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Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu

The dangerousness of child sexual offenders – an invention of the media?

Le Temps des médias n°15, automne 2010, p. 72-86.


In the representation of the pedophile, patterns of identification and evaluation have been designed, put aside then reworked by the media, as they accounted for the changing consensus on sex offenders. An emblematic monster for the contemporary world, the pedophile is a construct which owes a lot of its status and definition to the media. A psychiatric concept coined at the very end of the 19th century, pedophilia was left out of the field of forensics until the 1970s, when activism gave it a place within the public space. As soon as the mid-80s, however, the figure of the child molester is reversed, as psychiatrists and the media offer a hybrid representation. Almost equally a (possibly serial) murderer or a child lover, the pedophile is always subjected to uncontrollable impulses. The current representation of the pedophile is part of what seems to be a new consensus in all aspects of the law: all of social defense is dominated by the obsession of danger, and the requirement of the total absence of risk for all individuals.

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