The case of a Scottish 12-year-old with "unfettered access" to internet porn who raped a 9-year-old girl will, inevitably, raise further fears about attacks on childhood. These fears aren’t quite on target. The attacks, as just seen, are certainly harmful to children, but are aimed at adolescence.
Adolescence as it exists now began, as far as we can tell, in Plato’s Athens: rich young men would remain in education until twenty, while girls would marry at about 15. After falling into disuse it was reinstated when the age of consent for sex was raised from 13 to 16 in 1885.
In the article Adult Anxieties, Youthful Passions, Susan Ferentinos outlines modern anxieties about adolescent sexuality when she refers to "this tension between growing and going too far, between guidance and control".
Add to this the pressures on both genders identified by the American Psychiatric Association in The Sexualisation of Girls – the media, cartoons, music videos; that’s before we come to internet porn.
Once, dirty movies came as videos that had by law to have plots and were limited as to their explicitness. Rules were broken, of course, but now the anarchy built into the internet renders rules, and therefore boundaries, meaningless.
Once a video was bought it ceased raising money for its makers: but anybody, of any age, who views internet porn exposes themselves to advertising and/or the desired viruses in this trade that is worth £3bn annually. No wonder Google cavils about controls!
Adolescence is a time of children’s lives when adults undertake to protect them from themselves and from us, and this undertaking is the hit-counter’s enemy. Factor in abusive sex education and pressures from cultures which regard adolescence as alien, and the only surprise about the Scottish rape case is that it hasn’t happened until now.