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Autism and Child Porn Access: A Growing Issue in Our Porn-Saturated Society

By April 2, 2019 No Comments

While porn and sexual exploitation itself may not be new to this century, it’s never been as accessible or as hardcore at any point in history as it is right now. And it’s that access and the evolving extremity of just how far porn producers will go to satisfy consumers’ “kinks” that present a new and growing list of problems for individuals and society.

Sexual Exploitation Of Children

It’s possible that nowhere is this disturbing trend more obvious than the dark world of recorded child sexual exploitation, more commonly known as “child pornography.”

To be clear, child sexual exploitation is illegal and carries with it the stigma of the kind of person who would view, share, and produce it. Often, child porn consumers are desensitized to the horrors taking place before their eyes, and many will actually take pleasure in the taboo nature of the illegal and cruel material.

But, unfortunately, there are others who get caught in the dangerous and dark world of child pornography who may not fully understand the weight of what they are engaging in. A recent report from The Marshall Project, a nonprofit organization for criminal justice journalism, highlighted the agonizing cases of child porn use among those along the autism spectrum, particularly high-functioning autism, or Asperger’s syndrome.

RelatedThe History Of Porn: Why It’s More Harmful Today Than Ever Before

To be absolutely clear, as an organization, we want to be careful not to make this a discussion about the complexity of psychological diagnosis or about the incredibly complex and not-at-all consistent mental health and the developmental challenge of autism. We do, however, encourage you to spend some time reading the piece in the Marshall Project.

The article itself notes that,

“It is unclear whether their stories point to a larger trend, or if people with autism are overrepresented among those prosecuted for downloading child pornography. But their cases throw into question some of our assumptions about men who are caught with images and videos of child exploitation, and shed light on the ways in which the criminal justice system is struggling to understand autistic defendants.”

But for the purpose of Fight The New Drug, we want to highlight a few things that really struck us in this tragic and complicated report.

Conversation Blueprint

Another Negative Effect Of Porn

For some “conventional” porn consumers, after a while, “regular” porn just doesn’t do it for them anymore. Similar to other drug or behavioral addictions like gambling, research has shown that viewing porn can escalate dramatically. And for some people, porn use can eventually evolve into a curiosity or an appetite for violent porn—or in some rarer cases, even child pornography.

Related: Understanding the Global Crisis of Child Sexual Exploitation

But the downloading and file-sharing of child porn by high-functioning autism is problematic in a different way.

The Marshall report explains: “From a young age, the internet becomes a portal through which to pursue the obsessive, narrow interests that are a hallmark of autism— a place to collect and categorize information on train timetables or the inner workings of cameras. During adolescence, the internet also becomes a place through which to explore sexuality.”

Adding that “for those on the spectrum, the internet might be the sole source of information about sexuality well into adulthood. As they become more isolated, they spend an increasing amount of time online, where child pornography—once bought through the mail or in the back rooms of bookstores—is now just a few clicks away.”

Related: 400 Children Rescued/348 Adults Arrested After Police Take Down $4 Million Child Porn Empire

So the increasing accessibility of the most illicit, violent porn to anyone who knows how to work a computer is basically a recipe for disaster. It’s complicated, it’s tragic, and it’s difficult to get right in the courts for the individuals who are guilty of it. Stopping the demand and bringing an end to the sexual exploitation of children means addressing the demand for it in all its forms.

A Problem Of Perception

For some, when intelligence soars in how to navigate complex computer systems, but social and emotional development lags behind, the result is that some individuals who seek a social and emotional outlet via the safety and distance of the internet. And sometimes, that means getting into murky territory when porn’s false imitation of love gets hardwired into the minds of those who have little experience with interpersonal love and affection outside family relationships.

