Saturday, February 20, 2010

Child porn at U of L: It ain't your fathers university

Pictures of naked children that would get you put in jail if police found them on your computer--or fired if found by your employer--are being exhibited next week at James Ramsay's University of Louisville. It's "educational," don't you know.

Remember, this is the same university that spends Bucks for Brains money on studying how "the black male-bodied Drag Queen's presence within queer 'subcultures' disrupts mainstream notions of what is considered natural and fixed signifiers of black femininity and/or womanhood."

The new exhibit, which starts Monday, is all part of "Body Appreciation/Body Awareness Week." There are apparently a lot of U of L students walking around campus unaware that they have bodies or, if they are, are not appreciating them enough. The exhibit, called the "Century Project," features graphic pictures of women in the buff from the very young (yes, the very young) to a woman 100 years old "to effect change in societal attitudes towards women’s bodies."

And if you can't figure out what that means, then you must be some stick-in-the-mud old prude or something.

The exhibit includes pictures of girls aged 2 1/2, 12, and 16, and possibly others (these are just the ones listed in the "samples") with the idea that looking at them is going to raise someone's self-esteem. The exact process by which the photos of pre- and post-pubescent girls raise a woman's self-esteem is not terribly clear, and that's why we have U of L Provost Shirley Willinganz here to explain it for us.

Shirley, thanks for joining us. Tell us, how does looking at what in any other circumstances would be considered kiddie porn helps someone's own body image?
"For us, this is a whole developmental gamut that, rather than objectifying women, makes women very human."
Okay, well that's fine and all, and of course it does beg the question of how publicly showing pictures of naked women contributes to not objectifying them, but what is it about looking at pictures of naked little girls that will make a woman feel better about herself?
Because each of these pictures is also accompanied by a story that the women in the picture is telling, it helps them see that other women often deal with the same body image issues they have.
Yes, we know what U of L's stated reason for the displaying photographs of underage children without any clothes on is, but could you explain what it is about these photographs that actually accomplishes the goal of making another person feel better about themselves?
I do understand, however, that people may be uncomfortable with this, and that's why it's not obligatory.
Okay, well, yes Shirley, thank you for your thoughtfulness. But, oh, by the way, does the University of Louisville have plans for a display that includes pictures of naked little boys so that the men viewing them will feel better about themselves?
...
Shirley? Shirley? Are you there?

Well, sorry folks, we're having some technical problems with our satellite link-up here. But maybe we can try to contact James Ramsey himself to see what he has to say about the pictures of naked children he is showing at his university.

No promises though.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the same sort of logic that gets parents arrested when they have photos developed of their children's first bath. Naked children does not equate to child pornography, else millions of innocent parents (not to mention artists, including classical artists) are child pornographers. In fact, this view of nudity and art would render Michelangelo a pornographer.

Anonymous said...

What's extremely disturbing about this is the apparent utter inability to see the nudity of children (or cancer survivors, or the crippled, and so on) in any way that's not sexual. That's a very serious problem, one that I'm sure is confined to rhetoric and not to reality.

Lee said...

Child porn seems to have an elusive definition, and it seems coincidentally to depend on who happens to be, er, enjoying it.

If it's done under the auspices of liberalism, why, it isn't porn at all.

Some friends of mine, a young couple with four boys under five, ran into trouble recently with the modern American species of Nazi we refer to in these parts as "Social Services." Someone turned him in for "child abuse" -- someone he didn't even know, who through her daughter, learned that they spanked their children as part of their discipline process. It isn't against the law here in Virginia to spank your children, but it's a red flag for the aptly named SS to perform a blitzkrieg into someone's life and ruin what they can of it.

Anyhow, my friends were taking a rare Friday evening to go out to dinner. About an hour into it, they received a frantic call from the babysitter: please come home, Social Services is here. So they rushed home as fast as they could, and what they saw was a team of these Nazi goons, with cameras, taking pictures of every inch of the kids' bodies. They were upset and nakes, crying, and my friends had no recourse but to stand there and let it happen.

I won't bore anyone with the other sordid details, but wish to point out only one thing: if anyone else were to break into someone's home with a camera team, make the kids strip naked, and film every inch of their public and private parts, they'd spend thirty years in prison.

