameful society expressing its insecurity by casting them as a victim, liar or heretic. All at the risk of incriminating their ex-partner.
Despite a complete lack of proof for a causative chain in the harms supposedly intrinsic to CSA, and evidence of widespread neutral and positive recall of events deemed to be abusive, official bodies and lawmakers continue to irresponsibly perpetuate the associated social stigmas and harms under the proviso of protecting the vulnerable.
CSA is used to describe nearly all sexual activity between adults and considerably younger minors; that is to say it has "universality" in both the subject matter it describes and the characteristics it ascribes to said subject matter. According to some American psychiatrists, even activities such as being naked in the presence of a child (deemed normative in some parts of Europe and the non-western world) are counted as abusive.
CSA is (sometimes) distinguished from rape by its "manipulative" and/or recurring nature. In other words, whilst rape is generally considered to be a violent act of forceful sex, child sexual abuse, when distinguished from rape, is considered to be an ongoing series of unwanted sexual interactions gained through manipulation or grooming - forms of subtle coercion ranging from flattery through emotional blackmail, to bribes. However, most academia and legal systems are prone to describing any age-disparate sexual activity below a certain age as rape. This tendency is similar to the idea of statutory rape (as applied to older teens), but in this case the acts are held to be ethically indistinguishable from one another - and thus the concept of all such activity as rape or assault becomes an axiom. This blurring of language has also infected the media, professional bodies and NGOs.
As a result, any distinctions in the usage of the term (historically more clearly demarcated) have in the last few decades become increasingly blurred. For example, when reading a generic local news report, it is no longer possible to be sure what kind of "abusive" acts actually took place - leaving the reader to speculate as to the horrors described as sexual assault, or indeed rape. With the victim-oriented feminist and lesbian push to blur the lines between violent rape, "date rape", "statutory rape" and even regretted encounters during the eighties and following decades, many people now sadly use terms such as "child sexual abuse", "child molestation", "pedophilia" and "rape" interchangeably.
Opponents of this blurring of boundaries argue that lumping these categories together undermines severe abuse and punishes misdemeanor/non-abusive acts, thus doing a disservice to parties with a range of experiences, from the positive, thru the forgettable, to the profoundly traumatic. Indeed, despite the actual definition and literal implications of the term "abuse", very rarely is the issue of consent or coercion relevant to the term's modern use. That is to say, given the assumption that no child is capable of consenting to sexual activity, any instance of sex with a child is considered child sexual abuse, regardless whether or not the child consented, desired or even sought the act.
Timeline of a panic
- Late 1960s - for a long time, the mob had run extortion schemes against prominent pederasts and gays. There had been "child molester" and abduction scares in the postwar period, and fears surrounding gay men who "prey on teenage boys".
- April 1971 – Florence Rush presents her ground-breaking: “The Sexual Abuse of Children: A Feminist Point of View” about childhood sexual abuse and incest, at the New York Radical Feminists Rape Conference. Focus is on sexual violence against female children within the family, seen as a pervasive, if not universal factor in socializing females to accept subservient & submissive role in society. Sexual violence is reframed as an inherently political, women’s issue.
- 1973 – Revelations that dozens of teenage boys had been tortured, raped, murdered and secretly buried by serial killer Dean Corll. Rumors that the boys had been involved in prostitution and/or pornography are encouraged by Police leadership, blaming victim “lifestyle” for the tragedy to offset parent’s revelations that police had refused to investigate the disappearance of the early victims. No verification of lifestyle claims from any family members or friends of the deceased.
- Boy prostitution and pornography operations subsequently uncovered in California, the DOM-LYRIC case, and in Houston, the Roy Ames case, 1973-75, but no link to Corll.
- 1975 – Dr Judianne Densen-Gerber publishes “Incest as a causative factor in anti-social behavior: An exploratory study” in Contemporary Drug Problems. Establishes incest of female children as a public health issue linked to drug addiction and prostitution.
- Family members of children living in Christian Brothers run orphanage in Newfoundland Canada, supported by a concerned community employee, attempt to reveal the long history of physical and sexual abuse of the boys by the staff, which is ongoing. The whistle is blown over local radio, inciting police investigation but is quashed by collusion of prominent Catholics. Efforts continue however, over the next decade.
- 1974–76 – Pederast network shut down by police investigation and successful prosecution of several principle conspirators, revealed in three linked cases: the New Orleans Boy Scout troop (Halvorsen), the Tennessee Boy’s Farm (Vermylie) and Brother Paul’s Christian Mission – Michigan (Gerald Richards). Dozens of boys aged 10-19 years linked with multiple men in prostitution and pornography operations over the previous 5 years. Perpetrators ran charities providing services to “wayward” or delinquent boys previously identified as juvenile prostitutes, including short and long term crisis housing. Images of the victims published as pornography.
- 1977–79 – Densen-Gerber and Det. Lloyd Martin (LAPD) aggressively lobby state and federal legislators for new laws effectively banning and criminalizing possession or sale of child pornography. Heavy print media coverage of these issues, multiple hearings with testimony from various social sciences experts, incarcerated perpetrators, models. Victimization of children in state or private custody of various kinds is a secondary focus.
- 1978 – John Wayne Gacy confessed to police that since 1972, he had sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered approximately 25 to 30 teenage male, whom he falsely claimed were all runaways or male prostitutes, burying many of them in a crawlspace under his home.
- 1979 – Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy publishes “The Public School Phenomenon” in the UK, documenting a long history & culture of relationships between older and younger students, as well as violence perpetrated on residents by other residents and staff.
- 1980 – Lawrence Pazder publishes Michelle Remembers, inventing the terminology and concepts of Satanic Ritual Abuse/Ritual Abuse/Ritualized Abuse. Pazder attempts to have Michelle Smith declared a living saint by the Vatican.
- 1982-86 - Johnny Gosch and a succession of other Des Moines teenage boys go missing over the following years. Speculation is rife as to organized pedophile conspiracy.
- 1983 – the first adult women claiming to be survivors of SRA are being evaluated and studied by psychiatric staff in California. Allegations are of long term sadistic abuse by satanic family cult members, with supernatural elements and frequent diagnosis of the previously rare Multiple Personality Disorder.
- 1985 – media coverage of CSA issues is entirely focused on women’s allegations of satanic cult abuse and mind control in childhood, or large-scale daycare abuse accusation cases with allegations by some parents that children have revealed SRA victimization. Child protection resources are also dominated by cases of this nature, as are police child sex crime investigation resources, and psychiatric treatment/ therapy services for women and child sexual abuse victims. This social situation persists throughout the decade.
Is there real CSA?
It can not be denied that some seriously harmful acts do involve both coercion and genital contact, so in essence, they are both sexual (in the conventional, erogenous sense) and abusive. However, as already explained, stigma/iatrogenesis is the source of all harms exceeding intrinsic physical and psychological traumas, meaning the "CSA category" is in essence a completely unwarranted "nativization" of cultural baggage. As repeatedly identified by Bruce Rind, erotophobia and antisexualism (morality) is assimilated into the scientific and public discourse, resulting in a series of absurd pseudo-objective ethical circulars. These circular arguments live-real, as a series of self-fulfilling prophecies such as the consenting juvenile (often a female) who goes on to earnestly believe she is a victim of rape, due to misogynistic sex stigma. It is perhaps this unfortunate circumstance that is best described as real sexual abuse, since the resulting moral conflicts are capitalized upon by power-hungry elites and special-interest lobbies, at the expense of a person's capacity to feel erotic pleasure.
Debunking CSA as a concept
- Bruce Rind is perhaps the one researcher who has statistically challenged the concept of CSA with a thorough, controlled analysis of its characteristics and their relationships with one another.
- Research - A portal containing many references on CSA.
- David Finkelhor - A key proponent of CSA as a concept (and axiom).
- List of obfuscatory terms used by authorities
- Child Pornography - Laws and research on the true nature of Child Pornography are linked.
- Adult-child sex
- CSA - Wikipedia presents a victimological perspective.
- John Henley in The Guardian - Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light - Distinguishes Pedophilia from CSA and challenges the outcomes of CSA.