A comment on my post from last weekend:
You have lots of great points. I'm not sure I agree with you on some of them.
If you had to decide what happens when someone views child porn, what do you think should happen. What should the victim (the kids in the pictures) be told. What is going to help them if the people viewing the pictures don't go to prison? I'm not saying they should go, but I'd like to know what you think should happen.Currently, it is against the law to possess, receive, distribute, or produce child porn. Curiously, the law doesn't say anything about whether you look at the images or not. The assumption, I suppose, is that you do look at it, but that alone isn't what gets you in trouble. After all, all kinds of people are allowed to look at the porn found on the defendant's computer. The investigators, the doctor who verifies the ages of the people in the images, the prosecutor, the judge, the defendant and his attorney, and the jury. I don't know if the courtroom is cleared when porn is shown in the courtroom or if the onlookers get to look.
Looking at images should not send someone to prison, even if society as a whole finds those images especially repugnant and even if those images are of a crime. We don't send people to prison because they look at pictures from the Nazi prison camps or from the rape of Nanking or from the massacres in Rwanda. All repulsive images; all images of crimes against children as well as adults. Why is child porn treated differently? Is it because we assume the viewer is sexually aroused by something he should not find arousing? Arousal is not illegal; neither is masturbation nor fantasy.
What should we do when someone looks at child porn? Let's assume a man enjoys child porn and masturbates while watching videos. Let's also assume that another man avoids child porn but masturbates while fantasizing about sex with children. Why is one worse than the other? Both are doing something wrong, perhaps something sick. Only one risks a prison sentence.
Do either of them pose a danger to children? I don't know. Will the discovery of child porn prove that one is a danger and the absence of child porn prove that one is not a danger? Of course not.
What should we tell the victims? I don't know. Do we really need the law to solve that problem?
I cannot imagine how it would feel to know that pictures of me as a child were floating around where someone could see them. I think the response to that knowledge must vary quite a bit among victims. I find it odd to believe that prosecuting someone for looking at porn will help the victims. Wouldn't it help them more to prosecute the sick bastard who victimized them in the first place?
I have heard people wonder why law enforcement doesn't remove the images when they find them. The logical answer is that the images, once loosed to the Internet, are irretrievable. There is no way to delete images from every hard drive that has a copy; there is also no way to identify every drive that has a copy. Sad but true.
More sad but true: Images deleted from a computer--because they were not what were expected, because they were gross or repulsive, because a mind was changed--can be found in a forensic examination of a hard drive. Forensics can identify those images but forensics has nothing to say about why the images were there or why they were deleted. Even when forensics can determine that the image was unopened, the image is still evidence of a crime. The crime of clicking a link.
Do I think child pornography is harmless? Absolutely not. Pornography is abhorrent and child pornography especially so. I think someone who has trouble staying away from any kind of porn should probably find some help to break the habit. (Is that possible?)
My argument is about the law. It is wrong to send someone to prison because they downloaded or looked at the wrong images.
Do I think it should be against the law to look at child porn? Do those laws prohibiting child porn accomplish what we want them to do? Has the usage of child porn diminished? Has the number of images decreased? From what I can see, the law simply puts more people in prison.