The Science of Sex Abuse
January 7, 2013 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Is it right to imprison people for heinous crimes they have not yet committed?
posted by winecork (125 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
No?
posted by fifthrider at 3:53 PM on January 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think that 'question in the article title' rule applies here.
posted by pompomtom at 3:54 PM on January 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


pompomtom: It's the subheadline of the original article. The headline is "The Science of Sex Abuse"
posted by winecork at 3:56 PM on January 7, 2013


What the heck is a "child-pornography chatroom?"
posted by Autumn at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2013


What the heck is a "child-pornography chatroom?"

Most of EFNET.
posted by Talez at 4:05 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


[tricky topic folks, we can't make you read the article but we can suggest that you might want to.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:07 PM on January 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


"...that John had roughly a 24.7-per-cent chance of reoffending within five years..."

Hey, everybody, psychology can now predict individual behavior over a period of 5 years to three places! Based on 60 samples! My only real question here is why isn't the prosecution's forensic psychologist expert Amy Phenix working in advertising, 'cause if she's got that level of predictive abilities there's a whole world of A/B testing that'd just be a waste.
posted by straw at 4:10 PM on January 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


No, it is not right.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:12 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it's a cliche, but when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And our current, broken, justice system pretty much only has one tool in it. So imagine trying to do home repairs with only a set of C-clamps, and when something isn't working, the only option you have in mind is "tighten the clamps a little more."

That's sort of where we are when attempting to solve real psychological problems with jail time.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


Hey, everybody, psychology can now predict individual behavior over a period of 5 years to three places! Based on 60 samples!

Well, they did say roughly.
posted by axiom at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Another one of these droll, long true-crime catch a predator articles.
posted by Catblack at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2013


Another one of these droll, long true-crime catch a predator articles.

You might want to actually read it first.
posted by Floydd at 4:19 PM on January 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


That is just a sad article, whichever way you cut the political implications of which there are many.

The two true things that jumped out at me there, were when he said he had a pornography addiction (I just came across the TedTalk guy who has yourbrainonporn.com, which is fascinating and as a man and dad of boys, something of concern), and when he says "man there is something wrong with me", meaning something in his functioning that is just not right.
posted by C.A.S. at 4:21 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another one of these droll, long true-crime catch a predator articles.

It's a real problem though. There are actual people, here in this world, who fit into this category, and there's no good solution in the intersection between the justice system, psychology, and society. That's why we end up doing things like making it illegal for released sexual predators to live literally anywhere in a city or keeping them in jail long after their prison terms are up.
posted by zachlipton at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.
posted by mullingitover at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


On dozens of pages, he listed books, movies, and art featuring child sexuality, including the Kama Sutra, “Lolita,” “Taxi Driver,” and the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, and Lewis Carroll. “Obscene to who?” he wrote. “Community standard (what community?).”

He also listed the traits of the quintessential sex offender: “social loner,” “often balding,” “overweight or pot belly,” “working a job below their academic achievement.” Apparently recognizing himself in the description, John jotted down items necessary for his “disguise kit.” He would need makeup to alter his skin tone, a wig, colored contact lenses, fake tattoos, and a mustache. On the next page were more notes on how to escape detection: “Don’t become predictable, use widely scattered hot spots”; “Try ultra small flash drives”; “Use proxies (anonymous), wireless? minimal info”; “Avoid uploading—that’s how they got ya.”
...this is so ludicrously self-incriminating that I have to think that it's either faked up or that this man should never consider any form of criminal activity ever again and/or run with scissors.
posted by jaduncan at 4:30 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


jaduncan, you did see that inmates were intentionally gaming the psychologists to stay in Butner rather than being released back in to the abuse of the general prison population, right?
posted by straw at 4:31 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hadn't got down that far, but I just have and that makes a lot of sense then. Wow, what a mess.
posted by jaduncan at 4:34 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The approach taken in Canada is Dangerous Offender status. Prisoners are deemed dangerous offenders ifit isconsidered too dangerous to the public for them ever to be released. They remain in prison indefinitely beyond the end of their sentences, subject to judicial review every seven years. Very few prisoners (~20/year) are given this status. The Canadian Supreme Court has upheld this approach:

"The individual, on a finding of guilty, is being sentenced for the 'serious personal injury offence' for which he was convicted, albeit in a different way than would ordinarily be done. He is not being punished for what he might do. The punishment flows from the actual commission of a specific offence."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:34 PM on January 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Louis Theroux made a documentary about a California mental hospital where men like John are indefinitely housed. It's available on YouTube and it's worth a watch. [Trigger warning] should go without saying, but just in case... yeah.
posted by desjardins at 4:47 PM on January 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


One interesting thing in the documentary - they can't force men into treatment, so something like 2/3rds of the men have chosen not to participate at all, meaning they have no chance to be released.
posted by desjardins at 4:49 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Child pornography is not a victimless crime. Children are abused to make it. Demand spurs its creation. So yes, he didn't personally molest anyone, but his actions, in part, led to someone being molested. And he did commit a crime - possession of child porn is criminal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


You didn't read the article.
posted by desjardins at 4:57 PM on January 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


I can appreciate the legal complexities and dangers inherent in theses cases, but I also cringe at the idea of someone who embraces and excuses his pedophilia just walking around until he gets up enough nerve to finally hurt a kid. He did go to that park to rape a kid. He did talk about going to Mexico or Cambodia to rape kids. He fantasizes about raping kids. The porn he looked at was made from actual victimization of children.

Would he actually do it? Even he doesn't know. Do we just turn him loose and hope he never does it?
posted by emjaybee at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "So yes, he didn't personally molest anyone, but his actions, in part, led to someone being molested."

This seems to be at best impossible to prove.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:59 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are definitely flaws in our criminal justice system, but to answer the leading question, yes, sometimes you can imprison someone for a crime they didn't complete.

Like attempted murder. Or planning to blow up a school.

Or attempting to have sex with a fourteen year-old.

A more accurate (but less pithy) title would be "Is it okay to continue to detain someone who has completed their sentence but may pose a continuing threat to society?"
posted by justkevin at 5:03 PM on January 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Another way to think about this is why don't we pre-emptively lock people up for other crimes? From the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).
Yes, child abuse is infinitely more serious than car theft, but as far as I know there's no attempt to keep other inmates in prison after their sentence is served. I'm not defending anyone; this is just an interesting thought experiment.
posted by desjardins at 5:05 PM on January 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


No. Next question.
posted by mediocre at 5:06 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just came across the TedTalk guy who has yourbrainonporn.com
I thought that dried up when people started asking what his credentials were
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:07 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn. What a tough subject. In theory, I object to indefinite confinement, because it seems like it could lead down a slippery slope. But I'm having a really hard time sympathizing with this guy. At no point did he come to the conclusion that what he did was wrong. How do you treat a person like that? And what is to say that he wouldn't re-offend, if given the chance? Hell, after his first prison sentence, he was talking about going to Cambodia to make child porn!
posted by Afroblanco at 5:08 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those Bureau of Justice stats show something else that's interesting. It doesn't separate out child porn offenders (I'm actually not sure what category that fits into, since "rape" and "other sexual assault" goes under "violent offenses", and I don't think child porn goes in there), but it shows that rapists have a recidivism rate of 27.4% (re-convicted for any crime), while "other sexual assault" convicts have a recidivism rate of 22.3%.

If people who have already raped or committed sexual assault re-offend some 25% of the time, it seems unreasonable to keep people in jail indefinitely because of their risk of doing something they've never done before.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:15 PM on January 7, 2013


desjardins: “Yes, child abuse is infinitely more serious than car theft, but as far as I know there's no attempt to keep other inmates in prison after their sentence is served. I'm not defending anyone; this is just an interesting thought experiment.”

Well, a huge difference that this glosses over is the pathology behind child abuse, as opposed to car theft. If a prisoner about to be released after serving time for car theft papered the walls of her cell with pictures of cars and had a collection of books about stealing cars, if she drew pictures of people stealing cars and wrote letters to other car thieves, if she generally just evinced a complete obsession with stealing cars, well – I would not say she should be incarcerated indefinitely. I would say that she deserved continuing treatment and a close watch.

And that's the gap here, isn't it? The US system of justice is so bent toward punishment through harsh incarceration that the idea of treatment doesn't enter into it at all. When people clearly still struggle with pedophilia even though they've served their time, the only thing we can think to do is keep them in prison. But there should be midway points – government-funded midway points – that help people reintegrate into society. If John in the article is kept away from children and the internet, it seems like he can probably have a happy life, right? So why is it so hard to offer people solutions where they're given that supervision and that living situation?

By the way, while I think theft and possession of illegal weapons and such aren't really great analogues to pedophilia in the justice system, there is one area that involves similar struggles: drug use. We don't keep them in prison indefinitely (or at least not officially) but we often throw ex-convict addicts into the same void we throw pedophiles into after their release. It should be possible for addicts to find a way to live a productive life by getting adequate treatment before and after their release; and the same should be available to pedophiles.
posted by koeselitz at 5:20 PM on January 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


There isn't an easy answer. If someone has a history of violent or dangerous behaviour, and they're an incorrigible or extremely high-risk offender, it may well be in society's interest to lock them up indefinitely. There are drunk drivers who have dozens of convictions and keep getting out of prison, and then kill someone. Keeping them in prison wouldn't be punishment for crimes they hadn't committed, but punishment for those they had committed, with an emphasis on keeping society safe. There are dangerous offenders who should not have recourse to parole, ever. But the standard for that kind of incarceration should be high. "John," discussed in the article, doesn't come close to meeting that standard, IMO.
posted by Dasein at 5:21 PM on January 7, 2013


There are definitely flaws in our criminal justice system, but to answer the leading question, yes, sometimes you can imprison someone for a crime they didn't complete.
Like attempted murder. Or planning to blow up a school.
Or attempting to have sex with a fourteen year-old.


