How to deal with child pornography?

Fred Reed confronts this conundrum.

The stuff is nasty. Children of eight or nine, mostly girls, forced to do naked live-cam chat with strange men on other continents, to engage in all the sexual behavior you can think of. No equipment is needed beyond a laptop and a webcam. In interviews, pedophiles say that they know it is wrong, but cannot keep themselves from consuming the stuff. Whether you buy this or not, they obviously will watch  when they know there is no danger of being caught. Which means that children will continue being forced to make it.

. . .

And it becomes morally tricky. What to do if you catch those making child porn? Simply drowning them, despite its appeal, doesn’t always work. Lawyers,  trials, appeals, delays, bribes. According to the documentary, in poor countries like the Philippines, the child’s parents are often the ones putting the kid in front of the camera, and they do it because the family has to eat. However one might regard this, putting mommy and daddy in slam doesn’t do much for the kid and, since in much of the world there are many hungry families, the jailed would just be replaced by others.

So what to do?

A supply-side solution seems impossible in the face of  an untraceable Dark Web containing lots of kid porn from many poor countries that can’t or won’t do much about it. That leaves demand side.

. . .

Legalizing kid porn is not a winning political platform. Sexual exploitation of children is nauseating, and most people would probably see legalization as pandering to people they would rather throw from helicopters. But leaving things as they are will, well, leave things as they are, with wretchedly bad treatment of a lot of children. Anyone have a better idea?

There’s more at the link.

My approach is predicated on the reality that thought leads to action.  Only animals behave instinctively, without thought.  Humans are different.  As Mohandas Gandhi, the Mahatma, famously put it:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

That being the case, I believe that to possess and/or consume child pornography is functionally equivalent to being a child abuser, and should be treated as such.  The former is, in my opinion (based upon considerable experience as a pastor and prison chaplain) a “gateway drug” to committing child abuse, and often occurs simultaneous with the latter;  so I see no reason why it should not be regarded as child abuse as well, and punished in the same way.

I therefore have no problem with throwing the book at those guilty of possessing and/or consuming child pornography.  Let them be treated in the same way as a child rapist.  Lock them up and throw away the key, so that our children are protected against their evil, sickening presence.  Does that seem unmerciful?  Perhaps it is . . . but it’s a matter of competing values.  Which has greater value, a child who can grow up to be a healthy, functioning adult if s/he is not abused, or one who is likely to destroy that child’s faith and trust in others by abusing them?  I know my answer to that question.  What’s yours?

My attitude is conditioned by being born and raised in Africa, where child abuse – theoretical or actual – is dealt with far more swiftly and succinctly in tribal society than it is in the First World.  Anyone caught with child pornography is likely to have the living daylights beaten out of him by his neighbors, and will be lucky to survive without permanent injury.  The latter is frequently meted out to those caught in the act.

I recall a “flasher” who was active in a suburb of Soweto during the 1980’s.  This sick pervert would hang around schools, waiting for girls to walk home;  then he’d expose himself to them, chasing them with his penis hanging out of his trousers, screaming at them.  One such young lady arrived home, out of breath and in tears, to find her grandfather there.  This gentleman was an induna on the gold mines;  a sort of shift foreman, in US parlance.  Furious, he assured her he’d “deal with” the problem.

The next morning, very early, two burly mine workers arrived at the house.  They explained that the induna had sent them to look after his granddaughter.  While they were doing that, the others on their shift would all chip in from their wages to pay them, to make sure they weren’t out of pocket.  For the next few days, they walked her to and from school, scanning everyone around them carefully.  In due course, she spotted the flasher and pointed him out to them.  He tried to run, but they were fit and very strong, and soon caught him.  They led him to the nearest low stone wall, with people pouring out of their houses to watch.  There they dropped his trousers, stretched his penis over the wall . . . and hit it once, overhand, with a twenty-pound mining sledgehammer.  The remains were described as “mincemeat” (ground beef, in US parlance) by the hospital that amputated them.

The police duly went through the neighborhood, asking for witnesses to identify the perpetrators of this “crime”:  but for some strange reason, despite there being literally hundreds who’d watched proceedings, no-one could remember what the mine workers looked like.  The police, wisely, dropped the matter.  What’s more, there were no sex crimes – of any sort, not just involving children – reported in that neighborhood for several years afterwards.  The word had spread.  “We look after our own.  Perverts and sex criminals had best steer clear.”  They did.

