There are no easy answers.
June 19, 2015 6:46 AM   Subscribe

How to Love Your Father When He’s in Prison for Child Porn, an essay by Lindsay Popper. SFW. Some may find the content disturbing.
posted by zarq (61 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite


 
I feel for this woman but I think her dad is being disingenuous about his involvement in this. I think the latest work done to study pedophiles indicate it's an attraction that starts relatively early and is persistent throughout life. You don't start watching child porn because you're lonely and the community is supportive (?!), you don't start watching because watching porn with consenting adults sends you down a slippery slope. Her father likely had these attractions long before his arrest and will continue to have them. Perhaps he'll learn to control them better. But for as long as he tells himself watching child porn is just something that happens when men get lonely, I doubt it.
posted by schroedinger at 7:03 AM on June 19, 2015 [26 favorites]


But for as long as he tells himself watching child porn is just something that happens when men get lonely, I doubt it.

Yes, exactly.

I didn't believe his supposed realization that "the kids in the picture were somebody’s kids. Real people.” I can't wrap my mind around the idea that someone could possibly look at child porn and not understand that they're looking at actual, real children. To be oblivious to the fact that the kids being photographed or videoed are incapable of understanding or consenting to how their images will be used.

I know there's a certain amount of sexual objectification in pornography, and some porn pushes fantasy narratives. But it's way too much of a disconnect for me to believe.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no. Last June my ex husband went to prison for two years for indecent dealings with a child under 6, the daughter of his best friend (a young man 15 years his junior who he'd mentored through school). I read this because I was hoping for something in helping my kids, my daughter who ignores that he exists, and my son who feels burdened by being the only person who talks to him, though the letters all remain unopened on a shelf in the hall.

What she left out was the shame, and a past now tainted by a monster - was anything good and true, when a person you thought you knew could do this? And why? I understand my daughter's position far more easily than my son's, though I respect his loyalty. That said, both my kids didn't want - still don't want to know why he's in gaol. They cling to the lie their father gave them when he was arrested, of accidental indecent exposure.

I have no sympathy for him, or his kind. He knew what my daughter (and the people who loved her) went through when his brother did the same thing. He knew what he was doing. He was just so incredibly selfish, self centred, egotistical, that it didn't matter that this little girl is now afraid to be in her own bathroom, in her own house, wets her bed, went backwards at school.

She's wrong. Some people deserve to be alone on their birthday.
posted by b33j at 7:20 AM on June 19, 2015 [66 favorites]


She says "it is common for people to assume that viewing and distributing child pornography is a victimless crime" UM WHO THE FUCK THINKS THAT.
posted by kate blank at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


I've heard it offered up as an excuse before - that since it's just pictures, it's not the same as assault. Which ignores the obvious, that photos don't just materialise out of nowhere, someone is forced to be in them.
posted by harriet vane at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


many, many people think that. might i suggest if you have any love left for humanity you don't read reddit threads about child porn.
posted by nadawi at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2015 [18 favorites]


I hit post too soon. I meant to add that as much as I don't buy his self-serving bullshit, I am interested in the idea of 'suspended empathy'. I suspect it's easier to suspend empathy when you don't have much (any?) to begin with, and that's the real reason the father in the article has never had a friend or a happy marriage and why his kids left home ASAP. If you don't actually care about other people or realise they have feelings then yeah, you're going to be lonely in the end. Duh. I'd question whether pedophiles have any empathy to suspend, but as a general explanation of people being shitty to each other I wouldn't mind hearing more.
posted by harriet vane at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


And to the best of my knowledge a lot of reddit talk about child porn is received "wisdom" from 4chan, where justifying abysmal behaviour is a competitive event.
posted by harriet vane at 8:01 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


An interesting and disturbing counterpart from recent Cracked: 5 Things I Learned Infiltrating Deep Web Child Molesters
posted by nicebookrack at 8:09 AM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


And another relevant essay: The Terrible Things I Learned About My Dad: On Abuse and the People We Love by Liz Prato.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:16 AM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I thought it was a wonderful piece. This is exactly the type of thing I come to Metafilter for: To read about experiences that are totally foreign to me, written in an eloquent way.

