I knew I had written a lot of posts on child pornography, but <my index> showed me just how many.

I have mixed feelings about this focus. My summary view is that making CP is wrong and appropriately considered a crime. While I've argued on civil liberties grounds that simple possession should not be a criminal offense, I can understand why some people consider viewing it a moral travesty. Personally, I can see some moral question marks, but I'm coming to wonder if part of the reason I believe that viewing it is immoral is that that is what I have been taught, like everyone else.

While I believe that virtual child pornography should be made available so that pedophiles can get sexual satisfaction out of it, I do not feel that way about CP made with real children. But I am told that virtual CP is rare and real CP is common, and I am aware that it is a strong temptation for many pedophiles -- one that many of us feel as an addiction. I am also aware of too many pedophiles whose lives have been effectively ruined by something that just isn't a serious crime akin to murder or rape -- unless you think that a sexual interest in children is in and of itself a moral lapse of the highest order.

CP is also an interesting subject for me to blog about since I have never seen any. Personal knowledge would make me better-informed -- but of course it would also be admitting to illegal activity and create a personal interest in rationalization. On the other hand, no individual's experience of CP would cover the entire range in any case. It is a valid complaint of civil liberties groups that the police do not allow independent inspection of the child pornography they seize -- this ought to be available to selected journalists and scientists at the very least. So where does my knowledge come from? I have learned a bit from conversing with people who have seen it, from discussions and articles online, and from reading the description in <Michael Seto's book>.

The natural inclination is to hear the words "child pornography" and immediately feel shock, horror, and disgust. These reactions deter wanting to take a closer look, so most people are content to let the police keep what has been seized as a secret.

But that is rarely the basis of good policy or understanding. You may hate pedophiles, but people who have no sexual interest in children are in danger from blanket prohibitions. People are arrested for having Sally Mann photographs. Men are arrested for having pictures of their nude grandchildren playing on the beach.

Just accepting that CP is all horrible is akin to hearing "cancer" and imagining a painful illness that will kill you within months. Cancer is never a good thing, but if you are diagnosed and forced to think about it, the different types and prognoses matter to you a great deal. Put yourself in the shoes of your son. Imagine you have a teen boy's sex drive and a teen boy's wavering self-control, but you are sexually attracted only to children. You don't dare talk about it with anyone. You don't hurt any children, but late on some lonely night you go looking for pictures of what in your fantasies you would love to do. That is far less harmful than driving drunk, but the consequences are infinitely more severe. If it's your son, you suddenly have a motivation to understand all the nuances of child pornography.

That's the setting for the present series of posts. Let's look inside that phrase "child pornography" and see what's there. Since the police won't allow researchers to characterize it and study it, I am reduced to brainstorming. In the interest of avoiding "tl;dr" reactions, I'll break this into a series of posts. Stay tuned.


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