Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Gathering Storm

Reason Magazine has a chilling article on the steamrolling paranoia about sexting and child pornography prosecutions, and how society seems to be perfectly comfortable with ruining the lives of children in order to save them.
The harm here seems to be the possibility that somewhere, someone other than the intended recipient of these photos may be masturbating to them. That's an uncomfortable thought, sure. But it's difficult to see how that presents tangible harm to the minors in the photos, certainly not to the point where the minors themselves ought to be prosecuted. Anyone turned on by the photos in Skumanick's case could just as easily placate themselves with an old Sears catalogue—and with no resulting damage to the models who posed in it.

But the idea that an otherwise innocuous image can mutate into illegal child porn based on how it might be used by pedophiles is gaining currency. In 2006, Alabama photographer Jeff Pierson was indicted on federal child porn charges for a website he ran featuring aspiring teen models. None of the models were nude, nor were any depicted engaged in any sexual activity. All of the models' parents signed off on the photos. But federal prosecutors argued the models struck "illegally provocative," "lascivious," and "coy" poses that could entice pedophiles.
Writer Radley Balko echos much of what I have been writing about sexting for well over a year - that teens have always been sexually active, and the only difference now is the technology with which to document it all, and this hysteria from supposedly responsible adults is unwarranted, overreaching, and harmful. In spite of the obvious irrationality of prosecuting kids as child pornographers, the trend seems to be gathering momentum as society grapples with finding a solution to what it perceives to be an out-of-control situation.

The answer is understanding and education. Teen sexuality cannot be stopped, it's as inevitable as the dawn, and it's our Puritanical roots fostering our fear of all things sexual which create the widespread misconception that sexting should be treated as a crime.

The current case before the 3rd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving three Pennsylvania girls being prosecuted by Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick, Jr., will likely have a great effect on whether this irrational criminalization of teen sexuality is a gathering storm, or a weakening front.
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick, Jr. gave the girls a choice. The first option was to face felony child pornography charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The second was to attend a series of Skumanick-chosen classes, which according to the Pennsylvania ACLU included topics such as "what it means to be a girl in today's society" and "non-traditional societal and job roles." The girls would also be put on probation, subject to random drug tests, and would have to write essays explaining why appearing in photos while wearing their bras is wrong.

Skumanick would later tell a gathering of students and parents that he had the authority to prosecute girls photographed on the beach in bikinis, because the minors would be dressed "provocatively." He told the Wall Street Journal that by offering the girls the classes and probation instead of immediately hitting them with felony charges, "We thought we were being progressive."
This guy is a obviously a complete screwball, but he's a nutjob with the power to put your kids in jail for wearing a bikini on the beach. That should scare the Hell out of everybody.


thomas said...

So this DA wants to turn teens into sex offenders and felons for taking pics so they lose their voting rights and basic citizenship.Instead, why not just cut their fingers off? It will have the same long lasting effect, put a stop to any future texting, but they'll still be able to vote. It's a more traditional punishment.

This joke is no worse than what this moron DA really wants to do. He'll probably be governor of the state someday

George said...

This is paternalism gone out of control.

What I find chilling is that kids might be prosecuted for poses that are too "provocative".

Is he DA or Mullah?