Pornography is only allowed when it is created, distributed, possessed by, and depicting consenting adults over the age of 18. When minors are involved, what would otherwise be permissible sexual content quickly becomes legally and morally unacceptable. However, there are certain situations where the lines become blurred. Deputy & Mizell, LLC is here to explore a unique aspect of child pornography cases: peer/self-exploitation.
What Constitutes Child Pornography?
Most people are acutely aware of the legal and moral wrongness of creating, distributing, and possessing child pornography. Child pornography may include (but is not limited to) any of the following:
- Written material that suggests or advocates engaging in sexual acts with minors
- Pictures of a sexual nature that depict a minor’s sexual organs
- Videos of minors engaging in sexual acts
- Audio recordings of minors engaging in sexual acts
Who Can Be Prosecuted For Child Pornography?
As a general rule, anyone who participates in manufacturing, distributing, possessing, or viewing child pornography can be prosecuted by law.
It is generally understood that children under the age of 18 do not possess the mental capacity to understand the long-term impacts of their decisions. Further, very young children can not understand the true implications of what they are being asked to do and therefore cannot understand the moral wrongness of the acts they are being asked to engage in.
What Does Peer/Self-Exploitation Mean?
When we think of child pornography, the image that often comes to mind is one of an adult taking advantage of a young person to create inappropriate pornographic content. However, the modern digital age has given rise to an entirely new form of child pornography: peer/self-exploitation.
As the term suggests, peer/self-exploitation refers to child pornography that is created, distributed, and viewed by individuals who are all under the age of 18. Sometimes there is a malicious intent, such as when someone bullies a peer by distributing inappropriate pictures of them throughout a school or friend group. At other times, however, there may be no malicious intent whatsoever.
Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones, it is not uncommon for teenagers to take sexually explicit images of themselves and send them to their romantic partners. (This is commonly referred to as “sexting.”) Unfortunately, even if the images remain private within their relationship, they are still participating in an illegal act. As such, they may be subject to legal consequences if they are found out.
Sometimes, the images in question may not have even been intended to be explicitly sexual. For example, if two teenage girls are having fun taking silly pictures but happen to only be wearing sports bras, these photographs may still be considered child pornography.
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Unfortunately, the law currently does not have clear-cut lines for peer/self-exploitation forms of child pornography. Child pornography is a serious crime, and the consequences may be severe even when the content was created by peers without malicious intent.