Can cartoon child pornography help paedophiles?

RNW archive

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What if you could give paedophiles drawings of child pornography to steer their impulses in a safe direction? This controversial proposal has garnered support from the Dutch anti-child pornography lobby: “We’re for everything that helps combat abuse”.

People become paedophiles during their earliest periods of development. The sexual orientation cannot be cured or changed, but it can be managed. This is the opinion of leading brain researcher Dick Swaab at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN). It underpins his call for electronic child pornography, for example in comic strip form.

“By making child pornography available, we can steer paedophiles’ impulses in the right direction and that should reduce child abuse,” Professor Swaab argues. But for many people, the idea will take some getting used to.

“The common view is that pornography exacerbates the problem. But the well-known United States sexologist, Professor Milton Diamond, has shown in Eastern Europe that pornography reduces the problem. People are able to give vent to their impulses without harming victims. This is something that should be tested.”

Unexpected support
Professor Swaab’s plan can count on support from an unexpected source: the Dutch anti-paedophile group, Stopkinderpornonu (Stop-child-pornography-now). The group’s position is clear: possession of child pornography and the abuse of children should be combated in every way possible. However, it is willing to consider this proposal because real children would not be harmed. Spokesman Chris Hölsken goes as far as to describe it as a really good idea.

“… because we’re fighting to stop child pornography and child abuse. That means that every form and every method should be studied carefully. If fake pornographic images, such as in cartoons, can lead to stopping child abuse, we support that.”

No solution
The Dutch pro-paedophile group, Martijn, which pushes for more acceptance of adult-child relationships, dismisses child-pornography cartoons. Chairman Ad van den Berg points out that these sorts of comic books have been around for years and have not proved to be a solution. Japanese cartoonists lead the way in pornographic work, known as ‘hentai’, ‘manga’ and ‘shota’, in which sex with underage partners is depicted.

It appears the proposal would not fall foul of Dutch law. While possession of child pornography is illegal, cartoons would be allowed – as long as the images were not too lifelike.

Emotional
However distressing it may be, sexual abuse will never be completely stopped. Professor Swaab points to the recent abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and Dutch day care centres, adding that he’s sure these are just the tip of the iceberg. He believes society has to decide how best to deal with this, even if it is distasteful.

“It’s an issue that people find extremely difficult to address. It stimulates strong emotions, and I can understand why. Your child being abused is the worst thing that can happen. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t apply ourselves to finding ways to reduce the risks, because there will always be people who are born paedophiles. It’s better to think of how to keep them on the straight and narrow than to respond in a purely emotional way.”

(mw/rk)