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Criminalized self exploitation...
April 3, 2004 2:31 PM   Subscribe

A 15 year old girl has been charged with several counts related to "child pornography" for sending out pictures of herself to several people she chatted with. As more and more teens use webcams for all sorts of things from keeping in touch with friends, getting strangers to buy them things from their wishlists and making some $$$ this has caused a little discussion. As she did not "force" herself, how does this intersect with recent attempts to criminalize "virtual" child porn as both situations have at their heart whether the primary issue is coercion/harm or the concepts images themselves. At the risk of "Newsfiltering", I am interested in opinions from a less histrionic group (thats you) than some others who are discussing it.
posted by soulhuntre (77 comments total)

 
Well, at least I avoided Iraq, the economy or the president... so maybe that it is a current news item can be forgiven :)
posted by soulhuntre at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2004


This is like arresting two teenagers for fooling around, which is probably what she'd be doing if she didn't have a computer. More a thing for her parents to be concerned about, than an obviously underworked police staff.

Has the war on child pornography become the war on drugs when I wasn't looking?
posted by precocious at 2:38 PM on April 3, 2004


Well, the central problem with what most people understand as child pornography is exploitation of the weak. This girl basically exploited herself, which isn't really anybody's business, except perhaps her parents.

When I read the post before clicking on the link I initially thought it might be a case of an ISP or hosting service covering it's ass, but I can't make out an angle for that here.
posted by jonmc at 2:44 PM on April 3, 2004


following the same line of reasoning, everytime a teenager touches him/herself sexually, is committing child molestation.

masturbation = child molestation

this brings the whole notion of "self-abuse" a little too far away from sanity, I guess
posted by matteo at 2:50 PM on April 3, 2004


This is like arresting two teenagers for fooling around, which is probably what she'd be doing if she didn't have a computer. More a thing for her parents to be concerned about, than an obviously underworked police staff.

I agree with the first part of the statement, but not the second. This is more complex than that. How you feel about this issue is going to depend on a number of things:

(1) Whether you believe that children should be prevented from doing certain things before a certain age (because participation in said activities wisely is difficult and requires a perspective given only by age and experience).

(2) Whether you believe that society should participate in restrictions on said certain things

(3) Whether you believe this is one of those things.

So this is like alcohol and other substance use and teenage sex and a number of other issues in that respect.

But it's more complicated than that, because one of the reasons that we're harder on child porn than "normal porn" is that pretty much everybody agrees that something that encourages a view of children as sexual objects is a problem.
If you subscribe to this, it doesn't matter whether the producer of child porn is 37 or 27 or 17 or 7, the production is a problem and society has an interest in curbing it.
posted by namespan at 2:56 PM on April 3, 2004


This action is entirely consistent with our current cultural position on pornography and children. The issue is neither her consent (she's presumed to not be able to consent to something like this), nor is it about direct harm to her (pornography, and child pornography in particular, are presumed to be crimes against society).

I, personally, am not persuaded by the anti-pornography or the anti-teen-sex arguments, so I question the whole philosophical foundation for this position. But if you're secure in knowing that porn involving 15-year-olds is inherently bad, then the linked story makes perfect sense.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:00 PM on April 3, 2004


I think the particular charges they've filed are bogus. But I don't think it's bogus that they stopped her from continuing. By sending nudie pictures of herself to adults, she is encouraging the adults get off on nudie pictures of 15 year-olds. That's not something anyone should do, regardless of their age.

There's also the issue of putting herself in danger, of course.

That said, the particular charges seem like a crock. But maybe there weren't any other charges they could throw at her. Hopefully they'll leave her alone and she'll find lower key ways of keeping herself entertained for a while. (At least until she gets to college.)

I wonder how they found out.
posted by alms at 3:01 PM on April 3, 2004


To make an example of her they're going to try her as an adult.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:01 PM on April 3, 2004


To make an example of her they're going to try her as an adult.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:01 PM CST on April 3


The Ms Magazine link's discussions brought up if found guilty and tried as an adult, she'd have to be on the sex offender's registry for the rest of her life.

The kid did something stupid. Hopefully, the judicial system doesn't compound things and screw up the rest of her life.
posted by birdherder at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2004


From the article:-

A police report did not say how police learned about the girl. They found dozens of pictures of her on her computer.

She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.


I agree with namespan in that the images themselves are the problem, not who produced them or how.

Well, at least I avoided Iraq, the economy or the president... so maybe that it is a current news item can be forgiven :)

So did I 3 FPPs previous to this one, covering a very relevant (1 day old article), newsworthy topic, that certainly has not been done to death on Metafilter (it was concerning this). It got deleted. I don't even know why it got deleted. I wonder if it would have been deleted if anyone else had posted it?
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2004


The article, which is pretty worthless, states nothing about whether they would charge her as an adult, so all of this is speculation.
posted by calwatch at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2004


Wow. This is news of the weird all the way. While she technically violated the word of the law, it seems that ruining her life forever may be an extreme response. This girl needs therapy, perhaps, but to try her as an adult is ridiculous. So they are going to charge a child as an adult for disseminating pictures of herself? It's child porn because she is a child, but an adult offense because they decided that legally she isn't a child? C'mon.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:18 PM on April 3, 2004


I agree with namespan in that the images themselves are the problem

Huh? That's the whole problem I have with the crusades undertaken against child pornography. I completely disagree with that statement-- the problem is how the images are typically created and what they incite some people (who already have problems) to do. The idea that photographs, in and of themselves (say these pictures locked in a safe no one has the combination to), are evil seems strange to me.
posted by yerfatma at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2004


This is fucking ridiculous. Owning or even disseminating pictures of oneself shouldnt be illegal. Child pornography is illegaly mostly because it vicitimizes children, e.g. an adult photographs someone who is too young to make a proper decision. Of course decency is part of the argumnet, but not the whole argument.

