Problematising Young Male Victims in Twenty-First Century English Child Sexual Exploitation Policy: a Critical Discourse Analysis

Michael Fanner, David T. Evans


Since 2000, English child sexual exploitation (CSE) policy has expanded, both in its understanding and response, to the increasing recognition and scale of the problem. Since 2011, with the move from statutory guidance to a government action plan, there was, for the first time, a substantial increase in CSE responses across English local authorities. Within English CSE policy, male victims are often referenced as a minority population in the ‘dance’ between gender-neutral and gender-specific guidance. For an observable eight-year period, specific CSE guidance was issued on ‘Boys and Young Men’ between 2009 and 2017. Using a qualitative case study methodology with 18 professionals in England, a critical discourse analysis, inspired by Foucauldian and liminality theories, was undertaken to understand the ‘ethics’ within professional perceptions of male victims in contemporary CSE policy. The key findings highlight an incongruity of existing CSE vocabulary with male victims due to overtly gynocentric connotations. This article identifies how male victims have been perceived in the ‘shadows’ of their female peers, perhaps, as a policy ‘afterthought’, with consequential professional practice. Essentially, male victims have been implicated through this gendered conceptualisation and are assembled awkwardly on the surface of mainstream CSE discourse in England.


gender; child sexual exploitation; critical discourse analysis; Foucault; youth policy; child protection

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