Virtual Child Porn and Child Exploitation

Last month, in a widely criticized decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld criminal penalties for promoting virtual child pornography. The 7-2 decision in United States v. Williams, however, rightfully empowers law enforcement in the battle against the worldwide criminal networks where child pornography is freely produced, solicited and offered.

What most people do not realize is that child pornography is per se illegal. Although some child pornography might fall under the legal definition of obscenity, it does not have to be analyzed under traditional First Amendment guidelines.

The critical underpinning of contemporary child pornography jurisprudence is that child pornography is illegal due to the adverse effects on the children used in the creation of the child pornography. It is not the mere viewing of the images that causes harm, but the production, distribution and possession of the images and videos.

The Court wisely realized that the very nature of the child pornography criminal enterprise—where demand for ever new and more graphic images directly drives the sexual abuse of children—is the real crime.

The crime of child pornography has nothing to do with speech, protected or otherwise. The crime is the relentless clamor for images in which children’s bodies are the currency. Surprisingly, most child porn is not sold commercially but traded for new material. The most hard core pictures are held back with the expectation that you’ve got to make some of your own to get the good stuff. Some children are sexually abused just to create child pornography.

In fact the very term child “pornography” is a misnomer and in my opinion is an insult to pornography (no matter how you view that term and what it depicts). Again, the crime here is not the mere viewing of the images or even thinking about unspeakable acts with children. Juries view child pornography all the time. So do experts for criminal defendants and prosecutors. None of them have committed a crime.

The crime of child pornography gets committed when demand for images (resulting in possession) leads directly or indirectly to the criminal sexual abuse of children who are often abused solely to produce child pornography (production). “Child pornography” then is not merely about a visual image, but is a unbroken chain of acts (distribution) which originate in or lead to the sexual abuse of children.

This is why virtual child pornography is legal and, in my opinion, should remain legal. The focus must remain on the very real, if largely unidentified, victims of this horrible criminal enterprise.

Why then was the Court correct in banning the promotion of virtual child pornography while allowing the production, distribution and possession of virtual child porn to remain legal? The simple answer is that the pandering and solicitation of ANY child pornography, when seen as an essential aspect of the entire criminal enterprise which leads to the sexual exploitation of children, must remain illegal.

A bank robber is not innocent just because the gun was plastic. Whether the gun is real or not is irrelevant because the crime of bank robbery is not the mere brandishing of what appears to be a gun, but it is demanding and receiving money under threat.

Similarly, the crime of child pornography is not merely offering images of sexually abused children, but it is the entire trade in such images which itself is firmly rooted in the wholesale exploitation of children. The Court correctly realized that this trade thrives in a milieu in which the offer or demand for images, virtual or not, is an essential and direct contributor to the “real” crime which is child pornography.

The Court clearly held that:

“an offer to provide or request to receive virtual child pornography is not prohibited by the statute. A crime is committed only when the speaker believes or intends the listener to believe that the subject of the proposed transaction depicts real children. It is simply not true that this means ‘a protected category of expression [will] inevitably be suppressed.’ Simulated child pornography will be as available as ever, so long as it is offered and sought as such, and not as real child pornography.”

The Court struck a careful balance which fully appreciates the nature and scope of the crime which is child pornography.

Coming up next, an analysis of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s recent child porn initiatives and why they are largely irrelevant in the fight against child pornography and child sexual exploitation.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC from NPR’s On The Media on 12-26-2008: Porn’s Fine Lines “If no children were harmed in the making, is it still kiddie porn? Cartoon defender Charles Brownstein says it’s a danger to artistic freedom to criminalize lines on paper, but child-safety advocate Mary Leary says allowing explicit drawings of children presents a threat to the safety of real-life kids.”

6 Replies to "Virtual Child Porn and Child Exploitation"

  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2008 (8:28 am)

    Real or not real child porn is just that, child porn. Animated adult porn is just that, it still effects the viewer for whatever the reason for viewing it the same way. So making the real stuff illegal and the animated or fake stuff legal is an exellent example of how stupid law makers are.

    It is also an example of what idiots the american public or should I say voters who put those hipocrits in office, to be fooled by the propaganda state and federal law enforcement dishes out to everyone.

    Where is the statistical numbers showing because someone views child porn that they want to have sex with a child? Or let me restate a minor under the age of 18 years old. Because an adult watches legal porn of barely 18 years of age does he or she want to go out and find a of age sex partner?? I don’t think so.

    That is like saying because one views movies that have people being murdered or raped or whatever it may be by the bad guy, the viewer is going to go out and commit that same act as in the movie?? Thats what is implied by making the statements made in the lead post isn’t it?

    So if I view movie files of the victims of the Holocaust, excuse my spelling, that I am going to go out and do that to people I think are inferior? Or a threat or whatever?? Those crimes as unbelievable as they are, just as horrific to see video clips of, we all can view what happened in Germany all day long if we want to and nobody can do a damn thing about it. Why, because of our Bill of Rights which is diminishing due to federal and state agencies developed by pressured law makers who are corrupt in their own right are dictating what is moral and what isn’t.