But the government can do it all they want. Albert Jay Nock was right on: "Government does not exist to abolish crime, but to monopolize it."

> What's extremely disturbing about this is the apparent utter inability to see the nudity of children (or cancer survivors, or the crippled, and so on) in any way that's not sexual.

Yep. When it's found on some schlub's computer, it's a perv and his porn. When it's done under the auspices of government and education, however, nothing to see here folks, move along now.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in the following email.

It was written and sent by a guy named Mark England. Based on the invitation (also below), The Louisville gay/lesbian community is hosting a campaign fundraiser TONIGHT for Attorney General Jack Conway and his U.S. Senate campaign.

The fundraiser for Conway is being held at the Wiltshire on Market restaurant in Louisville. Based on a quick Google search, Mr. England is well known within Louisville’s gay community. According to their web site, Louisville’s Fairness Alliance even awards an annual scholarship in Mr. England’s name.

In his email, Mr. England takes issue with Senator McConnell’s voting record on gay rights issues and says electing Conway could bring about a major change in Kentucky and America. He makes it very clear that Jack Conway has always been a strong advocate for the gay community’s agenda and what a strong supporter he will be in the U.S. Senate.

Specifically, Mr. England says:

- Bunning’s retirement presents “an amazing opportunity” ….. especially for the gay community
- Conway has been a “CLOSE FRIEND and ADVOCATE” for Louisville’s gay community
- Conway has “ALWAYS OPENLY EMBRACED” the gay community
- Conway has “PLEDGED HIS SUPPORT” for the gay community
- Electing Conway, “a progressive friend and ADVOCATE could have a MAJOR impact in Kentucky and the entire country”
- Credits Louisville’s gay community with making “an amazing difference when we sent our progressive friend, US Representative John Yarmuth to Congress, AND IT’S TIME WE DO IT AGAIN IN THE US SENATE”
- When Jack is a US Senator we need him to remember that we were there for him.”



From: Mark England
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 2010 09:XX:XX -XXXX
To:
Subject: Conway for US Senate and Invitation

Dear friend,
Thankfully, this year, US Senator Jim Bunning will retire. This has presented an amazing opportunity for Kentuckians and especially our community.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, since beginning his political career, has been a close friend and advocate to our community. He has always openly embraced our community and pledged his support.
To have one of Kentucky’s two US Senators be a progressive friend and advocate could have a major impact in Kentucky and the entire country. Our other US Senator of course is Mitch McConnell, who continually votes against gay rights issues at EVERY opportunity.
Jack’s opponent in the primary, Lt Governor Dan Mongiardo, as a Kentucky Senator, wrote and co-sponsored the Kentucky Constitutional Amendment which would forever ban same-sex marriage. The damage this amendment caused is being felt every day! This amendment, as Dan wrote it, has had consequences reaching far beyond marriage. It has been used as the reasoning behind banning same sex benefits to public and university employees, it has been used as reasoning on a ban on same sex adoption, and the list goes on and on. And to add insult to injury, Dan will whisper that he wasn’t “really” in support of this amendment, but did it only for personal political gain.
We made an amazing difference when we sent our progressive friend, US Representative John Yarmuth to Congress, and it’s time we do it again in the US Senate.
No contribution is too small, please save this date and join in support of our friend and advocate. When Jack is a US Senator, we need him to remember that we were there for him!
Sincerely,
Mark England


SAVE THE DATE
and join our next
United State Senator
JACK CONWAY
and his hosts
Lindy Casebier
Mark England
Susan Hershberg
Monday February 22, 2010
5:30-7:30
Wiltshire on Market • 636 E Market St
Learn more about Jack at www.JackConway.org

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous #1:

If a parent takes pictures of his children and starts exhibiting them, this is precisely where police start getting involved. And Michelango was not taking photographs of children who could not legally consent to them--and he was actually trying to approximate the ideal human form. No one is going to mistake this pictures for that.

Thomas said...

Allan and his wife Betty take a picture of their two infant children, Carl and Don, bathing amidst and armada of rubber ducks, because they think the pictures are cute. Fast forward 17 years. Don is getting married to Ellen, and he brings his fiancee to meet his parents. Allan, ever the prankster, gets out the baby pictures, because he knows that Don would be mortified. Ellen, however, finds them cute. Are the police going to get involved? Should they?

