This is our truth, tell us yours
Phil BC has done a pretty convincing review of the Paedophile Next Door here. It’s a strong argument, but not complete.
The notion that more people have fantasies or desires of illegality than act on them is not restricted to paedophilia. If the very act of thinking about crime, and being attracted by the idea, is to become a crime itself, then it’s easy to argue that the majority of us have offended at some stage. Any time you’ve seen a£10 note on the ground and thought I could pick that up and put it in my wallet’ you’ve had a criminal thought. What you do next is the stage at which you make a moral choice; to commit a crime or to do the right thing and not commit a crime. If you’ve ever fantasized about what you’d do if you found a million pounds in your bank account by mistake one day, you;re as much a criminal, morally, as the man who has a wank imagining what he’d do to a child. If you are capable of liking the idea, but making a moral choice to hand the money back, then you have to imagine a paedophile might be able to make that choice to. If you think people can’t be trusted to make that choice, then that’s about how you view people and society, not paedophiles.
The collective paranoia around paedophilia has also blinded us to the inhuman assumptions at the heart of existing law around indecent images. The blanket proscription is usually justified by using one of two arguments. The first is the notion that being aroused by an indecent image of a child places you on a spectrum that includes acts of actual abuse, without any notion that moral choices can intervene or differentiate between mens rea and the actus reus.
The second idea is that, somehow, the consumption of images contributes to acts of abuse, that images are only produced because there is a demand for them. Once, when such images could only be exchanged via commercial media, it might have been true that, without customers, there would have been no images produced, but one invention killed that idea stone dead. Not the interweb, but the humble Polaroid camera. From that moment, porn was produced not just for customers, but also for the pleasure of the producer.
Ask any commercial porn producer and they’ll tell you that the porn production trade is dying on its feet, with the democratization of digital cameras and channels meaning that anyone who wants to can become a producer, usually for the ten minutes it takes to realise that the money is made, not owning a camera, but owning the channels by which amateur footage, often stolen, can be re-packaged and distributed.
The grey channels by which porn is circulated between users have nothing to do with the profit motive. Users gravitate to anywhere they can contact like-minded individuals, then use whichever vehicle they think offers the most safety to share their collections. If you want to see how creative people can be, google teamviewer femdom. In case you don’t know, Teamviewer is a business tool that users have cheerily undermined to turn it into a channel for porn and fantasy sharing. Any means by which porn or sexual fantasies can be exchanged will be utilized. Often picture collectors will meet in one venue (say a swingers chatroom) then move to another after an exchange of pm’s. An assumption that there is somehow a link to the original production of a picture that’s been digitally passed from hand to hand is an astonishing over-simplification.
Now, in case you’re wondering, I’m not in favour of people taking obscene pictures of kids. Quite the opposite. The act of photography of a knowing model is bound to be abusive; the act of telling them how to pose, how to look, what’s desirable and what’s not, is bound to plant ideas in their head about beauty and sexuality that will persist. The problem that idea throws up for the outside world is that it makes preparing your child for a beauty pageant as abusive as taking a picture of them with no clothes on, possibly more so, and that poses a challenge to dominant and entrenched ideas about girls needing to look pretty and boys needing to be butch.
So instead we all conspire to say that there is something intrinsically different about paedophilia, which makes it uniquely worthy of being a thought crime. I’m willing to bet I have, as neighbours, people who have fantasized about rape, burglary, theft and even murder. To them, as I say to those who desire children, I say ‘I have to trust you to make moral choices, and to understand if we penalize you if you don’t.’ All other roads lead to institutionalized paranoia, and the creation of thought crimes.