The Perverse Child

So far this course I have protected everything, I am very adamant about freedom of speech and respecting ones rights, However, being that I a soon to be a mother this week has definitely swayed my views. After viewing Sally Mann’s photos from Immediate Family, I realized that she was straggling the line of taking half pornographic and half innocent pictures. I do see the beauty and the art in many of the photos but at the same time many of these same innocent photos tend to violate what I consider innocent, and cross over to just unacceptable. I’m sure one may argue that the whole point of a true artist is to confusion, controversy, and experience for their audience. Though, Sally Mann’s photos are beautiful I do believe at this point she crosses the line. Sally Mann’s Immediate Family collection holds some unarguably gorgeous, captivating images, but does not justify her actions for the photos that are graphically mortifying to children, parents, and society.

As mentioned before, in my opinion some of the photos in the Immediate Family collection are viewed as pornographic. According to the definition by Osborne v. Ohio: any “graphic focus on the minor’s genitals” and that child does NOT have to be engaged in sexual conduct. Where I disagree with Osborne v. Ohio is when an exception to child pornography is given to “the minor’s parents or guardians [that] have consented in writing to such photographing or use of the minor.” It is safe to say that some of the photos contain “child pornography”. A part of me believes that one must be careful because this exception has the potential to open the door to many of the horrible possibilities. In the case Osborne VS., the Court determined that neither public dissemination nor private possession of child pornography is protected by the Constitution. Meaning that if indeed it is agreed that the content in Sally Mann’s collection Immediate Family is seen as pornographic, she would not be allowed  have those photos published or available to the world.

Based on the John Stuart Mill’s Harm and the Offense Principle, many of the photographs in Sally Mann’s collection are pornographic. In New York vs. Ferber, the material need not be found to appeal to prurient interest of the average person and that the sexual conduct need not be portrayed in a patently offensive way.

The States are entitled to greater leeway in the regulation of pornographic depictions of children for the following reasons: (1) the legislative judgment that the use of children as subjects of pornographic materials is harmful to the physiological, emotional, and mental health of the child, easily passes muster under the First Amendment; (2) the standard of Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 , for determining what is legally obscene is not a satisfactory solution to the child pornography problem; (3) the advertising and selling of child pornography provide an economic motive for and are thus an integral part of the production of such materials, an activity illegal throughout the Nation; (4) the value of permitting live performances and photographic reproductions of children engaged in lewd exhibitions is exceedingly modest, if not de minimis; and (5) recognizing and classifying child pornography as a category of material outside the First Amendment’s protection is not incompatible with this Court’s decisions dealing with what speech is unprotected. When a definable class of material, such as that covered by [458 U.S. 747, 748]   the New York statute, bears so heavily and pervasively on the welfare of children engaged in its production, the balance of competing interests is clearly struck, and it is permissible to consider these materials as without the First Amendment’s protection.”

Based off of the following information I am forced to protect I would protect some of Sally Mann’s photos, but my decision still stands as far as the collection in whole.

Here are examples of the photos that I will absolutely not protect what so ever!

There is no explanation for a parent to publish a picture of just their son’s penis to me. A whole body picture maybe, but this absolutely not.

This picture the mother clearly has her daughter posing, while pinching her nipples with her hand on her hips. ABSOLUTELY, unacceptable, the mother is clearly coaching her daughter through this photo.

As expressed through the Osborne and Ferber case, it is easy when going off the content of these photos to indeed prosecute. Both of these pictures display, “graphic focus on the minor’s genitals”. Though I am adamant about my stance when dealing with her collection, I would not change the definition of child pornography to protect photos such as the ones displayed by Sally Mann. Surprisingly, I do think some of her photos are worthy of being considered as “true art” and should have a chance to be seen by the world such as the following:

Here she absolutely captures beauty, and I would protect this.

And here is an excellent picture that displays her kids just lounging around, which is again, considered ok.

One of the problems I am having with these photos besides the pornographic images, is the consent of the child. I understand that they are children, and not adults, and therefore any consent on their part is not applicable, however, when a decision needs to be made regarding displaying their physical body parts tends to anger me. The world that we live in today believes that children are incapable of making their own decisions before they are declared adults and are not considered responsible for the majority of their actions. When taking in consideration the philosophical doctrine, based on the argument of the consent of the children, John Stuart Mill’s Harm principle definitely stands out. Because society does not allow for children to speak as adults or carry the rights of adults, their consent to such photos is not considered. So with that being said, without that consent, it is unethical to photograph children as was mentioned above. Because the child’s best interest cannot be decided by the child. I conclude with saying I do not protect Sally Mann’s project as a whole because they do include pornographic images as defined above. So after weeks and weeks of protecting everything, I finally have found a case that I disagree with. I WILL NOT PROTECT any pictures, art, images that depict children in any harmful or pornographic way EVER!


One thought on “The Perverse Child

  1. Amani,

    I like the way you start your page with a concrete stance and an initial reasoning for this stance. I would say that you’re correct in arguing that Sally Mann’s photos of her children in “Immediate Family” tend to cross the line of comfort for some people. Though I highly doubt her intentions were to sexually exploit or create sexually explicit images of her children, a few of the photos are somewhat graphic and would likely be viewed as inappropriate to some. “Here are examples of the photos that I will absolutely not protect what so ever! There is no explanation for a parent to publish a picture of just their son’s penis to me. A whole body picture maybe, but this absolutely not.” I literally laughed out loud when I read this, and I’d say that you’re justified in your opinion of the photos you used as examples. To me, they seem a little extreme; whether that’s extreme in the artistic sense to the point that I don’t understand it, or just extreme in the graphic nature sense, I’m not sure…but it’s extreme.

    In the next section, you state that you would protect the photo of the male figure holding the little girl. This picture seems innocent enough, but something about the inability to tell whether the male is wearing clothes or not, bothers me upon closer inspection. How would you feel about this photo if both of the subjects were naked, as opposed to only the little girl? Would it change the context and overall content of the photo, and would you protect it because it doesn’t necessarily imply sexually explicit or incestuous/immoral conduct, or would it still fall under child pornography in your opinion? I like that you used specific court cases and rulings to support your arguments and claims; it helped give your page credibility. I also liked that you organized it well and used pictures. Utilizing the pictures really drove your point home, and made me somewhat reconsider the content of the photographs and whether or not they’re all completely innocent. Overall, I enjoyed your page and think you did a good job of presenting your argument in a passionate and well-formulated manner. Good stuff.


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