I understand this in an extremely sensitive subject, but I'm curious what those who didn't seem to enjoy the piece would have liked to have read from the author instead. If the writer's belief was that her father was an absolute monster deserving of zero sympathy, and thus, she decided after the arrest to shut him out of her life altogether, well, that would have been a totally understandable choice, but it also wouldn't have led to having much to write about here. To me, the conflict between knowing her father committed a monstrous act, repeatedly, and yet not quite being willing to abandon him altogether was what made this piece interesting.
posted by The Gooch at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


I can believe that some people genuinely don't make the connection between real children and child porn. I've known people who didn't make the connection between meat and animals, like she says in the article, or who don't quite realize that the ancient Roman, Egyptian, etc empires were real civilizations in the real world until they actually visit those places. A lot of people are just really bad at processing things that are abstracted from their everyday life experience and integrating them into their mental model of reality. Particularly if they're the kind of people who are shitty at empathy, whatever end of the chicken/egg spectrum you'd assign causation.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:21 AM on June 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


One of the things that struck me was how the writer has people around her who were very, very kind to her. She herself I think has that same kindness and is struggling to make it her main reaction to her father. Which... there she is actually feeling complicit and guilty because he gave her this spiel about being lonely and looking for family. I mean the answer he concocted, of a family constructed around child sex abuse, doesn't bear even a second's examination. Like what, if he had run into Sawny Bean's family he would have been lonely enough to join them?

The other thing I found a bit shocking was that apparently people can be kept in prison after finishing their sentences? civilly committed: men who have served their sentence but are deemed too much of a risk to be released to the world. What is this, a legal arrangement? How does that work?

Anyhow I feel very sorry for the author, who seems a generous and loving person stuck with having to relate to someone much less generous and loving.
posted by glasseyes at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


And to the best of my knowledge a lot of reddit talk about child porn is received "wisdom" from 4chan

it's not just those parts of reddit - it's also the "good" subreddits. i visit reddit every day so i'm not saying this from a "i just searched for the worst stuff" view or an outsider view - the going theory over there about child porn is mostly that it's a victimless crime and they are proud to defend that position.
posted by nadawi at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I understand this in an extremely sensitive subject, but I'm curious what those who didn't seem to enjoy the piece would have liked to have read from the author instead.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the piece--I did. I cannot imagine being in her position and it is very brave of her to put all of those emotions out there because the expectation is that she should burn all his pictures and never speak to him again.

But I think the piece also belies that either her father is deceiving her, she is deceiving herself, or a mix of both. The way he describes his consumption of child porn and supposed disavowing of it does not reflect out understanding of pedophilia in any way, shape, or form. It does reflect what any pedophiles say when attempting to garner sympathy or avoid facing their actual issues.

That definitely adds another layer of complexity and sadness to the piece. The main thing I don't like about that is it may reinforce that kind of magical thinking amongst other pedophiles and their relatives.
posted by schroedinger at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


glasseyes - there are different mechanisms, but it functions under the same idea as involuntary psychiatric holds.
posted by nadawi at 8:37 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


civilly committed: men who have served their sentence but are deemed too much of a risk to be released to the world. What is this, a legal arrangement? How does that work?

Possibly refers to the criminally insane?
posted by schroedinger at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]




Thanks
posted by glasseyes at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Gooch, I feel like schroedinger puts it well. It's a well-written piece which gives insight to an unusual situation, and I think that makes it worthy of being posted here on the Blue. I just think we get insight into a different situation than perhaps the author intended. My heated reaction is more to her father's bullshit than to the post or the article itself.
posted by harriet vane at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Recent news on civil commitment.
posted by Octaviuz at 8:56 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


another article on minnesota's program with a little more information and a little less opinion.
posted by nadawi at 9:00 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


She says "it is common for people to assume that viewing and distributing child pornography is a victimless crime" UM WHO THE FUCK THINKS THAT.

People here? I've definitely had that argument with a lot of people including on this site.

I think that mostly people just don't think about it much because they don't like thinking about child porn (and very, very much don't like thinking about child abuse) so their opinions about it are kind of stupid
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:07 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


An interesting and disturbing counterpart from recent Cracked: 5 Things I Learned Infiltrating Deep Web Child Molesters

This ain't your parents' Cracked Listicle.

On the article, I am torn. I think it's probably good for the father that the author is trying to maintain that relationship, as hopefully family support will help him not to reoffend, still though, I hope she doesn't view her urge to love him as necessary to fulfill.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 9:16 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


But I think the piece also belies that either her father is deceiving her, she is deceiving herself, or a mix of both. The way he describes his consumption of child porn and supposed disavowing of it does not reflect out understanding of pedophilia in any way, shape, or form. It does reflect what any pedophiles say when attempting to garner sympathy or avoid facing their actual issues.

