Friday, March 14, 2008

Facing your own ideas squarely: Sean Gabb, Child Pornography, and the Freedom of the Imagination

This from our British friends at The Libertarian Alliance.

I warn you in advance that it is provocative reading, even by Libertarian standards.

Brit Libertarian Sean Gabb has been rather ceremoniously uninvited as a United Kingdom Independence Party speaker because--oh, wow!--they just discovered that he is in favor of drug legalization, eliminating the UK's race relations laws, and in repealing some child pornography laws.

That's right: Sean Gabb actually takes a critical look at child porn from a Libertarian perspective.

This requires a longish citation to do his reasoning justice:

This outrage, it seems, was caused by my brief statement of what it means to be a libertarian. I said the day before yesterday that I believe in legalising all drugs, in repealing all race relations laws, and in repealing some of the laws against child pornography.

I am surprised that my statement had this effect. I have spent the past three decades arguing very clearly on every occasion for what I believe. My writings are very clear and are all over the Internet. I state my views several dozen times a year on radio and television. I spent most of the 1990s explaining them in meetings of the Conservative Party. Anyone who was not previously aware of what I and the Libertarian Alliance and the libertarian movement in general believe has a very weak claim to be taken seriously as a participant in British politics.

I cannot be bothered to justify my position on drug legalisation. I doubt if what I said about the race relations laws caused any offence within UKIP - not, I fear, because most UKIP members believe in freedom of speech and association, but because some of them rather like the idea of being allowed to behave uncharitably to people of other races. However, though I shall not say anything I have not said many times already, I will briefly clarify my views on child pornography.

I do not believe children can give valid consent to any sexual act. Therefore, sex with children should be illegal. It should be illegal because there is a chance of physical harm, and because there is some chance - though perhaps less than we are told - of emotional harm; and because, regardless of the acts, it seems to be that the sort of people who want to have sex with children should not generally be allowed near children. If anyone in UKIP claims that I am in favour of sex with children, he needs to be stupid or malevolent.

I turn to child pornography. If someone produces or commissions indecent pictures of a child, he is guilty of sexual assault or is an accessory to sexual assault. If someone merely buys such pictures, without having directly commissioned them, it is arguable that he too should be treated as an accessory - in the same way as it is illegal knowingly to buy stolen goods. If someone is under investigation for a sexual assault on children, and a search of his property turns up indecent pictures of children, these should of course be used as evidence.

I do not believe, however, that mere possession of such pictures should be an offence. In general, I believe that people should be free to have anything they like on their own property. The obvious exceptions to this rule would be stolen property and the sort of thing that would allow a tort action under the Rylands v Fletcher rule. For example, if I am an alcoholic chain smoker and I have 500 jerry cans of petrol in my basement, my neighbours should be able to take me to court and have the petrol removed. And it is a matter of practical convenience whether my neighbours should be expected to rely on the civil courts or be able to call on the police. Beyond that, an Englishman’s home should be his castle.

The most practical argument for this rule is that indecent photographs might be part of a chain of evidence against a child molester, and the case will usually stand or fall on all the evidence. Where possession is concerned, conviction can be on the word of a single police officer. There is no need to prove anything beyond the fact of possession. This is an abuse of law. Our own authorities may not be so corrupt and oppressive as their counterparts elsewhere in the world. But it is well known that the police fit people up in this country. They fabricate evidence of crimes sometimes because they believe someone is guilty but cannot find the evidence, or because they simply dislike someone. And we are moving rapidly to a political environment in which dissidence will be punished by accusations of crimes that need no external evidence but produce an indelible taint on one’s reputation.

Because people often have short memories for law, I will add that possession of child pornography only became an offence in 1994. Members of UKIP are forever quoting Hugh Gaitskill about “a thousand years of British history”. Well, I have been publicly snubbed by UKIP because I am not happy with a fourteen year old law rammed through Parliament by Michael Howard.

I turn now to child pornography produced abroad. I thought it was a central part of the UKIP argument to be hostile to extraterritorial jurisdictions. The decisions of foreign legislative assemblies and courts should have no direct application in our own country. An obvious converse of this position is that our own courts should not punish offences committed in foreign countries. By all means, let suspects be extradited to face trial for crimes committed abroad - extradited, of course, with rather more scrutiny than now takes place. But our courts should have no direct jurisdiction over acts committed abroad.

If we assume that the purpose of the laws against child pornography are to protect children, rather than police the imagination, it follows that indecent pictures made in Thailand are a matter for the Thai authorities.

