April 8, 2009

A question about sexting.

CNN reports:
Phillip Alpert found out the hard way. He had just turned 18 when he sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend, a photo she had taken and sent him, to dozens of her friends and family after an argument. The high school sweethearts had been dating for almost 2½ years. "It was a stupid thing I did because I was upset and tired and it was the middle of the night and I was an immature kid," says Alpert.

Orlando, Florida, police didn't see it that way. Alpert was arrested and charged with sending child pornography, a felony to which he pleaded no contest but was later convicted. He was sentenced to five years probation and required by Florida law to register as a sex offender.

"You will find me on the registered sex offender list next to people who have raped children, molested kids, things like that, because I sent child pornography," says Alpert in disbelief, explaining, "You think child pornography, you think 6-year-old, 3-year-old little kids who can't think for themselves, who are taken advantage of. That really wasn't the case."
My question: When did nudity become pornography?

101 comments:

Xmas said...

About the time that taking pictures of your baby taking a bath became "creepy".

Bissage said...

My question: When did nudity become pornography?

My answer: Right about the time Oprah showed up at my rainbow party.

peter hoh said...

Should everyone who made "Blue Lagoon" be arrested?

Jeremy said...

It may have something to do with intent. The original intent of the picture being taken was assuredly of a sexual nature. She wasn't trying to emulate a Grecian statue. Further, the intent of his forwarding the pic was (presumably) to shame the girl by exposing her sexuality - if it was a high art "life portrait", there wouldn't be anything shameful about it, perhaps.

Just a guess.

- The Other Jeremy

lawprof2 said...

The moment the idiot decided to take it from the consensual to the nonconsensual disclosure to friends and family. However, had he a decent attorney,if this is truly a first offense, he likely would have gotten an offer for deferred prosecution and plea to something like disorderly conduct. I'm going to take a wild stab at it and say if the guy is 18 now, and dating what is now a 16 year old for 2 1/2 years, he sent out a picture of a 14-15 year old. Not cool.

Ann Althouse said...

Jeremy, do you think free speech law should have a high art/low art distinction?

Ann Althouse said...

@lawprof2 I would like to see a distinction between pornography and bad behavior. An angry boy did something mean that took advantage of the intimate expression his girlfriend had shared with him. That wasn't nice at all. Where is the pornography? Isn't the girl a pornographer too? She took and sent the picture.

Synova said...

Nudity became pornography when the picture was of a minor.

That's it.

And I'm fine with giving the guy a good slap and putting him on probation for five years. If nothing else it's a cautionary tale for other idiots.

And it really *is* profoundly stupid to put someone on a sex offender registry for this. He's already a felon for the rest of his life.

PG said...

do you think free speech law should have a high art/low art distinction?

No, but the existing jurisprudence on free speech does make a meant-to-arouse sexually/ meant-to-inspire-non-sexual-thoughts distinction. There's plenty of what I'd consider low (as in crappy) art that uses nudity in a non-sexual way. There's decent art that uses nudity in a non-sexual way (I've fought to retain the nudity at the end of theater performances of "W;t" -- it's a nekkid cancer patient at the moment of death, not really a turn-on). There's both high and low art that uses nudity to arouse -- and that's the kind that the caselaw says can be limited in its freedom of speech.

Also, while I dislike the prosecutions of teens for sending images of themselves to their significant others, I have no sympathy for the kid in this case. Teens who think that distributing private pictures of their boyfriend/girlfriend will be a consequence-less act for themselves now can be warned. This isn't even some unfortunate trapped by the strict liability aspect of child porn laws -- he *knew* the girl was under 18 in the pics.

bearing said...

The girl sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend? I assume the point was to titillate him? Then the girl is a pornographer, the young man is the distributor. If the law allows juveniles to be charged with pornography violations, then it's only fair to charge them both.

So is he also guilty of violating her copyright?

Synova said...

Oh, sure... that would be a good one. Since the girl sent the child pornography to start with, *she* should be on a sex offender registry for the rest of her life, too.

PG said...

College students who streak and get arrested are stuck with that the rest of their lives. (As noted on the last episode of "House.") My college had a strong streaking tradition from which the Ed School students were excluded because they were terrified of getting arrested and being unable to work with children in the future. I can think of *so* many people who have been arrested for child porn, or categorized as sex offenders, whom I find more sympathetic cases than this kid.

Jeff said...

Should everyone who made "Blue Lagoon" be arrested?

Yes, but for completely different reasons.

molly said...

Photos of naked teenagers flying around are going to be a permanent fact of life from now on. Classifying idiot high schoolers as sex offenders is not the best way to deal with this issue, in my opinion.

MadisonMan said...

College streakers at my alma mater successfully fought their arrest because the DA could find no one who saw it who was offended, or something like that, as required by Pennsylvania law.

The obvious reason why the girl wasn't arrested: She's an innocent girl in all of this, not the evil boy.

Seven Machos said...

Fuck intent. Intent doesn't matter if you don't have the crime in the first place. It's a two-part deal.

We know pornography when we see it. A standard picture of a nude sixteen year old is not pornography.

Does she have her legs behind her head? Different story.

rhhardin said...

Child abuse was discovered in the 60s as a public possibility, elevated from just a kid showing up with bruises at the ER now and then.

It became child sexual abuse in the 70s, a story with even better public interest.

Anything that entertains enough of the public will become the material of media obsession.

Guggenbuhl-Craig analyses the hysteria effect as partial archetypes. If the child is taken as pure innocence, some scapegoat for pure evil will then arise to fill the world. But he's a Jungian.

