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Boy-lovers, Crush Videos, and That Heinous First Amendment
Califia-Rice, Patrick; The Loyal Opposition Archive, 2008
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU -- or, more specifically, their affiliate in Massachusetts, ACLUM) has been getting some bad press lately for their involvement in a case that pits the North American Boy-Love Association (NAMBLA) against the parents of a boy who was murdered in the commission of a sex crime. Editorials condemning this decision are springing up like mushrooms. One which appeared in the Portland, Maine Press Herald said the ACLUM
decision to defend NAMBLA "trespassed over the bounds of decency." Furthermore:
Despite FBI harassment, police entrapment of their leaders, rejection from other gay organizations and gay media, dwindling membership, and calumny all
Its publications contain some of the most intelligent discussions to be found anywhere on the complex topics of what constitutes informed consent, the development of the sexuality of young people, the meaning and effects of erotic material, the history of homosexuality, and the nature of equal relationships.
But very few people who are not boy-lovers bother to read any NAMBLA literature before condemning it as worthless smut. This self-righteousness is at least partly a mask for fear, because simply possessing NAMBLA literature is often enough to make you look like a
This has made them persona beyond non grata, leading to events like the 1994 debacle when U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) caused the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) to lose its status as a consultant to the United
Nations (UN) after he learned that NAMBLA
was one of their subscribing organizations. ILGA expelled
NAMBLA and declared pedophilia was inconsistent with its aims to no avail; the U.S. government demanded an
Both Sicari and Jaynes are serving life sentences for kidnapping and murder. Sicari has no possibility of parole, and Jaynes will only become eligible for parole after serving 23 years. The Curleys won a $328 million judgment against them in a wrongful death lawsuit on August 23. Their lawyer, Lawrence Frisoli, says that victory will bolster his clients' case against NAMBLA. [*4]
Citing two 1960s U.S. Supreme Court cases that allowed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) to keep its membership lists
But, as ACLUM states,
NAMBLA's magazine does not contain any erotic material, in fact. It is all polemics, not pornography.
Ironically, Jeffrey Curley's father Robert was defended by ACLUM when he wanted to be exempted from a four-hour diversity training that was mandatory for employees of the city of Cambridge. (Curley is a fireman.) His ACLUM attorney, Harvey Silverglate, told a local paper,
It seems very clear that legal precedent is on the side of NAMBLA. If the usual rules of constitutional law are followed, the Curleys' lawsuit will fail. But the expensive and emotionally trying process of mounting a defense against this legal challenge will probably spell the end of
The Curleys and Frisoli are perfectly aware of the punitive potential of the legal system. They did not file their lawsuit against Sicari and Jaynes expecting to receive $328 million; it was about publicizing their cause
Since Megan's Law (named after a New Jersey rape and
California was the first state to comply with this requirement, and did so by producing CD-ROMs of personal information about 64,000 registered rapists, child molesters, and sex offenders (including gay men convicted of consensual public sex). Some estimates show that the database was up to 40% inaccurate. These inaccuracies included names of dead or incarcerated
Most people will not be moved by the plight of NAMBLA's officers as they scramble to keep the names of their members confidential and defend themselves against the charge that they are culpable for the death and violation of this child.
The parents of a murdered child have sympathy on their side. Of course they want to go after anyone who might be responsible for this terrible crime, and prevent anything like this from happening to other families.
It is very difficult to draw a line here between ideas and action; between speech and criminal conduct. When a bomb has gone off, any peace-loving person is infuriated not only with the person who made the bomb, but with the place where the information and materials came that allowed it to be created. But the plans for
a bomb are not the same thing as the weapon itself, and cannot receive the
same treatment under the law.
Any legal decision in the area of civil rights has to be viewed not only for its effect upon the defendants and plaintiffs, but for the way it can be used as a logical argument in related cases.
If any part of this lawsuit should succeed, it would become a precedent for further legal action against groups that espouse unpopular opinions or ask questions that make people angry. Right-wing Christian organizations and other law-and-order conservatives are always looking for new tactics to use in their determination to turn the clock back to 1950. Liberals and leftists are also pretty quick to seize upon any opportunity to quash the activities of people that they believe are wrong and dangerous. One of the most difficult things about the Bill of Rights is that it cuts
Any group of people who advocated any political position could be crucified for the illegal actions of people who choose to damage themselves or others.
Manufacturers of sex toys could be sued if any of their merchandise was used in the commission of a crime. The National Rifle Association could be sued by the parents of the dead students in Columbine, Colorado.
I suppose outraged authors whose work was censored by Canadian customs could even sue antiporn activist and legal fantasist -- uh, theorist -- Catherine
MacKinnon, who practically wrote the laws on which such seizures are based, and the members of women's organizations that gave her a platform, for lost income and other damages.
