Essay:Why Child Pornography Should Be Legal
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.
- C.S. Lewis
I do not believe that it can be too often repeated that the freedoms of speech, press, petition and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish. The first banning of an association because it advocates hated ideas -- whether that association be called a political party or not -- marks a fateful moment in the history of a free country...
- Justice Black
It is always unconscionable for the government to punish people for expressing an idea merely because government officials -- or the majority of citizens -- decide that those ideas are “dangerous” or “wrong.” That is a power nobody ought to possess.
- Glenn Greenwald
He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
- Thomas Paine
The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.
- Woodrow Wilson
I would like to thank the crew of GirlChat [GC] for giving me invaluable editorial input on my earlier drafts of this essay, with particular thanks going to my fellow activists Summerdays, Baldur, and Little Girl Lover (all three of whom have their contributions referenced below).
Previously, I composed an essay discussing the question of legality about the very emotionally-charged subject of CP [what our culture and penal system commonly calls 'child pornography'] and its relevance to the youth liberation movement. But there are many broader implications regarding why CP should be legal outside of the various points I made in that previous essay. Before I get into them, however, I would like to say a few things about CP to make my stance, as well as that of the broader pro-choice segment of the MAA [Minor Attracted Adult] community, crystal clear to all who read this.
Most of us (including myself) do not support an "absolutely anything goes" attitude regarding the production of CP, especially when it comes to pre-pubescent children rather than adolescents. I fully believe that pre-pubescents should never appear in what we call "hardcore" pornography that would include large amounts of sexual activity--either with peers or adults--that would likely prove physically injurious to them--such as full penetrative intercourse--and which they would not likely seek out in real life. Accordingly, there is a big difference between "child pornography" and what may best be labeled child erotica. I would see no problem with pre-pubescents who possess an exhibitionist streak in them (and our society is well aware that such children do exist, despite our strong attempts to deny it) to appear in mildly erotic films where they engage in what we often call 'sex play' with people of various ages--depending upon what the child in question would agree to as per their individual tastes--which pre-pubescents of a slightly older age (say, six years old and up) at least semi-regularly do with peers and sometimes with adults whom they trust and have bonded with in a certain way.
I also have no problem with pre-pubescents appearing nude in films, including mainstream films, as long as they have no objections, since--as I explained in my aforementioned previous essay--I do not think it's logical or healthy for our culture to promulgate the idea that there is something inherently ugly or "obscene" about the nude youthful form, or even about normal youth sexual activity. Pre-pubescents have appeared nude and even sometimes engaging in lightly erotic scenes (i.e., those involving kissing and notable sensuality) in many foreign films over the past few decades, and people from those cultures do not have the conception that there is something inherently "wrong" with this--though this positive attitude about youth sexuality has been diminishing in these foreign Western nations due to constant aggressive American and British influence over the past two decades. In fact, it's largely American and British culture who has this irrational fear and loathing of anything remotely to do with youthful nudity and sexual activity despite their reality throughout human history, and it's the governments of these two nations who put so much pressure on artists of all stripes in nations both within and outside of the West to stifle all such attempts. As such, foreign films depicting a "coming of age" theme have regularly become noticeably less "bold" (read: realistic) in their portrayal of these normal aspects of the lives of youths over the past decade, the first of the 21st century. I'm sure if the current American mindset had its way, all "coming of age" films would be produced for suitability to air on the Disney Channel.
As for adolescents, since it's physically safe for them to engage in full intercourse with proper precautions, and some of them do have an interest in it (though not all, of course), then they should be allowed to participate in whatever type of on camera erotica that they please. I would never encourage or ask for them to participate in the equivalent of XXX-rated films where sex is the only point, but I believe that what we call "softcore" erotica should be no problem for those adolescents who may want to participate in it. Saying that absolutely no adolescents under the age of 18 would ever have the slightest interest in doing this is quite ridiculous and illogical for reasons I explicated in a previous essay on whether or not teens would support the age of consent [AoC] laws, as well as my previous essay on the relevance of the legalization of CP to the youth liberation movement. To make this point further, there are a few instances of underage actresses who lied about their age and appeared in several adult pornographic films, the best example of this perhaps being Traci Lords. Further, actresses such as Brooke Shields and Jodie Foster appeared in popular mainstream American films with highly erotic themes involving consensual youth prostitution during the 1970s when both were 12 years of age--Pretty Baby and Taxi Driver, respectively--and neither of them were emotionally "damaged" as a result; to the contrary, both went on to prosperous careers in mainstream cinema. Shields subsequently appeared in a few other mainstream films with highly erotic themes to them shortly after her first, including The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, both of which included sex scenes (though she used a body double to depict her nude scenes in both of these films, something she curiously didn't do when she was a few years younger in Pretty Baby). And of course, Foster continued to do the same in films such as The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane at age 14, where she removed her shirt on camera (though viewers only saw her from the back and briefly from the side after she did so) and got into bed with an older teenage boy whom she had fallen in love with. Sadly, the latter film also gave us a typical stereotyped version of an Evil Pedo [or 'Evil Hebe,' to be technical in this case], who was played in this instance by Martin Sheen as the titular character's main antagonist. But as we all know, the bygone era of the 1970s and early '80s is long behind us now, and the sex abuse hysteria has continued to progress into the present, thus making films like those mentioned above much more difficult to produce today.
