Sex Crimes has an interesting post on the commodification of child sexuality and the parasitic way in which the public reacts and profits from news about sex crimes.
Mandatory reporting laws encouraged sexual abuse disclosures and a cultural acceptance of child sexual abuse as a social problem. But along with this acceptance came an unexpected reconstruction of childhood. Accepting the prevalence of child sexual abuse caused a shift in thinking about childhood. When sexual abuse was uncovered, we could no longer hold the image of “ innocent” child in our minds without thinking about sex. The sexually abused child generates an image of an “innocent” child with a “knowing” adult. We might be disgusted, or outraged, but in our minds, thinking of a child being sexually abused means we are thinking about children and sex… we can’t help it.
The arousal created by the tension of sex combined with outrage had wide consumer appeal. Public disclosures exposed the raw reality of adult sexual abuse of a child. What the media discovered was that child sexual abuse was not only a public policy issue, it also had entertainment value. Our appetites for feature articles, TV dramas, magazine stories, and movies seemed insatiable. We wanted the stories – Movie stars who were molested, politicians who were victims, priests who were offenders, day care providers who were perpetrators. The problem of child sexual abuse was not only newsworthy, it was marketable. Child sexual abuse excited and upset us. It was shocking, but we couldn’t get enough of it. The problem of child sexual abuse not only gained widespread acceptance, but also became a saleable commodity.