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David Sonenschein

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  • In his short 1987 commentary On Having One's Research Seized[1], former Kinsey researcher David Sonenschein documents multiple cases where researchers attempting to document the realities of "child pornography," or "kiddie porn," who were arrested, harassed or subjected to a hostile environment which created difficulty in testing the accuracy of sensationalist media claims.
He writes:
"in September, 1984, my own 4-year accumulation of research on pedophilia and children's sexuality was seized. At this writing, nearly 2 years later, the materials (including illegally seized legal files and personal and political writings) are still held; it was over 7 months before American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and I were able to inventory the documents. The news media again helped directly in promoting the project as a "ring," and I was charged with "sexual performance of [sic] a child" for photocopying photo-graphs from commercial "kiddie porn" magazines for content analysis. I have been fined $5,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The content analysis was not completed, and the project, an ethnographic study of child-adult sexual relationships, has been destroyed. Fragments will appear if materials are returned; only one historiographic paper has been published (Sonenschein, 1984). Comments by arresting officer Sgt. John Russell may be of interest to other investigators: "Your research is through. Your research is over. I have finished your research for you. You can research anything but this".
The 1984 "historiographic paper" Sonenschein refers to is a book chapter - "Breaking the Taboo of Sex and Adolescence: Children, Sex and Media" - partially available on google books here. Although the research community was further deprived of ethnographic work attempting to document community samples of intergenerational sexual encounters, those outside of an exclusive focus on forced or unwanted experiences and cases where the risk of secondary harm has been introduced through criminal and psychiatric proceedings, Sonenschein went on to publish a two volume magnum opus Pedophiles on Parade (1998). A lengthy and detailed assessment of how the media portrays pedophiles, volume one was entitled "The Monster in the Media", whilst volume two "The Popular Imagery of Moral Hysteria". The book was reviewed in the Journal of Homosexuality (2002, pages 185-190).