It's not that it's pornography, but that it's child pornography. Pornography has lots of supporters in the public still. Indeed it's a possble career path.

Any story template that entertains news audiences will be elevated into an input for public policy.

Anybody not so entertained by the crap on the news today will remain eternally puzzled.

Trooper York said...

I don't know if everyone who was a part of "Blue Lagoon" should be
arrested, but I would like to see Brooke Shields in handcuffs.

Jeremy said...

Althouse -
No, though society should. The Law, however, should have a distinction between exploitation and non-exploitation, particularly with regard to child subjects. High art/low art is not the same distinction, though it's not unrelated.

-The Other Jeremy

John Stodder said...

If we're going to tell teens, as we have done over the past 20 years, that there's nothing we can do to stop them from having sex, that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that anyone who counsels abstinence is from Mars and doesn't "get it," that we'll take care of the girl and support her choices if she gets pregnant -- total abortion privacy if that's what she wants, special schoolrooms for pregnant girls if that's what she wants -- then for God's sake we should dump these cruel and capricious laws concerning statutory rape and change the child porn laws so that societally encouraged randy behavior such as in this case is won't be criminalized. To make this kid have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life is all but ruining his chances for a normal, productive existence.

The point of child porn laws was not to stop girls from sending sexy pictures of themselves to their boyfriends. And any girl who sends a digital picture of herself to anybody needs to know that she is giving up control of that image for life. No matter what choices she makes later, such as breaking up with the boy, deciding to marry another person, becoming a nun, becoming a nominee for secretary of state, or becoming a mother, that picture can and probably will show up.

I don't think making or sending such images should be illegal, but I do think kids should by eighth grade be given a rudimentary education about the potential consequences of living digitally -- that future employers, potential dating partners, curious bloggers and your worst enemies will look you up and find everything you said and did -- for the rest of your life.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Anyone notice the irony of these two statements?

It was a stupid thing I did because I was upset and tired and it was the middle of the night and I was an immature kid," says Alpert.

You think child pornography, you think 6-year-old, 3-year-old little kids who can't think for themselves, who are taken advantage of. That really wasn't the case."


Evidently Alpert couldn't think for himself either.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Nudity became pornography when the picture was of a minor.

Synova wins the prize.

Seven Machos said...

All pictures of minors nude are nudity? Really?

Well, there's a book I happened upon in the photography section of the bookstore on the corner that is basically nothing but naked 14-year-olds at some Bohemian Nantucket summer house. Scores of people should be arrested as a result of that.

And what of the fact that this girl took the picture of herself? Why isn't she in jail?

The attempt to make pornography into some kind of black and white, national issue in this age of diffuse and never-ending media is very disturbing.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Remember this sad story?

Jessica Logan's nude cell-phone photo - meant for her boyfriend's eyes only - was sent to hundreds of teenagers last year in at least seven Greater Cincinnati high schools.

The 18-year-old Sycamore High School senior was then bombarded with taunts: slut, porn queen, whore.

On July 3, Jessie hanged herself in her bedroom.

She was Albert and Cynthia Logan's only child.

peter hoh said...

Synova wrote: Oh, sure... that would be a good one. Since the girl sent the child pornography to start with, *she* should be on a sex offender registry for the rest of her life, too.

Yes, teen girls have been indicted as kiddie pornographers.

Ron said...

Althouse, I don't know if you remember the Nude Mile tradition here at UM, but you had hundreds of naked people, running through the center of town. What would this be then, pornography en masse?

Hoosier Daddy said...

The point of child porn laws was not to stop girls from sending sexy pictures of themselves to their boyfriends.

Good point John but tell me, is that line crossed when the BF starts putting those randy pictures on a webpage for the world to see as opposed to texting a few choice shots to family and friends? Minors receive special protection because society agreed that until you turn 18 you’re still a dumbass kid (and as this dipshit proved, doesn’t end with majority age) who really isn’t responsible for what you do. I agree that he shouldn’t be up there with real sex offenders but the problem is the legal slippery slope that sending nude photos of minors leads to. How do you jail some 50 year old pervert with a computer full of nude minors where a guy with nudies of his 16 year old girlfriend is given a finger wagging lecture? To me the only way around that is lowering the legal age of consent.

ricpic said...

Everyone's complaining about the harshness of the law. What's the alternative, a lenient law that would result in hundreds of child pornographers not being tagged as such? Which is worse, a fool being punished like a criminal knave or criminal knaves escaping the net to commit more crime?

Peter V. Bella said...

Alpert's attorney Larry Walters agrees and he's fighting to get Alpert removed from Florida's sex offender registry. The law lags behind the technology, he says. "Sexting is treated as child pornography in almost every state and it catches teens completely offguard because this is a fairly natural and normal thing for them to do. It is surprising to us as parents, but for teens it's part of their culture."

Is this attorney smoking something? Since when is it natural and normal for teens to send nude photos to others? Part of their culture? What culture?

traditionalguy said...

OK all you philosophers out there in Althousiana, Why do we forbid nudity? Its not pornographic. Its not harming anyone. Its not dangerous to the nude person or to others. We just don't want anyone else getting away using it for public attention, since we fear doing it ourselves. The Law must stop this conduct of the others for us. Oh wait, all sexual activity related restrictions are "religiously based" and therefore violate the Living Constitution. Let's compromise: adults are free to act anyway they want, but we still imprision the persons who include anyone under 18in their actions. That fixes it. Both groups can claim to have fought and won something really important to the titilated public opinion come the next election season. Let the games continue, but be very alert at all times.

pduggie said...

ricpic: The alternative is neither; instead: a star chamber of wise elder who will determine what penalty is appropriate.

