Reform "Child Porn" Laws

What Women Really Think
July 15 2011 4:18 PM

Reform "Child Porn" Laws

AFP/Getty Images

Reason has a fascinating story on the prosecution of sex offenders, and how the system can destroy people engaging in minor offenses (hat tip: The Dish). I was particularly interested in the section on the possession of child pornography. I had a "Dear Prudence" letter this week from a woman whose now-famous boyfriend wanted to get back the naked photos they had taken in high school. As many readers pointed out, I failed to consider they might have been under 18 at the time of the photo shoot, so on her old, forgotten computer sitting in her mother’s basement might be what now would be classified as child pornography. I had suggested that she retain a lawyer and see if her ex’s business representative wanted to buy the copyright to the pictures. Readers warned the safer choice would be to torch the computer so she would not end up prosecuted for possession of forbidden images.

As the Reason piece explains, the laws on child pornography border on a kind of madness. People who merely look at images are in danger of getting prison sentences longer than people who actually molest children. I understand the desire to stop the child pornography industry, but we have entered a period of persecution. Then there is the issue raised by the letter I received: Teens voluntarily taking and sending sexy pictures of themselves can be labeled sex offenders for life. Reason quotes a few brave people willing to speak up and say we have designed a system to mete out ruinous punishments and the laws must be reformed. Unfortunately, there is little political will for “defending” offenders – even if they are labeled so broadly as to defy common sense. So parents of teenagers have to worry about whether a stray cell phone photo can destroy their child’s life.



Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 



The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?