< >Earlier this year, the Supreme Court lifted a 1996 act banning virtual child pornography. The six to three ruling, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, says the law violates First Amendment freedom of speech rights guaranteed to every citizen of the United States of America. Although many free speech advocates are shouting victory, many citizens across the country are lamenting over the loss in the fight against child pornography.

< >Child pornography has been present in society for centuries, but has only recently become more accessible through the development of the printing press and subsequently, the technology of the Internet. Until the mid-1990s, "illegal child pornography [had only] involved depictions of actual children engaged in sexually explicit activity" (ACLU), and virtual pornography had never before been an issue. This was before the Internet. The October 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act was put into place with the purpose of updating then-current child porn and sexual exploitation laws mainly because of on-line transmission and creation of child porn. The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 revised the previous child pornography laws, said the American Civil Liberties Union, by outlawing any "computer-generated depictions of children engaging in sexual conduct," or what is now commonly known as virtual child pornography. Virtual child pornography also includes any images presenting people who appear to be minors or adult bodies superimposed with the faces of children, often making it difficult to tell if the material is of a real child or not. These new forms of child porn were becoming prevalent on the Internet at the time because it was easily accessible and not yet illegal. The act therefore prohibited the possession, transmission, or distribution of anything suggesting "a child engaging in a sexually explicit act" (CNN). It was hoped this action might deter pedophiles from indulging in their fantasies and molesting children. Quick to validate the new law, Congress proclaimed that "child pornography is often used as part of a method of seducing other children into sexual activity" (Slade). Congress further went on to say that with recent technology, having the ability to alter and enhance sexually exploitive images might "render enforcement against pornography using real children impossible" because determining real pictures from enhanced picture had the probability of being a very daunting and challenging task. This strengthened the government's argument that the law had a significant potential to protect many children from molestation and abuse.

< >Child pornography laws instated during the 1970s were some of the first in the crusade to protect children from sexual predators. This was because most of national news magazines were printing detailed articles concerning child sexual abuse at the time. In just a few weeks, "a national campaign against the making and sale of child pornography exploded" (Finkelhor 1) and politicians took note. In 1977, the government enacted the Sexual Exploitation of Children Act which prohibited sexually explicit photography of minors, the use of minors in production of pornography, and any material promoting child pornography. Due to misunderstandings of what "minor" really meant, the Child Protection Act of 1984 was ratified. It was then concluded that anyone younger than the age of eighteen was a child was to be considered a minor and that "a sexually explicit photograph of anyone seventeen years of age or younger [was] child pornography" (Medaris). In November 1986, Congress awarded children another victory by enacting the Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act into law and two years later established the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act. These laws banned all advertisements of child porn, all transportation of child porn, all selling of child porn, and all purchasing of child porn with the objective of protecting minors from being abused or brutalized. Congress enhanced the laws several more times over an eight-year period. This fine-tuning also helped to raise the two-year minimum sentence to five years of imprisonment for repeat offenders. In addition to this, because of strict enforcement, the laws eventually even helped force child pornography to almost completely disappear from low-budget films and magazines during the 1980s and early 1990s. Due to new technologies such as the Internet and computer graphics in the mid-1990s, however, the laws were revised in order to grant children additional protection concurrent with the times.

< >On April 16th of this year, Justice Kennedy led five other high court justices in striking down the 1996 law which had updated all previous child pornography laws by saying that virtual child porn can be protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court said virtual child pornography only "appears to involve - but does not actually include - identifiable juveniles" (CNN), and thus it must be protected under freedom of speech laws. Justice Kennedy even dared to go as far as saying that virtual child pornography is "an alternative and permissible means of expression [and] might have significant value" (Terence) to society. These words only invigorate arguments saying child pornography can be considered art. He also said that under the 1996 law, movies like Heathers, Total Eclipse, Romeo and Juliet, and American Beauty had the potential to be called child pornography and thus the Child Pornography Prevention Act was excessively broad. Kennedy, perhaps without realizing the potential consequences of his action, has opened the floodgates for pornographers to create and distribute porn that looks like child porn, essentially hurting kids in the long run. For a quarter of a century, Congress has attempted to protect children from pedophiles by eliminating all forms of child porn. Now the Supreme Court has literally aided pornographers and pedophiles in sexually abusing innocent children.