This "nation of laws, not men" thing bites us on the rear sometimes.

Seven Machos said...

Jesus. Gross error. That nudity should have read pornography.

I leave it up for the hilarious posterity of it all.

rhhardin said...

I must have grown up as a kid in a world mysteriously without child pornographers.

It never came up. Nowhere. Not in the media, not in the weird health talk they give to the boys while the girls were getting the menstruation talk, not in kids' TV shows.

Somehow we all lived.

Or it's possible that the danger is very profitable, I assume for the politicians and the media, and won't go away ever regardless of its validity.

I have a similar argument for dogs running at large. It works fine. I've seen it. The dogs play with the kids.

In the 70s - apparently a time when the profit opportunities of stories were being discovered - the crackdown began on dogs, until today it's a rare dog that has any chance at learning to socialize with people in general; and in public policy every dog is a problem dog.

Seven Machos said...

Eighteen is a dumb age of majority.

pduggie said...

Peter Bella: I bet statutory rape laws catch a lot of 18 and 17 year olds off guard too, but once its enforced, the teens won't be so caught off guard. They'll have a special term like "jailbait" for it.

rhhardin said...

Is this attorney smoking something? Since when is it natural and normal for teens to send nude photos to others?

I would guess the invention of the ``send'' button did it.

The interest of teens in it is certainly natural and normal. The survey I remember was on Imus in the 70s, that the average young guy thinks of sex five times an hour. Imus claimed only once for him, but it was for 55 minutes.

Synova said...

What's the alternative, a lenient law that would result in hundreds of child pornographers not being tagged as such? Which is worse, a fool being punished like a criminal knave or criminal knaves escaping the net to commit more crime?

What is worse? Letting a murderer go because there is no proof, or convicting an innocent person because everyone thinks they did it?

The argument to harm the innocent in favor of making sure that the guilty do not escape is contrary to our traditions and sensibilities.

There are supposedly a vast cadre of people with higher than average intelligence who make careers of figuring out how to tell the difference between what is a criminal act and what is not. Is it beyond them to understand the difference between a sexual predator and stupidity? Is it that impossible to develop a sensible standard for who gets put on a sex offender registry or not?

When it comes to that... considering the life-long consequences of being on that list, I'd think that someone could challenge it as cruel and unusual, or at the very least utterly disproportionate.

Are people just that lazy?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Is it beyond them to understand the difference between a sexual predator and stupidity? Is it that impossible to develop a sensible standard for who gets put on a sex offender registry or not?

I don't necessarily disagree with you but look at my example above. A 50 year old man gets jailed for a computer full of nude photos of minors but an 18 year old with nude photos of his 16 year old girlfriend is ranked as stupidity but not illegal. That starts getting a bit fuzzy doesn't it? So when they're no longer BF/GF as in this case is it still stupidity or has he now crossed the line into child porn?

Synova said...

They'll have a special term like "jailbait" for it.

Heh.

And to be clear... I'm not arguing against arrest and punishment.

I'm arguing against a lifetime on a sex offender registry for something that simply isn't predatory.

In order to be branded for a life-time punishment, the offense should warrant a life-time punishment. Consensual sex between teenagers, pictures unwisely given to a girlfriend or boyfriend, don't. The young man in the story definitely deserves some serious consequences, but there is no reason given to think that he poses any sort of continuing threat to the community, which is the excuse given for sex offender registries.

Synova said...

A 50 year old man gets jailed for a computer full of nude photos of minors but an 18 year old with nude photos of his 16 year old girlfriend is ranked as stupidity but not illegal. That starts getting a bit fuzzy doesn't it?

Not having seen any child pornography I do have to wonder... does the 50 year old man with a computer full of nude photos of minors have a computer full of nude photos of 16 and 17 year olds who are physically indistinguishable from 18 and 19 year olds? Or are the pictures of minors who are actually visually identifiable as minors? Isn't that sort of the point? Again, I wouldn't know... but isn't the attraction of child pornography the fact that the pictures are obviously pictures of children?

And I didn't say that what the "idiot" did shouldn't be illegal.

I said it shouldn't qualify him as a life-long member of the sex offender registry.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Not having seen any child pornography I do have to wonder... does the 50 year old man with a computer full of nude photos of minors have a computer full of nude photos of 16 and 17 year olds who are physically indistinguishable from 18 and 19 year olds? Or are the pictures of minors who are actually visually identifiable as minors? Isn't that sort of the point?

Is it? Isn't a minor defined by thier age and not by thier physical attributes?

Again, I wouldn't know... but isn't the attraction of child pornography the fact that the pictures are obviously pictures of children?

I don't know either but again, who determines that line? In Indiana at least a child is someone who is under the age of majority, ie; 18 years of age. So one guy gets the sex offender title for a photo of a 12 year old prepubescent teen and another doesn't because his nude photo is a 17 year old with a body like Pamela Anderson.

And I didn't say that what the "idiot" did shouldn't be illegal.

I know and I didn't mean to imply that you did. Sorry.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I said it shouldn't qualify him as a life-long member of the sex offender registry.

Actualy I'd argue that poessession of child porn alone shouldn't qualify as a 'sex offense' provided sex wasn't involved.

PJ said...

