Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review of "Ethical porn for dicks...", Child Porn

The author is David Ley, and the full title is Ethical porn for dicks: a man's guide to responsible viewing pleasure. This is part 2 of a 3-part review, on child pornography.

Ley rightly notes that it is vital to avoid viewing child porn. He cites moral reasons but focuses more on legal problems. This is sensible because in its effort to make sure all child porn as we usually think of it is illegal, the law makes quite a bit of other material illegal, which is often hard to distinguish from legal material.

He notes that viewing amateur 'barely legal' porn is dangerous because it could very well include some child porn. But he's not talking about porn with prepubescent or pubescent children -- that we would recognize when we saw it. Some girls look completely mature physically by age 13, and are indistinguishable from those who are 18. An ordinary guy could be looking at what is legally child porn for years without knowing it. I had thought that the viewer got the benefit of the doubt -- if a reasonable person would not be pretty sure they were looking at a minor then there is no crime. Ley implies that in some cases, the burden falls on the accused to prove that the person is not a minor. It's hard for me to imagine how you could be reasonably sure you're not seeing a minor until you see age lines on the face, aging skin, or sagging breasts. Yet there have been suggestions that porn of adult women with A cup breasts should be illegal.

You get the impression that just about anything you see involving young women might be technically illegal, and we're supposed to trust the government to only prosecute the bad guys. This has been stated explicitly in the UK. It is to me a chilling prospect. Imagine the government creating sites loaded with 17-year-olds, framed with official notices assuring us that this is all legal (police are allowed to lie). They could then arrest the untold millions of men who think 18 is the sexiest legal age and prosecute the ones they don't like for whatever reason.

I suggested in the first part of the review that if what you see on the screen looks like adults doing something adults would likely do if paid for it, it should be ethically OK to watch it. But the legal requirement to avoid child porn masquerading as adult porn is one to take very seriously. Sometimes ethics is not enough to assure you are obeying the law.

Ley makes a few other comments that I find chilling if he is correct that they are legitimate concerns. He strongly suggests that you not type "child pornography" in your browser, as it will put you on a watch list. Really? Maybe you want to know the legal definition, or hear how the issue is being debated in society or find out how your search engine handles a controversial topic. He also suggests that if your porn searches are regularly for "teen porn", expecting that the sites will naturally only give you legal material of people age 18 or above, then if you did get a stray video of someone who was 16, the police would not be inclined to believe that you got it by accident. It sounds like 18 isn't really when women turn into adults. To be safe, you'd better restrict your expressed interest to ages higher than that.

Ley considers what to do if you get some child porn by accident. I assume he means something easily identifiable because the child is pubescent or prepubescent. His advice is quite draconian. He suggests you notify the police, expecting they will take your computer (and never give it back) and ask you tough questions. He formulated this advice by asking attorneys and police, who are naturally inclined to give the most conservative answer possible, and he himself has to consider his own legal liability.

Others (notably Michael Seto in <"Internet Sex Offenders"> ) say most police will focus on people who have downloaded large amounts of hard-core illegal material, and if they do follow up on that one file you got, they only prosecute if they in good faith determine that you were looking for it or repeatedly looking at it. This would suggest that if one CP file comes to you and you immediately delete it, you are probably OK. But no one is going to guarantee that.

But it's not as if the other option is completely safe either. If you notify the police about the CP you got by accident, they might not believe you got it by accident and prosecute you.

The entire situation is to me a civil liberties nightmare. In a free society, you ought to be able to look at anything you want without the government arresting you. By all means, track down the producers of child porn and prosecute them. But I join the ACLU in believing that simple child porn possession should not be a criminal offense.


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