Child Pornography

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 359

Child pornography is the visual representation of minors under the age of 18 engaged in sexual activity or the visual representation of minors engaging in lewd or erotic behavior designed to arouse the viewer's sexual interest.

Child pornography may include actual or simulated sexual intercourse involving minors, deviant sexual acts, bestiality, masturbation, sado-masochistic abuse, or the exhibition of genitals in a sexually arousing fashion. In most instances, however, the mere visual depiction of a nude or partially nude minor does not rise to the level of child pornography. Thus, home movies, family pictures, and educational books depicting nude children in a realistic, non-erotic setting are protected by the Free Speech Clause of the FIRST AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution and do not constitute child pornography.

Child pornography differs from pornography depicting adults in that adult pornography may only be regulated if it is obscene. In MILLER V. CALIFORNIA, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607, 37 L.Ed.2d 419 (1973) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that pornography depicting adults is obscene if (1) the work, taken as a whole by an average person applying contemporary community standards, appeals to the prurient interest; (2) the work depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and (3) the work, when taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. In contrast, child pornography can be banned without regard to whether the pornographic depictions of minors violate contemporary community standards or otherwise satisfy the Miller standard for OBSCENITY.

In New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 102 S.Ct. 3348, 73 L.Ed.2d 1113 (U.S. 1982), the Supreme Court explained the rationale underlying the distinction between child pornography and adult pornography. The Court said that the government has a compelling interest in protecting minor children from SEXUAL ABUSE and exploitation. Using the same rationale, the Supreme Court later said that even the mere possession of child pornography may be prohibited without violating the First Amendment. Osborne v. Ohio, 495 U.S. 103, 110 S.Ct. 1691, 109 L.Ed.2d 98 (U.S. 1990).

However, the Supreme Court drew the line with so-called "virtual" depictions of child pornography. In 1996 Congress passed the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA), which expanded the federal prohibition on child pornography to include not only...

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