< >The Internet is a fine illustration of the relationship child porn has with molestation. While it is usually an exceptional access to the world at large, the Internet is a direct source for child pornography. Pedophiles have a medley of different types of porn to view on-line. There are approximately 100,000 sites offering kiddie porn to pedophiles. Images of exploited children in the pornography allow these people to begin to think of children as commodities. Tortuous pornographic images of children forcing smiles also entice pedophiles and convince them that having sex with children is pleasurable for both parties and not abusive whatsoever. Pedophiles then being feeling that they are entitled to sex with minors and believe that this sort of violence against children is more than tolerable. The Internet further demonstrates its destructive power on children by providing sexual predators access to unsuspecting and innocent children, with whom many pedophiles attempt to make physical contact. The belief that they have the right sexually abuse children fuels these predators' desires to make bodily contact with children. This demonstrates an obvious link between child pornography and child sexual abuse. During the time many pedophiles are not attempting to lure a child to meet with them, they are constantly viewing pornography and construing fantasies for when they may have a child actually in their midst.

< >There is ever increasing proof that observation of child pornography often leads to sexual aggression against children. An FBI study in 1988 showed that 81 percent of violent sexual predators habitually viewed all different forms of pornography. Newsmagazine's Marine Ko quotes psychologist William Marshall of Queen's University as saying "more than one-third of child molesters and rapists 'claim to have at least occasionally been incited by exposure' to child porn." Astonishingly, half of those sexual predators also say they "deliberately used kiddie porn in the planning of their crimes" (Ko). These statistics are frightening and it is obvious there is absolutely no question that many pedophiles have acted on their fantasies creating while viewing kiddie porn. Without proper laws, the numbers of children sexually abused, attributable in part to child porn, will rise even higher. Lifting the ban on simulated child porn therefore not only allows pedophiles to fantasize but often leads to attempts of physical or sexual contact with children. Moreover, says Rosaline Bush of Opposing Viewpoints: Pornography, pornography "reduces sex to a product" (19) for pedophiles. People who defend pornography by declaring that it is "a harmless expression of human sexuality" (Wekesser 13) have no care or concern for a child's well-being. Pornography initiates and maintains sexual interest, and despite arguments, does not ever diminish desire for actual contact. It is in reality an interim or temporary replacement for sex. Children are always at risk when child porn is in the hands of sexual predators. Child pornography is frequently used, in fact, as a manual for real sex with children. May it be virtual or not, pornography of any nature also desensitizes abuse and dehumanizes kids to pedophiles, which intensifies the probability of molestation and violence against children.

< >The lift of the virtual porn ban will inspire sexual predators to ask for more than they have already erroneously received. Their arguments are eerily similar to the "If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a glass of milk" complex. On grounds that their material of choice is unfairly censored, pedophiles will demand they must be able to view all forms of child pornography and will argue they have the right to look at anything they want, including the exploitation and mistreatment of children. If sexual deviants are allowed to view any sort of child pornography for sexual reasons, the people who contentedly produce kiddie porn are given an even bigger market than what they have now. Obtaining a larger market will instigate the search for and sexual abuse of more children, the incentive of these pornographers mainly to collect money at the expense of the innocent and nave. This not only puts children in jeopardy from pedophiles but also from pornographers who will stop at nothing to torture children with the intention of obtaining this money.

< >Justice Kennedy's notion that motion pictures implying underage sex and nudity might be construed as child pornography is broader than the "excessively broad" (CNN) act he fought diligently to strike down. Filmmakers of American Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and many others have never been prosecuted as distributors of child pornography. Neither have producers of television shows alluding to teenage sex and none of them will ever be prosecuted. Motion pictures like Romeo and Juliet and Total Eclipse, where seventeen-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio's character has a relationship with an older man, are historical references and display the lifestyles of different people. American Beauty, a film noir dealing with the sexual fantasies of an older man for a young girl, depicts a part of the diverse human culture in an attempt to show a darker side of life. The films Kennedy cites as potentially pornographic are representative of society and not pornographic. Not one character is ever exploited or exposed with the intention of sexually gratifying the viewer. The purpose of the characters' dynamics is to intellectually and spiritually stimulate viewers in their own lives. Although the characters may illustrate a deviant side of sexuality, they are participating in the film in order to represent an element of society - not as an element of pornography. Justice Kennedy is misconstruing the act and has consequently made an error by saying that motion pictures depicting life are pornographic.

< >The justices and supporters of the recent repeal have gone far out of their way to play to the lowest common denominator. The government cannot direct their attentions to the complaints of a few who believe their constitutional rights are being impinged and ignore the many who believe in safeguarding the youth of America. "Free speech" is the reason why the virtual child porn ban was lifted - because Justice Kennedy feels that the ban was unconstitutional. But it is not. How is it unconstitutional to protect children? By law, children are not of an age to consent to any form of sexual activity. For countless and important reasons, children are supposed to be protected from sex, abuse and exploitation until they are eighteen years old. Until then, children are not legally supposed to be corrupted by the sexual oddities of certain individuals. Kennedy and his cohorts have, perhaps without realizing all the consequences, virtually handed children over to pedophiles on a silver platter.