Yes and no. You can imprison someone for genuinely trying and failing to commit a crime, and you don't get a lighter sentence for incompetence in your criminality. This is the "crime they didn't complete" part. But that's not what's on the table here. What's being asked is whether you can imprison someone for a hypothetical future crime that has not even reached the arena of planning, let alone the substantial step required for criminal liability, on the basis of a statistical guess that they might someday do one.

Which, no, you should not be able to do that.

Child pornography is not a victimless crime. Children are abused to make it. Demand spurs its creation. So yes, he didn't personally molest anyone, but his actions, in part, led to someone being molested.

As said, this is at best a claim impossible to even attempt to prove. There is no financial inducement, there is no active encouragement, you have a person anonymously downloading some data, for free, and claiming that this is contributes in any measurable way to the production of similar data in the future. This is an argument that criminalizes being part of a passive audience. This is an argument that is nonsense. It's also an argument that is applied to child pornography and nothing else, ever - watching a Faces Of Death tape does not make you an accessory to murder, and nor should it.
posted by kafziel at 5:25 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it's super fucked up to detain people beyond their criminal sentence. If it weren't, the criminal sentence would be a lot longer.
posted by wrok at 5:27 PM on January 7, 2013


It occurs to me that Slate did something on treatment of pedophiles as a preventative measure recently.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:28 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is an incredibly difficult topic to broach from any perspective. Parts of me say that for these individuals for whom a lifelong struggle against their sexual urges towards children has existed but has yet to lead to any crime directly or by proxy the best thing for them to do is submit to constant surveillance to keep their urges from becoming anything more nefarious. But this is the best case, least common scenario where the person with the pedophiliac tendancies acknowledges their problem before it becomes criminal. Like it or not, there are some people who struggle against their urges, knowing they are wrong, only indulging in the form of erotic fiction which for better or worse is a totally victimless form of pedo-erotica.

Then there are the others who acknowledge their sexual urges, but seek to legitimize it. Arguing that their sexual needs are inborn, no more deviant than that of the homosexual and that time will prove their sexuality uncommon but not criminal as it has with homosexuality. These types are often capable of leading semi-normal lives, while indulging in the uber-creepy but not technically illegal sites of semisexual images of children AKA jailbait sites.

Both types acknowledge what they desire is not acceptable in this society. The latter may travel abroad to places where it is less strictly enforced which is a slippery slope at best. The former will likely never have a normal, healthy adult relationship but with proper therapy available to them may be able to live a life without ever damaging the life of an innocent.

The prospect of chemical castration is something I have always wondered what other people thought of in these scenarios. I know it is considered an archaic, even cruel form of punishment. But if someone acknowledges their deviant urges and as a means of attempting to lead a life less likely to cause harm should the justice system offer chemical castration as a means to help them? Or should it sit back and wait for harm to occur? It's a difficult, difficult uncomfortable topic. But as a victim of child abuse, I don't feel that anyone should be denied the right to attempt to live as normal as they can as long as they find a means of not causing harm through their sexual urges. Prosecute vigorously should crime occur, but help the individual who seeks help for their mental illness.. which for better or worse, I do believe pedophilia to be.

I've read the arguments of people who fall into the latter category I mentioned above who think that time will prove them to be no more deviant then homosexuals and often site historic examples of adult/child relationships or how in different times sexual maturity was closer to ten years old then twenty years as it is today. I can not personally accept these arguments, but that's just me. I'm curious what others think of them however once they are able to get past the knee-jerk reaction of "NO!"
posted by mediocre at 5:30 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: “Child pornography is not a victimless crime. Children are abused to make it. Demand spurs its creation. So yes, he didn't personally molest anyone, but his actions, in part, led to someone being molested.”

kafziel: “As said, this is at best a claim impossible to even attempt to prove. There is no financial inducement, there is no active encouragement, you have a person anonymously downloading some data, for free, and claiming that this is contributes in any measurable way to the production of similar data in the future. This is an argument that criminalizes being part of a passive audience. This is an argument that is nonsense. It's also an argument that is applied to child pornography and nothing else, ever - watching a Faces Of Death tape does not make you an accessory to murder, and nor should it.”

I disagree. The internet is not an anonymous collection of data; it is people interacting. As this article illustrates well, child porn sites on the internet are communities, they network with each other, and they provide the incentive for child pornographers. We have an interest in seeing those communities broken up and disbanded, so that the systems that lead to people making child pornography are disrupted. And I think that, when people are found possessing pornography made using children, they need to be mandated treatment, and sometimes punished.

But as others have said, this has absolutely nothing to do with the article, which was not about whether people should be punished for possessing child pornography.
posted by koeselitz at 5:38 PM on January 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


"...that John had roughly a 24.7-per-cent chance of reoffending within five years..."
Hey, everybody, psychology can now predict individual behavior over a period of 5 years to three places!


Um, the point of giving a percentage chance is that psychology can *not* predict individual behavior. The statistic means that if you have four individuals showing certain characteristics one is likely to reoffend.

I understand you may have problems with the data set they're using, but psychologists live in the same world of statistics everyone else does.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:39 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As said, this is at best a claim impossible to even attempt to prove. There is no financial inducement, there is no active encouragement, you have a person anonymously downloading some data, for free, and claiming that this is contributes in any measurable way to the production of similar data in the future. This is an argument that criminalizes being part of a passive audience. This is an argument that is nonsense. It's also an argument that is applied to child pornography and nothing else, ever - watching a Faces Of Death tape does not make you an accessory to murder, and nor should it.

Disagreed. If there's no strong deterrent to trafficking child porn, that creates a huge market for it! Even if making the pornography is still illegal, if you lower the risk of possessing it, some people may be more likely to download it. Suddenly, there's a greater incentive to produce the product, since you have a larger and more brazen customer base -- one that may be less hesitant to actually hand over their money.

As for the Faces of Death comparison -- correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't all that material come from footage that was either publicly accessible or accidentally captured? Anything else would be a snuff film, which I do believe is illegal to possess.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:39 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But as others have said, this has absolutely nothing to do with the article, which was not about whether people should be punished for possessing child pornography.

Yes, sorry for the derail.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm finding it difficult to sympathise with this guy

This is why law, inasmuch as possible, is a set of objective applicable rules rather than emotion-based principles; because life isn't a book or movie. The characters aren't always sympathetic. We can't make just legal decisions based on who we find sympathetic. An awful person might not commit a crime. A serial killer coukd be quite charming. Anyone can lie about their mental processes at any time. Even the most horrendous of characters are entitled to the same unbiased proceedings and decisions. Until someone commits a crime or is proven to be preparing or attempting a crime, they are presumed innocent. The end.

Whether sentencing for certain crimes, types of crimes, or circumstances should be changed is a different question.
posted by windykites at 5:44 PM on January 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, it's super fucked up to detain people beyond their criminal sentence. If it weren't, the criminal sentence would be a lot longer.

I don't think open ended sentences for criminal acts would be a good idea.

Frankly I'd rather see people sent to a civil-commitment immediately if they're going to end up in one, but that would just open the door to people trying to dodge jail time.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:47 PM on January 7, 2013


Demand spurs its creation. So yes, he didn't personally molest anyone, but his actions, in part, led to someone being molested.”

By this logic, researchers and police tracking child pornography are also partly responsible for its creation.
posted by entropone at 5:48 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, in the UK we keep paedophiles in separate facilities regardless of if they are in some kind of treatment program (although they almost invariably are). Saying that sex offenders of this nature should go back into general pop if they stop treatment seems almost guaranteed to produce terrible data.
posted by jaduncan at 5:51 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Perhaps sentences should be as long as it takes to rehabilitate them, not as long as we want to punish them for?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The individual, on a finding of guilty, is being sentenced for the 'serious personal injury offence' for which he was convicted, albeit in a different way than would ordinarily be done. He is not being punished for what he might do. The punishment flows from the actual commission of a specific offence."

Not that I object to the idea of dangerous-offender status, but the Supreme Court of Canada has done a wonderful job of describing exactly what it is not.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:02 PM on January 7, 2013


This is why law, inasmuch as possible, is a set of objective applicable rules rather than emotion-based principles; because life isn't a book or movie.

Way to cherry-pick my comment! My point is this : "John" is at a completely different end of the spectrum from the people in the Slate article linked upthread. He shows no sign of repentance, or admission of wrongdoing. To him, age-of-consent laws are an annoying little thing that prevent him from looking at kiddie porn.

I'm not necessarily saying that prison is the solution, but I can't, with confidence, say that I'd feel okay about this man being free to walk the streets.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:05 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about why it's so easy to believe that sex-offenders will reoffend and I think this is it:

Virtually everyone I know has felt out of control around their sexuality at some point in their life. Certainly men going through puberty learn the joys of the awkwardly timed erection, and both men and women often make . . . questionable . . . choices when horny.

I think a lot of us know for ourselves that the stupid things we do around sex are likely to be repeated, so it becomes fairly easy to believe that the terrible, destructive things these offenders do around sex will be too. In fact for me it becomes kinda hard to believe they won't be.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I read the whole article, and thought at the end that, if anyone had demonstrated that they should not, for preventative reasons, be allowed into society, it was John. And while it's morally comfortable to say "No. Next question," it's hardly grappling with the complexity of the situation, is it?