I had wondered if perhaps he was also lying to himself about it.
posted by zarq at 9:25 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just think we get insight into a different situation than perhaps the author intended. My heated reaction is more to her father's bullshit than to the post or the article itself.

Yes. For me, it's a bit like the Serial podcast that way. It's interesting (though sad) to hear from someone who doesn't realize that they're still being manipulated. Sort of the non-fiction version of an unreliable narrator.
posted by gentian at 9:33 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't believe his supposed realization that "the kids in the picture were somebody’s kids. Real people.” I can't wrap my mind around the idea that someone could possibly look at child porn and not understand that they're looking at actual, real children

I don't think he meant 'I thought they were fake images'. I think he meant 'they didn't feel real to me'.

I don't want to Godwin anything, but I've just spent sixteen hours listening to 'Escape from Sobibor', and what has really been striking me lately is how much even the worst people, Nazis, the ones who did the worst things, cared about some people - but they didn't treat Jews as human, as real people, with feelings. Like how these child molesters don't think that children have real feelings. Or how they put up lines 'well, I'm not doing THAT, so I'm not really bad. For her father, it was 'Well I'm not molesting these children, it's other people.' Or 'well this mother is the one doing it, so it can't really be bad.' Or 'I was lonely.' It's all bullshit rationalizations and in some ways it's designed to get him out of trouble. To get him paroled. To get his family to still talk to him.

But fuck this guy. I can't have any other reaction but 'fuck this guy'. I don't care if he loves his children but abuses other people's. He's still a monster.
posted by corb at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


She says "it is common for people to assume that viewing and distributing child pornography is a victimless crime" UM WHO THE FUCK THINKS THAT.

People here? I've definitely had that argument with a lot of people including on this site.


I don't think that but I can understand how someone contorts themselves into that position. You walk down the street, look down and see a picture on the ground. You pick it up and look at it and it's a child in a compromising position. The letter of the law says you've viewed child porn, yet the child whose picture was taken is basically not any more harmed than before you looked at the picture. That obviously overlooks the possible emotional damage of having the picture out there and an already victimized child being recognized and stigmatized, as well as the realities of creating a demand and how that other children who may be subsequently harmed. But I can absolutely see how someone who is comfortable with "I wasn't going to buy that mp3 anyway so downloading it is harmless" can jump to "looking at a picture causes no harm."

Accepting the harm caused by looking at pictures created of abuse, rather than creating abuse yourself, requires accepting the idea of culpability for your actions by your consumption. Culpability for the harm that occurs in the world for no other reason than to satiate your appetite. Most people don't walk away from Omelas. Most don't want to know that kid is even there.

If you want to sweat this sort of thing - which I personally do not - I am more concerned by the side effects of the level of criminality and stigma we've created with child porn laws that extend even to creation of animated child sex. There's really no path in our society for someone who has these urges but doesn't want to indulge them. Mandatory reporter laws make it impossible for people to seek treatment in some states.

In the hierarchy of people who I am worried about, kid-touchers are pretty low on my list. But as a parent I do sometimes worry about whether we're coping with this in the most effective way. As a human I wonder what the right thing to do is about people who have an impulse they didn't choose.
posted by phearlez at 9:53 AM on June 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


An interesting and disturbing counterpart from recent Cracked: 5 Things I Learned Infiltrating Deep Web Child Molesters

ok I think I'm gonna go walk into the sea now
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:53 AM on June 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thanks for sharing this, Zarq. I think the story is compelling because so many of us have struggled with trying to forgive a parent who has done terrible things--sometimes to us and sometimes to others. It was eloquent and not the least bit melodramatic, which so much of this kind of personal narrative can be in my experience.

Requisite link to This Be The Verse.
posted by Cassford at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


For me, if I had to elaborate on why I did not like this piece, I'd say the whole thing felt like the emotional version of her calling up her high school boyfriend on Christmas Eve and then him doing hard physical labor for four hours (for someone about to go to prison for child porn possession). And then she's all thx a bunch, I'll bake you cookies. Like, that was the whole essay for me. She did some work (packing, narrating) earlier, she ropes someone into doing a ton of fucking heavy lifting (her high school boyfriend, the reader) and then she sort of flits off like lol, I'll make you cookies. She also was super keen to get her dad on the road because she wanted one last Christmas with him before he went jail. Who will make the beignets otherwise! Lady, fuck you, fuck your beignets and fuck your stupid essay that skims like one tenth of one percent of what is actually happening in the situation you are describing.

