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Child Sexual Exploitation: Why Theory Matters$
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Jenny Pearce

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781447351412

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447351412.001.0001

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Moving beyond discourses of agency, gain and blame: reconceptualising young people’s experiences of sexual exploitation

Moving beyond discourses of agency, gain and blame: reconceptualising young people’s experiences of sexual exploitation

Chapter:
(p.23) 2 Moving beyond discourses of agency, gain and blame: reconceptualising young people’s experiences of sexual exploitation
Source:
Child Sexual Exploitation: Why Theory Matters
Author(s):

Helen Beckett

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447351412.003.0002

This chapter explores the relationship between victimhood and agency, and the unhelpful binary ways in which it has often been conceptualised within child sexual exploitation (CSE) discourse and practice to date. It observes how adherence to dichotomous conceptualisations of those experiencing CSE, and associated narrow understandings of CSE victimhood, have served to diminish our responses to particular populations and particular manifestations of harm; namely those typified by any degree of observable agency on the part of the child. Here, reframing young people's experiences of CSE through the lens of structuration theory offers a much-needed way to move us beyond the observable simplistic binary conceptualisations of victimhood versus agency. It helps us to better understand and respond to the widely variable and complex dynamics and contexts of CSE. Specifically, reconceptualising young people as ‘reflexive agents’ operating within a ‘structure of constraint’ offers us a means of concurrently recognising the range of biographical and contextual factors at play in any given situation, and allows us to move beyond exclusionary ‘idealised’ victim-based patterns of identification and response.

Keywords:   agency, victimhood, dichotomous conceptualisations, structuration theory, binary conceptualisations, reflexive agents, structure of constraint, victim-based patterns, child sexual exploitation

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