Please read my previous post Photography vs. Pornography for essential background to this story. I’ve already cited several examples of child nudity in the history of art and photography in another previous post Top Freedom, and in the interest of cultural literacy I should not neglect the sphere of fiction as it relates to child nudity and sexuality in my criminal case.
All pornography is fictional (i.e. staged and dramatized rather than realistic), but not all nude or sexual fiction is pornographic. It is an important distinction that the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged for many years, but a few hysterical individuals still have difficulty comprehending.
Ancient Roman literature that survives includes Petronius’ satire “Satyricon,” about a romantic pederast couple. In addition to describing orgies, the story contains a scene in which adults stage a mock wedding between two children, who are then encouraged to “consummate” their relationship. Much later Italy’s premiere poet, Dante, fell in love with Beatrice when she was eight years old. Although Dante was only nine, when I was nine growing up in the U.S. we boys fell in love with more mature girls who were sexually developed – not eight-year-olds.
In the distant past child prostitution existed rather openly in Europe, and there are famous cases of European teachers who married their former pupils. But feminists in Victorian times campaigned to raise the age of consent. One of the most famous writers of children’s literature is the Englishman Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice in Wonderland,” which has been translated into 174 languages. Not many people are aware that the author (real name: Prof. Reverend Charles Dodgson) was also a photographer, some of whose thousands of images of children (some nude) are currently in the collections of major university libraries. Multiple biographies have failed to find any evidence that his images might have been sexually motivated.
George Bernard Shaw’s story “Pygmalion,” set in London, has a father confront a professor who has established a live-in relationship with the man’s young daughter, so the dad asks the prof for five pounds in compensation. When the prof insists that his intentions are perfectly honorable, the father replies: “I’m sure your intentions are honorable. If I thought for a moment that your intentions weren’t honorable, I’d ask for ten pounds.”
A German author of fiction little-known outside Europe was Frank Wedekind, whose short story “Mine-Haha” (1903), praised by Leon Trotsky, was made into a film in French by Lucille Hadzihalilovic: “Innocence” (2004). It features numerous scenes of top-free little girls, as well as one scene where a girl about 13 is shown completely nude (front and rear) standing in a bathtub.
The most radical contribution to western culture that was related to child sexuality was by another European, the Russian-born author Vladimir Nabokov, who became an American citizen in middle age but actually spent the beginning and end of his life in Europe. His English novel “Lolita” was first published in France because the author had great difficulty finding an American publisher. At one point the frustrated writer threw his manuscript into the trash, but fortunately the ms was salvaged by his level-headed wife. The novel has now sold over 50 million copies, translated into 20 languages, and is the subject of two major movies so far (the first by Stanley Kubrick).
The story is about a very young French boy who lost his first love to typhus, and the trauma caused him to become fixated on very young girls for the rest of his life. It’s a tragic story in every way, but the work of a master story-teller that has been called one of the greatest love stories of the 20th Century. The scandalous plot was joked about on American TV when the novel was first published in the 1950s, and has since been studied by countless university scholars. The author was the subject of an exhaustive two-volume biography (which found no evidence that the happily married father might have been a pedophile in real life), and even Nabokov’s remarkable wife is the subject of a serious biography. The late Nabokov’s only son is an opera lover who chose to make his home in Venice.
I was surprised to discover that in Italy there is considerable interest in Nabokov’s work, as evidenced by the publication of an Italian translation of the author’s screenplay for the first movie version (certainly a marginal work even to most serious readers), as well as a spin-off novel by an Italian author: “Lo’s Diary.” The Italian authoress of that story retells the tragic tale from the young girl’s point of view, but it isn’t a politically correct version. Like the original, precocious Lolita who the old perv claims seduced him, “Lo” says openly she wants to seduce the older man. Unlike the Biblical story of Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19, the pathetic Frenchman wishes to seduce his unfortunate American step-daughter, and the Italian-style Lo conspires with the old perv.
