Why would someone watch child pornography? (Child sexual abuse material)
There are many reasons why someone might seek out sexualized images of children. This content is called child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and it was once referred to as child pornography. Not everyone realizes that CSAM is harmful and illegal. They may not realize that they are watching a crime.
Some people seek out CSAM because they have a sexual attraction to children, but this isn’t true for everyone who views CSAM.
Some people view CSAM because of their own history of trauma or abuse. They may feel that viewing CSAM is a way for them to understand what they experienced.
Others view illegal and harmful sexual content with children because they wanted to find more extreme sexual images, seeking greater stimulation. They may find the taboo of the content is appealing, and they may find themselves seeking it out more frequently.
Young people, including children and teenagers, may seek out images of their peers engaged in sex acts because they wanted to know more about healthy sexual behavior.
And still others may watch CSAM when they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or have a psychiatric disability that prevents understanding their own harmful behavior, or as a response to other extreme stressors in their lives. These are not rationales for their behavior, but rather ways to help us recognize that there are many different reasons why any individual views CSAM.
For some people, viewing CSAM can become a compulsion, a feeling that they are not able to control. These individuals often share that their viewing habits have deeply affected their personal, work or family life, and they may have trouble changing their habits despite taking steps to stop or decrease their viewing.
If you are recognizing any warning signs in an adult’s online behaviors, or know someone who has shared that they struggle with watching illegal content there are steps you can take to help them find specialized help and support to make safe decisions online.