Since we're trying to draw a line here, would it be productive to approach the line from the other side? If the BF had sold the picture to Penthouse with intent that it be published, and Penthouse had published it, then would it be pornography? If so, what changed its character? If Penthouse thinks it's pornography, then it is? Is it the commercial exploitation? Suppose the BF had given the picture to Penthouse for free? Is he still a pornographer if he merely intended for the photo to be published but gained only revenge and not money? In this case, the BF did not distribute the photo via mass media, but only to selected individuals; does that make a difference? Is it pornography only if it enters a distribution stream with other pornography, commercial or otherwise? In this case, the BF's motive apparently had nothing to do with the prurient interest of potential viewers; is that determinative? Is a picture either pornography or not at the moment it is taken, regardless of how it is used later? If the minor here intended the photo to appeal to BF's prurient interest (and was willing to so testify), could he raise a First Amendment issue by claiming that it in fact had artistic value? Is a minor who is deemed by law to be incapable of consenting to sexual contact or entering into most kinds of contracts nonetheless to be deemed legally capable of consenting to dissemination of nude photographs of him/herself?

(BTW, I agree with Synova about the registry, I'm just trying to think about what qualifies as pornography and, regardless of that, whether a criminal sanction was appropriate in this case.)

joewxman said...

To me this is another example of where common sense is dead. This should have been handled by the parents of both sides. Frankly in an earlier time both of the kids would have had the tar beaten out of them by angry parents. It would hurt for a few days for sure. But social services has taken all the joy out of parenting.

I would like more details as to why prosecuters decided they had to make an example of this kid whose life is now ruined because of one really stupid act. Did the parents of the girl insist on pressing charges? And what about the girl who thought it was okay to send a nude pic of herself? She took the pic. She sent it to the boy. If its child "pornography" isn't she guilty of producing it and transporting it?

lawprof2 said...

Here are the relevant statutes:

"Child pornography" means any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct.
Florida Statute 847.001(3)

"Minor" means any person under the age of 18 years.
Florida Statute 847.001(8)

"Sexual conduct" means actual or simulated sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, masturbation, or sadomasochistic abuse; actual lewd exhibition of the genitals; actual physical contact with a person's clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if such person is a female, breast with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of either party; or any act or conduct which constitutes sexual battery or simulates that sexual battery is being or will be committed. A mother's breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance constitute "sexual conduct."
Florida Statute 847.001 (16)


Again, I hardly suspect this was a tasteful pose. If you want Scalia's take on child pornography, read his opinion in U.S. v. Williams, upholding federal statutes substantially similar to the Florida statutes.

jaed said...

Who cares whether it was a "tasteful pose"? Do we really want to draw the line between "stupid behavior" and "vilified criminal pervert deserving of lifetime punishment" based on whether his girlfriend's pose was "tasteful"?

A 50 year old man gets jailed for a computer full of nude photos of minors but an 18 year old with nude photos of his 16 year old girlfriend is ranked as stupidity but not illegal. That starts getting a bit fuzzy doesn't it?

The stereotypical 50-year-old has photos of children - not teenagers - being raped or otherwise exploited, without their consent. The 18-year-old has a photo his girlfriend took and sent to him. I'm somehow not seeing the fuzziness there. If the 18-year-old had a computer full of rape photos of children, I don't think anyone would look on him any differently than the 50-year-old. The circumstances of the two cases are fundamentally different in ways that have nothing to do with the putative offenders' ages.

Under the law, the girl's guilt is if anything more serious, since she is the pornographer and he is merely in possession of kiddie porn. I do think that if the boy's conviction had meant the girl was also arrested, convicted of producing kiddie porn, and placed on the registry for life, we might have seen a bit more hesitation on the part of prosecutors. Which perhaps points up the dangers of selective prosecution: it makes absurd laws a bit more practical if you can just ignore the most ridiculous cases. If this law were enforced impartially there'd be a lot more pressure to rewrite it.

David said...

So, why not post a link to the picture here? Since we "know it when we see it," then we could each decide if it's porn.

Wait, you think that's a bad idea? Maybe even a violation of some law, perhaps?

So how is it any different than what the boyfriend did, other than in scope of exposure.

But if they felt a need to prosecute this kid, couldn't they have come up with a better theory than pornography? With all the stuff out there that courts will say is not pornography, this is?

If only he had embedded the photo in some dumb ass essay, it would be art or social commentary.

David said...

I do not see how the girl can be guilty of pornography under Florida law, no matter what the definition of "pornography."

The girl here is 16, the boy 18. Under Florida law consensual sex between the two is legal. (The age of consent in Florida is 18, but there is a "close in age" exception, so that if one party is 16 or 17, and the age 24 or under, consensual sex is not a crime.)

The girl gave him the picture in a private, intimate act. You might even argue that it was an element of foreplay for legal sex. If her giving her body to him sexually is legal, then her giving a representation of the body surely is not illegal.

His distribution of the image can not criminalize her conduct, because she made and transmitted the image to him for a legal private consensual sexual purpose. There is no way that she can be guilty of a crime if she distributed the photo without intent beyond their private and intimate relationship.

He is a jerk of the first order and she is foolish (not to mention her bad judgment in boys) but she has not committed a crime.

So says me, anyway.

(I got my info on Florida law from Wikipedia, certainly not the best source, but if that's the law, I think my analysis is correct.)

Sofa King said...

This is all screwed up.

The pornography charges are pretty clearly inappropriate, as this photograph was clearly intended only to be shared within a romantic relationship (statutory rape laws aside, teenagers are still entitled to have romantic relationships. I hope.) And indeed if the boyfriend had just kept it to himself nobody would have had a problem.

The real offense is the public distribution of the photo, causing humiliation and loss of social standing.