What's next, the state or parents suing girls for breaking their hymen without permission?

Age 15 is well into puberty. Really now, do we expect children to refrain from exporing sexuality until their 18th birthday? We've seen this before with the case of two minors getting it on and being charged for raping one another (or was only the male arrested?). There's a lot of wrong here.


>Has the war on child pornography become the war on drugs when I wasn't looking?

In Bush's America you bet your ass it has. Child porn has always been a hot topic issue, now the "moralists" are going to jail the kids for "their own good" just like we do with the kid found with a joint in a high school. Then we pull his or her college funding to create the self-fulfilling prophesy "users are losers." America is pretty fucked right about now and we're taking it out on the kids. That's GOP family values for you.
posted by skallas at 3:37 PM on April 3, 2004


yet another reason to keep the computer in the living room
posted by bob sarabia at 3:38 PM on April 3, 2004


the discussion - at least the first page - seems pretty sensible.

the problem is whether the police are using whatever applicable laws they can find to give them the power to do something reasonable, or whether they're blindly following the letter of the law in a case that requires considerable care and judgement. this kind of situation is going to occur whenever a law is broken in an unexpected way.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:39 PM on April 3, 2004


personally, i have a problem with the whole camgirl phenomenon to begin with. i imagine that the ones pressing charges have a similar issue - there's something about young girls playing on camera in exchange for presents from the viewers. seems too much akin to prostitution.

of course with underage girls, i would expect the parents to be responsible enough to know what their kid is doing with a broadband connection and a camera in her room. if it was my kid, there wouldn't be any camera. i wouldn't be expecting the law enforcement community to be doing my parenting job for me.

that said, it still seems like overkill.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:39 PM on April 3, 2004


This is fucking ridiculous. Owning or even disseminating pictures of oneself shouldnt be illegal.
agreed.
also, if she was coerced into taking the pictures by someone online (just speculation) that would mean they would be charged, and not necessarily her.
posted by bob sarabia at 3:41 PM on April 3, 2004


I find it really interesting that a law designed to protect people without agency or the ability to make decisions (the legal definition of a child, right?) is being used on such a person. How can she commit a crime (an act that takes a decision and agency) on herself, presumably a person without the proper capacity to make decisions?

I think mateo's point,
following the same line of reasoning, every time a teenager touches him/herself sexually, [he/she] is committing child molestation.
is extremely important.

I find juvenile crime laws extremely contradictory. On one hand children are assumed incapable of making decisions, but in other cases, are held accountable for them.

The most troubling thing about child pornography laws is the assumption that seeing child porn will encourage people to molest children. What evidence is there that this is anything more than a moral panic? If you see an action movie, do you go out and blow up cars? Do you learn martial arts and use them on passerby? Sure, exploiting children is bad, but child porn is much more complicated than that.

Lastly, I have to add a comment about North American society's view of sex. Things like the "Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic" and this "child porn" case are problematic in my mind, and indicate some kind of sexual unhealthiness. Why is sex shameful and inherently bad and dangerous? Again, exploitation of any kind is bad, but what is this obsession with regulating sex?
posted by statisticalpurposes at 3:57 PM on April 3, 2004


The idea that the only reason someone isn't allowed to do something is because they are too young and yet they're old enough to pay for it as an adult just blows my mind.

Marion Barry better stop passin' that crack pipe.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 4:00 PM on April 3, 2004


calwatch, the comment about trying her as an adult seems to have been made in irony. If the law considered her adult, the pictures of herself would no longer be of a child.
posted by whatzit at 4:05 PM on April 3, 2004


Back when digital cameras became cheap enough to be widely available, I was an adult moderator for a kid's chat room (mostly aged 8 to 12) with picture-swap capability. One of my responsibilities was monitoring those pictures.

As it turned out however, during any given 4-hour shift, I deleted dozens of nude pictures those kids took of themselves and tried to send to each other. I could tell they were self-snapped because they would focus on a mirror, I could see their arms holding the cameras, or some other amateur give-away.

Second to nudity was turd-shots. Kids are so disgusting.
;-P
posted by mischief at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2004


The most troubling thing about child pornography laws is the assumption that seeing child porn will encourage people to molest children.

This is true. Unless you're already a pedophile seeing a naked three year old is not going to arouse you.

I think a lot of the outrage is that children are exploited for pornography to gratify pedophiles.

That said this particular case is a bit ridiculous, although if I were that girls father there'd be hell to pay.

Why is sex shameful and inherently bad and dangerous?

It isn't inherently bad, but there are certainly dangers involved: date rape, STD's unwanted pregnancy, an the attendant emotional bumps and bruises that (for many) acoompany sexual activity. It's not something to be treated cavalierly.

