John Grisham Says Not All Men Who Watch Child Porn Are Pedophiles

Grisham

In a recent interview with British newspaper The Telegraph, author John Grisham defended some men who watch child porn, saying that sentences are too tough. He was taking issue with mandatory sentencing laws which do not take into account the circumstances surrounding the downloading of child pornography which may have been accidental. He cited the story of a friend of his who drunkenly downloaded child porn and was imprisoned for three years because of it. The download was an accident according to the famous author and the story shows how the prison system has “gone nuts.” Activists have already taken issue with the comments, but sentencing policies for child pornography have been under review by the United States Sentencing Commission since 2013. While some kind of change may be necessary in the laws, the comments in the interview have problems far beyond that. By saying that not all men who watch child porn are paedophiles, John Grisham makes mistakes that a simple dictionary and prison facts could have corrected and reveals only a half-hearted understanding of the issues involved.

Grisham was discussing how the American prison system has run amuck by jailing too many people on meaningless charges. He talked about Martha Stewart and young black males with only small drug charges who get far too much prison time for their offence. It is true that America has a prison problem. One out of every 100 people in the United States are behind bars, most for drug related offenses. Because of this, Attorney General Eric Holder spearheaded reforms in drug sentencing that would hopefully reduce the prison population. The problem of prisons is known and being addressed, but Grisham’s comments are hardly related to those measures.

The author addressed the problem of wrongful imprisonment, but what he actually said carries a lot of sexism and downright redefinition with it. He referred to “60-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody,” but received harsh prison sentences for accidentally viewing and downloading child porn. The story of his friend from law school who made that mistake is a case of bad judgment, but was meant to underscore the fact that he would not actually hurt anybody. According to the prolific author, “It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.” In fact, the videos were “16-year-old girls who looked 30,” according to Grisham. It was all mistake and these wrongfully imprisoned men are not perverts or paedophiles and they “didn’t touch anything.”

There are a few problems with the fact that John Grisham says that not all men who watch child porn are paedophiles. Access to child porn is not an easily stumbled upon thing. Out of the millions of porn sites that operate on the web, relatively few are geared to child porn for the simple fact that it is illegal and is monitored by authorities. It requires a certain amount of secrecy to give access to such an illegal thing. This makes it highly unlikely that anyone could accidentally access and download child pornography. While there may be a few people who did not intend to do so, that number would be very small.

There is also the issue of harm and just what constitutes it. Grisham connects harm with touching in his comments, which ignores the nature of the child pornography industry itself. All children in any pornographic video have been exploited and abused by someone. That is the basis of the industry itself. People who view child porn create a market for it and, therefore, give producers more incentive to make the videos. Anyone who watches child porn may not have touched anybody, but they are one of the reasons why that child as used in such a terrible fashion. Thus, the viewer carries as much culpability for the crime as the video’s creator. That is one of the reasons why viewing and downloading child pornography carries such a harsh sentence.

Grisham’s comments are also quite sexist against women in how they are phrased. The fact that “it wasn’t 10-year-old boys” is supposed to make the hearer feel better about the friend’s crime, but in reality it minimizes the effect that child porn has on girls. It does not matter that the girls in the video “looked 30.” They were only 16 and therefore minors. The fact that they were girls does not mean that paedophiles would not be interested, as Grisham seems to be inferring. By definition, paedophiles are sexually interested in children regardless of sex and any particular person’s gender preference does not negate that fact. Anyone using child porn to reach sexual gratification is engaging in a perverted act, despite the author’s intimation that some of them are not perverts.

On the whole, Grisham’s comments are nauseating at best and will receive due attention from activists who support the rights and well-being of children, but the many reasons they are problematic should not be ignored. The author of so many political and legal thrillers should be more well-informed than he apparently is. Even a simple dictionary could have helped in this instance. Just because someone is famous, that does not mean they know what they are talking about, as this instance clearly illustrates. Whatever problems exist with the American prison system, the “not all men who view child porn are paedophiles” problem is negligible, no matter what John Grisham says.

Opinion By Lydia Bradbury

Sources:

The Telegraph
Time
Jezebel
BBC
Gawker
The Washington Post

One Response to "John Grisham Says Not All Men Who Watch Child Porn Are Pedophiles"

  1. Why,Rufus,WHY?   October 16, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    He’s right. Some old guy looking at 16-year olds isn’t what I consider a pedophile. 10-year olds, 5 year olds, yeah. But having been a 16-year old girl at one point, I understand that you can in no way, shape or form consider every one of us an “innocent child”. Far from it. I had friends in high school who knew exactly what they were doing at that age in order to get boys’ attention, including dressing like sluts, trying to get knocked up to trap guys, etc. The age of consent in MANY southern states is 16. Get over it, people. I’ll still read his books, and his movies are always intriguing. I’m not gonna’ stop watching those, either.

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