I obviously have complicated feelings about this -- when I was eleven my father went to prison for molesting a three year old girl. At his trial, the judge called him "a drunk who likes kids, unfortunately at the same time". I realized when I was an adult that his sentence was shamefully short. My mother thought it was a net positive for the little girl who had been molested because it meant she would receive court-ordered counselling which would help her work through some hardships she'd had in her upbringing. My dad is dead now (he went to prison again and again for other offenses, cancer consumed his entire body and he died in agonizing pain at the age of 52) and the day that he died my cousin posted on Facebook that she was glad her uncle was in heaven looking over her babies. I replied "he's a convicted child molester, are you sure that's for the best?" To me it doesn't not "count" because my father's conviction was 20 years earlier and it doesn't not "count" that this guy was "only" viewing and distributing child porn. This essay seemed not to address or acknowledge what a terrible crime he committed and I'm definitely not okay with that.
posted by kate blank at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2015 [22 favorites]


The Cracked article provides quite a context to the guy's description of ranking up in his child porn trading guild and boy oh boy it is not a context that inclines one toward sympathy.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:35 AM on June 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't mean this as a call-out because it's the language being used in the linked article so it's understandable that people would use it here too but I really wish we could all stop calling this stuff "child pornography". People are asking how people can see it as a victimless crime and I think the way it is framed as just another genre of pornography instead of video or photographic evidence of child abuse is a part of that disconnect. Calling it pornography makes us mentally classify it as media and in some sense that makes it less real. Yes, it takes a few more words and some wrangling of sentence structure to type out "photographs of children being sexually abused" or "videos of a child being raped" versus "child pornography" but I think it's worth it because you are no longer hiding behind a euphemism. The people who create, distribute and consume these images and photos of abuse will always use euphemisms to avoid having to recognize the human suffering behind what they are doing but we don't have to and we should all make a point of calling it what it is instead of letting them frame how we talk about it. Again, I don't mean this as a criticism of everyone here who is using it in this conversation because I recognize that its usage is pretty pervasive but I do think we can do better by calling these recordings of abuse what they really are.
posted by metaphorever at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2015 [42 favorites]


Having read both this article and the one in Cracked I feel like a big part of me has died.

I accept that the author has come to some place of forgiveness of her father but all it has done is made me realize that there are some things for which forgiveness is not possible. I hope some day she realizes he's a monster that a couple of courses in prison on how to fake empathy won't turn into a human being, but it's likely she won't.
posted by tommasz at 11:13 AM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't mean this as a call-out because it's the language being used in the linked article so it's understandable that people would use it here too but I really wish we could all stop calling this stuff "child pornography".

I completely agree that it is valuable and extremely important to call it child abuse/rape/exploitation, etc. I'll take that into consideration for future fpp's, and thank you for mentioning it.

I think it's worth noting that the term 'child porn' was used in the article because the father's legal convictions were for the "possession and distribution of child pornography." And that's an umbrella term, because most of the laws involving photography and videos depicting child nudity, abuse, exploitation or rape try to covering a wide range of possible media types and depictions. Laws are written to cast as wide a net as possible so that no offenders can potentially slip past.
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


What struck me about the piece was how the author didn't seem to fully realize that she is also one of her father's victims. The picture she paints of him, even aside from the exploitation of children, is someone who has left many broken relationships in his wake. She talks about how he never had any friendships, about him being on his third wife by the time she was in kindergarten, about spending weeks staying at her best friend's house in high school because things were too tense at home. From personal experience I can tell you that a family that lets their teenage kid disappear for days at a time isn't much of a family at all.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into that, but... I couldn't help but wonder if her impulse to forgive him for this heinous act, the violation of children, might stem from the fact that being raised in a family like that can make you codependent for life. Always trying to forgive people for things that are actually unforgivable, because you understand from the time you're very young that if you don't, you won't have a family at all.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


I hope some day she realizes he's a monster that a couple of courses in prison on how to fake empathy won't turn into a human being, but it's likely she won't.

I hate this attitude. Not because I have any love for pedophiles, but because it is exactly the attitude calling them "monsters" that allows them to get away with what they do.

When we dismiss a group of people as "monsters"--whether it's pedophiles, racists, rapists, whatever--we implicitly separate ourselves and the ones we love from them. And when we do that, we are more likely to overlook our own behavior or the troubling signs from loved ones because gosh, we can't be monsters, right? OK, so we don't invite the Black coworker out with us to happy hour, but they probably wouldn't enjoy themselves. OK, Dave was joking about that passed-out drunk girl he brought home last night, but surely it's a misunderstanding and she was interested. Our nephew's behavior has changed dramatically since his grandfather started babysitting him, but he just started attending a new daycare and it's probably a phase and hey, who can ever tell with kids, right?

