Kuta Beach

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Saturday, 4 August 2007

Should Existing Child Porn be Legalized?


There is evidence that Internet porn reduces rape. According to Lansburg, "A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth." Lansburg even claims that the release of violent movies reduces violence and crime.

The hypothesis for this result is that the availability of pornography allows sexually aroused people to satiate their desires indoors in front of a computer. If the pornography were not available, the individual would have to look for an alternative outlet for his sexual desires, and these alternative outlets may involve the rape of innocent women. Likewise, there are those who have a desire for violence, and violent movies may satiate that desire indoor in front of a television screen. The violent individual then doesn't need to express his anger and violence in public. While this hypothesis sounds plausible, it is important to keep in mind that the study gives a statistical correlation and other hypotheses can be used to explain the positive correlation.

Child porn is banned presumably because its creation involves the abuse of a child. Legalizing child porn may stimulate its production, which leads to more child abuse.

Suppose the government banned the production of further child porn to prevent any further child abuse yet kept a national database of child pornography that already exists. This national database of child porn is freely available to the public so that members of the population with pedophilic tendencies can satiate their desires in private without actually harming any children.

Because no new child porn is produced, no child is abused. Because pedophiles consume existing child porn, this will perhaps decrease child molestation in a way analogous to the decrease in rape and crime following the release of porn and violent movies.

What is required for this argument to be sound is evidence that availability of child porn results in less child molestation. Some will argue this is not the case, that child porn actually encourages pedophiles to act on their instincts. However, if the government takes the policy philosophy that they should ban anything that can encourage someone to do something illegal, then shouldn't violent movies also be banned because they can encourage people to murder?

One problem with this is that victims in legal child porn may not consent to the release of videos of them in public. A victim of child abuse may suffer greatly if videos and images of the sexual abuse were made public. To protect these people, the government would have to obtain consent from victims. The victims will be reminded that the child porn will be made legal because of the belief that legalization will reduce further child abuse. In an act of altruism to future generations, the victims of child abuse may consent to the videos being available to the public. In the event that no child abuse victims consent, the government may have to turn to virtual child porn.

Another problem that someone has notified me of is that the existence and availability of child porn will create demand for more child porn. Even if there is a national database of public child porn, an individual may not want to watch the same videos over and over again. They demand new child porn, which will create supply, which will result in more children being abused. This argument does not apply to virtual child porn or child porn fiction because the creation of these do not involve the abuse of any actual child. If one piece of child porn fiction results in an increased supply of child porn fiction, the creation of child porn fiction comes not from actual abuse of children but from the imagination of child abuse by the writer. It could be argued, however, that even virtual child porn and child porn fiction can induce greater demand for actual videos depicting child abuse or even actual physical contact when children. But then again just about anything can induce demand for child sex, including child photography for clothing catalogs, nudism photography, etc, and banning anything that a politician believes might induce greater demand for child porn may pose a threat to freedom of expression.

It's a slippery slope when we are talking about taking away freedom of expression. Suppose child porn promotes child molestation. Therefore, we ban child porn. Yet even adult porn can promote child porn, which in turn promotes child molestation, and so through a longer chain of cause and effect adult porn causes child molestation. Totalitarianism is limited only by the creativity of a dictator to manufacture statistics proving causation in all the nodes in the chain of cause and effect that leads to child molestation.

Further Reading:

California Court Bans Self-Proclaimed Pedophile From Any Contact With Children Within State (Fox News)


Image from Flickr by wayfaring stranger, posted under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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