Sex Crimes

What John Grisham Got Right About Child Pornography

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Last week, as Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted here, best-selling novelist John Grisham got into hot water by suggesting there might be such a thing as an excessively long sentence for someone convicted of possessing child pornography. In a Time essay that went up today, I explain why Grisham was right. Here is how the piece starts:

Last week John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, triggered a storm of online criticism by arguing in an interview with The Telegraph that criminal penalties for possessing child pornography are unreasonably harsh. Grisham, who has since apologized, spoke rather loosely, overstating the extent to which honest mistakes account for child porn convictions and the extent to which those convictions expand the prison population.

But he was right on two important points: People who download child pornography are not necessarily child molesters, and whatever harm they cause by looking at forbidden pictures does not justify the penalties they often receive.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. YES, THEY DESERVED TO DIE AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!

    1. Is that from a movie or something?

      1. Wouldn’t you, of anyone, know?

        1. THAT’S THE JOKE, WAFFLES!

          1. STOP YELLING!!!

  2. It’s a nice though Sullum, but you can’t argue with results. Harsh policing of the demand side put an end to prostitution, illegal drugs, gambling, and alcohol in America. Why wouldn’t it do the same to child pornography?

  3. I believe the argument is that while a person looking at child porn itself is not rape, it encourages people to rape children and post the pictures.

    So if the government locks up people for looking at the pictures, child rapists will stop raping children.

    Or something.

    1. Presumably when newspapers publish pictures of murder scenes and battlefields, they likewise encourage the demand for murders and wars, too.

  4. All hail Sullum.

    No one else makes the case for libertarianism so relentlessly and without squeamishness.

    Thanks for reminding us again that we shouldn’t apologize for liberty.

  5. Except for the “jails full of 60 year old white guys” part, he got it pretty much all right.

    Child porn being considered contraband seems appropriate. But making possession criminal is pure thoughtcrime. And considering anything involving anyone under 18 the same thing as raping a two year old is a bit ridiculous as well.

    1. I agree. Making child porn should be a crime, unless the child themselves made it. Selling child porn should be a crime. I will even buy into knowingly distributing it for free. But mere possession? That is as you say a thought crime.

      The whole area of law makes no sense. It is built on the fiction that looking at a picture somehow victimizes the person in it even though they don’t know you did it.

      1. prae hoc ergo propter hoc

      2. Interesting. Why would it be different than possession of stolen property, for example?

        1. That is a decent analogy. First, you have to knowingly possess stolen property, meaning you know both that you have it and that it is stolen, for possessing it to be a crime. Child porn in contrast is a strict liability crime. It doesn’t matter that you reasonably thought the person wasn’t a child, you still are guilty.

          Second, when I posses someone else’ property, I am harming them by not giving it back to them. I should have my TV but don’t because you bought it from a fence who got it from the guy who stole it from me. I am in real terms poorer because you took possession of my TV and kept it even though you knew it wasn’t yours.

          Child porn is partially analogous in the sense that someone possessing pictures of a naked child is doing something they know is wrong. Where it fails, however, is that child isn’t being deprived of property or made any worse off by your possessing it. You have to buy into the fiction I describe above to say they are. And I don’t see it.

          1. Good points, but as I said below I think the rationale is to combat the market in child porn.

          2. If viewing an Internet-distributed photo of a child victim harms the child, it would seem that prosecuting a possession case causes much more harm than not prosecuting it. Investigators, a jury, lawyers, a judge all have to look at what previously was being seen by only 1 person.

      3. “It is built on the fiction that looking at a picture somehow victimizes the person in it even though they don’t know you did it.”

        I see some logic there.

        1) You want to discourage a market for it.

        Surely less of it is made if mere possession on the demand side is a serious crime.

        2) You want to discourage people from making it for their own personal consumption.

        I imagine a predator that doesn’t share his pron and whose victims don’t want to testify against him or can’t be identified would be the most dangerous kind of predator of all.

        What are you going to bust him for if not possession?

        3) Parents don’t consent and children can’t consent to having their likenesses owned and obsessed over by potential predators.

        1. 3) Parents don’t consent and children can’t consent to having their likenesses owned and obsessed over by potential predators.

          No they can’t. But where is the harm? If some stranger five countries away obsessing over your naked picture harms you, then him obsessing over you clothed picture harms you as well wouldn’t it? The problem with that logic is that it justified making the possession of any picture without the consent of the subject criminal. And that is absurd. Ultimately, the crime is the obsessing and the “thoughts”.

          1) You want to discourage a market for it.

          Since mountains and mountains of this stuff is available for free on the dark webs, there is no “market for it”. Moreover, the logic behind suppressing the demand is that it would reduce the supply. For that to be true, people would have to be making it for profit. And they clearly are not. They make it to feed their own perversions and then trade it with other perverts. Throwing the odd bastard who gets a bit too curious in prison isn’t going to reduce the supply of this stuff, because the people who make it do so for reasons beyond the market.

          1. “No they can’t. But where is the harm?”

            The harm is in violating the parents’ and/or child’s right to consent.