Clearly, the girl should just have sued the former boyfriend for public disclosure of private information. This is just the type of situation that tort should cover.

XWL said...

How are you supposed to tell the 'real' registered sex offenders who might actually pose a threat to children and the stupid late teen, early twenties guy who does something petty and dumb?

Should there be registries beyond the sex offenders one?

(cause the way that registry has been trivialized suggests that just general social rudenesses maybe should have a police run registry of offenders)

A registry of discourteous drivers?

A registry of non-curbing dog owners?

A registry of folks who fail to wipe down gym equipment after sweating profusely?

A registry of frequent farters?

A registry of loud celphone talkers?

Henry Buck said...

I think the issue here is prosecutorial discretion. It is impossible to distinguish ahead of the conduct that should and shouldn't be subject to criminal punishment. Criminal laws as written often can be applied to acts in the fuzzy zone that should not be subject to criminal punishment.

We elect (or appoint through another elected official) prosecutors who will reflect community values and exercise discretion in choosing who should be prosecuted.

We have made it both financially and politically impossible, though, for responsible officials to exercise discretion. Thus we wend up with cases like this. The same dynamic apears in "zero tolerance" policies at schools.

peter hoh said...

A registry of non-curbing dog owners

I am so down with this idea.

Synova said...

Henry, even if you're right, I don't think that the discretion extends to who is put on a sex offender list and who is not.

I think it would have been wrong not to punish someone who violated another person's privacy the way that he did. But if he's charged with something relevant and convicted, the ability for someone to say, but a lifetime brand as a sex offender isn't appropriate, doesn't exist. Does it?

bearing said...

I don't think either of them should be on the sex offender list for life; I'm just pointing out that there's a double standard going on here. If the law is to be applied strictly and without nuance of any kind, it's rather unfair to apply it strictly to only one party. Did he consent to have the nudie pic sent to his cell phone in the first place?

Re: Florida law: Not every consensual sexual act is legal. See: "prostitution." You can argue whether that's a good idea or not, sure, but the question of whether the girl is a pornographer would turn on the Florida definition of pornography, not on your gut feeling of what kind of activities "should" count as foreplay.

William said...

I don't know if it's even possible for one generation to judge another's mores. Belly button bling, Chinese tattoos on the ass, sexting, rap music: it's all so horribly incomprehensible......I don't know if we're missionaries bringing ugly dresses to the Polynesians or Brits outlawing suttee. I see the principle here, but there is always the subtext of adults don't get it.

BJM said...

In 1990 SF art photographer Jock Sturges was put through the legal wringer by the feds over his nude portraits of children of close friends and family.

Community sentiment aligned with Sturges and a grand jury refused to indict.

Parents should think carefully before taking photos of their kiddies unclothed, in costumes or in undies.

One can can run seriously afoul of the law if someone chooses to make an issue of it as this article from 1995 demonstrates.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

There are several websites dedicated to the posting of nude pictures and videos of ex-girlfriends.

One of the problems with the information age is it too easily becomes the 'Too Much; infomration age.

The taking of nude shots for a 'significant other' has been around since at least the Polaroid days, when it became possible to take and develop a nude photo that you were sure nobody else would see. At worst, if it survived the trip in a wallet, a few guys at work, if the bum was so inclined.

Now, with digital cameras and cell phones able to take pictures, as well as probably any package of frozen broccoli (it maybe possible; I haven't checked yet today)the possibility of 'private' pictures has expanded, and teh internet has expanded the distribution possibiities as well.

At the same time the new norm is TO take and display nude photos, as opposed to avoiding them. Its a crash course in developing the 'AhShit' moment.

holdfast said...

I don't know if it is p0rnography, but it became offensive when it was sent out of spite to a bunch of people who were not the intended recipients, and who would not want to be recipients. The girl was dumb as a bag of rocks to send it, but that's not really the point. If I am tired and pissed off one late night and punch my wife in the face, does being tired, po'd and late at night make it ok.

I wouldn't put this numbskull on the offender registry, but surely this is still a crime?

srfwotb said...

Probably the same reason you have to have an ID to get the A&F catalog.

The law will catch up - too late for this guy though. It's behind in most digital areas at the moment.

A cop once told me that the reason the age of consent was set so relatively high in CA (eighteen I think?) was so someone couldn't pretend they thought a twelve-yr-old was a lawful fifteen. IOW, it was useful in practice, rather than ideal in theory.

I'm guessing that's the same situation with child v pederast/adolescent porn v evil ex-boyfriend. A lot of states require a set age difference between major/minor as well.

veni vidi vici said...

"Guggenbuhl-Craig analyses the hysteria effect as partial archetypes."

If there were an award for obtuse wordiness in blog commenting, that would be the clear winner.

Eli Blake said...

I have been telling my girls to be very careful about ever letting anyone take nude pictures of them. It can ruin your career.

That said, I think we are becoming way too puritanical as a society. This is just the modern version of 'kids getting into trouble,' which has been going on since the dawn of time.

Punish actual rapists and child molesters harshly, but beyond that we seem to have gone completely overboard at punishing 'sex crimes.' What this is, is no crime, certainly not one that is worth keeping this kid on a sex offender registry for the rest of his life.

Eli Blake said...

We are also a very voyeuristic society.

In Europe nobody would care about this because Europeans have much more of an open attitude about sex.

In America sex is that taboo that people can't get enough of, that we are not supposed to mention but when someone's sexuality is exposed, everyone runs to gawk at it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The stereotypical 50-year-old has photos of children - not teenagers - being raped or otherwise exploited, without their consent. The 18-year-old has a photo his girlfriend took and sent to him. I'm somehow not seeing the fuzziness there.