Nevertheless, some film producers continue to defy these modern conventions, such as then-12-year-old actress Isabelle Fuhurman taking on a racy role--including a sexy seduction scene where she attempted to seduce an adult man--in the 2009 horror/suspense film The Orphan. And prior to that, we had the then adolescent Drew Barrymore explore sexual themes during the 1990s in films such as Far From Home (which she did at age 14) and the much sexier Poison Ivy (which she did at age 17), where she successfully seduced a much older man played by Tom Skerritt in a daringly erotic sex scene. And let's not forget Barrymore's sex-charged role, also at age 17, which she played the same year in the short-lived TV series 2000 Malibu Road. It's hardly a wonder that a year later she did a very sexual portrayal of real life "lethal lolita" Amy Fisher in The Amy Fisher Story, a well-received telefilm that hit the airwaves in 1993; Barrymore was barely 18 at the time, but the character she portrayed was years younger than that, and this true story made it clear once and for all that young adolescent girls can indeed pursue adult men and be dangerously conniving at the same time. Unfortunately, such relationships only make the headlines when they have an element of tragedy attached to them, or some other type of sensationalism (such as when a girl runs away with an older lover), thus promoting the biased attitude that intergenerational attraction always results in something bad, the same type of attitude promoted by the notorious lesbian novels published during the 1950s in regards to same gender attraction amongst women.
Let us not forget the popular French/American film collaboration The Professional (the longer version seen by French audiences was titled Leon the Professional), which starred then-12-year-old Natalie Portman in a very big role where she developed a heavy romantic attraction to a hit man named Leon (played by French actor Jean Reno) and wanted to have him be her first sexual experience, an offer the hit man gracefully declined despite obviously reciprocating her romantic love and even sharing a bed with her--the scene where Portman's character Mathilda asked Leon to be her first was excised from the American version to avoid rousing the ire of American audiences any further than it already did, but the scene where Mathilda told Leon that she was in love with him in no uncertain terms was retained. A year later, Portman appeared in another film where she portrayed a young adolescent girl who fell in love with an older adult man (and he with her) in the big screen opus Beautiful Girls. With these two films in her oeuvre, it appeared quite strange when Portman publicly announced shortly after the release of Beautiful Girls that she and her parents agreed to turn down the offer for her to portray the famed titular character in Adrian Lyne's 1990s film version of Lolita, since they believed it was "inappropriate" for her to star in a film where a young adolescent girl was romantically involved with a much older adult man (I guess they were hoping that the public had forgotten Portman's previous two film roles). Needless to say, Lyne's film ended up languishing in production hell for a few years due to the expected controversy of producing it during the height of the sex abuse hysteria until finally being completed and released in 1997 with 17-year-old Dominique Swain in the title role. The latter version certainly had bolder scenes than the 1962 version of the movie (with 15-year-old Sue Lyons in the role of Dolores Haze, a.k.a., Lolita), but as one would expect, body doubles and scene deletions galore ensued in order for the finished product to reach the American silver screen--though it did include the rather bold scene of Swain locking lips with co-star Jeremy Irons in his role of the notorious literary hebephile Humbert Humbert.
As my fellow MAA activist Little Girl Lover reminded me, the 1990s also saw then-tween actress Kirsten Dunst take the role of the vampire Claudia, an ancient adult woman forever trapped in the body of a ten-year-old girl (since she was turned into a vampire at that age and vampires do not age beyond the point when they are first turned), in the film version of Anne Rice’s novel The Interview With the Vampire, where she was in love with and almost locked lips with adult actor Tom Cruise in his role as Rice's famed vampire, Lestat. This was a highly ironic role for Dunst to take, considering how outspoken the beautiful actress was in her early adult years about how disgusting and immoral she thinks it is for a younger woman (let alone a young girl) to have a romantic liaison with an older man--and how she likewise believed she was "too young" to do a nude scene in a movie at age 19.
