Remember the little fiasco
August 5, 2002 11:36 PM   Subscribe

Remember the little fiasco of those child/preteen "model" sites? Well, finally the husband and wife of one of the children have been sent to jail. Two more site operators have cases pending against them. Nude videotapes of the girl found in the couples home is what they were finally convicted for, not the web site itself.
posted by geoff. (28 comments total)


 
Good to see, I hope they shut them all down and that they don't win their appeal. It will be interesting to see how their daughter views her parents in a few years when she's old enough to realise what perverts they actually are. Jail will not be pretty for those two...
posted by Jubey at 12:29 AM on August 6, 2002


Jubey:

Well, it won't be pretty for her either. Obviously 'teen model sites' are a new phenomenon. But I'd bet with 100:1 odds that kids features on those sites turn out more functional in life and less emotionally traumatized then kids growing up in foster care.

Are the 'teen model sites' disturbing. Yes. But I'm very wary of deciding 'wrong and right' based on initial reactions. If we did, homosexuality would almost certainly be 'wrong'.

Don't get the wrong idea, I don't buy into that NMBLA bullshit, but while having been featured on a site like that cause damage in some sort of nebulous emotional health way, it (in and of itself) won't cause the sort of problems that growing up a ward of the state would.

(Of course, it's possible the kids might go grandparents or something, but that possibility wasn't raised in the article)

And, of course, there is a possibility that there might be real abuse inside the home if these kinds of tapes are being made, but we don't have any evidence that that's the case. In fact, I believe the girl testified that she didn't feel there was anything sexual about what was going on.

---

Anyway, in my opinion the family should be given counseling on the psychological dangers of what their doing, and given the opportunity to change. Simply saying "that kid should be taken away from those parents" because you think what's going on is going to hurt the child (or hurting right now) is absolutely retarded unless you think whatever's happening is going to be worse then growing up in foster care or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 1:13 AM on August 6, 2002


But I'd bet with 100:1 odds that kids features on those sites turn out more functional in life and less emotionally traumatized then kids growing up in foster care.

Err, from the article it suggests that dad was practically playing porn director. I don't know, we've got two alternatives: stick with the known pedophilic leaning family or not. Generally its a good idea to seperate children from those who would oppress them.
posted by skallas at 1:37 AM on August 6, 2002


skallas: did you actually mean to use the word 'oppress'? I mean, isn't just about every single kid 'oppressed' in some way? I mean, they don't always get what they want, their freedoms are sharply curtailed, they don't even control what they eat for god sakes!


I think what you meant was harm as in "Generally its a good idea to separate children from those who would harm them."

Anyway, wow what an easy, unthinking answer that was! No need to do any kind of comparison or perform any rational thought. Lets just look at one issue ('oppression' or harm) and say 'it's bad' and if so take the kid away! Who cares what happens to them in foster care or what kind of economic pain is inflicted by having two parents forced out of the workforce. Who cares how they turn out, I mean the family has 'known pedophilic leanings' for god sakes!? What difference does it make if any actual physical or psychological suffering is being inflicted on the girl, her parents saw her naked! OMG!

Look, You basically have two choices, either you can take the child away, or you can leave it with them. If you actually give a damn about the child and are capable of rational thought, you should weigh the alternatives. Either leaving the child with the parents is worse then taking them away, or it's better. If it's worse, then the child should be taken away, if it's better then the child should stay. To do the opposite could only be described as cruel or stupid.



And yes, I this kind of thinking really does piss me off. People continue to make this idiotic choices to 'help' people that end up causing more harm then good and they don't even think for a god damn moment about what they are doing. This is especially evident in our 'war on drugs' and the kinds of prison sentences that are handed out. If something is perceived as 'bad' they just do the first thing that pops into their head to try to stop it without regards to the over all consequences.
posted by delmoi at 2:27 AM on August 6, 2002


I saw a TV programme a while back about child beauty pageants in the USA, which left me feeling quite revolted. These child model type sites are only a small step beyond that. Sometimes the First Amendment seems ridiculously wide ranging.
posted by salmacis at 2:37 AM on August 6, 2002


Sometimes the First Amendment seems ridiculously wide ranging.

As someone who views the First Amendment with the religious fervor of a fundamentalist I've gotta say "wooooah nellie!". The first amendment makes no provision for the exploitation or abuse of children or adults of any sort.

These parents are sickos, period - and no first amendment wrangling can change that sorry fact.