< >It is not helpful that included with federal laws, many states have their own laws dealing with child pornography. State and national laws so overtly clash with each other that it is incredible and rather preposterous. In court, child pornography laws differ greatly from other child porn laws and are oftentimes found to be violations "of constitutional rights because [they] fail to distinguish between photographic child porn and products of pure imagination" (Ko). Sometimes state regulations are even more, and unfairly, severe than federal laws. In Ohio, taking family pictures of a naked child, even if the child is a close relative, can be interpreted as child pornography if just one other person sees the photograph. National laws pertaining to kiddie porn obviously are overlooked in the state's government and Ohio is not the only state to have conflicting laws. For the photographer of the naked child, there is a maximum jail time of eight years if charged. A case like this is not even considered at a federal level and cannot be accepted by the country.

< >All laws regarding child pornography need to be federalized. It is foolish to allow states to ignore federally instated acts and devise their own. The differences in state and national laws have gone on for long enough. The nation can no longer stand for inconsistent laws when it comes to dealing with the fate of children. The ban on virtual child pornography must also be reinstated so children will be less as risk of pedophiles. The government does not have the right to pamper the perverse and leave children to be coddled in a different way. It is necessary for local, state, and national governments to completely understand that children come before those who might harm them.

< >Letters to newspapers, the media, and government officials have to be written, demanding reformation, federalization, and revision of child pornography laws. A single person can make a world of difference. Even a simple "Letter to the Editor" or calling a local talk radio station goes a long way in aiding the fight to maintain youth's innocence. The government must be notified in every way to take action against those who might dare abuse the nation's children. Americans need to rise up and fight the Supreme Court's decision to lift the virtual child porn ban by any means possible. Through short or clever or thunderous words from the American public, the government needs to know that the nation will not in any way tolerate the purity of children encroached upon. Children cannot be left alone to suffer. Battles must be fought to aide children in the struggle for the security of their minds and souls.

< >It is the sacred duty of the public to encourage the government to federalize child pornography laws by making all forms of child pornography illegal. Virtual pornography is the same as true pornography because it reaps the same results. Child pornography of any form, whether it be real or virtual, violates innocence and extends sexually obscure imaginations, encouraging the socially deviant to act upon debauching desires. If lawmakers do not act soon, they will be performing a grave disservice to the American people by releasing their children to the wolves.

Works Cited

CNN. "Dozens Arrested in Child Porn Probe." 19 March 2002. CNN Law Center. On-line. 9 May 2002. http://www.cnn.com>

----. "Supreme Court strikes down ban on 'virtual child porn.'" 18 April 2002. CNN Law Center. On-line. 9 May 2002. http://www.cnn.com>

Finkelhor, David. Sexually Victimized Children. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1979.

"Kid Porn Virtually Okay." Maclean's. Vol. 115. 29 April 2002: Issue 17. Ebsco Information Services. On-line. 9 May 2002. http://search.epnet.com

Ko, Marnie. "Pervert No More." Newsmagazine. Vol. 28. 2 April 2001, Alberta Edition: ed 7. Ebsco Information Services. On-line. 13 May 2002. http://search.epnet.com

Medaris, Mike. "Child Pornography: Laws and Legislation." 2 October 1997. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. On-line. 13 May 2002. http://www.missingkids.com/html/ncmec_default_ec_childporn_laws.html

Palmer, Elizabeth A. "Foes of 'Virtual' Child Pornography Seeking a Very Real Remedy After Court Strikes Down Ban." CQ Weekly. 20 April 2002: 1028.

Scherer, Ron. "New Vice Squad Troll the Web for Child Porn." Christian Science Monitor. Vol. 19. 17 December 1998: issue 16. Ebsco Information Services. On-line. 13 May 2002. http://search.epnet.com

Slade, David C. "'Virtual' Child Porn." World & I. Vol 16. April 2001: issue 4. Ebsco Information Services. On-Line. 7 May 2002.

Terence, Jeffrey P. "Justice Kennedy Support 'Good' Child Pornography." Human Events. Vol. 58. 4 April 2002: issue 15. Ebsco Information Services. On-line. 9 May 2002. http://search.epnet.com

Wekesser, Carol, et al. Pornography: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1997.

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