Finally, let's not forget how actress Claire Danes surprised audiences in 1996 when, at the "mere" age of 16, she won the much coveted role of Juliet in director Buz Luhrmann's updated cinematic version of Shakespeare's classic play of doomed young love Romeo and Juliet, which included a bedroom scene with her equally famous lover Romeo (sans any actual nudity, but Claire was topless at the time, but was only seen from the back when she removed her top)—however, actress Olivia Hussey played the much coveted role of Juliet in director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of the film when she was 15, and she didn’t shy away from doing a nude scene (in fact, Hussey had played a fairly sultry role at age 12 in the English film version of Rumer Godden’s novel The Battle of the Villa Fiorita). And even more recently, let's not forget a few of the films that the truly amazing actress Dakota Fanning has participated in. These include Man On Fire, which she did at age ten, and which was a remake of a foreign action/adventure film from the late ‘80s that retained some of the latter movie's "lolita" themes, albeit more subtle to spare the sensibilities of American audiences. Nevertheless, it was very clear to all viewers that Fanning's tweenage character and her adult bodyguard/teacher, played to perfection by Denzel Washington, had developed actual deep romantic feelings for each other. Then there was Fanning's critically acclaimed and controversial indie film Hounddog, which she did at the "tender" age of 12, and which featured a rather heavy degree of "coming of age" sexuality--as well as the famed actress frolicking about in her underwear throughout much of this period film--but which also included an awful scene where she was raped by an older boy. Then, at 15 going on 16, Fanning had perhaps her best racy role yet, as she accurately portrayed the real life adolescent singer and unabashed sex symbol Cherie Currie in the 2010 film The Runaways, a biopic of the famous but short-lived girl band from the free-wheeling 1970s decade based on Currie's autobiography Neon Angel. In the latter movie, Fanning famously and somewhat daringly shared a lesbian kiss onscreen with her co-star Kristen Stewart.
None of the above films are currently considered CP by the American penal code (save for those which actress Traci Lords appeared in from the age of 15 to 17), but all of them are examples of erotically charged films featuring young adolescents--and in some cases (such as Man On Fire), girls who are "merely" tweens. And since the definition of what legally constitutes CP in America continues to broaden every single year, it cannot be certain that even these films will not someday fall under the rubric of CP as defined by the increasingly draconian American penal code as the government continues to wage a vicious war against youth sexuality, and all possible depictions and expressions of it thereof. After all, the government will poignantly argue, if these films continue to be legal to possess and produce, a "pedophile" may end up seeing them and become aroused by them, and no society that cares about the sacrosanct Victorian image of kids could ever tolerate the possibility of such a horrible thing occurring, correct? Even worse, the government will tell us, such films may convey the "dangerous" idea that youth sexuality is normal, and we can't have that either, right?
The above examples also make it clear that in a youth liberated society, there would not likely be a shortage of youthful models and actresses who would enjoy appearing in erotic films, and at this point in time it's impossible to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this wouldn't include a smaller but perhaps sizable amount of pre-pubescent girls as well.
Once again, I would like to stress that I am not in any way suggesting that--even in a youth liberated society--the MAA community, parents, or anyone else should actually blatantly advocate youth sexuality or the production of youth erotica, or in any way imply that all or even most young girls (or boys) should participate in the production of it, as eroticism is very clearly not a genre of filmography or photography that all youths are suited for, and this should be respected. We simply advocate the matter of choice, and there can be no doubt that there would be some youths of such a sensibility that they would enjoy participating in such films, including those which they produced and marketed themselves; the surfeit of "racy" YouTube videos out there featuring young girls (both tween and teen, and even some pre-pubescent) dancing provocatively and frolicking in bikinis and other revealing clothing that was produced and uploaded by the girls themselves make it very clear that there is a sizable number of young girls (and boys) who enjoy "showing off" in such a way on camera. Moreover, these youths clearly do not particularly care about the age group of people who have access to their videos and pictorials. Thus, youth sexuality and exhibitionism is a reality in our world, and even though I am not saying it should ever be advocated, it should nevertheless not be demonized or suppressed either. Toleration or acceptance of a certain phenomenon or genre of film or prose is not the same thing as advocating it.
Now, here is a fast and loose set of reasons why CP (or simple youth eroticism) should be legal in any society that purports to be a democracy:
1) The criminalization of CP is a form of censorship, plain and simple. Censorship in any form should not be tolerated in a democratic society, no matter how offensive or upsetting many people may consider the imagery or information in question. If our legal system places any type of material in a "special" category that is not protected by the First Amendment to view and access by the public, then we start a very nasty precedent that can easily lead to the rationalization of any type of "dangerous" idea or image being denied public access by our esteemed protectors in the future.
2) The argument that CP should be criminalized because people who possess or even simply view the images are viewing a ‘crime scene’ doesn't hold up to scrutiny. There are many types of crime scene images that are perfectly legal for people to view or possess. For example, vids and pics of often innocent people--such as reporters and journalists--being executed by agents of repressive governments worldwide, and the carnage wrought on innocent victims in many books detailing the history of real life serial killers are filled with extremely graphic pics of people who were murdered in very gruesome ways. Why aren't they illegal to view or possess also? Perhaps, because, they do not specifically feature children? Then again, there are numerous examples of horrifying real images of children who have been subject to war atrocities that are perfectly legal to view and possess. These include numerous pics of children with limbs blown off as a result of accidentally stepping on land mines, and a famous pic from the Vietnam War featuring a tween girl running through the streets after napalm was dropped on her--and very obviously in extreme agony as her flesh was set afire (I recounted these things in a bit more detail on my previous essay about CP).