I can't speak for everyone but as a young teen I wasn't capable of being trusted with the family car, I sure as hell wasn't ready to go screwing around.

It's been a weird contradiction the past couple decades surrounding sex. From pop culture and peers there's intense pressure to have sex, and and strange idea that promiscuous=liberated and free-thinking. On the other hand there's authority figures, religion and the government making it seem like the great evil beast that wants to devour you. Throw a fatal disease and a simmering gender war into the mix and it's no wonder everyone's confused. I wonder if a lot of those "celibacy pledge" kids didn't do so just avoid having to wade through that jungle.
posted by jonmc at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2004


If the law considered her adult, the pictures of herself would no longer be of a child.
*head explodes*
posted by bob sarabia at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2004


BTW, the most popular subject for those kids' pictures was not their genitals, as one might think, but their assholes.

I'm glad I was using the company's computer and not my own.
posted by mischief at 4:16 PM on April 3, 2004


Age 15 is well into puberty. Really now, do we expect children to refrain from exporing sexuality until their 18th birthday?

Indeed, does this make the entire adult male population of much of the world paedophiles? It's pretty common, outside western countries, for women to marry at 15 or much younger. I'm wondering which society has the more warped view of sex...
posted by Jimbob at 4:26 PM on April 3, 2004


But if you're secure in knowing that porn involving 15-year-olds is inherently bad, then the linked story makes perfect sense.

IMHO, it needs to be taken into account that the internet's become a new and valid method of human interaction. Before computers came along, 15-year-olds were in their parents' basements showing each other the same things that the internet makes terribly convenient to send via digital image now.

I would imagine the police getting involved if the two "kids" in the folks' basement were 15 and, oh say, 30. On a similar note, I fully support prosecuting sexual interactions between adults and children online. Otherwise, leave it to her parents, who should be monitoring her computer usage anyhow.
posted by precocious at 4:29 PM on April 3, 2004


This is entirely in keeping with what seems to be the philosophy behind our child pornography laws. The laws aren't to protect children directly, they're there to punish and deter pedophiles.

As evidence, I point to the case where people were charged for viewing computer-generated pictures of naked (computer-generated) children. No children were exploited, or even present. The idea is simply that we must put a stop to per-version, as it is defined by our somewhat arbitrary laws.

This is an important distinction to make, because if you keep it in mind, this and other somewhat difficult examples make perfect sense.
posted by Hildago at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2004


... and it is somewhat troublesome, because it presumes temptation as a reliable factor. The little girl is a criminal not because she hurt anybody, but because she tempted somewhat else, who might go out and molest a child. The system to some degree presumes guilt. Or am I wrong?
posted by Hildago at 4:40 PM on April 3, 2004


This is just insane. Look at the actual charges:

"She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography."

Sexual abuse of children??? For masturbating? And possession of pictures of herself is possession of child pornography?????

This is absolutely mindnumbing.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:59 PM on April 3, 2004


I agree with namespan in that the images themselves are the problem

Huh? That's the whole problem I have with the crusades undertaken against child pornography. I completely disagree with that statement-- the problem is how the images are typically created and what they incite some people (who already have problems) to do.


yerfatma, if we follow your logic (which I agree with logically, but not practically), the law will say it's fine for any person (whatever age) to take what would be defined as pornographic photos of themselves, so long as they don't publish them anywhere. What happens next? A percentage of them will inevitably fall into the public domain through carelessness, or deliberately. On a practical level, the images are the problem - they are there to be had. And once they are out there, they fall into the wrong hands.

The little girl is a criminal not because she hurt anybody, but because she tempted some[one] else, who might go out and molest a child. The system to some degree presumes guilt. Or am I wrong?

On preview, Hildago, I totally agree.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:02 PM on April 3, 2004


I agree with the general consensus here that charging this girl is ridiculous. I have to ask soulhuntre, though, why exactly the Ms. discussion is "histrionic." Because it's on a women's magazine site? Are comments like this histrionic?

Absolutely. She's a child and should be helped by child workers...I hate to think what sort of life she's led, and what sort of experiences she's had, to bring her to doing things like this.

Frankly, I'd be more concerned about the potential for histrionic commentary right here on MeFi, but so far it seems to be going well.
*knocks wood*
posted by languagehat at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2004


The idea that the only reason someone isn't allowed to do something is because they are too young and yet they're old enough to pay for it as an adult just blows my mind.

Indeed.

Unless you're already a pedophile seeing a naked three year old is not going to arouse you.

I don't think that is true for even pedophiles--which is a catchall phrase in the public mind but notin the scientific, where even the word is scorned and parpahilias preferred. Insofar, as people with paraphilias have been studied, I think the objects of their desires tend to be closer to twelve and up. Of course, since we are so hot to define childhood up for sexual crimes until a twenty year old can have a record for life for having sexual relations with a seventeen year old. But we talk about pedohpilia as being about babies and toddlers. Which is just is not.

There are exceptions to everything--but they are as common as cannibals. You hear about it in either case, of course, because it's man bites dog plus the fact that this country is deeply in love with stories about sexual attacks on children.

Which is why we all know the name of Jon Benet Ramsey--who was not, as a matter of record, sexually violated. Except according to the Watercooler Times: I heard a story from a friend about how she had been vaginally penetrated the day after she died, which was a point in time when no one outside of th police knew anything about the case. We just love those stores--juicy details first, moral high horse, second.