As I've related here before, I've seen such online pedophiles communities myself because I worked at an ISP. The tenor of the discussion scared the shit out of me because it went very far towards legitimizing pedophilia and rationalizing acting on it; and the connection between spending time in that supportive community, and acting on it, seems straightforward to me, and borne out by statistics--and by John's actual attempt to have sex with Indy Girl's little sister.
posted by fatbird at 6:14 PM on January 7, 2013


Speaking of whether consuming child pornography means being complicit in its production, how is this:
The Supreme Court made child pornography an exception to the First Amendment, since “a child has been physically or psychologically harmed in the production of the work.”
Anything but the flimsiest of excuses to ban something we don't like? How does this fly when videos of real-life murder, torture, rape, animal abuse, and so on are completely legal?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes. Or, no.
Depends entirely on what you want from your justice and prison systems. What are we trying to achieve by incarcerating? Rehabilitation? Punishment? protecting society?

This is not something that has been properly resolved.
posted by joz at 6:18 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


fatbird: "John's actual attempt to have sex with Indy Girl's little sister"

In the article I read, it sounded a whole lot more like a case of police entrapment, or at least the sort of situation where the crime wouldn't have even really been considered had there not been an undercover guy pressing for someone who otherwise wouldn't have done it to do it (See also: US counterterrorism efforts more often than is comfortable).
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:20 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "fatbird: "John's actual attempt to have sex with Indy Girl's little sister"

In the article I read, it sounded a whole lot more like a case of police entrapment, or at least the sort of situation where the crime wouldn't have even really been considered had there not been an undercover guy pressing for someone who otherwise wouldn't have done it to do it (See also: US counterterrorism efforts more often than is comfortable).
"

Yeah, if that's an "actual attempt to have sex with" someone, then I've actually attempted to have sex with people more times than I can count.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:22 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Entrapment" implies that John wasn't trolling for, at the very least, talking about having sex with children. When Indygirl conversationally dangles her sister in front of John, John grabs at her immediately with the suggestion of meeting somewhere "discreet".

By "actual attempt", I mean that John travelled to meet Indygirl and her little sister, and the premise of the trip was having sex with her. Later, when John reflects on that trip, he expresses a hope that he might have shied away from actually having sex with her at the last moment. Had Indygirl and her little sister not been cops, am I to believe that John wouldn't have gone through with it?
posted by fatbird at 6:27 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article mentions that "Indy-girl" was very forceful indeed in order to get beyond John's reticence and pulling away due to this forwardness.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:30 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm no law-talkin'-guy, but doesn't this 'actual attempt' (to the extent that it isn't entrapment) make John guilty of conspiracy, which is already a crime?
posted by pompomtom at 6:36 PM on January 7, 2013


Indygirl kept directing the conversation away from cybersex and towards meeting in real life, but I didn't read that as "very forceful indeed". And when she asked if it was a problem, John said something like "no, I'm just tired, I've been working a lot."

Then he showed up in Kentucky with a gift of lacy underwear that he thought he'd be giving to a fourteen year old girl.

I understand the concern with entrapment, but that genuinely doesn't seem to be an issue here. He's an admitted pedophile who was looking for pedophilic gratification in various forms. At each step he took towards being arrested, he made conscious and willing decisions to proceed, knowing what he was proceeding towards. And that wasn't continuously being supplied by Indygirl--at one point he spins a lovely story of the three of them having sex together in a field of flowers.
posted by fatbird at 6:45 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: “Speaking of whether consuming child pornography means being complicit in its production, how is this: ‘The Supreme Court made child pornography an exception to the First Amendment, since “a child has been physically or psychologically harmed in the production of the work.’ – Anything but the flimsiest of excuses to ban something we don't like?”

As I said above, this is complete a derail; however, it's worth saying it. "Something we don't like" is an accessory to the commission of a crime. And the whole point child pornographers have in committing their crimes is to win adulation from their community. Society has a material interest in disrupting that community.

“How does this fly when videos of real-life murder, torture, rape, animal abuse, and so on are completely legal?”

They may be technically legal, but they are investigated thoroughly. As they should be. The freedom of speech has limits; this is one of them: when the freedom of speech includes distributing, and thereby providing a market for, recordings of the commission of real and serious crimes.

DoctorFedora: “In the article I read, it sounded a whole lot more like a case of police entrapment, or at least the sort of situation where the crime wouldn't have even really been considered had there not been an undercover guy pressing for someone who otherwise wouldn't have done it to do it (See also: US counterterrorism efforts more often than is comfortable).”

This is absolutely different from US counterterrorism efforts (which I agree are often inane) for a number of reasons. First of all, there wasn't much pushing involved, and none of it was in person. When you're face-to-face with someone who's urging you to bomb a bridge or whatever, it can be difficult to turn them down just because we naturally want to please people who are in front of us. The stakes are a lot lower on the internet. I think "entrapment" is only really entrapment when the authorities walk up to a person who would not otherwise have caused harm, hands them a weapon, and demands that they use it. Nothing like that happened here; the meetup was the suggestion of John, and no one disputes that fact. There has to be some point at which we hold people accountable for their actions.

More to the point, I guess, it should be noted that attempting to lure a child via the internet was not the only crime John was charged with, and knowing the justice system the fact that his computer was loaded with child porn probably didn't help his case. The fact that he'd clearly fantasized about scenarios where he had sex with a child makes it difficult to flatly label this "entrapment."

Joakim Ziegler: “Yeah, if that's an ‘actual attempt to have sex with’ someone, then I've actually attempted to have sex with people more times than I can count.”

I'm not sure that means much to this case. If having sex with consenting adults were a crime, yes, I guess you could be tried and convicted for attempting to have sex with people. So could I. But it is not a crime.
posted by koeselitz at 6:47 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: Child pornography is not a victimless crime. Children are abused to make it.

In many cases, yes. And it's terrible. I am not disputing that in any way, shape, or form.

But "child pornography" now includes drawings of FICTIONAL CHARACTERS (like, say, students at Hogwarts). Can someone please explain to me, using small words, how line drawings of Harry Potter getting banged by, say, Lucius Malfoy (and hell, let's make that NCS, too, for extra outrage) injures real children?

And, y'know, for extra credit, how come it's OK to write stories in which Lucius Malfoy bangs the living hell out of Harry Potter (consensually or not) in glorious prose of the most purple sort but not OK to draw that? (There are a lot of these sorts of fictional efforts out there, though more often it's Snape and Harry or Draco and Harry.) I mean, if the problem here is the IDEA that Mr. Malfoy thinks it's OK to bang Harry Potter (thus normalizing the sexualization of children), then writing of the story should be pretty much the same thing as drawing of the picture.

In 2009, Christopher Handley pled guilty and was sentenced to six months of prison for obscenity charges pertaining to comic book images depicting child porn. Judge Gritzner was petitioned to drop some of the charges, but instead ruled that 2 parts of the PROTECT Act criminalizing "a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting" were unconstitutional. The materials under discussion in the Handley case were comics that contained no actual children at all and the plea bargain was on the advice of his attorney on the grounds that the jury wouldn't be sympathetic to viewing the actual images under discussion.

Judge Gritzner's decision is a single opinion on the matter and, as Mr. Handley pled guilty, there won't be an appeal or anything to strengthen the case law.

Current Law
Note particularly...

(b) Additional Offenses.— Any person who, in a circumstance described in subsection (d), knowingly possesses a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that—
(1) (A) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
(B) is obscene; or

(2)(A) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; and
(B) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value;

or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be subject to the penalties provided in section 2252A (b)(2), including the penalties provided for cases involving a prior conviction.

(c) Nonrequired Element of Offense.— It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist.

I'm thinking that maybe when we start locking people up for what they might do later and for drawings of pretend children, maybe we as a country have a very broken relationship with the topic at hand.
posted by which_chick at 6:48 PM on January 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


DoctorFedora: “The article mentions that ‘Indy-girl’ was very forceful indeed in order to get beyond John's reticence and pulling away due to this forwardness.”

This seems dubious to me. The internet is words on a screen. How in the world is it possible to be "very forceful indeed" in an internet chat room? I mean, there are cases of FBI agents pushing explosives into the hands of so-called terrorists, driving them to locations, and demanding that the commit crimes. That seems "very forceful indeed." Chatting online and saying you'd like to meet? Yeah, not very forceful. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 6:51 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "Joakim Ziegler: “Speaking of whether consuming child pornography means being complicit in its production, how is this: ‘The Supreme Court made child pornography an exception to the First Amendment, since “a child has been physically or psychologically harmed in the production of the work.’ – Anything but the flimsiest of excuses to ban something we don't like?”

As I said above, this is complete a derail; however, it's worth saying it. "Something we don't like" is an accessory to the commission of a crime. And the whole point child pornographers have in committing their crimes is to win adulation from their community. Society has a material interest in disrupting that community.

“How does this fly when videos of real-life murder, torture, rape, animal abuse, and so on are completely legal?”

They may be technically legal, but they are investigated thoroughly. As they should be. The freedom of speech has limits; this is one of them: when the freedom of speech includes distributing, and thereby providing a market for, recordings of the commission of real and serious crimes.
"

You're contradicting yourself. The creation of child pornography is illegal, and clearly should be. It should be approximately as illegal as it is to kill someone and film it.

However, we're talking about distribution and consumption here, not creation. I can easily google and find the video popularly known as "Three guys one hammer", which was made by murderers documenting their crime. It was entered into evidence and apparently leaked. It's not illegal.