            Incidentally, that’s also why rape is criminal. Rape isn’t only a crime if the victim becomes pregnant. It’s is criminally possible to rape a prostitute or your wife. The reason is because violating someone’s consent is a crime.

            Violating someone’s consent is criminally wrong when you stick a gun in someone’s face and demand that someone open the cash register. If there’s nothing in the register, the hold up is still a crime–because violating someone’s consent like that is wrong.

            Parents (and children) have a right to consent to whether to put their children in danger. Violating that probably should be a crime.

            1. The harm is in violating the parents’ and/or child’s right to consent.

              Okay. Then why isn’t having any picture of a child without their consent also criminal? What is so special about naked pictures? If I am harmed by someone jerking off to my picture without my consent, why does my having clothes or not in it make any difference? I can’t see how it being a clothed picture of me would make it any better.

              Once again Ken, your argument proves too much. No one would ever argue making it criminal to possess a child’s photo without their consent. What is going on here is that you and others don’t like it that someone has the picture and lusts over it. Well, I don’t like it either. That however does not make it a crime.

              1. Why stop at photos? Why wouldn’t consent be required just to see you? And why stop at you? What about your property, or images of your property?

                1. If you can prove harm in civil court, you should go ahead and do so.

                  There’s a higher standard for criminal court–as well there should be.

            2. Are you actually trying to say that if someone robs a convenience store (whether they got any money or not) is the same as viewing the surveillance footage or someone else’s recording of the event?

              If people were being harmed by the viewing and distribution of evidence of a crime, why isn’t it illegal to distribute and possess videos of ISIS gunning down random people in the street? What about those people’s families? Aren’t those videos being on archive.org causing them undue psychological trauma? What about any survivors, especially ones that might be under the age of consent?

              Aren’t the people in the videos being victimized over and over whenever someone views it?

              Isn’t it creating a market for the victimization of others even though the material is public domain and isn’t copyrighted at all and can be rapidly distributed and copied an infinite number of times thanks to the internet, something which never existed back when child porn laws were created?

              1. “Are you actually trying to say that if someone robs a convenience store (whether they got any money or not) is the same as viewing the surveillance footage or someone else’s recording of the event?”

                Reread what I wrote until you understand it. It’s not that complicated.

                Different kinds of crimes are crimes for the same reason–because they violate someone’s rights (to make choices for themselves).

                Crimes don’t qualify as crimes just because of a popularity contest, that’s for sure.

          2. If Abortion is morally wrong, it’s because it doesn’t take the consent of the baby into consideration, isn’t it?

            Why would this be any different?

            1. If Abortion is morally wrong, it’s because it doesn’t take the consent of the baby into consideration, isn’t it?

              No. Abortion is morally wrong because it harms another person by killing them. Possessing child porn doesn’t kill the subject.

              1. You mean it kills them without their consent, right?

                Because killing someone in self-defense isn’t a crime, and you know why?

                Because in that case, the killer didn’t have a choice.

                Crime is all about consent. Crime is violating someone else’s rights. “Rights” are the right to make choice for yourself.

                When you commit a crime, you’re violating someone else’s right–to make a choice for themselves.

                Children can’t consent. Taking dirty pictures of them without their consent is a crime because they can’t give their consent.

                Willfully looking at dirty pictures of them makes you an accessory after the fact.

                1. Like viewing those ISIS videos of them gunning down people on archive.org.

                  Viewing them makes you an accessory after the fact?

                  HAHAHAHAHA.

                  Or wait, those people consented to being gunned down, obviously!

                  1. Yeah, I do think snuff films are problematic.

                    If you pay to watch a legitimate snuff film, you probably should be tried as an accessory.

                    1. I don’t think those even really exist, Ken.

                      The point is if someone is merely in possession or merely distributing photographic/video evidence of a crime they may not have necessarily paid the rapist anything or had any sort of connection to them at all.

                      If you can prove they were paying to have such things made then sure, I’d agree that would be a crime.

                      However, I can’t see how you’re being anything but disingenuous here. Either that or people really would make any logical contortion needed to support child pornography laws. Just to protect their own fragile minds I suppose?

                    2. “However, I can’t see how you’re being anything but disingenuous here.”

                      Disingenuous about the difference between consenting adults and children who can’t consent?

                      Disingenuous about all crime being about violating someone else’s rights?

                      What are you talking about?

                    3. That you’re saying people who have merely viewed/possessed/distributed evidence of a crime who are in no way connected and in no way supported it are somehow accessories.

                      I can’t see how someone who otherwise seems pretty rational can actually make this argument without literally being an Olympic grade logical contortionist.

                    4. I didn’t make up the idea of being accessory myself, you know.

                      Have you always thought being an accessory to a crime was disingenuous–or is that something you just made up today?

                      If anyone out there doesn’t want to be convicted as an accessory for purposely downloading child pr0n, there’s an easy way to avoid that.

                  2. I know nothing whatsoever about child porn.

                    I have a hard time believing people charge nothing for access to them.

                    …even if it was only ad supported. And I imagine you’d have to be pretty stupid to link to another site by way of a clickable ad if you’re hosting a bunch of child pron.

