Saturday, December 20, 2008

Millions of sex offenders roam the school halls.

I have horrifying news for you. There are somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 million apparently dangerous sex offenders roaming the halls of America’s schools every day.

In America’s Christian-inspired, morally-pure sex panic we have criminalized normal sexual behavior engaged in by most teens. Our definition of “child pornography” has also been expanded to include individuals who are not children but who are sexually mature. And, in the process, we have made millions of teenagers into sex offenders.

Some of the worst sex offender laws apply to individuals who produce, own or distribute anything defined as “child pornography”. Of course the law has been expanded so much that the image in question need not be of a child and need not be pornography.

The courts in the US have recently found a cartoon character to qualify as a person and thus a sexually explicit cartoon drawing deemed to be of someone under the age of 18 is child porn. And where obscenity, which is inherently undefinable, was once the dividing line for illegality the courts have now said that images of children need not be obscene to be illegal. Add in to this mix the fact that child is a legal definition that includes all individuals under the age of 18 (including individuals who are in military training) and we have a very expansive category of crime.

The laws on so-called child porn do not distinguish between a couple of randy teenagers and a six-year-old. It all falls into the same category and it can send a teenager to jail for life. For instance, in Arizona the law is per photo. A teenage boy who has ten photos of his girlfriend, regardless if she sent them to him unsolicited, can be sent to prison for 100 years. The sentence can be ten years per photo served consecutively. In other states the penalty may be less severe but most will happily include these horny teens on the sex offender’s data base as if they were raping two-year-olds. The data base is another crude instrument of the law which doesn’t make distinctions that most rational people would make. But these are creation of a inherently irrational system: politics.

How many teens are now considered sex offenders under US law? That is a hard question but we have some ideas. There are approximately 40 million people between the ages of ten and 20 in the Unites States. If we assume the ages are fairly evenly distributed that would mean that about 20% of them are 18 years of age or older. That leaves 32 million under the age of 18 years. We can also exclude the lower 20% for being prepubescent, on average. So we end up with approximately 26 million young people who are most likely pubescent and under the age of 18.

I use 18-years-of-age as the dividing line because, when it comes to erotic images, this is the federal age of consent. On all other matters of sexuality the individual states have laws that vary. But when it comes to so-called child porn it is federal law that establishes 18 as the dividing point.

Remember that under child porn laws the production of an image is illegal. So is possession or distribution. It does not matter if the “victim” is also the photographer. We have teens who have been jailed and registered as “sex offenders” because they took photos of themselves. Nor does it matter if the recipient of the photo is a teen. Turning teens into“sex offenders” is now big business with thousands of centers collecting government funds to “treat” teens for having normal sexual urges.

In a recent survey some 22 percent of all teenage girls said that they either electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. And 18 percent of boys admit to having sent out nude photos of themselves, either online, or electronically to others.

But it gets worse. Possession of these photos is also a crime and 33 percent of teen boys and 25 percent of teen girls have said that they possessed private, sexual photos of other teens at some point or another.

There are roughly 13 million girls and 13 million boys who fit in these age categories. Here is what we know. By their own admission 22 percent of teenage girls, or 2.9 million have sent out such photos. A slightly higher percentage, 25 percent, or 3.25 million, have possessed the photos. If there is 100% overlap between posters of such images and possessors that means we have a minimum of 3.25 million teen girls who qualify for the legal definition of sex offender. If there is no overlap the numbers would be 6.15 million girls who are legally qualified for sex offender status.

There are roughly 13 million teen age boys. We know that 2.3 million admit to posting erotic images of themselves. And we know that 33 percent, or 4.3 million have possessed erotic images of other teens. So the number of teenage boys who qualify as sex offenders is somewhere between 2.3 million and 6.6 million depending on the amount of overlap between the two categories.

Of course, there is not 100% overlap. In addition, we can assume that some teens who have produced, or seen, such images, won’t admit it. So, based on federal definitions of child pornography alone somewhere between a minimum of 5.2 million and 9.85 million American teens could be put on the sex offender rolls.

Most rational adults would tell teens they ought not be sending around nude photos of themselves, especially at their age. But few adults would want to put these teens in prison or on the sex offender rolls. But tough, the politicians have already passed these laws.

Of course, having consenting sex is also a sex offense for many of these teens and so millions, who wouldn’t qualify for sex offender status through the child porn laws, could be grabbed under other legal restrictions.

The politicians claimed that they were passing these laws to protect the young from exploitation. But who is going to protect the young from these politicians?

The reality is that around half of our teenagers have broken laws which could get them listed as sex offenders. America’s child protection laws are similar to the “liberation of Iraq” that George Bush produced. It might be worth it, just maybe, if you are lucky enough to survive.

Remember what the politicians will do to the young people forced onto these sex offender rolls. They have to register with the police for the rest of their lives, in most cases. Murderers who served their time don’t have to do that. These young people will be put on computerized data banks where their photos, addresses and phone numbers will be available to every lunatic with a plan for “justice”. No such data bank exists for killers.

These young people can be forbidden from living in vast stretches of the country. Zoning regulations can keep them from living anywhere remotely near a school, a church, a park, a bus stop, a playground, “anywhere where children congregate”, etc. No such restrictions exist for where released killers may live. There are restrictions as to what jobs these teens may take as adults. No such restrictions exist for the jobs that released killers may take. The real lunacy is that under federal law any "sex offender" who is 14-years-old and up has to be treated as an adult by the legal system. They are considered children when they consent to sex and considered adults when they are punished for it. To protect teens from exploitation we will incarcerate them in a situation where sexual assault is common. Apparently the law is prepared to subject teens to rape in order to prevent them from having sex voluntarily.

Our politicians, mainly Republicans I might note, have created a legal situation where a teenager who takes a photo of himself can be punished for the rest of his life and treated in a worse manner than someone who killed another person. If you want to understand the dire consequences of America’s sex panic just keep that in mind.

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