Sex industry advocates try to whip up ‘anti-moral’ panic in order to legalise 16-year-old porn performers

There was a really crap article published by the Guardian a little while ago, that reads like a regurgitated press release from the sex industry.

The article references the campaign group Backlash and quotes one of their lawyers; the article describes Backlash as “an anti-censorship civil liberties campaign group”, the reality is that they defend the production and ownership of pornography, and their main interest is supporting and defending the sex industry:

“Myles Jackman, solicitor advocate and legal adviser to Backlash, has launched a new website dedicated to advice on sexual freedom and the law. Jackman has frequently provided pro bono work for individuals caught up in laws regulating sex acts, and their depictions, between consenting adults. He also has expertise advising commercial producers on obscenity law.”

A quick look around their website, who they link to, who their members are, show that it is an organisation entirely embedded in the sex industry, that exists to support the sex industry (defending prostitution as well as pornography).

Backlash defends the right to own ‘extreme’ pornography, that includes pornography depicting acts which threaten human life, serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals, sexual interference with a human corpse, and sex with live or dead animals.

Is your porn legal

The Guardian article, and the Backlash blog, both completely ignore the atmosphere of coercion that exists around sexting – or “erotic selfies” in the language of the pornography defenders – and how girls (and it is almost always girls) are shamed, bullied and harassed once they send such images.

Backlash describes sexting as “flirting and sexual exploration typical of adolescence in the pre-digital age.”

This ignores that girls (and it is almost always girls) have been shamed, bullied and harassed over their sexual, or perceived sexual activity since before the internet.

Of course it is wrong for anyone under the age of 18 who sends an explicit picture of themselves to be treated as a criminal – but it’s not actually clear that this is even happening.

This is important, since both Backlash and the Guardian article dismiss the recent NSPCC report on underage porn addiction as being unrepresentative, when the entire campaign seems to be built around the (deliberate?) misreading of one event (and in fact the Backlash press release gives no specific examples of this happening at all):

A police force has warned schoolchildren who share so-called “sexts” with friends over the internet that they could face prosecution in the criminal courts.

In a letter sent to schools in Nottinghamshire, the county’s sexual exploitation investigation unit said officers were receiving reports on a daily basis of naked images being sent between teenagers using mobile phones.

In one recent case cited in the letter, a teenage girl who sent a topless picture of herself to her boyfriend was investigated after being deemed to have distributed an indecent image of a child.

The girl’s boyfriend, who forwarded the image to friends after they split up, is reported to have received a caution.

That’s a cuation, given to the ex-boyfriend, for behaviour that sounds more like ‘revenge porn’ than ‘sexting’.

The Nottinghamshire article also includes warnings about the possibility of blackmail, so it is pretty clear that the intent (however heavy-handed) is to protect young people, and there is no desire to actually pursue criminal charges against 16 – 18-year-olds. Police have the discretion to act in the public interest, and are unlikely to act unless there is obvious harm being done – ie ‘revenge porn’ scenarios.

In fact, the Guardian article had to be amended, because the lazy journalist regurgitating the sex industry press release got his facts wrong!

This article was amended on 6 May 2015. It originally stated that the schoolgirl who texted a topless photo of herself to her boyfriend received a police caution. She did not, but the boyfriend did after distributing it to friends. This has been corrected.

If this is actually happening, you think they would be able to name actual cases wouldn’t you? [1]

The only example Backlash has so far is of a 22-year-old man with a 17-year-old girlfriend being charged, and in this case “police decided not to prosecute her because of her age.” (emphasis mine), ie, the police are choosing not to charge 16 – 18-year-olds for ‘sexting’!

This may, in fact, be an ‘anti-moral’ panic, whipped up by sex industry advocates, in order to get the law changed to make pornography involving 16 – 18-year-old performers legal [2]:

Myles Jackman, a lawyer who specialises in obscenity law, said: “It’s just not clear enough for young people to know that, despite being over the age of 16 and therefore the age of consent, they can’t take erotic selfies and send them until they are 18.

“This disparity between the age of consent – where a person can perform an act – and the age of representation – where a person can record or view that act – seems counterintuitive and dangerously against sex education.”

How not being able to take ~erotic selfies~ interferes with sex education isn’t immediately clear, but rational arguments aren’t important when you are trying to whip up an ‘anti-moral’ panic. It is also not immediately clear how 16 – 18-year-olds can be incapable of understanding that the law is two-tiered, but at the same time be cognizant enough to choose to send ~erotic selfies~ in the first place.

These laws, the age of consent law and the ‘age of representation’ law (if there is such a specific law, I imagine it is all contained under pornography/obscenity legislation), are there to protect young people from predatory adult behaviour, not to criminalise teenage sexuality.