                    1. Ken,

                      It depends on the specific case. In some cases (probably vast majority) it is just someone who is totally unconnected got it off of some Tor site or Usenet group.

                      Other times people have really paid for it.

                      There are also examples such as the commercial Russian nude child models.

                      It varies immensely.

                      Which is why current child porn laws are such a ridiculously blunt instrument for dealing with a much more complex issue.

          3. “Since mountains and mountains of this stuff is available for free on the dark webs, there is no “market for it”.

            That statement seems self-contradictory to me.

            1. The whole point of the “supress the demand” argument is that if you deter people from wanting this stuff, there will be less made because there is less demand. And that is just not true. People don’t make this shit because it is “in demand”. They make it because they like making it. So reducing the demand for it is not going to result in any less of it being made or any fewer children being harmed.

              So when people say “reduce the market for it” they are actually saying “get people to stop thinking like this”. They inadvertently are admitting it is a thought crime.

              1. There are children who wouldn’t have been sexually abused if someone out there wasn’t willing to pay the abuser to take pictures.

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xr9KRAMydf0

                1. And how does making it illegal to possess such pictures help them? It obviously didn’t deter it from happening.

                  Why not just make it illegal to pay someone to rape someone else and video tape it? Oh wait, that’s already illegal! D’oh!

                  1. “It obviously didn’t deter it from happening.”

                    You should work on basic economics.

                    Just because something is happening despite law enforcement doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be more of it without that enforcement.

                    This is like drug war stuff. I don’t have to pretend I’m stupid to support marijuana legalization. …I can want legalization and admit that more people would be smoking it if it were legal.

                    Do you really think there would be the same demand for child pron there is now–if it were legal?

                    Like I said: that’s first day Econ 101.

                    1. Ken your video is bunk. It assumes that the person who did that would have never done it had there not been a demand. And there is no evidence of that. It is nothing but the same old correlation must equal causation argument.

                    2. Just because something is happening despite law enforcement doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be more of it without that enforcement.

                      No Ken. You need to work on your economics. When something is available for free in huge quantities, the people making more of that product are not making it to feed a demand or make money. They are making it because they enjoy doing it. So throwing people in jail in the name of reducing demand isn’t going to result in any reduction in supply.

                    3. Like I said, I don’t know anything about how child pr0n sites work.

                      Google may be offering search for free, but they’re still making money on it, right?

                      I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves in legal jeopardy by offering child pr0n for free on the internet. I suspect they’re getting money or something out of it somehow.

                      Maybe they’re letting people download so many images for every image they upload–like we used to do with mp3 files back in the days before Napster.

                      And if the only cost for offering that porn or downloading it is the risk of being prosecuted for possession of child pr0n, then that’s an excellent argument for keeping possession illegal.

                      It certainly isn’t “free” in that case. The people who download it are paying for it by taking on a certain amount of risk. And taking that risk away by legalizing possession would certainly have an impact on how much more of it producers create in the future.

                    4. So now they’re contributing to the crime because they’re putting themselves in legal jeopardy? Seriously?

                      So they’re “paying” for it with risk to themselves, and this somehow makes them accessories? What?

                      Can you explain to me how the guy who ran “Freedom Hosting” was making any money doing what he did?

                      I honestly think at this point you truly are being disingenuous. I can find no other explanation for such absolutely absurd logical contortions.

              2. Re: John’s argument about demand.

                It honestly varies. Many times it is made because the person likes making it as he says, but there are also cases of commercial child pornography that was obviously produced for just the money.

                The issue is that laws against possession (and distribution too imo) don’t take any of this into account.

                If they can prove you paid someone to rape someone else whether it be a child or an adult I’d have no issue with the law.

                But when they can’t prove and you don’t have any connection to the actual crime and merely are possessing the evidence of it you downloaded off of the internet for free, I’m having a hard time buying how you’re responsible in any way.

                1. I would agree with that Plopper. If you want to make selling it or buying it a crime, that is fine with me. That is a discreet act that requires specific intent. I see no problem with making that a crime.

                  My problem is with downloading or possessing it being treated as a crime.

                  1. “My problem is with downloading or possessing it being treated as a crime.”

                    I’m a guy who generally believes that what two consenting adults freely choose to do between themselves is nobody else’s business.

                    You understand that the children in those images are neither consenting nor adults, right?

                    1. I personally take issue with AoC laws, but that is a completely different argument.

                      The issue is that you actually believe someone who merely viewed and/or possessed the image and who never in any way contributed/supported or was even in any way capable of stopping the crime in the first place is somehow an accessory.

                      As I’ve stated a million times over it seems now: How is this any different than possessing video surveillance footage of a 7/11 being robbed, or for that matter downloading and watching the ISIS propaganda videos where they gun down people.

                      And to drive home the point further, what if they were gunning down people under the age of consent?

                      What I’m trying to say is the fact that the person in the video is a child is completely irrelevant even if you do believe in AoC laws because merely possessing recorded evidence of a crime is not the same as being involved in it!