Yet, because these pics do not specifically feature anything to do with sexual activity (the above example of the girl who had napalm dropped on her was actually fully nude as she ran through the streets with her flesh burning, it should perhaps be noted), our culture and penal system mysteriously sees no problem with viewing them. Also, despite the fact that many people are highly unsettled or offended by pics showing aborted fetuses, it is still fully legal to possess them and to post them anywhere, which many anti-choice advocates often do for political purposes. How would such activists feel if access to such pics was illegal even for them to possess or distribute because of the fact that so many people were bothered or offended by them? Despite the fact that I am greatly sickened and horrified by pics of aborted fetuses, and despite the fact that I am pro-choice on the abortion argument, I fully support the right of these anti-choice advocates to collect and distribute such pics for whatever reason they may choose.
3) A point needs to be made about the tiny amount of CP that features actual footage of girls who were coerced into participating in the production of such films or pics, and even sometimes horribly tortured on camera (the rarity of such vids and pics, and the role of parents and stepparents behind the production of pretty much all non-consensual CP, was discussed in detail in my previous essay on CP's relevance to the youth liberation movement). It's been argued that due to the nature of such imagery, it should be illegal to possess or view because some pervert might become aroused by the imagery, and thus, in effect, receive pleasure off of a child's misery. The problem with this justification to censor and criminalize such imagery leads to this question: is it ever justified in a democracy to penalize people for anything that may be going on within the privacy of their thoughts regardless of how abhorrent polite society may consider those thoughts? What type of precedent does this create for our society?
There are other things to consider here, too. As I mentioned in my aforementioned previous essay, the total criminalization of this type of imagery prevents their access not only to would-be-perverts who may become aroused by viewing it, but also to serious journalists who may want to view the imagery for the purpose of research and future articles based on that research. The argument that they do not need access to this imagery in order to write about it is entirely bogus, because without being able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what the LEOs [law enforcement officers] are saying is in those images are actually true, they cannot compose an article or expose' on the topic with a full degree of accuracy. It's foolish and downright Orwellian for the law--or anyone else--to make assumptions as to why someone may want to access such imagery when mind-reading technology is not yet available, and to therefore conclude that the only possible reason for someone to access and view such imagery is because they want to be aroused by the images of abused children.
A further point that must be made about the argument that such coerced imagery is so horrible that we need to punish anyone who may be aroused by it is illustrated by the following example. A few years ago, a major scandal erupted in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison when some of the American guards there--at least two of whom were women--forced many of the male Iraqi POWs imprisoned there (many of whom were never actually charged with a crime) to strip fully naked and engage in close physical contact activities with their fellow male prisoners, including standing on top of each other while all were nude so as to form a human pyramid-like structure. This was obviously done very much against these men’s will, and the guards took photographs for their personal amusement and to further debase these men in the future. These pics were subsequently discovered and disseminated across many political websites and blogs all over cyberspace, for the purpose of the columnists to protest this outrage and breach of American principles. As anyone who is familiar with the culture of these Islamic societies in the Middle East are well aware, such an action was far more humiliating and emotionally distressing for men who grew up in these cultures than it would have been for heterosexual men who grew up in a Western culture, where homoeroticism is currently more or less accepted and not considered a form of deviant behavior. There can be no doubt that all of these men forced to participate in this activity by their captors was humiliating beyond description and likely even emotionally traumatic to experience--yet no civilian reporters, journalists, or bloggers were arrested for posting these pics all over the Net. Can it not be cogently argued that these men and their families would receive a great degree of severe emotional distress, and likely even trauma, as a result of the appearance of these pics all over the Net, even on sites whose columnists were using them to rightfully protest what was done to these men? I would say yes, yet this rationalization was never used to arrest any of these well-intentioned bloggers (nor should it have been, or all of the reasons expressed both above and below).
Moreover, there is something further that must be considered about the Abu Grahib debacle. Are we to assume that everyone who viewed and downloaded these pics did so for the same reason as the above politically-motivated bloggers? It needs to be said that contrary to what appears to be popular belief, it's not simply a small number of adults with an attraction to children and teens who have "extreme" interests, and there are most certainly members of the mainstream homosexual community who can likewise have some rather "extreme" interests, as well as people from all groups with a teleiophile attraction base [a teleiophile is someone who has a preference for members of the same general age group, regardless of gender or race]. Thus, it can readily be presumed with a high degree of likelihood that some adults viewed and downloaded the pics of those abused POWs in Abu Ghraib for the purpose of becoming aroused by having fantasies of being in place of the guards, and even of committing further atrocities with these men than are actually known to have occurred. Not only that, but it's also likely that several adults viewed or downloaded those pics and fantasized about being in the place of those abused men; fantasies of being raped as opposed to perpetrating such acts are far from unheard of, and many women--and some men--have admitted to having them, including many women who belong to the BDSM community (though certainly not all). Yet, this great likelihood was never mentioned anywhere that I am aware of, let alone any suggestion that possession or viewing of such pics should be legally prohibited from anyone outside of authorized court officials due to the corrupt thoughts they may have inspired in people with a certain type of predilection.
