Comes Naturally #87 (August 27, 1999):
Saving the Pseudo-Children from Virtual Abuse

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August 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999 David Steinberg


Crusaders against child pornography have long claimed that the core issue was not people having sexual fantasies about young people but the emotional and sexual abuse inherent in the creation of erotic photos of children and adolescents. Thus, for example, in a precedent-setting 1982 Supreme Court ruling, the court held that a New York child pornography law did not violate the First Amendment because it banned not the expression of an idea but only the abuse of children that occurred in the process.

These arguments were relegated to history when Congress passed the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1995. For the first time, CPPA made it illegal to make, sell, or own pornographic pictures with models who appear to be underage, even if the person in the photo is, in fact, over 18. With CPPA, the crime has become enabling a reader or viewer to get excited because someone can be imagined to be under 18. The possible abuse of any honest-to-God child has become irrelevant.

As a result, the battleground in the great pornography debate has shifted from actual to virtual reality, from porn to pseudoporn, from what is in fact being shown to what can be imagined, morpion of Statutory Rape to include having sex with someone while imagining them to be younger than the age of consent, or having sex while they wear clothing or arrange their hair in ways make them look (or even feel) like they are underage.

We could then make it illegal to have sex with someone while imagining what they were like when they were underage, or to have sex while imagining or remembering what we were like when we were underage. From there we could go to prohibiting cocktail waitresses to serve drinks while they look under 18, not serving liquor to anyone whose date could imagine her/him being under 18 while watching him/her get plastered, and even to not letting anyone drive a car when they felt like they were, say, 15.

But all that is in the future. For the present we have the following:

* * * * *

Last January, a man in Olathe, Kansas, was prosecuted for possession of child pornography. He had cleverly (but illegally, it seems) pasted a photo of a young person's face onto a larger, presumably more sexual, nude picture of an adult woman "with the intent to satisfy his sexual desires." The man was acquitted, but only because the judge could not determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the face in the picture was of a child under 18. Despite his acquittal, the court would not release the man's book of pictures of girls taken from legal catalogs and magazines, nor his diary which chronicled his dreams, including some of young girls.

* * * * *

David Hilton, 48, who characterizes himself as an anti-pornography crusader, was convicted in Portland, Maine, of possessing a computer image in which an innocent image of a child had been technically altered to make it "indecent." Hilton was initially acquitted on the grounds that the Federal law was unconstitutionally vague, but his acquittal was overturned on appeal. The issue, according to First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Hugh Brownes, was "whether a reasonable unsuspecting viewer would consider the depiction to be of an actual individual less than 18."

* * * * *

The Galveston, Texas City Council has asked its city attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the baring of women's breasts, real or phony (no, they're not talking about silicone implants). The law would make it illegal to wear novelty vests embossed with bare breasts and butts, or tee shirts with photos or drawings of bare breasts or buttocks. City Attorney Barbara Roberts assured the City Council that a similar Fort Worth law had been constitutionally tested and upheld.

* * * * *

Three boys and a girl in suburban Cleveland, aged 14 to 17, made a videotape of themselves having sex. When the girl's mother heard about the tape, she got police to investigate. The girl initially claimed she had been coerced but, after watching the tape with a child psychologist, Juvenile Judge William Chinnock ruled that she was clearly "enjoying her 15 minutes of fame." Nevertheless, he chided the teenagers for using their bodies as "garbage cans" rather than as "sacred vessels." According to investigators, copies of the tape are now in the hands of hundreds of high school students across the nation.

* * * * *

The Northeast Regional Child Exploitation Task Force has brought charges against a 14-year-old boy in Tenafly, New Jersey for e-mailing child pornography to an undercover detective. It is not clear whether the detective was pretending to be a teenager as well. A spokesman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says there are more and more reports of children sharing child pornography on the Net. This raises the question of whether it's healthier for teenagers searching for pornography on the Net to direct their sexual attention to images of adults, or to images of kids their own age. If we criminalize sexy pictures of kids under 18, are we encouraging teenagers to fantasize having sex with adults? Is the Child Exploitation Task Force really a front for pedophiles?

* * * * *

Meanwhile, notoriously uncredentialled antiporn crusader Judith Reisman (who was given millions of dollars in Federal grants under the Reagan administration to count references to children in the cartoons of Playboy, Hustler, and the like) is busy conflating pedophiles and pornographers into a single concept.

A report by Reisman on the recent World Pornography Conference at Northridge University makes six separate references to "pedophiles and pornographers" as if they were one and the same. According to Reisman, "a cadre of admitted pedophiles and pederasts control[s] the field of sexology" through the nation's academic human sexuality programs, including the Kinsey Institute, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and the Northridge Center for Sex Research.

Claiming a "Mafioso-like relationship" between these institutions and "the underworld of pedophiles and pornographers," Reisman describes the Northridge conference as a summit meeting to "share and shape future national pornography and pedophile strategies." She concludes that, in a world where "an academic institution [is] in bed with pedophiles and pornographers," it's no wonder that judges accept the idea of "adults having legal access to our children for sexual purposes" by "routinely giv[ing] custody of children to known sexual abusing parents."

[This column was originally published in Spectator Magazine (see Three books by David Steinberg -- "Photo Sex," "Erotic by Nature: A Celebration of Life, of Love, and of Our Wonderful Bodies," and "The Erotic Impulse: Honoring the Sensual Self," are available from David by mail order at If you would like to receive Comes Naturally columns, and other writing by David Steinberg, regularly via email, send your name and email address to David at Columns are sent as blind carbon copies, meaning that no one will have access to your name or email address.]

David Steinberg
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