    Adultery is very immoral, but it goes on all the time and even is illegal in some states. It ruins peoples lives, ruins families, it is so prevalent that society accepts it. Yet it is very wrong according to God and his Bill of Rights for humans. We all know it is wrong, but everyone does it, so lets just not worry about little immoral wrong. Lets concentrate on the kids produced by the cheating parents who are out doing their thing and the kids are home on the internet looking at adult porn because they can.

    It is too bad society dictates what is moral or immoral or promotes law makers to make this or that illegal when laws on the books are not even being enforced because everyone is breaking those laws. Not to mention the money for these new enforcement agencies that has raised taxes. Look at the DEA, derived from way back when prohibition failed. What did they do they illegalized marijuana and so on and so forth.

    Hell, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, well heck, I will bring the chips to that one! It sounds fun. I can’t remember hearing about anyone who has been busted taking pictures or video of minors and distributing the filth. I have heard of people getting felony charges for looking at what is out there free on the Peer to Peer share programs in sting operations. So millions of child porn videos are freely available because laws protect the servers of these companies so really nothing is being done about it. Just like the War on Drugs. What war? its a money pit which hasn’t done squat except let these little ambitious civilian hard ass little boys at heart play with expensive weapons and get big egos because they took some marijuana off the streets. Oh my, what a Hero! You saved someone from getting high off weed and going about their daily business.

    While you and your hardass cops go and get drunk at a bar while the guy who is going to do less harm to his body and others by smoking some weed is in jail with felony charges and fines and legal fees and bail. Yet Alcohol kills almost 4 times the amount of people in America than all the illicit drugs combined!!! Yet it still stays legal as can be. People running red lights, speeding, whatever drunk, comitting adultery!! I have to laugh. Where is the common sense of the public. Damn, people need to wake up and take care of the real problems that have devestating effects on the general public as well as the individual.

    I was molested when I was ten years old by my fifth grade school teacher who was a male teacher. It happened a number of times, I know what it is like to be exploited. It has effected many things in my life. It was the sickest feeling inside of my stomach as it happened and still is when I think about it. It screws with your mind much more than any drug ever will. It affects every relationship I develop due to the trust issues or insecurity or anger or depression.

    I won’t change a diaper on a child, I wont let a child sit on my lap. I get very uncomfortable seeing a child hang on their parents leg near the groin area because it reminds me of being molested. I don’t know why, I know kids crawl all over each other and parents bodies. It is totally innocent, I understand that but that is one of the scars being molested did to me. It is sad adults have to do this to children.

    I say into puberty years and those closer ages to 18 one understands what sex is. One may want sex even in those teen years. Hell, I am male and you know what I would have been in seventh heaven had a female teacher wanted to get sexual with me in high school. Damn straight, any guy out there I think would have to agree with that! I may be out of line saying that, but it is true.

    OK, I have rambled on and probably not made a point except that I pissed some people off and some may agree. I am not a cop hater, I am just very annoyed by the Buford T. Justice ambitious as hell cops who bust everything that moves and gets off on it. Prosecutors, well they are a whole different animal. Some are human, most think they are up there with the Greek Gods. Get off your high horse, you will be judged for all the hell you put people who made a mistake or two and you threw the book at them.

    I can’t believe some of the things people get charged with now a days. Seems like everything is a felony if you zipper was unzipped during the crime no matter what the circumstances. Prosecutors who don’t budge who don’t look at the person as a person instead of just a broad labled brown bag criminal who is just as bad as the really bad bad criminals, I hope you get what is coming to you when karma catches up or God does. Thats all I will say for now.

    I don’t have anything against laws or law enforcement, they both are needed. Please don’t take my sharp attitude as negative, more frustrated.

  • Sean
    November 6, 2008 (5:39 pm)

    Vices and evil of such frightful minue that to be hated needs but to be seen. But seen too often, familiar with her face, we soon endure, then embrace.
    -Alexander Poe, Essay on Man.

    Child pornography, virtual or not, should be a crime. The reason is the very nature of pornography. Pornography affects the mind. Sex is more addictive than any drug, and is an addiction that can be nearly impossible to break.

    If someone has a desire to view pornography of any sort, the fulfillment of that desire does not quench it. It simply fuels the desire. What may start as an occasional viewing may turn regular. The desire for the intensity of the porn can change. Perhaps it starts with a swimsuit model, something that most of our culture would not even classify as porn. Then the desire rises to see sensually posed swimsuit models. Then it is to see semi-nude women. Then it is to see fully nude women. Then sexual activity, then more exotic sexual activity. This can lead to all sorts of deviant views of sex, and desires for the viewing of that sex.

    As the desire for these types of sex rise, the desire to participate also arises. I need not even cite sources to say how marriages have been destroyed through this, a spouse becoming addicted to pornography and then demanding more and more exotic sexual activity until their loved one is unable to satisfy the desire anymore, then comes divorce, and the addiction grows as the person involved in pornography further seeks to satisfy their lust.

    Now, let’s apply that to child porn. Do we really think that it matters whether it is real or virtual. It is true that the virtual porn has not been part of real child abuse. However, it feeds that same drive to lust, and the person tempted to view it will continue to degrade until they are unable to resist the urge any longer, and they seduce or rape a child.