The exact same complaint can be made about pics of actual carnage wrought on victims by serial killers, since it's well known that some teleiophiles have the type of "extreme" tastes where they become aroused by depictions of violence, including those that had a sexual context to them. The realization of this would doubtlessly cause much emotional distress to the families of these victims, as well as anyone who managed to survive such an attack, to know that some people were collecting these pics for that particular reason. Should necrophiliacs be arrested for collecting pics of people who were murdered by serial killers for the purpose of "getting off" on the pics entirely within the privacy of their own mind? Sure, such thoughts may be considered "disgusting" by the great majority of society, and one may argue that some type of injustice is committed against the victims, but this is no reason to criminalize possession or viewing of crime scene pics where people were hurt in horrible ways, and it's entirely unjust for any courts under the ethos of American jurisprudence to assume any reason why any particular person may wish to obtain such pics.
Yet, the complaints about these adult victims, and what they and/or their families may suffer as a result of these horrid pics being available for public access by people who likely have a wide assortment of reasons for wanting to view them (some well-intentioned, and others entirely puerile and salacious), are almost always non-existent. Nor do we ever hear any of the families of these victims, or of any victims who may have survived the attempt on their lives, of taking anyone who simply viewed or possessed the pics of the carnage for whatever reason to civil court so as to sue them for possibly "getting off" on the misery of these victims. When these points are made to people who want these coercive pics to continue to be criminalized, the response is usually a variation of, "That's different! The victims in those pics and videos weren't children!" This response is very telling and informative, and it cuts to the crux of the problem. It also makes it clear why such people support the criminalization of even on camera depictions of the majority of youth erotica that is known to have been produced with the full consent and enjoyment of the young participants, or where no evidence exists to suggest otherwise since no investigation was ever conducted to collect any evidence to suggest that coercion was involved. These statements are even echoed by people connected to the MAA community who enjoy and support the continued legalization of the youth modeling sites that feature girls in scanty clothing and sometimes arguably "enticing" poses. Once nudity enters the equation, however, such individuals immediately cry "foul" and claim that such pics or vids have "crossed the line." They further attempt to categorize any pics and vids featuring nudity as if they were examples of coercion, without bothering to ask for proof or even the slightest bit of evidence. And they never seem to realize that as long as what constitutes CP continues to be broadened, their beloved non-nude-but-sometimes-racy youth modeling sites will likewise get banned in the future, too. It's not like several members of the U.S. Congress aren't actually trying to do so, and this includes the attempts of uber-hypocrites like the rightfully disgraced Senator Mark Foley (and which proves that MAAs can be hypocrites who work against the interests of youth rights, their own community, and civil rights in general as much as homosexuals in positions of political power—such as J. Edgar Hoover—have done in the past).
So, in other words, if such imagery involves children, or anyone who happens to be "underage," it suddenly becomes a whole different story than any similar imagery involving adults, as far as most people are concerned.
Of course, the pundits of protectionism have a common excuse used to justify the consensual agreement of underagers being denied when it comes to taking nude or provocative pics of themselves, or participating in films of that nature. When the consensual participation of the underager in question is made clear, the latter pundits will say that these youths might later come to regret these on camera depictions of themselves, so we have to consider them being distressed in an entirely pre-emptive and hypothetical context. And this despite the fact that Brooke Shields and Jodie Foster never seemed to suffer after becoming adults for some of the erotic roles they played back at the "vulnerable" age of 12, as both have enjoyed very good careers and personal lives that were hardly scandalous or full of strife when compared to many of their fellow Hollywood celebrities. Further, Traci Lords herself broke into mainstream films and never suffered for her participation in blatantly pornographic films beginning when she was 15; Lords did later allegedly develop a serious drug problem, but the same thing is the case with many starlets of mainstream cinema, including those who limited their childhood roles to family-friendly fare like the late Anissa Jones of the popular late 1960s TV series Family Affair. A few youth models have likewise achieved their dreams, including Tierra Lee Abbott breaking into mainstream acting (including a recurring role on Nickelodeon's TV series Unfabulous) and the youth model who used the name Marie, who achieved her long-time dream of posing for Playboy shortly following her 18th birthday. It's quite clear that print versions of Playboy catering to the celebration and admiration of the beauty of youths would exist in a youth liberated society without people worrying about whether or not a "pedophile" became aroused by the pictorials included therein. Imagine how many opportunities for personal growth and advancement would be curtailed if we allowed the powers-that-be to follow the Nanny State mentality and forcibily prevent us from making certain decisions simply because we might end up regretting them later, no matter how much these pundits of protectionism may argue the likelihood of this happening, or that youths are "more likely" to later come to regret this or that decision than an adult will (as if this can actually be deduced effectively); one of the things we need to remember is that one of the most important civil rights people of any age can possess is the right to take emotional risks, because without this right we lose too many opportunities to grow and learn, and we end up at the mercy of the possible bad decisions of those who have the power to decide for us, rather than to learn and grow from the possible bad decisions of our own.