How are these two things different? How is distributing a murder video perfectly legal, while simply downloading (not even distributing) a video of child abuse illegal? In fact, possession of child pornography isn't just illegal like misdemeanor possession of drugs, it's extremely illegal, to the extent of fucking up people's lives and actually limiting where in a city they're allowed to live for the rest of their lives.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:57 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: "I can easily google and find the video popularly known as "Three guys one hammer""

(By the way, I don't really recommend anyone do this, as it's a horrible, horrible video, which I've watched exactly once, and I wouldn't like to watch again.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:00 PM on January 7, 2013


The whole issue of how to deal with someone's thoughts, and their potential future behaviour has caused quite a stir here in Vancouver. The case of pet killer Kayla Bourque, and how the justice system should deal her has some calling for punishment without any crime, others arguing for indefinite detention, those saying that forced treatment is the answer, and contradictory assertions that no treatment is ever effective. Its a certainly a very difficult and troubling case.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:05 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How are these two things different?

One's a video of something that doesn't have a significant community of consumers who are encouraging the production of more such videos--or hooking up with people on the Internet to discuss going to Cambodia together to create some "homemade product". But you can be sure that if there did grow such a community, the videos would then be made illegal, and arguably with real justification.

I don't understand why people who argue that the law is inconsistent see that as an argument that one activity or another can't or shouldn't be illegal. The law is imperfect; contradictions can exist and be addressed. Perhaps the remedy we need is to make genuine snuff films illegal and to make video hosting sites liable for hosting snuff films once they've been notified.
posted by fatbird at 7:05 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: “How are these two things different? How is distributing a murder video perfectly legal, while simply downloading (not even distributing) a video of child abuse illegal?”

They are different because there isn't an online community dedicated to murdering people solely in order to distribute pictures and videos of the murders. Freedom of speech is not the highest value; sometimes a society must limit the freedom of speech in the name of the protection of its citizens from the most heinous abuse.

“In fact, possession of child pornography isn't just illegal like misdemeanor possession of drugs, it's extremely illegal, to the extent of fucking up people's lives and actually limiting where in a city they're allowed to live for the rest of their lives.”

"Fucking up people's lives" is relative. I've said above that I believe in pragmatic treatment, not overly harsh punishment, for pedophilia. That might in many cases mean limiting their contact with children, limiting what jobs are open to them and what neighborhoods they can live in. It should not mean completely destroying their lives or shaming them publicly. But society has a very strong interest in getting treatment for pedophiles, and that's what it ought to do.
posted by koeselitz at 7:06 PM on January 7, 2013


(Or, on non-preview, what fatbird said.)
posted by koeselitz at 7:08 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You type slow, old man :)
posted by fatbird at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "Freedom of speech is not the highest value; sometimes a society must limit the freedom of speech in the name of the protection of its citizens from the most heinous abuse."

Actually, in the US, freedom of speech is one of the highest values, that's why it's enshrined in the constitution. And I was specifically commenting on the Supreme Court's justification for limiting free speech in this case, which was not that there's an online community (there wasn't, back tin 1982), but that children were hurt while creating the work in question.

That justification seems extremely flimsy to me, since there are a bunch of other, non-illegal forms of speech (I'm using a broad definition of speech here, obviously) that also involve people being hurt while it's being created.

Also, there's a non-trivial market for "real death" videos. The Faces of Death movies, sites like documentingreality.com, which features real crime scene photos and charges a subscription fee, etc. I would be unsurprised if the market and demand for that kind of stuff is larger than the child porn market.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:16 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


They are different because there isn't an online community dedicated to murdering people solely in order to distribute pictures and videos of the murders.

...we hope.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:17 PM on January 7, 2013


There's still a difference, Joakim, insofar as child pornography is created to create child pornography. The vast majority of content on death media sites like rotten.com is simply a byproduct of various deaths. Consumption of death media does not, in anywhere near the same measure, imply the specific creation of that media as it does with child porn.

And while freedom of speech is one of the highest values in the U.S., it is limited exactly where direct harm to others can be demonstrated or prevented. You can't unjustifiably yell "fire" in a crowded theatre just because people will be hurt in the stampede.
posted by fatbird at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How does this fly when videos of real-life murder, torture, rape, animal abuse, and so on are completely legal?

They're not? There have been obscenity cases involving extreme BDSM videos. I'm struggling to think of the guy's name right now, but there was an article about a well-known case that was on mefi not too long ago. The guy spent time in prison for releasing videos of women being raped and tortured.
posted by desjardins at 7:24 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy: "The whole issue of how to deal with someone's thoughts, and their potential future behaviour has caused quite a stir here in Vancouver. The case of pet killer Kayla Bourque, and how the justice system should deal her has some calling for punishment without any crime, others arguing for indefinite detention, those saying that forced treatment is the answer, and contradictory assertions that no treatment is ever effective. Its a certainly a very difficult and troubling case."

It may be difficult, and it's certainly troubling, but it seems the solution they're applying is to wildly overreact. She killed two animals, which is a horrible thing to do, but as a result, she's spent 8 months in jail, and the conditions of her probation include:

"She will be monitored by the Vancouver police’s high-risk offender unit, abide by an curfew, avoid anyone under 18 and stay away from places where kids congregate.

She’s been ordered to have no relationship without first advising the person of her history in writing, to not use a computer except to look for work and then only under supervision, to possess no pornography and to attend counselling."


The only reasonable thing they've done is to ban her for life from owning pets. That seems completely fair, the rest is crowd-pleasing bullshit. Seriously, "high-risk offender unit"? For someone who killed two animals and possessed a knife? This seems like some sort of joke about how good people have it in Canada, but she's probably be even more harshly treated in the US.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:25 PM on January 7, 2013


desjardins: "They're not? There have been obscenity cases involving extreme BDSM videos."

Obscenity by community standards is a completely different statute from that used against child pornography, and only applies to material of a sexual nature. So, in the US, it's ok to be offended by sex, but not by violence.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:29 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't unjustifiably yell "fire" in a crowded theatre just because people will be hurt in the stampede.
uh yeah about that

wasn't that like originally literally a defense of the 1917 espionage act

bonus interesting history: shouting fire in a crowded theater actually is dangerous if you're union organizers and someone has blocked the exits
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:34 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


me: "Freedom of speech is not the highest value; sometimes a society must limit the freedom of speech in the name of the protection of its citizens from the most heinous abuse."

Joakim Ziegler: “Actually, in the US, freedom of speech is one of the highest values, that's why it's enshrined in the constitution. And I was specifically commenting on the Supreme Court's justification for limiting free speech in this case, which was not that there's an online community (there wasn't, back tin 1982), but that children were hurt while creating the work in question.”

They're the same thing, essentially, I think. A heinous crime is committed for the sole purpose of distributing child pornography. To procure child pornography is to be an accomplice in that crime.

And I'm familiar with the constitution. Note that I said freedom of speech is not the highest value. I agree that it is one of the highest values, but it's not the highest. We Americans generally have a kind of blind faith that freedom of speech is invariably good. I take issue with this blind faith.

*;ldquo;That justification seems extremely flimsy to me, since there are a bunch of other, non-illegal forms of speech (I'm using a broad definition of speech here, obviously) that also involve people being hurt while it's being created.”

Why are we okay with that?

“Also, there's a non-trivial market for 'real death' videos. The Faces of Death movies, sites like documentingreality.com, which features real crime scene photos and charges a subscription fee, etc. I would be unsurprised if the market and demand for that kind of stuff is larger than the child porn market.”

I wouldn't be upset if those things were criminalized.
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 PM on January 7, 2013


Why are we okay with that?

because being able to see the effects of white phosphorus on civilians tends to make you dislike war (for example)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:01 PM on January 7, 2013


Not that I care to see any of that stuff but I would be upset, assuming the videos are extant and aren't created for the website. Documentaries sometimes show death (though not usually in a graphic manner) to make important points about war, violence, etc. I would not want that made illegal.
posted by desjardins at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But why on earth does outlawing child pornography mean outlawing war journalism? And don't give me this "slippery slope" bullshit – child pornography has been illegal since forever, and it hasn't led to any restrictions on photography during wartime yet.
posted by koeselitz at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2013


According to the largest study of released prisoners, conducted by the Bureau of Justice, the re-arrest rate for sex offenders is lower than that for perpetrators of any violent crime except murder. But the notion that sex offenders have a unique lack of self-control has been repeated so frequently that it has come to feel like common sense.

I don't buy that sex offenders don't go on to commit more crimes simply because they don't get arrested for them. People tend to believe you when you say that someone stole your car.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:04 PM on January 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


koeselitz, I'm responding to your statement that you would be okay with having 'real death' videos criminalized. I'm 100% on board with criminalizing child pornography.
posted by desjardins at 8:05 PM on January 7, 2013


(Sorry, desjardins – I, in turn, was responding to TOCATY. I didn't see your comment before I posted mine.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2013


And if you want to talk about measurable harm, the victims of child pornography do not consent to have their images transmitted everywhere into perpetuity and masturbated to and traded and discussed. There have been articles written about how miserable and perpetually traumatizing they find it. I think that is harm. Real, actual harm, and worth caring about. Not something to handwave away as imaginary or unimportant.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:08 PM on January 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Louis Theroux made a documentary about a California mental hospital where men like John are indefinitely housed. It's available on YouTube and it's worth a watch.

I have watched this one a few times, and it makes me seethe. What a horrific trap to find yourself in, with no hope of release. I know it is Louis' schtick to just go along with things, but at a couple of points in that documentary he comes off as supportive of the programme and his filming ends up with him complicit in fucking things up for a couple of the "residents".

