chapter  8
14 Pages

Is child sexual abuse a moral panic?

ByDavid Pilgrim

This chapter focuses on the dubious claim made by academics that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a moral panic. It argues that the concern about 'intergenerational sex' is a storm in a teacup for modern societies. CSA 'ticks the box' of causing moral offence with most people in society condemning, on moral grounds, sexual adult–child contact. CSA is a unique form of transgression that entails a relationship with a particular social group (children) who unambiguously are, in a variety of ways, lacking in power. Stanley Cohen is one of the few moral panic theorists who have also expressed some doubts about the implications of applying that theory to CSA. Cohen's ambivalence in mind, and his endorsement of the need for careful reality checking and the risk of 'states of denial', the chapter turns to the intellectual case put forward, not just to argue that CSA is a moral panic but also to make a positive defence of adult–child sexual contact.