We should also keep in mind that our gossip-loving yet moralizing society loves to uncover “scandals” regarding underage celebrities, such as when the American press pilloried actress/singer Miley Cyrus for being caught in the act on more than one occasion of behaving like a normal adolescent girl does, which unfortunately contradicts the crystal pure image of the character Hanna Montana that she popularly but unrealistically portrays for the benefit of her employers at Disney—or for daring to participate in the taking of pictorials for various fashion mags that “inappropriately” show off her youthful beauty—such as exposing the skin on her back; yes, her back, not her breasts! Yet the moralizers in the press and outside of it had a field day with that, and Miley was ultimately being pressured—some might say bullied—into making an apology that the public wasn’t owed. In other words, Disney expects Miley to be Hannah Montana 24/7 in her real life, not only when she is in front of the cameras at their studios, and it doesn't matter to them how far removed Hannah may be from real adolescent girls--Miley appears to have sworn to uphold an idealized and highly sanitized version of a developing young woman when she signed that contract (*ahem*--I mean when her parents signed the contract, as any youth under the age of 18 are not permitted to sign their own contracts), and she and her parents are called names in the media and pushed into apologizing when she doesn't live up to a standard that no real adolescent girl should be expected to live up to.
Let's also not forget that the highly disturbing autopsy photos of child murder victim Jon-Bonet Ramsey are legally available online, and these include close-up photos of her vagina. But because the purpose of these pics are for the clinical study of a crime victim and not for the purpose of titillation, these pics are fully legal to view and presumably to download and possess. If the parents are indeed innocent of the crime, then aren't we causing them emotional distress by making these horrific crime photos publicly available? I am not arguing that disturbing crime photos should be illegal to view or possess, but I am using this as a point to make it clear that it seems really ludicrous that we can allow pics of this nature to be legal, yet pics and vids of youths posing nude or engaging in willing sexual situations that they may enjoy participating in is totally off-limits legally, and actually worthy of being placed in a "special" class of imagery that is not protected by the First Amendment. Again, this is what happens when emotion trumps logic; it results in one of the most important aspects of democracy being abandoned with too little complaints attached to it, and the government becoming involved in what clearly constitutes full fledged exercises in thought control.
The semi-naysayers often like to justify their above statements by making the famous declaration, "We have to draw the line somewhere!" I agree, which is why I believe the line should be drawn when the important factor of consent is no longer present. Claims that consent wasn't present when the young people who participated insist that it was need to be proven via a thorough but ethical investigation of all involved with the production, and not simply assumed for the purpose of "erring on the side of caution" or following the “better to be safe than sorry” ethos to the extreme.
So back to the main point: we only make sometimes irrational, and oftentimes outright draconian, exceptions to the above described rules when the people involved are underage, and this counts even after the girls or boys in question have become adults, as there is a new crop of lawyers who have taken advantage of the present climate of hysteria by encouraging some of these women to sue people who are discovered to have possession of some of the erotic pics taken of them when they were underage. I would say this creates a strong monetary incentive for such women to claim they suddenly woke up one morning to discover that they were “emotionally damaged” by the memory of those pics or vids being made—and hell hath no fury like a woman and her lawyer out to grab public sympathy via playing on people’s emotions in order to make a killing for themselves.
This all strongly suggests that our society has a deep and abiding fear and loathing of youth sexuality that is so pervasive that even some people who admit an attraction to younger people are caught up in the hysteria, and thus tend to view depictions of youth sexuality with great suspicion even when there is no reason to have such suspicions. The latter appears to be partly true because some MAAs appear to project their own personal tastes on underage models, and seem to assume outright that because they wouldn't have wanted to participate in such videos or pictorials when they were underage, they consider it inconceivable that any sizable number of girls (or boys) could possibly have different tastes and sensibilities from themselves, all the evidence that youths are no exception to the rule of diversity amongst the human species notwithstanding. Hence, they justify the criminalization of possessing or viewing any of the tiny amount of coercive films involving underage people while continuing to (usually) support the legal access to similar or worse pics and vids depicting adult victims. Predictably, the government jumps on this, realizing that they can start with the criminalization of possession and viewing of the small amount of non-consensual CP, and from there move on to rationalizing the criminalization of viewing consensual erotic material involving youths, and then moving on from there to criminalizing the possession and viewing of simple artistic nudes, and from there pics and vids of youths wearing revealing clothing, and from there...well, use your imagination, you are not likely to be far off base by doing so. This is because, as I have mentioned numerous times, the passing of a single draconian law of censorship creates a domino effect of sorts, resulting in the easier rationalization of increasingly severe and prohibitive Orwellian measures passed under the pretext of “protecting” children (i.e., anyone who is legally underage and thus bereft of sufficient civil rights to make their own decisions in almost any matter). This is something that the semi-naysayers do not seem willing to accept any more than the total naysayers are.
