One of the few books on the subject of child pornography that isn’t hopelessly biased is Philip Jenkins’s Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet. Jenkin’s tome suffers from two unavoidable flaws. Number one, it’s author, like me, can’t actually see child pornography first hand. Number two, the book was published nine years back, consider eons in Internet Time, and is very out of date in many aspects.

Jenkin’s contribution is nevertheless personally valuable to me, because it guided me towards the one way in which dedicated researcher can research child pornography without running afoul of a complex web of laws covering images of those under 18 years of age.

I’ve had a copy of Beyond Tolerance of three years, but I’ve lacked the time to post a critique of the book until now. I will address Jenkins’s book chapter by chapter over the next few months.

I’ve read half the book by now, and a few things come to mind. First, I think Jenkins should be applauded for at least trying to avoid the hysteria that normally permeates any discussion of child pornography. I found it interesting that Jenkins appeared simultaneously impressed by both the severity of the punishment given to child porn “offenders” as well as the technical prowess of a relatively small core of serious child porn collectors he observed. Finally I’ll mention that in several places in Beyond Tolerance I’ve found statements that would appear to be factually incorrect. I’ve not been able to research these statements enough to judge whether Jenkins was actually wrong, or if maybe there were laws on the books in the late 1990s that have since been struck down. I’m considering trying to contact Jenkins directly to seek clarification.

And now for a final-final note: In several places Jenkins suggests that the commercial market for child porn is virtually non-existent, this in a book published in 2001. If anything, the viability of a commercial market for child porn has been severely diminished since then, yet the insistence that child porn represents a $20 Billion market persist. One must wonder who benefits from the promulgation of this bald-faced lie.

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