At Don's wedding, his father, who for some reason was put in charge of getting the slide show together, inserts the picture of Don and Carl into the slide show with the other baby pictures. Are the police going to get involved? Should they? The wedding is huge and, in fact, is open to the public. Now is it child pornography?

Of course not, not under the federal or state statute. Neither is this art exhibit, unless you have some evidence that the photos portray sexual acts. Nudity itself does not give rise to an inference of sexual activity or obscenity. Neither does the non-consent of the photographed party make it so, or it would in the case of poor Don. Allan is not a child pornographer under the law, but he is by your logic.

What would you say if Allan's estranged brother started spreading rumors that Allen is a child pornographer to Allan's acquaintances? Does it become ok if Allen an administrator at U of L?

Art said...

At Don's wedding, his father, who for some reason was put in charge of getting the slide show together, inserts the picture of Don and Carl into the slide show with the other baby pictures. Are the police going to get involved? Should they? The wedding is huge and, in fact, is open to the public. Now is it child pornography?

Same questions for the numerous times that friends and parents have slipped the oh-so-cute naked baby pictures into the collage that appears in every pre-graduation dinner and celebration.

And Michelango was not taking photographs of children who could not legally consent to them--and he was actually trying to approximate the ideal human form. No one is going to mistake this pictures for that.

But the artist in this case argues that the photos in question are in fact the true "ideal human forms". That's the whole point.

Martin Cothran said...

Thomas,

Back to your first e-mail, you say, Child pornography requires sexually explicit conduct (18 USC 2256), or as it is phrased in Kentucky law, a sexual performance. None of the news articles you linked to suggested anything like that. Do you have some reason for alleging that the photographs portray sexually explicit conduct?

I don't think you're reading the KY law very well. One of the four alternative criteria for "sexual conduct by a minor" is:

The exposure, in an obscene manner, of the unclothed or apparently unclothed human male or female genitals, pubic area or buttocks, or the female breast, whether or not subsequently obscured by a mark placed thereon, or otherwise altered, in any resulting motion picture, photograph or other visual representation, exclusive of exposure portrayed in matter of a private, family nature not intended for distribution outside the family;

This clearly indicates that a picture that does not include actual sexual activity with another person could come under this statute. And, in fact, that's how this statute has been used.

Now you could argue that it is not "obscene" under the definition in the stature which involves "prurient interest," but that term is quite subjective and depends more on the viewer than on the photographer and how you determine the intent of the one doing the exhibiting is a whole issue unto itself. But if I'm making your argument, that's what I'm hanging my hat on.

Also--and I think here is where this is where U of L probably finds its legal way out here--the exemption section allows more leeway in cases where the exhibit is an artistic or educational one.

I called it child porn because, under the Kentucky Law, that's what it would likely be considered if they hadn't slapped some ludicrous educational excuses on it.

In addition, the legal definition of what constitutions child pornography is not the only definition of pornography. Just because laws contain definitions, it does not follow that the only definitions of such things are legal definitions. There is a legal definition of insanity, for example, but no one in the psychological community is bound by it, and, in fact, the legal definition of insanity does not comport very well with the psychological definitions of it.

So maybe you could explain to me the process by which women viewing photographs of young girls feel better about their own bodies.

Martin Cothran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Cothran said...

In regard to the cute naked baby picture example you all were giving here, I wonder what you all think would be the reaction by family and friends if, at the wedding, the pictorial collage included nude pictures of the bride at the ages of 12 and 16.

Thomas said...

You're downplaying the term obscene, which is essential to what constitutes a sexual performance. The statute does not set the level at exposure, but at exposure in an obscene manner. As a lesson in elementary statutory construction, this means that, as a matter of law, mere exposure (mere nudity) does not amount to child pornography. Let me say that again: the obscenity requirement means that as a matter of law mere exposure does not constitute child pornography.

The additional requirement of obscenity (and there's a lot of case law out there on obscenity) is what must be present. The art exhibit must be calculated to appeal to a prurient interest. Do you have any evidence of this? Mere nudity is not enough under the statute, there must be something that indicates an appeal to prurient interests.

