Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thoughtcrime, Child Porn, and Sexual Orthodoxy

Warning: Not worksafe.

A man in Dallas, TX, was recently arrested for taping female wrestlers at a high school wrestling meet, the contention being that he was filming crotch shots for his own "amusement". According to the CNN article he's being charged filming someone without consent for the purpose of sexual arousal.

What I find intriguing is the nature of offense itself. No one is claiming that he needed authorization to film, nor does anyone appear to be arguing an actual violation of the privacy of any of the wrestlers. That seems reasonable to me; I used to be a varsity wrestler, and I know firsthand that all sorts of people tape meets. When you're out on the mat you're the center of attention; its hard to argue any sort of expectation of privacy in that situation. Presumably the same footage, shot by a parent or coach, wouldn't fall afoul of the statute.

So what's the difference between the violator in this case and a parent/coach? The only thing which appears to separate "legitimate" from "illegitimate" filming is the subjective response of the filmer to the film. An activity which would otherwise be legitiimate is illegitimate because he (ostensibly) finds it arousing; he runs afoul of the law based solely on his internal mental state.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, do we have a bona-fide case of thoughtcrime here? A man is being charged with a crime, not on the ground that his actions caused harm, but because he engaged in a socially unauthorized way of interpreting his act i.e. getting his rocks off to high school wrestlers. Members of the jury, that looks like thoughcrime to me. But what, you may ask, does that have to do with childporn?

I submit, for your consideration, the following:

Not child porn Not child porn Child porn

The first picture is from a child beauty pagent, the second is from a child photo contest, and the third is child porn. Its not obvious to me that one is any more, or less, salacious on its face than any other. Nor do I know of any reason to believe that the production of any particular photo was more damaging to its subject(s) than any other. What separates the first two pictures from the third is the context of their presentation and their intended audience.

Indeed, the c|net article makes it clear that child pornography legislation is totally unmoored from any notion of objective harm:

The explanation for that lies in a criminal statute called 18 USC 2252A, which Pierson is accused of violating. Child pornography is defined as the "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person" under 18 years old.
In this case "lascivious" is literally in the mind of the beholder; a picture is porn or not porn based on who's lookin at it and for what reason.

Both of these items, the filming arrest and the examples above, demonstrate a (perhaps increasing) willingness to punish people solely for the content of their thoughts. Not good, not good at all.

1 Comments:

Blogger SBSeed said...

that would be legal child porn, ah the joys of stupid parents.

5:35 PM  

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