Nowadays the original “Lolita” is considered one of the most politically incorrect stories to dare mention in public, at the risk of immediate personal attacks (usually by individuals who never even read the novel), as if no normal person would pronounce such a “disgusting” name except in the context of patting yourself on the back for hating the story and it’s author.
Louis Malle’s movie “Pretty Baby” (1977) portrays a child prostitute growing up in a bordello in New Orleans in 1917. Unlike the Lolita movies, the main character in this film is played by a real child, Brooke Shields, including some nude scenes. (She may have been wearing a body suit for the lower half of her body.) Brooke became a famous child model after posing nude in a bathtub for photographs by Gary Gross.
My own novel Revolt of the Children was rejected by numerous European publishers so after nearly 10 years of searching I published it myself. My story is an unflattering portrayal of Italy after World War Two, in which poor kids rebel against physical, sexual and emotional abuse by an Italian priest and other insensitive adults in the land of “close families.”
The creation of the Web spurred further hysteria about the supposed spread of kiddie porn, though never verifiable since the sites are always highly secret. In 1996 the so-called “Communications Decency Act” was passed by Congress to combat online porn but was soon struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unacceptably vague. Nonetheless a thriving bureaucracy developed to profit from porn hysteria, along with eager private interests selling products and services to prevent, investigate and punish all those invisible producers of kiddie porn. Legal definitions of child porn are still vague and give judges the opportunity to make arbitrary determinations. (Current federal statutes define child porn as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive conduct involving a minor.”)
Today there is so much hysteria that when a 16-year-old boy expresses interest in a 14-year-old girl he is called a “pedophile.” This is the cultural context of the West today, in which exorbitantly paid prosecutors sit in air-conditioned offices to carefully study photographs of children online or on private cell phones to see if “too much” skin is showing.
But every day countless highly-paid investigators are confronted with the virtual non-existence of real child porn, so they pretend to be doing useful work by investigating and arresting a few people occasionally for innocent child nudity (parents photographing their kids in the bathtub), which are then reported dramatically as “Huge Child Porn Bust.” After damaging or destroying the lives of the falsely accused, the media often don’t even bother to publish follow-up reports of all charges being eventually dismissed or the innocent being acquitted. No wonder governments don’t have the time or resources (or inclination) to investigate the massive corruption within government as well as between government and business lobbies.
A few more little jabs at popular Italian culture before I get back to my criminal case: a popular Italian children’s song is about a baby dinosaur with a green penis. It has never sparked any controversy here in Europe, nor should it, though it probably would in the U.S. A modern fashion in Italy is to stage ancient Greek plays in the original, crumbing theaters that spectators used 2,600 years ago. There are several such sites in Sicily and southern Italy, and during such performances the actors sometimes wear modern clothing and even insert modern humor. One actor in an ancient comedy recently shouted: “Do you know why it’s so important to use extra virgin olive oil? Because in Italy the oil is the only thing there is that’s virgin!”
The devil is in the details. Early in the morning of March 18, 2016, four Italian police officers showed up at my door unannounced, with an order to search me and the premises (as well as a home at another, irrelevant address) and break the doors down if necessary. In theory, the prosecutor’s office is an impersonal entity; individual prosecutors are interchangeable. But the search order was signed by an individual. Only later did I discover that the original prosecutor in charge of my investigation for almost three years hadn’t seen any reason to violate the privacy of my home. The original individual who had much more experience as a prosecutor no longer had my case because she was promoted to a more important position. I had nothing to hide and at the time I didn’t know that the search order signed by a new prosecutor was completely illegal under multiple criteria.
According to Italian law, violating the privacy of someone’s home must be “well-motivated by a particular and urgent necessity.” Although the new prosecutor asserted that there was a particular and urgent necessity for the sudden search, she never specified exactly what that particular and urgent necessity was – because there wasn’t any. The search of my home was a fishing expedition in the mistaken hope that the authorities would find something illegal. When they didn’t, the new prosecutor was obliged to claim the innocent material they did find was really “pornographic,” to protect herself from a charge of having ordered an illegal search.