And for the record, I will say that what I think about child pornography applies to all other pictures and literature. People should be allowed to have bomb making instructions, holocaust revision propaganda, and video clips of killings in Iraq. In some cases, they should be at liberty to publish these. In all cases, they should be left alone to keep them at home.

The key to Gabb's argument is in the next-to-last paragraph, and I want to repeat it for emphasis:

If we assume that the purpose of the laws against child pornography are to protect children, rather than police the imagination, it follows that indecent pictures made in Thailand are a matter for the Thai authorities.

An important observation that: how often have you ever thought about the why of child pornography laws? I'd always assumed a sort of causal link between eliminating the images and reducing the exploitation of children. But Gabb makes a serious point: do we criminalize the sexual imagination of someone in one country based on possessing images of that which is a crime in another country?

I know this is a subject that makes people uncomfortable, and that's good. Both the exploitation of innocents and the policing of the imagination should make us uncomfortable.

Ironically, our society tends to dither about the exploitation issue, while clamping down on the freedom of the imagination; hence the repeated attempts by our highly moral legislators to censor the Internet in order to insure we're all moral.

But there's another argument here. Andrew Webber, webmaster of The Kristin Archives--a massive collection of erotic stories, including many that feature underaged sex or pedophilia themes--presents his position thus:

Some of you may think I'm totally off base when I say that this archive is maintained as a public service. But that's exactly how I see it.

Over the years since I became the Webmaster for The Kristen Archives I've received many letters telling me how much enjoyment the reader has experienced from the stories, and some complaints about the subject matter too.

I know that saying this archive is a public service when some of you would say it's nothing more than pornography is quite a statement. But for a portion of our visitors, erotic stories are, or have become their total sexual experience.

A few months ago I received a letter from a 54-year-old man and after asking his permission I want to share his story with you. His experience strikes at the heart of the archive philosophy, and for that matter, my reason for maintaining this archive.

Dear Webmaster
February 14 2003

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your efforts and to tell you that this archive has made my life and relationship with my wife a lot easier to take.

My wonderful wife experienced a condition called vaginal atrophy about 5 years ago. This condition makes intercourse painful for her and I've been as good as celibate ever since.

I tried other forms of sexual contact like heavy petting, lots of foreplay and even simulated intercourse with my sweetheart. She tried to please me but sexually we drifted apart.

What was I going to do? Was I going to go without sex for the rest of my life? I suppose I could look for sex elsewhere, I could cheat. I could even pay for it I suppose. I knew that cheating would ruin our relationship because I'm not the kind of man who can do one-night stands. If I cheated with another woman I would become involved with her.

I also knew that paying a prostitute to relieve my needs was a dangerous proposition and I didn't really want to take the chance of a sexually transmitted disease. But I knew that if I didn't do something I'd end up exploding.

Then I came across The Kristen Archives. What a wonderful thing it was too. All of a sudden I had a world of sexual experiences and fantasies at my fingertips. I've masturbated to stories on this site so many times I've lost count. I can put myself into each situation and experience things I would never have the nerve to do in real life.

It occurs to me that the amount of people who masturbate to stories on this site must be staggering. I noticed the hit counter on the main page and it's showing over 44 million visits. Just imagine the amount of cum that has produced. It boggles the mind.

I've been visiting this site for over two years now and the stories have helped me to live with our lack of sex. I love my woman, and I feel that a real man should stand by his wife even when things aren't going well. The Kristen Archives have made my situation easier to take, and I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated it.

A faithful reader,


As for the chances of underage viewers visiting the collection or people offended by what they read, Webber has this to say:


I am troubled that younger folks who should be playing out in the sun, or who should be experiencing adolescence, are viewing this site.

Because of the founding principles of ASSTR, The Kristen Archives are a free access - no password - archive and, that in its self makes it available to anyone, including underage visitors. But freely accessible, non-censored content is what makes this site a real resource for someone just like Art.

This conflict will continue until technology has become sophisticated enough to sort out younger people from the people who are old enough to understand what erotica is, and who are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

We have registered the site with all the major blocking services, and hopefully parents have become a bit more sophisticated about computers and Internet services. (If you have children, hopefully you're taking advantage of your ISP parental controls.)


I've also gotten complaints from readers about subject matter that offended them. I know that some of the contents in our archives are about subjects that could and maybe should offend people. But when reading erotic fantasies, sometimes the outrageous and weird is a real turn-on even to the law abiding normal person.

I have to take it on faith that our readers for the most part can distinguish between what can be performed in real life and what cannot. I have no intention of restricting the contributing author's content. As a matter of fact, if it ever becomes necessary to do so because of changes in the laws, I'll take down the archive and walk away from it.

