Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Slaughter of Innocence

The Media and Pedophilia

In 1996, the Child Pornography Prevention Act expanded federal powers over the distribution and possession of child porn. It requires a five-year prison sentence and up to 30 years for the production of computer generated child pornography or any visual simulation of a minor engaged in sexual activity. "Visual simulation" was added to this law because of a recent technique called "morphing". You've probably seen this process before in commercials and music videos(9). Morphing can display a face on any body, which can behave in any conceivable fashion; an ability that offers limitless possibilities to the twisted minds of pedophilic outlaws. Some pornographers have morphed faces onto different bodies and produced computer-generated porn that contains no human subjects(10).

Lolita Ad
Lolita Ad

In spite of legislation and many other state laws prohibiting the possession and use of child porn, some critics charge that society actually tolerates pedophilia. Beauty pageants for children have come under greater scrutiny only since the Ramsey murder case appeared in 1997. These so-called "beauty shows" seem to exploit the bodies of children, showcasing kids as young as 6 with elaborate hair, lipstick, false eyelashes and satin high heel shoes. They are extensively coached, trained in adult posture and taught how to parade down a runway for maximum effect. A show, which many say, contains strong sexual connotations that do not belong in children's events. Ironically, these pageants could not exist without the cooperation and financial support of adults including the parents of the children involved(11).

Hollywood has also come under attack for its periodic displays of the child as a sex object. Director Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962), originally made as a dark comedy, featured an adult's obsession with his girlfriend's teen-aged daughter. Of course, author Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita has been the unintended recipient of the pedophile's attention for many years, although the novel was never written for that purpose(12). Nevertheless, the book received widespread attention. "By the time Americans read the teasing tale of Nabakov's preadolescent Lolita in 1958 and watched it on the screen, the sexual possibilities of young girls found fertile soil amid the many baby dolls of the American imagination" writes author Paula Fass in Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America.

Pretty Baby ad
Pretty Baby ad

Brooke Shields, at 13-years-old, played the title role in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978), a story about teen-aged prostitution which attracted a great deal of attention. And Jodie Foster's portrayal of a child prostitute in Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1972) received strong criticism from movie reviewers at the time of its release. It is unknown to what end or what effect salacious depictions of children have upon the American public. But most people abhor the glorification of sex with children in any manner.

Child abduction strikes fear into the heart of every parent, even though the incidence of stranger child abduction is very rare in America. During the 1980s, people with good intentions publicized vastly inflated figures concerning child abductions(13). Edwin Sutherland, the famous criminologist once wrote: "The hysteria produced by child murders is due in part to the fact that the ordinary citizen cannot understand a sex attack on a child . . . Fear is greater because the behavior is so incomprehensible." But the trivialization of pedophilia in the media surely cannot be a good thing. It seems to accept, or at least condone, the notion that adult/child sex is simply another life style in line with other adult sexual preferences. Or is it, as some say, much more ominous? Is it a destruction of youth, a disturbance in society that is driven by a psychological sickness, which imagines children as a vast sea of opportunities for sexual conquest?



(9) A famous morphing sequence was The Dancing Baby in 1999, broadcast daily over the Internet.

(10) Some pornographers have taken their cause to court arguing that since morphed pornography contains no humans, it hurts no one and therefore is protected under the 1st Amendment rights.

(11) Newsweek magazine ran a cover story on this disturbing topic on January 20, 1997.

(12) For a brief discussion on this point see the article "Lolita, a Girl for the Nineties" in U.S. News and World Reports in the October 14, 1996 issue.

(13) The figures included, and sometimes still do, parental custodial interference where parents will take the child from the spouse.

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