A few years later, I was peripherally involved with an incident in another township.  A rapist dragged a young schoolgirl into the bushes as she walked home from the bus stop.  Her screams were heard, and several men ran to her assistance, catching the rapist in the act.  They didn’t bother to call the police.  Instead, they searched until they found a discarded glass bottle.  They broke it against a stone, and used the glass shards to castrate him, removing the rapist’s penis and both testicles.  He nearly bled to death before the police found him and took him to hospital.  Again, their investigations led to no arrests, much less convictions.

I was a pastor at the time, and tried to remonstrate with those I believed to be responsible.  I pointed out that such an injury was irrevocable.  What if they’d got the wrong man?  Indignantly, they responded that they hadn’t got the wrong man – he’d been caught in the act, so there was no doubt about that.  Furthermore, why waste money on a trial?  They’d ensured that he’d never do it again!  I had to admit, they had a point.

(Sadly, such tribal approaches to child sexual abuse appear to have largely disappeared in modern African cities, where tribal culture has been overwhelmed by urban pressures.  The “virgin cleansing myth” has led to the widespread rape of young children [both male and female].  It’s beyond sick . . . but it happens, and it’s not punished in the same way as it would have been a few decades ago.  I can only wish that it was!)

For the life of me, I can’t see any difference between people who actually behave like that, and those who fantasize about behaving like that while fueling their sick, warped minds with child porn.  I therefore can’t see any reason to treat them differently from actual perpetrators.  Here in the First World, we’re supposed to let the law deal with them;  but if the law doesn’t do so, and as a result some people decide to adopt extra-judicial methods . . . I won’t lose any sleep over that, provided that the offender’s guilt is clear and certain beyond any doubt.  I place a higher value on the lives and well-being of the children who are no longer in danger of being assaulted by them.

Having had to deal as a prison chaplain with some really sick, twisted, evil child molesters, allow me to assure you that there are, indeed, monsters in human form.  I’ve met them . . . and I don’t want them walking around.  As for NAMBLA . . . I have a very visceral reaction indeed to those monsters.  As far as I’m concerned, membership of or support for that organization should be regarded, in and of itself, as conclusive proof that the person(s) concerned is/are a danger to society, deserving removal from it by any and all means necessary.

As far as I’m concerned, child porn is directly equivalent to child abuse, and should be dealt with as such.



  1. "Let them be treated in the same way as a child rapist. Lock them up and throw away the key, so that our children are protected against their evil, sickening presence."

    Given the level of recidivism for rape and pedophiles, I have a better (& cheaper solution): amputation at the neck. They'll never be cured, so why are we warehousing these monsters for the rest of their lives? Barbaric? Perhaps, but given the filth leaking out of Hollywood these days, a return to "barbarism" may be just what we need.

  2. Well said, and I mostly agree… with a caveat.
    Possession is a tricky thing. Planting images in someone's browser cache is trivially easy (one of my old blog posts, just to make this point, contains a large photo of a dead skunk, scaled and positioned to appear as the period at the end of a sentence). With some cleverness and exploitation of some of the countless bugs in PC software, hiding child porn on the computer of an unwitting target is entirely possible.
    So, somehow, any possession charge had darn well better include an element of knowledge and intent. Otherwise it's far too easy to make everyone guilty, and go after those who annoy the ones in power.

  3. Apparently, you believe that thoughts->words->actions->habits->values->destiny, since you favorably quoted Gandhi saying just this.

    Therefore you believe in thoughtcrime.

    Tread carefully, Peter. When thinking is a crime, who is not a criminal?

    However bad child porn is, it is NOT the same as rape. That's like saying Jimmah Carter's lust in his heart is the same as rape, or at least adultery.

    Eric Wilner's warning above should add some serious weight, too. Since you are not an SJW and have an independent mind, I wouldn't be surprised if you find child porn has already been planted on your computer by TPTB, in order to set the stage for your prosecution, or at least persecution, if they ever decide it's necessary.

  4. The problem with child pornography is that children are used to make it. Thus, one can say that watching child pornography is the same as making it.