Pedophiles are not monsters. They are human beings want to do--or have done--monstrous things. We may not share their particular crimes, but we all share a similar ability for the compartmentalization that allows us to justify ugly shit without self-examination.
posted by schroedinger at 11:48 AM on June 19, 2015 [21 favorites]


Isn't a lack of empathy considered typical for people diagnosed as psychopaths? (Maybe the currently accepted term is sociopath, I can't remember.) Are child molesters ever diagnosed as psychopaths?
posted by scratch at 11:50 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Again, I don't mean this as a criticism of everyone here who is using it in this conversation because I recognize that its usage is pretty pervasive but I do think we can do better by calling these recordings of abuse what they really are.

The only problem with this - and I do not disagree with you on euphemisms masking acceptance of reality - is that for legal purposes those photos don't need to show abuse or even be taken/created with an intent to titillate. These folks share around photos from nudist colonies or other non-sexual sources, or photoshopped photos of children, or artificial renderings. All of which are prosecuted as possession of child porn when someone is discovered to have them with intent. There's a non-negligible amount of this stuff that's porn because of the eye of the beholder. It is part of a system of abuse but may not be pictures of abuse itself.
posted by phearlez at 12:12 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are child molesters ever diagnosed as psychopaths?

Yes. Psychopathy is diagnosed using the Hare PCL-R Checklist. There have been studies done on prison populations serving time for rape and sexual assault convictions, and sexual offenders (all kinds, not just child molesters) generally score lower on the checklist than violent criminals. More here.
posted by zarq at 12:12 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a very interesting book, Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet by Philip Jenkins. It is an academic study, but one of the eeriest ever made. Jenkins had his computer set up so that it couldn't display images or graphics, only text. That way, he could go lurk in message boards and other virtual communities of pedophiles on the Internet without exposing himself to risk of arrest himself for possession of child pornography. What he found was chilling. Jenkins had previously written several books on moral panics, about how the media exaggerates the dangerousness of phenomena like terrorism and serial killers. He went into the online pedophilia research with the same frame of mind, but it scarily dawned on him that this was no exaggerated moral panic, but a very real thing.
posted by jonp72 at 12:54 PM on June 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


I was struck by the juxtaposition of the dad's profession: "a professor and then... the dean of a handful of business schools" and the statement in the next paragraph that "my whole life, I cannot remember my father having a friend." Power and prestige without friendship seems like a toxic combination, one you'd be a sociopath to get into or would make you a sociopath once you got there.
posted by sy at 1:00 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


"We may not share their particular crimes, but we all share a similar ability for the compartmentalization that allows us to justify ugly shit without self-examination." Human beings devise in mythologies this concept of the demon, or monster--- but all the acts involved in being one are common things people carry out on anyone they are able to dehumanize.

To many of earths creatures, and to many human beings-- humans are the most terrifying monsters on earth. That we pretend humans should ever really be put in positions of power or trust over others at all, is kind of magical thinking given the history of humans actual capacity to manage power over others without abusing it. But like we get in our cars and try to forget the danger, when you live with certain threats you just learn to.. ignore them. Pretend those threats are not there unless you FORCED by the brutal cruel acts of reality to face them and even then our minds will try to erase that knowledge that our fellow humans can and too often are some of the most dangerous and horrifying beasts we will ever encounter on earth. And these horrifying beasts will still smile, and show kindness at times. It's madening. It's incomprehensible. All but those forced to face it will avoid facing this, and those who have been forced will often do anything to forget or distort it-- pretend it's not really that bad so you don't have to live in horror or fear.

Pretend that love and forgiveness can fix everything because that eases the heart. I don't begrudge anyone their painkillers, but people whose vision of reality and the dangers within it is distort are themselves often unsafe and put others at risk by overlooking the danger of say.. people who have abused children and should not be trusted by anyone ever.

This is where I think the push for forgiveness of all and unconditional love and acceptance is actually a harmful thing to push on the world, much as I want in my heart for all beings to hold hands and skip together in the flowers with the magic rainbows and stuff. I've loved bad people. My family are bad people among them.

Yes I will call them monsters. I even count myself among beasts; I eat the lives of those who are more vulnerable than me because I can, because it benefits me-- I take the labor of people who feel trapped and mistreated because I feel powerless to generate a better way. I benefit from the suffering of others. But I think feeling that sexually abusing children (or actively supporting it) is one of the most monstrous things a person can do EVEN THOUGH the rest of us can be pretty wretched- has plenty of validity. It's different.