I think a lot of the outrage is that children are exploited for pornography to gratify pedophiles.

What I think is the outrage is that talking about child sexual abuse and child pornography for several decades has been to sexualize children even more by insisting they are innocents, like children are not aware of or interested bodily functions, albeit not in a hormone amplified way, on one had, as victims in our collective child rape fantasies/moral tales, giving the idea and script to people who would never have it on their own. Child pornography came into the public mind when the Supreme Court legalized pornography. The anti-pornographic ax grinders immediately started going child pornography child pornography child pornogrraphy. The irony is there wasn't any commercial child pornography when they started this chant. But they blew on the little ember and it became a flame and then came the internet. Pandora's box.

You want to help stop child sexual abuse? Stop wallowing in stories about it. Enough gasoline has been poured on that fire.
posted by y2karl at 5:26 PM on April 3, 2004


I have two teenaged daughters, both of them have their own computers but neither has a webcam (and never will). I occasionally check on them, without warning, and that seems to be working (so far). So I have to wonder what the parents of this girl were thinking when they provided her with the cam, and because there was more than one picture, I have to also wonder why they never noticed how she was using it. If anyone needs to be punished for this incident, perhaps it's them.
posted by tommasz at 5:33 PM on April 3, 2004


The little girl is a criminal not because she hurt anybody, but because she tempted some[one] else, who might go out and molest a child. The system to some degree presumes guilt. Or am I wrong?

Utterly flawed. In that respect:

- Rape victims should assume partial guilt (they already do in many cases, in every way *except* legally) for having dressed "provocatively,"

- Movie and video companies should assume partial guilt for creating games which tempt children to go out and shoot other people (mind you, there are some who believe this, if you're one of them, just skip this one),

- Fast food restaurants should assume partial guilt for making such tasty, tempting food to fatten us all up.

The "temptation" thing is out there; we're all responsible for our own personal actions.

There are laws, I think, for soliciting/encouraging minors to engage in illegal activity, however? If those sorts of laws extend to minors encouraging other minors to engage in misconduct, then at the best, this is what she should be in trouble for. Getting her for a federal crime is over the top, unless she was smoking a phatty boom blatty and ripping off mattress tags or something.
posted by precocious at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2004


Just for contrast, not that it was pornographic, I wonder if anyone else watched ABC's national coverage of today's MLS opener. The big news, for the rest of you, was the professional debut of Freddie Adu. Freddie is not yet 15 and was signed to the highest paying contract in league history. The cameras were on him or the commentators mentioned him at least every other minute until a third of the way into the second half when he came on the field. There were also many shots of his adoring mom in the stands and mentions of her too.

So Freddy, younger than this arrested girl, was plastered all over a national broadcast and is mature enough to sign huge dollar contracts (including endorsements with Nike and Coke) but our heroine shouldn't be allowed to earn a pittance by selling her own photos.

The system to some degree presumes guilt. Or am I wrong?

What happened to the presumption of innocence in American jurisprudence? Seriously.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:39 PM on April 3, 2004


So let me see if understand this, you can be arrested for:

"sexually abusing" yourself, and possession of pictures of yourself.

ya know I wonder if this DA is hoping to get hit by a truck because he's got a lose lose situation on his hands
posted by MrLint at 5:52 PM on April 3, 2004


The truth is that young people are sexually active at an early age nowadays. It is not uncommon for 14 and 15 year olds to have nude or seminude pictures that they share with others online -- usually with people more-or-less their own age. Many of those who take and share such pictures are either sexually exhibitionistic, experimenting, trying to find relationships, or feel the need for positive feedback on their attractiveness.

The threat here isn't just that we are saying to kids that they don't have the right to sexually express themselves. The threat is also the risk this poses to web sites/services and software developers.

One of the onerous aspects of running websites like LiveJournal, Blogger/Blogspot, Diaryland, Fotki, Friendster, etc. are the potential legal issues involved if someone posts something inappropriate. The amount of posts that these sites deal with on a daily basis are so great, however, that policing them -- especially in non-public entries -- for illegal content is pretty much impossible. Likewise, confirming a person's age is just as problematic.

On LiveJournal, there are literally hundreds of communities where users post nude photos -- usually of themselves. Most of these communities are self-policing, and deal with these issues all the time. That said, there invariably are sites which are invite-only and completely below the radar. They can still be every bit as much of a legal problem as more public sites, however.

I suspect that if we had four more years of Bush, we'd find the culture wars spreading bigtime onto the Internet, and weblogs, image hosting, and FOAF/social websites would hardly be exempt targets.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:52 PM on April 3, 2004


tommasz:

1) It came with the PC for free.

2) Are your girls ever on the computer when you aren't home?

On a more general note: is it possible the police are charging her just so that they can seize her computer and figure out who she sent the pictures to? Still an assholeish thing to do, but perhaps not manifest evil.
posted by Ptrin at 5:56 PM on April 3, 2004


Few exhibitionist teens have much of a clue of how they fit into the bigger picture.
posted by meehawl at 6:02 PM on April 3, 2004


It's pretty common, outside western countries, for women to marry at 15 or much younger. I'm wondering which society has the more warped view of sex...