    2. Yeah, Traci Lords early in her career may not have been legally an adult but she sure as hell wasn’t a child.

      1. No, she certainly was not.

      2. That is more of an issue of the age of consent. The Lords case is evidence for the age of consent being too high not that child porn should be legal. At some point, the person really is a child and can’t consent to such things. That age is probably younger than what Lords was.

        1. The problem is that the line is different for different people; some people emotionally mature faster than others. There will inevitably be people who find themselves on the wrong side of any fixed line the law draws; Either someone who is capable of consent will find their lover penalized or someone who isn’t capable of consent will see their rapist go free.

          I think many cultures solved this problem using rites of passage eg if you had your {Bar,Bat} Mitzvah, you are an adult. And people who never gain the capability to perform the rite remain permanent children.

          There is something to be said for that idea.

          1. We are too diverse of a society to do that. We could never agree on a single right of passage. No matter where you set the line you are going to get it wrong in some cases. No rule is perfect. I think 16 is probably about as good a rule as anything. I would, however, be okay with 18 if it meant society decided to make a single age for everything. Once you hit that age, you can drink, vote, screw and are an adult in every way. Before that, you belong to your parents.

        2. Except that owning a Traci Lords film made prior to her 18th birthday is prosecutable as owning child porn.

          1. There is no except to it. It will get you that. And the fact that it does argues that the law’s definition of “child” is screwed.

  6. The really insane part is seeing places start to double down on this and charging people for animated/cartoon child pornography. I can at least somewhat understand the logic of attempting to kill the demand for real child pornography and still disagree with it, but animated child pornography is about as victimless a crime as you can get.

    1. Those cases just reveal what these laws were always about, making the though of lusting after children a crime.

      Yes, there is no rational argument for prosecuting virtual child porn other than “this guy thought gross things and needs to be in jail”.

      And the Supreme Court ruled such prosecutions violated the 1st Amendment. I am sure DA’s office ignore that.

      1. Actually, I think the rationale behind them has always been to ‘dry up the market.’ See Ferber v. NY

        1. Which is absurd. If anything a market in legal and realistic virtual child porn would destroy the market, whatever that is, for real child porn. If people who liked such stuff could get virtual child porn without risking prison, very few of them would risk prison for the real stuff and the market would be greatly reduced.

          The government’s arguments on these issues are always either contrary to the facts or completely irrational.

          1. Ferber was before virtual child porn. The rationale I’ve always heard for banning the virtual stuff is that it incites people to act on their pedophilic desires.

            I will say this about the idea that the picture being viewed itself not being harmful. Imagine you are a parent and someone takes graphic pictures of your kid somehow. You don’t think you’d be harmed by the idea they were enjoying them? Maybe it’s better put this way: if you knew a picture was ‘out there’ in the public, but then you found out it had been destroyed, wouldn’t you feel relieved? That seems to indicate there is some harm involved.

            1. I would say I was harmed by the person who took the pictures. The other people looking at them neither adds to nor decreases my harm. Imagine if the pictures had never been seen by anyone but the person who took them, would I have been less harmed than if he had sent them to his various weirdo friends? I don’t see how. And to the extent that I am, I don’t see how it is enough to justify setting the dangerous precedent that merely owning the wrong picture can be a crime warranting decades in prison.

              1. Let’s say the guy takes the picture, and he’s arrested. He confesses and says ‘there’s only one copy, I gave it to a group of pedophiles I hang out with who circulate it for self pleasuring. I won’t name them.’

                If the police knocked on your door months later and said ‘we just wanted to inform you, we arrested this pedophile, and he had the copy the guy talked about. We destroyed it.’ You wouldn’t feel a sense of relief? I think that shows that there was some harm going on before.

                I agree the current punishments and strict liability standards for that are insane.

                1. If the police knocked on your door months later and said ‘we just wanted to inform you, we arrested this pedophile, and he had the copy the guy talked about. We destroyed it.’ You wouldn’t feel a sense of relief? I think that shows that there was some harm going on before.

                  Maybe, but not necessarily. But even if I did, who is responsible for the harm there, the guy who took the picture and put it out to the world or some guy ten years from now who happens to have it?

                  I see no problem with making distributing child porn a crime. But that is more than mere possession. The question is how is the person who looks at the picture years after the incident without my knowing of it harming me? I don’t see how. Am I harmed in the abstract by the fact that other people saw the photo? Sure. But that harm is caused by the person who made it and distributed it not the person looking at it.

                  Think of it this way. Suppose instead of giving it to his pervert friends, the guy sent it out by mail to a million strangers such that they all opened the letter and saw the pictures not meaning to. Are those people harming me? No way. The person doing the harm is the guy mailing it. If the people accidentally seeing it are not harming me, I don’t see how the ones who want to see it are doing so either.

                  1. “But that harm is caused by the person who made it and distributed it not the person looking at it.”

                    Good point.

                    1. I’m still confused with how distribution should be illegal if it’s perfectly legal to distribute videos of ISIS killing people, even if they were children it would still be legal to distribute the video footage.

                      Is rape now worse than murder?

            2. And the “reducing the demand” is also counter to the facts. The people who make these things make them for their own perverted pleasure not to get rich. Even if they couldn’t sell the pictures, they would still make them for their own pleasure.

