The Bogeyman of Child Pornography

Whenever Freedom of Speech and Censorship is discussed, someone always brings up child pornography. As in, “Are you saying that child pornography is all right?” It’s a bogeyman. The obsession some people have with it makes them sound as if they are the pedophiles. Methinks thou protesteth too much. It’s interesting that they never mention snuff, which is far worse as someone actually dies.

So, I am going to discuss child pornography.

I am going to do so in a way that any reasonable person can understand and comprehend. That is a relative concept, of course, because reason and common sense in the United States is as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker or eastern mountain lion; i.e., extinct.

To my way of thinking, child pornography is a photograph or motion picture in which someone is having sexual relations with another person, and that other person is age 16 or younger. The act can range from nudity, to touching, to actual intercourse. The ages of 17 and 18 are murky as young people that age have been having sex together as long as there have been barns and means of conveyance. But the laws in America generally says age of consent is 18, so we’ll go with it.

Someone under the age of 18 (and especially under 14) cannot grant consent for the act. He or she doesn’t know how. He or she has no idea what is happening. He or she is not prepared emotionally, much less physically, for the consequences. Because it is a photograph or film, a real person is being harmed in a real way, usually irreversibly so. That isn’t just a crime in the eyes of the law. It’s a crime against humanity and about as inhumane as one can get. It is an absolute violation of the most innocent and vulnerable of all. It’s a crime in most statutes of the United States, and it usually brings the FBI in on the scene, and I wholeheartedly agree.

So, no. That is not protected by the Freedom of Speech, nor should it be.

Neither is snuff. A film of someone being hanged or crucified is not covered by the Freedom of Speech. A professional filmmaker knows how to stage and edit a movie to make it look like someone has been hanged or crucified, but I’m talking about a movie where someone is actually murdered. Those do exist.

Again, child pornography is a photograph or film in which a real minor is engaged in a real sexual act of any type, with the subsequent real harm inflicted, which is a universally granted byproduct.

Now, how about drawings, paintings, and 3D renders.

To quote Neil Gaiman, “No. You don’t get that one.”

Those are “lines on paper,” brushstrokes on canvas, pixels on a monitor. It doesn’t matter how disgusting that may be, those are not real children. That is not child pornography. It is simply tasteless. There are no laws against bad taste. If there were, reality TV would be illegal.

If you condemn a drawing of Kakashi having sex with a 16-year-old Sakura, then you also must condemn quite a few Renaissance paintings of naked cherubs flying around Aphrodite. Yes, you do! Those are painting of naked babies. You must also condemn Michelangelo’s David. Yes, you do! That is a statue of a naked teenaged boy. You must condemn all depictions of Andromeda. Yes, you do! Those show a teenaged girl in bondage, and sometimes she’s nude. This is a case of what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you condemn one, you must condemn all, or you are a hypocrite.

Freedom of Speech must protect the distasteful, disgusting, and depraved (Sakura-Kakashi), or it won’t protect what needs to be protected (David, and Andromeda). As long as no real person is harmed, it is protected. That is why hate speech is a gray area – the listener may actually suffer harm. If someone is actually harmed, it is no longer a Freedom of Speech issue, but a felony crime. Harm at least equates to assault and battery, if not a far more serious crime. How can representations of people in oil paint on canvas be guilty of any crime, much less raping each other?

That is totally different. Sakura is not actually having sex with Kakashi, as neither are real people. So, no felony has been committed. It’s the same with a vore picture. That is not a real woman being swallowed by a real snake, and she is not really going to be dissolved slowly in darkness and searing agony. It is fiction, so no felony has been committed. No reasonable person would assume that Jim Caviezel was really crucified and murdered in The Passion of the Christ, so no reasonable person should assume that a Sakura-Kakashi ship drawing, a Renaissance painting of nude Andromeda chained to a rock, or any other work of certifiable or verifiable fiction or art actually depicts real children or teens in a real sexual situation. If you do assume that, then you don’t need a lesson in art and censorship, you need a psychiatrist.

Once the process of censorship is started for that drawing of Kakashi and Sakura, it has begun for all art of any erotic nature. Censorship is like kudzu. Once it is established, it never stops. It just keeps growing. It will consume fetish art: crucifixion, bondage, and non-cons. It will consume erotica. It will consume fine art nudes. This is already happening in America, where the Religious Right, Fascist-leaning Mens’ Rights Activitsts, and leftist Social Justice Warriors want all women to be totally covered and devoid of any sexuality. Censorship will eventually reach the point of banning anything that remotely disturbs a small group, and that is a war waged in our libraries for at least the past century.

The answer to this is quite simple. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. I don’t, so I don’t. If you don’t like it, don’t make it. I don’t, so I don’t. I seldom include a child in a render, unless it’s a group scene (a group without at least one child looks peculiar), or I want to depict a character protecting the most vulnerable of all. I also don’t depict hanging, crucifixion, or vore. I don’t like them.

The Freedom of Speech guarantees my right to write or render what I wish. It also guarantees my right to NOT write or render what I do not wish. That is not a case of obeying a law, or cowtowing to community consensus. That is my personal choice. If someone else wants to do something else, that is between him, his conscience, and the FBI. Not my problem.

 

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Neil Gaiman on Censorship

“I absolutely understand somebody going: you should not be able to depict images of violence towards women. But they’re lines on paper, and they’re covered by the First Amendment. That’s the deal here, because if it doesn’t cover that, then it doesn’t cover the stuff that you need to save. I needed to become a First Amendment absolutist, and I still find it uncomfortable being a First Amendment absolutist. I was not put on this earth to be an absolutist of anything. I’m somebody whose natural response to an awful lot of stuff is to say: yes, I see your point of view, or at least try and find common ground. But when it comes to the First Amendment, there is no common ground.

“There are people saying to me: well, are you saying people should be allowed to make snuff movies? And I’m going no, they shouldn’t, because that involves murdering somebody, and murder is a crime, and you shouldn’t be murdering anybody. And pedophilia is a monstrous crime because it is hurting kids and that’s real. A child cannot give consent, this is bad. I get this. And then I suddenly find myself having pointless arguments online with people about Japanese manga drawings of couples with babyish faces having sex or whatever. “This is being used by those pedophiles to excite themselves and work themselves up!” And I’m going, No. You can’t do that one. These are not real people. These are drawings. And if you think they’re real then you also have to imprison people for murder every time they kill a fictional character.”

Neil Gaiman, The Story of a Writer, edited by Hayley Campbell, Harper Design (2014), pp 191-192.

 

“I think there are lots of threats to freedom of speech and I think that the strange cesspit that parts of the internet, can turn into is definitely something that never occurred to any of us before. The fact that upset people can go and shout and the shoutiness and that other people can see… you get some people interpreting freedom of speech as being freedom to harass, freedom to pile on and scream. And I guess it is, but I can absolutely see it being a threat. You know, it takes one angry person pointing people at one thing that upsets them and suddenly the internet is a hornet’s nest and I don’t think that’s good. Mostly I don’t think it’s good because it means people are having to not say what they think and the point of freedom of speech is that you should be able to say what you think, defend what you think, argue with people, disagree with people. All of that stuff is hugely important.

“If you don’t like my work, that’s great and I think you should absolutely write a book saying why you don’t like my work – or write blog articles or write newspaper articles. Freedom of speech is a hugely important thing. And so is the freedom not to be a dick and the freedom not to make an idiot of yourself and the freedom not to be as unpleasant as you possibly can be. And these are all important.”

Neil Gaiman with Frances Myatt, The Guardian, Aug. 29, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/aug/29/neil-gaiman-banned-books-censorship-interview