Paedophiles should computer-generate their objects of lust

Protecting children from paedophiles is in the news again, when it transpired that a few gentlemen with crimminal backgrounds had been cleared by the Home Secretary to work in schools. Two men had be caught possessing indecent images of children. Another had been convicted of indencent assault of a 15 year-old girl.
Personally, I think these cases are pretty clear cut. All men have committed not just a sex crime, but one that involves children. However, it is the way we treat people with paedophillic tendencies that I would like to comment on here. Once more, it is the nature of these men and their fetishes that is being discussed. Howard Jacobson went so far as to suggest that all teachers are weird, and that being a pervert is almost a prerequisite for working in a PE department.
But should being a paedophile per se be banned? That is, should harbouring sexual desires for children be illegal? Even if one never acted upon it, and never, ever, exploited children through pornography? To paraphrase the Church of England: The crime is not the impulse, but acting upon it. In any case, banning the very thought would be impossible to police, impossible to eradicate. This is especially true these days, with atrocities like S-Club Juniors singing dance-hall classics such as Grandpa’s Secret Cuddles and Mommy, What’s All This Blood? (although I think that’s a B-side). It seems as though the sexualisation of our youth is complete.
Many types of fetish, kink and ‘deviance’ exist in the world, most of which centre around some sort of unconventional sexual partner: amputees, the elderly, the helpless, the dominant. If there exist people who get off on consuming their partners excrement (and there are plenty), then simply to be sexually attracted to pale young boys seems… well… unimaginative.
How then, to allow people the freedom to explore their sexuality, something they do not have total control over, without recourse to something that is harmful to others? It seems to me that if they had a moral way to do this, then threat they present to society at large could be diminished. Via Andrew Sullivan I found a fascinating picture, an entirely computer generated image of a woman. The photo-realism is quite astonishing. And it begsraises the question: If technology can create images so real, could it create pseudo-photographs of a more sexual nature? If paedophiles could view images that satisfy their desires, without harming one hair (or indeed, synapse) of any child… where is the moral line, and have we crossed it?
Some might say that being this permissive will nevertheless encourage people to act upon their desires. However, computer games and films that regularly depict grotesque violence and murder, are commonplace. There are many people who use these offerings to relieve their agression and satisfy violent desires. Why not the same for sexual desires? Paedophilia is not the only perversion on the table: necrophilia, beastiality and the goulish Christina Aguilera are up for grabs too… although I have a notion that Christina may be computer-generated anyway.

(Very late) update

Child porn in cartoon style – man convicted

8 Replies to “Paedophiles should computer-generate their objects of lust”

  1. Errm – hate to say this, but the Sexual Offences Act 2003 criminalises computer generated kiddie porn the same as real kiddie porn – I guess the pretext is the ‘one thing leads to another’ argument.
    What’s not been questioned or explored in this case is where this places Japanese Hentai (animated porn) – for entirely genetic reasons many oriental women look considerably younger than their actual age, which is reflected in the prevalent imagery used in Hentai creating real ambiguity in this area.

  2. I’m not sure this is a very nice idea Rob. The argument works for fox-hunting, but I’m not sure it works for people’s attitudes towards other human beings. I don’t want there to be people in the world who are thinking sex things about children, even if they never harm anyone.
    I also don’t think that “exploring” one’s sexuality (whatever that means) should mean acting out fantasies either in virtual or real reality. It should mean asking oneself honestly *where* one’s desires originate, and *why* one finds certain things arousing, and everyone has the freedom to do that, although very few people seem to have the inclination. And why should they, when they can download virtual sex perversions on the internet as easy as abc?
    Have you heard of the Turing Test?

  3. Its not a nice idea at all, but it is an idea nonetheless, hence me deciding to post it anyway.
    What I’m trying to discern is whether any idea can be morally wrong if it remains in the confines of one’s own head (and one’s own bedroom).
    I am also questioning the “one thing leads to another” premise that apparently informs the current law.
    Also very interesting, and at the heart of the debate over how paedophiles should be treated, is the origination of the sexual preference. Many put it down to their own experiences of abuse as a child, but some might claim to have been “born like that” which is an argument we accept for homosexuals. The answer to this question should inform how we treat people with that inclination: chop off their testicles, and then their head… or proscribe them free CGI kiddie-porn on the NHS… or something in between?

  4. I think Rob’s posting raises some very interesting questions. And it is encouraging to read a thoughtful response to the whole current feeding frenzy regarding child pornography. Lest there should be any misunderstanding I will say now I am totally opposed to children being exploited in this way and we must do all we can to ensure this does not happen. However, what of the “fine line” argument. There will be one day when a child is a child and the next day he/she is, for legal purposes, an adult. To criminalise and ban from teaching for ever the person who has a relationship with one and to see the other as unremarkable must be wrong and surely calls for a more complex response, which until the recent “revelations”seems to have been what,in fact, has been happening. To my mind Ruth Kelly is wrong to pander to the tabloids insistance that “something must be done” by inflexible knee jerk legislation. The whole question needs much more light and less heat.
    We want to encourage peple who, for various reasons, are attracted to children to seek help in controlling and understanding these feelings which is hardly likely to happen in the current climate. The concept of sublimation of unheathy desires deserves further exploration. We all accept for example that aggressive and potentially dangerous young men can sometimes (not always, before anyone mentions Mike Tyson) be tamed and controlled by taking up boxing. Like Clarice I don’t like the idea of someone wanting to knock someone else out but if we can’t do away with the unhealthy desire at least it can be given a less harmful outlet which I think is what Rob is suggesting.

