Porn's Fine Lines

Friday, December 26, 2008


If no children were harmed in the making, is it still kiddie porn? Cartoon defender Charles Brownstein says it's a danger to artistic freedom to criminalize lines on paper, but child-safety advocate Mary Leary says allowing explicit drawings of children presents a threat to the safety of real-life kids.
    Music Playlist
  • Tao
    Artist: Coconot

Comments [17]

Adele P.

Shall we tantalize our taste buds with the "forbidden" until it tastes passe? Art and Life mimic each other, and here in the free world we dream and fantasize about nightmarish entertainment because we can. Children are sold as sex slaves- abused, tortured, used for rituals. Maybe we can chat about gang rape of virgins in Africa as a freedom to prevail against HIV? Or perhaps we belong in another culture where rape is simply staking your territory & young things are for desert.
Chances are, if you feel the need to defend behaviour, it might just be because it's harmful.

Mar. 11 2009 09:07 PM

As someone who participates in the art community, I must always take the side of free speech, and I find obscenity to be a tool to be used by politicians when they want to either run someone out of business, or to simply take advantage of the voters.

"Lolicon" is simply lines on paper. Whether or not it is to show the horrors of the world, or for titillation, or even a complex use of symbolism, you cannot deny that there was no harm done to a real child in the process. Mary Leary's argument is invalid, because people who would cause harm to children in the first place will do it anyway, and aren't inspired by anything but their own motivation and personal desires.

Feb. 28 2009 05:21 PM

This pretty much relates to anything if you make it illegal. You'll create an underground where the product is sold regardless, only, the government won't be making any money off of it and it can't be controlled only resulting in more crime.
It's better to control such things instead of letting them run rampant. If you were to make porn illegal, children could get their hands on it easier because the sellers wouldn't care. However in a legal setting the sellers are required to follow the law or lose their business.

Jan. 13 2009 11:32 PM
Martin Metke from Seattle, WA, USA

When compared to the various logical and legal issues raised by the other knowledgeable posters these items may seem fairly incidental but as a fan of the genre I have to speak up: the CBLDF doesn't seem to know much about manga, hentai, or lolicon. For one thing, 'hentai' is not a single defined genre any more than 'pornography' is; hentai, or 'H', comics cover a great range of topics and levels of graphic depiction, with the only common factor being some level of sexual content. The CBLDF seems to be using out-of-date definitions bruited about back in the 80s, which is going to help their cause. Manga as a whole range from florid and line-heavy historical sagas with carefully-detailed mechanical parts to four-panel (or 'koma') serials similar to the Simpsons or Flintstones in both content and form.

I suppose I don't have much of a say in what On The Media does, but it would help me take them more seriously if they would do a little more background research on their own.

Jan. 08 2009 07:29 PM
Gloria Dunn from Memphis, TN

While porn does have the ability to turn into a disturbing image of misogynistic hate crimes, I do not feel that it is wholly dysfunctional. In America we treat porn as the base hobby of those people who cannot control themselves; this limited view gives porn a negative connotation that some of us cling too. In regards to drawn child pornography the idea as a whole is indeed unsettling; but it is fiction, created and expressed solely by the mind of the individual creator. These drawing are “rendered as lines on paper” but more importantly it is a release in both senses of the word. The obvious of course, but also in that it allows for the release of the fantasy without actual physical expression. This is why the idea of porn as a vice creates more problems than it solves. Pornography allows one to experience their fantasy without actually “experiencing” their fantasy.

This is speculation on my part, but it is possible that these drawings keep Mr. Handley’s fantasy, a fantasy. This visual release allows Mr. Handley to never consider actually living out one of his scenarios. There are no real children involved in any manner, and it is a private scenario. I feel that the only crime would be if he were actually using real children. Imagination is limitless and while I find no entertainment it Mr. Handley’s drawings, his having them does not affect me or anyone else. Not to mention that nothing is more appealing than something that is labeled as a lascivious perversion. Porn might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it should be available.

Jan. 02 2009 02:54 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven

When I was a child, a neighbor boy whose father kept such material, which depicted familiar cartoon characters, exposed me to heterosexual “kiddie porn”. It did not inspire sexual aggression on my part but did so on the part of the boy and others of his friends, who serially raped me (and I suspect other children in our neighborhood) one quite violently.

My experiences lead me to believe that there are other factors involved, besides simple exposure to such images that contribute far more substantially to sexual aggression, such as family culture.

In my case, my father somehow divined what was going on and he actually appeared on the scene immediately after the violent rape and counseled me. He also intervened in some way to prevent the culprit from ever having anything more to do with me.

As time went by, he made clear to me that I bore no responsibility for what had been done to me and provided me a healthy framework within which to express my sexuality.

Should I ever have chosen to depict sexuality in my cartooning, it would never have been to make money. That, I suspect, is where the problems develop. It exploits the imagination.

Jan. 01 2009 04:04 PM
Calvin Reid from New York City

As a journalist who covers the comics medium and industry and as an artist, its difficult for me to equate drawing from the imagination with photographs in which actual people are being recorded in actual events. Also some of this pieces's overgeneralized characterizations of manga and anime seem odd. I don't think anyone who is really familiar with manga would really describe manga or anime as depictions using few lines.

Manga, like prose, has everything from intensely dense depictions to minimalist depictions and everything in between. In fact most hentai that I've seen is intensely detailed. After all manga just means comics. Its like saying Japanese books use only a few words. Which books? I'm not sure why it was necessary to create this false impression of a medium that is rich and varied and deep and tremendously creative and useful and growing in international popularity with every passing year.