To complete this point, I want to make one thing very clear. Nobody in the pro-choice segment of the MAA community supports the legalization of producing any type of youth erotica where the participants were forced or somehow coerced into making the films or photoshoots. To suggest that any of us would literally support the production of such material is silly, insulting, and totally outrageous. Trying to claim that those who support the legality of simply viewing even coerced imagery that they had nothing to do with the production of as being tantamount to supporting actual rape and torture, or the production and sale of films depicting such atrocities, is beneath contempt and a total corruption of the point we are trying to make. And arguing that the simple viewing of films depicting actual rape and torture somehow creates a demand for the production of more material even though no money is passing any hands is beyond ridiculous, and a classic example of the sordid tactic of grasping at straws to justify a certain form of censorship. This is like saying that those who view pics of actual victims of serial killers, or own a book containing such pics (which are readily available via Amazon.com or the true crime section of your local Barnes and Noble), actually support the legalization of serial murder, and that a demand exists for serial killers to continue committing acts of murder even though none of them make any money as a result of it. Such arguments would be totally and rightfully laughed at if not for the powerful emotional resonance that they bring with them due to the fact that people under 18 and sexuality are both involved. I and the rest of my community fully support the arrest and prosecution of anyone of any age who is involved with the production of any type of film or images of people of any age who are participating on camera in sexual activities that they did not consent to, or are being genuinely tortured and harmed on camera against their will. Very very few, if any, people in our community would ever remotely support the production of such films any more than the tiniest percentage of the various teleiophile communities would support a market for actual "snuff" films featuring real adult victims. The naysayers need to keep in mind that MAAs are, first and foremost, human beings, and as such we are fully capable of empathizing with human pain and suffering to the same extent that any teleiophile can.
4) As my fellow activist Baldur pointed out to me before, the continued criminalization of such imagery and/or text can be used to blackmail or frame individuals by having such evidence planted on their computer hard drives without the knowledge of the owner. This can be done by any individual with a sufficient degree of hacking skills, including a jealous co-worker or even a LEO who wants to see to the arrest and personal destruction of a certain individual for purely political reasons. And of course, there have been a growing number of claims that certain types of malware may automatically download CP to people's hard drives that they had no intention of even viewing, let alone permanently possessing. These claims are far from outrageous, because it's a well known fact that malware can and often does automatically download adult pornography to people's hard drives against their intentions, so it's quite likely that any type of online material can be unknowingly downloaded onto someone's computer hard drive without their knowledge or intention.
The following are a few very important anecdotes in response to certain of my points, provided by my fellow pro-choice MAA activist Summerdays, to whom I extend much thanks and appreciation for them. My previously mentioned points are in bold face, and Summerdays' responses are in standard text.
Accordingly, there is a big difference between 'child pornography' and what may best be labeled child erotica.
I'm sure there's a term for the argumentative fallacy where the opponent exaggerates your point to the most extreme and indefensible end of the spectrum, in order to more easily refute it. And the black and white thinking ("all CP is the worst kind") certainly doesn't contribute to an atmosphere of reasoned discussion. There is a middle ground that is being trampled, and I find this to be very unfortunate, because that middle ground occupies a place where the erotic beauty of youth and adolescence can be celebrated in a very positive way. But if you dare try to defend the middle ground, the antis write you off as trying to defend the "worst kind" of CP, since to them it's all the same.
I would see no problem with pre-pubescents who possess an exhibitionist streak in them (and our society is well aware that such children do exist, despite our strong attempts to deny it) to appear in mildly erotic films...
I have no problem with this either, but I can see a potential problem with it - sociogenic in nature. It kind of parallels the issue of mutually consensual sexual contact between [youths] and adults - if the contact itself is not harmful, there is still the stigma that is imposed from outside forces that can result in harm. In this case, the stigma has to do with the sexual shame that is imposed on exhibitionism of this form. In other words, the idea that if somebody sees a "naughty" picture (or video) of you, your reputation could be ruined.
This is a general problem I see that needs to be addressed, but becomes something of a thorn in our side when the issue of youth erotica is involved. This is because of the "child protection" argument that considers children [and younger adolescents] unable to comprehend the repercussions of posing for sexy pictures (or videos) at their age - and the fact that they may regret it later (after it's too late, given the "immortality" of digital media in this age). You certainly see this argument when the topic of "sexting" comes up.
Some people would (and obviously do) argue that the solution is to eliminate any and all material of this nature - and to prevent kids from taking that "risk" to their reputation. I would argue that the freedom to engage in that kind of activity is important enough not to squander it for the sake of this risk, and also that I'm certain there are some (if certainly not all) children [and adolescents] who are capable both of understanding the risk (of potential stigma), and also possess the strength of character not to be significantly affected by it. Indeed, there may be cases where a [youth's] need to express him/herself overcomes the fear of "what people may think/do/say" - and I would argue that that's a healthy attitude to foster, rather than teaching kids to be afraid to express themselves for fear of how others may judge them.
