No Sympathy for the Demented

Not to go all social conservative on you, but I have to believe that there are (or should be) more pressing issues for the head of a civil liberties organization than protecting an industry set on selling the sexual objectification of children. But there goes the ACLU’s Steven Brown:

Legislation passed last week to make sex-trafficking of minors a felony is so broad, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, that it could make criminals of people who profit from sexually-explicit art depicting minors. …
The allegedly offending language in the human-trafficking legislation defines “sexually-explicit performance” as “an act or show, intended to arouse, satisfy the sexual desires of, or appeal to the prurient interests of patrons or viewers, whether public or private, live, photographed, recorded or videotaped.” Anyone found guilty of such an offense would face up to 40 years in prison and a $40,000 fine, or both.
“Theoretically, it could be a theater owner,” the state’s chief civil libertarian told Political Scene. Or “somebody who takes photographs of minors deemed to appeal to prurient interests …”

Personally, I’d have stricken the phrase about “prurient interests,” and been clearer about the meaning of “sexually-explicit,” but several other factors make it unnecessary, even odd, to fear for theater owners who behave in ways that we’d all agree oughtn’t be criminal:

  • It’s fanciful to imagine that the judiciary, as constituted for the foreseeable future, will seek to interpret art as “intended” for the purpose of arousal.
  • Legal precedent providing first amendment protection to pornography ensures the first point, and if producers must take extra care with actual children, well, I’d be hard-pressed to explain why an artistic statement requires the use of actual children for sexual purposes.
  • I continue to believe that it should be deemed appropriate for states to be more stringent, in their rules, than is the federal government. If Rhode Islanders don’t wish to allow the public display of children in sexually explicit situations, then there are 49 other states in which peddlers of filth could display their sickness.
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14 years ago

What happened to the Supreme Court definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it”, but can’t that really fit in here for describing “art” including minors? If it’s a diaper commercial and a baby drops their diaper, that’s probably not pornography. A photo/video of an adult in a sexual position with a minor, yeah, probably pornography and illegal.
I understand that sometimes “common sense” is a little uncommon but I don’t think there’s ever going to be black and white when it comes to this stuff.
And Justin’s point remains, doesn’t Steven Brown have better things to tackle than this. Jump on board when someone is wrongly accused, not now.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
14 years ago

The other night I watched an old video of “The House of the Spirits” written by Isabel Allende (yes, that Allende). It included “full frontal nudity” of 8 and 9 year olds. I Googled it “The movie achieved mild success and won awards at the Bavarian Film Awards, German Film Awards, Golden Screen (Germany), Havana Film Festival, and Robert Festival (Denmark), as well as from the German Phono Academy and the Guild of German Art House Cinemas.”
As I think I have mentioned before, we have a Federal law with very harsh penalties for transporting females across state border for “immoral purposes”, the Mann Act. This has been on the books since circa 1918. I believe there have been fewer than a dozen prosecutions under it, mostly black celebrities. I think Chuck Berry was one.
Sort of makes me doubt that new legislation will aid much.

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