Recently there have been a number of news stories popping up about minors being charged with child pornography related offenses because of naked pictures they have taken of themselves which end up in the hands of the wrong people. This week’s episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit touched on this issue as well.
Benson: How is sending naked pictures to two boys your own age kiddie porn?
Cragen: The law hasn’t caught up with new technology.
Benson: And we’re criminalizing private behaviour.
Cragen: It’s not private when these kids begin sexting. College admissions officers, future employers, even their own children might see these pictures one day. They don’t realize the consequences of their actions.
The judge trying the case expressed a similar sentiment earlier in the episode, about how teenagers are not considering the seriousness of their actions when they distribute such photos of themselves, even if just to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
I want to comment not on the child pornography part—although I do think that whether this type of thing really qualifies as such is very far from obvious—but on the consequences and seriousness of it.
Remember the examples Captain Crager lists. College admissions officers. Future employers. Their children.
I find it funny to think that those admissions officers and employers, should they reject a candidate because of some naked pictures of themselves that were circulated online (regardless of age), are probably doing so citing the consequences and seriousness of allowing that to happen.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only reason there are consequences to having naked pictures online is because many parts of society have decided that there should be consequences for that.
As for the possibility of one’s children seeing these pictures, so what? Are we worried that it might set a bad example? If so, only because we have decided that being seen naked is a bad thing. But who hasn’t encountered some dirty old grandmother bringing out the old photo album to show off how hot she was back in the day when all the boys were after her? The only difference with this idea is that you’d really see how hot she was. At least compared to her 90 year old wrinkly self. And possibly be scarred for life, but what else are grandmothers for?
Now, however, with the advent of sites like Xtube and Pornotube, with hundreds of people posting homemade sex tapes each and every day, two things will happen. Slowly but surely, those aspects of society which are firmly convinced that all things sexual are shameful and should be hidden away at all costs, will be chipped away at until only the cores of some fundamentalist religions remain. True, still not everybody will want to post pictures and videos of themselves and all their naughty bits online, but you wouldn’t worry about getting fired for it either.
The second effect is that there will simply be so much porn that the chances of, say, your children running across that picture you let your boyfriend take of you twenty years ago, become pretty slim. There comes a point when, in order to find these things, you have to actually look for them. It may be embarrassing that you did some amateur porn, but the person who finds it was actually looking for it. Now, that doesn’t negate the fact that, say, if a student stumbles across that video of their professor getting pegged by a dominatrix (we’ve really strayed from the starting point now) they will probably tell other friends in the class about it, but what does this hypothetical professor have to worry about? Laugh as they might, someone in that class was jerking off to pegging videos on xtube. And, maybe not now but at some point, half those kids would probably put videos up on xtube themselves, even if just as an irresponsible teenager inconsiderate of the imaginary consequences of such things.
But then again, we still live in a society where being seen on facebook in your underwear or touching a boob is seen as enough to make you lose an election. I think my idealised world is still quite far away.