Child Pornography

Posted at 10:21am on 2nd September 2008


Child pornography may not be everyone’s ideal Sunday evening viewing (UK - BBC1 – Fiona’s Story), but it is, sadly, a topical subject. The problem, to my mind, is the way it was dramatised. Am I the only one to feel that it was all very unsatisfactory? Both content and conclusion left me feeling badly let down.

I can understand that if you’ve been married for some years and love your husband, then – like Fiona – you going to be in denial to begin with. Shock and disbelief go hand in hand. You’re not going to want to accept that the man you’ve been intimate with, had children with, could possibly do anything so utterly dreadful.


But is the downloading of pictures really so heinous a crime? We were asked to believe, by Fiona’s brother-in-law, that all men indulge in such practices and that it is a ‘victimless crime’. Oh, really? ‘What about the children in the pictures?’ Fiona asked. ‘Real children. Aren’t they the victims?’

Even so, she stuck by her man. Partly, it should be said, because it was put to her, by her husband, that to do otherwise, to share her story with anyone outside the family, she risked exposing her children to the full horror of vigilante abuse. That, too, I can accept. And the way in which her husband began by showing tearful remorse (but only at being caught, since he was still at it the night before) and finished by so manipulating his rationale (the most credible part of the whole drama) as to make Fiona appear to be in the wrong if she challenged his assumptions and demands. Loyalty, too, must kick in. The father of your children deserves your support. After all, isn’t that what he would give you?


But is it? If the claims of the police were true, then loyalty is exactly what he had denied Fiona, her children, and the children who were so horribly abused. We learned of a boy forced ‘to f*** his sister’. An eighteen month old baby being raped by a grown man. The husband’s destruction of two computers containing incriminating evidence, a laptop smashed to pieces at his hand.

What failed my expectations so profoundly was first Fiona’s willingness to continue to share a bed with him, and then her compliance in lying to Social Services. Yes, she was told by her husband that their children would be taken from them, and fear for your offspring is strong and primeval. But Fiona was an intelligent woman. Wouldn’t that fear have been better directed at her husband? He had, by this time, admitted to the claims against him. Yet we’re expected to believe that a loving mother would permit this man to continue to bath with his children – all girls – one of whom must have been about ten years of age! Not until the youngest asked, ‘Mummy, do willies float? Well Daddy’s does,’ did it occur to her to question the prudence of this practice.


Years ago, following a speaking engagement in a remote part of the county in which I live, I heard, for myself, the effect that pornography had on the wives of the perpetrators. It was pretty damning. The pictures in question were those of adult women, not of children. But those women sharing with me felt soiled, by association. They felt demeaned. Humiliated. As if they were the ones who were inadequate, instead of their husbands. They felt shame. And consequently, isolation. Because other than speaking to me in confidence – a stranger, visiting them briefly – they could tell no one of their situation.

And yet in those days, pornography was limited and ‘mild’ by comparison to today. Magazines were tangible evidence, not easily hidden, as are computer images. They had to be purchased, either over the counter or from real, traceable addresses. If bought from mail-order catalogues, they had to be paid for – probably by cheque – and delivered in ‘plain envelopes’ by knowing postmen. Contemporary ‘porn’ – a kinder, more euphemistic term for a hideous industry – literally knows no boundaries. Its practice is unfettered by the laws of civilised countries. Its ease of purchase and availability can so effortlessly ensnare men of previously upright conduct. Curiosity, in this respect, is truly a killer. ‘Good’ men can be turned bad.


The exploitation of the vulnerable – the viewers and the viewed – must be one of the most distressing aspects of the whole business. Presumably somebody is making vast sums of money at their expense. What saddened me most of all about the drama was that it was fiction based on numerous true stories. Which means that in real life mothers continue to put their own children at risk rather than accept that their husbands may actually constitute that risk. That the police are hard-pressed to find real evidence. And that consequently, like Fiona’s husband, the perpetrators may never be brought to justice.

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