One of the purest, best things in the world is the wide ranging nature of the first amendment.
posted by owillis at 2:44 AM on August 6, 2002


What's the first amendment?
posted by Jubey at 3:06 AM on August 6, 2002


While the taste of the material at hand might be highly questionable, so are the circumstances around the case.

- The girl testified she was not abused.

- Video tapes were the family's property, had not been made public and showed nothing illegal

- Prosecutors best shot: "you could reach the conclusion ..." well, maybe not.

- Defense attonery: "[parents] stand a good chance of prevailing if they proceed with plans to appeal the verdict"


I am sickenned by the fact that people jump into tremendous conclusions ("let's separate the parents from their kids for life!") based on a highly unclear set of circumstances.
posted by magullo at 3:25 AM on August 6, 2002


Jubey:

Congree shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The noblest 45 words in human history.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:03 AM on August 6, 2002


(Or they would be, if one of them weren't "congree.")
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:03 AM on August 6, 2002


Jubey:

The first amendment to the constitution of the US, which gives us freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and, uh, to petition the government.

These can't be taken away without a 2/3rds majority in congress and public elections in 2/3rds(?) of the states.

Interestingly, John Ashcroft tried to amend the constitution to make it easier to amend the constitution, after his proposed amendments to ban flag burning and allow prayer in schools failed. (both of these would have overridden the first amendment)
posted by delmoi at 4:28 AM on August 6, 2002


To me, it's obvious what these sites are for and from my understanding of deviant psychology (which, granted, comes almost exclusively from true crime paperbacks), sexualizing little girls in public photos like this could likely lead some tortured pederast to finally make a move on that hot little girl who lives next door. (I believe the logic goes something like: these pictures convince him that the little girl wants him, and having limited to zero experience dating grown women he can then project this same desire onto a girl he sees in real life. Imagine the suprise and potentially deadly consquences when he realizes little girls generally aren't sexually attracted to him.)

So, from that standpoint, and from the standpoint that, as pointed out on a link to daign.com from one of the other threads, parents who run these types of websites for their children are only a few small steps above parents who would hook their daughters on crystal meth and push them out into the street to suck dick for money, I am very pleased these parents have been convicted.

I agree, however, that the parents were convicted more on public sentiment than on actual evidence, which is a worrisome trend, especially with the anti-terrorism laws and possibility of things like TIPS making suspicion more important than evidence.

Even if the conviction is overturned (which it probably should be), I hope this trial will generate enough bad publicity that the site has to shut down, and the parents feel some negative reprocussions for what they've done. I also hope, more than anything, that Jessi realizes just how badly she's being used and does whatever she can to remove herself from that situation. (Were I a relative, I would fight hard to bring the child into my home. She needs to understand that exploitation does not equal love.)
posted by jennyb at 5:14 AM on August 6, 2002


The site is down, but here's a (v bad quality) snapshot, courtesy of the Wayback Machine:
Cindy's World

Frankly, I find the text creepier than the pictures.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:29 AM on August 6, 2002


the husband and wife of one of the children ?
The mind boggles.
posted by StOne at 6:11 AM on August 6, 2002


The mind boggles.

It took this long for anyone to notice, and you just beat me! Ah.

salmacis- Yeah, this totally made me think of that, too. The America Undercover on HBO, right? You know, that's totally f-ed up and twisted, too, but hey, that stuff's apparently OK. The baby division, where the kids were barely old enough to sit up, totally freaked me out. And that poor boy, I felt so sorry for the years of playground beatings he was about to endure.

So, where do you draw the line? I don't know. Those parents are definitely very (clinically) sick. You can debate the First Amendment all you want, but there's a definite Social Services element you can't ignore. Jail or no jail, when your parents film you peeling off your nightie, it's a clear sign someone needs to intervene.
posted by mkultra at 6:41 AM on August 6, 2002


"Members that send in outfits can ask for a private shoot and the pics will be placed in a directory that only they can access. This is FREE, But only for members that send an outfit."

if it weren't for that, I'd be saying what Magullo was saying. Now i'm not so sure... What was this guy up to? The photo's aren't bad, but the text gives me the creeps.
posted by dabitch at 7:17 AM on August 6, 2002


I like the word 'Congree'.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:18 AM on August 6, 2002


magullo wrote:
The girl testified she was not abused.
The girl testified as to her treatment. The court and law do not allow a child to make a determination about the abuse they may or may not receive, as they are without experience and education sufficient to identify abuse. The court, through the jury process, disagrees with this statement.