  5. @lpdbw: As a pastor, I follow the teaching of Christ on this one. Witness Matthew 5:27-28:

    'You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'

    Behold! Thoughtcrime, as you call it – and defined by the Master Himself!

    With that example in mind, I'm afraid I'll stick to my views on the matter.

  6. " I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart"

    Yes, so, the bible would like to prosecute thought crime. This is hardly a recommendation for the book, which is largely about making people feel guilty for being…people.

    Right now, people in the US are so wound up about pedophilia that you prosecute teens for taking pictures of themselves, or for having a boyfriend/girlfriend on the other side of the 18yo boundary, or for urinating on a tree without realizing that a passerby could see you, or…

    Fred's idea may seem radical, but he may just have a point: driving a vice underground rarely seems to improve things, at least, not the way the US does it – by indiscriminately prosecuting everything and everyone.

  7. Drowning, one way helicopter rides, and hammers.
    I support all of these.

    But putting them in a cage where they can analyse how they got caught, and trade best practices with their fellow monsters?
    I would have to be crazy to support this.

  8. HUGE disconnect in logic here. " I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" Unless you are prepared to throw people in jail for adultery, disrespect of parents, and so forth SIN=/=CRIME!!! Yes many sins are crimes, but far from all, so saying all thoughts should be prosecute-able is waaaaay down that slippery slope I pray this country never slides down.

    We are not, and should not become, a theocracy. Thought sin is a sin and not one iota more. Whether you see that as more or less serious than a crime is your own personal view which you have to live with.

    As for the original topic, I don't have a good answer. As much as I like the tribal approach, it doesn't reach well overseas. Go after the money and much can be done domestically. The ability is there…the desire isn't. How to make it a law enforcement priority is the question.

  9. read about a little boy charged by the fbi for child porn.
    someone had hijacked his computer electronically and hidden the porn in it.
    the child was exonerated by a computer expert who explained to the judge how this could be done.

    you have to catch them in the act to be sure of guilt.

    all evildoers of this ilk need to be executed or jailed for life.
    it is incurable.

    however, know of one boy jailed for 'rape' who had a girlfriend, consensual, who told him she was 18.
    she wasn't, but was so afraid of her parents that she lied in court.
    he thought they were starting a life together.
    he is registered as a sex offender even though he is not one.
    must tread carefully.

  10. Fred Reed:
    Greasing the Slippery Moral Slope with barrels of lube and trying to sell it as a carnival ride since…ever.

    I am fine with turning anyone involved with child porn over to the tender ministrations of a jury composed of fathers of school-age daughters, and executing whatever sentence they agree upon in deliberations.

    Or, just leaving the perp in the jury room with said jury, along with a dozen pipes and hammers during the lunch break, obviating an afternoon court session entirely.

    The purpose of the death penalty for murder isn't pour encourager les autres, it isn't to satisfy and balance the scales of justice, and it isn't to let the state pass along a sentence that if accomplished by the aggrieved family would be merely feuding vengeance, and lend it judicial respectability.

    It's to achieve a recidivism rate in perpetrators of 0.0%.
    At this it has a batting average of 1.000, every time it's tried.

    All I'm saying, is give rope a chance.

    And if it's good enough for murder, child porn deserves a seat at that table too.

    Of course you can't stop everyone from doing it Fred (you ignorant slut) but you'll drive it down to such miniscule low levels as to be nearly the same thing as non-existent, while soiling a minimum number of people with complicity in the crime, let alone dragging the entire civilization into the bunghole of the septic tank that complicity and legalization would inevitably do.

    And the day the state declines to do that duty, that state is immoral, unjust, tyranny – not leastly in regard to the exact child-victims it consigns to the child-porn sausage machine, whose moving parts Fred would happily oil – and the task falls to every one with a conscience, and a length of handy pipe. Or a gun.

    Going the other way, why not just legalize murder, and charge a tax for the privilege, since we haven't stamped it out ever, since Cain? How about a fee to allow the rape of adult women? Or perhaps, as A Modest Proposal, just legalize eating babies to assuage world hunger, as Mr. Swift famously once satirically suggested?

    The difference between Fred and a clever literate amoral moron is impossible to measure with existing instrumentation.