I'd say wherever forced marriages and honor killings are more common.

Just off the top of my head.
posted by transona5 at 6:15 PM on April 3, 2004


y2karl: "paraphilia" is a catchall term for all "philias" (previously called "sexual deviations"), from pedophilia to coprophila to shoe fetishes and B&D, it's not limited to those sexually attracted to underage people. As far as I know, "pedophilia" is still the only term used for people who are sexually aroused by kids (perhaps with modifiers).

This case is one of the most bizarre examples of how insane our thinking is about sex. We get into such a tizzy when someone dares show any sexuality when they haven't reached the mystical, magical age of *foo* (where *foo* = "age of consent, wherever you are"). This should be dealt with by her parents, not the courts. Being less uptight and more open about sex would help a lot.
posted by biscotti at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2004


You want to help stop child sexual abuse? Stop wallowing in stories about it. Enough gasoline has been poured on that fire.

I can't speak for anyone else, karl, but I'm not wallowing in anything.

For the record, I think this case is ridiculous, too, and I have no problem with adult material. Conversely however, that dosen't mean that child sexual abuse isn't a problem in this world. It's happened to too many people close to me to dismiss it so blithely. Yes, it is often used by politicians as a cynical means to get elected, but that dosen't mean that it's not something to be concerned about. And quite frankly, the tack of accusing those concerned about it of being to blame for it, I find quite frankly offensive.

Being less uptight and more open about sex would help a lot.

Is that neccessarily so? Since the 1960's, (the efforts of Reagan, Bush etc. notwithstanding) we've had increasing openness and freedom surrounding sex. Are we really any healthier? There was a sexual revolution, but who won exactly?
posted by jonmc at 7:38 PM on April 3, 2004


Being less uptight and more open about sex would help a lot.

Is that neccessarily so? Since the 1960's, (the efforts of Reagan, Bush etc. notwithstanding) we've had increasing openness and freedom surrounding sex. Are we really any healthier? There was a sexual revolution, but who won exactly?


Maybe the key here isn't so much openness about sex, as openness about the body in general, and learning to view sexual organs in a less sexual way. The less of a deal it is to show your boobs, for instance, the less appeal these things will elicit. You say we're so open about sex, and yet look what happens when a breast is exposed on television. If we were truly open about it, a breast would be nothing to fear.

On topic: the whole thing is ridiculous, if she's to be charged as an adult. Not a bad idea to scare her around a bit, but seriously no charges should pressed in the end. Make "an example" out of her by ruining her life? I don't think so.
posted by degnarra at 7:50 PM on April 3, 2004


You say we're so open about sex, and yet look what happens when a breast is exposed on television. If we were truly open about it, a breast would be nothing to fear.

People got excited about Janet's boob because it was unexpected in that context, and because the people who make their living fanning the flames of moral panic seized on it, and (I'd also argue) because that was exactly what Janet and Justin wanted, so they could engender more publicity.

Conversely though, with a few mouse clicks, I can obtain pornography of any conceivable variety free of charge, a quick channel-surf through afternoon TV will reveal people discussing their sexual peccadilloes and dysfunctions as matter-of-factly as a lunch menu, and the shelves of my local bookstore are festooned with volumes either giving detailed directions on how to obtain sex/perform better sexually or lurid tales of sexual exploits.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, necessarily, but it'd be hard to argue that sex is hidden away these days.

But even with all this openness we're still as neurotic as ever. i don't think it's neccessarily the cure-all people think it is.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on April 3, 2004


The fact that porn is easily available is not an indication that we are more open about sex. The availability of porn is related more to supply and demand, than societal attitudes. The fact that sex advice is easily available in the relative privacy of the internet doesn't mean that people are comfortable with their sexuality in the "real world". It's an ongoing process, the sexual revolution wasn't the end, and I'd say that the majority of people are still very ignorant, uptight and uncomfortable about sex and their bodies, for all kinds of reasons.
posted by biscotti at 8:18 PM on April 3, 2004


It's an ongoing process, the sexual revolution wasn't the end, and I'd say that the majority of people are still very ignorant, uptight and uncomfortable about sex and their bodies, for all kinds of reasons.

This may make me sound insane,but maybe we should be a little uptight around sex. I don't know that we should be casual and cavalier about sex. It's an important act that has all kinds of physical and emotional consequences. Reducing it all to just another body function isn't neccessarily any better than cloaking under a sheild of mystery.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 PM on April 3, 2004


This may make me sound insane,but maybe we should be a little uptight around sex.

Sex, maybe. Sexuality, no. The act of sex should always be a little bit taboo as the consequences are quite fierce but the new sexual revolt is aimed at freeing us from believing that our bodies are to be hidden.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:29 PM on April 3, 2004


Sex is cloaked under a shield of mystery - or seen as sacred or what have you - and pushed as the thing that everyone should want 24/7 simultaneously. It's two messages at the same time. Why's it any wonder that the country's neurotic about sex and sexuality?
posted by raysmj at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2004


jonmc, very well said.
posted by namespan at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2004


"Not uptight" != "casual and cavalier", jonmc. Being comfortable with sex and sexuality, not having hangups about them, does not mean you are free and easy with your affections, in fact it often means the opposite.

