CHILD PORN, THE INTERNET AND UNCOMMON
by Josey Vogels
Vogels is the author of the nationally syndicated sex and relationships
column My Messy
Bedroom and the dating advice column
Dating Girl . She has published five books on
sex and relationships – the most recent is entitled Bedside
Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy.
McDonald is sitting across from me at a restaurant in downtown
Winnipeg telling me about
cybertip.ca, a citizen watchdog
site created by Child Find Manitoba, and designed to expose kiddie
I have to question whether it'd be more effective to have sunk
the $600,000 in federal and provincial funding for this pilot
project into creating better resources for cops and experts who
know where to find this stuff. You know, rather than using it
to sift through dozens of potentially false reports by over-reactive
citizens to find one or two real sources of kiddie porn.
can you say don't do it, or that it's not good enough because
you're only catching 20 out of 150 million people involved?"
McDonald counters. "If you catch the people who manufacture
this stuff, you've at least stopped the victimization of a handful
of children who were being violated."
was still uneasy.
like trying to kill a flea with a nuclear bomb," offers Dr.
Marty Klein, an American sex therapist, lecturer, and author of
the Sexual Intelligence newsletter (sexualintelligence.org)
when I raise my concerns with him over the phone. "The truth
is, the amount of child porn that's available is very, very small
when you think of everything's that's available to everyone all
the time. And it's not that easy to find. You have to really want
to find it."
is, in the nine years I've been writing this column and researching
sexually oriented material online, I've never come across anything
that fits the legal definition of child pornography. So, I ask
McDonald, how is it that the average person even finds child porn
to report it?
who are into this stuff are using programs children use, file
sharing programs like WinMX," she explains. "Let's say
I was searching Destiny's Child and I'm a 12-year-old girl. All
of a sudden, I'd come across some of the most horrific child pornography
you've ever seen."
download music but my boyfriend does. Granted, he's not a fan
of Destiny's Child, but he's never reported any such horrors.
as horrific as this stuff might be, though, I'm not convinced
mere exposure is enough to turn us all into pedophiles.
argument, McDonald -- as well as the law enforcement guys looking
at these images -- should be out buggering children.
is this idea that adults look at these pictures and it motivates
them to have sex with children," says Klein. "I'm here
to tell you that if an adult is going to have sex with a child
he's going to do it whether he looks at a picture or not. It's
not like most of us can resist ice cream as long as it's not in
front of us. The internalized psychological barriers that prevent
adults from having sex with children are enormous."
sticks by her argument. Even if cybertip's efforts are just a
drop in the bucket in terms of ferreting out Internet kiddie porn,
she says, it's better than sitting back doing nothing.
because we have the technology and it's here to stay, doesn't
mean we just throw up our arms and say, 'oh well, that's too bad,
just grin and bear it,'" argues McDonald who insists her
organization is adamantly pro-Internet.
not so sure. He thinks groups like this actually do more harm
in our attempt to protect children, we wind up scaring the hell
out of them about sexuality, I don't know that we've gained very
much," he says. "If the price children have to pay to
be safer -- not safe, because no one is 100% safe from anything
-- from exploitation and manipulation is to be turned into frigid
beings, I don't think we've done children any favor whatsoever."
he adds, most sex between adults and children doesn't involve
strangers who are offering kids candy, showing them music videos
or pictures of kids having sex with adults. "Most of the
sex that goes on between children and adults goes on between family
members: stepfathers, stepmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.,"
says Klein. "So all the hysteria about child porn is really
hysteria based on emotion rather than fact."
says Klein, there are people out there who do things that are
not healthy for themselves or for the people around them. "There
are a certain number of adults who are coercing children to have
sex with them, and I don't think that's good for anyone."
eliminating images of children in a sexual context might be a
commendable goal, Klein believes that, "Children are beautiful
sexy beings and it's unrealistic to think that nobody ever looks
at them that way."
in North America, we've always fostered the idea that childhood
eroticism is dangerous and must be suppressed. It's been like
that since the days they used to clamp spiked metal rings around
young boys' penises to stop them from having erections and masturbating.
is a belief in our culture that children are not sexual unless
they're sexualized by adults and that is simply not true,"
says Klein. "It's healthy to see the beauty and the eroticism
of the people around us. The question is what we do about it."
it would be better if our culture were sexually healthier in general.
And, yes, it'd be nice if people were able to feel turned on without
necessarily acting on it, or felt able to access their own sexuality
without hurting anyone else.
clearly not there. But in the meantime, I don't think the answer
is to create more misguided hysteria around children and sexuality.
-- Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship
and the Innocence of Youth by Marjorie Heins
-- Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting by James
Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
by Judith Levine