    What difference does the medium make if the end is the same? It is like dancing on the edge of a cliff, seeing how close we can get to the edge before we fall off. Eventually we get too close, and destruction strikes us. It is much better to dance 20 feet away from the edge of the cliff, where we do not run the risk of falling.

    What does that mean? The implications of this are far more reaching than child porn alone. The pornography industry itself has created this beast, and we are the beast that is created. I want to be very clear as I say this, however. I do not mean simply the nude depictions of people engaging in sex, nor even just the nude pictures of people at all. The implications of this go to our TV commercials, our billboards, our clothing catalogues. It reaches into every part of society that now sells itself with sex.

    Is this extreme? Perhaps. But more important than the extremity, is the truth. We cannot be afraid of taking an extreme stance simply because we will be labeled. If no one took such stances, America would still be under British rule. Slavery would still be legal. Women would still be considered little more than property. Minorities would not be allowed to vote.

    Each of these movements and many more have been extreme and necessary for our society to be just. Those who took the stand were labeled as radicals, even bigots. That did not deter them, and nore should it us. This is a fight that must be fought if we are to stop child exploitation, human trafficking, and rape throughout not only America, but throughout our world. Will you fight for those abused? Or will you stand by and let the spiral continue its course.

  • Anonymous
    November 18, 2008 (7:07 pm)

    Virtual child pornography is NOT legal. It is simply covered under the obscenity provisions of federal law. Unlike with child pornography, simple possession of virtual child pornography is not a crime, but commercial possession and simple receipt of virtual child pornography (or even line drawings that don’t possess serious artistic, political or scientific value, whatever that means, are crimes.

  • Anonymous
    July 11, 2009 (12:30 am)

    My Boyfriend was originally arrested and served 2 years for possession of child pornography. Recently he told this to a couple with a child who he was friends with. One night the couple went out and their child started crying. The grandmother was passed out and didn’t answer the child’s cries. He wrapped the child in a blanket and took it outside to the couple. When they unwrapped the baby it was naked. The parents took it to be examined and there were no signs of sexual or physical abuse. Now he is serving six months in jail for “Attempting to Sexually assault a child under the age of 13.” What I have cited is the only evidence against him. He will be on parole for 4 1/2 years and he will have to accept the plea bargain because the jury will be biased and he would get 5 to 10 years. Doesn’t that seem wrong? After this he will be spending 2 years in federal prison for parole violation.

    There is so much propaganda. Friends have told me to stay away from him.They are convinced that he will molest a child.I told my daughter about his charge and she(12)was unconcerned because we love him and trust him and know him and what he’s like. She never felt that he would be sexually inappropriate with her. He says that he knows he has this problem and he’s tired of being ashamed of it. He doesn’t know where the thoughts come from. He just vows to himself that he would never take advantage of a lesser individual. I had a problem with the internet porn because it is real. But I have no problem with the Manga child porn, because its a cartoon. We role play in bed so that he can sublimate his sexual thoughts.

    The media basically says that my boyfriend will become a child molester because he watched child pornography. They have statistics. 86% of possession cases will molest children. At the same time, 86% molested children before they got caught for possession. (Anonymous government therapy sexual disclosures). My boyfriend also filled out a disclosure. He didn’t have to tell me about it. He’s never molested anyone. But there’s very little solid investigation into this area. Nobody knows how many watch vs. how many commit afterwards. Child pornography increases the risk to act for dangerous offenders but not so much for mildly affected people. So the study says. Someone should get all these facts together because I don’t know statistically what kind of risk my boyfriend is. It gets all built up in my imagination when my friends say he’s evil and dangerous and will molest someone. Its confusing.

    Any feedback would be appreciated.

  • Anonymous
    July 11, 2009 (3:01 pm)

    Response to the “My Boyfriend” poster:

    You should google “Debbie Nathan,” and read her articles. She tends to argue that we in America indulge in hysteria when it comes to child molesters. She cites alot of good solid research too.

    Just responding to the content of your post, the study you cite sounds a bit dicey, maybe even junk. I am tempted to say that you are in love with the guy, and therefore blind. Furthermore your daughter is how old? Children often say what you want to hear, so your daughter may not be the best check on your boyfriend either. Unfortunately, you probably can’t trust family or friends for an objective opinion either, for the reasons you mentioned. That you are researching paedophilia (or lack thereof) for yourself really speaks volumes, however. The more knowledgeable you are, the better you will be able to defend him. It sounds like you really want to do the right thing.

  • stopchildabuse
    July 11, 2009 (4:45 pm)

    The reality is that Nathan is incredibly biased and does not represent the majority of researchers in the field. There is no hysteria about children being abused. High percentages of children are abused. However, there are child molesters and their defenders that would like people to believe this. They misrepresent data and spin child abuse cases to make child molesters look innocent. They question children’s accounts of being abused, which ends up allowing child molesters to continue abusing children.

    for data on this, see childabusewiki(dot)org
    and ritualabuse(dot)us