Governing the gaze : child sexual abuse moral panics and the post-feminist blindspot

Abigail Bray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Have radical discourses about children's sexual liberation/empowerment become normative technologies of neoliberal governmentality? How do we see sexualised representations of girls and what does the sexualised child look like? A contemporary consensus between media narratives and radical cultural critiques about the dangerous intolerance of child sexual abuse (CSA) moral panics suggests that the CSA moral panic discourse is caught up in the neoliberal “regulation of intolerance” (Brown 2006) through the governance of the gaze. Focusing on the 2008 Australian media event that erupted over Bill Henson's “art” photographs of naked girls, this article analyses how a perception that the images sexualised children was governed by experts as a reactionary and perverse CSA moral panic gaze. I argue that this form of governance depends on the exclusion of the political gaze of the survivor, a gaze that has been vital to a feminist critique of hetero-normative paedophilia. Re-claiming an affective feminist gaze involves thinking beyond the upwardly mobile discourse of CSA moral panic and through the occluded question of the sexual politics of paedophilia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-191
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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