01Aug09f Theories of child porn's harm (Robin)
THEORIES OF CHILD PORN'S HARM
The SCC decision endorsed the theories of harm advanced by the Crown's psychiatric expert which are generally accepted in the child sexual abuse industry. Harm, harm flowing from the mere possession (in the hands of pedophiles) of child pornography was central to the Crown's arguments. I want to examine these theories from a logical common sense approach.
DOES CHILD PORN INCITE MEN TO ASSAULT CHILDREN?
This is refered to as the "fuelling fantasies" theory. It is the polar opposite of the catharsis theory which claims that pornography is principally a substitute for sexual assault. Men masturbate instead of seeking an actual partner or victim. The SCC ignores this theory and my lawyers refused to touch it. The incitement theory claims that child pornography incites pedos to sexually assault children and implies that pedos are the ones who sexually assault children. However according to the evidence submitted by the Crown's own expert witnesses most child sexual assault is by parents and relatives. In these cases child pornography is hardly ever involved. Of the remaining child sex offenders most are what is called "situational" or "opportunistic" offenders who substitute children for adults.
They may simply be indiscriminate predators, or they may be unattractive, suffer low self esteem or lack the interpersonal skills to find an adult partner. They have no particular interest in child porn and it is highly unlikely that they would use it to incite themselves. Only specifically to normalize adult-child for seduction purposes, "groom" quite young children would they have any use for it and this is problematical.
We are left with about a quarter of child sex offenders who are true or "preferential" pedophiles. However few of these, like people generally, have much interest in pornography of any kind. It may well be that those who lack porn are more likely to assault children. Even granting that some sex offenders including pedophiles use porn to hype themselves up before offending that does not mean that porn incites their offenses. Unless their exposure is inadvertent they have already formed the intent to offend when they use the pornography. Lacking porn they would likely find other means to hype themselves to offend.
Another situation documented in the case of some child sex offenders, which may be as or more common than using porn before an offense, is using an actual assault to provide the basis of future fantasies. (Howitt case) Everyone would be better off if these men could use child pornography instead of an actual assault as a basis for masturbation fantasies.
DO OFFENDERS USE CHILD PORN TO "GROOM" CHILDREN?
The grooming argument is that offenders show child pornography to potential victims in order to normalize child sexual activities. Other children do it so it's OK is the line. This has some plausibility in the case of younger, prepubertal children who are ignorant or naive. It has little relevancy to older kids, especially boys, who have entered puberty. In this case adult XXX videos which arouse them would be more effective. They are cheaper, generally better quality and much less risky to use.
Beyond this is the question of alcohol and drugs which may easily disinhibit adolescents. If we approach the problem of grooming realistically, it is a question of how things are used, not the fact that they are possessed. Prohibiting child pornography would have only a very limited impact on the grooming of children. Any common sense approach to the problem of grooming should focus on the use of materials and substances that would most likely put children at risk. Prohibiting child pornography can only offer a sense of false security.
ARE CHILDREN HARMED IN THE PRODUCTION OF CHILD PORN?
Obviously some are. In some instances the pornography itself is a record of the abuse entailed. This can be covered under other laws such as child sexual assault and those governing evidence of criminal,activity. In other instances exploitation may be present or implied by the image. This is a less serious serious situation but one that should be addressed. Nude pictures of children not engaged in sexual activities are not in themselves exploitive. They may become so through display or distribution which exposes the child to embarrassment or other adverse consequences. The argument that the possessor may use them to to blackmail the child is weak. Blackmail in itself is a serious criminal offense. Among adolescents it is more likely that they would use the pictures to blackmail the photographer. In terms of any simple possession offense the abuse in production needs to be qualified in terms of the images themselves and the real or implied circumstances of their production. Where the child depicted is known, particularly in the case of adolescents, their views should be relevant. Although it may be illegal in some places like Canada looking at the attitude and expressions of actual children in visual porn would also give some indication.
DOES CHILD PORN REINFORCE COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS?
This the indirect or attitudinal harm argument. Child pornography is assumed to predispose pedophiles to think such things as sex with children is harmless, acceptable etc. (I will be expanding this section)
CHILD PORN AND OTHER PORN
The basis of the Crown's case was harm, harm flowing from the mere possession of child porn. Yet according to others including many social scientists, sexologists, writers and probably your typical porn consumer, adult pornography is a substitute for a partner, or at least an exciting one. It's hassle free and some men may have few alternatives. Many, perhaps most people can be objective about adult porn and see that it may be a good thing. If men can enjoy more satisfying masturbation with porn than without then pornography may actually protect women from molestation and rape. It's quick, cheap and you can play with kink you'd never consider doing in reality. We can understand a sexually bored, good family man wanting to experiment with exotic, erotic fantasies. Having a lover on the side or molesting servants threatens to disrupt the family but porn can safely provide something new. These are common sense aguments that most people can check against their own observations.
Is there any reason to believe that child pornography is used any differently? Yet the government, the police, the religious, the civil libertarians and probably a large majority of Canadians believe that child pornography somehow has radically different its effects. It only makes sense if child pornography has some magical or mystical properties. Moral panics can make it so. [The apparent threat of Soviet world domination in the 1950s and 60s was,created by the McCarthy hysteria.] I am trying to provide a glimpse of the mass hysteria which is invisible from inside. Our society accepts porn although we don't condone it. Other societies which don't tolerate porn at all, accept but don't condone men and boys having liasons. The definitions of child pornography are necessarily arbitrary and many instances are marginal. Yet in a particular case it either is or it isn't. The situation is similar to the old joke about a woman who had a house near the New Brunswick/Maine border. She wasn't sure which country it was in so she had her property surveyed. It turned out be in the U.S. and she was very relieved because she didn't think she could survive Canadian winters.
WOULD TOTAL PROHIBITION OF CHILD PORN BE HARMFUL?
Another common sense way to look at the effect of many things is to explore the implications of their absense as well as their presence. Wildlife investigators, for example, commonly do this when considering predators like wolves. Without predators prey animals such as deer may be subject to cycles of overpopulation and collapse with possible degradation of the natural environment resulting. Consider a situation where new sources of child pornography were totally eliminated. I am not going to speculate on what means would be necessary to achieve a total or near total elimination of child pornography but zero tolerance always has its price. In a variation of the catharsis argument former consumers, if free to make decisions would have a number of choices. They might either do without, turn to the nearest legal substitute, or indulge in voyeurism. Or, as happened after the suppression of commercial sources in the the late 1970s, they begin making their own.
At the voir dire the trial judge closely observed the testimony with its nuances and studied the scholarly exhibits entered. He found significant if not substantial weaknesses in the Crown's evidence. It is highly unlikely that the SCC closely examined the 400 page transcript or made any such careful analysis of the evidence and relied on their clerks and articles by legal academics who also probably also didn't read the transcript and study the evidence. [Unfortunately for me neither did my lawyers despite my attempts to bring facts to their attention.]
The child learns about its own body before it can handle responsible activities in its environment like driving a car. And it can do this before it can understand the complexities required to participate in civic life such as politics. Of course it can be argued that many adults never do but that is another question.