              Beyond that, the “suppress demand” argument, even if it were true, only argues for making buying the pictures illegal not possessing them.

              My possession of digital music doesn’t increase the demand for recorded music. My buying digital music increases the demand. Indeed, the record companies would argue my possession of music I got for free decreases the demand and the market for music. Same is true for porn.

              1. You don’t think the prospect of decades in prison for trafficking and possessing them reduces the demand (or actions on that demand) some? That’s incredible.

                1. You don’t think the prospect of decades in prison for trafficking and possessing them reduces the demand (or actions on that demand) some?

                  Of course it does. But that is not what I am saying. I am saying the reduction in demand for it doesn’t cause any less of it to be produced. The people who make this stuff are not making it to fill a demand. They are making it because they enjoy doing. Therefore, suppressing the demand for it won’t cause any less of it to be produce or save any children from harm.

                  1. Isn’t it common for these people to make and trade it with like (dirty) minded people?

                    1. Sure it is Bo. But they don’t make it just to trade. They make it because they like it and trading is an added benefit.

                      And again, I see no problem with distribution being a crime. My problem is with mere possession being criminal.

                  2. It only reduces demand at the margins. But a significant amount of the material would still be produced. Because it is not a business endeavor, as much as it’s a hobby.

            3. ” if you knew a picture was ‘out there’ in the public, but then you found out it had been destroyed, wouldn’t you feel relieved? That seems to indicate there is some harm involved.”

              No, it indicates how you feel about a situation. Hurt feelings are not proof of aggression.

              1. Actually, hurt feelings can be the basis for all kinds of legal action (see, intentional infliction of emotional distress, privacy laws, etc).

                1. Just because hurt feelings are the legal basis for various laws doesn’t make them just or moral.

            4. Then the actual harm would’ve been done by whoever told you those pix existed, even if they didn’t.

  7. Libertarianism as a movement is unsuccessful. To try to make it successful, Reason.com does nothing but bash cops, suggest that every single person in the third world should be able to come crash into Amerca, and bitch about criminals going to prison–including the ever popular child pornographers.

    Yup, that’ll put liberty over the top. Here comes a tidal wave of libertarian office-holders!

      1. I’m delighted. Not that I fear libertarianism or anything but it sure helps that the people who support open borders also can’t help but feel sympathy for child pornographers. Not for nothing but I’m sure child pornographers are just devasted by the waves of unaccompanied children crossing the border. “Poor, deracinated 12 year olds you say I’m listening.”

        1. I think you just outed yourself again Tulpa. You moron.

        2. The tears of your impotent rage, Sammykins, are almost as sweet as the tears of unfathomable sadness.

          Thank you for them.

          1. Tears of delight. Close the border Republicans are cleaning up this election period. Please keep me crying libertarians.

            1. Libertarians are incapable of crying, they lack tear ducts. Also their blood is acid and to fully kill them you must bury their head stuffed with garlic at a crossroads.

        3. I doubt this is motivated by feeling sympathy for people who are creating child porn and abusing children.

          Rather that the author rightfully believes it is absurd to punish people more harshly for possession child pornography than actually going out and raping anyone, whether it be adult or child.

          It gives people more incentive to go out and do the real thing if they’re going to be punished even more harshly for merely pleasuring themselves harmlessly to photographic/video evidence of the crime.

    1. Oh no! jmomls doesn’t want any debate or conversation about issues of individual liberty! Liberty can be messy. But it is interesting to discuss some of the messy corners of liberty.

      And if you really hate Reason that much, you should cancel your subscription. Or leave. Yeah, leave.

      1. But it is a serious tactical (or maybe strategic) issue, isn’t it? How much do you drag down your own popularity (& hence your leverage) by pulling up the unpopular? How much effort do you expend on trying to be the marginal push that puts over something at equipoise, vs. trying to get something that’s not even near the agenda onto the agenda? No easy answer, because you can’t easily predict events or behavior.

    2. The true test of your commitment to freedom and human rights is your willingness to defend it for people you don’t like and when doing so makes you unpopular. Anyone can stand up for the rights of people they like. What really takes commitment is standing up for the rights of people you loath but are entitled to those rights none the less.

      1. What really takes commitment is standing up for the rights of people you loath but are entitled to those rights none the less.

        The true test of one’s principles.

      2. Really, John?!?

        When was the last time you defended a Red Sox fan?

        1. They just deserve lives of misery and disappointment they secretly really want. They don’t deserve to be put in camps.

      3. OK, but how many people are concerned with how your commitment tests out? Who cares about your commitment, & how much do they care?

    3. You left out weed and buttsex.

      1. I miss the good old days.

    4. Actually the libertarian movement has been pretty damn successful. Freedom has been on the increase over almost all of hx. More people are more free now than have been for the great majority of recorded existence. Although much of the increase in liberty has been an unintended byproduct, so much of it has been deliberate that you’d have to count the movement as a rousing success. It’s had setbacks from time to time & place to place, but overall enormously successful.

