Friday, March 6, 2009


The other night I was watching Letterman interview Dr. Phil and the topic of high-tech teenage sexual hi-jinks came up. While discussing the issue the idea of sexting (a term that I am sure some adult made up that no actual teenager uses) was brought up in addition to pornographic picture mail. It was pointed on the show that it is not only illegal for teens to take nude photos of themselves but that the boy/girlfriend that receives this photo on the other end of the picture mail is actually guilty of a felony. This seems once again like government gone out of control and it is horribly WRONG.

This topic is somewhat personal for me as I was a fairly wild teenager. I knew I had broken the law with respect to many drinking laws including dwi (under 21 the legal limit in most states is very low, Texas for instance considers it dwi with any detectable amount of alcohol), some laws concerning marijuana, all kinds of traffic laws and when I was lucky enough statutory rape (I'm talking 17 with 16 and stuff like that so calm down), although I was never charged with anything (or even caught) other than the traffic stuff. Despite all of this I had no idea that I was apparently a child pornographer at 16. My girlfriend (also 16) and I at the time took 1 dirty pic of ourselves with my mom's Polaroid. I was so scared of getting caught that I destroyed the picture less than a day later and good thing. Apparently I was this close to felony (This was some time ago and the statute of limitations is long passed so no worries confessing now). And now after researching a bit I found out as children and teens my friends and I were actually guilty of all sorts of ridiculous sex/pornography laws. For instance hooking up one of your friends from the neighborhood with a playboy mag you stole from your dad's underwear drawer can get you busted for forcing a minor to view pornography, and I thought my actions were more along the do-unto-others-as-you-wish-them-to-do-unto-you lines.

Now let me focus here on one aspect of this subject: Child Pornography laws v. Child Abuse/Statutory Rape laws

To my knowledge state law for every state in the US plus DC as well as federal law clearly distinguishes between sexual child abuse and statutory rape. I think the intent in this separation is clear. An adult having sexual contact with a child is obviously different than an adult having consensual sexual contact with someone who is simply under the age of consent and certainly different from two people under the age of consent being together (imagine here the difference between an 18 year old with a 6 year old and with a 16 year old or even a 16 year old with another 16 year old). In addition for the sake of a later point it should also be noted that none of these laws try to go so far as making masturbation illegal before the age of consent (imagine trying to enforce that). Now despite the ambiguity of these laws and the inability for different states to agree on an age of consent the law is at least set up to differentiate between these various actions.

Now on the other hand when it comes to pornography this is absolutely not true. Any photo of anyone under the age of 18 is considered child pornography. It doesn't matter what the circumstance. An 18 year old taking a photo of a 6 year old, an 18 year old taking a photo of a 16 year old, a 16 year old taking a photo of another 16 year old or even a 16 year old taking a photo of themselves are all the same. These activities all seem incredibly different.

If you're not convinced let's try looking at the subject from another point of view. Imagine a happily married heterosexual couple in their 40's. In an attempt to spice up there sex life after two decades of faithful marriage the couple breaks out a camera one night and they proceed to take dirty pics of each other and of both together. Now are these two pornographers? Although the word pornographer does seem to denote what they are doing it does not connote it. Pornographer seems to imply something more. This on the other hand seems simply like consensual sex between two adults with or without the camera. Now let's transfer this idea to the other cases. If we look at the simple use of a camera in sex as sex then we can now differentiate these alleged child pornography cases. An 18 year old taking a photo of a 6 year old is sexual child abuse, an 18 year old taking a photo of a 16 is statutory rape (or something similar), and a 16 year old taking a photo of another 16 and a 16 year old taking a photo of themselves are both simply just teenagers screwing around.

Now distributing these pics on the web or to others outside the relationship definitely changes the terms and make topics like a 16 year old running their own pornographic website much more difficult issues. That and other related topics like the age of consent in general are topics I hope to discuss in the future.

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