  5. Can an idea be morally wrong even if it remains in the confines of one’s head?
    Well, I would say yes, Rob, it can be. Ideas, thoughts, beliefs and so on do not occur in isolation but are influenced by and entwined in a network of all the other ideas, thoughts, beliefs etc held by that person. Also, they influence future thoughts ideas, beliefs etc of that person.
    So, an unexamined desire to do sexual behaviour to a child, or to punch someone, or to humiliate or degrade an adult sexual partner (and so on) kind of *is* wrong, since a) it must be founded on certain other beliefs, assumptions and so forth about those people and where we stand in relation to them, and it is our assumptions, beliefs, desires and so forth that give rise to our behaviour; and b) if it’s unexamined, it’s more likely to be acted upon.
    What a person chooses to imagine in the privacy of their own mind is of course their own business, but I believe there is a moral duty to also examine (“explore”, if you will), the sources and implications of one’s desires, thoughts, beliefs and so forth. So it’s not wrong to try and imagine what it would be like to rob and murder an old lady, say, but it *is* wrong if the imagining gives you some kind of pleasure or satisfaction, surely? So perhaps it is not the *idea* that is morally wrong, (though what the idea refers to clearly *is* wrong), but where one stands in relation to the idea.
    I think in some ways it is a *good* thing that people are so protective of children and vociferously repulsed by paedophiles – the cultural consensus of disgust cannot go unnoticed by such people and might give them pause for thought, whereas the cultural climate as regards adult women seems to operate to maintain a fairly unhealthy status quo.
    I also wonder where people think the damage that abuse (of children or adults) does actually comes from? I would argue that it is not solely the deed itself that does the harm, but crucially, what it communicates to the “victim” that is upsetting and damaging to them. On this view, the damage is done by the communication of the idea, even if the idea is expressed in “acceptable” ways (ie no actual violence or sex is done to the person). If this is so, then surely the *idea* itself *is* morally wrong, however it is expressed?

  6. Its not the idea that is the problem, but whether you act upon it. Surely having and idea, perhaps being excited or ‘turned on’ by that idea, and yet still not acting upon it is a triumph of right over wrong!?
    I also wonder where people think the damage that abuse (of children or adults) does actually comes from?
    Absolutely, which is why I said “without harming a hair (or synapse)” – note the parentheses. Clearly non-violent and non-sexual actions can cause harm. But nevertheless, you still need an action of some sort, against a victim. I don’t see such an action in the case of computer generated images. Or is a CGI woman some kind of Platonic ideal?
    Please note I’m talking about the principle of the matter. ‘Acting’ in this sense would include the kind of subliminal behaviour that might pass under any judicial radar, yet still be harmful in a social sense. Its fine if you believe that having an idea (be it sexual, crimminal or whatever) will necessarily entail an alteration in behaviour (the current law assumes this). But that does wall off the interesting moral question: Can you attach moral value to an idea that is not acted upon?

  7. No Rob, I do not think the current law does assume that having an idea necessarily entails an alteration in behaviour, as you put it. Otherwise the police would be empowered to act in cases of *threatened* or likely domestic violence, rather than waiting until an act of violence has been committed. I think the law in general is starting to change in this regard though.
    What I was trying to argue though was I think, pretty much what you say; that having a particular idea necessarily entails having certain other ideas (/beliefs/etc), and that the particular network of ideas a person has is precisely what informs their behaviour. Whether or not they actually commit rape or murder, being “turned on” by such an idea automatically entails certain attitudes which are harmful to others in ways that would pass below a judicial radar, as you put it.
    I was trying to distinguish between the harm arising from the act in and of itself, and the harm that comes from the communication of the idea/belief behind the act, which may exist whether or not the person commits an actual act of violence. The act of violence is only one way of communicating the idea behind it, and to suppose that someone who is turned on by, say the idea of raping a woman or child has an otherwise entirely respectful, empathetic and kindly network of ideas and attitudes towards women/children strikes me as rather bizarre and unlikely.
    I’m not entirely convinced that it’s possible to have an idea and not act on it IN SOME WAY. Our ideas and beliefs inform ALL of our behaviour, directly or otherwise. To have an urge to molest a child and yet refrain from actually doing so does not mean one doesn’t act on that idea, which is what your argument above seems to assume. I would argue that such restraint is not a triumph of right over wrong, while it allows such desires to remain unexamined, and having who knows what effect on the rest of their behaviour. I hope I have made my argument more clearly this time.

  8. Fine, I am convinced of the practicalities of the matter, but your argument (sound though it is) still rests on the actions caused by the idea being morally wrong, not the idea itself. Who’s to say that the idea cannot inspire other feelings (e.g. guilt, remorse, shame) which in turn inspire the thinker to act in a more positive way than they had been doing before?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.