Pre-pubescents have appeared nude and even sometimes engaging in lightly erotic scenes (i.e., those involving kissing and notable sensuality) in many foreign films over the past few decades, and people from those cultures do not have the conception that there is something inherently "wrong" with this.
Indeed, I do not believe we should indulge our culture's sickness. The exploration of sexuality is a natural curiosity, and it should be indulged, not repressed. I don't believe we should refrain from certain behaviors only because society frowns upon them. Where there are explicit laws against certain behaviors, that is another matter, but in terms of cultural norms, I think it's our duty to push the boundaries and keep an open discussion, and not be afraid to turn a few heads in our pursuit of a better way, as long as we are doing it with an understanding of the backlash we are likely to receive.
Ideally, the goal would be a more tolerant society where people are not shamed and stigmatized for being involved in the erotic arts, thus significantly reducing the risks of participation.
And since the definition of what legally constitutes CP in America continues to broaden every single year, it cannot be certain that even these films will not someday fall under the rubric of CP as defined by the increasingly draconian American penal code as the government continues to wage a vicious war against youth sexuality, and all possible depictions and expressions of it thereof.
Granted, I think Congress and/or whoever makes those decisions is concerned about laws that are so strict as to render that which is unambiguously "artistic" illegal - particularly works of art that are historically renowned. On the other hand, our tolerance for this type of material - youth sexuality - is gradually eroding, and the limitations on what can and cannot be represented artistically are increasing. I think we ought to be more concerned about what hasn't been created yet than what has. The movies you mentioned may not fall under the legal classification for "child pornography" any time soon (although it's still important for us to make certain they don't), but as time passes, and the laws tighten, and the penalties grow, fewer people are going to want to tackle such a controversial issue, and they'll be able to get away with much less with confidence. And if one such person dares to push the boundaries, he/she is bound to be demonized, and used as an example for even tighter laws, and harsher penalties. (The furor over Bill Henson comes to mind, and his work, from what I've seen, neither involves children, nor can it rightly be classified as "pornographic." If his work pushes people's buttons, then what sort of ban will they call for next?)
How long will it be before no one has the guts to even bring up the topic of youth sexuality anymore? There are already people saying this topic shouldn't even be addressed. Youths are sexual - not talking about it doesn't help anyone. And if youths were to somehow become completely asexual as a result - a result that the anti mindset would seem to favor - what kind of an impact would that have on us as a society and as a species? Think about how authoritarian a government would have to be to have the power to regulate all sexual expression involving minors (whether as the subject of the expression, or merely the subject of discussion). And worse yet, to actually regulate the way minors feel (by excising their natural sexual impulses through some kind of social conditioning). Do you really want to be controlled by a government with that much power? And surely you can't believe that they would limit their exercising of that power to minors. Anyway, the minors will one day become adults, and the adults will eventually die off, and what we've got then is a completely brainwashed populace. Children are the future of us all. Do we really want them growing up ashamed and with unhealthy attitudes about their sexuality? The minute we place sexuality into the governing hands of our so-called "protectors," we are giving up our own power over the continuation of our very existence.
After all, the government will poignantly argue, if these films continue to be legal to possess and produce, a "pedophile" may end up seeing them and become aroused by the imagery, and no society that cares about the sacrosanct Victorian image of kids could ever tolerate the possibility of such a horrible thing occurring, correct?
This is a ridiculous argument, because you simply cannot prevent pedophiles [or hebephiles] from being aroused by pedophilic stimuli. You would need to completely separate children from adults to start - and though that seems to be the direction we're heading, there are any number of reasons why I think that would be a terrible idea - and even then, pedophiles still have their imagination. As much as society hates pedophiles, you can't punish children for them - and that means allowing children to remain visible to the public eye. I won't accept "pedophiles may get turned on" as an argument unless it's backed up by a realistic plan to prevent pedophiles from ever getting turned on - and in that case, I would be vehemently against such an inhumane plan.
I would like to stress that I am not in any way suggesting that, even in a youth liberated society, the MAA community, parents, or anyone else should actually blatantly advocate youth sexuality or the production of youth erotica, or in any way imply that all or even most young girls (or boys) should participate in the production of it, as eroticism is very clearly not a genre of filmography or photography that all youths are suited for, and this should be respected.
Arguing that "youth erotica" should be legal in no way presumes that most children ought to be involved with it, and certainly not that any youths should be forced into it. Even were it true that most kids wouldn't have the slightest interest (and I'm not so sure that's the case), the fact that a few of them would is reason enough to allow them that opportunity. That's what choice is about.
Despite the fact that I am greatly sickened and horrified by pics of aborted fetuses, and despite the fact that I am pro-choice on the abortion argument, I fully support the right of these anti-choice advocates to collect and distribute such pics for whatever reason they may choose.
What is it about a naked [youth] posing in a suggestive manner that is considerably worse than an image of an aborted fetus, that we have to censor the former yet not the latter?