What qualifies as “child porn” is becoming so broad as to include even the most ridiculous claims about the most innocent images. Here are the incredible arguments used by one prosecutor in Italy to justify the arrest and eventual conviction of an American teacher for his instructional video on peer massage.
Italian law is similar to U.S. law in stating that images of minors are “pornographic” if they are intended to sexually arouse viewers. In addition, Italian law requires that the images also contain genital nudity, and beyond the relatively minor charge of “possession,” the much more serious charge of “production” requires that there must be evidence of an intent to distribute the images (1). So in order to claim that my video Buddy Massage was the “production of child porn” the prosecutor cited the titles of a few of my publications in English as “proof” that my intent in producing the video was to sexually arouse viewers, but without any official translation or reference to my specific content.
For example, the prosecutor cited my novel Revolt of the Children which is actually a story about poor children in Palermo’s old quarter who rebel against physical, sexual and emotional abuse by their parents and other adults in their community, culminating in the crucifixion of an abusive priest and violence against the insensitive state. Another title cited is my short eBook Real Child Safety which criticizes the hysterical popular focus on sex crimes. Far from promoting the sexualization of children, Real Child Safety describes how to protect kids from the more serious and more often deadly dangers kids face from conception to adolescence. The prosecutor also cited my photo-documentary about puberty Girl Becomes Woman which promotes breast pride, and this very blog, even though I have never published anything that suggests kids are or should be sexually arousing, despite over 100 pages of text accompanying the photo-documentary and over 50 long blog posts in nearly 10 years. Quite the contrary, I have specifically criticized any and all insensitivity or exploitation of children, and I’ve published an article specifically about child massage which never made any reference to sex, eroticism or arousal.
Another false claim is that my publications supposedly advocate unlimited sexual freedom for children, even though I have repeatedly written the exact opposite: Children’s play should be monitored by parents. I’ve specifically warned against unmonitored play: “Children’s first sexual experiences should be carefully monitored by responsible adults…” (2). The audio narration of my video also specifically recommends parental consent and monitoring. The prosecutor also neglected to mention my clear and repeated references to the health benefits of child massage, and my references to the scientific research on child massage by the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami Medical School.
The introduction to Buddy Massage even includes the specific disclaimer: children should always be safe and protected from any kind of physical, sexual or emotional abuse (3). Either the prosecutor has never read or understood my writings in English, or she knows very well that her ridiculous accusations are contrary to the evidence but she doesn’t care because Italian judges won’t bother to read the publications in a foreign language or require that they be translated into Italian anyway.
The prosecutor is aware of my hypothesis on the possible causes and effects of clitoral erectile dysfunction which entails the undisputed fact that little girls are capable of clitoral erections. But she makes the remarkable claim that my video on peer massage is somehow an attempt to “confirm” that hypothesis. How could a video that contains no genital nudity of any girl possibly be an attempt to confirm any such “theory?” Ask the prosecutor and Italian judges who have copied and pasted that ridiculous reasoning over and over again in their judgments. Even more outrageously, the prosecutor and trial judge claimed that in the cited publications I myself admit that such is the goal of the video – while carefully neglecting to cite exactly where I ever admitted any such thing. The very idea doesn’t make any sense: How could a video on peer massage possibly confirm any sexual theory? If the prosecutor’s conduct seems too incredible, keep in mind that she may have expected me to flee the country as soon as I was accused, so I would never see the court documents and the case would be tried in absentia with no defense whatsoever. So sorry that I have to disappoint the witch hunter!
The only specific text reference the prosecutor made is to a brief press release I sent out to the international news wire services upon the publication of Girl Becomes Woman in 2012. The prosecutor falsely claimed I had supposedly said “children are sexually castrated,” while in reality anybody can easily verify that I specifically said girls are being mentally castrated, resulting in sexual dysfunction in women. In other writings I have repeatedly referred to little girls still being the victims of physical genital mutilation by the prosecutor’s prudish allies in some third world countries, but she is too busy to mention let alone worry about that gruesome fact.
The sloppy and misleading language used by the prosecutor is only the tip of the iceberg. To support the charge of possession of “child porn” the prosecutor cites one of my personal photographs (never published) of two sisters who are sitting on the floor playing patty cake (hand jive). Even though the lower parts of their bodies are not visible at all, the prosecutor claims the children are “nude.” That’s like saying: “The photograph shows the defendant with a gun in his hand,” while in reality there is no hand – let alone a gun – visible in the image. In fact the sisters were NOT nude when the photo was made, as the mother who was present at the time can testify.
In another personal image never published a young girl demonstrates a periodic self exam of her breasts recommended by doctors (which the girl herself who is now over 21 has confirmed in writing), consistent with my numerous publications promoting breast health and criticizing the sexualization of breasts in popular culture. But the prosecutor claims the image illustrates the girl “stroking” her “nipples” – even though no nipple is visible! In that image the lower part of the girl’s body is clearly clothed. As with all the other claims which are unfounded and contrary to the concrete evidence, this claim was copied and pasted by the judge in his verdict.
As a volunteer with child cancer patients and their families for about 10 years, I have supported children at bedside in a near-death crisis, and suffered the tearful loss of several children I got to know and care deeply about. Nonetheless, the prosecutor claims I volunteered for hundreds of hours at the hospital over the course of many years only for the opportunity to take pictures of the patients, which I actually never did except once during a visit by Santa in which the child patients are viewed from behind and are unidentifiable. The trial judge even added his own bizarre claim that I volunteered with child cancer patients for 10 years in order to pursue my research to “confirm” my sexual “theories.”