I wasn't aware that was the case with all 'sterotypical 50 year olds.' I guess if you set the 'facts' in the manner in which you laid out above I suppose you can see quite clearly.

Hoosier Daddy said...

In America sex is that taboo that people can't get enough of, that we are not supposed to mention but when someone's sexuality is exposed, everyone runs to gawk at it.

Oh give it a break Eli, sex is hardly taboo in America anymore. The 1950's are over in case you didn't know. Unless of course you're living in some evangelical compound in Utah. There's a difference between being puritanical and exercising some common sense discretion.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I have been telling my girls to be very careful about ever letting anyone take nude pictures of them. It can ruin your career.

That said, I think we are becoming way too puritanical as a society.


Maybe I'm not reading that right Eli but are you really saying be very careful about letting someone take nude photos of you because it'll ruin your career, not because it's a fucking stupid thing to do from a simple basis of self respect?

Wendy said...

This is the kind of problem you get when you have old law made for non-analogous technologies trying to decide new facts, a problem that gives us nifty setups like patent law covering cloning.

As I see it, the keyword here isn't "pornography" but "publish." Publishing used to involve several steps, physical resources, a lot of intent. Old-school publishing was not a mistake that could be made in the heat of the moment, like it is today. The picture wasn't intended to be porn, and the taking of the picture didn't cause harm - it's the publication that caused the harm. We do have consent law about the publishing of photos taken without the subject's consent but that's murky given she took the photo herself.

What's the line between tort and crime? Instinctively I feel I want this to be a crime - but not a felony. (If he'd sold the picture to a porn site and sent a link rather than an image to her friends and family I'd feel differently.)

I think there needs to be new law designed to deal with the new possibilities. But who's willing to get serious and make it?

Jeremy said...

Hey William,
Are you sure "if it's even possible for one [person] to judge another's mores ... it's all so horribly incomprehensible"?

As parents, it's our responsibility to judge and even shape our childrens' mores.

Eli Blake said...

are you really saying be very careful about letting someone take nude photos of you because it'll ruin your career, not because it's a fucking stupid thing to do from a simple basis of self respect?

Why does it have to do with self respect? Should I teach them to be ashamed of their bodies? Like I said in a lot of countries it wouldn't matter. Recognizing it does here, that's why I tell them to be careful not to do that.

UWS guy said...

nudity becomes pornography when the former arouses a teenage male to masturbate.

.....if that ain't a slippery slope I don't know what is!

next up, Macy's catalog underwear section.

Jeremy said...

Wendy said, "The picture wasn't intended to be porn"

I don't understand why you would say this? What do you think it was supposed to be?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Why does it have to do with self respect? Should I teach them to be ashamed of their bodies?

Wow...just wow. Clearly we do stand oceans apart in terms of liberal versus conservative. You can be proud of your body without having to pose naked for your boyfriend's camera.

Then again maybe I'm too puritanical to insist that my daughter not pose nude for some guy and not just because it could be a career ender for her.

rhhardin said...

Dog being led astray.

rhhardin said...

I think it was Lileks long ago who commented that he was planning on being a liberal parent and wouldn't mind if his daughter started dating around age 26.

Anyway somebody said that, aware that the protective instinct isn't a good guide.

Revenant said...

Nudity became pornography when the picture was of a minor. That's it.

I own nude photos of my nephews and, even more shocking, my then six-year-old mother. Apparently I'm a notorious child pornographer and just never knew it.

Duscany said...

"In Europe nobody would care about this because Europeans have much more of an open attitude about sex."

You're so right about this. I remember about 20 years ago i was on the beach at Santa Monica when a French coupled showed up with their two children, one a toddler (male) who was naked and the other a tall and rather striking 10 or 11 year old girl who was topless. She was also prepubescent and flat as any boy. If there had been any sheriff's deputies around they would have arrested the parents for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, if not a lot worse.

We are such a crazy puritan country and we've gotten worse over the last 40 years. I think that the extreme feminists of the sixties and seventies were so anxious to give women power that they acted like the mildest most minor sexual act could easily inflict lifelong trauma.

Some schools, like the much unlamented Antioch, which under the principle of karma deservedly went bankrupt last year, required the male to get explicit verbal permission at each stage of sexual activity ("May I unbutton the top button of your blouse? May I unbutton the next to top button of your blouse?"

The idea apparently was that sex was so traumatic you needed to go about it with a checklist of the sort they used to arm nuclear weapons.

Another consequence of this desire to politicize intimate relationships between men and women are the absurd policies prohibiting teachers from hugging kids or kids from hugging other kids (or at once school from touching each other in any way--an unbelievably sexually uptight and dysfunctional idea).

We have always been a sexually uptight country (thank you Puritans for that). But instead of easing up as the centuries go by, in the last 40 years we've gotten uptight about heterosexual sex even as we celebrate the homosexual variety.

Revenant said...

Wow...just wow. Clearly we do stand oceans apart in terms of liberal versus conservative. You can be proud of your body without having to pose naked for your boyfriend's camera.

You can't be proud of your body and think that showing it off undermines your self-respect, though.

There are, as others have noted, plenty of good reasons to not want naked pictures of yourself floating around (although having them out there isn't a "career ender" for most careers). But the argument that you should refrain from them out of self-respect only makes sense if you assume that letting the photographer see you naked is shameful.

This girl thought that the only person who'd be seeing her naked was a guy who already saw her naked anyway. Her problem was a lack of common sense, not a lack of self respect.

