“Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
The hawk was most definitely out tonight as I stood at the bow of the Staten Island ferry, coat collar popped and gloved hands thrust into pockets. This particular hawk bore a vicious set of teeth and wasn’t afraid to bite, which was fine by me. The colder weather combined with the icy wind that whipped off the bay afforded me some much-appreciated elbowroom, a concept that was foreign to most New Yorkers.
Being all alone out here wasn’t a problem. I had been alone most of my adult life. Alone in a crowded room. Alone in committed relationships. The people closest to me, those tenacious few who loved a challenge, were kept at an equidistant arm’s length.
Alone was my appetite.
Alone was my mantra.
Alone was my destiny.
“Not too cold out tonight, is it?” a voice said, almost causing me to leap out of my skin. There, suddenly beside me, was a woman bundled against the chill air, lips curled slightly in sarcasm. Right next to me. Within the boundaries of my personal space.
“Not as cold as it could be,” I replied more out of reflex than want. What I wanted was a little privacy, to tend to my own affairs as other people on the ferry tended to theirs. It was part of the unspoken rule when you agreed to live in this city. You avoided eye contact and kept yourself to yourself.
I looked at her, this stealthy woman that took me totally unawares. A full foot shorter than me, pretty, petite, and what was the politically correct term for it? Middle Asian? I wasn’t too sure and felt naked without my local ever-changing PC handbook to check for accuracy.
The immediate thing that came to mind wasn’t how stunningly attractive this woman was. My first thought was actually, Why are you talking to me? As a point of clarification, that was one of the things I admired about myself, whether it was my face or the vibe I gave off, people generally never felt the need to walk up and talk to me. Unless of course they were mentally challenged or capable—again I needed to consult the handbook—or nuts or out to start a fight with a stranger they mistakenly assumed was harmless. She was clearly none of those.
But the thought evaporated as suddenly as it appeared. She blurted out a simple statement of fact and I happened to be within earshot. Conversation over. Turn the page.
But it wasn’t over. “Do you know who you are?” she asked without a discernible trace of an accent.
“Pardon?” I was taken aback by the suddenness of the question. “What, like my name?”
“No, that is what you are called. I want to know if you had to describe yourself to an absolute stranger, what would you say?”
“Most likely? Nothing,” I admitted. “I’m not too fond of the question.”
“Really? What if Nazis held guns to your parents’ heads? What would you tell me then?” she smiled politely, waiting.
Damn. The Nazi ploy.
As much as I hated being manipulated in this fashion, I couldn’t allow anyone, not even this woman, the most un-New Yorkian person I had ever encountered, to think I was some heartless brute that would have allowed Nazis to murder my parents in an effort to avoid providing a self-summary.
“And just so you know,” she continued. “We, the Nazis and I, aren’t accepting you are a work in progress as a suitable answer, since we’re all works in progress until the moment we give up living.”
“Fair enough,” I nodded. It was one of those overused expressions that I couldn’t stand, just like thinking outside the box. I watched her with obvious suspicion and had half a mind not to answer, half a mind to walk away. Neither of those halves proved to be victorious.
I hadn’t the foggiest notion what came over me but words started spilling out of my mouth before I even realized I was speaking. “What I am is a pessimistic optimist, who believes love shouldn’t be denied to anyone, even to those born with icy hearts. What I know is that I’m wise enough accept love as it finds me and not reject it because it doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty package. What I hope is that someday every lonely person will reach out to another lonely person and befriend them so that the word lonely fades from our lexicon.”
“You must be a writer because that was corny and clumsily poetic,” she eyed me for a long moment. “But an artful dodge, so I’ll let you get away with it. This time.”
This time? Just who did this woman think she was?
“Now it’s your turn,” I said. “Tell me something about yourself. Anything. Start with where you’re from.”
For the briefest instant, her expression took on a sadness that could only have belonged to reminiscence. “I was born and raised in India, longer ago than you would believe, but I have traveled all over, to places you probably do not even realize exist.”
“You’re probably right about that. Geography really isn’t my strong suit and I haven’t really traveled outside of the five boroughs,” I said, instantly embarrassed by my lack of worldliness. “So, what brings you to New York?”
She remained quiet for a moment before answering. “I work for an organization, currently in a state of transition, that suffered drastic downsizing due to image problems and public opinion. My employer is in the midst of rebranding and taking on a new staff to suit the company’s new direction. You can say that I am one of many headhunters.”
“Talk about your artful dodge. You said a mouthful just now and told me absolutely nothing about what your organization does to make a profit.”
“I can tell you, but only if you really want to know because that information comes at a price.”
“Which is?” I asked.
“Your undying loyalty.”
I chuckled. “Of course.”
“Of course, you agree to my terms, or of course, as in a mockery?” she cocked an eyebrow my way. “We must be clear about this.”
“The latter, no offense.”
“I see,” she ran a hand through her hair to remove it from her face. It was then that I noticed she wasn’t wearing gloves and hadn’t actually appeared to be cold. “You asked me what brings me to New York. Would you believe me if I said it was you?”
I held up my hands in surrender. “All right, this is where I officially punch out of this conversation.”
She took half a step closer. “Your loneliness, your isolation is like a beacon to me. I am drawn to you. I know your kind. I have seen your future and you will most assuredly die alone. No mate, no children to carry on your legacy.”
“I hate to break it to you, but I’m happily married with three kids who adore me.”
“Not true in the slightest. You have lived alone ever since your cat died of leukemia two years ago.”
“How — how could you know that?”
“The same way I know the first girl to break your heart was Shirley Hartsdale in the sixth grade when she began dating your best friend behind your back and made you the laughing-stock of the school. To this day you hold a distrust of people because of that incident, even friends and family.”
I hadn’t caught the last part of her sentence. My brain was flooded with thoughts of Shirley Hartsdale, someone I hadn’t thought of in years and even now, she left a bad taste in my mouth.
“The organization I work for has that sort of information available to them, not solely on you but everyone on the planet.”
Oh God, I started to panic. She’s a terrorist. Part of some ferry-riding Sleeper Cell that uses attractive women to pry information out of dumb single Americans. My photo was most likely going to land in some Homeland Security dossier marked Al Qaeda Sympathizers. In that moment I just wanted this woman to be away from me. Far, far away.
“I am not a terrorist,” she smiled. “Nor do I belong to a cult. What I am is a member of a peacekeeping task force that seeks to restore balance to the world with the help of people like you, the overlooked, the forgotten, the unloved. More than an organization, the company that employs me is my family and is directly descended from the first family ever to set foot on the earth. It can become your family, as well.”
“What I can offer you is a love unparalleled,” She touched a finger to my temple and the wind died away. The air barely moved for several moments and I listened as she spoke. My world began spinning savagely. I winced and swallowed hard to prevent nausea from triumphing as her words poured images into my mind, saturated with so much sensory information and emotion that I thought I might burst at the seams.
“You will want for nothing. I will bear you many children and you will have a family the size of a small nation. A family who will worship and adore you. All this and more if you will simply pledge yourself to me forever and always.”
She moved her finger away and the stillness of the air vanished as the wind rose once more. I staggered a moment, my mind reeling with the imagery that pressed a palpable weight on me. When I regained my balance and sight, I stood there stunned and in comparative silence after being shown a world that only existed as the flimsiest of pipedreams. The reality finally hit that I was dealing with something way beyond me, something that threatened to swallow me whole if I wasn’t careful.
“And you will be free to follow your dreams. Become a novelist and millions will read your words. You will be well received all around the world. Spend your days lecturing, even teaching and sculpting young minds, if that’s your wish.”