I still like him, but after this show a bit less.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:11 PM on January 7, 2013


What I guess I've been trying to say is:

Society can and should decide the specific edge cases where it limits freedom of speech, and I have no problem with child pornography being banned. Joakim Ziegler has said that it's irrational because there are other cases (faces of death, etc) where people are hurt and crimes are committed but we don't ban the possession of recordings of those things. I say: those are different cases, and it's correct to treat them differently.

I mean, I get the feeling the problems some people have on this issue is this:

Joakim Ziegler: “In fact, possession of child pornography isn't just illegal like misdemeanor possession of drugs, it's extremely illegal, to the extent of fucking up people's lives and actually limiting where in a city they're allowed to live for the rest of their lives.”

Here's the thing: I started this thread saying that I think the criminal justice system is doing a grave injustice to pedophiles by either (a) keeping them locked up indefinitely or (b) simply releasing them without guidance or treatment. I still think that. I don't believe we should be destroying the lives of people who have sexual disorders simply because they have those disorders. Every member of society should have a place.

But I don't believe that the way around this problem is to treat child pornography as free speech and to decriminalize its possession. Pedophilia is a sexual disorder. It needs treatment. And the possession of child pornography is wrong. These things need to be dealt with. In our democracy founded on freedom, we really tend to shy away from helping people with their problems through the punishment and treatment of their crimes; we prefer to cling to bare freedoms and simply toss those who violate the law into jail. I don't think it should work that way.
posted by koeselitz at 8:17 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


koeselitz: "We Americans generally have a kind of blind faith that freedom of speech is invariably good. I take issue with this blind faith."

I'm not American, but while I agree that this is what many Americans claim to believe, in general, when something horrible happens, the American reaction seems to be to censor media that portray it. Gang violence? Ban gangster rap! Satanic child abuse (no matter if it doesn't exist)? Ban heavy metal! School shootings? Ban violent video games! So, yeah, that rings hollow to me.

And, this article also mentions that it's easy to get convictions for child porn, but not so easy to get convictions for actual child abuse. So I guess law enforcement goes for the low-hanging fruit, to make it seem that they're solving something.

If I were in charge, I don't know I'd decriminalize child porn possession, but it'd sure as hell be a low priority, and I'd direct all possible resources to track down the actual abusers.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:19 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I guess law enforcement goes for the low-hanging fruit, to make it seem that they're solving something.

This seems too cute a characterization. If you were a cop, what would you do about pedophiles? Wait at your desk until a parent brings in a child looking traumatized? Or go to the chat rooms where you know they're hanging out and see who's willing to actually meet someone they think is 13?
posted by fatbird at 8:23 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems too cute a characterization. If you were a cop, what would you do about pedophiles? Wait at your desk until a parent brings in a child looking traumatized? Or go to the chat rooms where you know they're hanging out and see who's willing to actually meet someone they think is 13?

But this is exactly the same MO that is used to destroy the lives of college aged schmucks talked into scoring some coke for their "friends", or Muslims that would never do anything if not goaded by the FBI and their ilk to buy bombs from them.

It is completely lazy police work, and it does nothing but boost their statistics and make them look good. Finding REAL drug dealers and terrorists (and child abusers) takes much more time and effort, but you can leverage people's repressed impulses and stupidity to turn thim into green strawman offenders that are an easy bust.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:27 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I repeat my question: What would you do instead? You take on faith that there are real, more sinister villains out there, and that they can be caught with more intrepid police work. I think if all you do is bust the child molestors hanging out in chat rooms and goading each other into doing it, you're actually doing quite a bit to protect children, and doing so doesn't pre-empt you or others from going after higher level crime.

And frankly, assuming it doesn't cross the line into entrapment (at which point you have clear wrongdoing by the police that the legal system can handle), I don't have a lot of sympathy for a college student going out to score an eight-ball of coke for "a friend", or an angry young man driving a car up to a target and pressing the button on what he thinks is a bomb. They're not victims just because they weren't circumstantially prevented from committing crimes.
posted by fatbird at 8:37 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I were in charge, I don't know I'd decriminalize child porn possession, but it'd sure as hell be a low priority, and I'd direct all possible resources to track down the actual abusers.

Good thing you're not a cop, because one of the ways they track down abusers is by arresting people in possession of child porn and then using those arrests (and the very real threat of serious time) to garner plea bargains that induce cooperation, including things like letting the feds use computers and usernames to gain access and trust from the actual child pornographers. I know this because I'm distantly related to someone who was caught trading pornography, and his account was kept active (and his arrest delayed for more than a year) as part of the setup for this international law enforcement action:
Feds bust online child-pornography ring that focused on young children

The online enterprise, known as Dreamboard, rewarded a participant with greater access to child pornography whenever that participant provided new images of sexual abuse of young children. [...]

The effort to shut down the child-pornography ring began in December 2009. Dreamboard members used layers of protective technology to try to insulate themselves from law-enforcement scrutiny.

Members used screen names on the board, and posts were encrypted with a password shared only with other members, officials said. Access to the board was directed through proxy servers and routed through other computers to prevent investigators from tracing Internet activity. The members were also encouraged to encrypt files on their own computers. [...] The highest level, a Super VIP, was someone who had personally molested a child and posted images or video of the crime on the board, officials said.
And from another article about the same bust:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said dozens of children, in the U.S. and overseas, have been brought to safety after they were identified in the more than 27,000 images uploaded to the Internet bulletin board, NBC News reported.
Your position is, to put it mildly, somewhat ignorant of the reality of these kinds of law enforcement actions. Child pornography is inextricable from child sexual abuse. You cannot separate the two and declare one unimportant.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


koeselitz: "We Americans generally have a kind of blind faith that freedom of speech is invariably good. I take issue with this blind faith."
I'm not American, but while I agree that this is what many Americans claim to believe, in general, when something horrible happens, the American reaction seems to be to censor media that portray it. Gang violence? Ban gangster rap! Satanic child abuse (no matter if it doesn't exist)? Ban heavy metal! School shootings? Ban violent video games! So, yeah, that rings hollow to me.


No society is 100% in accord, but you'll note that the most well known proponents of such things (say, Tipper Gore for music or Jack Thompson for video games) are the subject of widespread ridicule. In addition you should also note that none of those issues have any political traction whatsoever. For better or worse we like our first amendment even more than we like our second.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:51 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I were in charge, I don't know I'd decriminalize child porn possession, but it'd sure as hell be a low priority, and I'd direct all possible resources to track down the actual abusers.


So long as demand exists for media in which children are abused, children will be abused to satisfy it. Not punishing the consumers of it feeds the demand. I'm really not sure where the disconnect you perceive is. The people making the stuff are child abusers. The people trading in it are a direct link to them. This isn't like the war on drugs where a moral gray area exists in the production, trade and use of the contraband.
posted by griphus at 8:58 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


griphus: "I'm really not sure where the disconnect you perceive is. The people making the stuff are child abusers. The people trading in it are a direct link to them."

From what I understand (this was a while back, it may have changed), most consumers of child porn are very far from "a direct link" to the people making it. I remember reading that the vast majority of the child porn found on suspects' computers was stuff the investigators had seen before, and that went back years, in many cases decades. Unlike other contraband, like, say, drugs, digital contraband isn't subject to scarcity, and so, there are probably hundreds or thousands of consumers for each producer.

And yeah, infiltrating consumers is a way to get to the producers, but that doesn't mean we have to punish the consumers particularly harshly.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:08 PM on January 7, 2013


You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize there's only one solution to this dilemma : prevention.

Read the Slate article linked upthread. Please, take a few minutes and read it. It may change your whole outlook on the issue.

We need to change the social environment such that would-be offenders feel safe in coming forward and seeking treatment before they ever offend. This is completely possible to do! We can eliminate child sex abuse AND give the would-be offenders a chance at a normal life and a clean conscience.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:20 PM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


" In the article I read, it sounded a whole lot more like a case of police entrapment, or at least the sort of situation where the crime wouldn't have even really been considered had there not been an undercover guy pressing for someone who otherwise wouldn't have done it to do it"

What if she'd been an actual teenager pushing him hard to come meet her for sex? Because that is a thing teenagers do because they are children and have poor decision-making skills in actual situations. My first reaction was also, "wow, entrappy," but if you think about real teenagers online, this is entirely within the realm of reasonable and this guy was choosing to go meet teenagers for sex he was clearly aware was illegal. "He wouldn't have done so if the cops hadn't pushed" -- well, teenagers push and have poor boundaries. Obviously this was a step he was willing to take.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:29 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But, by 1982, the public seemed to have discovered child sex abuse, both its trauma and its prevalence. The Supreme Court made child pornography an exception to the First Amendment, since “a child has been physically or psychologically harmed in the production of the work.”

It's a derail, but I found this point interesting and ironic in the light of recent events in Newtown. I.e, that at about the same time a fundamental part of the Constitution was made exception to in the name of the safety of minors, the gun rights lobby was pushing in the other direction on the Second Amendment, in a way that is evidentially harmful to the safety of minors.

Apart from that I found the article profoundly depressing. At its heart, the political landscape is such that to be associated in any way with being soft on crime, where "soft on crime" means advocating away from harsher sentencing, more punitive prison conditions, or taking risks to promote innovative methods of rehabilitation and release, appears to be political suicide. At an individual level it is hard to find sympathy for a man who still wants to have sex with children. But he is the edge case that proves the law. Behind him are hundreds of thousands of young men and women who are also, through mechanisms such as three strikes laws, condemned to a life where rehabilitation and redemption can be read about in the bible, but certainly not the kind of god fearing people want in real life.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:32 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eight-year-olds, dude.
posted by acb at 3:35 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


John is particularly problematic (or probably emblematically problematic, wevs) in his manifest and persistent multiplicity. He hid his proclivities from those he knew would disapprove (at first, anyway), but reportedly exaggerated his exploits to those he would impress. He seems to waver on an IRL meeting with IndyGirl's sister but later muses that he hopes he would have had the fortitude not to rape her (obvs not his word) when the meeting came.