  8. Beating someone is a crime. Having a buddy video tape you while you’re beating someone is irrelevant — the crime is beating someone. Distributing the tape is irrelevant — the crime is beating someone. Possessing the tape is irrelevant — the crime is beating someone. The mental anguish the victim may feel knowing the tape is out there is irrelevant — the crime is beating someone.

    Hiring someone to beat someone else and produce a video should be a crime, but only because hiring someone to beat someone else is a crime, the video is irrelevant.

    Child molestation/rape is not different than other forms of violence. So child pornography laws are bullshit.

    1. Exactly.

      If they weren’t bullshit then why are those videos of ISIS gunning down people freely distributable without any sort of legal repercussions.

      They could be killing children and the videos of it are oh so perfectly legal.

      1. Actually that really is the crux of the argument and practically every nation on earth does come to the conclusion that when it comes to child pornography and rape there is a qualitative difference

        Should it be a constitutional right to possess child pornography?

        And is there a distinction between something like a case of Traci Lords where she consented even though the law doesn’t recognise her legal ability to consent to produce child pornography in the case where it was taken against the persons will or without their knowledge?

        1. These are good questions.

          But right now I think I’m going to take a break from this thread, as all I ever seem to generate from people here is hate and this subject particularly bothers me because of how irrational seemingly otherwise rational people react to it.

          This is why I always tend to comment on such threads and on such subjects, is most people are unwilling to defend the logical position(s) and instead will just sling as much shit possible at anyone who dares question the common “wisdom” on these issues.

          I feel compelled to act as devil’s advocate because it seems not many people have actually tried to think about this subject rationally. It’s always emotionally charged nonsense.

          1. Yes. And on both sides y0!

        2. Should it be a constitutional right to possess child pornography images documenting the commission of violent crimes ?

          Uh, yes.

          1. So, if a child rapist filmed their rape, and the tapes were being sold at video stores, even the victim of the filmed rape who is exposed nude and penetrated at 10 yrs of age shouldn’t even have the ability to seek an injunction against its distribution?

            Should the rapist be able to sell this video for a profit?

            Does the fact that a sex act between an adult and an infant was recorded mean that there should be no recourse to prohibit its distribution?

            Should people be able to show it at the local movie house and charge admission?

            1. even the victim of the filmed rape who is exposed nude and penetrated at 10 yrs of age shouldn’t even have the ability to seek an injunction against its distribution?

              Does any victim of any violent crime have the right to stop the production and distribution of video tapes of the crime?

              Why does rape make a difference?

              Why does age make a difference?

              Why does for-profit make a difference?

              There may be a basis in civil law to stop the production and distribution of videos showing the victims of violent crimes. But this should not be a criminal matter.

              1. I can respect that opinion.

                Among other things, the qualitative difference is that a filmed sex act, obviously including a rapt of a child is obscene under the law , whereas if an adult it is not

                I would argue that if a victim is below the age of majority, the State has and should have the authority to act on the victim’s behalf to prevent distribution

                I find it interesting that you think she is irrelevant

                So there is no relevant difference between anal sex involving two adults and anal sex involving an adult and a two year old child

                Really?

                We clearly will agree to disagree

                Here’s my opinion ( which is relatively consistent with the law) … Anal sex with an adult penetrating a 2 yr old is

                1) a crime (it cannot be a legal act)
                2) obscene

                A film of same is contraband.

                It can be used for prosecution, etc but cannot be owned legally and it is and should be a crime to distribute, whether for profit or not

                I will shed zero tears for somebody prosecuted for selling a video of a two yr old being anally raped?

                I agree with current case law ( as I understand it, and I could be wrong) that a film involving a virtual two-year-old on the other hand should not be contraband

                1. Nice job moving the goals posts — from 10 year old down to 2 year old.

                  So in case Dunphy bothers to come back. Let me be clear, I think an adult that anally rapes a 2 year old should be crucified. By that, I mean literally, not figuratively, nailed to a cross; hung in the public square; and allowed to die a most miserable death.

                  The taping of the act is irrelevant. And I don’t care if the tape leaks out and some pervert jacks off to it later on.

                  Punish the rapist. Period.

  9. What amazes me about people in cases like this is how rarely they use even the most rudimentary cryptography to protect themselves

    Granted I am sure that in cases where they do use cryptography we often never discover the violation in the first place so there is somewhat of a selection bias here in that we only recognize cases where they don’t use cryptography or use poor cryptography but it still amazes me how many times when we get warrants for peoples computers who have already been convicted of prior sex offenses etc. how much information we find on their hard disk where they haven’t even used the slightest attempts toproperly purge data versus merely deleting files etc.

    Many of these idiots truly are their own worst enemies and it’s absolutely amazing the kind of stuff you can find on one of their hard drives with even some of the more rudimentary forensic tools we have at our disposal

    1. Many of these idiots truly are their own worst enemies…

      Maybe some of these guys understand they have a sick obsession, and actually want to be caught/punished? It has to be a weird place inside some of these guys’ minds.

      1. I think that is a good point, and I can think of cases where the ‘orgy of evidence’ to borrow a term suggested more than mere recklessness, but in fact a desire on the perp’s part to be caught and punished.