Prosecutors are supposed to investigate reports of specific crimes that have been committed, to determine if the reports are true and then find out who the guilty parties are, NOT investigate some specific individuals to find out if maybe they might have committed some crime. But the prosecutor in this case decided to investigate me by invading my privacy without any report of any crime having been committed.
In addition, the secret investigation of me that began in May 2013 had already expired. The new prosecutor had recently requested permission from a judge to extend the term of the investigation, but the extension was not approved until after the search was long over. As it turned out, the only “particular and urgent necessity” is that the new prosecutor was desperate because despite three years of surveillance online and on-the-street, the term of the investigation expired without any evidence whatsoever of any criminal activity. There was no reasonable justification whatsoever for ordering the police to break somebody’s doors down.
The police who came to my house were polite to me, but one asked me an odd question: “You enjoy writing?” Yes, I do, but since I’ve never written anything illegal, and Article 21 of the Italian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression “to everyone,” why would a government employee be interested in my writing? I have repeatedly and incessantly criticized the mass hysteria over child porn and child sex abuse, such as in my book Real Child Safety specifically criticizing the special interests that profit from the hysteria and exploit government power to promote their political and financial agenda. So maybe the question the government employee really meant to ask was: “You enjoy criticizing the government?”
The police then took me and my data disks to a police station where a specialist opened my hard drive (as well as my portable memory cards they had confiscated), and spent several hours looking at every single image and video I had. By the way, my lawyer was present during the search and analysis of my media. My tiny hard disk was only 500gb, and my portable memory cards amounted to less than 100gb, so the four investigators in two rooms had ample time to see everything I had. After they saw everything I had and after consulting the prosecutor, they said “This material is no problem.”
However, since my residence permit was expired, they said “That’s a problem,” and brought me to the Foreigners’ Office. I explained that I had attempted to renew my residence permit when it first expired over 20 years ago, but at that time an official told me it wasn’t possible. (Nor did he say I had to leave the country.) At that time I then went to another government office and asked if it would be possible to obtain dual citizenship since my father was an Italian citizen. That second clerk told me “not possible” as well. In 1999 I had also requested an immigration visa from the Italian Consulate in NYC, which a clerk brushed off with blatant discourtesy. In March 2016 my explanation did not impress the Foreigners’ Office at all, and they promptly issued an expulsion order without explanation – as if my residence permit had expired 20 days ago.
I only recently discovered that the information the government employees gave me 20 years before was incorrect. According to Italian law, I am an Italian citizen by birth, by virtue of my father having been an Italian citizen. Nonetheless, I would soon be accused of never having attempted to take advantage of my status as eligible for a residence permit! I immediately retained a second lawyer who specializes in immigration and we appealed the expulsion order, which a judge suspended immediately. After I obtained all the official documents proving my father’s Italian citizenship, the judge annulled the expulsion order three months later. Unfortunately my immigration lawyer was still in high school twenty years ago. Far from being a reasonable candidate for expulsion, according to my calculations the Italian government now owes me compensation for 20 years of lost income.
At the time of the illegal search and attempted expulsion I was teaching three classes in two middle schools, and I was able to continue working normally, but the police advised me not to tell “them” (presumably my employers or students) about the search. I didn’t know that in the meantime the drama evolved when the prosecutor secretly asked a private computer consultant to perform an immediate deep search of my disk’s free space for deleted files.
About a week later that consultant gave the prosecutor a preliminary report, listing the same things that the police had already found during the initial search in my presence, upon which the prosecutor asked a preliminary judge to approve an urgent “precautionary arrest” to prevent me from leaving the country (!) or producing any more “child porn,” as well as avoid the danger that I might warn any possible accomplices by informing them that there was an attempted criminal prosecution.
At the same time that I was appealing an expulsion order which the police themselves solicited, the new prosecutor was telling a judge I might try to flee the country. The new prosecutor (or her impersonal office) also tried to mislead that judge by telling him a few other, shall we say, inaccurate factoids. The preliminary judge eventually rejected the prosecutor’s request to arrest me, since the supposed evidence found in the search is not pornographic. What “child porn” was the prosecutor claiming? (To be continued.)