People have been convicted of child pornography offenses for producing, distributing, or possessing material in which the minors did not even appear unclothed, much less involved in any sexual activity. [*17]
These laws have normalized the concept that material which is not obscene per se can be banned if there is a great enough threat of social harm. They have also criminalized the very state of being a pedophile, because it is the erotic response of the person who holds such matter, rather than the content of the matter, that
The temptation to try to exile or eliminate anyone who has an erotic response to young people is very great, even though the advertising industry and mass entertainment are constantly encouraging us to find
Next month [in Part Two], we will examine a category of erotic material which has caused as much, if not more, opprobrium than child pornography.
Few people realize that we now have a new federal obscenity law which applies the same reasoning behind broad and vague child pornography laws to an obscure branch of fetish porn. Crush videos usually depict a woman stepping on an insect, snail, or worm. Occasionally, baby mice or rats and (rarely) larger animals have also been featured.
Jeff Vilencia, a 39-year-old Southern Californian, [...] estimates that his fetish is shared by perhaps a couple of thousand men in the entire world -- very specific masochists and foot fetishists who usually identify with the creature that's being tortured and killed. [* 1]
[... ... ... ... ...]
[ A bill, HR 1887, was made to forbid such kinds of pornography]
Lawmakers apparently [...] did not dare vote against such an inflammatory and popular bill. Conviction for breaking this new porn law will result in a hefty fine and a five-year prison sentence.
Only Robert C. Scott (D-Virginia) tried to slow down the train.
He also raised the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down an animal cruelty ordinance that targeted animal sacrifice performed by followers of Santeria.
Connors came back with, guess what, child pornography laws. He argued that the protection of an animal was a compelling state interest just like the protection of children. [* 5] The need to protect children from
The House passed HR 1887 by a vote of 372 to 42; the Senate was unanimous. One legislator who dared cast a "nay" vote was castigated in the press and his vote called "beyond human decency." [* 7]
President Clinton signed it into law on December 9, 1999.
A similar bill (which also criminalizes possession of material depicting cruelty to animals) was proposed in California.
Despite this lurid introduction and a pitiful claim that "it's almost impossible to prosecute" [* 10] crush videos despite the fact that cruelty to animals is already illegal, AB 1853 bogged down in the Appropriations Committee.
Members of both parties had expressed misgivings about its constitutionality, probably because of the possession clause. One legislative analyst pointed out that it would be legal to film chickens being slaughtered if your purpose was to show that it was an inhumane
This wave of negative publicity and legislative fervor has had the desired effect. A lengthy and detailed Internet search for crush videos netted only pictures of women sitting or stepping on stuffed animals and
Given the cruel treatment that people routinely dish out to animals they consider vermin or pests, the hypocrisy in this case seems very plain. All of the legislators who voted for HR 1887 would not think twice about having an exterminator spray their house to kill cockroaches and termites, or flinch at setting out mouse traps or poison. And the president who signed it sure does like his cheeseburgers.
Changing the object of a human being's desire is a perilous and far from straightforward undertaking, even by professionals who are experienced in the treatment of sex offenders. But we do know how to lock people up, and that gratifies most of us so much, we don't wish to
Righteous indignation is a form of self-excitement, and we all know how satisfying some of us find it to punish the wrongdoer. With the shadow held at bay behind iron bars, the rest of us can sleep more soundly, until the next time -- until our anxiety about our own worth or rightness reaches the point where we must find another scapegoat for our self-hatred and shortcomings. Sex humbles, makes fools and sometimes criminals, of us all, and the jailer is affected by the act of imprisonment just as much as the victim of such bondage.
If anything, the deaths that are documented in crush videos have more meaning than the hundreds of gallons of pig, sheep, and cattle blood that soils the floors of slaughterhouses nationwide. By using the death of an insect or rodent for sexual purposes, crush fetishists briefly highlighted an area of human behavior that engenders enormous (and severely repressed) guilt.
They were punished with all the rage of a child, weeping at the death of Bambi's mother, then connecting for the first time the lamp chop dinner with death. It's hard to imagine what our lives would look like if we did not take our right to kill animals for granted. If the rest of us are going to eat lunch at McDonald's, crush fetishists have to be put in their place, insulted, belittled, and, well, squashed.
If the material is shocking enough, it seems that lawmakers and even the courts require very little substantial social-science data to prove a claim of
But the pornography of minority sexualities, especially those which scare the majority, can now be more easily targeted. In the majority of cases, fetish porn does not entail any sort of cruelty or violence, and serves mostly as an aide to masturbation for people who tend to be isolated and secretive about their preferences.
The First Amendment is very simple. Yet it has generated the largest and most bewildering and contradictory body of interpretive case law than any other provision of the Bill of Rights. This is perhaps because we refuse to take it at face value, and keep on looking for ways to allow the state to mediate morality and quash dissent.
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