“Or,” she continued. “Write and direct films that interest you and your following will be massive. Fellini, Scorcese, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tarantino, would not be able to hold a candle to you. You could be like Woody Allen and release a film each year, all guaranteed blockbusters with the stars of your choice eager to play a role.”
“And all this will happen because of you?”
Her tone shifted, becoming as sharp as a finely honed blade. “No, because of your pledge to be with me and only me.”
“Like signing my soul over to you?” I knew the answer but had to ask anyway.
“What an archaic notion. All I need from you is your promise, sealed with a kiss. The question is: do you want to live the life you have always dreamed of living or not? After years of struggling and going unnoticed by women and society at large, you have learned to wear your isolation like a protective shell but this isn’t who you truly are, who you were meant to be. If anyone deserves a shot at the brass ring it most certainly is you, is it not?”
I had trouble meeting her eyes. “That’s tempting, it really is…but I can’t.”
“You would turn down everything?”
“I’m too old to believe I can have everything. And old enough to know I won’t be happy. Maybe at first, on the surface, I will, but as time goes by I’ll know deep down that I didn’t earn any of those things. You wouldn’t be with me because you love me. You’d be with me because you needed something from me. Something I’m not smart enough to figure out at the moment.” I felt foolish because I truly couldn’t see the angle. My soul wasn’t worth that much so there must have been something else.
And suddenly I was aware of the nearness of the woman and no longer thought she was in my personal space but that I was in hers and I worried about what being within her sphere of influence might do to me. I was afraid that her essence, the power she projected would have tainted me, marked and cursed me forever.
“It seems I misjudged you. All that talk of accepting love as it finds you and erasing loneliness from the lexicon is all just a mask. Your problem is not being too old, it is being too afraid.”
“What?” my voice cracked as I felt a sudden pang of fear.
“You are a dichotomy of fear. You are afraid of dying home alone, yet you fear leaving your house to meet a woman you can form a relationship with, you fear being friendless yet fear making friends, fear being childless yet fear the responsibility of having children, you fear being loved, fear being hated, you fear life and just about everything else and you are content to let it rot your soul as you waste away out of existence.”
The wind rose in unison with the pitch of her voice and I was hit with a blast so icy it made my eyes water. I wiped the tears away and the woman was gone.
I went inside because I felt the sudden and dire need to be around other people, be close to them, feel their warmth. I settled down in a seat between two strangers, neither of them pleased that I had invaded their personal space, but I was past caring at the moment.
Looking down the opposite end of the ferry I spotted the woman talking to a man, most likely another lonely bastard like me. I wanted to go over and warn him but he probably wouldn’t have believed me, and wasn’t it up to him to face his own temptations? Who’s to say that he wouldn’t have been within his rights to accept? And was I a fool for letting the opportunity to end my loneliness pass me by?
Then and there I made a promise to change my life, to put Shirley Hartsdale in perspective as I got on with my life and reconnected with old friends if it wasn’t too late and I pledged to make new friends and as I sought out the love I deserved and stopped waiting for it to come to me. Yes, that was what I was planned to do.
About Personal Space: This is one of them thar inspired by true events stories that happened one winter’s night when I was riding home on the Staten Island ferry.
A woman walked up out of the blue and started talking to me, telling me that she worked in the UN as a member of the Peacekeeping Task Force and her husband was a prosecutor for the War Crimes Tribunal. He was in The Hague, at that time, prosecuting a war criminal. She went on to tell me about their very strange but open marriage.
I blogged about this encounter on numerous occasions, mostly touching on the psychological effects the news media outlets’ constant terrorism scare reporting tactics have on the average person, even if they happen to be apolitical. And how even people who consider themselves to be an egalitarian, can get caught up in subconscious racial profiling.
It’s an encounter that has its hooks deeply embedded in my soul and I guess I’ll keep writing about it until the realization becomes easier to deal with.
I burned my soul to ash but the pain paled in comparison to the terror that struck my heart like a match, anticipating her arrival and the tirade she would carry in tow. An unwarranted fear, as she was calm when she saw what I had done. Calm and nurturing. Soothing my pain with herbs and aromas, and each early morning during the hour of the wolf, she laid an ear on my back and listened as my soul mended itself.
She never spoke the words of disappointment aloud but it registered in her eyes. Although residing within my body, this wounded thing, this unwanted soul, did not belong to me. She had laid claim to it many years past, and in my despondency, I had taken liberties with her property and attempted to destroy it. Again.
The first time, I threw my soul into a sinkhole and allowed the ground to swallow it whole. I made her acquaintance when she plucked it from the soil like a tattered tuber. “I saw what you did,” she said. “And since you would so recklessly toss this precious thing away, it is no longer yours, but mine, agreed?” I nodded and she handed my soul back to me for safe keeping.
I honored our pact for a few years, caring for it within my limited capacity, but during a particularly nasty bout of depression, I tied heavy stones to my soul and pushed it off the sea wall. For a second time, she appeared, fishing my soul from the waves and scolded me, “You are charged with protecting this thing that is mine, do you understand?” Again, I nodded. Again, I lied.
“Why do you want this worthless soul when it has been crushed by the earth? Why do you want it when it has been drowned in the sea? Why do you want it when it has been set aflame like so much tinder?” I searched long and hard yet found no answer in her silence.
During the day, when she thought me preoccupied, she secreted herself in the shadows and slept. One day I followed her into the darkness and watched her body twitch from dreaming and listened as she muttered,
One more soul, once buried deep.
One more soul, in ocean steeped.
One more soul, by fire burned.
One more soul, of air returned.
Under her care, my soul grew healthier and it frightened me. I was pitilessly plagued and badgered by the phrase, One more soul, of air returned, that repeated in my mind’s ear until it turned dogged and cacophonous. But she was unaware of my inner torment, in fact, she was in an exceptionally good mood today, her voice almost a song, “I know you don’t see it, but you are a gift, you are. You have no idea just how special.”
Today was the day. I felt it in my marrow. Something was destined to happen, something I most likely would not survive. I should have embraced this eerie premonition, for it was no secret that I did not want to continue in this manner, broken, detached and alone. But the choice of how and when I departed this wretched life was mine to make and mine alone. So, I stalled by distracting her with trivialities. “May I have more broth? Have you seen my shoes? No, not that pair, the other ones? Can we go for a walk?” If she knew my plan, her expression never showed sign. No request was too large or small on this day. She granted them all.
We strolled along the pathway in the park that led to the duck pond, a place we visited often during my convalescence. Picked, naturally, as not to arouse suspicion as I searched for the proper diversion in order to make my escape. But I was so wrapped in my own thoughts, I failed to notice that she was walking slower than usual today. “Can we rest a moment?” she asked as we neared the benches. “I am a little short of breath.”
Her breathing became a labored and raspy thing before it hitched and became lodged in her throat. When her face went dusky blue and she slid off the park bench, I panicked. The opportunity had presented itself and there I stood like an idiot, frozen. Entangled in the decision of whose life to save, or more accurately, whose death I could live with.
There was no real choice.
Her breathing was a trembling, liquid sound as I pressed my mouth to hers and exhaled, but instead of me breathing air into her body, I felt her sucking air from my lungs, and not just air…
I tried desperately to pull away but her thin, vise-like hands clamped down on the nape of my neck and held me firm in a kiss that was collapsing me. My hold on life became dim and futile, but before I slipped away into emptiness, I noticed the oddest thing: her belly began to swell.
Every fiber of my actuality was drawn into her, and my soul, the object I had forever been so reckless with, was systematically being stripped of concern, of negativity, of identity. I fell further and further into a darkness that pressed on me from all sides. So tight, so constricted. I was still unable to breathe but the sensation was somehow different now.