In fact, the Mirror article linked to above says as much:

Until 2003 the age of sexual consent and the age of representation in “indecent” images was the same. But the law was changed in order to better protect 16 and 17-year-olds from being exploited by pornographers.

From the FPA:

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women. The age of consent is the same regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of a person and whether the sexual activity is between people of the same or different gender.

It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16. However, Home Office guidance is clear that there is no intention to prosecute teenagers under the age of 16 where both mutually agree and where they are of a similar age.

It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 if the older person holds a position of trust (for example a teacher or social worker) as such sexual activity is an abuse of the position of trust.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides specific legal protection for children aged 12 and under who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity. There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

(Emphasis added)

There was a call, in 2013, to lower the UK age of consent to 15, which thankfully didn’t come to pass (there is a good summery here). The arguments put forward by Faculty of Public Health president Prof John Ashton, don’t all add up, he said that “society had to accept that about a third of all boys and girls were having sex at 14 or 15” and also “lowering the age by a year could “draw a line in the sand” against sex at 14 or younger.” If the age of consent being 16 didn’t draw a line in the sand, why would the age of consent being 15? More likely it would just make it easier for predatory adult men to get away with statutorily raping underage girls (men do get away with this, or get off with very light sentences, all the time [3]).

If the age of consent had been lowered, Backlash would now be campaigning to make it legal for 15-year-olds to participate in the sex industry.

Backlash does not care about the welfare of 16-year-olds, they are trying to stir up an ‘anti-moral’ backlash in order to make it legal for 16-year-olds to participate in pornography production.

Backlash also, naturally, opposes the new porn regulations that came in earlier this year, but the Guardian article dishonestly reports this as being about “spanking and bondage”. The Guardian (for reasons I can’t quite understand) has been consistently coy about giving a full description of the acts the new law banned (my comment listing them was left up this time, but I’ve had a similar comment disappeared from another pro-porn article). The Independent is more honest:

Spanking
Caning
Aggressive whipping
Penetration by any object “associated with violence”
Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
Urolagnia (known as “water sports”)
Role-playing as non-adults
Physical restraint
Humiliation
Female ejaculation
Strangulation
Facesitting
Fisting

The final three listed fall under acts the BBFC views as potentially “life-endangering”

16-year-olds will certainly be better than 18-year-olds for “role-playing as non-adults” (that’s code for fetishising paedophilia), and as ‘teen’ and ‘barely legal’ porn is incredibly popular, if Backlash gets their way, it will be a real boon for the UK porn industry (but probably not so good for the teenage girls who end up washed-up veterans of the porn industry before they turn 20 – remember, in the LA based porn industry, women last less than a year, and have to prostitute at the same time to survive financially).

There is a long tradition of sexual predators calling for the lowering of the age of consent, all in the interests of the ‘sexual rights’ of those young people themselves of course.

HISTORY OF PIE

■ PIE was formed in 1974.
■ It campaigned for what it described as “children’s sexuality”, calling on the government to axe or lower the age of consent. It offered support to adults “in legal difficulties concerning sexual acts with consenting ‘underage’ partners”.
■ By its second birthday in October 1976, the organisation had 200 members. In 1983, reports said this number had grown to about 1,000.
■ PIE was affiliated to the National Council for Civil Liberties – now Liberty – in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
■ The group existed for more than a decade and was disbanded in 1984.

NOTES

[1] A quick google-search for “under 18 charged with child porn offenses uk”, in the news section, brings up cases of actual paedophiles, and more reporting of the Backlash press-release!

Ironically, it brought up this article from a social care website:

Currently, the criminal law for child cruelty only protects children from neglect or ill-treatment until their 16th birthday.

Official figures last year showed that 42,260 16- and 17-year-olds were deemed as “in need” by social services, and therefore at a greater risk of abuse and neglect.

During the debate on the bill, several MPs spoke out about the current law.

Labour MP Sarah Champion said it currently sends out a message that 16- and 17-year-olds are less at risk of abuse and or neglect than younger children.

“While most English law treats anyone under 18 as a child, the criminal law on child cruelty, which dates back 80 years, protects children from neglect or ill treatment only until their 16th birthday. This makes it much harder to protect 16- and 17-year-olds from cruelty,” Champion said.

And this article:

A teenager secretly took indecent photographs of a 16-year-old girl when she slept overnight at a house party, a court heard.

He later had a one month relationship with her and, after being jilted, sought to harass her.

It included sending her the intimate images with “vile” comments and suicide threats.

The defendant pleaded guilty to taking indecent images of a child under 18, in September 2013.

He also admitted harassment, between January and May, 2014.

Alan Murphy, prosecuting, said the defendant and the victim had been friends from school, although he was about eight months older.