He didn't rape a minor, and he says that he hopes he would not have. But, and especially when pressed hard on all sides by the penal system, he stands by his feelings and attractions.

John has been systematically and irrevocably shattered in his identity. He is one thing in one situation, another in another.

What is the psychiatric point of view? Many kinds of behaviors and states of mind are considered pathologic only to the extent that they distress the person. Under this rubric, DSM-IV still had a vestige of pathologized homosexuality insofar as the person with the gay fantasies didn't want them. But others are considered inherently disordered--qv schizophrenia and psychosis. This group in particular forms a large part of any involuntarily-committed inpatient unit: persons with a psychiatric illness and a reasonable and direct threat to harm themselves or others. Pederasty perhaps ought to be the latter kind of mental illness.

Yes, there is a twinge of empathetic truth when John complains, how can he be blamed for having his feelings and attractions? But it seems pederasts frequently also exhibit other traits which, taken together, constitute a threat. For one, they may think of prepubertal children as not only capable of providing consent, but as active seducers, as sexual agents themselves. Seems a deluded worldview, along with powerful urges and impulse control.

But you know what? Thousands of psychiatric patients were released in past decades because it was considered unlawful to merely detain them without any reasonable hope of treatment. (Did this turn out really well? That whole conversation would be another derail.) So what sort of treatment is likely to benefit the unrepentant pederast? Keeping in mind they may have little intellectual deficit and are perfectly capable of playing along with coercive agendas (as seen in the article)?

A part of me wonders if the humanest thing is to keep such persons perpetually locked in a comfy but not extravagant room with a 24h feed of completely synthetic child pornography. Psychiatric treatment seems like it ought to require drugs to dull libido and continuous negative reinforcement of false ideas and positive reinforcement of more normal behaviors. Which is not far off from what a schizophrenic person in an inpatient unit goes through, anyway.
posted by adoarns at 4:56 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


which_chick: And, y'know, for extra credit, how come it's OK to write stories in which Lucius Malfoy bangs the living hell out of Harry Potter (consensually or not) in glorious prose of the most purple sort but not OK to draw that?

You might be interested to hear that some other countries without, I suppose, the same First Amendment traditions (e.g. Australia) have looked at this question and concluded that there is no difference, and that literary depictions of underage sex constitute child pornography (Holland v the Queen [2005] WASCA 140 (see [192] - [205]), R v Quick [2004] VSC 270 (see [15]) or Traynor v McCullough [2011] TASSC 41 which involved a Victorian periodical "arguably of historical interest"). A remark in Holland also suggests Canada has taken the same approach (R v Sharpe [2001] 1 SCR 45 at [38]).

The argument (e.g. in Quick) proceeds from the "indisputable assumption" that both forms "equally fuel the market for child pornography and the abuse and degradation of children", which bearing in mind a few of the comments in this thread is perhaps putting it a little highly.

As for the article, a number of things stood out. I thought it was good that they didn't go searching for an incredibly sympathetic individual to profile. The discussion of the use of actuarial instruments such as Static-99 was great because the same are often discussed at sex crime sentencing hearings in Australia, and I've often wondered how their predictive power stacks up after the fact (of course, if the subject never re-offends because you have him or her on civil commitment, you never really can tell...) Also I was disturbed at the invention of abuse incidents while in treatment. Reminded me of the group confession scenes described in Kilduff, Marshall and Javers' book about the People's Temple.
posted by curious.jp at 5:10 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be clear, in the US, possessing or creating depictions of children having sex that were not made with actual children--NOT considered child pornography. It might be considered obscenity, which is a troubled and complicated area of law. It's not child porn, though.

Judge Gritzner was petitioned to drop some of the charges, but instead ruled that 2 parts of the PROTECT Act criminalizing "a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting" were unconstitutional.

Exactly, which was a perfectly reasonable ruling.

I don't disagree that obscenity laws can be fucked up and unfair, but it's not what we're talking about when we talk about child pornography.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:00 AM on January 8, 2013


I never heard of this Kayla Bourque person until now but wow. Unbelievable, they're crucifying that woman for killing some livestock? I mean come on, we have whole industries built around the mistreatment of animals and that's legal and okay but a private person can't even kill a couple of dogs?
posted by yonega at 7:50 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sing in the choir at my church. For a year, I stood next to this guy, who sang tenor. He played peekaboo with my 4-year-old daughter every week after coffee hour. He was kind and avuncular; he had adult children, young grandchildren; he was married for the second time to a woman who was also in our choir.

He was arrested after a year of correspondence with an ICE officer, driving to Colorado to meet a woman whom he thought would provide him access to a willing 6-year-old. He had already sent this putative child naked pictures of himself, as well as what was described in the report as "child-sized sex toys." He had two gigabytes of child pornography on his computer. I've read some excerpts from the chat sessions that were posted by ICE, nothing graphic or sexual, that absolutely show someone eager to proceed to real-life, non-fantasy sex.

The ICE agent who spoke with my pastor said that he felt "as certain as you can" that Gary had never personally harmed an actual child, and I certainly haven't heard anything about additional charges being filed wrt his kids or grandkids. The excerpts I read definitely show that the ICE officer is taking the lead in setting the tone and shape of the discussion, although he didn't need a lot of encouragement to follow.

He's been sentenced to 15 years 8 months in prison, with an additional 20 years of "supervised release" after his term is completed. He was 70 when he was arrested; he would be 105 when that term was up. Immediately after speaking to the choir after the arrest, my pastor flew to Colorado to assure Gary that while he would never be welcome in our church building ever again, he was absolutely still a member of the church, that people were praying for him, and that pastoral guidance and counseling was still available to him.

I am absolutely of two minds about his case. I am glad this man is locked up and away from my kids, who are in the same age range as his preferred . . . what's the word, even? Targets? Victims? Partners? But I also think that a man who made it to the age of 70 without personally offending* would have been a lot better off -- for himself, and for the rest of us -- being in constant contact with someone who would be leading him towards repressing those desires rather than expressing them, and into rehabilitation rather than escalation. I pray for him all the time, that he will know mercy and kindness and relief from his harmful desires.

There are plenty of people who have fucked-up sex fantasies, for sure. Fucked-up sex fantasies aren't a crime, they aren't a sign that you're a bad person, they're probably not even that unusual. I think most people are capable of recognizing that even if you reeeeeally badly want something in the Fantasy Space, Reality Space is never going to allow you to achieve that something in a way that doesn't hurt people. And for those who have trouble with that concept, maybe a little (a lot) of empathetic rehabilitative counseling saying no, these people are PEOPLE, they will be hurt by your actions, I know you think they won't be but they are, here are stories of people who were messed up forever by similar actions? Maybe that would help them to make those realizations.

I just really don't know. I am deeply unsettled about the whole thing.

*I do believe that contributing to a market for child pornography harms children, even if just incrementally. But I also believe that downloading pictures and videos is different from laying your actual personal hands on an actual living child.
posted by KathrynT at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The young rope-rider: The "not child pornography" item you link to is referring to the 2002 SCOTUS decision striking down the 1996 CPPA as overly broad. In 2003, the PROTECT Act was signed into law by G. W. Bush in order to replace the CPPA.

It is the PROTECT Act that I linked to and, in fact, quoted above. The PROTECT Act has not been struck down by the SCOTUS and stands as current law on the matter. It is available to read here.

To be fair, this act institutes a two-part test for child porn not involving real children -- basically, material must be both "obscene" and "explicit", but given that there IS a test for "child porn not involving real children" and given the provisions of Subsection C, which reads, "Nonrequired Element of Offense.— It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist." I have grave reservations telling anyone that drawings depicting child pornography are anywhere in the clear. If the statute clearly and explicitly states that the minor depicted in such representations DOES NOT HAVE TO EXIST FOR REAL, then the statute is aimed, at least in part, at graphic representations that do not contain actual children... in other words, artwork.
posted by which_chick at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relevant tangent: the DOJ has a handy-dandy guide to what entrapment is and is not, at least at the federal level.

tl;dr Entrapment is a narrow, rarely successful defense requiring government inducement (not mere solicitation) and the defendant's lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. Going up to someone and say "hey, wouldn't it be a lot of fun to commit this crime" is not entrapment.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


yonega: I never heard of this Kayla Bourque person until now but wow. Unbelievable, they're crucifying that woman for killing some livestock? I mean come on, we have whole industries built around the mistreatment of animals and that's legal and okay but a private person can't even kill a couple of dogs?

Are you joking? I don't mean to derail, but Ms. Bourque tortured and killed her family's pets, a cat and a dog, and videotaped both acts. Animal cruelty is illegal, and people who torture and kill animals sometimes go on to commit acts of harm against humans.
posted by swerve at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


They are different because there isn't an online community dedicated to murdering people solely in order to distribute pictures and videos of the murders.

I disagree. The internet is not an anonymous collection of data; it is people interacting. As this article illustrates well, child porn sites on the internet are communities, they network with each other, and they provide the incentive for child pornographers.