At the very moment when it seemed the darkness was about to claim me for eternity, there came a burst of light so bright as to cut my eyes. Thankfully something soon blotted out the light – a face, slowly coming into focus but I knew her before I saw her. From the moment I heard her soft cooing, “You are a gift, you are. You have no idea just how special.”
About Of Air Returned: Delusion can be a scary thing, but it can also be wonderful at the same time. This piece was written in the early part of 1988, during a period when I swore I could do no wrong—it’s fine, you can laugh, I’ll just cringe quietly in the corner. I was heavily into both science and speculative fiction and had recently rediscovered the works of The Brothers Grimm, so I was determined to create my own collection of fairy tales for the—then—modern age.
Applying fairy tale rules, I could introduce the fantastic or the bizarre into any story with little or no explanation, and have all the characters in the tales accept everything as normal. Wishes as deus ex machina. Love as the ultimate cure-all. All the good stuff without all the fuss. Genius, right?
It would take the better part of six months for me to discover I wasn’t the groundbreaker I imagined myself to be. On the plus side, I followed my then idol, Harlan Ellison’s advice and was able to churn one of these puppies out a day.
Of course, most of them are unreadable. This one teeters on the edge. I kinda like it and it kinda embarrasses the hell out of me, but it was one of the three Rhyan Realm tales–yeah, I created my own sub-genre name for them, what of it?–that actually saw print… after 10-some-odd rejections.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss a few minutes goodbye.
“You have a messiah complex, got to save the world.” — Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
I’ve never been much for crowds, not even as a child. People huddled en masse tended to embrace a hive mind of boorishness, which was why I tended to do all my necessities shopping early on Tuesday mornings. Fewer people and less hassle as I collected my weekly provisions, zipped through the express lane, out of the market and on to the next chore on my list that required social navigation. But something wasn’t quite right today. Tuesday? Of course. Early morning? Naturally. Empty supermarket? Not by a long shot.
The aisles were crawling with miscreants of every possible variety. Attention deficit disordered shoppers who treated their shopping cart like cars out of a Fast and Furious film crashed into other carts and shoppers with reckless abandon in search of the ever elusive sale of nearing-their-sell-by-date items they probably had no practical use for; forsaken carts parked in the middle of aisles blocking throughways and creating bumper to bumper trolley traffic; and coupon carrying cretins stalling checkout lines because they hadn’t quite mastered the simple art of having payment in hand for their items and beating a hasty retreat out into the open plains of the parking lot.
I contemplated pivoting on my heels and leaving the shopping for another morning or possibly next Tuesday—surely I could have survived a week on basic rations. But had I left, I wouldn’t have run into Tatum.
It was seventeen years since I laid eyes on her last. She was still attractive, more so now, a slender Honduran with mocha skin, shoulder-length dreadlocks, and a disarming smile that tended to pull a bit to the right side of her face. Unlike previous times when I randomly encountered someone from my past on the street and immediately began flipping through my mental card catalog for any excuse to walk away, I was actually pleased to see her. In that moment of reciting the usual social pleasantries by rote, all the negative history hadn’t existed. We waded in a pool of heart-warming nostalgia.
Her smile never wavered as she told me how her life hadn’t turned out quite the way she planned. When we were together, she studied to be a lawyer. Now, she worked as a marketing senior manager for a cosmetics firm, was the mother of two, a girl and a boy, seven and nine years old respectively, who were fathered by a deadbeat boyfriend who ditched both the wedding and his kids in one fell swoop.
I had no idea how long we stood there blocking the aisle much to the ire of the other shoppers nor did I care. For the first time in quite a while, I honestly enjoyed exchanging words with a person who wasn’t trapped within the confines of a television set. But all good things, as they say—so, we exchanged numbers, promised each other we’d call and went our separate ways.
And on the way home, the strangest nagging notion crept up from the back of my mind: had we been able to work things out all those many years ago, her life might have turned out differently. Better. Then came the guilt as if my absence was somehow responsible for the direction her life took. And on the tail end of that guilt came the shame for not being a better boyfriend to her and a better person in general.
I promptly crumpled up her number and kicked it down a storm drain. Neither she nor I needed to be reminded of what might have been.
Less than a week later, once I had time to regret trashing her phone number, she called me out of the blue with an invitation to have lunch and meet her children. I wasn’t particularly keen on the latter, but I definitely wanted to see her again.
We met at a faux Italian restaurant, a fast food chain done up in dime store décor to give the eatery a stereotypical taste of Italy, and I had to admit that I didn’t mind her kids all that much. They were a bit unruly, but what children weren’t at those ages? Although I felt a little awkward being interrogated by her brood, it was nice being in Tatum’s company. I experienced a level of comfort in her presence that oddly felt like home.
That was, until her daughter, Tracie, asked, “Did you and Mommy have S-E-X?” as if spelling the word somehow made the question safe to ask.
Confirmed bachelor that I was, I wasn’t comfortable chatting with a nine-year-old about sex. I had no idea what the proper protocol was, so I turned to Tatum and with a look, asked, Did we have S-E-X, Mommy?
Without batting an eye, Tatum answered, “Yes. We had sex.”
Was that how it’s done nowadays? Was it the norm for ex-boyfriends to be brought to lunch with the kiddies to openly discuss their sexual history? I was still reeling from that exchange when her son, Lee, chimed in, “You could be our Dad!”
The old one-two punch. These kids worked me over like a speed bag. They laughed at my embarrassment and I tried to play it off, but it unnerved me on a deep level. The rest of the conversation was downhill after that in terms of my personal discomfort. We got on well enough, the four of us, better than expected and when we said our goodbyes after lunch, I was hit with another weird sensation—jealousy. Because her children weren’t our children and in her family, there was no place setting for me at the table. It only lasted an instant but long enough to have registered.
I tried to put things into perspective, tried to remember why our relationship ended in the first place, it wasn’t a build up of all the minor things, the petty annoyances that masked the underlying truth that people simply grew apart. If I was honest, it was the Santería, the Afro-Cuban ritualistic and ceremonial worship of saints her family practiced religiously that rubbed me the wrong way. She asked how I felt about it and I told her I didn’t believe in things like that and it was the truth, but the other truth, the deeper truth, was that it scared a part of me that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
To be clear, it wasn’t Tatum practicing rituals so much as her mother. That woman hated me from the moment she clapped eyes on me, no rhyme, no reason, just pure unadulterated hatred. For some reason, I hadn’t measured up to her exacting standards of what constituted a proper boyfriend for her daughter and she never bothered hiding that fact. She visited our apartment constantly and after she left, I would find things hidden around the house, under the bed, in the refrigerator. Little Santería objects tucked away everywhere.
One day when I arrived home early with the intention of whipping up a surprise dinner for Tatum when she got off from work, I walked in on Tatum’s mother and sisters in the middle of a Santeria ritual. There were others with them, perhaps family members I hadn’t met or just fellow practitioners, all clad in white. Drummers talked to the saints, playing their specific beat, eyes closed in a trance while robed dancers chanted in ancient Yoruba as they spun and shook off the evil eye.
And in the center of the living room, Tatum’s mother stared at me like I was a burglar, like I was the thing that didn’t belong in my own home. Before I knew, the last of my resolve evaporated and I began yelling for her and everyone else to get the hell out of my apartment, jabbing my finger in the air at her for emphasis. The old woman ignored me and she walked in ever-expanding circles while smoking a cigar that smelled of things I’d never smelled before and blew smoke in my face as she spoke in tongues. It made me gag and start to cough. I clutched at my throat and lost consciousness to the sight of Tatum’s mother and sisters laughing at me.
