FACTexclusive: Diapering kinderporn, A humane approach
November 16, 2010
Child pornography laws work hand in hand with age of consent laws. Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands were among the biggest commercial producers of child pornography. Research in the area of child pornography is suspect in today’s world and accurate facts are hard to find as the entire subject has become a cultural taboo.
Denmark was a major producer of child pornography until implementation of a new law criminalising distribution but not possession over 1979-1980. Existing stocks of child porn publications were then sent to The Netherlands for distribution. The age of consent to sex in Denmark became, and is currently, 15 years. In 1979 in Denmark, one could be an adult at 12; in 1980, one was not an adult until 15.
In The Netherlands, there were no restrictions on published child pornography until 1986. Prior to 1986, published child pornography was freely available at sex shops, magazine kiosks, tobacconists and petrol stations. The age of consent to sex in this period was 12 years old although many child porn stars were much younger, including infants and toddlers. The implementation of a new law raised the legal age of a porn actress, but not consent to sex, to 16.
Typically, graphic, explicit child pornography depicts ages from 14-17, particularly in homosexual productions. The former definition of child pornography in the Netherlands was under 12 years old which was the legal age of consent to sex. Thus, the preference for consumers was hebephiliac, an adult’s preference for pubescent youths, of both genders (Glueck, 1955), rather than paedophilia, an erotic interest in pre-pubescent children (Krafft-Ebing, 1884), or ephebophilia, a preference for mid- to late-adolescents (Krafft-Ebing, 1924). Neither hebephilia or ephebophilia is anywhere in the world a recognised psychiatric disorder.
As a friend once told me, “When I was a teenager, I liked teenage girls. In my 20s, I still liked teenage girls. In my 30s and 40s, I still liked teenage girls. Now that I’m 50, I’m supposed to be turned on by grandmothers?” You might find this either refreshing or just too honest but our humanity depends not upon our fantasies but on our actions.
Child pornography was protected in The Netherlands by press freedom laws and accorded reduced VAT rate and subsidised postage as any other publication.
Germany banned child pornography only in November 2008 but the age of consent to sex remains 14.
Although the Christian-based “child protection” charities estimate 10,000 websites hosting child pornography, this figure is either dramatically inflated for fundraising purposes or the definition of what constitutes child pornography, or a child, is overly broad.
It has been suggested that all underage images from that time held by police be digitally watermarked and the law changed so that only those images would be legal to possess. This would have the dual advantage of denoting the clear criminality of images produced more recently as further child abuse and also to reduce demand for the production of more images. This would include the legalisation of possession of computer-generated images, hentai, manga, anime, cartoons, fine art and text produced at any time, none of which should be subject to prosecution.
Furthermore, the United States and some other countries produce reality television such as the To Catch a Predator series. The premise of this entertainment is rather gladiatorial in nature, particularly if one likes the lions.
A woman pretends to be underage and participates and encourages an Internet relationship. Eventually she entices him to meet; police and TV cameras are there to capture the “paedophile”. Firstly, the woman is an actress and over 18. She has misrepresented herself by lying to her chatroom contact.
What transpires is a conviction and sentence, typically of seven- to fifteen years, for the fantasy and intention of meeting someone underage, whether or not sex was planned. People, this is a sting. It’s not great police-work, nor edifying television. It’s entrapment. It’s a society feeding on itself and then sleeping well at night.
If we can condone such “entertainments”, we are certainly in the last days of civilisation. These TV programmes were conceived and executed by a non-profit California Internet vigilante organisation called Perverted-Justice. We could not agree more as the group’s name states its purpose–justice perverted. It is ludicrous and self-defeating to prosecute anyone whose direct and intentional actions do not result in actual child abuse.
It seems clear that child pornography almost always results from child abuse and neglect. The unwanted child becomes merely a commodity. It is undeniable that child abuse has occurred to produce every image of child pornography. However, we must ask if the rape of a child of any age is morally more significant abuse that that of a defenceless 60-year old. I submit that rape is rape no matter the victim or the perpetrator.
The top current world censors of child pornography are the USA, Australia, the United Kingdom and all Scandinavian countries though most Western countries have attempted Internet censorship with little success.
We need a precise definition of what constitutes child pornography, and what does not, for ethical as well as legal reasons. Obviously, we know that graphic, explicit sex involving children is, of course, child abuse. However, many grey areas remain. In order to arrive at a precise definition, we must first answer the following questions.
1) Age distinction. The age of an adult, for world police purposes, begins at 18. However, in the real world, a lot of adolescent “children”, from 12 to 17, have real sex and, in fact, age of consent laws in the majority of countries remains at 12 to 15.
Some of these “children” might also make the decision themselves to sell sex or act in pornography, or record their sexual exploits for their own and their partners’ enjoyment. And, of course, some of them might be tricked or exploited or even trafficked; why is this any different for adults 18 and over who are tricked or exploited?
In fact, as shown above, the age of consent to sex in at least several European countries was 12 years until quite recently and is still 13 in some EU countries.
The age of consent is the age at which a young person is legally able to understand and agree to consensual sex.
Is child pornography dependent on the age of its actors? If so, it must reflect the age of consent in the country where it is produced not in the country where it is viewed.
2) Consent. All sex, no matter one’s age, must be consensual. While I would not necessarily criminalise pornography with willing actors from 12-17, I would definitely want prosecuted those who forced, tricked or exploited anyone of any age into sex acts unwillingly. Is child pornography dependent upon consent?
3) Nudity. The Christian “child protection” charities, some of which like the Internet Watch Foundation in the United Kingdom enjoy complete control of Internet censorship with no serious governmental oversight, use a very broad approach to what constitutes child pornography. Many of the websites appearing on leaked Internet blocklists for several countries feature fully-clothed children. Certainly this is true of many other countries’ Internet blocklists as well.