But if in order to call out child abusers I must label myself a monster than let me go down for my own sins as well.

For a lot of us, it's brutal and painful to STOP loving a family member or loved one who has done such heinous things. It's actually the courageous thing to do to be willing to stand for those harmed instead of to cave into your own yearning to get your needs for things to be ok with someone you love met through minimizing and forgetting what they did. When those who live with the after effects may not be able to ever experience this convenient forgetting and things being made nice and ok again.

I do still have love for those who have done horrible things, but I will stand with the needs of those harmed first even it hurts and I would rather just forgive and all make nice and everything be ok.

Some things can not be made ok, even with powerful compassion involved, at least to me, not in one human lifetime. And I'm not sure they should. To me that's sort of "maybe over the course of many lifetimes" kind of stuff if there were such a thing.

If people still want the love of and wellfare their abusive family members, I don't begrudge people this, but I don't think we have to pretend that's the "right" thing to do or the higher more advanced thing. It may well not be at all. I don't think it's wrong to be willing to ignore heinous crimes to get needs met- I actually think emotional needs are real and I don't view people who use what resources are available (even horrifying ones) are a different subcategory of people-- they are simply humans in situations of scarcity of humans that love them as they are. When you need family and your family is terrifying.. you just try to ignore the constant white noise of the horrifying stuff, make it ok somehow in your head, and grasp for what you need. And no, you CAN'T just replace family by going to therapy or joining meetup groups. It's not that easy especially for people broken by abuse. And most people need and deserve family so whether people stay or go is something I respect-- I just don't respect once those decisions start leading to dangerous thinking/ideologies for others. I.e. the catholic church can love their child abusing priests all they want, but the genuine unconditional love and acceptance can lead to some shitty fucked up behavior.

Like sure you can love a lion but don't expect to take one to the park and for anyone nearby to do anything but run. If you love a lion and a zebra equally and don't take sides, you'll have one dead zebra. So much for the magic of love.
posted by xarnop at 1:09 PM on June 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


To be oblivious to the fact that the kids being photographed or videoed are incapable of understanding or consenting to how their images will be used

I'd expect the idea that the subject would not have understood the context of the photo seems like absolution to some. There was a piece though, probably linked here, in which a woman relates how she actually feels about sexualized photos of her childhood self continuing to spread around the internet, and I found it very convincing as to why this argument is wrong. I just don't find it surprising to hear because a lot of people don't appear to believe in consent to be photographed at all especially if it's fairly anonymous. And going by the Cracked article distribution is supported by reciprocal trading schemes and people explicitly egging each other on to commit and document gruesome abuse, which tears the notion of "just looking" to shreds .
posted by atoxyl at 1:59 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only problem with this - and I do not disagree with you on euphemisms masking acceptance of reality - is that for legal purposes those photos don't need to show abuse or even be taken/created with an intent to titillate. These folks share around photos from nudist colonies or other non-sexual sources, or photoshopped photos of children, or artificial renderings. All of which are prosecuted as possession of child porn when someone is discovered to have them with intent. There's a non-negligible amount of this stuff that's porn because of the eye of the beholder.

That's not my understanding of the legal definition of child pornography, which I believe must depict either sexual activity or "lewd and lascivious" exhibition of the genitals. Nude images of children, per se, are not child pornography, and they do not become child pornography because someone finds them sexually arousing.

However, I do think it's useful to use the term "child pornography" because there is legally prohibited material which is not video or photographic evidence of child abuse. There are many places where people under the age of 18 can consent to sex, but a video or photographic depiction of that legal sex act would be illegal child pornography.

I believe there have even been cases when teens have been threatened with prosecution for child pornography for pictures they have taken of themselves.
posted by layceepee at 2:37 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a piece though, probably linked here, in which a woman relates how she actually feels about sexualized photos of her childhood self continuing to spread around the internet, and I found it very convincing as to why this argument is wrong.

See two mefi posts from 2010, (the first is the case you're referring to:) Pornography's victim wants viewers to pay and Larry Rivers' Archives.
posted by zarq at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


That is a wrenching read. Heartbreaking stuff. I'm not going to judge her response to his crimes. It sounds like an absolutely agonizing situation for her family.

There were a few things in the article that I didn't understand. It didn't feel like the author was being deliberately ambiguous and letting us draw our own conclusions. It seemed more like it just wasn't occurring to her that we'd have questions. (I've got some painkillers in my system, so pardon me if this stuff makes perfect sense and I'm just being dense.)