When I came to and Tatum arrived home, I told her what happened and she called her mother on the phone. After a lengthy conversation, she said she understood how things must have seemed and apologized for not telling me she allowed them to use the apartment while we were out but ultimately she sided with her family over me.
That was all it took. I moved out of the apartment that night and never looked back. Depending on how you looked at it, if her mother was casting a spell to get rid of me, it actually worked because I was out of her daughter’s life.
I kept this firmly in mind when Tatum phoned and invited me around hers for dinner. I accepted the invitation, mind you, but I kept the incident with her mother firmly in mind. It had been a month of Sundays since I had a proper home-cooked meal because no one in their right mind would have called what I did cooking.
Tatum greeted me at the door, apron on, dusted with flour and seasonings, happy homemaking in full effect. The kids were in the kitchen and to my astonishment were finishing up washing the dishes. They dried their hands before they ran up and hugged me. I looked into their faces and something seemed off. Their smiles were too wide, teeth too white and there was something unnatural about the intensity in their eyes. And their faces looked different. They still possessed features that were reminiscent of Tatum but the rest was somehow different, incomplete, like faces in transition. I chalked it up to being overly tired and thought no more of it.
Dinner went well. Who knew Tatum could have been such a gracious hostess? The kids made the meal a pleasant experience, as well. They stopped bickering and playing with their food when I asked them to, laughed at my jokes and listened with rapt attention as I talked about the time I met their mother.
When dinner was over we sat in the living room. The apartment was too small for two growing kids but Tatum arranged everything in a way that made it feel roomy, as though it was a real house.
We sat on the sofa, all of us, Tatum paging through a family photo album on her lap. Pictures of vacations with the deadbeat boyfriend, of her during various stages of her pregnancy, of her and deadbeat holding a newborn Lee and later with Tatum holding a newborn Tracie while deadbeat lurked somewhere in the background. A life well documented.
Tatum told me how difficult things had been. Deadbeat had developed a drug habit and came around under the guise of seeing his children only to beg off some money to score and if that hadn’t worked, he stole things to sell or threatened to take the kids.
One time when Tatum refused to give him any more money, he made good on his threat and Stacie and Lee were taken from her by Child Services because of alleged abuse charges. She described the hell she had to go through to get her family back.
As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. It was deadbeat, whose Christian name was Oscar, most likely coming around again to score. She spoke with him in hushed tones through the space in the door allowed by the security chain. When his shouts turned to raged kicks on the door, I stepped up behind Tatum so that he could see me. “Everything all right, Tate?”
It was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. Oscar lost his mind and no manner of reasoning calmed him. I showed him my cell phone, made sure he had seen me dial 911 and only then as he weighed the options in his mind did he leave, but not before he made his threats. He would be back, to kill me, get his kids and make Tatum pay.
Tatum convinced me not to involve the police but only after she agreed to let me stay the night in case Oscar decided to return. We tried to salvage the rest of the evening for the sake of Tracie and Lee but deadbeat’s presence lingered in the air.
The sofa was made up for me as comfortable as she could manage, but sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. I was afraid that Oscar would return, afraid that I wouldn’t be much use since I wasn’t a violent man. All I could have done was to block his attack while Tatum grabbed the kids and made their way to safety. And if that was what it took, then so be it.
When the tension of the evening finally loosened its grip and I began drifting off, Tatum came to me. Without uttering a word, she slid her nightgown off her shoulders and let it fall to her ankles. Why hadn’t I ever noticed just how perfect she was before? She stood there, naked and beautiful in the moonlight that poured in from the living room window, and I knew then and there that I would have done anything for her. Smiling, she climbed on top of me and it was paradise.
After we were done, after all the love I was capable of making had been made, after the pillow talk in which things were said that were sweet and emotional and ultimately meaningless, Tatum gathered her nightgown and went back to her bed. I understood her not wanting the children to find her in my arms in the morning, but a small piece of me was gutted.
My head swam with a million thoughts, my heart filled with far too many emotions, and that, combined with the feeling that something still wasn’t quite right, meant there was no sleep for me this night. And so preoccupied was I that I hadn’t heard it at first. The sound. The jingling of keys.
I strained my ears, trying to locate the noise again. After a few moments of silence, I wondered if it had just been my overactive imagination. It couldn’t have been him with a set of keys, surely Tatum would have changed the locks. Then it happened again. The sound of a key sliding into a lock. I sat bolt upright on the sofa, eyes scanning the darkness for a weapon. Remote controls, game console controllers, DVDs—the candy dish! It was no gun, but the glass was solid enough to crack a skull.
I stared into the dark hallway from the living room entranceway and heard the front doorknob turning. The door opened a crack and light spilled in from the apartment building’s hallway. An arm slipped in through the crack holding a hooked wire, perhaps a piece of a clothes hanger, that scratched at the door until it found purchase in the handle of the security chain which it then dragged along the track slowly until the chain fell away.
I should have acted then. I should have rushed the door, slammed his arm in it, put my full weight against the door, held him there and called the police for them to cart him away. But I was held in place by a tension that locked inside of me. Instinct had taken over. So had the fear.
The intruder’s silhouette appeared in the doorway before the door clicked shut behind him, plunging the hall back into darkness. Footsteps, slow and deliberate. The floorboards creaked as if they were screaming a warning. I threw the candy dish with all my might into the darkness and knew that I missed my target completely when I heard it crash off the front door and glass rained down on the floor.
Then I heard a rustling come from the kids’ room, obviously awakened by the noise. Were they coming to investigate? Something snapped inside me. This bastard wasn’t going to harm those kids!
I charged into the darkness until I collided with the intruder. But as angry and determined as I was, I was no match for his explosive violence. He heaved me into the air and threw me onto the floor, unleashing a hail of punches and kicks that knocked me senseless. I put my arms up to protect my face and instinctively curled into a ball but my defensive position blocked none of his attacks.
He must have sensed how weak I was, what a uselessly pathetic man he was dealing with because he stopped hitting me and chose instead to wrap his hands around my throat. I flailed spastically to get him off as I gasped for air but the intruder was having none of it. He slammed my head against the floor in a violent demonstration of his control over me as I gasped my last remaining breaths.
Then light flooded the room. Tatum and the children stood at the end of the hall, staring at me. My emotions were mixed. I wanted them to go away, I didn’t want them to see me like this. I wanted them to get to safety, but on the other hand, I wanted them to help me. I didn’t want to die.
But there was something in the way they looked at me, something that told me things weren’t right. And I looked up at the intruder—
Who was no longer there. And now I understood why they were staring at me. Here I was lying on the floor with my own hands wrapped around my neck. It took some effort for me to loosen my own grip. I staggered to my feet and tried to explain how Oscar had come back, how he had a key and he broke in and was going to do something terrible to them, but they didn’t understand.
“Who’s Oscar?” the kids asked and, “What’s wrong with Daddy?”
“Stop that! It isn’t funny anymore!” I tried to yell through a raw throat. “I’m not your father!”
A genuine look of pain danced across Tracie and Lee’s faces as they turned to Tatum, asking, “Why is he saying this, Mommy? Why is he acting so strange?”
And I was feeling strange like my entire world had suddenly shifted on its axis.
“I can prove it,” I said as I ran past them into the living room and grabbed the photo album for proof and flipped through the pages of—
Tatum and I on vacation. Me posing with her during various stages of both her pregnancies. The pair of us cradling a newborn Lee and later with us holding a newborn Tracie while Lee lurked in the background pulling a silly face.