Disagreed. If there's no strong deterrent to trafficking child porn, that creates a huge market for it! Even if making the pornography is still illegal, if you lower the risk of possessing it, some people may be more likely to download it. Suddenly, there's a greater incentive to produce the product, since you have a larger and more brazen customer base -- one that may be less hesitant to actually hand over their money.

I find it curious how very many people seem to be arguing that child pornography is produced for the sole purpose of satisfying a demanding audience. That might or might not be why it's filmed, but are you seriously arguing that if there weren't people interested in tapes of kids being raped, that the kids wouldn't be raped in the first place? Like this is just someone's job, meeting a demand, and they wouldn't lay a finger on those children if they didn't have fans?

The community of people downloading these videos for free might spur the creation of more videos, but as the person arguing for criminalizing possession of those videos, the onus is kinda on you to show that without that audience, the child abuse wouldn't have happened. 'cause it seems a hell of a lot more likely that the people who rape kids for fun would keep on raping their kids, and just not film it.
posted by kafziel at 1:46 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with the snap-decision answer and witty retorts in this thread is not completely the fault of the people who DNRTFA. Just take a look at the retort-bating FPP itself:
Is it right to imprison people for heinous crimes they have not yet committed?
That's it.

winecork has taken a complex article, about a difficult, sensitive, and timely article, which touches on questions of legality, justice, social safety, sexuality, mental illness, and the reasonable limits of government, and distilled it down into one little soundbite.

Now, let's break it down:

Is it legal to imprison a person who offers to kill a person for hire, shows up at the appointed time, and has the weapons and apparent intent to carry out the deed? AFAIK, absolutely. Intent to commit murder. This is an "inchoate" crime: a criminal preparation to actually perpetrate a serious crime. The article's subject pedophile did the equivalent when he explicitly flirted, drove a long distance, and joined the "girls" for a picnic. (Is this a specific crime in any jurisdiction? I don't know. Should it be? I think so. Heck, there's two questions right there...)

Is it right to imprison a felon who has a large chance of recidivism (repeating the crime)? Most would say no, I suspect.

Is it right to forcibly detain a mentally ill person with a high likelihood of hurting themselves or another? Again, most would admit this, and this is of course the legal basis for commitment to mental asylums.

Does a pedophile fit the above mental profile?

Does a hebephile?

Is there a significant difference, psychiatrically and morally? (John appeared to be a hebephile, FWIW.)

The list of questions that the FPP could have asked - should have inspired, at the very least - were intentionally short-circuited in favor of retort-bating.

Metafilter usually does much better than this at the FPP level, even if one-liner replies are fairly inevitable.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:13 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


All I can say is that this is not a simple issue. I'm really not sure what the right approach is. I ask you to imagine this: the backlash if we let these guys out on the street and a minority of them abuse a whole bunch of children. It would be nice if we could get a bit more hard science behind this issue. One thing that gives me pause towards sex criminals of all stripes is that their predilections seems more intractable than those of any other type of criminal, including drug addicts. I've heard it said a number of times that pedophilia might almost be considered a sexual orientation (apologies to heterosexuals and homosexuals who feel that I am equating their preferences with such).

One thing is that I think we really have to make resources available to pedophiles who are not yet pederasts; I am very sympathetic to their plight, and I imagine that majority of pedophiles never act upon their desires. Perhaps chemical castration should be made more available to offenders as a voluntary option to facilitate early release. Otherwise, while I think this system of incarceration is broken for pedophiles (as well as many others, of course), I'm not sure what should be done in its place. I'm also curious to know how much of this system may be driven by the same kind of for-profit incarceration that has distorted so much of the operation of our penal (NPI!) system.
posted by Edgewise at 2:48 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am posting the following for another mefite, who would rather not be publicly connected to the statement. This is not my story, and it has had me in tears all day.

I was a pedophile "star". When pictures troves are found, it is almost a given that my pictures will be in them. I was five when it started. Dress up. That's all I thought it was. Dress up. My uncle would buy me outfits, and take pictures of me. I was six when the touching started. I was seven when penetration began. I was ten when my uncle brought me to friends.

To those people who say that child pornography is a victimless crime, I welcome you to live in my head. Please. I'd love a chance to be somewhere else. Someplace clean. Sterile. Where people who love you protect you. Where people believe kids when kids tell them something they don't want to hear.

People who consume child pornography are no better than the people who produce child pornography, and to try and excuse it away as "no big deal" is a lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. It's a way to pretend that baby girls are not being penetrated by grown men. It's a way to pretend that there are not thousands of damaged children who grow up into damaged adults because of child pornography. People who enjoy seeing a child hurt are no better than the people who hurt the child, and believing anything else is delusion.

The most horrible moments in my life happen when I walk into a room with strangers, and I see that look of recognition when some man sees me and it clicks in his head where he's seen me before. It happens more often than you would be comfortable believing.

My life was destroyed by child pornography. I will never know what it's like to trust anyone with my body. I will live celibate forever, because I cannot bear the thought of anyone touching me. Victimless? Tell that to the kids in the pictures.

posted by dejah420 at 6:40 PM on January 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not American, but while I agree that this is what many Americans claim to believe, in general, when something horrible happens, the American reaction seems to be to censor media that portray it. Gang violence? Ban gangster rap! Satanic child abuse (no matter if it doesn't exist)? Ban heavy metal! School shootings? Ban violent video games! So, yeah, that rings hollow to me.

First of all, none of that stuff has been banned, and I've never heard of anyone advocating a ban on any of it. Second of all, it doesn't make sense to say that "Americans" are hypocritical because they say one thing but then say something else that's contradictory. "Americans" are 300 million people — many of them disagree with each other. That doesn't mean anyone is being consistent.
posted by John Cohen at 9:33 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, are you really equating child pornography with gangster rap, heavy metal and violent video games?? Child porn isn't just portraying sexual abuse -- it is sexual abuse.
posted by imalaowai at 10:45 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you are interested in this issue, I would strongly suggest watching Louis Theroux's recent documentary "A Place for Pedophiles", where he goes inside of Coalinga, a mental hospital geared for sexual offenders.

People are sent there for treatment and recovery... and spend the rest of their lives there.

State laws restricting how and where people can reenter society -- N.I.M.B.Y. -- are so strict that even if you complete treatment successfully, YOU CAN"T LEAVE. It's no wonder that a huge percentage of those who are sent to Coalinga refuse to participate in treatment, which sometimes seems to disturbingly mirror the whole anti-gay treatment methods.

Sexuality is complex, with a wide degree of variance. It's entirely possible that pedophilia for some of these people is, essentially, understandable... which isn't too far from normal.

It surprises me, really, that they don't reserve a few islands for some individuals, where they could live a life with at least *some* degree of normality, providing productive services, rather than being "treated" to death.
posted by markkraft at 3:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It surprises me, really, that they don't reserve a few islands for some individuals, where they could live a life with at least *some* degree of normality, providing productive services, rather than being "treated" to death.

McNeil Island
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 AM on January 9, 2013


"McNeil Island"

If it wasn't a prison, and they could have their own houses and jobs... yes. These people have done their time.
posted by markkraft at 6:58 AM on January 9, 2013


Also, are you really equating child pornography with gangster rap, heavy metal and violent video games?? Child porn isn't just portraying sexual abuse -- it is sexual abuse.

That depends on the facts; lolicon isn't.
posted by jaduncan at 8:12 AM on January 9, 2013


kafziel: "The community of people downloading these videos for free might spur the creation of more videos, but as the person arguing for criminalizing possession of those videos, the onus is kinda on you to show that without that audience, the child abuse wouldn't have happened. 'cause it seems a hell of a lot more likely that the people who rape kids for fun would keep on raping their kids, and just not film it."

First of all, stopping child rape is not the only point of banning child pornography. Simply having the stuff out there is hurtful to those children who have been raped, so it's worth it to remove it from society.

Second of all, nobody is under the impression that all child rape will stop if child pornography stops. We are under the impression that stopping child pornography will have a marginal effect on the incidence of child rape. We are under the impression that, at best, maybe a small percentage of child rapes will be stopped through the elimination of child pornography. And we are under the impression that, even to stop those relatively few rapes, it's still worth it.

Third, to be clear, nobody's really arguing for the criminalization of child porn. It is already criminal, in every nation on earth, and it would take strong arguments to see it decriminalized. I don't see any such arguments here.
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


jaduncan: "That depends on the facts; lolicon isn't."

Lolicon - by which I assume you mean comics and stories which don't involve actual photographs and videos of actual abuse - is not child porn. Some people may have trouble with this distinction; I don't think anybody in this thread is among them, however. Yes, it's sad that some people in the US are crazy enough not to see the difference. No, that doesn't mean there are any gray areas when it comes to child porn.
posted by koeselitz at 9:01 AM on January 9, 2013


I do, of course.

No, that doesn't mean there are any gray areas when it comes to child porn.

Pssh. Quite aside from the fact that other jurisdictions consider it so (Britain, for example: see section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008), it's a little more difficult once photorealistic rendering comes round.

I think it's really, really hard issue to define where that dividing line would go; it's not an easy issue to say what happens when you are fairly sure that the image is one of an act that would be illegal but cannot absolutely say that the image is not CGI. It runs the risk of false negatives and actual children still being abused without proper investigation.
posted by jaduncan at 6:49 PM on January 9, 2013


Many laws are not directed at punishing acts that are bad in themselves. Take speeding, for instance: a skilled driver in a well-maintained vehicle in good conditions on an empty road is as safe at 80 kph / 50 mph as they would be at half that speed. So why have speed limits? Well, we know that accidents occur and that speed makes these accidents worse; we don't necessarily trust drivers' judgement about their skills and the driving conditions; and, perversely, people who break speeding laws are very often drunk or otherwise unsafe drivers. You might say that the law exists so that we can catch people breaking it.