RelatedJessa’s Story: I Survived Being Sold Into Child Porn & Sex Slavery

Moreover, with issues related to autism, it can be hard for them to separate the real from the fake, or to be aware of and completely understand the concept of consent. One man highlighted in the report who was caught and sentenced to prison for downloading child pornography said, “There’s always a part of me that feels I should have known better, but the fact is, I didn’t… After the fact, once it’s explained to you, it becomes obvious. How could I have not known that? But that’s where a lot of shame comes from.”

Now, the internet can often be thought of as a place to “substitute human interaction,” as the article phrases it, when the craving for sexual intimacy comes in a teenager’s development. And when this is combined with the stalled emotional maturity of a child on the spectrum who often has hyper-developed technological savvy, it can be the perfect storm in perpetuating the problem that is the pursuit of underage and abusive porn.

Store - General

Victims On Both Sides Of The Screen

The article asserts that lumping the compulsive behavior of someone who is autistic with sociopaths and pedophiles who view child porn can be inaccurate and harmful.

“People on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum can have impressive cognitive abilities that mask areas of extreme deficit. They might be intellectually adult but socially childlike, hobbled by their inability to read emotion or understand non-verbal communication. They long for meaningful relationships but are routinely rejected because they are unable to navigate the intricate, invisible rules of social interaction. They are isolated and carry with them the scars of having been ridiculed and bullied in school. And so a great many people with high-functioning autism take refuge in computers, which allow them a way of approaching the world without the discomfort and risk of face-to-face interaction,” the report states.

RelatedBlake Lively Gives Passionate, Heartbreaking Speech About Child Pornography

There is a certain kind of victimization that comes to the consumer who lacks a full understanding of what it is they are seeing. And it can look more severe to families and authorities when they see the sheer volume some are able to download. With a propensity to fixate on things, the perceived need to download as much as possible becomes, in one sense, less about the content and more about the collection.

But in determining legal punishment, that is a problem considering the volume of disturbing content as well as the classification of specific files. And here’s something to think about: while isolation is always a negative effect of viewing any kind of pornography, in cases of illegal and illicit downloads of child porn by those on the spectrum of autism, it can be a bigger problem. In these cases, the isolation is sometimes imposed, especially when there are prison sentences and the autistic person is put into an environment of other criminals. [1]

Parents, It’s Your Turn

With the increasing normalization of violent, degrading, and exploitive pornography, kids on the spectrum are ultimately caught in the crosshairs of a booming underground industry.

RelatedHow Powerful Cyberweapons Hunt Down & Remove Child Porn (VIDEO)

Above all else, these tragic incidences show a greater need for parents of autistic children—and all parents in general—to really find the courage to talk about sex and porn boldly, plainly, and frequently. Like all kids, children on the spectrum are no different when it comes to a natural curiosity about sex, and in our current time, turning to the internet for questions is now just a fact of life. But there are some differences.

“Autistic teenagers can remain childlike in their interests and emotional affect, even as they experience the same hormonal changes as their peers. Parents, who are scrambling to meet the demands of their child’s disability, often postpone discussions about sex,” the Marshall Report notes.

RelatedParents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Will

This seems to suggest that with children, especially teenagers, conversations about porn, sexual exploitation, consent, and development are essential to have early and often. And for parents of autistic teens, it may be crucial in preventing tragic outcomes. Our parent guide can help parents discover ways to update “the talk.”

After all, the greatest weapons to combatting the normalization of porn in our homes and society are education and awareness.

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Citations

Isolation In Many Forms
[1] According to the article, “many people with autism are unable to understand the hidden social structure of a prison environment. They sometimes tell on others who break the rules. They are eager to please and easily manipulated. Their behavior can be misinterpreted by prison staff, and they are often placed in isolation, either as a form of punishment or for their own protection.

But socially speaking, too, the isolation is far-reaching. in these cases because once an IP address is located and the authorities raid the house, the entire family, usually unsuspecting, is thrust into a life-altering situation which in many cases leads to social isolation for everyone. The shame of the criminal act, and the heartbreak at trying to understand it can be a permanent burden on parents and individuals.

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