"Manga" does not mean pornography or minimalist drawing any more than the word "book" means pornography or minimalist writing.

Jan. 01 2009 11:45 AM
Allan Murphy from Tokyo

Please read this op-ed by the U.S. ambassador to Japan:

"Japan must penalize possession of child porn"

Jan. 01 2009 07:09 AM
jeffsback2223 from las Vegas

As an artist, I am for the right of artists to draw what they want, when they want. To outlaw any aspect of art, no matter how much you dislike it, is taking away the fundamental right of freedom of expression. The supreme court agrees, as they already smacked down portions of the protect act that deals with cartoon porn.

Dec. 31 2008 12:12 AM
d from Minnesota

I just wanted to add onto my previous comment a little bit. Here are some published studies that are relevant to this topic:

Hall, et. all (1995) -
"Arousal to pedophilic stimuli does not necessarily correspond with pedophilic behavior."

Freel (2003) -
"If someone is fully inhibited from sexually abusing children, no amount of emotional congruence, sexual arousal, or blockage will lead them to abuse children."

Sheldon & Howitt (2008) -
"Fantasy deficit may be involved in contact offending against children."

Dec. 29 2008 08:18 PM
ablefable from Canada

Should drawing violence be illegal too? It may inspire someone? Don't draw fat people eating food either... This pre-emptive assumption of guilt is dangerous, morally simplistic, condescending and factually flawed. If a drawing or otherwise inoccuous expressions encourages you to perform deeply illigal and immoral acts... you've already got problems. Outlawing a symptom (drawing) does nothing to address the real problem.

2ndly: Art, advertising & porn; Our society goes to great lengths to promote underage sexuality. It sells! Many products are specifically designed to introduce sex to children. (Bratz dolls, even barbie etc...) We should address the core issue and the invasive sexually based advertising which bombards us daily. Demonizing an "in your face" art is way too easy. Maybe that's a point of these drawings? Too make you talk and consider what is acceptable and what is not. Art is doing what it is supposed to do, make us aware of our cultural boundaries. Sensor the sensors!

Dec. 29 2008 05:02 PM

This clearly infringes on free speech. Also, by making these illustrations illegal the people who do have a problem and lust for small children won't have an outlet. It is likely that there will be an increase in child molestations and rape.

Dec. 29 2008 03:52 AM
d from Minnesota

Yes, I'm biased toward the free speech side of things, but why is it so hard to separate correlation from causation all the time? When Ms. Leary talked about drawn depictions of child sexuality leading to child abuse, she was committing this very fallacy. It's equally easy to see the causative arrow pointing in the other direction. If we want true causative research evidence, we'd probably need to do some (*cough*) rather unethical things.

Dec. 28 2008 09:02 PM
Jonathan R. from San Francisco

Thank you for this story of a "chilling effect" that made my blood run cold. Actual photographic child porn is "evidence of a crime," as one of your guests said, so the real crime is child molestation, not pictures of it. But this is far out of that gray area. There is simply no defensible argument in a free society for prohibition of any cartoon, whatever it depicts. No children were harmed in drawing a cartoon. The cultural ambiguity--Japanese don't depict pubic hair, so Americans assume the depictions are of children--is just frosting on the cake. The idea of someone serving 20 years in prison for owning a cartoon is horrifying. "Thought crime" indeed.

Dec. 28 2008 06:31 PM
slg from Manhattan

Brooke, you went over the top when you said that children are harmed by ALL forms of pornography that they happen to view. What is your basis--either moral or scientific--for that statement? I viewed lots of pornography as a adolescent, & I found it liberating rather than harmful. It is completely normal for adolescents to be interested in sexuality, & viewing pornography is a harmless way for them to satisfy theur curiosity & cope imaginatively with their lust.

Dec. 27 2008 07:31 PM
Tom Quinn from Spokane, Washington

Those who oppose the legality of drawings of children in a sexually explicit manner, even when no actual child is photographed or involved in any way, are begging the question that such drawings are bound to inspire actual child molestations. Not all adults who are turned on sexually by images of children have the kind of conscience that would allow them to act on their predilection. For some, their predilection begins and ends with masturbation.
The arguments against victimless kiddie porn are like the arguments against all pornography 40 or 50 years ago. If an image served no other purpose than to inspire and facilitate masturbation, than it should be illegal, because masturbation itself was wrong. Few people hold that attitude today, but a holdover from that is the argument that masturbating to images of children (whether or not actual child is involved) is itself in some way a victimization of children. They may be right, but it's certainly open to debate.
Also open to debate is one possibility that nobody on "On The Media" raised: could it be that hypothetical kiddie porn actually PREVENTS child molestation by providing an outlet for pedophiles? The idea might seem far-fetched to those most enthusiastically opposed to erotic drawings of children, but it's no less based in reality than the old supposition that there is no such thing as victimless pornography.

Dec. 27 2008 04:05 PM
c from New York

Let's be honest here, and I'm not defending the material, but the underlying threat to kids here are the people who get their hands on it. If Mary truly believes that the material is the problem, she might as well bring Jack Thompson along to every interview she does.

It's the *people*, Mary, the *people* that are the problem. If they are crazy enough to act out their fantasies, they're trouble regardless of whether or not they have this material. Think Columbine, think 9/11, think the Christmas shootings just the other day in LA.

You cannot analyze things intelligently if you stop at the first rung on the ladder. You can most certainly make a case that our culture is at fault too. Just need to dig a little deeper.

Dec. 27 2008 07:33 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.