I think the consumption and distribution of non-genuine child pornography falls into this category. The email Dejah420 reposted shows that distributing genuine child pornography is not a victimless crime; but there are rational arguments for prohibiting fictional representations too.

Firstly, the distribution of fakes makes it harder to detect genuine items - and detecting genuine child abuse is pretty important. Secondly, paedophiles reportedly form networks to exchange this stuff; prosecuting the fictional stuff it makes participation in these networks more dangerous and easier to trace. And thirdly, many people believe that a compulsion to consume child pornography is associated with a propensity to abuse children. Someone who persists in consuming and/or distributing child pornography despite very heavy penalties is probably someone who feels compelled to do so. Even if this behaviour is mostly victimless, as it is with fake representations, we feel that society's interests are served by keeping an eye on people with this compulsion in case it develops into something worse - or has already done so.

There's definitely a problem with identifying the boundaries of laws like this. I think most people would say that a cartoon representation of Bart Simpson with Principal Skinner is a joke and not blameworthy. I think most people would say that a painting of Zeus with Ganymede is art, not pornography. And I think most people would also agree that a children's clothing catalogue doesn't become evil just because someone takes a prurient interest in it. But the existence of edge cases doesn't mean that the matter itself is unreasonable; one of the jobs of a justice system is to be sensible about which cases to prosecute. The reasons for discouraging real pornography with fictional depictions of children are, in my opinion, strong enough to put up with the risks of some bad prosecutions at the edges of the law.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:28 PM on January 9, 2013


jaduncan: "I think it's really, really hard issue to define where that dividing line would go; it's not an easy issue to say what happens when you are fairly sure that the image is one of an act that would be illegal but cannot absolutely say that the image is not CGI. It runs the risk of false negatives and actual children still being abused without proper investigation."

But strictly speaking, it's easy to define where that dividing line goes, isn't it? Child pornography is pornography that was produced using real live children. That's a pretty clear line, and at present it's trivially easy to identify. Maybe someday we'll have to worry about perfectly-synthesized child pornography, but that won't be this year or next year. Until then, how in the world is this complicated?
posted by koeselitz at 10:32 PM on January 9, 2013


Joe in Australia: "The email Dejah420 reposted shows that distributing genuine child pornography is not a victimless crime; but there are rational arguments for prohibiting fictional representations too."

I think that's a tremendous mistake that will prevent the suppression of actual child pornography.

"Firstly, the distribution of fakes makes it harder to detect genuine items - and detecting genuine child abuse is pretty important."

I think we all know that this is an entirely theoretical problem at present. Even legal pornography hasn't ventured into this field, which is at least a few years off; and it seems dubious at best that child pornographers would turn to developing photorealistic animation. This is not something we have to worry about in the near future.

"Secondly, paedophiles reportedly form networks to exchange this stuff; prosecuting the fictional stuff it makes participation in these networks more dangerous and easier to trace."

This is an academic point, and I understand you might not know this, but as far as I can tell lolicon and child pornography communities are entirely separate. By all accounts (including the account in the main link, implicitly at least) child pornographers hate lolicon because it isn't "real;" and lolicon communities would be scared to death to do anything so insane as to involve themselves with actual child abuse. It's a fantasy thing.

"And thirdly, many people believe that a compulsion to consume child pornography is associated with a propensity to abuse children. Someone who persists in consuming and/or distributing child pornography despite very heavy penalties is probably someone who feels compelled to do so. Even if this behaviour is mostly victimless, as it is with fake representations, we feel that society's interests are served by keeping an eye on people with this compulsion in case it develops into something worse - or has already done so."

Again, I'm not sure you understand the scope of what you're saying. I'll try to say more below.

"There's definitely a problem with identifying the boundaries of laws like this. I think most people would say that a cartoon representation of Bart Simpson with Principal Skinner is a joke and not blameworthy. I think most people would say that a painting of Zeus with Ganymede is art, not pornography. And I think most people would also agree that a children's clothing catalogue doesn't become evil just because someone takes a prurient interest in it. But the existence of edge cases doesn't mean that the matter itself is unreasonable; one of the jobs of a justice system is to be sensible about which cases to prosecute. The reasons for discouraging real pornography with fictional depictions of children are, in my opinion, strong enough to put up with the risks of some bad prosecutions at the edges of the law."

This basically means banning a vast amount of pornography, in the US and elsewhere. "Schoolgirl fantasies" (and "schoolboy fantasies") are incredibly common; are you really suggesting they should be illegal? Currently pornographers here in the US (I don't know about other countries) are required to document and state clearly that no actors involved are minors; but you're saying that shouldn't matter, that even though the words are on the screen in black and white the content itself is conducive of child pornography. I don't think that's true.

And that's not getting into lolicon, which I appreciate may be hard to stomach but which I believe really should not be banned. Let's be clear: we're talking about cartoon representations. The evidence that interest in lolicon and engagement with child pornography or actual child abuse overlap much at all is scant, to say the least. You say "many people believe" that the two are deeply interrelated; I think you must know that what "many people believe" can't matter much.

I don't believe in total amnesty for pedophiles, and as I've said above this problem needs to be dealt with. Nor am I completely convinced that pedophilia is something that people are born with, as the article Afroblanco was pushing so blithely assumes. But we have seen indications that mainstream porn acts as a deterrent to rape; and I feel as though it's highly likely that lolicon could similarly be a deterrent for those who might feel they have such desires.

All that aside, as I said, prosecution and outlawing of such a massive amount of pornography, I believe maybe even a slim majority of pornography produced today, would completely destroy any progress we've made at combating actual child pornography. Our efforts today are unfocused as it is; if we complicate things further by adding whole industries to the "child pornography" list, the much more important goal of working to eliminate child abuse by suppressing and rooting out actual child pornography would become a lost cause. And, as I've argued above, I don't think any child abuse would be prevented thereby.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz, there have been actual prosecutions of people for possessing CGI representations of minors engaged in sexual acts. I'm not talking about Avatar-like levels of sophistication; this was just some photoshop work using, e.g., the faces of children on the bodies of adult models or the introduction of adult genitalia to genuine pictures of children. Lolicon is creepy (from the little I know about it) but that's not what I'm talking about.

A brief search of the internets indicates that CGI depictions are probably legal in the USA but very much illegal in the UK and Australia. On the other hand, I understand that it is illegal in the USA to promote something in the belief that it is genuine child pornography - so it would be quite possible to go to prison in the USA for distributing a CGI depiction, if you couldn't tell by the pixels. I think this is probably the right approach if the law is, as I argue above, aimed at identifying paedophiles and discouraging their attempts to network.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


US Cities Relying On Precog Software To Predict Murder - less sensationally, Using Software To Determine Which Parolees To Keep A Close Watch Over.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:58 AM on January 11, 2013


Joe in Australia: “Koeselitz, there have been actual prosecutions of people for possessing CGI representations of minors engaged in sexual acts. I'm not talking about Avatar-like levels of sophistication; this was just some photoshop work using, e.g., the faces of children on the bodies of adult models or the introduction of adult genitalia to genuine pictures of children. Lolicon is creepy (from the little I know about it) but that's not what I'm talking about. ¶ A brief search of the internets indicates that CGI depictions are probably legal in the USA but very much illegal in the UK and Australia. On the other hand, I understand that it is illegal in the USA to promote something in the belief that it is genuine child pornography - so it would be quite possible to go to prison in the USA for distributing a CGI depiction, if you couldn't tell by the pixels. I think this is probably the right approach if the law is, as I argue above, aimed at identifying paedophiles and discouraging their attempts to network.”

Hm. Okay, I can see what you mean, to some extent, although I didn't see any distinction to that effect in your earlier comment.

For what it's worth, the reason I'm arguing this is because – I'm pretty sure you're wrong about CGI representations being legal in the US. In fact, the legality of 'lolicon' drawings is sort of in a gray area here. which_chick gave a pretty good overview above that discussed briefly the situation here. In short, the law currently on the books in the US states that "It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist." The reason this is a gray area and not clear law is because the US Supreme Court had previously ruled that "virtual" child pornography is protected speech. So we find ourselves in the interesting circumstance in the US that a law passed by Congress that is being enforced actually contradicts a Supreme Court finding on the matter; in such circumstances we have to wait for the Supreme Court to take it up again and test the law.

Please note that people have actually been charged and convicted on child pornography charges in the United States for possessing nothing but cartoon porn. I find this rather alarming, to be honest, and it's something I really believe must be changed in my lifetime.

So if I'm a bit outspoken on the subject, that's why. This is a mistake that I think must be rectified. I'm kind of interested now in how this works in other countries; I have no idea whether cartoon porn is illegal in the UK or in Australia. All I know is that, in the United States, we are absolutely doing this wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if I'm a bit outspoken on the subject, that's why. This is a mistake that I think must be rectified. I'm kind of interested now in how this works in other countries; I have no idea whether cartoon porn is illegal in the UK or in Australia. All I know is that, in the United States, we are absolutely doing this wrong.

Entirely illegal in Commonwealth nations. The UK, Canada, Australia, these places don't just ban cartoon lolicon, they ban real-life pornography of people over 18:
Where an image shows a person the image is to be treated as an image of a child if—
(a)the impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is a child, or
(b)the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not those of a child.


The US does it inconsistently and wrongly, but at least we don't convict people of possessing child pornography for having a video of a 20 year old in a high school cheerleader's outfit. Yet.
posted by kafziel at 12:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


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