Does fantasy cause or prevent offending?

Prostasia Foundation is collaborating with the State University of New York at Oswego on research into child sexual abuse prevention, initially focusing on the topic of whether fantasy outlets such as fiction, art, and role play are correlated with offending against children, if so whether this correlation is positive or negative, and in either case whether any causal relationship can be established.

In simple terms, this question can be expressed as follows: 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? Laws and policies that are being promoted to ban such fantasy outlets rely on the former assumption being correct, but there is scant evidence to back this up.

A subset of this research is to investigate the effects of the use of sex toys such as dolls or robots by those with a sexual attraction towards minors, a topic on which we co-presented at the 2019 ATSA Conference. Further research into this understudied topic could inform current public debates over whether such toys should be prohibited by law, on the assumption that they would have a negative impact on rates of sexual offending. However a contrary hypothesis is that in some cases, the availability of toys may provide a safe, private sexual outlet for some people who would otherwise be at risk of turning their attention towards actual minors. This research should test these hypotheses.

Read more in our concept note, and donate to support our research here.

Update: Phase 1 of our research has now been fully funded! Watch this space for updates on our progress, and for our Phase 2 fundraising announcement.

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Does art and fantasy lead to child sexual abuse, or can it prevent it?


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