    But he shouldn't be censored.
    He should simply have his fingers and jaws beaten to bloody hamburger with pipes. Weekly.
    (And ideally, by child porn victims and their families.)
    Then the humor quotient of his future output will accord precisely with his root intelligence.
    And the pathetic pain-wracked arm-waving and muffled mrrrphings he'd issue henceforth would be hilarious to behold.

  11. No.

    The thought is not the deed.

    I'm not going to kill any man for a thought crime, however vile, unless he tries it in reality.

    And I'll probably shoot you if you try to kill any man for a stray thought.

  12. The problem in my mind is that filming a crime is not in and of iteelf a criminal act. Child porn is a film of a crime being committed, just like a film of a murder is a film of a crime. The actual crime is that the child was being molested.

    Now if one pays someone to produce that film, they become an accessory, just as paying someone to murder or beat someone so you could film it is a crime.

    Laws like this is how we get silly results like saying that a cartoon depicting child molestation is a crime (see links below), or the time where a pair of 16 year olds were convicted of producing and distributing child pornography for taking pictures of themselves and texting it to each other.

  13. I define this as pre-pubescent children of either sex. I have found child porn on computers (you work in IT, you see lots of stuff) and helped put people away for it. In every case I've been involved with, the perp turned out to have abused children in person.

    It's a limited set, admittedly, but I also work in a prison, and have been to many prisons. I've talked to some guys on the 'pink' yard (sex offenders get put together in one yard to keep them from the general population, who will happily abuse and kill them) while fixing stuff there. They would say they were put away for child porn, but none could look me in the eye and say that they hadn't gone further.

    Pedophiles also have the highest rate of recidivism. I do know one who has not done so AFAIK. He had a religious awakening while in prison. He also lives in an adult community, his mechanic job doesn't expose him to children, and he shops late at night to avoid kids. I think of him as the exception that proves the rule.

  14. I agree with you completely, regarding photographic (or live action video) child porn whether actual or severely faked. I think, however, that the definition should carefully excuse drawings, writing, or pictures from historical eras where photographs of nude children were (in specific circumstances) considered normal (example; the classic naked infant on a bearskin rug photo). Why? Because a child abuse conviction will (and should!) destroy the convicted one's future…and boost the reputation of a Prosecutor. Which (sadly) means that some ambitious Prosecutors are going to look for people to convict on the broadest possible definition of 'child porn'. Own a crappy 19th century romantic painting of a cherub? That's a picture of a naked child! Own a copy of LOLITA? Child Porn!

    To be child porn I think a reasonable person looking at the item with no further background would conclude that a child was harmed. Lewis Carrol's photographs of his 'Child Friends"? Possibly child porn. Maybe. 'Baby's first bath'? No.

  15. Is the urge to commit sexual crimes against children a sickness?

    I'm prepared to accept that it is.

    Does free will permit adults to resist acting on the impulse from this sickness?

    I believe it does.

    Thus: people who commit sexual crimes against children need to be behind bars, for decades.

    People who are aware of their sickness but have not yet acted must be offered free medical and psychological treatment in exchange for regularly scheduled, confidential monitoring including lie detector testing.

  16. The only occasion in which a grown man should see an 8-year-old naked is if he's bathing a physically disabled relative, or assisting such in a personal activity in which that relative can't perform certain tasks on their own volition.
    …for the purpose of lovingly helping out a needed kin.

  17. The big problem is the broad stroke with wich child pornography is defined.

    As Divemedic and C.S.P Schofield said, with a broad enough interpretation, owning a old piece of art can be defined as child pornography.

    Writing or reading a reasonable historical novel, well if you have the 15 year old bride (something that was completely normal all over the world as little as 120-130 years ago) can be interpreted as child pornography.

    Sure, somebody who molests a prepubescent boy or girl, or films it to make money of it, or who gets the film to satisfy his (or her, most people seem to forget that a rather large part of child molesters are female) urges needs to be punished. I don't condone the death penalty for it, as it is a sickness and these people literally can't stop them self, but they need to removed from society nonetheless. On the other hand, people who have this urge, but suppress it should be lauded, but otherwise left alone. Regardless what crime, thinking about it alone is not in any way punishable.
    But there has to be a very distinct limit when somebody can call it child pornography. In some countries a 18+ actress that looks like a 14yo is enough to bring up cp charges. Conversely a 14yo that looks 18+, uses a forged ID and tells anybody she is 18, when it comes out there are CP charges.
    Or among the worst I heard about was a law that made effectively any photo of a small child without a shirt CP. It could be a girl, and a girl topless is pornography… .
    Think about all these pictures and films of toddlers in diapers on the beach.

    In other regions you can land on a sex offender list for drunkenly pissing against a tree, if the prosecutor and judge want to. You exposed your genitals in public, so you are a exhibitionist, so you are a sex offender.

    Unlike Tal Hartsfeld I can see another scenario where a grown man has a legitimate reason to see a 8-year-old naked. A medical professional treating the child for injury or sickness.

  18. If the thought is the crime, then there isn't a single human alive who's not guilty of a felony of some sort. Y'all line your asses up for punishment right the hell now!

  19. Seriously, though. The thought is NOT the crime, and anyone trying to punish someone based on what they have thought, not on what they have actually done, is a totalitarian worthy of Stalin and Mao. Justifying it via the Bible means we need to punish witches, too, not just adulterers. Adultery is a punishable offense under the UCMJ, and you'll certainly be likely to paying more alimony in a divorce if you're guilty of adultery. Although I admit I'd be open stoning Jimmy Carter a little bit, perhaps with coarse gravel.

    Possession of child porn where actual children are being abused/exploited (not cartoons) ought to be criminal, though we have to be careful. As has been pointed out, it would be trivial for state actors to plant whatever they want onto an Internet-connected computer. For that matter, it would only be a bit harder to plant such stuff in a black-bag op, though that requires more people and on-site observation to pick an opportune time. Or someone you trust that hates you enough to want to frame you, and is able to keep that fact to themselves…

  20. To Larry and others who argue that "thought" is not a crime, and only "actions" should be punished: I agree with you – but let's define "action". To me, the possession and/or "consumption" (i.e. viewing, reading, enjoying, fantasizing to) child pornography is directly and immediately equivalent to abusing the child(ren) concerned. I base that on far too much contact with child abusers, both in society and behind bars as a prison chaplain. In my experience, the thought almost always leads to action, even if that action is only masturbation while "enjoying" such filth. What's more, if you talk to any active pedophile, you'll find that he/she almost always progressed from "thinking" to "watching" to "doing". It's the rule, 99% of the time.

    That, to my mind, is intolerable. Given that the consequences of "enjoying" such stuff are almost inevitably "doing" such stuff . . . I'd rather not take the chance. I have no moral qualms at all about treating those who possess and/or "enjoy" child porn as the direct and immediate equivalent of pedophiles – or, at the very least, accessories before the fact of child abuse.

    I agree; safeguards are necessary to guard against false accusations, particularly in our current "witch-hunt" climate, where allegations of sexual assault can be leveled by almost anyone, with catastrophic consequences to the accused (whether or not the allegations are true). That's a very sad commentary on our society. However, given such safeguards, if there is no doubt whatsoever that someone has bought and/or "enjoyed" such filth, I have no qualms about treating them accordingly. If there is any doubt, then by all means let the accused be given the benefit of the doubt.

  21. Just a real story: A friend of mine got arrested for child pornography. That's what the police told all the bystanders when they stacked up next to his apartment.

    And this is how it went down until he went free:
    He was accused of producing child pornography.
    Then he was accused of consuming child pornography.
    Then he was accused of possessing child pornography.
    Then he was accused of having used a payment service that was used to pay child pornography.
    Then he was accused of having used a payment service that was also used by others to pay for child pornography.
    Then he was accused of having used a credit card on a payment service that was occasionally used by others to pay for child pornography among other, quite legal, services.

    After a few years, he got all his hardware back that had been confiscated that day. Totally worthless now, of course.
    For some reason, the police never got around to go to all neighbours that they so righteously informed about the child pornographer they were busting that day to point out their mistake.

    When I notice stories like that Africa one where a bunch of savages (not name so because of their skin color, but due to their willingness to main someone) were totally convinced they were in the right, this story is what I think of.

  22. Okay, with that clarification, I agree with you completely, Peter. I expect and hope Dr. Nasser of USA gymnastics infamy suffers appropriately in prison. Proven pedophiles should never get out of prison. And I wouldn't be averse to the death penalty for it in some cases.

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