Legal Child Pornography

Those on the right who promote capital punishment and other harsh penalties for child pornographers are being stymied in Syracuse, New York. In that state it is perfectly legal, according to news reports, to take provocative naked pictures of 11-year-old girls and distribute them far and wide, even to males who will almost certainly use them for prurient purposes.

How can this be? There is one little complication. The models, photographers, distributors, and consumers of these photos are all themselves minors. Under New York law kids who do this are breaking no laws, and students of at least one Syracuse middle school enthusiastically took advantage of this loophole. About a dozen girls, aged 11-14, took naked pictures of each other with cell phone cameras and sent them to their boyfriends. Some of the boys copied the pictures onto discs and began selling them at school. Amazingly, this was not a crime as long as both parties were minors.

It became a crime for one young man, Michael Wixson, when at the age of 17 he provided some of these photos to a 15-year-old girl. A-ha! Now we have an "adult" giving "porn" to a "child." The police swooped in, arresting Wixson and charging him with various crimes. Bill O'Reilly reported the story on Fox News. [video]

You might expect that the adults whose children were involved in this would be a little disturbed. Some were. Many were not, according to the local prosecutor.

“Some of them were furious. A good percentage of them were, ‘stuff happens, what are you going to do?’ and don't want to cooperate and don't want to be interviewed, which, to me, is mind-boggling.”

The girls involved were equally nonplussed.

What people in the schools are struggling with now is making it clear to students that, what they think is silly behavior, can be permanently damaging and criminal.

“I think the parents should realize that this kind of behavior is not as shocking to the kids as it is to them,” says Resource Officer Scott Smith. He is one of two officers who keeps track of whats happening in the halls of the high school.

Smith watched as C-NS students reacted to, first, a naked picture CD, and now a felony charge for sharing those pictures. Smith says he was shocked by kids thinking neither was a big deal. “They weren't phased by it; some were a little more concerned than others but overall it wasn't the reaction I expected from a group of girls just learning that they were on it.”

Could it be that the girls see no problem with this behavior because their own parents see no problem with it? Having been raised with free access to MTV, HBO, gangsta rap, Britney Spears, and other such influences, why should we be surprised that they don't mind exposing themselves to all the world? Britney does and everyone loves her. Quite a few Moms want their daughters to be sexy. They're getting their wish.

Some adults will say that kids do these things, and we all sowed our own wild oats. Really? Not like this. Digital cameras only became common in the late 1990s. Before then, making your own porn was a lot harder. Unless you had your own darkroom you had to take the film somewhere to be developed. Ditto to make copies. And there was no Internet to speed them to anonymous eyes around the world in seconds. Kids today face temptations that prior generations never imagined.

Once a photo goes on the Internet it is out of your control. It will be copied, stored, and reproduced a million times over. You can't get it back, ever. These girls will be porn stars in all corners of the globe for the rest of their lives. That's a big decision to make at the age of 11.

The real failure lies with the adults. As in this case, if your daughter reaches high school and still doesn't understand why it might be a bad idea to have naked pictures of herself floating around the hallways, she probably missed some lessons much earlier in life. Now she will have to learn them the hard way.

All this adds up to a most disturbing picture. We have constructed a culture that glorifies images of raw sexuality, even for children. We have equipped those children with the technology to easily produce and distribute their own pornography. We have failed to provide them with a moral framework that explains why doing so is harmful. And now, it seems we have a legal system that allows minors to carry out this activity without interference by the authorities.

My guess is that the school in Syracuse isn't the only place where such things happen. If it's not already in your community, it will be soon. What's the answer? The only one I have is to get out - and don't look back.

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