        Certainly I have found that certain interrogation techniques that have worked in some cases also strongly support the idea that the perpetrator felt legitimate guilt and did have a strong urge to be punished and to fully confess.

        I found strong connections in terms of the psychological components and keys to getting confessions in sex crime offenders and many arsonists

        Arson is also often extremely sexual, and the arsonists respond just like the child rapist to certain interrogation methods

        One of my proudest cases I ever made was against a serial arsonist where I had nothing but a hunch and it was primarily by looking at the psychosexual nature of the arson that I was able to get a full confession . It’s not unusual for arsonists to jack off and or defecate in their crime scenes or both

        1. You write fairly well here. Why don’t you become the next John Grisham?

          1. If you are going to stroke me, could you compare me to Scott Turow or Wambaugh? I think Grisham is a little meh weak.

            Tia!!!!!

            1. I didn’t say your writing was great, but who can tell from blog comments what potential is there? And who doesn’t like to read crime, mystery, or intrigue fiction from authors who have experience with the real thing?

              I read only one Grisham novel, The Broker, and while I wouldn’t rank it among my favorite works of fiction, it was certainly a good read. It’s part travelog, part Italian lesson, and part suspense-intrigue story.

    2. Are you counting cases where the perps didn’t think they were doing anything illegal?

      1. No. I am talking convicted RSO’s who know that this stuff is a blatant violation of parole (community custody in WA state) , as well as the law.

        I am talking about cases where most of these guys Have already spent ample prison time and are well aware that this stuff could send them right back and they don’t even use the most basic type of cryptography

        1. Then it could be matter of the factors you & John wrote of above (stupidity, laziness, wishing to be blamed/punished for something), or it could be sheer chutzpa.

  10. My understanding and I could be wrong is that under First Amendment caselaw so-called virtual child pornography is not illegal in the US but is in several other countries such as the UK

    Demonstrating yet again that generally speaking when it comes to speech protections and expression protections in general the US is better

    Of course that’s not to say that the articles point is not correct and of course there are some ridiculously absurd punishments in this area and in some cases criminality where none should exist

    1. True, but I think there’s also a precedent in the USA or 1 or more of the states that certain types of child porn can be obscene (hence not protected) that wouldn’t’ve been obscene had it not been of children.

      1. Actually Zainuddin it that’s pretty much the way it is everywhere

        In other words it’s tautological

        By definition a video of sex involving a minor is obscene and that’s why it’s contraband

  11. In the 1970s and 80s child pron was virtually unavailable in the US and other Western countries. The postal police were ruthlessly efficient about sniffing the stuff out and there was just no way to safely distribute it. So only the people who made it had it generally. Along came the internet is almost over night millions of images were available to anyone who wanted to look for them.

    Here is the thing. I have never seen any scientific evidence that this explosion in the availability of child porn resulted in any increase in the rate of child molestation. If such evidence exists, I have never seen it and I doubt it does in any credible form. In addition, there has never been any scientific evidence that kids who are molested today suffer any more than kids suffered in the past due to the fact that the pictures of such are now on or could be on the internet.

    Yet we have spent the last 20 years throwing thousands of people in prison and ruining their lives for the crime of possessing child pornography because people like Ken Shultz claim possessing it creates the demand for more of it and further victimizes the children. This despite the fact that there isn’t a single shred of scientific evidence to support those claims.

    Maybe I am just too rational about these subjects. Maybe I have just seen too much evil in the world to get emotional and demand people with any connection to it be punished facts be damned, because I sure don’t get how you justify doing this.

    1. The other question is – to what extent if any does exposure to child porn, child rape videos etc. Bolster a potential child rapist to commit these crimes? I’ve never seen anything definitive and it’s very difficult to differentiate causes vs effects etc. Like we know that in every case of a serial killer or a sadistic killer we find examples of animal torture in their past but if we could prevent them from engaging in such stuff would we interrupt the process or not? I admit to having no idea and I know there are strong opinions on both sides. Some say, it’s a very helpful step for the future murderer, to get them ready for the big stage.

      1. If there was such a connection, the rate of child molestation in this country should have exploded in the 1990s as thousands of people who before didn’t have access to the stuff gained access to it.

        We know that didn’t happen. I have never seen any evidence that shows that exposure to this stuff causes otherwise normal people to turn into deviants. We can say two things with certainty,

        1. People who actually molest children also like to look at porn of children.

        2. About 2/3rds of the people who are convicted of possessing child porn have never molested a child.

        Clearly a lot of people look at this stuff and never act on it. Further, the only evidence I have ever seen that porn causes this stuff is post hoc bullshit told by criminals. Yeah, Ted Bundy claimed that looking at porn is what started on the path towards being a serial killer. The porn made him do it according to Ted. Forgive me if I find Ted and those like him post facto rationalizations and pleas for mercy less than compelling.

      2. I know this is one of the reasons I’m not popular around here.

        Because I’m willing to admit this:

        But because of various stresses and emotions I wasn’t able to deal with alone, and was unable to talk with adults rationally about; I took my anger out on an animal when I was a kid once.

