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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Kids and the Ability to Create Films

As you may have noticed, I'm a big fan of The Stranger's Slog.  It's where I get the latest dinosaur news (no kidding, they keep up), politics, religion, good deeds/misdeeds and everything in-between.  (They also have some of the funniest comments ever.)

They also, thanks to Dan Savage, talk about sex.  The latest letter to his sex column was one I found interesting and worthy of your attention (especially the middle/high school parents).    Please note, it uses sexual language but is not graphic.  But, be warned.

The dilemma posted by the reader was that when he was in high school, he had a girlfriend from age 14-16.  They had sex and they filmed themselves.  They each walked away from the relationship with videotapes of their escapades.  They are now in their late '20s and she contacted him to ask if he would burn DVDs from his tapes and send it to her.

From his letter:

We were both minors when we made these tapes, and we were both willing, so am I breaking the law by making copies for her? Or by possessing copies of my underage self having sex with my underage girlfriend?

Dan goes on to explain that with the advent of digtal cameras, cell-phone cameras, etc., anyone can make a sex tape. 

He called the FBI and asked for their answers to the letter-writer's questions.

Unfortunately for all those horny 14-year-olds, the FBI doesn't think their homemade porn is harmless. "What it comes down to is this," said Laura Eimiller, spokesperson for the Los Angeles office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "the production of child porn—and a child is defined as any person under the age of 18—is illegal. The age of the individual filming it is irrelevant. Whether it was consensual is irrelevant. It is still child porn." And if the children in the porn made the porn? And if they weren't sharing it with anyone else? "If a complaint came to our attention about pornography that featured an individual who was a child at the time the pornography was created, it would certainly be investigated," says Eimiller.

What should the letter-writer do?

"Although possibly illegal to possess such tapes, I wouldn't think they would prosecute something like that," says Scott Frankel, a criminal-defense attorney in Chicago who has worked on child-porn cases. "But if I were giving advice to someone in this situation, I would be very conservative. I would advise them to refrain from making or sending any copies, and keep these tapes to yourself."

I know it makes your blood run cold to think of your child participating in photos or videos of a sexual nature.  I'm sure most kids would say it's all in good fun.

But it is dangerous reality for parents that there are many avenues for kids to use to create these images.

Legally, those images ARE child porn, whether you are underaged or not, consenting or not.
Now, do I think the FBI has time or inclination to be hunting down every single teen sex tape or photo?  Nope.

Do I think it's worrisome that it even exists and could hurt a child's life (college, job, relationships and yes, even possibly being legally labeled a sex offender)? 

I do.

But Eimiller had nothing to say to horny 14-year-olds, directing her comments to a higher authority. "Parents," says Eimiller, "when they're allowing children to have these types of media, should explain to them what the law is, and what's acceptable and what's not acceptable."

Talk to your kids.

7 comments:

n said...

I wonder if as an adult he did burn a DVD and then sent it to her he could be convicted of distributing child porn? He could be creating a case where there isn't one currently...

Just thinking . . .

Melissa Westbrook said...

N, there is a case (if you believe what the FBI person said). Doesn't matter if they were underaged and consenting when it happened (both to the act and the filming). It's child porn.

And, if he copied and distributed (even just to his partner), it's a crime.

That's the point that kids need to get.

Anonymous said...

Like many things, kids should wait until they are adults to film or photograph themselves or others naked or having sex. What I want to know as parent of a sixth grader, are these kids sexually active and how exactly do they have sex? I don't want to get graphic here, but I hear talk of oral sex and hand sex and frankly I haven't heard of an STD you can get from a hand so I'm talking to my child about keeping it to that level, and no cameras.

sorta freaked

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorta freaked, you should be sorta freaked. My take from reading countless articles is that it is starting fairly young (and that most kids don't think oral sex is "sex").
My thread Boys and Girls; Part One details one of these issues.

I urge you to do some research or ask your pediatrician about this issue.

I would also say that the most important thing for teens of both sexes to know is that no means no.

Patrick said...

What people in their late 20s really need recordings to remember their early sex experiences?

The very existence of these recordings is prime blackmail material. Even if you're on great terms now, what if that stops being the case? Or what if some accident happens to the ex and leaves the ex in a coma and their family/executor is cleaning out their belongings and thinks it's worth a complaint to the FBI?

Josh Hayes said...

Melissa sez:

"I would also say that the most important thing for teens of both sexes to know is that no means no."

I agree heartily, and I'd strengthen that to say, only yes means yes. Maybe even, only "yes, yes, Oh GOD YES" means yes. Otherwise no. It seems obvious, but some of the kids in that awful Steubenville case protested that "she never said no" -- because, of course, she was unconscious. One might hope that it wouldn't need saying, but geez-o-pete, ONLY YES MEANS YES.

Miss Waterlow said...

I didn’t read Dan’s piece, other than what you posted here, Melissa, but I’m betting he did a great job.

I just wanted to say that this sort of thing is not at all limited to video taping. I don’t look at my son’s Facebook or Twitter (if he has one) or Instagram accounts, but I hear from friends, especially parents of girls, that kids - their own, good kids - are posting seriously licentious and offensive stuff there.

I’ve been pretty out of it, pretty blase, but now I’m finally being convinced of the gravity of the issue.

But I can't blame the kids or think they’re “bad” for doing these things. I feel sorry for them, actually. Much of the same sort of talk and gross behavior was going on when I was a teen, but we had to do everything face-to-face, in the tangible world, and then, other than your standard issue malicious rumor, it all went into the ethers.

It’s, frankly, deeply unfair to require of our kids such meticulous self-censorship. It’s wrong that their every move and mistake is now archived and shareable.

Of course we’ve got to teach teens about reality, but, the truth is, it's the responsibility of the adults in the room (especially in the boardroom) to find a way to give our kids their rightful privacy.

You know, shame on us.