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The use of fantasy and fictional sexual outlets and offending behavior among MAPs: what do we need to know?

October 1, 2021 @ 4:15 pm 5:00 pm PDT

Do fantasy outlets increase overall levels of child sexual abuse by stimulating unhealthy attitudes towards offending within the general population, or do they have a preventative effect by acting as a safe outlet for those who already have sexual feelings towards minors? What exactly are “fictional” or “fantasy” sexual outlets? How are they used and by whom within the Minor Attracted Person (MAP) population?

Child Sexual Abuse Imagery use is a known risk factor for recidivistic contact and moreso non-contact offending (Eke, Seto, & Williams, 2011; Ray, Kimonis, & Seto, 2013; Seto, Hanson, & Babchishin, 2011; Seto, Wood, Babchishin, & Flynn, 2012), however we still know very little about how fantasy and fictional outlets – i.e. those that do not depict real situations of child sexual abuse – may influence behavior and whether there may be risk or protective mechanisms for MAPs who use them.

Previous research by Harper and Lievesley (2020) provides an idea of who might be likely to use sex dolls (a form of fictional sexual outlet) and sets guidance for relevant research questions in this arena. Other such sexual outlets that may fall within the scope of this investigation include fiction, drawings, cartoons, computer renderings and animations, and sexual roleplay. The legal status of these outlets differ both within and across jurisdictions, with some being clearly legal, and others falling into a “grey area” or being directly criminalized under child pornography, obscenity, or customs laws. The legal status of outlets also affects how service providers advise MAP clients on their use, which in turn impacts their relationship with MAP communities in which the use of such outlets is normative.

The purpose of this poster is to introduce a new collaborative initiative between the State University of New York at Oswego (under Dr. Gilian Tenbergen) and Prostasia Foundation (under Jeremy Malcolm), which seeks to establish a new research paradigm into fantasy and fictional sexual outlets on offending behaviors in the MAP population. This multi-year project will provide results to help inform clinical treatment, policy decisions, and research initiatives into the MAP population. Project 1, which will run for the first year, will answer questions relating to who uses what material, when, why, and how – under what circumstances. This poster will provide initial data on Project 1 from the first sample of participants. It is our goal to introduce our collaborative initiative and provide conference attendees with data and direction for how to address the debate over fiction and fantasy outlets in their own communities.

Goals and Objectives:

After reading this poster, the reader will:

  1. Understand what is meant with the terms “fantasy” or “fictional” sexual outlets.
  2. Identify examples of fantasy and fictional sexual outlets.
  3. Understand the legal debate surrounding fictional and fantasy sexual outlets on clinical research efforts.