Video tapes were the family's property, had not been made public and showed nothing illegal
Public or not, the law is currently interpreted to mean that possession of material depicting, in image or words, children in any act that could be construed as sexual is illegal. Again, the court and jury disagrees with this statement, as the material was deemed illegal to own.

Prosecutors best shot: "you could reach the conclusion ..." well, maybe not.
But, as the jury did, it is easy to reach that conclusion.

Defense attonery: "[parents] stand a good chance of prevailing if they proceed with plans to appeal the verdict"
You know, I'd be rather concerned if the Defense attorney afterwards said "Hey, I knew they were guilty as sin, but I didn't want them to go to jail after all those nice photos and tapes they made for me..." Of *COURSE* their counsel (paid or not) thinks their case has merit. *sigh*

The father made a very obviously sexually charged video of the child, nude, with the MOTHER, nude. I know that the foster system is mediocre at best, but it's got to be better than these parents.
posted by dwivian at 7:38 AM on August 6, 2002


When this issue came up the last time, several South Florida media outlets covered the company publishing the site and talked to lawyers who said that what they were doing appears to be legal.

Even if that is true, child protective officials should be checking on the situation at homes where parents are exploiting their kids like this. They're likely to find more situations like the one in Arkansas.
posted by rcade at 7:48 AM on August 6, 2002


dwivian - did you ever bathe nude with your mum? I did - being nude with mum in bathtub is not pornographic in itself.
posted by dabitch at 8:35 AM on August 6, 2002


did you ever bathe nude with your mum? I did - being nude with mum in bathtub is not pornographic in itself

The girl in question is 12. Bathing with mom is ok for pre-schoolers, but in junior high, it's just wrong. The other tape showed her "lying on a bed and stripping off lingerie". The intent seems pretty clear.

I'm not certain why anyone here is defending the actions of these people.
posted by donnagirl at 8:44 AM on August 6, 2002


The court and law do not allow a child to make a determination about the abuse they may or may not receive, as they are without experience and education sufficient to identify abuse

In a country where a child can be tried as an adult, I find observations like the above completely hypocritical.

Public or not, the law is currently interpreted to mean that possession of material depicting, in image or words, children in any act that could be construed as sexual is illegal

These are the family's private videos, as far as we are concerned. If something is not clearly illegal, I would lean on the side of the family (for the benefit of society as a whole). A naked 12 year old might generate certain thoughts on certain individuals (not me, I'll tell you that much). But it might also seem perfectly natural to her parents.

The D.A. played the child pornography card, which, in this day and age, generates immediate public outcry.

The defense attorney also stated that he was not going to continue in the case due to lack of funds. Thus, his interest is, at best, tangential.

The father made a very obviously sexually charged video of the child, nude, with the MOTHER, nude

Nowhere it says anything about an "obviously sexually charged video". It says there is a video, where the father is heard giving instructions. No quotes, lots of vague info. If in your mind that builds up to a sexual case, so be it. Maybe you've got your own demons to deal with.

In my case, with parents and parent-in-law who are ardent naturalists, I refuse to see anything sexual in the mere depiction of a mother/daughter pair in the nude.
posted by magullo at 8:53 AM on August 6, 2002


let me clarify - i bathed with my mum when i was 12 [and older even]. This is not pornographic in itself. girls in the same family can be nude together.

the stripping of lingerie part sounds like it was pornographic, I am not arguing that it wasn't.

Sometimes child porn cases make me afraid that what was normal behavior within a family a generation ago will not be tomorrow, and fathers will no longer hug their daughters. This is probably the reason I felt compelled speak up on the tub thing. If you read my first post you'll notice that i find the sites text rather creepy [he seems to be selling his daughter as a dresss up doll] - but the pictures seem normal.
posted by dabitch at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2002


dabitch, I didn't mean to imply that your family situation was pornographic. I agree with you that there is an unreasonable current of hypersensitivity regarding adults having any sort of physical contact with children. Scroll down to the bottom of this page from the NEA for an example.

What makes this "bath" read as abuse to me is that the father videotaped the bathing as well as other, more questionable, activities. Context is everything. Pictures of a 12 year old that might seem normal in a family photo album seem creepy being sold on a website to strangers.
posted by donnagirl at 9:12 AM on August 6, 2002


In my case, with parents and parent-in-law who are ardent naturalists, I refuse to see anything sexual in the mere depiction of a mother/daughter pair in the nude.