These weren’t the pictures I had seen earlier and I had no recollection of having taken these photos, yet they existed.
And I looked at Tracie and Lee and they were different again, now a mixture of Tatum and I thought I actually saw bits of myself in their faces. The kids asked Tatum what was wrong and she explained that I, Daddy, just had a nightmare, that’s all. She told them that everything would be all right in the morning, everything back to normal.
After Tatum swept up the shattered candy dish, she began to usher me to the bedroom, grabbing the pillow off the sofa when something fell to the floor, something that had been resting under the pillow. It looked like a figure made of red-tinged folded palm leaves, bound together by hair but I couldn’t see it properly because she quickly brushed it under the sofa with her foot. I asked her what it was and she said it was just one of the kids’ toys and she would talk to them about picking up their things, or she suggested maybe I should do it, after I got back from Tuesday morning shopping, because she wouldn’t have time since she was staring at a monster of a day down at the law firm tomorrow.
Prodigy. Genius. Talented. Gifted. Blessed. While it’s true these words describe yours truly to a T, there are times when greatness does not come easily (no, really, it’s true) and some of the ideas that spill forth from my gray matter fall far afield of the greatness for which I am currently known (if I have to label this as sarcasm you are instructed to take a seat at the back of the class until such time as you are able to purchase a clue).
Most of these hideas (hideous ideas) are forgotten as quickly as they appear, but there are a handful, a select few, that hang around and claim squatter’s rights on mental real estate better suited to my magnum opus(es).
This post shall serve as an eviction notice, with the hope that given some minor attention, the ideas will pack their belongings and fuck the fuck off back to obscurity.
Venusian Gender Non-Specific Martians From The Moon
The year is 1938 and the United States launches a rocketship with the secret mission of sending settlers to stake claim to Earth’s moon for America. Upon their arrival, the lunar settlers stumble upon the satellite’s indigenous lifeform, Venusian Martians (the exiled offspring which resulted from the great Venus Mars Conflict) who do not identify by gender. The settlers also learn of a Venusian Gender Non-Specific Martian plot to invade Earth and mine the planet for the most precious energy source in the galaxy… human sex chromosomes!
Trouser Snakes On A Dame
Samantha Jackson, an asexual parking enforcement officer, is trapped in an interplanetary shuttle full of horny extraterrestrial businessmen during the rush hour commute and is forced to take on car after car of deadly, one-eyed snakes, deliberately unzipped to deflower any virgin who dares stand in their way of spacejacking the shuttle to the nearest pleasure planet!
“I am sick and tired of these masturfapping trouser snakes on this mother loving dame!”
Pocket Rocket To TheStars
It’s 1937 and America is looking for alternative fuel and power sources. Enter female rocket scientist, Hedda DiClasse, who builds a rocketship powered by the ever elusive and once thought to be mythical female orgasm. Problems arise when Captain Manuel “All Man” Hardbody is brought aboard to pilot the vessel despite the fact he possesses too much testosterone. Can he and Dr. DiClasse put aside their differences and come together to ride that rocket into the Milky Way?
I Was A Teenage Neanderthal Bride
Ooba wan’t going to be told whom she would marry, especially with all the potential Cro Magnon suitors running around, with their promises of a newer, better way of life. But even as she discovers the perfect homo erectus, she finds herself torn between pursuing her wondrous new life or saving her old life and her family from extinction.
If Books Could Kill
A single mother gives her daughter a popular children’s book, only to discover that it is possessed with the soul of her recently murdered serial killer husband who’s out for revenge.
A viral outbreak renders the human race infertile and in order to cheat death, the top scientists and surgeons turn to the works of Victor Frankenstein until generations later, the world is nothing but frankenpeople, but when a frankenwoman gets pregnant and gives birth, the planet will stop at nothing to dissect the newborn.
Gym Rat Blue
Five unbelievably attractive rookie cops who look as though they spend every waking moment at the gym, have just graduated from the police academy in a nondescript city that could be New York but is probably somewhere in Canada. Now that training’s over and the rough and tumble life of a beat cop begins, they must learn not only to deal with their duties as police officers, but also deal with the problems and expectation of their severely dysfunctional families and friends, while maintaining their unnatural good looks, even after being shot. Pose, pout, protect and serve is the name of the game at the One-Oh-Sex Precinct.
Let Go Of My Ears, I Know What I’m Doing
We never need talk about this story or its title ever again. Sorry I even mentioned it Move along, nothing to see here.
Sally forth and be repurposing your less than stellar story ideasingly writeful.
It’s vacation time and I could have planned ahead and scheduled a couple of short stories to keep my blog parking space warm during my absence but I’m a lazy writer so what you get is a sampling of my Twitter story tweets from the past week instead.
In my sock drawer, there is a hiding space behind a row what my father calls grave socks as in one foot in the grave because they either do not have a match, are riddled with holes, threadbare at the toes and heels, or the ankle elastic has given up their hold on life. In that hiding space, there is a letter written carefully in a mixture of cursive and print. In that letter, are words, feelings, emotions, and admissions that a boy would never say directly to a girl’s face, not even on a double dog dare.
On a bicycle, there is a shy paperboy who, even though I have not responded to his first letter yet, would write me another letter, I am sure of it, reminding me of our time in the park. In that park, there is a rum cherry tree under which I made a promise to the shy paperboy of seven minutes in heaven.
In my closet, on an afternoon when no one is home, I make good on my promise with the shy paperboy. In the dark, my mind is filled with a sort of scary, sort of awkward fireworks that I can see but cannot hear because my heart is pounding so fast and loud that I swear the shy paperboy can hear it.
In that kiss, there is something I do not have words for, something that drops my guard completely, makes me feel truly comfortable with the shy paperboy and I am desperate to let him see me in my entirety.
In that feeling, I am crying harder than I ever have before, harder than I even knew I could, crying past the point when I run out of tears. In the tearless sobs, my breath is hitching and I realize that this is most likely the happiest and most terrified I will ever feel in my life.
In the silence, after the kiss and the tears, the overwhelming and slightly painful joy is replaced by the sound of a key sliding into a lock, the tumbling of a bolt and the jangling of a woman’s metal bracelets.
In the house, there is a mother who will tan not only my hide but the shy paperboy’s as well, if she ever finds out I have company without permission and especially if my room door is closed and that company is a boy who is in my room.
In the window, there is a scared paperboy climbing out and mumbling a prayer that he does not hurt himself or makes a sound when he drops a story to the ground below.
In my mother’s eyes, there is suspicion when she opens the door and enters my room, catching me rushing to shut the window, cutting off the cool breeze even though I am dripping with sweat.
In my mind, there is a list of excuses that I cannot find in the clutter of thoughts so I just stare at my mother as innocently as walks past me and opens the window, about to stick her head out to inspect the backyard.
In my mouth, there is a fib, “A wasp!” I say just a bit too forcefully and I build on it by telling her there was a wasp in the room so I closed the door to stop it from getting into the rest of the house and I managed to chase it out and shut the window behind it.
In the moments that tick by too slowly, my mother glances at the window again, then at my face before turning to leave but as she reaches the door, she stops and says, “You should probably find a better hiding place. Your father’s been talking about throwing out your grave socks and you wouldn’t want him finding that letter, would you? And the no company without permission rule stands no matter how sweet a boy’s words are or how much your heart aches for him, understood?”
In the end, I realize I am not as clever as I think I am, nor is my mother that foolish or unreasonable and I discover a newfound respect for her as I answer, “Yes, ma’am.”
