Awareness and recognition of the problems of the sexual abuse of children has grown enormously over the past two decades amongst both professional and lay communities. From being a largely unnoticed and hidden problem, it now commands government and media attention as a major social problem. However, not all aspects of the sexual abuse of children, either in the past or currently, command equal attention. Until recently, child pornography was not seen as a particularly significant element in the array of activities related to sexual abuse. If it was recognised, it was seen as a rather small and essentially specialist correlate of a much broader and more significant problem. Although we have little knowledge of the role that child pornography might play in the sexual abuse of children, this was probably an appropriate perception at least until the 1990s. However, since the mid-1990s, we have seen a change in the nature of child pornography. This is primarily but not exclusively in terms of access to it, and its distribution. Associated with this, there has been growing media attention given to child pornography, both in itself, and with respect to child pornography on the Internet. Indeed, it might be argued that the problem of child pornography has leapt from a situation of general ignorance and inattention to one of massive media and political attention. There are almost daily news reports of arrests of individuals either in possession of, distributing, or creating child pornography. The issue of child pornography has, for the moment, become a major area of law enforcement activity, and parallel social concern.
Yet, paradoxically, we know relatively little about child pornography, and it is not an area that has attracted much systematic research effort. If we move from the media dramatisation to ask questions about its nature, its relationship with sexual abuse of children, and its broader relationship with the Internet (either as a medium of distribution, or as a factor in itself) we have remarkably little knowledge. Throwing some light on to what child pornography is, how it is produced, and how and why it is distributed and collected are the central aims of this book.
At first sight, asking questions about child pornography may seem largely irrelevant. After all, it may seem obvious that the explanation lies in simply deviant sexual interests, which find expression in photographs of children. That the subjects of the photographs are children rather than adults would seem to simplify or negate