All I can advise those who are offended by a particular subject, pass it over, ignore it. That's why every story has codes to let you know what it contains.

If you think there are too many incest or non-consensual stories being posted, keep in mind that fantasy is fantasy and sometimes it's good to have an outlet for ones fantasies other than in real life actions. If you like, you can always write a story about what you think is sexy and that contains subject matter that you feel is acceptable.

If you are a Libertarian--or just an American who is committed to the First Amendment and the opening line of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Religious Freedom: "Whereas almighty God has created the mind free...."--then you've got to give some time to serious consideration of issues like this.


Brian said...

Steve- I am sure you are making every college student who laps up porn on his computer feel better after this discussion. And it is probably ok to discuss in the first world, but I draw a line here. When he metntions Thailand in this context he needs a check up from the neck up.

You have to admit that when an Asian gang runs into a village kidnaps the kids and use them as sexual objects, it is a different story from a Brit getting his rocks off over thinking about something he wrote about his imaginary lolita....

And that is sometimes what happens in this world. And that is how some children get turned into prostitutes in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, etc... No- if no where else, in Asia it is something we should be working to end; so that kids do not need to experience this trauma. At least this is the way most monks and lay monks feel. There is a link there between trafficking, slavery, prostitution and brutalization that goes way deeper than the author here imagines.

Perhaps the speaker is naive about the mechanics of how this actually is a different matter from free consent for pictures of an artistic nature or writing of another nature in a place where people are as comfortable, safe and fat as Great Britain.

In Asia the people involved in this are profoundly underground and brutal or sometimes sell their kids out of desperation to foreigners, and there are more than a few major contract engineering companies from America, whose employees engage in this type of behavior over there creating terrible resentment, and I share the Asian resentment toward this behavior. I am in complete solidarity with Thai and Chinese activist groups in saying that every child deserves a better life and in my desire for them to have such.

The mind can be free to wander where it likes, but for liberty to mean anything it means being responsible for your freedom in what you do. It is quite likely everyone says things they do not mean all throughout their life. A person's disposition is going to tell me much about thier attitude towards this. A violent man likes violent things, how does one tame him?

I am not worried about what the author here says, as long as the writing and acting out on it are not some how aligned. I want people to have free wheeling thought, and realize that it will sometimes be pleasant and among some demeanors sometimes not so- but when he bring up Thailand, he is discussing acts of violence and you have no idea how sad that is or how little people seem to care about NGO groups that try to end those practices.

There is one European guy in particular that has been looked for becuase we want to turn him into to Interpol for this behavior. On his website he includes the vilest acts, and he needs to be imprisoned for popularizing and creating a market for such behavior in the EU and America. And the kids need to be found, rescured and rehabilitated. I hope he is caught in Thailand or Cambodia. If you go out West you can see what has occurred as a result of introducing these ideas into American life, in Denver, Colorado on Colfax avenue there is a great need for drug and prostitution rehabilitation centers.

And you would not believe how difficult it is to rehabilitate women who have been through this….or even to listen to their stories. They see the market for what it is, ruthless and amoral and as a result, they become ruthless and amoral and that amorality leaks into other aspects of life.

As for a people in comfort getting their jollies off of writing salacious shit, thinking they are Vlad Nabakov #2 I do not really care. But then again, I do not really like to hear about it either....this article makes for the most provocative reading we have had. Thanks for that. And have a great weekend I am looking for some weekend viewing for our readers. Brian

Anonymous said...

What do you expect? The logical conclusion, having eliminated all contradications, of Libertarian ideology is consensual paedophilia.
Giving the same rights over their bodies to children as it does to adults.

To argue as Gabb does here that the state has the right to intervene goes against Libertarian thinking.It also means that, rationally, you allow people with the mental age of a ten year old access to activitites that you deny to real ten year olds.

What you haven't quoted though is his further statement that child porn is just another form of child exploitation, and that those who object to it probably wear shoes made by some children in some factory. This glorious piece of utterly bizzarre illiogical reasoning he further compounds by saying that being boned in a warm studio is probably safer than working with machinery in a factory.
Personally I am delighted when Liberatarians like him and Mary Ruwart give the game away like that as it brings the whole self centred, egotistical pseudo rational cold hearted nonsense of libertarianism crashing to the floor.
Keep it up guys

Anonymous said...


You haven't done anything and yet for just THINKING about something, you are going to prison.

Shades of "Minority Report".

Reversal of Tubal Ligation said...

information well and good ... I like your way of thinking about seeing porn.
Thanks for sharing