(Ways Language Minimize Victimization)
Earlier this week I had a conversation with a man I’ve gotten to know over the last year by reading his posts and watching his videos. Listening to him, it’s clear he has a heart for the vulnerable. His name is Kyle J. Howard and we soon realized a mutual frustration with the way certain words are used.
Our conversation centered on the misuse of the term, “child porn”. It got me thinking that some clarity is needed.
The arrangement of these words disgusts me on so many of levels, but I will begin with this… “child porn” is not pornography, it is the RAPE of a child!
To label video/images as “porn”, implies that there is a consensual and transactional interaction. Such as an adult man or woman receiving payment to permit their bodies be recorded and viewed by other adults in consensual sexual activities.
If you ask most any adult in the US, “what is pornography?” you’d probably get this type of response; “when 2 or more consenting adults agree to be paid for having sex on camera.”
And because most Americans view pornography as a mutual, consensual transaction; maintaining the word “porn” in front of the word “child” leaves the message to our brains, subconscious or otherwise, that it is not “that bad.”
Or many take the view, well I’m not doing it, I’m just watching it.
To do this, is an attempt to use language to lessen or soften the actual effects of this crime. And that is what the sexual exploitation of children is…a CRIME!
To record a child being molested and/or raped is not consensual!
To view a child being molested and/or raped is not a victimless crime!
To view this crime, YOU YOURSELF might as well be the one raping the child. Because that is what you are doing. You are re-victimizing that child OVER AND OVER AGAIN!
So let me say this as plain as I can. To record or view the video or images of children being sexually molested and/or raped is not just watching “porn”…you are another one of this child’s rapist!
And as Kyle Howard points out, “Pornography is largely made up of sex trafficked women. Porn itself makes one an enabler of sexual assault, sex slavery, and the like…we need to redefine how we see/understand porn entirely.”
He goes on to say, “I can’t think of a time where I haven’t referred to child porn as “child rape”. In discussion & teaching, I always refer to child porn as “child rape” in some way.”
So PLEASE stop calling it “child porn”. It’s child sexually abusive material. CSAM is another way to say it.
Language is the greatest tool we have for connecting with people. Therefore, precision with language is essential. Inaccurate words not only sow misunderstanding but also dehumanize.
Language matters and the way we use words is important.
Language shapes our responses to sexual violence.
In a recent article addressing how language matters in our responses to sexual violence, discusses how words that are used to describe sexual assault can “linguistically blur rape with healthy consensual sex”(p. 11).
For example, Attorney Claudia Bayliff observes that stating that the child “performed oral sex” sounds like a voluntary act, one of mutuality, as opposed to the man “forced his penis in her mouth.” Those two constructions create dramatically different word pictures.
In addition, euphemisms such as “child pornography” or “kiddie porn” minimize the violence inherent in such acts. 1
All of us need to be incredibly careful not to use the language of consensual sex when we are describing a sexual assault.
Don’t believe me? Do you believe we are exaggerating? Why then have we stopped using certain words?
Why do we use the term “little person”, rather than the word “midget”? Ask any African-American in the USA what they think of the “N” word. A word so offensive that it won’t be completed in respectful society.
Why do we use one of the LGBTQIA designations, rather than the word “faggot”? Or ask a person with a developmental disability what they think of the word “retarded”. Are you beginning to see the point?
It’s because those words harm.
That is the point of this article. When you use the word “porn”, you diminish the effects of a crime against a child. It’s harmful and hateful.
So what is the answer? How do we correct this? Claudia Bayliff gives us some concrete, simple directions:
- Avoid using the language of consensual sex to describe assaultive acts.
- Use accountable language that places responsibility on the person committing the criminal acts.
- Help educate others about the importance of using accountable, accurate language when talking about sexual violence.
And please, stop calling it child porn!
Copyright © 2020 Together We Heal, Inc.
1) Journal of Forensic Nursing, “Patient, Victim, or
Survivor: Does Language Matter? A Conversation
with Claudia Bayliff”
April/June 2015, Volume :11 Number 2, page 63 – 65
2) Cooper C. L. How language reflects our response
to sexual violence. Perspectives, 23 (3), 10-11. (2015)
3) Janet Bavelas & Linda Coates, Is it Sex or Assault? Erotic
Versus Violent Language in Sexual Assault Trial
Judgments, 10 J. Soc. Distress & Homeless 29 (2001).
4) James C. McKinley, Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,
N.Y. Times, Mar. 8, 2011, at A13.
5) Jackson Katz, DSK’s Alleged Victim Should Not Be Called His “Accuser,” Huffington Post (Aug. 20, 2011), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/dsks-alleged-victim-shoul_b_930996.html