Cedarford said...

peter hoh said...
Should everyone who made "Blue Lagoon" be arrested?

Add in the Boorman mainstream, globally distributed movie "The Emerald Forest". A couple dozen 15 and under naked girls. Any National Geographic special of naked or part naked dancing boy and girl 3rd Worlders.

Interestingly, there is little or no prosecution of two groups who actually have sex with the pubescent, not child, underage. Not taking pictures of them - boinking them.

The 1st is the victims of gay pederasts. States find it hard to
prosecute the chickenhawks because parents don't want it publicly known that their little Billy took 100.00 to be pawed and buggered by some 50-year old Queen on the prowl.

The 2nd is the group of ghetto 'hos, now various hispanic chollos - showing up at OB-GYN clinics or abortion facilities knocked up between the ages of 10 and 15. Thousands of 'em every year. Most with Sugardaddies well over 18. Little to no prosecution because the culture opposes "ratting out" the men, and many of the men belong to gangs that will lean hard on any girl or parent that goes to The Law.

And in the midst of actual crisis, you have dipshit "zero tolerance" officials trying to ruin the lives of kids ready to be productive members of society and brand them "sex offenders" forever.
Similar to the dipshits that have made being caught urinating in public into public exposure and thus on the permanent "registered sex offender lists".

Beyond stupid!

zt said...

@Rev said: This girl thought that the only person who'd be seeing her naked was a guy who already saw her naked anyway. Her problem was a lack of common sense, not a lack of self respect


Really doubt this. No teenage girl is this oblivious. You know very well the boyfriend going to brag about the pics/vids, strut about, and at least show his friends at some misty point in the future - assuming he refrains from showing them in the moment - it's the main reason why girls refuse.

Not a career ender, but certainly an "issue". Imagine how naked pix of teenage Michelle Obama could have been used against her by enemies even if one side insisted she was respecting her body. Or look how Sarah Palin's beauty pageant clips provided ammunition for the so-called "respect your body" side. Oh yah.

Robert said...

I still remember when I was 18 and my girlfriend was 17. We didn't hae cell phones, but we had cameras. 1. She would have never let me have a nude a nude picture. 2. Everybody I would have distributed it too if I did have one and was so inclined, would have thought I was a complete douchebag and I would never have gotten laid or dated anybody in my high school again.

I guess "Shame" kept us all in line 15 years ago.

Robert said...

I guess "wine" keeps me from coherent, correctly spelled, comments.

Seneca the Younger said...

When politicians and prosecutors learned they could get in the papers without having to think about unexpected consequences.

Seneca the Younger said...

Isn't the girl a pornographer too? She took and sent the picture.

Actually, from recent experience I suspect she's lucky she's not been charged.

Seneca the Younger said...

All pictures of minors nude are nudity? Really?

"Septembner Morn"

ironrailsironweights said...

On a related note, what is truly disturbing is the way so many adult women shave or wax themselves into pre-pubescent looking hairlessness: the hideous pedophilic Bald Eagle.

Nothing is finer - and more appropriately adult - than a thick, rich, luxuriant bush.

Peter

MadisonMan said...

@UWS: What doesn't arouse a teenage male to masturbate?

Joe said...

I blame the increased worship of childhood and especially the teenage years. What used to be a period of your life endured until you became an adult has been extended and placed in a cocoon. If that wasn't enough, there has been a strong push to extend childhood even further. We should, in fact, be going the opposite direction. Stop public schooling at 16 (as is done most everywhere else on this planet of ours.)

Add to this mix the insistence of the law and order crowd to criminalize everything and you create an absurd environment.

BTW, forget taking pictures of your baby in the bath, there are adults who freak out of you taking pictures of your kids in parks. A common theme showing up on TV dramas is a guy just taking pictures is now a pedophile.

One common thread; baby boomers in charge. The hippies have turned into hypocritical fascists.

Hoosier Daddy said...

You can't be proud of your body and think that showing it off undermines your self-respect, though.

I guess that depends on how you show it off doesn't it? If not then I suppose there is really no difference between the SI swimsuit model and the babe who pole dances at the local strip bar.

But the argument that you should refrain from them out of self-respect only makes sense if you assume that letting the photographer see you naked is shameful.

Again, I guess it's why you're being photographed to begin with. I bet most dad's would not object quite as much to thier daughter being the swimsuit covershot of SI as opposed to Penthouse.

This girl thought that the only person who'd be seeing her naked was a guy who already saw her naked anyway. Her problem was a lack of common sense, not a lack of self respect.

Considering she was 16 years old I'd say a combination of both.

Revenant said...

Really doubt this. No teenage girl is this oblivious.

I would go so far as to say MOST teenagers, male or female, are that oblivious. Teenagers are notoriously bad about thinking through the consequences of their actions.

I'm sure at some level the girl knew it was theoretically possible that her boyfriend would send the picture to other people, just like teenagers who have unprotected sex know it is theoretically possible that they'll have to spend the next 19 years raising a kid. Its just that they don't really believe it'll happen to THEM.

Eric said...

Should everyone who made "Blue Lagoon" be arrested?

They weren't that stupid. They used an 18-year-old body double for the nude shots.

Revenant said...

If not then I suppose there is really no difference between the SI swimsuit model and the babe who pole dances at the local strip bar.

That's a pretty bad example, isn't it? It is generally acknowledged that the SI swimsuit issue is nothing more than a wank mag for married men. The two differences between an SI model and a pole dancer are (a) income level and (b) that the former never actually meet the guys they're gratifying.

