A New Look at Child Pornography

Think about why we consider child pornography wrong.  Legally (and morally), it’s because the child is being exploited.  However, the Supreme Court Case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition marked a significant change to child pornography.

In the case, child pornography is ok as long as there aren’t real children being depicted.  They can be digitally enhanced to make it look like a child.  In fact, the entire image can be from someone’s imagination.  Through this, this “child” pornography is constitutionally protected because there is no child being exploited here.

Traci Lords became famous in the porn industry because she stared in porn when she was 15.  She got a fake ID and claimed that she was 22.  She has appeared in 100 films before she became 18.  Obviously, as soon as everyone found out, she was in trouble and no one can own any of those videos because it’s considered child pornography.

But hold on here.  Suppose Traci Lords decides that she wants to cash in all of this.  What if she gave permission to re-release all of her films?  Of course, she can’t do that because it’s considered child pornography.  But why?  What child is being exploited here?  It’s only herself, Traci Lords.  But if Traci Lords gives permission to show herself as a minor, then there is no one being exploited.  So if we’re going to take Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition seriously, we must also say that regular child pornography is ok as long as the adult gives permission to display his/her previous affairs.  After all, who’s being exploited here?  The child doesn’t exist anymore, the adult gives full permission, so what’s the worry?  So if Traci Lords decides to re-release her porn movies, and she’s fully and mentally stable, what are the moral reasons why she can’t?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Ethics, Law, Paper Topic, Pornography. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A New Look at Child Pornography

  1. Nancy says:

    it should still be illegal.
    in spite of the fact that the participant is now an adult, we have no real way to prove or disprove the idea that she, as a child, was exploited. if she releases the videos, and she was exploited, then the people who exploited her are now making money off a crime. not only is this morally objectionable, but it could raise whole new issues of people filming children, then keeping or abusing them until they are of age and consent to release the videos.
    besides that, the content of the videos is still illegal. whether or not the participant now consents, it is still footage that was obtained illegally. ergo, it should not be distributed.

    • shaunmiller says:

      Good point.

      I guess I was looking at it from more of a teenage perspective. An article here explains that some kids (read teens) are taking pictures of their naked bodies and then text messaging them to their boy/girlfriends. Unfortunately, this is considered child pornography because the teens aren’t of age yet. Some of these teens have to be registered as sex offenders for the rest of their life. My question is why? There’s no exploitation here because these teens are consenting to taking their own picture and then sending it to their respective friends. The same could be said about Traci Lords. Even though what was going on was illegal, I would argue that there wasn’t any exploitation because everyone thought that she was of age. If people knew that she wasn’t 18 yet, there’s no way they would’ve hired her.

  2. Nancy says:

    well, i think there are two large differences. ( and let me say that i think that classifying those kids as sex offenders for life is RIDICULOUS).
    first, they are doing it of themselves. there is no outside involvement in the process of procuring the pictures.
    second of all, there’s no money involved. they shouldn’t be allowed to sell the pictures, certainly, though i wouldn’t think they should be prosecuted as “sex offenders”. but just taking a naked picture of yourself as a teenager, though perhaps ill advised, doesn’t seem like a crime.

  3. thekillerj says:

    It may be true that there are no children being directly exploited when an adult is digitally enhanced to look like a child. The problem lies in when the viewer conditions him (or her) self to sexualize children by masturbating to images resembling children. A lot of my clients went on to create real victims when the porn wasn’t enough.

    Now, as far as teenagers taking naked pictures of themselves is concerned, should they be charged as sex offenders? No. I agree with both of you. The problem is teenagers, by law, cannot consent to distributing pornographic images of themselves (or, of course, having sexual relations of any kind with adults).

    It doesn’t matter if money is involved or not. They would catch a distribution of pornography charge regardless of money. I think them getting charged may be okay. Think about it this way. What is the likelihood of a texted nude picture getting uploaded and shot around the internet? Pretty likely, right? This will feed the demand for child porn. Not good.

  4. Nancy says:

    i suppose i would be ok with kids who upload or distribute naked pictures of themselves getting charged with something, but i don’t think it should be a sex-offender-for-life type of offense. that completely ruins people’s lives. it’s a big issue here in the bay area, because anyone with a sex offender record quite literally cannot live anywhere in san francisco and in most of the east bay because of zoning laws regarding churches, schools, playgrounds, etc.
    to say that someone can never again live or work somewhere, and may very well have to pack up and move, because they did something stupid as a teenager seems overboard. prosecuting it as a misdemeanor, or wiping it off the record after 7 yrs or something like that would be ok. i agree that we don’t want to feed a child sex addiction.
    i have heard the argument before that digitalized child porn helps prevent child molestation and rape because it allows pedophiles to get their enjoyment without victimization. whether they then move on to victims, i don’t know, and i would wonder whether if, for the ones who do, it were inevitable, but having not seen any research myself, i can’t say.

  5. shaunmiller says:

    With the idea that this stuff is bad because it will lead to worse stuff, couldn’t this argument also be used in regular mainstream pornography? The way I see porn (all kinds) is that it’s a tool. It can be used in good ways, or in bad ways. I don’t think that porn inherently will lead to bad stuff though.

    With Nancy’s comment, I have heard of that study as well. If I researched it, I could possibly come across it. However, most studies on porn are usually tainted with a political bias that it’s hard to come up with concrete, objective results.

    With this, I’m wondering about someone specifically like Traci Lords. Assuming she got into it with her own accord, realized what she was doing, and had full mental competency, I don’t see any problem of her releasing her early porn works if she, herself, decides to consent to that.

  6. Nancy says:

    i suppose if it were only her making money off of it, and not the people who made it, i would be ok with it. but it would be hard to regulate that. and i would still worry that it would encourage other minors to make porn with the idea that they could sell it later, and end up being exploited.
    to me the whole underage porn issue (and porn in general, really) is simply about exploitation. i don’t care what people use to get themselves off as long as it’s not infringing on others’ rights- the problem with underage porn is that it is.

  7. thekillerj says:

    Shaun, I agree porn can be used positively in some aspects. For the most part, however, it is a negative. My experience in working with both adult and juvenile sexual offenders for the past seven years has given me insight in to porn’s destructive nature. It is as addictive as any chemical/drug, and in many cases acts as a gateway in to destructive behaviors.

    With the Traci Lords thing; how would her releasing videos of herself as a teenager be any different than anybody else releasing videos of her? Either way, the demand is fulfilled for age inappropriate sexualization.

  8. shaunmiller says:

    Good point. So let’s go back to why child pornography is wrong. It’s wrong because it’s exploiting a child. So if I happened to find a child and exploit her, but wait until she’s an adult to release her exploitation, it’s still wrong because I’m exploiting another person. However, in the case of Traci Lords, if she decided to release videos of herself, who is she exploiting? Herself? I say let her. If another person exploits another person, that’s wrong. If a person wants to exploit herself, it may be silly, but go ahead. So with the Traci Lords thing, if some company wants to distribute it, it’s wrong. If Traci Lords herself consents to it being released, I say go ahead.

  9. Pingback: Vermont is considering to Legalize “Sexting” « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

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