        It was a shitty thing to do, but did it make me a future serial killer, or a even a future violent individual at all?

        Absolutely not. I only feel guilt about the whole thing.

        It’s also interesting that what was bothering me was how people would react if they found out some of the things of a sexual nature I did with another kid my age at the time.

        Of course, people would try to blame the fact that I was doing sexual stuff at such a young age, but that wasn’t the issue. It was that I was afraid if anyone found out I’d be some sort of pariah, and the only guilt I felt was because I felt the adults and other children I knew or anyone really would see me as a terrible person for merely engaging in purely consensual acts.

        Also all of the religious stuff I was indoctrinated into as a child and the church’s view on sex etc etc…

        I was never traumatized by sex as a child, but rather society’s irrational reactions to it.

        It would be happy if no one else had to go through the hell I did because people are simply unable to handle these things in a rational manner. But it’s obvious from the kinds of responses I’ve gotten in the past on this very forum that my hope will never come to fruition.

        1. Plopper,

          For a long time psychologists had the idea that being molested as a child caused someone to be more likely to be a child molester. This idea caused a lot of real anxiety and pain for victims because it caused them to think that they were now in danger of growing up into a monster because of what happened to them.

          Someone finally got around to looking into just why psychologists beleived this. It turned out that thought this because various admitted child molesters told them that they had been molested as children. The problem was when they started investigating the claims, it turned out that they were nearly always untrue. Very few convicted child molesters were ever actually molested. They were just telling the docs what they wanted to hear and lying in hopes of gaining sympathy.

          1. In Japan a serial killer once tried the use the defense that watching a violent anime made him do it.

            He was convinced, and I believe he was hung if memory serves.

            1. *convicted I mean

              1. Japan for what it’s worth has some of the strictest prisons in the world and a very no-nonsense judicial system

                The presents for example are totally different then most other countries in that the person’s time and freedom are extremely regimented for every minute of their waking day

                1. I’m not exactly a fan of Japan’s system.

                  Honestly, I think their low crime rates are almost exclusively a cultural phenomenon.

                  Not that I’m a fan of many aspects of their culture either, but they are a very nonviolent one as of now.

                  Interestingly enough possession of child porn was legal there until quite recently, and even now those laws I believe are largely local and not national. However, they have by far the lowest rape rates per capita (whether it be child or adult), in the world.

          2. Note that I’m not saying that torturing an animal means that one automatically will become a serial killer or sadistic murderer et cetera I am saying that in every case I am aware of where you have such an individual you can almost always find examples of animal torture in the past whereas in the case of an average person it’s only rarely that this is the case

            And I am not talking low-grade stuff like pulling the wings off
            I am talking about the kind of thing where I kid sticks a kitten in a canvas bag and then lights the bag on fire. That stuff is pretty rare, but when you investigate a sadistic murderer or a rapist or a serial murderer or rapist you almost always find that kind of thing

            1. Yeah I understand, it’s as John stated above pretty much.

              1. People who actually molest children also like to look at porn of children.

              2. About 2/3rds of the people who are convicted of possessing child porn have never molested a child.

              It’s a similar situation when it comes to people torturing animals.

              I think the vast majority of the time though it’s just a kid who is going through stress and unfortunately used that as an outlet.

              However, it should not be punished as anything more than destruction of someone else’s property.

              What bothers me is when people go out and say that they should ruin the kid’s future and likely fairly normal life instead of just punishing them reasonably for the destruction of someone’s property, the same as they would for any juvenile vandal.

              1. To me it’s more severe than just destroying property, because it also literally hurts. Killing a pussy cat by crushing its skull in one blow, just destruction of property if anyone owned it, because no pain. Pussy cat on fire, OTOH, has gotta hurt!

                1. I’m of the opinion that giving animals rights is necessarily restrictive of human rights and only leads to silly ideas such as it’s immoral to test out products and medical procedures on animals first to reduce the potential harm to humans.

  12. The problem is in many cases the sentence for possessing child porn is higher than for raping a child. That is plain ridiculous and the result of kneejerk reactions to child pornography being easier to distribute in the age of the Internet. Especially when you consider these ridiculous statutes are used to prosecute, or scare the living daylights out of, 15 year olds who engage in sexting.

    I’ll state a few obvious points. There is a load of difference between a nude picture of a 9 year old and a 15 year old. Nude pictures are not pornography by themselves, I watched a Shakespeare movie in high school that included a topless 15 year old actress. People who produce actual pornography of children (prepubescent children engaged in sex acts) should be punished severely. People who purposefully possess such material should be punished, less severely than those who create the material. Anyone who forcibly makes a teenager engage in a sex act and films it should be prosecuted for rape, if the teenager makes their own sex tape or whatever, and sends it to his/her boyfriend, I’m not sure what the crime is.

    The whole point of these laws is to discourage the profitability of the production of child pornography to hopefully result in fewer victims of this form of child abuse. There is no victim when a 15 year old girl sends a picture to her boyfriend. The girl has not been victimized unless you think you can victimize yourself. If there is no victim there should be no crime.

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