I bet most dad's would not object quite as much to thier daughter being the swimsuit covershot of SI as opposed to Penthouse.

Sure, but that's got nothing to do with self-respect. Your self-respect is not measured by how little you're horrifying your parents. :)

jaed said...

I wasn't aware that was the case with all 'sterotypical 50 year olds.'

Well, you specified a 50 year old who gets arrested for having nude pictures on his computer. In the kind of case this brings to mind (and which I assumed perhaps mistakenly you were thinking of), the pictures are actual child porn - not a photo of a girlfriend. (By "actual child porn" I mean the kind of thing I described above - photos depicting rape or exploitation of children without their consent - which the "my girlfriend took a picture of herself and sent it to me" doesn't fall into.)

Suppose the 50-year-old has a photo of his then-16-year-old girlfriend from 30-odd years ago. Under the law as it stands now, he's in possession of child porn, and liable for the attendant criminal penalties. Do you think this is reasonable?

Jason (the commenter) said...

ricpic : Which is worse, a fool being punished like a criminal knave or criminal knaves escaping the net to commit more crime

Since when was the idea that it's better to convict a hundred innocent men then let one guilty one go free part of the Western judicial system?

Jason (the commenter) said...

When did nudity become pornography?

It's always been pornography. The real question is what right do you have to keep me from making pornography and showing it around?

Jason (the commenter) said...

By the way, I can't wait for the Japanese to perfect human looking robots. People will be walking around with sex-bots that look and act like children, animals, aliens, you name it. Of course, by that time Florida will probably have raised the age of consent to 21 and people who masturbate will be sent to prison.

zt said...

@rev Let me put it less hypothetically, were YOU that oblivious when you either asked your gf or were asked by your bf for pics/vids as a teen?

I wasn't. At all. And I hypothesize that today's kids, the porn gen, are more sophisticated by far (hence Sasha Grey for this gen v Jenna v Savannah v Traci Lords for previous gens.)

However even I was surprised at the crap that came back to bite Palin/Obama before that gen assumed full power. Why would anyone care in 2008 about Obama's college photos? Why would anyone care that Palin did a swimsuit competition in the 1980s when she was 20? But they did still care.

Revenant said...

Let me put it less hypothetically, were YOU that oblivious when you either asked your gf or were asked by your bf for pics/vids as a teen?

Naked pictures of GFs/BFs weren't really a possibility in the 80s. Not unless you owned your own darkroom. :)

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well, you specified a 50 year old who gets arrested for having nude pictures on his computer.

That's correct. I was making a general case of an adult male having nude pictures of minors on his computer. The key word is minor which the law specifies as a person under the age of 18.

In the kind of case this brings to mind (and which I assumed perhaps mistakenly you were thinking of), the pictures are actual child porn - not a photo of a girlfriend.

You are consistently missing the point. The girl in question was a minor. Whether it's a girlfriend or not is irrelevant. So now if the guy sends his 16 year old GF's nude photos to his 25 year old cousin, is the 25 year old exempt because its his cousin's girlfriend and since she consented it's really not child porn?

(By "actual child porn" I mean the kind of thing I described above - photos depicting rape or exploitation of children without their consent

Well then I suggest we examine what the law defines as child porn. Perhaps it varies from state to state but I'll wager it doesn't say 1) 8 year old being raped = child porn and 2) 17 year old consenting to gratutitous beaver shot is not child porn.

TMink said...

Synova wrote: "I'm arguing against a lifetime on a sex offender registry for something that simply isn't predatory."

Me too. There are people on the sex offender registry that we need to know about. Having stupid teenagers on the registery waters down its utility.

It also incorrectly brands people for life.

The Feds are pressuring Tennessee to put adolescent offenders on the registery. Many, maybe most of the adolescents who are sexually acting out against other kids are sexually reactive to their own abuse. The research shows that they can be succesfully treated. It also shows that you can do some testing that really helps to get an idea of how dangerous they are.

So the Feds want to put real victims who acted out on a list that will haunt them LONG after their problem is treated.

Nice.

Trey

TMink said...

Part of the problem is that pedophiles are not like you and me. They are sneaky and sinful and slick. They need to be locked up forever.

They do not view the world as we do. I honestly will not go into the details because it is disgusting to think about long enough to type.

They are a real problem and I have not read good research that suggests there is any answer short of lifetime incarceration.

Trey

Joe said...

For those who claim nudity has always been pornography, that simply isn't true for society at large. For most of the 20th century, nudity may have been scandalous, but not pornographic.

The word pornography is such a pejorative that moral crusaders have increasingly applied it to everything, though most people soundly rejected many of these attempts. Even among the socially conservative, highly religious crowd I grew up in in the 1960s, Playboy wasn't considered pornographic--scandalous yes, but not pornographic. Reflecting back, the switch happened in the 1970s about the time that moral crusaders got the magazines put behind the counter along with smokes and the increase in ID checks for booze. (My parents didn't smoke or drink, but my wife's did and she can remember in the late 60s early 70s, going to the local convenient store to pick up beer for her dad and smokes for her mom.)

I find it telling that the accelerated erosion of civil liberties and the increase in nanny statism lagged just behind this. It also coincides with Roe v Wade and, especially, the ERA. One irony is that they very nanny state mechanisms used by feminists and socialists were then used by conservative crusaders, often in cahoots with the self-proclaimed feminists in demonizing all sorts of otherwise accepted or at least tolerated behavior. And once government gets power, it does what it can to expand it.

Roux said...

The idiot prosecutor should be disbarred. It is up to prosecutors to use discretion.