Some may see these fully-clothed children as posed “provocatively”, “suggestively”, “seductively”. I suggest that this is mostly in the mind of the viewers of these images. If such images turn you on, you are every bit as guilty as the producers of such content. What about the sexy children used routinely in commercial advertising? Brooke Shields, at 14, says nothing comes between her and her “Calvins”. Mainstream film, from “Pretty Baby” to “Angel Heart”? If the former examples are seen as illegal, so must be the latter. But we seem to have double standards where child models and actors are seen as “successful”.
Are children “hurt” by appearing in these clothed photos or by the so-called “gymnastics” or “playground” or “swimsuit” videos? We seem to be willing to censor such images because our own moral standards judge their viewers’ attitudes, to be turned on by such images, to be repugnant. However, all kids love to pose and it is unlikely that such photos will incur any lasting trauma. I suggest that we are mostly deeply afraid of our own darker impulses to view such images, and therefore these children, as sex objects.
4) Commerce. I would suggest that most of the worst sorts of child sexual abuse, involving obvious rape, come from within abusive families. These images are then traded in a niche group. However, as with adult pornography, child pornography must become ever more extreme to satisfy its users. The violent abuse almost always comes from within the child’s family.
Is child pornography dependent upon commercial sales? I submit it is not as there is far more force and violence in child pornography freely traded.
Almost all of us have children and it is certain that none of us would want to see our child in child pornography. But the same is nearly equally true for adult pornography; we would not wish to see our daughters or sons, brothers or sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, mothers and fathers, grandparents, in a porn vid. It somehow strikes too close to home.
However, it’s somehow okay to watch “other people” having sex. There has been a huge explosion of amateur, not-for-profit, pornography on the Internet and not every new, wannabe porn star looks entirely comfortable with the kind of sex they’re having.
I have done extensive research into the court and scholarly literature of both India and China. Just a couple of centuries ago, it was not uncommon for a 12- or 13-year old pubescent girl to be married to a 15- or 16-year old boy, or even to a much older man, to cement economic or trading partnerships.
Of course, such child marriages were encouraged by organised religion to prevent illegitimate sex and out-of-wedlock births and, of course, to increase their flocks.
Many of the Middle Eastern and Indian stories translated by Sir Richard Burton, such as The One Thousand Nights and a Night, The Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden featured young teens and were considered so pornographic in Victorian England that they were privately printed and circulated to circumvent censorship.
However, life expectancy was drastically shorter in the past due to poor diet and lack of scientific medical care and it was not uncommon to die in one’s 30s. So in those few short years, from 12 to 30, a woman might easily bear 12 to 15 children with perhaps 25-30% dying in infancy or early childhood. Anna Magdalena Bach, wife of Johann Sebastian, serves as a perfect example: she bore him 13 children, seven of whom died in infancy.
Secondly, there was no formal education except for the children of the titled, privileged or very rich. Thus, children worked in their family’s trade from early childhood where a family lived in a single room. Families loved and fought and died, sometimes of starvation and disease, in that room.
We really don’t like to think about what life, and sex, were like just a human eyeblink ago. In most cases, people simply survived and were treated as chattel, living out lives in one sort of bondage or another.
We are titillated rather than outraged that singer Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year old cousin in Mississippi. (Did you know another cousin was TV Bible-thumper Jimmy Swaggart who preferred prostitutes to underage cousins?] We need to think seriously about labeling real people as perverts. Does the US National Sex Offender Registry, applicable to almost all the situations mentioned in this article, make us more, or less, human? I think it hurts more than helps. Solutions are not to be found in our laws, but in each other.
The greatest danger is not all our paranoia about child abuse and child predators “grooming” our teenagers but our teenagers, and younger, getting their sex lessons from pornography. We all learned from parents or teachers or peers or in the back seat of an Oldsmobile. But our kids, both boys and girls, are seeing porn, looks like fun, and not realising it’s fantasy. This has the possibility of skewing gender relationships and expectations in profound and unforeseen ways.
Basically, I think we have become far too self-indulgent and judgmental. We adhere to proscriptions of Biblical (or Koranic) proportions and what we’re really looking for is good, old-fashioned vengeance. We want murder or castration, at the very least. Should we be proud of that? Is that our legacy?
I don’t think the modern moral crusaders against pornography, whether religious or not, are crusading for the children. They are trying to expiate their own demons, their own impulses and their own fear. But they can feel righteous for taking the moral high ground and be praised among their peers, and garner a few government and church handouts for administration along the way. Thank you, Lord!
The potential I see for the global Internet is as a platform for genuine communication and understanding, a place where everyone has a voice and all of us listen. A safe place, anonymous if we so choose. That even includes the paedophiles, no matter how horrible we may find that. That’s not politics, that’s humanity. We’re all where we are due to our background and disposition and perhaps luck and karma.
I think we are looking at the minutiae through the wrong end of the telescope. Who we need to examine further is ourselves. Be honest: we don’t have the slightest idea what long-term societal effects pornography will have. But we need to start broadening our definitions of humanity and what it takes to stay human.
Censorship of any kind, the dumbing-down of culture and thought and experience, the restricting of human exploration and inquiry, exacting witch-hunts and creating scapegoats serve none of us.
This examination is dedicated to Thea Pumbroek of The Netherlands, b.1978 – d.August 27, 1984.
A table of worldwide ages of consent, including US states
To Catch a Predator
US National Sex Offender Registry
Voluntary vs Mandatory Filtering by ISP
Statistics laundering: False and fantastic figures
Philip Jenkins, Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet, New York University Press: 2003