(The author of this lengthy essay goes by the name of Dissident and gave me permission to re-post it here.)

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.

– C.S. Lewis

I extend many thanks to the crew of GirlChat [GC] for their invaluable editorial assist on the earliest draft of this essay, and I have incorporated several suggestions and anecdotes from them. Particular thanks goes to my fellow GC posters Baldur, qtns2di4, Summerdays, CatcherintheRye, Sancho Panza, and Little Girl Lover.

Recently I composed an essay designed to answer a question I often hear from individuals as to why the age of consent [AoC] laws are of any importance to the youth liberation movement, and if perhaps the pro-choice faction of the MAA [Minor Attracted Adult] community is simply being “selfish” for arguing that it is. Today, I move on to what may be considered the second part of that essay, which brings the same question to the fore regarding the many types of imagery and writing that may be classified as CP [child pornography] by the government of any given country. In other words, in this essay I will give a response to the many variations of the following question and accompanying comment that I often hear: “What does CP have to do with youth liberation? I don’t think any youth under the age of 18 would ever have the slightest interest in appearing in erotic photography or videos, so I think it’s foolish, selfish, and counter-productive for the pro-choice faction of the MAA community to support its legalization even in a future youth liberated society.” That is quite a bold question and follow-up statement, but does it actually hold up to close scrutiny and logical analysis?

To begin with, one who has the above contention would have to answer the question as to why so many young people over the age of 18 so obviously have a desire to appear in films and photoshoots of an erotic nature, yet be simultaneously certain that absolutely no young person under the age of 18–even just a few years younger–would have a similar desire to do so. Does it make logical sense for youth liberationists to argue that those we today designate ‘underagers’–particularly those in adolescence–have many of the same capabilities or desires as older people with the sole exception of the desire to publicly express their sexuality?

First of all, what does the heavy proliferation of the sexting phenomenon amongst underagers who own cell phones say about this? Please note the online news reports here, here, and here, as just a few examples that one can find with a simple Google search. Although one can and will argue that those pics are designed entirely for the eyes of significant others and not for public consumption, one has to consider a few things: 1) it’s illegal for underagers to post nude or overly provocative pics of themselves on public venues, and 2) many do so anyway on their socnet pages on MySpace and Facebook, and not all who do this keep those pages–and therefore access to their photo sections–private.

Then one has to consider the proliferation over the past two decades of the online youth modeling sites, many of which remain legal despite strong attempts by the American government to criminalize the entire industry. These modeling sites often feature girls (and sometimes boys) in highly revealing clothing and sometimes even arguably provocative poses. When one of the biggest and most well known companies producing material for youth models, Webe Web, was eradicated from existence after its three owners were brought up on CP charges (some say spuriously), the hope of the government that the entire industry based in the U.S. would be destroyed along with Webe Web was ultimately quashed. This is because several of the young models previously hosted by Webe Web subsequently went off on their own following Webe’s demise and continued working in the industry, many of them under new websites run by their parents. When the legal European youth modeling company known as the Gegg Agency fell for similar reasons, several of the girl models who were hosted by that site have likewise reappeared on other sites, also often under the auspices of their parents, who have interestingly refused to cooperate with LEAs [law enforcement agencies] in many cases; very few of these parents actually made a fuzz in the media about alleged “abuse” going on at the Gegg Agency, thus suggesting that the closing of the agency was more the result of pressure coming from the U.S. and Britain than anything more substantial. Pressure from the U.S. with likely help from Britain was known to have a large effect on the closure and indictment of youth modeling agencies situated in the Ukraine, who produced images sometimes including nudity that were not legal in the U.S. and certain other jurisdictions, but as my fellow activist qtns2di4 said, “it’s not clear that they broke local laws.” As he also noted, “As with Webe and C&G, girls and parents reappeared [on other youth modeling sites] and did not collaborate with police.” Clearly, the government and parents are often at odds when it comes to the subject of youth modeling and what does or does not constitute “appropriate” images, including the matter of simple nudity.

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? -Juvenal (Literally: “Who will guard the guards themselves?” modern usage: “Who watches the watchmen?”)

Neil M. Cohen‘s connection with child pornography first broke in July 2008. Cohen was a Deputy Assembly Speaker in the New Jersey statehouse. NJ.com reported on his case and said that

Among the more than 100 laws Cohen has sponsored is one that created a 24-hour hotline for members of the public to report computer crimes, including child pornography.

Cohen’s case has made its way through the legal system and the Associated Press reports on this. Two things stand out.

Neil Cohen, 59, acknowledged viewing and printing images meant for sexual gratification from a computer in his former legislative office.

The text “meant for sexual gratification” is interesting. It should be irrelevant whether Cohen was aroused or repulsed by the images. If we take into consideration how a defendant felt about an image in determining whether that image is or is not child pornography, then we are really trying him for his feelings and not for his actions. Also it’s interesting how neither this article or any others I’ve see about Cohen allude to how the images he had were the worst imaginable kind or had infants being raped. Is it Cohen’s high profile position that caused the police to withhold such statements, or were such statements not representative of the images Cohen viewed? Could it be that Cohen’s images and interests were in little more than teenage girls shaking their boobs?

The Associated Press article also includes this

“Mr. Cohen, through his actions in viewing and distributing child pornography, linked himself to an abhorrent industry that preys on children,” Attorney General Paula Dow said in a statement. “Every single person who willingly enters the criminal network of suppliers and users of child pornography becomes part of the tragic exploitation and abuse of the innocent victims.”

I wish Dow would clarify how “an abhorrent industry that preys on children” and “criminal network of suppliers and users of child pornography” and “innocent victims” all relate to the teenage girls who are threatened with child pornography prosecution for “sexting” racy pictures of themselves to their boyfriends?

Dow’s statement is suspicious, especially her use of the terms “industry” and “criminal network”. I’ve just finished Philip Jenkin’s Beyond Tolerance, and already a relevant passage comes to mind.

The non-commercial nature of the {child porn} trade deserves emphasis, because so many writers on the topic still make highly inaccurate remarks about the supposedly profitable nature of the trade and its organized-crime ties: this image is reinforced by the misleading word industry for the child porn world. 1

Jenkins knew this back in 2001, and in the last three years I’ve found nothing to contradict his earlier findings. Dow should know this too, so her use of this inflammatory language smacks of a deliberate lie and an intentional distortion of the reality of the child porn world.

1 Philip Jenkins, Beyond Tolerance, (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 91