Earlier that day, I received a Facebook message from a good friend: “I heard what happened with your dad. I’m so sorry, and let me know if there’s anything I can do. I’ll drive down to North Carolina if you need me.” I was baffled, but busy leading orientation at my college and figured that someone would have called me if something bad had happened.

When you get a message like that, how do you not assume your father has died or been in an accident or something?

every Saturday, he had lunch with the father of my high school best friend, who’d befriended him after his arrest.

Maybe this is something she can't explain, or wasn't curious about for some reason. But, why would somebody (particularly the father of her high school best friend!) choose to befriend him after he was arrested for something like that?

There is my high school boyfriend who came at the last minute to help my father pack a moving truck days before he went to prison.

I know this isn't a journalistic piece so we shouldn't expect her to go interview everybody to get their side... but I was really baffled by why this ex would be helping out a convicted child molester as a favor to a girl he dated in high school. I mean, even if he is unusually close to his ex, he is still spending hours helping out a child molester.

I guess I'm just surprised by all the compassion that people are showing her father, and wondering where it comes from.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:48 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


And to the best of my knowledge a lot of reddit talk about child porn is received "wisdom" from 4chan, where justifying abysmal behaviour is a competitive event.

Nah, reddit is pretty much the hub, at least as far as anything not darknet i've ever heard of or seen disgusting evidence of, on the open web. I've seen more shitty justification and "all men are attracted most of them just pretend they aren't because PC police" and stuff there than anywhere else.

It's definitely stronger and has a deeper lore on reddit than it ever did on 4chan. Maybe 8chan, but that's basically an extension of reddit now more than of 4chan.

That "normal porn is a gateway drug" logic is also shit i heard on reddit first, despite spending a brain melting amount of time on 4chan over the years.

I guess I'm just surprised by all the compassion that people are showing her father, and wondering where it comes from.

If you've been peripherally and/or directly around enough abusers and shitty people, you'd know that somhow they always get more support than the survivors. I've seen it happen over and over and over.

If you're cynical and in a bad mood, it makes you feel like there must be a lot more abusers and abuse sympathizers out there than you realized. You can't just chalk it up to cognitive dissonance and "but he's such a good guy!"
posted by emptythought at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Started, but couldn't finish. The father doesn't seem to me to be truly contrite--his attributing his crimes to "loneliness" is just fucking awful.

Don't have the stomach for this today.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:39 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Damn it. I see now that I referred to him as a child molester in my comment. The article made it clear he was arrested for possessing child porn, and there's no mention of him actually molesting anybody.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:04 PM on June 19, 2015


Justice.gov says "a picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive." Which is pretty vague but doesn't spell out the level of possible culpability I recall. It's well possible that I am conflating something (wrongly interpreted) in my head from my days working in a photo lab where management had an oddly realized terror of anyone processing photos that could get them hassled by the law.
posted by phearlez at 6:28 PM on June 19, 2015


phearlez, you may be remembering advice based on the "Dost test," from a 1986 case that identified criteria to be used to better determine whether a visual depiction of a minor constitutes a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area," (And the case involved undeveloped film that had been mailed to a photo processor.)

One of the six factors identifed was whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer, but I don't think it's the case that images that didn't meet at least some of the other specific criteria identified would be ruled child pornography based on the "intent" of the person viewing them.
posted by layceepee at 6:40 PM on June 19, 2015


That "normal porn is a gateway drug" logic is also shit i heard on reddit first, despite spending a brain melting amount of time on 4chan over the years.

This is not how things work for most of us but I get the sense that there are a few people with sexual fixations not so much strictly on children but on anything transgressive, with no boundaries - the most shocking, most sadistic, most illegal material available. You know, like what Ted Bundy said about his porn addiction - it says more about him than about porn but I don't think he was lying exactly.
posted by atoxyl at 7:23 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hopefully this doesn't steer into a derail but the other thing about reddit and CP is that a lot of people on there support pedophilia by making it seem like it's harmless and not a big deal, and cite consent laws and such as a part of that, which may make potential child abusers feel like there's nothing wrong with it and lead them to doing illegal activities instead of potentially getting help.
posted by gucci mane at 7:26 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are some child molesters who are psychopaths who basically have sex with children not because it is their sexual fixation but because the children happened to be nearby. These types typically offend with their own kids or stepkids, but will basically take advantage of anyone of the right gender and actually prefer adults. This makes them more "curable" in terms of the sex offending (they aren't going to seek out kids deliberately; they are opportunistic) but more dangerous in general, because they completely lack empathy.