And what dflemingdotorg (which sounds like a giant slime monster) said.
posted by biscotti at 8:48 PM on April 3, 2004


Err, meehawl, a NSFW tag would have been nice with your comment.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:56 PM on April 3, 2004


"If it wasn't for my horse, I wouldn't have gone to college."

..if it wasn't for my horse??!
posted by tomplus2 at 9:19 PM on April 3, 2004


Sex is cloaked under a shield of mystery - or seen as sacred or what have you - and pushed as the thing that everyone should want 24/7 simultaneously. It's two messages at the same time. Why's it any wonder that the country's neurotic about sex and sexuality?

Alcohol and drugs are cloaked under a shield of mystery - or seen as sacred or what have you - and pushed as the thing that everyone should want 24/7 simultaneously. It's two messages at the same time. Why's it any wonder that the country's neurotic about alcohol and drugs?
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:45 PM on April 3, 2004


Alcohol and drugs aren't seen as sacred - they're seen as taboo. The attitudes toward the two are similar, but there are nuances or something here. (Forgive me, I've been aiming for precision in a document I'm working on here, and it's growing tiresome.) Mix in religion or piousness and capitalism, each contradicting and fighting the other, even while flirting with one another or even in some cases seeming to form an alliance, and you have a definite recipe for bizarre behavior.

And I don't think we're necessarily worse off for being more open anyhow. As it is many times, jonmc, my feelings on particular social issues are complicated by living in the Deep South - whose own attitudes toward the above are a more potent or extreme version of those described above. The region has the most uptight attitudes in America re sex, but higher rates of teen pregnancy, etc. You want them go back up everywhere? Set the clock back 50 years. Feel free.
posted by raysmj at 10:03 PM on April 3, 2004


Now, if someone could volunteer to explain Nevada.
posted by raysmj at 10:10 PM on April 3, 2004


Very cool thread, y'all.
posted by squirrel at 10:40 PM on April 3, 2004


Err, meehawl, a NSFW tag would have been nice with your comment.

You're working on Satuday night? You have my sympathies.

I think the Foucaldian perspective applies to this thread. The US as one of the most regulated industrialised societies naturally produces two poles of extreme regulation around religosity and the exploitation of sexuality. These extremes of prudery and pornography exist to constrain and force each other to produce novel marketplace mutations that enhance the utility of and complexity of both dynamics. This is an expected and contingent process within any highly developed late-capitalist free marketplace society. More of this in The Divine Supermarket: Shopping for God in America.

In short, regulation produces new forms of productive sexuality and consumptive scopophilia that create new psychic marketplaces that can be leveraged.
posted by meehawl at 11:19 PM on April 3, 2004


This is just insane. I mean, really, bloody, absolutely, over the top, fucking, insane. Granted, were I to have a teenage daughter, saints preserve us all, I'd be pretty annoyed at this behavior, and I'm sure penalties would be applied. But to get the police involved is just nuts.

I hope she whips around and sues them for malicious prosecution, or any other thing that a good civil attorney can come up with. This is an egregious overstepping of the law, and the DA and police department need to be slapped down hard and fast so it doesn't set a precedent.
posted by dejah420 at 11:20 PM on April 3, 2004


Teenage girl experiments with her sexuality, older men aroused, film at 11.

Geez. So you have these laws to "protect" "children". I'm sure this child is so much safer now now she's being protected by the force of the law.

As for blaming her parents, when I was 15 years old, I could be naive and transparent. But I could also muster some real rat cunning. It wouldn't surprise me if her parents are nice, caring people who respect their children's privacy, and have been caught out. What Ptrin said, in fact.

In a lot of civilised places, in fact even in some US states, there's nothing wrong with 15 year olds having sex. This talk of children and child pornography confuses the hell out of me. And what y2karl said.

(For the record, I have a daughter, almost 9, and I sincerely hope this is not something I have to deal with in 6 year's time. If, God forbid, I do, I hope I shall rise to the occasion).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:58 PM on April 3, 2004


This sort of thing always amazes me. When I was 16, chat-style BBSs were all the rage (yeah, ok, I'm old). I lied about my age and got onto one of the "adult" BBSs and had a grand old time playing a dominatrix in explicit terms.

It was generally harmless and by the time I was 18, I got tired of the game.

These days any number of men with no idea of my actual age would be in jail and I'd have been in for mandatory counseling at the least. I'm not convinced that what this girl did much different from what I did at the same age, given the difference in technology, except for the fact she was not lying about her age.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:46 AM on April 4, 2004


And I don't think we're necessarily worse off for being more open anyhow.

I never said we were. But I don't think we're necessarily any better off either. We all just hung up in new and different ways: even more emphasis on physical appearance for both sexes, emphasis on competitive sexuality (a la the infamous Spur Posse), the increased willingness of young women to use their sexuality as a weapon/bargaining chip, the "hook-up" culture, etc; all of these things could be said to be products of the relaxing of sexual mores.

"Not uptight" != "casual and cavalier", jonmc. Being comfortable with sex and sexuality, not having hangups about them, does not mean you are free and easy with your affections, in fact it often means the opposite.

Maybe not for you, but that seems to be the net effect over all, in my expereince. In the late 80's early 90's, when I came up, it made for a rather bereft, frightening landscape full of cheap pleasure but bare of any feeling. Adolescent sexuality is a difficult thing to come to grips with under any circumstances. Overly permissive attitudes just exacerbate it.