About There is a Letter: The story began life as this sneaky tweet for a Wednesday Twitter hashtag game called 1LineWed (hosted by Kiss of Death @RWAKissofDeath) that I banged out while I was working my day job:
Welcome back to the Infobahn Chronicle Channel! My name is Kari R. Wade and I’m coming to you live from Staten Island with a local news story that’s gaining national and international attention.
Before I begin, I need to issue the following warning: Tonight’s news story contains adult themes, possible sexual content, and strong language. If you are sensitive to any of these, please proceed at your own discretion. Furthermore, the opinions expressed during this broadcast, especially those from the people joining the live chat, do not necessarily reflect the views of the channel.
As previously mentioned, there’s a local story and by local I mean Staten Island, New York, where I broadcast from, involving a wife and husband, both of them nudists and professional photographers, who took nude photographs of their 10-year-old daughter and had them framed and placed on various walls of their house along with other photographs which were not all nudes and no there were other underage models. One day, one of the girl’s friends from school visits the house and sees her friend’s naked photos and when she gets home she tells her mother who promptly calls the police. With a warrant, the police confiscate the nude photos of the little girl and the couple is now facing child pornography charges.
Do you agree with this? Or can you see the parents’ point of view that the nude photographs of their daughter were art?
As I consider all of you my cohosts, I’m opening up the chatline to get your thoughts on the matter. As always, while I do believe in the freedom of expression and will air your content as is, this is a safe space everyone to express their opinions and hate speech and bully will not be tolerated.
Ah, we have our first contributor:
Casino_Royale: I have photos of all my children in the tub at play when they were younger. I love the shots. I think they are joyful and innocent and all things good concerning childhood but I wouldn’t hang those photos in a public space for anyone walking around my home to view for several reasons.
First among them being my children’s embarrassment. Second, the fact that the world we live in is full of some very strange humans that may not think them so harmless. Maybe someone looking at them isn’t seeing them in the light for which they were meant. Bringing attention to my child to that person is easily avoided by not displaying the photos. Artistically it sucks, I know, but it is as it is.
GILF57: I agree but let’s not forget the child is 10. That’s usually past the age that you refer to as joyful tub photos. I have a 13-year-old girl and we stopped taking those kinds of photos at around age 5. A big part of the law surrounding child porn has to do with the fact that the victim cannot legally give consent. I think if the parents weren’t into child porn, they showed remarkably poor judgment.
LarrytheAbleGuy: Like pornography, I can’t define art, but I know it when I see it. Without seeing it, I am with GILF57. Naked baby, maybe. Naked 10-year-old, fishy, or at least, remarkably imprudent, given the current climate.
NYCer4evr: How about giving those folks the benefit of the doubt? Having said that, Art is incredibly subjective, as is common sense at times, unfortunately.
Grimly: They should have known better but like Batman once said: “Hindsight is often better than foresight.” It’s hard for me to speak to the judgment of those parents. Perhaps they have strong convictions that conflict with the prevailing social standard. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.
Sisterectomy: It’s child pornography.
Spam_I_Am: As Larry implies, the “current climate” is pretty puritanical when it comes to this sort of thing. Like Grimly, I cannot presume to know the parents’ philosophy and attitude from this distant vantage point. Nonetheless, I do agree with some others who suggest that their judgment about displaying them in a place potentially open to viewing by non-family-members may have not been particularly wise, given the puritanical attitudes that are so prevalent these days in the USA.
But I really cannot fathom how someone can immediately proclaim “child pornography” without any better insight than I into this matter. I presume that such a person would automatically assume that a child raised in a naturist environment is automatically and continuously a victim of sexual abuse then? That is an unfathomable position to me.
The mere fact that a child is photographed unclothed does not mean that photograph is child porn, any more than a nude picture of an adult is automatically pornographic. To me, the demarcation between “art/document” and “abuse” is a lot higher than the mere existence of the private image.
More than 20 some odd years ago a fine-art photographer by the name of Jock Sturges was raided and investigated by the FBI over allegations that some of his work was child porn. The charges were eventually dropped. Ironically he became a bit of a lightning-rod for silly attempts to censor artists and gained quite a bit of notoriety over this.
Bottom line for me: people need to tone down the hysteria and do a lot more to establish motive and intent before jumping to crazy premature conclusions.
Kindhrtd: Not having any children of my own, I can more easily be broadminded about some of these issues without feeling either of my knees jerking. I’m not sure how much weight I would put on the parents intent…its the end result that to me is important. I think a better solution to the problem would be to take the parents aside and strongly suggest that any such photos remain away from public view.
And of course, someone needs to have a conversation with the child. I agree with a number of commenters who feel like we don’t have enough information to make a determination. Just saying that the photos were of a nude child is not in and of itself enough. There have been many tasteful full nude photos on the covers of magazines in recent years (such as the expectant mothers on Vanity Fair) and I don’t think we can immediately claim that such photos are porn.
mommie_mia: I have two children of my own and also some “cute” pictures like the ones mentioned here, I believe all parents can appreciate proud parents wanting to display pics, but nude child photos are a parents memento, not for anyone who walks down the hall. Children are to be cherished and protected not displayed for all.
WitchrBadSelf: I am sure the parents did not mean ill, or pedophilia. However, 10 is too old, I didn’t take any naked shots after age 2. And hanging them in the house is a mistake, also. However, I hope it isn’t a mistake they have to pay too dearly for.
Grimly: Sally Mann is another prominent artist who has been challenged for photographing (her own) children in the nude, as has Bill Hensen, an Australian photographer who earned the wrath of the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd:
This is simply not an issue that can be disposed of easily or in a glib manner. Children should be protected. The freedom of artistic expression should be protected. Whenever our values come into conflict with each other, as inevitably they will, our response should not be to throw down gauntlets or prosecute, our response should be to come together, speak, listen, and collaborate.
Felicity: At age 10 it was, at the very least, wildly inappropriate. Art, perhaps, but the needs of the child are far more important than the artistic needs of the parents. It is a question of precedence.
DoverClover: Very poor taste and I question the parents’ sanity. Would they have their daughter walk nude into a room with people outside the family in it?
FromtheHip: There is no way this is legitimate “child porn” under any valid interpretation of laws in the USA, though twisting laws to perpetuate false arrests and malicious persecutions is a tactical goal of Rabid Religious wRong (RRR) organizations and those who arrogantly or cluelessly act on their instigation.
Kari, message me privately if these are friends who’d like help contacting any of the public interest law organizations or naturist and nudist activist leaders I know who may be able to help with legal resources, tactical advice, or filing Amicus support if they end up engaged in serious litigation.
What needs to happen in a case like this isn’t generally possible, but the friend and her parents who went to police, the cops involved, and the judge signing the warrant, need to be prosecuted as felons for conspiracy to deprive civil rights under color of law, and relevant parties sued for damages for false arrest or malicious prosecution or impeached and disbarred, ending government careers. The parents deserve a child abuse investigation for indoctrinating a kid to be incapable of respecting neighbor’s civil rights and likely to lack coping skills for our diverse society, quite possibly due to active parental and possible church or similar abuse and not merely negligent parenting.
As others have mentioned, there is a certain amount of case law that treats images like this as protected speech, not just in private noncommercial family surroundings or under some age, but as commercially published coffee table book or gallery quality life figure art, where lesser civil rights tests may attach (“intermediate scrutiny” rather than “strict scrutiny”) because of court interpretations of businesses not being citizens. That exists both for artists and photographers, and for book importers (eg, ALESSANDRA’S SMILE) and resellers, as well as private persons. Some of that case law can be found in this specialized law library, including cases not widely known to most counsel:
Kari, in what jurisdiction did this case occur? Do you know what specific charges have been filed? Is the Gestapo-like abuse of child protective services common to many jurisdictions also involved?
