The Discursive Construction Of Child Sexual Abuse

Worrell, Marcia Lorraine (2001). The Discursive Construction Of Child Sexual Abuse. PhD thesis The Open University.



Currently in the English speaking world adult/child sex and knowledge about it has become firmly located within a taken-for-granted 'child sexual abuse' discourse. My argument in this thesis is that despite being commonly portrayed as a singularity, the discursive arena of adult/child sex is a site of controversy and conflict, invested with meanings that differ over time and place. Child sexual abuse cannot thus be thought of as something that exists outside of the situated knowledge through which its taken-for-granted nature is brought into being and maintained. A stated aim of this thesis is, therefore, to explore some of the complex, heterogeneous and nuanced ways in which adult/child sex is put into discourse as child sexual abuse.

The analytics of Beryl Curt and Michel Foucault were applied to Q Methodology, participant observation and a range of ethnographically informed methodologies. The Q Methodological study revealed five explanatory accounts. These were explicated as a Mainstream Professional Account; Boy-Love; A Liberal Account of Child Sexual Abuse; Sexual Abuse as Paraphilia and a Feminist lnformed Account. The Q study also revealed three standpoints on child sexual abuse: Feminist/Child Protectionist; Social Constructionist/Children's Rights; and Childhood Sexuality. Three alternative viewpoints on the social policies that should be adopted in this area were also identified in this study. These were explicated as Libertarian; Control and Protect and Liberal Humanism . Also examined were the performative aspects of the phenomenon of child sexual abuse through an interrogation of the subject position that are available (to survivors of sexual abuse, convicted child sex offenders and those who advocate adult/child sexual contact), to be adopted, resisted or reformed. The thesis ends with a review of the main findings of my research in terms of theory. practice and research in the area of child sexual abuse. It also examines methodological issues and reflects upon my own experiences of conducting this work.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions