Is child porn “just pictures?”

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The public flap about child porn

Recently, child porn users have been involved in quite a well-deserved public flap in Canada. Relatively well-known academic and public broadcast commentator Tom Flanagan (who wanted Julian Assange assassinated) expressed some controversial ideas about the seriousness of using child porn.  He has been vilified, fired from his public broadcaster commentator job and generally pilloried in the press for various aspects of his statement and views.  Some reaction has been more forgiving than others.  He himself has apologized profusely for his comments.  The National Post has even given him the opportunity to explain the context of his remarks and what he really meant.

Most criticism has been aimed at Flanagan’s idea that putting convicted child porn viewers in jail may not be the best remedy.  Within his apology, he emphasizes that incarceration will probably not provide treatment.  I don’t want to get into a discussion of the various punitive and/or preventative options for child porn viewers.  What has compelled me to write is the repeated assertion and underlying belief that viewers of child pornography do  less harm than others.  According to Flanagan, they do less harm than those who commit actual physical violations against children.  And they apparently do less harm than those who take or market the child porn pictures, as indicated by Flanagan’s initial remark that child porn is “just pictures.”

Mr. F. hasn’t apologized for this view, which he repeats several times throughout his mea culpa.  He sees viewing child porn as less serious than committing vile acts with children and less serious than selling or marketing this filth.  Even the infamous former publishing magnate and convicted fraudster Mr. Conrad Black agrees with Flanagan’s perspective.  Black reports that during his own 3-year prison stint in the USA, he knew some men convicted of viewing and/or downloading child porn.  Mr. B. describes these child porn fans as “quite cultured.” He also called them “interesting conversationalists” whose prison conduct “gave no hint of aggression or deviance.”  (Wasn’t serial killer Ted Bundy a charmer?) Black emphasizes these child porn viewers were “no threat to anyone, but like watching this sort of thing, and don’t pay for it or share it.”  Again, Black defends Flanagan’s view about no jail time for the less serious offense of just viewing child porn pictures in the privacy of one’s home.

Hey, they were nice people, who didn’t really hurt anyone.  They just got their rocks off while looking at photographs of children in sexual poses, maybe sexual poses with adults, maybe with other children, maybe with animals. Maybe the children looked like adults, or were dressed up as adults, or their diapers were hidden. Maybe the pictures showed children being tortured by other children, or by adults, or by groups of children; maybe objects were used, etc. etc.  And they did all of this viewing in the privacy of their own homes, without hurting a soul!

Flanagan, Black and their ilk just don’t get it!  How do you convince people like them of child porn’s harm?  I know someone involved in a very long process of recovery from being forced to pose in child porn pictures decades ago, before the Internet made this type of activity more accessible.  This woman, like so many others, has suffered from flashbacks and nightmares of scenes too horrid to imagine.  Never mind that her own father sexually abused her, from the age of two or younger.  He also forced her to do unspeakable sexual and violent things to other young children, under threat.  If she didn’t, he would kill her or the other children, or harm another family member.  Never mind that he sold her to his cronies, who as a group forced her and other young children into horrific types of scenarios, sexual and otherwise.  Photos were taken at most of these perverse and depraved events.  These photos were shared among her father’s cronies, and sold to others to enjoy at their leisure.

My friend and the countless, nameless innocents all over the world must live knowing that these photographs of them as children doing degrading, humiliating and horrific things are in the public domain, alive forever.

Mr. Flanagan and Mr. Black both seem to understand that without child porn consumers, there would be no market within which to sell.  But they dismiss this concept, since they see viewing the pictures as a lesser crime than actually taking the pictures.  Isn’t someone who receives stolen goods, but who does not do the actual stealing, also guilty of a criminal offense?  Isn’t the driver of a getaway car in a robbery-turned-murder also guilty of participating in that murder?  You don’t have to commit the active part of a crime to be considered an equal or essential part of it.

How would Mr. Flanagan and Mr. Black feel if photographs were taken of them naked, while repeatedly being forced, at gun or knife point, to perform repugnant, humiliating, shameful and degrading sexual acts with women, or with other men, or children, or animals, or with them torturing others, etc.?  What if these pictures were shared on the Internet for interesting and cultured men to jerk off to at their whim?  How would they feel then about having this material available for all to see?  What if the viewers of these pictures were uninteresting and uncultured – would that be less okay?

Again, the discussion of whether or not to incarcerate child porn viewers is not the subject of this outraged diatribe.  I am trying to convey that the end users of child porn, whoever they may be, are willing participants in the cycle, whether they purchase the material or get it for free.  They are child porn enjoyers – consumers of filth, whose existence perpetrates the crime.

 

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