Written by Human Right Society’s Asia-Pacific Ambassador Steph-Mai Lowe on October 16, 2014 in response to an article by The Telegraph entitled, “John Grisham: Men Who Watch Child Porn Are Not All Paedophiles”—
Is there a better way to fire up the debate regarding child pornography than with a celebrity tripping over his words and upsetting human rights organizations? Probably not.
Yesterday I stumbled across the article posted by The Telegraph based in Britain covering an interview with popular author John Grisham. A part of me was disgusted that such words could ever come out of someone’s mouth, yet I was proud (and relieved) to see that the vast majority of commenters fiercely disagreed with Grisham, and were absolutely shocked that anyone could justify such actions.
The article stated that Grisham believes the penalties on those viewing pornography featuring children are too extreme and that we need to consider that sometimes, people accidentally stumble across child pornography, perhaps when they are drunk, and therefore not deserving penalization.
Whilst the article emphasises that Graham did not have sympathy for “real paedophiles,” it raises an important question: What is the difference between actively being a paedophile and only watching child porn?
Grisham has since posted on his Facebook page that he was mistaken and regrets the comments he made, and that “anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography – online or otherwise – should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
This as a fantastic opportunity to discuss why simply watching child porn has wider implications.
- You may have not physically participated in the abuse, but you are still watching a real life crime scene. The victim of this crime scene is likely to suffer from trauma for at least several years, if not the rest of their life. Just from my limited knowledge of the human sex trafficking trade, I have come across countless stories in which children, as young as two years old, have become subject to abuse primarily to ‘please’ those in the West. It is our duty to remember that these are real human beings, who are below the age of consent, and who are being exploited without sufficient maturity to have made an informed decision on what is taking place. In so many cases the child has no say in this situation. For example, it may be that their mother, who is living in dire poverty, had no choice but to sell their child off to a Westerner who knows for a fact they wouldn’t get away with such behavior back home. If you’re choosing to look at this footage, you’re condoning this behavior, as well as the sex trade as a whole.
- By viewing the images or videos, you are fueling the demand for such abuse to take place. People creating child pornography get a kick out of knowing others are enjoying it too. And do you know what happens when they see that this is popular for viewing? They will create more to meet what seems like growing demand. This has a number of further implications, the most obvious being more children pulled in to suffer from this sick and unnecessary abuse. Just because the children may be being pulled from another country does not give us the right to okay it as a “cultural difference.” It would also be a mistake to think that it is only foreign regions in which this takes place. It could be a young teen in Europe who ran away from her family because she didn’t feel loved, or it could be a child who is dear to you, like a niece, granddaughter, or best friend’s son. Do not make the mistake in thinking this is an issue that may never directly affect you.
- There is a reason underage sex and child pornography laws exist. Aside from the emotional damage, most children under the age of 16 are not physically capable of dealing with sexual abuse. I’ve seen a number of headlines in my life time, especially concerning child marriage, in which a child’s body and organs are damaged internally because their bodies are not yet developed enough to endure the sexual activity forced upon them. Not only do observers fuel an industry that mentally scars children, they fuel one that will physically harm children for life as well.
The heated discussion surrounding Grisham’s recent words serves to remind us that, while active paedophiles do exist and do deserve punishment, the majority of the population agrees that even just watching child porn contributes toward this horrific industry as well, and accountability is called for.
To read and see Grisham’s own words in The Telegraph (UK), click here.