If the subject of a photo is under 18, and then a photo is taken of him or her a day later when he or she is over 18, the element of obscenity is not affected; the only element affected is age. So to take your argument, all artistic nude photographs could be considered pornographic. The reason that the art exception is in there is not arbitrary; it reflects the reasonable view that artistic nudity is not pornography, and to confuse the two requires one to have taken leave of their common sense.

If you read the statute, you'd see it applies to paintings just as much as photographs. Are you going to start calling Renaissance paintings that have precisely the same subject matter child pornography? (What if the paintings are photorealistic?) If "prurient" is really as subjective as you think it would apply there just as well. You could apply it to the baby photos. You read the obscenity requirement right out of the statute by saying it's "subjective". (If you're correct, as it happens, the statute would be unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine.)

One ought to be careful not to use a decision by U of L (which shows poor judgment and bad taste, in my opinion) to score political points. Child pornography is an extremely serious and vile crime, and shouldn't be bandied about to tar one's political opponents; to do so is not to take it seriously.

Thomas said...

By the way, the definition of obscenity in the statute is a way of incorporating the Supreme Court's ruling in Miller v. California. Among the requirements are a lack of any artistic value. Therefore the test for obscenity (on this point at least) is the same whether or not the subject is a minor or not. So if the photographs, were an adult the subject, have some artistic value, then they are not obscene by definition. There's no report that I'm aware that anything about the photos (other than perhaps the age) that's unusual so far as artistic photographs go.

I'd be for a restriction on these sorts of photographs on the basis that children cannot consent, even though it would be very difficult to distinguish cases like the one I laid out above. But the images are not pornographic unless they are obscene; this is true under conventional as well as legal definitions.

Martin Cothran said...

So you are arguing that obscenity is an objective standard, and you are using Miller vs. California to establish that?

Thomas said...

I'm saying that when one says photos displayed in art exhibits are pornographic then this means that in addition to having nudity, the photos are obscene, which means among other things they're calculated to appeal to a prurient interest and that have no artistic or educational value. (In Kentucky that means there must be a sexual performance, which includes an obscene pose.) That's not just a legal definition, that's what separates artistic nudity from pornography. There doesn't seem to be any obscene element here, as by all accounts the photographs are both artistic and educational, and the whole point of the exhibit is that such things ought not appeal to a prurient interest. In other words, the exhibit is not only not calculated to appeal to a prurient interest, it's calculated to undermined appeals to prurient interest by de-idealizing the body.

Consent is another matter. One can draft a statute saying that a minor may not consent to posing for a photo to be publicly displayed as part of an art exhibit. That would protect children, and it wouldn't run contrary to the real distinction between art and pornography.

Martin Cothran said...

Maybe you could point me to the section of Kentucky law that mentions the term "obscene pose". And 'prurient interest', under federal law, is determined by community standards. You might want to make a case that your definition is the one that would pass muster under community standards--and while your at it, you might explain how you know what the community standard is so well. In obscenity cases, of course, this is done by a jury trial. And the juries are not bound by any 'obscene pose' criterion as far as I know.

And once again, you seem to be saying that it is incumbent upon individuals using the term 'pornography' to stick to the legal definition when discussing it. Is the this case with other terms?

Thomas said...

"And once again, you seem to be saying that it is incumbent upon individuals using the term 'pornography' to stick to the legal definition when discussing it. Is the this case with other terms?"

Re-read the previous posts. Pornography is, by common definition, devoid of artistic or educational value. If it has artistic value, it's not pornography (analytically a priori). (This is true even if the piece appeals to a prurient interest, since that's just the first step in the analysis, and it's non-dispositive. Therefore community standards might entail that piece of art appeals to a prurient interest, but it's still not pornographic.) And if it's not pornographic, then it's not child pornography.

Even if you use the wider definition (material intended to cause sexual excitement), that's not the case here, since the point is to de-sexualize the body. However, that, quite frankly, is a stupid definition in that a significant part of Greek and Renaissance art would be considered pornography.

I've asked this repeatedly, so I'll ask it again. (Let's forget for the moment that the argument fails regardless if there's an artistic element.) Given that the statute excludes mere nudity from constituting child pornography and requires the additional element of obscenity, where is this obscene element? Since you can't be infer obscenity from the bare fact of nudity (and you wouldn't want to, unless you want to imprison many innocent parents and would apply equally to paintings and photographs of adults), what else do you know that's not conveyed in the news reports?