It is quite possible that the father here is this type and got into this because of its transgressive nature and his lack of empathy, not because he's oriented towards children. What I thought was missing from the piece was any sense of what he was like in his interactions with her, though. But that, too, is typical of descriptions of psychopaths: they are blank and you can't empathize with them because they lack empathy and it's hard to imagine what that is like if you do have it.

So, he might not be lying about the "loneliness" thing or about not having seen the children as "real" since he may not see most people as real.

None of this excuses the crime, of course, but it's definitely not the case that all people who molest children or watch child exploitation and abuse are sexually fixated on children.
posted by Maias at 8:13 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ursuline Hitler, re: the befriending after the arrest. I didn't realise until you brought it up that I'd filled in that gap with a supposition based on people I've known - the "love the sinner, hate the sin" types. They would feel that someone should show compassion, and perhaps even feel that if they'd been a better friend earlier then the situation could have been avoided. There's no indication in the article that this is the correct explanation, but it is one possibility.
posted by harriet vane at 11:23 PM on June 19, 2015


It is too late for the edit window, but at least the autocorrect from Ursula to Ursuline looks nice even if it's wrong.
posted by harriet vane at 1:04 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


okay. Not a monster. I call this one (mentioned in my earlier post, not the subject of the OP's link) the rat bastard (referencing some film I've long forgotten). He's our species, I made children with him. I love the children and recoil at the thought he was ever in my body. He behaved not quite badly enough for me to stick out 20 years of marriage, which I shouldn't have done (that's on me), but I resent him because the person I gave my best years to,hoping over and over again that he would act with kindness and responsibility turns out to be the sort of person who infects a little girl's life like a n incurable virus. It's relevant - what happens to these kids will offer hang over their heads, and their romances and their beds for their entire lives. What happens? What these people (photographers, distributors, viewers, molesters) do to children has a lifelong impact. Anxiety, difficulty with relationships and sexuality, depression, suicide. And it's all for their own ends. I can empathise with a parent, who stretched beyond his or her resources abuses a child; I can and have forgiven a parent who emotionally abused; I can understand why couples may become violent with each other though I don't condone it, I can appreciate the circumstances that lead people to homicide, but child sex abuse (and I include makers and users of child exploitation material) is just unforgivable. I personally rate murder as a lesser crime.
posted by b33j at 2:51 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


The other thing I found a bit shocking was that apparently people can be kept in prison after finishing their sentences? civilly committed: men who have served their sentence but are deemed too much of a risk to be released to the world. What is this, a legal arrangement? How does that work?

Louis Theroux, "A Place For Paedophiles"

Also: Minnesota's civil commitment of sex offenders has been ruled unconstitutional Because essentially no one is ever released, even after being serving their sentences.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


When you get a message like that, how do you not assume your father has died or been in an accident or something?
She briefly touches on her home life, which was not pretty and sounds like it had a lot of drama in it. She was likely ignoring the message because she knew that it was going to be just another can of worms.

And the high school boyfriend probably knows a lot about her home life growing up and did her this favor because he feels bad for her and the shit she has had to deal with her whole life because her dad is a bad person.

Because let's face it: her dad is a bad person. He didn't know what empathy was - enough to consume child pornography without recognizing that those are real children being abused and raped and being treated like they aren't people - like they aren't goddamn kids. A person with that kind of empathy problem cannot be a good parent. Her ex-boyfriend knows this, saw it firsthand, and feels sorry and wants to help in any way he can.

I hope she finds peace. This is really sad. I am glad she wrote it because it is a story to be told and heard. Thanks to her for writing it, and I'm glad to see this here on Metafilter.
posted by sockermom at 10:36 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was really baffled by why this ex would be helping out a convicted child molester as a favor to a girl he dated in high school. I mean, even if he is unusually close to his ex, he is still spending hours helping out a child molester.

I don't think we need to look too deeply into this. Your mileage might not run it, but some people go to extraordinary lengths for their exes, in honor of what they once shared, and also because they've seen each other at their absolute worst and it builds a strange kind of friendship sometimes. I have at least two exes, currently, who I could ask for unspecified ridiculous manual labor favors with no questions asked. In return, I've bailed exes out of jail, sent them money, handled negotiations with their divorcing spouse, what have you. This doesn't mean the ex feels sympathy with the dad, this means the ex is loyal to her.
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2015


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