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5. FEMINISM: PAEDOPHILIA AS GENDER POLITICS
Feminism has a special claim to authority in that the identification of sexual abuse as a major social problem lay in the women's movement. Women attending crisis centres began to reveal a pattern of sexual abuse in their childhoods which had largely gone unrecognized by professionals.
The feminist understanding of sexual abuse of children developed out of and secondarily to earlier concerns about family violence and sexual violence against adult women. Consequently, the major themes of this earlier stage colour feminist approaches to child sexual abusers. Ideas in the classic feminist texts on rape contain powerful clues about the nature of sexual offenders:
Brownmiller's insistence that all men are implicated and that male social power is exercised through sexualized violence has been a common theme.
More empirically based publications by feminist and other writers confirmed that it is difficult to understand rape simply as a sexual crime aimed at sexual relief
Sexual crimes, like rape, can involve violence, brutality and terrorization way beyond what "sexual relief" would demand. This, together with evidence that men rape even immediately after having sex with a partner, greatly reduces the viability of any theory of rape based on notions of an out-of-control libido.
Feminist sexual politics have a number of important consequences.
Firstly, explanations of paedophilia that relate it to the activities of
all men are encouraged.
Secondly, feminist writers dwell on the family as the context of abuse, thus extending the family violence tradition. This is achieved partly through a redefinition of concepts to meet the requirements of feminist theory.
Howitt (1992) discusses how terms like "incest" become redefined to include, for example, acts perpetrated by "social uncles" with no legal or biological ties to the child. By extending the boundaries of the "family" in this way, offences come to have extra connotations of power and overtones of danger which the word "neighbour", say, singularly lacks. Incest is:
Of course, this should not be regarded as a deception, merely as a perspective on the issue which makes use of an opportunity to elevate the notion of male power to centre stage. As such, it is political in precisely the same way as are attempts by paedophile organizations to normalize paedophiliac activity.
Another major chacteristic of feminist discourse on sexual offending against children is its attempt to widen awareness of what might be considered abusive, especially by the children.
Thus, while paedophile activists seek to present "flashing" as a relatively harmless nuisance crime, some feminists define it not only as sexual abuse (Kelly, 1988) but also as very dangerous.
Nevertheless, the problem is masculinity.
Feminist theory probably has more to say about the needs and treatment of the victims of sexual abuse than it has about the perpetrator. There is little pressure from within feminist theory to explain the difference between perpetrators and non-perpetrators. Given that children are commonly abused by adults with no particular demonic qualities, the potential to be an abuser can be seen as a male characteristic.
Ater all, the rape of adult women is pervasive in all classes of males (Ellis, 1989). The high frequency of rape during dating is a strong pointer towards seeking what most men have in common rather than seeing what is different about those men convicted of rape (Russell, 1988).
Some aspects of feminist theory of sexual aggression have been absorbed into or are shared by other theoretical perspectives. In particular: the issue of distorted thinking in offenders is one given considerable attention. This partially relates to the myths about the offence and the victim that are held to support the offending (Burt; 1980). But it extends more widely to arguments against any attempt to transfer the blame to others-such as the wife of the offender. Why only some men offend has to be explained as a consequence of a sort of "hyper-masculinity" in which some men have more offence-prone cognitions.
Frosh (1993), while taking on board much of the feminist viewpoint, adds his own emphasis:
Whether this does more than move the explanation back to sex is a moot point. It does not explain why sex with adults does not provide intimacy for some men. Furthermore, as Frosh produces no evidence from offenders for his thesis, it may be regarded as suspect given the lack of reliable evidence for paedophiles' concern with power (Horley, 1988).
It also clashes with the view that some wish to promote of the paedophile -- as someone engaging in an unproblematic and affectionate relationship in which reciprocity rather than exploitation dominates (Sandfort, Brongersma & van Naerssen, 1991).