Did your parents sell private photo shoots of you for total strangers? The notion that the bathtub video was innocent seems far-fetched considering the way the parents were marketing the child's images on the Internet.
posted by rcade at 10:44 AM on August 6, 2002


magullo: [The court and law do not allow a child...]
In a country where a child can be tried as an adult, I find observations like the above completely hypocritical.

Why so? It would seem to me that, as a child can be tried as an adult ONLY when an obvious case can be made that the child possessed reason and experience to know right from wrong and elected to commit a crime, that we're doing just fine. Children are not allowed to identify abuse because it is often couched in the discipline process, or in the risk-reward portion of the nurturing process. Very seldom is a child tried as an adult, and when such a trial exists, special work has to be done to convince the court that it is appropriate. Abuse cases would not qualify.

These are the family's private videos, as far as we are concerned.

Do you remember the case of Brian Dalton, a man who wrote his private fantasies in a journal? He was arrested for owning child pornography, and removed from the public. Those were his private thoughts, and his private writings, for his personal consumption. But, society believes it has authority to deny even private ownership of things it considers illegal. (I will grant that he was a convicted pedophile, but the parallel is still there.)

The D.A. played the child pornography card, which, in this day and age, generates immediate public outcry.
Sometimes. I was in the jury pool for a child abuse case, and have been following a local child pornography case recently, and in both cases I can see where someone is getting railroaded. The only times the public has an outcry is when the media picks a side in their reporting.

The defense attorney also stated that he was not going to continue in the case due to lack of funds. Thus, his interest is, at best, tangential.

No. His interest is manifest in his decision to take the case in the first place. His opinion is based in his knowledge of the law, his direction in representation, and his ideas of how future juries might see the facts he thinks should be presented. His interest is direct, if fading.

Nowhere it says anything about an "obviously sexually charged video".

I have to disagree. From the link you provided, I see that the jury viewed three videos, and then found the father "guilty of violating two state laws by engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct for use in a print or visual medium, and producing, directing or promoting a performance that includes sexual conduct by a person under 17 years of age."

I cannot find that any way but "obviously sexually charged". My opinion, true, but also twelve other people's.

Had it been merely "naturalism" as you suggest as an alternative, I doubt that a jury would have found the man guilty. I'm sure his direction and commentary were what cemented the case. Realize, friend, that naturalists that video their families show them frolicking, not modeling lingerie on a bed, or naked with an adult as directed "what to expose and what to touch".
posted by dwivian at 11:14 AM on August 6, 2002


Hmm. Seems to me we need to work on our definitions of what constitutes sexually-charged material and what doesn't.

Yes, these areas are gray and fuzzy and difficult to tease out, but tease them out we must. Or at least do our best efforts.

The trouble I see with the way this case is being discussed in this thread is that it's real easy for one person to think that "naked child" is an innocent non-sexual non-abusive thing, but that for another person it necessarily means sexual and thus abusive.

How about a wider view, and how about taking all of the evidence into account?

I personally believe it's quite possible to show a naked child in a nonsexual way that does not seem oppressive or abusive at all. For instance, see some of the pictures that the photographer Sally Mann has taken of her children.

I also think that the website in question (and what I've heard about this particular court case, which is admittedly not much) just plain doesn't pass the sniff test. Frankly, it's downright creepy and oozes inappropriate sexuality.

Some of this stuff is difficult to put your finger on, which is why I think we need better definitions, and better tools for discernment.

Idea: what if you showed say, a book of Sally Mann's photographs to a thousand randomly-selected people and did the same with the website for the 12-year-old who is advertised as being willing to pose in clothes and postures that strangers request. Ask the thousand people for their impressions, and ask them to offer comments as well as voting on scales of creepy vs. non-creepy, sexual vs. non-sexual, appropriate vs. non-appropriate, and so on.

I think the picture would start to become more clear.

And another thing: what's with the idea that the foster system is necessarily and absolutely like throwing a child to the wolves? No offense, but are you a freakin precog? Do you *KNOW* that it would be worse than what the child's life is like now?

Are you certain that there doesn't exist a single decent foster parent? I mean, puh-lease.
posted by beth at 1:30 PM on August 6, 2002


Good! Now if they can just stop those windows that pop up and then multiply exponentially when you try to close them.
posted by buz46 at 8:37 PM on August 6, 2002


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