I also googled “16-year-old charged child porn” and “16-year-old charged child porn uk”, and only got a few results fitting Backlash’s ~erotic selfie~ scenario from the US, Australia and Canada (the UK is not the US, Australia or Canada), including an article from NAMBLA (that’s the North American Man-Boy Love Association), which just helps prove my point about vested interests.

nambla

There were also articles about 16-year-olds who abused much younger children, and took pictures of it – we need to remember that under-18s can be abusers as well.

[2] Hat-tip to commenter Feralperil, who points this out in the comment thread

feralperil

[3] For example:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6237480.stm

Children’s charities have reacted with anger after a window cleaner who raped a girl of 10 was jailed for two years.

Keith Fenn, 24, will be free in four months after a judge said the girl, who was assaulted in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, had appeared older.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/suspended-sentence-man-raped-wife-teenage-sister-too-172424767.html#IhwErnG

A suspended sentence for a man who raped and sexually assaulted his wife’s 13-year-old sister has been ruled unduly lenient.

The man was convicted in 2013 of two counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault between September 1985 and May 1986.

He had been given a suspended seven-year sentence with judge at the time deciding that the man was allowed to walk free partly in order to look after his two children who have special needs.

The victim regularly babysat at the man’s home and was staying over in the box room when she was raped.

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/06/07/billionaire-gets-off/

In the United States, it doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re rich, you receive special treatment in our “justice” system.

SC Johnson, the “family” company’s billionaire heir, Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who confessed to repeatedly sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter has received an outrageous prison sentence of only four months because the judge, Circuit Justice Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, feels that Johnson’s importance to the community is valued much higher than the dignity of his abused step-daughter.

You read that right. Affluenza, as it has been dubbed, has struck again. This billionaire has officially plead guilty to mere misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct instead of receiving the maximum which is felony sexual assault on a minor child. These charges originally stem from 2011. Think Progress reported Johnson’s stepdaughter “initially told police Johnson was ‘a sex addict‘ and touched her inappropriately 15 to 20 times starting when she was 12 years old.

Advertisements

3 responses

  1. In the Mirror article, which was published just over a week after the Guardian article, Jackman is quoted as saying:

    “If it’s peer appropriate, non-commercial and if it’s consensual, why should it be criminalised?”

    But who defines ‘peer appropriate’, especially when 16 – 18-year-olds are porn consumers, and being pressured for anal sex is now a ‘normal’ (as in commonplace) part of teenaged girls lives?

    It doesn’t match up with Jackman’s earlier statement:

    This disparity between the age of consent – where a person can perform an act – and the age of representation – where a person can record or view that act – seems counterintuitive and dangerously against sex education.

    He’s definitely talking about actual sex acts, and actual porn, there, not just posing topless (what most people assume an ~erotic selfie~ involves).

    There is the “non-commercial” line too – but a lot of porn is viewable for free, and presented as ‘amateur’ (even if ‘amateur’ is now just a style/genre, rather than meaning genuinely non-commercial).

    Is he backing off and only trying to make ‘soft-core’ porn involving 16 – 18-year-olds legal now? Or just trying to make his campaign look less sleazy?

    How would it work in practice, where would the line between legal and illegal 16 – 18-year-old porn be, and how easy would it be for pornographers to take advantage of the uncertainty (with Jackman to back them up legally as well of course)?

  2. There is some definite back-tracking from Jackman in the Mirror quote; in the Guardian he is quoted as saying:

    “This disparity between the age of consent – where a person can perform an act – and the age of representation – where a person can record or view that act – seems counterintuitive and dangerously against sex education.”

    This is saying that 16 – 18-year-olds should be allowed to view porn (for ‘sex education’ purposes), and should be allowed to record themselves performing the same sex acts they see in porn (after all, the age of consent is blanket for all sex acts, a 16-year old can legally subject herself to a double-anal).

    There is no mention of “peer appropriate”, which is meaningless anyway, and also no mention of “non-commercial” in the Guardian piece.

    I’m sure porn companies, like the various ‘tube’ spin-offs that make their money from advertising, could get round this by hosting 16 – 18-year-old porn for free (and like I said in my last comment, I’m sure Jackman would be more than happy to help them).

    ‘At best’ it looks like Backlash’s main concern now is protecting adult men in sexual relationships with teenage girls (in the end, all sex industry advocates only really care about adult men).

    Let’s also remember that the sex industry is all slippery-slope: what was once extreme gonzo porn is now mainstream het porn; 18-year-old girls last ‘at best’ a year, and they’ll get to do 2 or 3 shoots as an ‘amateur’ before they have to go into BDSM porn.

    Sex industry advocates used to argue that decriminalising the sex industry would clean it up and reduce the commercial sexual exploitation of children, now sex industry advocates call 14-year-olds ‘youth sex workers’, and complain that age of consent laws “[put] an adult who is buying sexual services from a youth at risk of being charged with sexual interference or sexual assault”.

  3. This article in the Guardian today is useful as is covers the current legal situation in the USA in some detail (and remember, the UK has a separate legal system to the USA!).

