An interesting article at Boston.com, it seems that Minnesota football coach Todd Hoffner was arrested for child pornography charges as the result of what he, and his wife, are calling innocent family photos found on his employer issued cell phone. Of course the photos aren’t being released to the public so no one reporting on the case can make any kind of judgement on the pictures at all; that will be left up to the prosecutor and whatever twisted or convoluted bias that they may have.
But what really caught my eye is a quote of Parry Aftab, a New Jersey attorney and online child safety advocate.
A naked child in the bathtub is not pornography by itself, she said, but a nude girl with her legs spread or a boy touching his genitals meets that definition.
Now I have to start off by saying I’m not a parent, so no kids of my own. But I grew up in a large family as the second oldest, which means that I was often responsible for taking care of my younger brothers and sisters. So I do have a bit of perspective on how both male and female children act and play.
The quote above just absolutely floors me!
It implies that if a girl sits with her legs spread or a boy touches himself that it’s automatically sexual.
Now when I was taking care of younger siblings: either bathing, dressing, or getting them ready for bed, the girls often sat with their legs spread and the boys touched their genitals. Both actions are perfectly natural and more importantly totally innocent.
I mean come on, if you’ve every undressed or bathed a boy I’d be willing to bet you that the first thing they did was to reach down and grab hold or scratch themselves. From my experience it’s a common trait with boys; perfectly innocent and totally not a sexual or erotic act.
But this ‘child safety advocate’ and many, many others want to portray such an act as overtly sexual. They want to claim that children don’t or won’t do such things unless they have been taught to do so by exposure to sexual play or the result of grooming.
Now I know that sexual abuse of children happens. I certainly understand the desire and need to protect children, and yes in some cases even from their parents.
But have we honestly gotten to the point that we, as a society, expect someone to be arrested if a child touches themselves or sits with their legs apart?
As a child myself I never considered my younger siblings actions to be sexual, and as an adult I certainly don’t look back at it with any different point of view.
Or did I just completely miss the boat? Was every innocent action that I saw as a child an overt sexual gesture?
I don’t think so! I didn’t then and I don’t now.
Is this case honestly a question of child pornography, grooming or sexual abuse of a child?
Or is this perhaps the result of an overzealous and over sensitized approach to sex?
Children touch themselves, they sit with their legs spread, and boys get erections. It’s not always sexual and it’s not always a result of grooming or abuse.
So the real question here is; are we the adults imparting our own prejudices, perspectives, and misgivings on to what may well be perfectly normal and natural childhood behavior?