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Why They Do It

While talking about child pornography, we typically focus on the children affected by this horrific act — and rightfully so. However this time, we want to reflect on those who view child pornography.

There are a few main reasons why offenders may partake in such an act, and they might surprise you.

Who They Are

A study conducted by Michael C. Seto, Lesley Reeves  & Sandy Jung took reports from police during investigations and clinicians after child pornography convictions to see why individuals partake in child pornography. This Canada-based study revealed that the typical consumer of child pornography is white, male, and did not have a prior criminal record.

The statistics in the United States are similar when it comes to commercial sexual exploitation of children (including possession of child pornography, child sex trafficking, and creation of child pornography). The Bureau of Justice released a report sharing the demographics of perpetrators who were arrested and prosecuted. Of those arrested and prosecuted, the majority of perpetrators were:

  • 97% male
  • 87% white
  • 79% no prior felony convictions
  • 70% unmarried

Why They Do It

There are several reasons why individuals partake in child pornography, and while some are very specific, the general themes include:

  • Sexual gratification
  • As an emotional escape or distraction from real life
  • Control

Let’s discuss each one in more depth.

Sexual Gratification

Individuals may view child pornography because they are pedophiles, which means they are sexually attracted to prepubescent children.

A study by Michael C. Seto, James M. Cantor, and Ray Blanchard, discusses whether child pornography is an indicator for pedophilia, and it concludes that viewing child pornography can be a catalyst to show that viewers are, in fact, pedophiles. They explain that pedophiles are linked to child pornography because people view pornography in line with their sexual preferences.

Additionally, individuals may regress from normal pornography to child pornography for sexual gratification. Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D., a contributor to the Huffington Post, cited a study by Dr. Heather Wood, a clinical psychologist, to describe this process:

  • Individuals may take on another “persona” online, and by viewing child pornography, they get to be a younger, more appealing version of themselves. Ultimately this may create a cycle where the man feels like he needs to keep viewing this material for his own sexual pleasure.
  • Some individuals may “struggle with adult intimacy” and view child pornography because they feel less threatened by the child
  • By viewing so much pornographic material, especially that if which includes children, it is possible to “destabilize a person’s sexual adaptation.” As a result, someone may experience arousal from child pornography even if that is not their natural tendency.

Emotional Escape or Distraction

Some people use child pornography as an emotional escape and distraction from real life. A study completed in 2013 looked at offenders and the why behind their actions. Offenders shared that child pornography became a “source of relief” and a way to “escape” their negative emotions or experiences which include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Sexual frustration
  • Loneliness

Plus, offenders rationalized that watching child pornography was a distraction from real life. Some individuals found that it was so shocking that it helped them get out of their own heads.


Another potential reason individuals use child pornography is that it is how they deal with their own childhood sexual abuse. This is a way for them to get control over that part of themselves. Or, as a result of sexualization early in life, they understand sexuality and childhood to be related.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, perpetrators have multiple reasons for viewing child pornography, but it is never justified. Whatever the reason, the end result is that children are harmed, molested, and abused to produce this content. Viewing the content supports the creation, therefore it supports the abuse.

If you read our last post about the child sexual abuse statistics of 2017, you know that this problem is not going away. The amount of child abuse material online, child pornography included, is increasing. That means the need to stop the perpetrators is more important than ever.

Here at the Innocent Lives Foundation, we are dedicated to unmasking anonymous online child predators to help bring them to justice. We work closely with law enforcement by developing comprehensive files about perpetrators, so they can move forward with prosecution. These perpetrators must be held accountable, and we will not let them get away.

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