Editor’s note: This column includes material that may be offensive to some readers.
Whenever a Supreme Court opinion is bristling with references to Renaissance paintings, classical mythology, and “art and literature throughout the ages,” you know the court is about to invoke the First Amendment to protect “Bisexual Schoolgirls’ Porn Pictures.”
Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy struck down a perfectly sensible federal child porn law last week. Though you might think the attorney general was preparing to rip “War and Peace” off the shelves, the law simply extended the reach of the federal child pornography laws to computer-generated “virtual” images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Without this law, it will be impossible, in practice, to prosecute any child pornography cases.
In order to prohibit, say, “Youngest Teen Sluts in the World!” while leaving the Federalist Papers unmolested, the law carefully defined “sexually explicit” conduct as: “actual or simulated … sexual intercourse … bestiality … masturbation … sadistic or masochistic abuse … or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.”
In response to this law, Justice Kennedy expounded on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” – “the most famous pair of teen-age lovers.” He continued: “The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and … speech is the beginning of thought.”
Oh, cut it out.
The last smut prosecutions for works with any redeeming value whatsoever took place almost four decades ago. Since then, pornographers have been running amok, producing the most degrading pornography imaginable – and then running to the Supreme Court to whine about threats to Shakespeare and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”
Some of the more respectable titles taken off the Internet include: “Preteen Pedophilia XXX,” “Kiddie Pix,” “Mary’s Pictures of Young Nude Girls,” “Lolita Angels,” “Preteen Nudist Camp,” “Naked Little School Girls,” “Kiddie Porn Lolitas,” “Rape Lolita,” “Preteen Incest Rape.”
Remember: I’m not the one who says “Preteen Sluts” is protected by the Constitution. Pornography defenders always insist on describing this particular constitutional right in vague euphemisms, such as “material dealing frankly with sex” and “sexually themed material.” If I have to endure Justice Kennedy’s pompous platitudes when we’re talking about “Lolita Angels,” then I’m not politely avoiding the topic.
The nation is swimming in pornography. You can’t turn on TV without seeing simulated sex scenes. And Kennedy is worried that a law banning computer-generated photos of children engaging in sexually explicit acts will put Shakespeare at risk?
If judges pretended to be this confused when interpreting other laws, there could be no laws about anything. Indeed, Depends undergarments would be a necessity on the high court, as justices struggled with whether that feeling in their bellies meant they had to go to the bathroom or needed to burp. Is it “Othello” or is it “Kiddie Pix”?
In addition to Shakespeare, Kennedy claims that if Congress were permitted to outlaw virtual images of children in explicit sex scenes, movies like “Traffic” and “American Beauty” might be made differently. “[L]egitimate movie producers,” Kennedy anxiously warns, might not “risk distributing images in or near the uncertain reach of this law.”
Justice William Rehnquist points out in his dissent that both “American Beauty” and “Traffic” were made (and given awards) while this precise child porno law was on the books. Not only that, but during that time, four of five federal appeals courts were upholding the law. As Rehnquist says: “The chill felt by the court … has apparently never been felt by those who actually make movies.”
Moreover, the actress who played a teen-age girl in the crucially important simulated sex scene in “Traffic” was not, in fact, a minor. (Why does no one ever say, “‘Casablanca’ was a good movie – but what it really needed was simulated sex scenes with kids”?) Even high-priced lawyers for the porno industry couldn’t come up with more than one “legitimate” Hollywood movie that might possibly – theoretically – fall under the virtual child porn law.
Here is a description, courtesy of an Internet rating service, of just some of the sex scenes from “American Beauty”: “a couple has sex with thrusting, her legs up in the air … a man is seen from behind masturbating in the shower … a man masturbates next to his sleeping wife in bed … a girl stands in front of boy, then takes her bra off and we see her breasts … a man thinks a male couple is performing fellatio (they are not) … a father kisses his daughter’s teen-age friend, caresses her clothed breasts and pulls off her jeans until she’s down to her underwear, and opens her shirt, exposing her bare breasts … a man has several daydreams of a girl in a bathtub with rose petals covering her; he reaches his hand under the water at her crotch level as she puts her head back and moans.”
So Congress can’t ban virtual kiddie porn because the law might make producers think twice before making movies with scenes like that? This is the doomsday scenario? A little chilling might lead to “virtual” watchable movies.