People tell me that they look back earlier times and "dates" and "going steady" and it seems impossibly quaint. Hell, I envy it.

Re: webcams in general: I When I sold PC's for a living, I had a rash of teenage girls asking me about webcams, all of them rocking the Britney/Christina slutwear look. They may consider it harmless exploration for a 15-year old to put nude shots on line, but the internets fulla people with bad intentions and it's best not to bait them.
posted by jonmc at 1:18 AM on April 4, 2004


Maybe the key here isn't so much openness about sex, as openness about the body in general, and learning to view sexual organs in a less sexual way. The less of a deal it is to show your boobs, for instance, the less appeal these things will elicit. You say we're so open about sex, and yet look what happens when a breast is exposed on television. If we were truly open about it, a breast would be nothing to fear.

Agreed.....the western world gets off on titilation, naughtiness, covering up our "bits" etc. This has made our minds equate the naked body to sexual activity, as the only time we're supposed to see nakedness is in a private, sexual context. I remember seeing a gameshow in Sweden where all the contestents, the gameshow host, the camera, sound and lighting crew, and the audience were all naked. After a short while, nakedness became such a common currency that it quickly lost its shock factor. Believe me, it wasn't arrousing either. I put the non-arrousement down to context - there is no sexual context where naked people are standing around discussing answers on a quiz show. The show itself had no sexual subtext - it was on early in the evening and I remember my uncle letting his young kids watch it.

In a lot of western countries, pornography has a monopoly on the human body. I don't think thats healthy at all.

I believe nudism/naturism/whatever you want to call it would take away alot of sexual hangups.

I think it's all about context - a young girl taking obviously provocative shots (sexual context) and then making them available to the public domain just feeds the sexual predators out there - the end result cannot be good for society.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:18 AM on April 4, 2004


jonmc: the increased willingness of young women to use their sexuality as a weapon/bargaining chip . . .

Increased willingness? As opposed to the good old days when women were essentially forced to exchange permanent sexual access (and some household drudgery) for food, a roof over their heads, and access to most sectors of society (a.k.a. marriage)?
posted by dame at 8:29 AM on April 4, 2004


I have to ask soulhuntre, though, why exactly the Ms. discussion is "histrionic."

To me, the "histrionic" part is the assumption that this
girl needs therapy, social workers or other intervention. The idea that a 15 year old who may *gasp* have sexual thoughts and enjoy sexual attention means that she is unquestionably on the cusp of ruining her life is to me a sign of hysteria about sex and a fear of sexuality.

Comments like this one...

"Absolutely. She's a child and should be helped by child workers...I hate to think what sort of life she's led, and what sort of experiences she's had, to bring her to doing things like this."

Are indeed indicative of that. "what sort of life she has led" to "bring her to doing things like this"? How about a fairly normal one. A lot of girls well in their mid teens might enjoy sex, sexual interaction and showing off a little... look around the malls as back up data. Not every girl who likes being looked at has led a life of abuse or misery I would wager.

To me, the automatic assumption that any 15 year old who might dare to think about sex has been abused and "driven to it" is paranoid and hysterical.
posted by soulhuntre at 9:17 AM on April 4, 2004


You go, dame. Hit the nail right on the head.
posted by twiki at 9:35 AM on April 4, 2004


We all just hung up in new and different ways: even more emphasis on physical appearance for both sexes.

Who's this "we?" I work on a college campus, and the students aren't any better dressed than when I was around - they're more casual, actually, to the point sometimes of being incredibly sloppy. Elsewhere, there is the whole tattoos and piercings bit, which often comes off as anti-glamorous to me.

Meanwhile, the idea of "hooking up" doesn't strike me as being open and secure about sexuality anyway - or, based on some personal experiences, I'd say it's not. Then I wonder how much of a reality is is besides, or how prevalent it is. The whole "hook-ups are ruining relationships" is a meme that's come through the media, which in turn picked it up through "studies" sponsored by conservative lobbying and research groups. The most talked about such study , moreover, was written by someone who is a "family values" proponent, as much an activist or more so than a scientific researcher. Moreover, her methodology was questionable (most of the "study" was based on interviews with 62 women *nationwide*. It's not even a case study of sexuality in a particular location.).
posted by raysmj at 10:24 AM on April 4, 2004


Are indeed indicative of that. "what sort of life she has led" to "bring her to doing things like this"? How about a fairly normal one. A lot of girls well in their mid teens might enjoy sex, sexual interaction and showing off a little... look around the malls as back up data. Not every girl who likes being looked at has led a life of abuse or misery I would wager.

No, but I would wager that this 15 year old may not entirely understand the consequences of posting naked pictures of herself on the web. Considering how remarkably easy cyberstalking is, she could be setting herself up for a very ugly situation. What she did might seem safe in the privacy of her own bedroom, and if she were older (and, hopefully, wise enough to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decison) it'd be entirely her business. A little counseling is probably a good idea, if only to give her some help in developing solid critical thinking and consequence weighing skills. Criminal prosecution in this case, however, is completely ridiculous.
posted by echolalia67 at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2004


She knowingly committed a criminal act, it seems to me. Every teenager knows that explicitly sexual pictures of people their age are illegal; she was banking on their rarity to increase their value to others.

