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Child Porn as Thoughtcrime
Q: Is a drawing of a child engaging in a sexual act an illegal item?
Q: Is an image of Raquel Welch morphed to make her look like a 15-year-old
Q: Is writing a story about a child having sex illegal?
Q: Is a collage of images of little girls (or boys, one presumes) in
swimsuits, with apparent salacious intent, illegal?
Q: Is accessing a Web site having nude or sexually-related images of
children who are of legal sexual age in the site's country--but not in the
Q: Is it legal to have photographs of one's own children in a nude state?
(E.g., playing in a backyard pool, at the beach, etc.) Does it become
illegal to let others see these photographs? How about putting them on a
Q: Is a crime committed if a teenaged girls takes a photograph of _herself_
and shows it to others? To adults? Or if she writes a salacious story about
herself or her friends? Or if she just invents it all?
Whom is exploiting whom? Which acts are crimes? I submit that the various
child porn laws we have in the United States are about the clearest
examples of "thoughtcrime" one can find, where the _thought_ is what is
First, a caveat, which ought to be clear, but which is necessary to state
anyway (never know what search engines will find my words and take them out
of context). I have no unusual interest in little children. Surely some
teen girls can be sexually attractive, even if technically underage.
Nothing surprising in this, surely? But, no, I am not an advocate of "child
porn," merely wondering about the many constitutional and moral issues
involved in the panoply of laws and precedents involved.
Anyway, we have on this list various comments about "child porn" and why it
should be illegal:
-- consumption of child porn "creates a market"
-- it harms the children
-- it's disgusting
Clearly the first argument applies to many other things. Why not outlaw
pro-drug speech? Pro-drug speech "creates a market" for an illegal product.
Shut down "High Times," seize copies of books by Aldous Huxley and William
Burroughs, ban mocking comments about the War on Some Drugs.
The second argument, that children are actually harmed, is vitiated by the
fact that much so-called child porn comes from countries where the actors
are of legal age. How can a 14-year-old Thai girl be "harmed" when what she
is being paid to do is perfectly legal in Thailand?
(It's parallel to the situation with, say, Arab countries. Porn videos in
Saudi Arabia are of course illegal, with roughly the status of child porn
videos in the U.S. (maybe worse, as I'm sure the punishment could be
death). Are the American and European actresses in such videos being
And the case of morphings, drawings, stories, etc., clearly involve no
actual children, so the argument that children are harmed is empty.
(Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, amongst others, have argued that
"women as a class" are injured by pornography. I won't get into the issues
of this here. Suffice it to say that if speech or nonviolent acts begin to
be suppressed on the basis of "class action" cases, we're in a heap of
As to me argument that the images, stories, etc., are disgusting, amoral,
inappropriate, etc., well, perhaps. But what is the legal and
constitutional basis for restricting such things? Many opinions and actions
are vile and disgusting, but are not illegal.
Under what interpretation of the Constitution is the creation of a drawing
depicting, say, a 7-year-old girl having sex with someone or something a
criminal act? The obscenity laws?
(And as to the obscenity laws, which part of "Congress shall make no law"
did the readers of the First Amendment miss? I realize this is a
longstanding topic of discussion, with various famous cases (Miller,
Hustler, etc.), but it remains a mystery to me.)
My point is this: For anyone who claims that "thoughtcrime" is something
the Evil Empire specialized in, i.e., totalitarian communist regimes, look
to the enforcement of laws about what can be viewed or accessed from the
United States. Thougtcrime.
[This Bible excerpt awaiting review under the U.S. Communications Decency
Act of 1996]
And then Lot said, "I have some mighty fine young virgin daughters. Why
don't you boys just come on in and fuck them right here in my house - I'll
just watch!"....Later, up in the mountains, the younger daughter said:
"Dad's getting old. I say we should fuck him before he's too old to fuck."
So the two daughters got him drunk and screwed him all that night. Sure
enough, Dad got them pregnant, and had an incestuous bastard son....Onan
really hated the idea of doing his brother's wife and getting her pregnant
while his brother got all the credit, so he pulled out before he
came....Remember, it's not a good idea to have sex with your sister, your
brother, your parents, your pet dog, or the farm animals, unless of course
God tells you to. [excerpts from the Old Testament, Modern Vernacular
Translation, TCM, 1996]