When I first started thinking about the social issues surrounding pedophilia, I thought that child pornography (CP) possession should be a crime -- perhaps not as serious a crime as it is today, but still a crime. It's how I was brought up, and it's the accepted view. I think it's gross and wrong for a man to take sexual pleasure in the record of a child's abuse. But my views have evolved over time. I still think it's gross and wrong, but I have come to think it should not be a criminal offense.
The ACLU, the longtime stalwart defender of the civil rights of all oppressed minorities, agrees with me. They think that <possessing even pornographic material about children should not itself be a crime> while they still are strongly in favor of prosecuting producers of the material.
They argue it is a privacy issue, and after some thought I have decided I agree with them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the government wasn't looking over your shoulder when you surf the web? I suspect ordinary people who have no sexual interest in CP are still on the alert and a bit anxious that they might click the wrong link by mistake, especially if they surfing in the realm of legal porn. Some people are arrested for pictures of their tiny grandkids playing naked on the beach.
I am also aware of all too many people who have succumbed to the temptation to find CP and watch it. Some are just fascinated or horrified, and some get it precisely because it is forbidden. Some have no idea it is illegal. Once someone is caught for possession, some police allegedly look at the context and if the person does not seem to be a pedophile, they don't press charges. If, on the other hand, the person does seem to be a pedophile, then his thought crime in addition to the possession demands that he should be punished severely. Evidence of pedophilia would be a large collection that's primarily child porn, stories or legal pictures of children, or evidence of browsing pedophile sites. But different police surely follow different rules, the law is clear, and anyone with CP can be facing a very stiff sentence.
But all too many pedophiles reason to themselves, "Here is a link. How can anyone possibly be hurt by my clicking on it and viewing this video?" It is an excellent question. It's a reasonable moral stance, and I can't think of any other area in life where it can get you into trouble. Especially consider teenage boys -- consider how well-developed they are in terms of thinking about the consequences of their actions, especially when sexual desire is involved. Is clicking on a few links a cause for prison and a lifetime on the sex offender registry? Only if you consider him a grave threat to offend against children and are willing to ignore his civil rights.
Aside from the simple privacy concerns, we are often dealing with people who really aren't intending to do any harm -- and aren't doing any harm, the way we calculate things in every other arena of life.
It's worth noting that many celibate pedophiles disagree with me and think child porn possession should remain a crime. I certainly support anyone if their personal moral stance is that viewing such material is wrong. Once thing has not changed: from descriptions I've heard, I'm sure I would still find some of it horrible.