Of course law is strategic, tactical, and often deals with corrupt parties in all of black robes, blue suits we hand badges, guns, and truncheons, and prosecutor’s offices, especially in states where judges and prosecutors are elected rather than appointed employees, or where RRR related bigotry and subversion of government is common.
What is nothing more than a barely tolerable outcome in terms of Constitutional law may involve various time, money, and stress limits as well as the risk of a malfunctioning court not upholding the law due to various defects and prejudices prompting legal tactics that are far from adequate. Ideally, this kind of case calls for aggressive action against its instigators and perpetrators, from the other kid and her parents, through government agents largely immune due to sovereign immunity as if some king’s henchmen. A not guilty or dismissal, followed by a civil suit for false arrest, and recovery of legal costs and fees, plus the record of having done that to protect others (albeit only slightly), is likely a best possible real-world outcome. How far are these victims willing to go upholding the rule of law, versus just trying to cut and run?
It’s ludicrous to have laws that are so susceptible to abuse as are present kiddie porn laws. It sounds as if this is a case of hyper-aggressive bigots and thugs acting to lynch an entire family, as a result of prejudices and bigotry contrary to the rule of civil rights law for the USA. It’s fully legal for the acts of modeling or family lives or nudists and naturists to exist regardless of age and to photograph those.
Persons whose bigotry is so incompatible with respecting or at least tolerating neighbors living within their rights deserve to be prevented from abusing kids with those pathologies. Our government has an obligation to prevent this kind of lynching and never engage in malicious or reckless conspiracies to use violent force or threat thereof to create chilling illegal prior restraint against legal and protected speech or actions, as this case appears to be.
I also note that the most disrespectful of civil rights and clueless about US law comment so far in this thread comes from a government agent, who we fund and trust to use violent force potentially depriving other victims of civil rights. It’s overdue that corrupt criminal gangs we fund as the government be treated as worse crime problems, both personally and as organizations, than far less abusive non-government gangs of thugs or their members. End sovereign immunity and those willing to uphold the rule of civil rights law can be empowered to drive malicious thugs out of positions of power if they seriously abuse them.
Kindhrtd: I’m not at all sure I agree with everything that FromtheHip said…cuz he said A LOT…but DAMN, that boy has balls with a capital B!
Spam_I_Am: I should add to my last comment about establishing “motive and intent” and the word “harm.” Surely you can harm your children despite having good intentions, and it’s still child abuse. I just don’t see any evidence for jumping to that conclusion here based on the information we’ve been given so far.
For the same reasons I think it’s inadvisable to go bombing foreign countries just because they thumbed their nose at you once, I agree with Grimly that the first reaction in these sorts of cases should be dialogue, fact-finding and collaboration, instead of trying to be the first and loudest one to scream “off with their heads!”
Grimly: The bedrock of this issue is not a legal dispute, it’s a human one. Legal remedies seduce us because they promise a decisive outcome. They promise justice. The real stakes here cannot ever be decided in a court, however.
Baroness: I have to say I am with FromtheHip. If this was a situation where the child was or felt abused it would be different.
Topaz: Agree with Grimly’s point of view, not enough info.
Quietasitzkept: If anyone has actually seen Sally Mann’s work, it clearly isn’t pornographic. Disturbing, but by no means abusive or sexual. Sturges walks a much finer line, much more charged imagery, and was still let off. Photos of your own prepubescent child? As presented, it sure doesn’t sound pornographic. Stupid to hang on your wall, probably, but the parents’ sense of judgment isn’t the issue. Did it harm the kids? That’s the important question, which isn’t answered here.
FromtheHip: The fact that this has been already made a serious legal case means that it needs resolution as a legal case. It became something that is far from ideal and reflects pathologies of our society itself to tolerate the way hate cults endorse abusive parents indoctrinating kids in ways fundamentally incompatible with any diverse Western society, and authorities willing to turn into adrenalin junkies on any excuse to abuse power.
A lawyer friend calls me a tusked boar for some of the focused tactical redress I find needed in cases like this. To tolerate an atmosphere of chilling prior restraint this kind of case reflects can amount to an overall higher level of violence than taking out the thugs causing it, with one wrongful violence in small pieces, the other more concentrated force to uphold core legal standards.
It’s needed to do that to other parents who millions would view as normal for indoctrinating EITHER overt RRR hate cult OR institutionalized bigotry counterparts they may not consciously recognize themselves doing, such that the friend had the reactions she did. It’s needed to show that cops when they act as little more than mercenary thugs, politicians as mob bosses, and intermediate bureaucrats, can be held personally liable under the SAME legal standards that limit protections to corporate employees and officers, rather than be above the law. “Bivens” precedent for when it’s legal to personally as well as officially sue criminal cops, or exterminate bad cops perpetrating felonies many state laws say don’t qualify for lawful self-defense against cop perp’s, is far from adequate legal process.
It takes 3-5 generations to help masses of people adapt to small chunks of social changes as became overdue in full overnight in 1868 when the 14th Amendment extended the Bill of Rights inside states before our society diversified exponentially before ever catching up to 1868 law. In law on these issues, justice delayed is justice denied, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s a chicken and egg mess, where legal remedies need to enable and pressure expedited social progress, but where social progress is needed before legal remedies are fully functional.
Anthony Romero’s boyfriend’s dad had an interesting experience at his business with his efforts to simply display what he thought was interesting art to make for a less dreary workplace. He found that insurance clerks complained that abstract life form pastels on the walls caused them to feel the workplace was hostile (not so clearly expressed, of course), while moving the same art to a boardroom and executive suites resulted in either no responses or positive comments from generally better educated and more intelligent employees or visitors to his large insurance company.
Besides Progressive Insurance’s general support of arts, they’ve also been a benefactor to the ACLU of over $30 million in donations, and that along with the Bush regime’s abuses motivating a more than doubling of ACLU membership have increased resources to assist this kind of victim of abuse of legal process.
Difficult as it may be, full enforcement of long-standing civil rights law interpreted based on current and honest societal fact, needs to be the yardstick for what kids need to be raised to have skills to live within and around. Monoculture supremacists, whether from hate cult dogma or gross lack of challenging adult and parenting skills, push an impossible paradox that civil rights should be restricted to reduce conflicts between their dictum and their kids lacking skills to deal in the real world of many conflicting life practices of neighbors (resulting in dysphoria & cognitive dissonance).
Alongside the obligation to use broad civil rights-related actions existing openly in society, religious or equivalent monoculture coercion cannot work in a diverse society, as even groups like Baptists or Mormons or Muslims have vicious feuds within themselves over which version of hate cult dogma to coerce on others. The best options for those who lack core parenting skills for the severe challenges of adapting kids to a diverse society with much chaos and complexity is to either not have kids, or pick their favorite Sharia court country and move there.
As to legal process, of course, a detailed finding and creation of a record of fact is important to this kind of case. In theory that’s what cops were required to do before filing for a warrant, and could not have done honestly based on the OP’s stated issues above. There are serious legal seminars on child porn with some rather disgusting examples that these cops should have attended before this kind of action.
There are also tactical seminars for prosecutors and cops to learn dirty tricks to circumvent the law and perpetrate malicious actions over legal speech, which arguably deserve to be found having a nexus to this kind of abuse and treated as instrumentalities of civil rights felonies, rather than protected religious or political speech. This result being an abuse of power backed by gunpoint gang is wrong whether the cops acted based on malice or negligence in professional and legal competency.