    It’s also good to see that 20 US states have already passed legislation “to avoid prosecuting teenagers who exchange naked pictures with each other as a couple where there is no exploitation.”

    Also it may not be the dire situation sex industry advocates would like us to believe, as they whip up their ‘anti-moral’ panic, with one expert in the field saying “he and other experts in the field had discussed this case and had heard of “zero examples” of under-18s being charged for having their own naked selfie in their phone.”

    Obviously, the North Carolina case is ridiculous, and I do not support it in any way.

    A teenage boy in North Carolina has been prosecuted for having nude pictures of himself on his own mobile phone. The young man, who is now 17 but was 16 at the time the photos were discovered, had to strike a plea deal to avoid potentially going to jail and being registered as a sex offender.

    Experts condemned the case as ludicrous. The boy was, however, punished by the courts, and had to agree to be subject to warrantless searches by law enforcement for a year, in addition to other penalties.

    The young man was also named in the media and suffered a suspension as quarterback of his high school football team while the case was being resolved.

    Cormega Copening, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was prosecuted as an adult under federal child pornography felony laws, for sexually exploiting a minor. The minor was himself.

    “It’s dysfunctional to be charged with possession of your own image,” said Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin and co-founder of the research website cyberbullying.org.

    Copening was charged with four counts of making and possessing images of himself and one count of possessing a naked image of his 16-year-old girlfriend.

    His girlfriend, Brianna Denson, took a plea deal after being prosecuted on similar charges for having naked, suggestive pictures of herself on her cellphone.

    While the pictures were technically illegal, actual sex would not be – the age of consent for sexual intercourse in North Carolina is 16.

    The pictures were discovered on Copening’s phone when authorities were investigating a wider problem of sexual images allegedly being shared at school without the permission of the subjects involved. Copening turned out not to be involved in that case.

    He was prosecuted for having his own and his girlfriend’s image, despite them not having been shared further.

    Copening and Denson’s court cases were ostensibly about “sexting” – the sending of sexually explicit material by text message – but the main charges related to them making and keeping their own images.

    In most states, these crimes are technically on the books but are not typically used to prosecute similarly aged teenage lovers under 18 who have shared images only with each other consensually, Patchin said.

    Patchin said he and other experts in the field had discussed this case and had heard of “zero examples” of under-18s being charged for having their own naked selfie in their phone.

    “Kids should not be charged for that,” he said. “And you don’t want kids to be sending such pictures to their significant others, but I don’t think it should be a criminal offense where there is no victim.”

    The legal bind came because the two were over 16 and so could be charged as adults in North Carolina, as is common with some felonies – but the crimes they were being charged with related to laws against sexually exploiting minors.

    Each was therefore simultaneously the adult perpetrator who is considered a predator and the minor victim who needs protecting by the law.

    “It’s ludicrous,” said Fred Lane, a computer security and privacy expert and author of the book Cybertraps for Educators, based in New York. “It’s crazy. It’s an overreach.

    “This goes back to the supreme court making child pornography unconstitutional in 1983 and each state legislating in line with that for the public good – in order to protect children from adults producing, possessing or distributing nude images of them.

    “But that was before anyone thought kids would be making and sending nude photos of themselves with publicly available digital technology.”

    The federal child abuse image felony laws apply to every state. But 20 states have enacted legislation, often nicknamed Romeo and Juliet laws, to avoid prosecuting teenagers who exchange naked pictures with each other as a couple where there is no exploitation.

    Even so, in many states it is still a misdemeanor offence; in others it is a so-called informal offense, where the teens are obliged to submit to “diversion” education about making responsible choices.

    In the other 30 states there is no “sexting” rule to mitigate the child abuse image laws as they apply to teenage lovers consensually exchanging images purely within their relationship, or possessing nude selfies individually. In Fayetteville, the authorities decided to lay down the law.

    “There are about 10 or 12 mostly conservative states where they will prosecute kids for this,” said Lane, “and it’s a kind of moral values thing – they are trying to make an example of them because it’s believed to be inappropriate behaviour.

    “There is a streak of moralizing that runs through this country that is disturbing sometimes.”

    In July, Denson took a plea deal and admitted a misdemeanour. Felony charges were dropped. She was put on probation for a year, technically for exploiting herself by making and having a naked image of herself.

    She was ordered to pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, refrain from using illegal drugs and alcohol, take a class in making good decisions and do 30 hours of community services. She will not be allowed to have a cellphone for a year.

    In September, Copening took a similar plea deal. If both comply with the terms of their deals, then their records will be wiped after a year.

    Jeff Temple, a psychology expert at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has conducted research suggesting that 30% of teens “sext” each other. He called for “common sense” from the authorities.

    Temple said that if states used their laws literally, “tens of thousands of kids would be in jail and registered as sex offenders”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: