Posts Tagged ‘pornography’

When is a “child” not a child and a “teen” not a teen?

January 24th, 2011

A few weeks ago I was reading Injustice Everywhere when they mentioned an article in the West Virginia Gazette-Mail titled Policing the Police.  I recommend the article, but this post isn’t about police misconduct.  What I find more interesting was an article listed on the side of the website that was linked with the headline “Teen charged with murder”.  Unfortunately I can’t find the same article on the website, but I did find similar ones such as “Teens plead guilty to killing S. Charleston counselor” and “Teen charged in East End shooting“.  These headlines are really what prompted me to write this post.

I’ve been noticing for a while that certain people and organizations will use words that while true will imply something different and specific to the people who hear them.  The people and groups I’m talking about generally have a specific agenda they are promoting and include, but are not limited to, politicians, media outlets, and special interest organizations.

The specific words I want to talk about today are those related to age.  To help me on this I asked a number of my friends to give me their first impressions as it relates to age on 23 words.

high school
middle aged

While this was not a scientific survey, and I only received 3 responses, the data generally backs up my beliefs.

Let’s start with “teen”.  When I hear the term teen my first instinct is someone 16 years old.  If I think about it a little longer I would say 13 to 18. Other impressions I get are high school aged or someone in high school.

But the definition of teen is someone who is at least 13, but less than 20.  That is how it’s used in the stories linked above.  They are both about 18 and 19 year olds.  So while a headline of “Teen” is true, it implies something to most people that is completely different.  If you’ve just seen a headline that says “Teen charged with murder” you’re going to look at those walking to high school a little fearfully, aren’t you.

Let’s take a look at another word, “child”.  My first instinct is someone roughly 5 to 8 years old.  In my survey I received a response of 4, 5, and 5-13.  Wikipedia says that biologically a child is a human between birth and puberty.  I think when the majority of the population says “child” that’s what they mean.  The biological definition.  But legally a child is anyone who has not reached the age of majority, generally someone under 18.

One of the places you’ll see child mentioned in the media is in a headline like this:  Former UW-Madison student is on trial over alleged encrypted child porn photos

But one thing that is very rarely, if ever, mentioned in stories like that is the actual age of the “children” involved.  Legally, child pornography is pornographic images of a human under the age of 18.  It doesn’t matter if they’re 7 months, 7 years, or 17 years old, it’s all illegal.  But by calling it child pornography the police, the justice system and the media are creating certain ideas in our minds.  We’ve already seen that most of us think of a pre-pubescent person when we hear child.  Is it too much of a stretch to think that the people responsible for “protecting” us are using that to their advantage?

Now I’m not defending anyone who would force another, through violence or psychological coercion, to perform a sexual act.  And I’m also not defending recording a sexual act without a persons knowledge and/or consent.  But I am saying I have a very different reaction to pornography involving a 7 year old, than I do to pornography involving a 17 year old.  Especially considering that in 38 states, that same 17 year old can legally consent to sex.  (30 states = 16yo 8 states = 17yo)

That’s right, the esteemed legislatures of 38 states have voted and decided that a 17 year old is old enough to wisely choose a partner, understands the risks, rewards, and consequences, and potentially create another human life and become a parent.  But that same 17 year old is NEVER allowed to show an image of him or herself in a sexual situation.  Even if they’re the only person in the image, and they are the ones creating it.  In fact it’s illegal just to create it and teens have been prosecuted for it.

What kind of message does that send?  Everyone talks about body image issues that teens have from magazines, TV shows, fashion models, etc.  But here we are telling the same group of people that their bodies are so wrong, so immoral, so dangerous that they can’t even photograph themselves?  That doing so could land them in jail for years, put them on sex offender registries, and basically ruin their entire lives.

Next we have “minor” and “underage”.  For “minor” I received responses of 21, 18, and 17.  While “underage”, received responses of 17, 18, and 17.  I thought these responses were quite interesting and honestly that they would have been reversed.  Legally, a minor is someone who has not attained the age of majority, for the US and most of the world, that’s 18.  “Underage” is basically the same thing, and describes a person who is “under” the age of majority.

What bothers me about minor, and to a lesser extent underage, is that they’re so negative.  The definitions as used in relation to age are negative; “not attained”, “under the age”.  The way the word is used not related to age is negative; “inferior, smaller, unimportant, not serious, academics requiring fewer courses”.  This is how our society, how our legal system, defines those who are that way merely because of when they were born.  If you don’t believe me you’re not remembering hard enough or you were very lucky.  The way most “adults” treat minors is that they are inferior, unimportant and not serious.

I guess what I want you to take away from this is to try to be more aware of the words people use who might want to influence your opinion.  And not just the definition of those words, but of how those words are used and how they make you feel.  Especially if they create a strong emotional reaction.

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March 15th, 2009

For those of you who don’t know 2257 is the chapter of some new regulations the federal government is instituting on photographers that create nude photographs.  I’m not gonna go into huge detail on it, if you do a search online you can find out all that you need to know.  What I am gonna do is draw some parallels to a fictional law that will bring out many of the negative aspects of it.

The given reason for these regulations is to prevent child pornography.  The creators of this legislation believe that the new rules will decrease child pornography and give law enforcement new tools to combat it.  Those two simple sentences will get many people to support 2257.

My hypothetical example is a law against speeding.  Now you might say that speeding is already illegal.  You’re right, and child pornography is already illegal as well.  2257 requires creators of nude or sexually explicit content to do is keep certain identifying records such as name and birthday, and allow the government to access them whenever they’d like.  My fictional law would require all drivers to keep records of the distance travelled and the time it took on each trip, and also allow the government to access these records.

The more astute of you may already see where I’m going with this.  Why would someone that is breaking the law keep a record of it in a way that the government suggests?  If I’m going to take sexually explicit pictures of a minor do you honestly think I’m going to keep a copy of her ID on file so that the government can walk in and use the record against me?  NO! The only people who are going to keep accurate records are the people who are not committing the crime.  In my speeding law, if you travel 100 miles, and it only takes you an hour, are you really gonna write that down and prove to the government that you were going 100 miles an hour?

Some people will say that if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Oh, really?  There’s some pretty significant penalties for failing to comply.  Up to five years in prison.  And that’s not just for willfully disregarding the law.  If you don’t know about 2257 or you make a mistake on something, you can still be punished.  You take some sexy pictures of your 45 year old housewife neighbor, but don’t keep the right paperwork, and you could go to jail.  In our speeding law, if I drive the 2 blocks to the convenience store for a half gallon of milk, but I don’t write it down, I’ve just violated the law.  It won’t matter to the government that I only went 25 mph and the speed limit is 30.

So what is this law gonna do?  For the people who create child pornography it’s not gonna do anything.  They were breaking the law before, they’ll keep breaking it after.  For the speeder?  Same thing.  Some people will just do as the law says.  They’ll keep the records, and spend all that time doing it.  Other people just won’t.  They will not change their behavior, legal or illegal, and will continue to do whatever they did before.

For others the law will make them question whether they want to do the activity they need to keep records for.  If I had to write down every time I drove the 2 blocks to Pizza Hut, or the Mall, maybe I’d walk.  How many photographers are going to stop taking nude pictures of anyone because of this law?  Perhaps that’s the actual intent of it’s creators.  They’ve tried to ban nude photography before and they’ve been unsuccessful.  This law doesn’t say you can’t do it.  It only makes it more difficult.  And that’s the first step isn’t it?  To get the people to not want to do something.

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