Children of the Porn

By |2006-01-12T09:00:00-05:00January 12th, 2006|Opinions|

by R.J. Beaumia

I know it’s hard to believe, but I was once one of “the children.” I was a little doe-eyed, scrub-faced Catholic schoolboy who said his prayers, did his homework, got good grades, and obeyed adults.
You know “the children.” The ones we have to shield from all harm at any cost – and the reason you and I can’t get into the emergency room when our partners are hurt or ill, or why we can be fired from our jobs or lose our homes.
Anyway, I was one of “the children,” but it was in the 1960s, so while I was learning about the Blessed Trinity and the conjugation of verbs, the world was blowing up in my family’s face.
Being one of “the children” in America in the sixties meant you could be beaten for being black and trying to attend school in a white neighborhood; your counterpart in southeast Asia could freely attend school, but might be burned by napalm dropped from a plane by your brother, uncle, or father.
Understandably, Mom and Dad were nervous about the safety of their progeny in such a world. So, what did they do? They took me to see “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Valley of the Dolls” at the drive-in, of course.
My parents didn’t know what to make of a precocious kid with a scary vocabulary and a love for Bette Davis and Susan Hayward movies, but they still were smart enough to see that I “got it,” that I was learning the grand lesson: The world is a dangerous place, but a good understanding of that world, combined with common sense and a strong moral grounding in justice and fairness were the keys for change.
So, is letting your kid watch Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway get their eyes shot out in glorious color on a huge movie screen in the middle of a former corn field some kind of reward? Yep.
Unlike today’s Bush babies, kids in the 1960s weren’t treated like hothouse flowers. My parents respected my intelligence, taught me the difference between right and wrong, and made sure that I could delineate between fact and fiction. They did this so that I could survive in an insane world.
I knew that Warren and Faye would get up off the ground, wash off the stage blood, and go on to make more films. And just because Patty Duke gulped down fistfuls of Seconols with Cutty Sark in a movie didn’t mean that I had to do it, too.
I understood that movies were entertainment, but that photos of the My Lai massacre in Life magazine were very real and that this was something to be truly worried about.
Whether or not you think “the children” are as innocent or gullible as widely believed (I think they are neither, to a degree, and I speak from experience, having been one myself), they are a great shibboleth and sure vote getter for the extremist right in the culture wars. And since 2006 is a crucial election year, Republicans and fundamentalist Christians are reviving their most successful act starring kids and Hollywood.
Republican Orin Hatch of Utah is expected to soon introduce a bill in the Senate, already passed in the House, called the Children’s Safety Act of 2005. The legislation purports to strengthen the current laws against child pornography and sex offenders, but is actually a move by the Bush administration and the Gonzales Justice Department to asphyxiate the first amendment, stir up “the base” for votes, distract the public from a disastrous presidency, and silence dissent once and for all.
Many provisions of the act are readily available for reading on the web. Unless you’re a pedophile or a child pornographer you’ll have no problem with the Children’s Safety Act. But, as is always the case on Planet W., the devil isn’t really in your heart, he’s in the details. If this act is passed into law, even photos like the ones from Abu Ghraib or explicit diagrams in AIDS education for gay men could be censored.
The Children’s Safety Act will also fully extend censorship into mainstream visual media.
Currently, only producers of explicit adult material are required by law to keep on file what is known as a 2257, which is a record of the names and ages of the performers and models they hire. This rule supposedly protects people below the age of 18 from being exploited by the adult media. However, the law has been used primarily as a harassment tool; any small technical oversight in record keeping leads to draconian fines and jail time. And since producers of pedophilia tend to be lax keeping their 2257 files up-to-date, it’s the adult industry that’s the real target.
Requiring the keeping of 2257 records by the mainstream media simply is a form of intimidation and self-censorship. Any and all material on network or cable television, in magazines, and on the Internet, would have to be to be closely scrutinized for overt sexual content, or even subtext, so that the 2257 requirements would be followed. Fear of big fines and penalties would be looming over every creative meeting from Los Angeles to New York. And we all know that means de facto censorship.
In sum, this law is not about “the children,” and movies are not the enemy. The greatest threat to American kids today is their bigoted, stupid parents.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.