I don't think she should face the same consequences as an adult offender, nor do I think she should register as a sex offender. But she clearly needs some kind of intervention.

It's not even a question of whether it's safe for her. To establish a precedent that it was legally "okay" for underage persons to create and disseminate sexual pictures of themselves would, I believe, lead to underage persons being pressured by others to create and disseminate same (one shudders to think what the parents of "Jessi the Kid" would do...)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:06 PM on April 4, 2004


I wonder if the reaction would be the same if this was a 15 year-old boy posting naked pictures of himself on the web? Or would the reaction be "oh well, boys will be boys"?

At 15, it is a rare person indeed who has the mental and emotional maturity to make a truly rational decision of this sort and I am sure that in a few years time, she will cringe every time she thinks of what she has done.

A lifelong criminal record as a sexual offender? Way too harsh. A swift kick in the pants? More appropriate and this should be delivered by her parents rather than the law.
posted by dg at 12:02 AM on April 5, 2004


Houses are getting way too big.
posted by glenwood at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2004


She knowingly committed a criminal act, it seems to me. Every teenager knows that explicitly sexual pictures of people their age are illegal; she was banking on their rarity to increase their value to others.

I doubt every teenager knows (or knew) that trading photos of themselves with people their age is illegal, or even that they could get in trouble, should that person receiving the pictures be an adult. Child porn has always, always associated with having an older, legally liable person involved. Banking on their rarity? You make the girl sound like a criminal mastermind.

Puberty leads to sexual exploration. Teenagers are for the most part hot in the pants, and before, they'd have to find a dark corner, the back seat of a car, or a friend's house to fool around at. They play games in closets where they have to flash each other. They even have the one game with the multicolored bracelets that you yank off in exchange for color-coded sexual favors.

Now they have the internet to fulfill those urges, and many are viewing it as a much safer alternative-- less chance of getting caught, getting into "sticky" situations, of getting pregnant or worse. Yeah, so some of them have discovered you can make money and are practicing for their illustrious future porn star careers. I seriously doubt many of them know that it's illegal to parade around nude on webcam for an audience. Maybe worthy of being grounded for life by the parental units, but not illegal.

I dunno. It's hard to picture teenage girls sitting around, fingers steepled Mr. Burns-style, plotting on how best to inflate the amount of child porn circulating the internet.
posted by precocious at 8:48 AM on April 5, 2004


Err, meehawl, a NSFW tag would have been nice with your comment.

You're working on Satuday night? You have my sympathies.


Hey, great mea culpa meehawl. Because no one works on a Saturday night, and it's Saturday night everywhere on earth at the same time.

More than that, though, this little slip-up is similar to the girl's, and to those on the site meehawl posted (at least on the first page - I had to back out of the second immediately, because guess what? I'm looking at this page on Monday morning!): You may be posting something on the Internet for one purpose at one point in time, but the shit STAYS THERE virtually forever, because anyone can get it and repost it even if you remove it. And their purposes may not match yours. In fact, you can pretty much bet they won't.

That's why I find the "amateur porn" concept fascinating - just because you're in a picture that doesn't have your name on it, in some room that's not in your own house doesn't mean you won't be identified at some point by someone, and once you have been, you can't be UNidentified. You just have to hope that the info doesn't get to people you don't want to have it. Are people who participate in this stuff thinking all this through?

P.S. languagehat, you were right to call B.S. on that pandering "histrionic" line. Picking out one comment, ridiculous or not, to tar a whole site would easily lead to the same description for this one.
posted by soyjoy at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2004


great mea culpa meehawl

A fortiori, who decides per se that Metafilter is SFW and which sites are NSFW. Standards vary. I do not accept that ipso facto and, per prima facie, such distinctions are sometimes pro forma. Accusations ex parte can be levelled at both sides. An a posteriori approach to this thread would have revealed several caveats concerning the nature of the site referenced, ad nauseam, and prevented you jumping in medias res, as it were. Without wanting to get into the long-winded, circular surface discussions that have characterised this thread, I felt those sites were mirabile dictu, if not mirabile visu. They represent the ne plus ultra of the current teen exhibitonism trend and required a nota bene since they are practically sui generis exemplari.

But thanks for your dictum. Res ipsa loquitur.

Carpe diem!
posted by meehawl at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2004


meehawl, this is all tangential to my point, but no, MeFi standards don't vary when it comes to full-screen pics of frontal nudity. A link to such a page clearly calls for a NSFW tag; the only question is whether you care enough to abide by the standard.

And what, you found it somehow remarkable that I would use a common, everyday latin phrase? De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.
posted by soyjoy at 8:10 AM on April 6, 2004


De gustibus non est disputandum

Tuis pugis pignore!
posted by meehawl at 4:51 PM on April 6, 2004


meehawl Err, meehawl, a NSFW tag would have been nice with your comment.

You're working on Satuday night? You have my sympathies.


NSFW isn't only about work; I'm using my mother in law's computer which is promenently displayed in her living room. Luckily they'd stopped watching the hockey game and went to bed. And like soyjoy said the contents of those links weren't in much of a grey area as far as NSFW status goes.
posted by Mitheral at 9:54 PM on April 9, 2004


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