Another demonstrably false claim is that “numerous” pornographic images of children were found on my hard disk, and they were obsessively copied and preserved “in practically every folder.” In reality, only a handful of images of minors with genital nudity were found, and they were present only in the original SD card that came out of the camera, the computer hard disk, and a thumb drive for back-up. Temporary files that had been deleted during editing were also found in the disk’s free space; they were not accessible to me and hence were not in my “possession.” That handful of images merely portrayed innocent family nudity or artistic portraits in everyday naturist life. Consistent with my lifelong practice as a photographer, there was not a single truly “pornographic” image of any child anywhere in my possession.
Still more absurdity: the first clip of my video on peer massage was made in 2014, in which a nine-year-old girl massages her five-year-old cousin. She is wearing long pants so her genital area is always covered, while a towel is covering the boy’s genital area and buttocks. When the boy turned over to be massaged on the other side his genital area was uncovered and exposed to the camera for a few seconds. That accidental and momentary scene was cut and deleted from the final video as unwanted and irrelevant to the project. The second clip was made in 2015 in which a ten-year-old girl massages her eight-year-old brother. Her “private parts” are always clothed, and his genital area and buttocks are always covered by a towel. There are no breasts visible in either of the clips. These two clips were edited and combined to form the final video with titles and credits, audio narration, and background music. There is no scene whatsoever exposing anybody’s breasts, buttocks or genital area in the finished video. There is no contact with any “private parts.”
Incredibly, the prosecutor claims that the momentary scene of the five-year-old boy turning over which was cut and deleted from the final video qualifies the work as “child pornography,” i.e. intended to sexually arouse viewers. Worse, despite the major difference in the first and second clips of the two pairs of children, the judge declared that the two “videos” are “identical.” Forgive me for being excessively logical, but if my intention was to sexually arouse viewers wouldn’t I leave the momentary nude scene in the final video instead of deleting it? Or wouldn’t I have included a similar nude scene with the second pair of children? Or wouldn’t I have made the whole video without any towels covering the genital areas?
Trying out her skills as a dramatic fiction writer, the prosecutor also claimed that since the massage takes place on a carpet on the floor, that is a sexual context, and the particular massage performed in my video is a simulation of a sexual act, since the children’s movements are sensuous. But in reality the term “rugrats” exists precisely because the carpet is a favorite place for children’s normal play, and there are at least 30 videos on mainstream websites like YouTube and Vimeo in which parents and other amateurs and professionals perform the identical movements in their illustrations of child massage techniques.
When I was interrogated with my lawyers present, I clearly said: “The video was professionally planned and produced, and viewing of the video was carefully restricted. It’s not like I made the video using a cell phone and then showed it to everybody.” But the state employee who transcribed the audio recording of the interrogation claimed I said the exact opposite: “I made the video using a cell phone and then showed it to everybody.” My lawyer pointed out that “error” in court, but the judge didn’t even acknowledge or respond to my lawyer’s complaint, let alone subpoena the audio recording to verify the truth. Before anybody was allowed to view the finished video I required potential viewers to answer a 20-item questionnaire to prove they read Real Child Safety and don’t have prurient interests.
The only private image of mine that does deliberately expose a minor’s genital area is a professional portrait of a nine-year-old girl sitting in a bathtub with a shower hose in one hand and a liquid soap dispenser in the other hand. I don’t claim the image is high art, but nor is it a casual snapshot either. It is similar to the portraits of actress Brooke Shields at ten by photographer Gary Gross, and is a classic scenario for family portraits of children. Assuming that nobody wears a bathing suit to take a bath and nobody has sex in a bathtub, my subject was certainly not photographed inappropriately attired or in a sexual context. Another private image is of a two-year-old girl standing normally on the floor. Those private images were never exhibited or shown to anyone, but the prosecutor has exhibited the images to who knows how many government employees without asking for the consent of the children, the parents, or the photographer who owns the images.
Still more misinformation intended to promote prejudice against me is that I supposedly purchased real estate in Italy (?), and I supposedly claim to be “perfectly bilingual,” a claim I have never made and which contradicts my repeated, humble admission that I do not speak, write or understand Italian perfectly. My accusers even claimed I have “contact with pedophiles,” even though nobody has ever offered any concrete evidence for any such thing. Apparently Italian law allows prosecutors and judges to make unfounded accusations without any need whatsoever to document what they are claiming.
Still more nonsense: Since my residence permit expired 30 years ago, the prosecutor claims I have been hiding out to evade the authorities. This claim is despite the documented fact that I went to the police station twice during the previous year to voluntarily report local crimes I witnessed, and in each case I told the police my correct, current address. This false claim began as an excuse to justify the illegal search of my home, but has now become a legend copied and pasted by others without question. Three years after that ridiculous claim was first made it is still being repeated by judges, even though I have long since requested a new residence permit from the immigration police – providing my correct, current address.
The prosecutor also distorted her portrait of me as a teacher. She never mentioned that when she ordered the Italian police to violate the privacy of my home I was teaching three classes in two state middle schools, as well as teaching free classes after school as an unpaid volunteer for students who were having difficulties preparing for their final exam.
Does this investigation, arrest and conviction asserting “possession and production of child pornography” satisfy the requirements of Italian law to violate the privacy of my home, destroy my reputation and career, take away my income, and send me to prison? According to the prosecutor and trial judge in this case, there is no reasonable doubt of guilt!
- Note: during my trial the Italian Supreme Court modified previous jurisprudence by no longer requiring evidence of any danger of distribution for the very serious charge of “production” of child porn, although the material still has to be truly “pornographic.” In theory, the new standard is not retroactive.
- Ideal Sex Education https://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/ideal-sex-education/