The reaction to fifteen year old children having their lives severely affected by a black and white legal system is one of disbelief. How is it that a young teenager can have their life so drastically changed for (by today’s technological standards) being a teenager? The idea that sending your middle school girlfriend or boyfriend a photograph of yourself can affect your life opportunities decades later is baffling. Yet, there is a necessary reasoning for it all. Child pornography is seen as such a heinous act because of what it does to the child in question, or because of what usually takes place to make a child participate in pornography. This is why teenagers, despite the fact that they usually do not intend to start a child pornography distribution ring, are punished so severely for “sexting”. However, if any sort of leniency were allowed in these cases then the immediate result would be loopholes, which would promptly be taken advantage of by those actually intending to create the distribution rings, or by those with other malicious intents.
Six years ago, a sub-average videogame titled The Guy Game was released for several videogame platforms. The game features guess-based questioning which, when answered correctly, rewards the player with less and less censored imagery of female nudity. Largely brushed aside as bargain-bin lining, the game attained notoriety four months after its release when one of the female participants revealed she was underage (17) at the time she was filmed for the game. She coupled this revelation with lawsuits against the developers and publishers of the game, as well as the owners of the platforms that the game appeared on. At the time of filming, the teenager in question was, presumably, a freely willing participant. What changed between the filming and subsequent release of the game? She could have either planned to file suit all along, or she could somehow have been forced to participate. Regardless of the possibility of the former, the creators of the game are still to blame. It is their responsibility to accurately verify somebody’s age when dealing with such a potentially explosive situation. The law on the matter of child pornography must be kept as strict as possible to help keep situations like these from happening.
When dealing with something considered wrong by the large majority of the population, but highly sought after by a small but desperate minority, the prevention methods must be incredibly strict. This holds true even moreso when the central issue deals with the exploitation of children, or minors. The loopholes possible by being lenient under these cases are unacceptable. In the case of The Guy Game, if the creators of the game had been reprieved or treated in a more fair fashion due to their genuine ignorance, then any studio or developer could claim the same when faced with similar charges. Enticing or coercing a minor into pornography is not something below people that are willing to supply their desperate clients, so these laws must be kept strict in order to prevent these potential openings. The same holds true in the case of “sexting”; many underage teenagers already willingly participate in the activity, so it would not take much threat from the determined to make a child play along in a charade of ignorance for a quick trade-off. It is unfortunate that teenagers with relatively innocent intent are so severely affected, and the process for taking care of those specific cases involving a minor sender and minor recipient should be reviewed, but the alternative of simplifying the process of exploitation is far more dangerous with a more far-reaching potential to cause harm.