Child pornography is any depiction or description of a child that violates legal prohibitions against child pornography. The definition is necessarily circular, since the numerous and varied laws that apply to this subject make a more concise definition virtually impossible to formulate. In addition, the definitions tend to get broader over time rendering controversial a number of things that would be legal a few years before.
Initially before the mid 1970, child pornography was available in a semi-legal basis around many countries included the United States. With the advent of child abuse legislation in the mid 1970s however, anti-pornography advocates and other social and religious conservatives argued against child pornography since the production of child pornography may involve child sexual abuse. Even though scholars have challenged whether child pornography (in the broad sense) involves child sexual abuse (see Schuijer and Rossen 1992), whether child sexual abuse (again broadly defined) can lead to psychological trauma (see Rind Report) and whether it can lead people to offend against children (see Howitt 1995) people today are convinced that producing, distributing or possesing child pornography is the greatest crime of all.
This has led to broadening the definition of child pornography. In general child pornography is understood as pornography featuring children (i.e. images of children involved in sexual activity). Over the years the definition has become broader to the following ways:
- Age of the "child". The child is not anymore defined as a prepubescent person, but as a person under the age of consent (be it usually somewhere between 15 and 18), or more strictly under the age of 18 or more broadly according to the council of the European Union decision (Council Decision 2004/68/JHA) "a person appearing to be a child" (which may be an adult over 18 looking youthful enough to pass as 16)
- Nakedness of the "child". According to United States v. Knox the "child" in question does not need to be nude as long as there is a "actual or simulated lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area." An image of a "child's" (broadly defined as above) crotch in underwear may fall under this definition.(see Azov Films Prosecutions)
- Conduct of the "child". In some countries, the portayal of naked children does not need to be sexual in order to be considered child pornography. Even though a three judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit Court ruled on October 23, 2000 that naturist magazines depicting naked children in "a variety of outdoor activities, all of which are natural and expected for healthy and active children, teenagers, and adults" should not be considered obscene, American photo labs are arresting parents as child pornographers for taking pictures of their kids in the bath or photographers taking artistic pictures of naked children in naturist beaches (see Jock Sturges).
Simulated child pornography
As if these were not enough, child pornography laws recently decided that simulated computer images, or drawings, or paintings of children (naked or not) that are deemed indecent should be illegal as well, even though there should be no question of child sexual abuse since, by definition, the production of these images do not involve real children.
In particular, United Kingdom with an 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act introduced the legal definition of an "indecent pseudo-photograph of a child", which is prohibited as if it were a true photograph. On October 1, 2002, the Netherlands introduced legislation (Bulletin of Acts and Decrees 470) which deemed "virtual child pornography" as illegal. German law does not discriminate between actual or "realistic" sexual depictions of children, while Canada in October 2005, Canadian courts sentenced an Edmonton, Alberta man to one year of community service for importing manga depicting child sex. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court decided in 2002 that the previous American prohibition of simulated child pornography was unconstitutional (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition).
Textual child pornography
In some countries textual material describing sexual activities involving children is legally classified as child pornography (e.g. in Canada and Norway since 2005) while in other countries, for example the United Kingdom, it is not prohibited in itself, but is caught under general laws controlling indecency and obscenity. The rationale behind these laws is that textual depictions of sex with children promote child sexual abuse. In yet other countries, most significantly the United States, it is legal; written child pornography is legally protected by the US Constitution as long as it is not judged obscene. As it very difficult to prove obcenity, it is effectively legal. As a result of its general legality in the United States, written child pornography is easily available on the Internet. In addition, the New Zealand Court of Appeals ruled in Moonen v. Film and Literature Board of Review (1999) that erotica stories published by Acolyte Press should not be considered child pornography as they could not see how these stories explicity promote child sexual abuse.
Due to its widespread availability, countries in which it is prohibited have not always actively sought to enforce the legal prohibition against it. In general, people possessing or distributing this material are only charged if they come to the attention of law enforcement, most commonly while being investigated for other crimes (such as possession of visual child pornography, or child sexual abuse, see Robin Sharpe)
The prohibition against written child pornography can extend even to materials produced by pedophiles for their own personal consumption and not revealed to anyone, such as diaries or journals in which they record their fantasies. Several individuals have been prosecuted for keeping such diaries (see Brongersma Foundation). Some have argued that this violates their right to freedom of thought.
- Jan Schuijer and Benjamin Rossen, "The Trade in Child Pornography," Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 4, no. 2 (1992). --Examines the origins of claims regarding child pornography.
- Anne Higonnet, "Conclusions based on observation," Yale Journal of Criticism 9, no. 1 (1996): 1-18. --Examines some controversial pictures of naked boys.
- Amy Adler, "The Perverse Law Of Child Pornography," Columbia Law Review 101, no. 2 (2001): 209-273. --Argues that child pornography law, intended to protect children from sexual exploitation, threatens to reinforce the very problem it attacks.
- Chuck Kleinhans, "Virtual Child Porn: The Law and the Semiotics of the Image," Journal of Visual Culture 3, no. 1 (2004): 17-34 Abstract
- Andrew Sorfleet and Chris Bearchell, "The sex police in a moral panic: how the 'youth porn' law is being used to censor artists and persecute youth sexuality," Parallelogramme 20, no. 1 (1994). --The Law in Canada.
- D. Howitt, "Pornography and the paedophile: Is it criminogenic?" British Journal of Medical Psychology 68 (1995): 15-27.
- D.D. Knudsen, "Child sexual abuse and pornography: Is there a relationship?" Journal of Family Violence 3 (1988): 253-267.
- B. Kutchinsky, "The effect of easy availability of pornography on the incidence of sex crimes: The Danish experience," Journal of Social Issues 29 (1973): 163-181. --Based on the Danish experience, concludes that concurrent with the increasing availability of pornography, there was a significant decrease in the number of sex offenses registered by the police.
- David L. Riegel, "Effects on Boy-Attracted Pedosexual Males of viewing Boy Erotica" Archives of Sexual Behavior 33, no. 4 (2004): 321-323.
- David L. Riegel, Beyond Hysteria: Boy Erotica on the Internet (Philadelphia: SafeHaven Foundation Press, 2004) Review
- Rod Liddle. "Should it really be a crime to look at child pornography?" The Guardian. January 14, 2003.
- Azov Films
- Azov Films Prosecutions
- Azov Films Prosecutions - Canada
- Spading Up Hate: Joanna Beaven-Desjardins’ Big Lie
- Dr. Milton Diamond of The Pacific Center for Sex and Society -- Dr. Diamond has investigated Pornography, as it relates Rape and Sex Crimes and his research demonstrates that countries where child pornography was legal showed a significant decrease in the incidence of child sex abuse.
- Indecent Acts: child pornography in the UK --An excellent site that "presents a discussion of the English laws that apply to 'child pornography' and their current application"