GILF57: Most of you have skipped the important fact here: these laws are made to protect the child(ren). The parents are collateral damage. While I can sympathize with them and hope that this is all a big misunderstanding or witch-hunting, the fact is that the child cannot ever give consent and any damage to her may not be known for years. I have known several victims of child sexual abuse. The damage may not show up for a decade and they never get over it.
Spam_I_Am: None of which excuses rushing to judgment. The real debatable issue here, to me, is what constitutes “harm.” I believe certain factions expand the definition of it to help them promulgate their personal agenda.
I think it would serve us all well to try to come up with a concrete definition, something other than “it might show up 10 years later, maybe.” Sounds like a blank check to me.
I also find it somewhat offensive to excuse any over-reaching legal action by claiming that it’s OK to breach this person or group’s rights (who have not been proven to have done anything illegal) in order to allegedly protect this other individual or group.
EVERYONE’s civil, legal and human rights should be respected and protected, until such time as it is very clear that someone has squandered certain of those rights by committing a crime.
Nana:@Spam_I_Am, I am astonished that you do not see the harm to a 10-year-old girl in this scenario. As a parent of a 12-year-old male, I think these parents should have put the photos under wraps years ago. Like, when they were 6-ish, and no longer babies.
@FromtheHip, you are an ass. And probably a pedophile, since you seem to have thought this issue through so seriously.
Sisterectomy: AMEN, Nana!
GILF57: I also find it somewhat offensive to excuse any over-reaching legal action by claiming that it’s OK to breach this person or group’s rights (In best Georgian accent) Like Jimmy Carter used to say, “Life, is unfair.”
Sisterectomy: @Grimly – The mental & physical damage a pedophile inflicts on a child in the pursuit of pleasure and what he calls “Love” and often “Art” is PERSONAL when you have children of your own. There’s not a parent out there who doesn’t feel a tug on their heart when they hear of a case and they don’t even get the real story. The real life facts are hideous and frightening. So Hell Yeah Man, it’s Personal.
Spam_I_Am: I don’t see the harm unless it is apparent the child feels harmed. I already said it was probably bad judgment on the part of the parents to have those photos in a place accessible to non-family-members.
I have known many victims of child sexual abuse – a number of them among my closest friends. Assuming that I have no compassion for people who’ve been through such things, simply because of what has been said here is dangerously presumptuous.
However, I draw massive distinctions between someone who, for example, was systematically and brutally raped by a parent for years on end, and some superficial hearsay about some nude pictures on some family’s wall, without knowing the slightest about the family, it’s history and dynamics.
If people think that presumptively and traumatically tearing up a family over such things – without any consideration about how healthy the overall environment was and how happy the children are, is better than simply sitting down with the parents and discussing, for example, the wisdom of having such photos on public display, then I don’t think there’s anything left I can say.
Spam_I_Am: The problem with that last point, Sisterectomy, is that you don’t have the facts in this case. Why you act like you do is a mystery.
No one is trying to argue that pedophilia is wrong or damaging to children. The point in this discussion is whether this case seems to meet the definition of pedophilia. I would like to see someone discuss in detail why they think it does, and how one ascertains damage/harm.
Because if it’s going to be a legal issue (as it already has become apparent and must be if the adult’s parental rights are being taken away), then it presumably has to meet the legal standard of either “pedophilia” or “child endangerment”. If someone would care to quote the legal definitions as applies to the locale in question, and how this case qualifies, I’d be interested to hear that.
Baroness: You’re opening a can of worms by deciding as an outside party that something relatively neutral is automatically a sign of abuse. Maybe it can raise a flag, but it is not an indication of abuse alone. By creating a tone of indecency around what might have been perceived as perfectly natural for the child, you’re completely warping any concept of normalcy or happiness in her future. It is not the place of outside parties (particularly uninformed ones on the internet) to decide children have been abused – and a lot of these crazy cases that turn out to be false are precisely that: outside parties who don’t listen to the children.
By no means am I somehow trying to minimize abuse victims, and I personally have a lot to say about the topic, but realistically Kari is very neutral. She doesn’t go into detail about the situation and to see people not only assume, but take up arms about something they don’t know anything about is a little disturbing.
Nana: This seems stupid. Can we meet the child? See the photos? Baring that, this is all kind of a joke.
IMO, displaying nude pictures of my 12-year-old child to anyone who happens to be in the room is just wrong. Anyone who does this should be reprimanded, hopefully by their own family and not by the state. Oh and sorry, my family is really fucked up and dysfunctional, so it can’t or will not control itself.
Spam_I_Am: I think it’s safe to say that opinions differ on the general appropriateness of nudity in the home. For example, naturism, as a lifestyle, is perfectly legal across the country. It would seem that the simple adoption of that lifestyle would automatically breach ana’s standard stated above.
So the challenge here, it seems to me, is how to reconcile these disparate views and standards, so that the various members of the community are satisfied. I also think it would be great if someone in the family were to bring up the question of whether the public display of the photos was a good idea. But even if the community/state got involved, it seems like the reasonable thing to do first is to, as Grimly said earlier, engage in a dialogue, rather than rushing to snap judgments.
None of us here have the details, so in a sense, as Baroness says, we’re all just sort of blowing a lot of hot air about it. Clearly, discussions like this are inclined to get emotional and inflammatory and make people quickly take sides, without actually resolving much in terms of specifics.
Baroness: What kind of people do you let in your house? I mean the daughter is inviting friends over and doesn’t display any behavior indication she has a problem with this. I find that to be an interesting indicator of tone. Even if you somehow think these photos would trigger an incident of abuse, you should still question what kind of “display” your private dwelling is on.
GILF57: I have known many victims of child sexual abuse – a number of them among my closest friends. Assuming that I have no compassion for people who’ve been through such things, simply because of what has been said here is dangerously presumptuous.
I didn’t assume you had no compassion if it came across that way, I apologize. What I am trying to get across, is that the needs of the child are paramount and if a mistake is going to be made by the State, it will be made in the child’s favor. Generally speaking, I can live with that.
I mean, the daughter is inviting friends over and doesn’t display any behavior indication she has a problem with this. I find that to be an interesting indicator of tone.
I cannot understand how her behavior is of any consequence. Lots of abuse victims find the situation normal and as I have said now many times, they cannot legally give consent anyway.
There does seem to be a big difference of opinion here by those who are parents and those who are not.
Baroness: This discussion is pointless. Let’s all teach our daughters to fear their bodies and feel only shame.
FromtheHip: One of the problems with lynch mobs rather than responsible citizens addressing these issues, is that the lynch mobs of emotive so-called adults and politicians pandering to them cause NAMBLA to become a legitimate and needed civil rights organization, in addition to a cover for real criminals. Clean up bad laws and the lynch mob mentality behind them, as well as address messy issues of post-pubescent sexuality and consent, plus a side dish of gay bashing, and most of the legitimate public purpose and need for NAMBLA or similar groups disappears. In effect, what many reckless religious or political predators espouse as if “protecting children” becomes a mode of abuse of kids and adults alike.
Pedophilia cannot legitimately be a crime. It’s a medical pathology, that crosses both sides of what’s necessarily a serious boundary for Constitutionally valid law, between thoughts that are legal even if warped, and crimes of actual molestation of specific victims. Beyond that, the term pedophilia is frequently used as an excuse for religiously biased laws to censor openly visible normal human sexuality of post-pubescents and to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than restricted to its long-standing medical definition to depict only adults with an unnatural sexual interest in pre-pubescents. To be valid, laws must be narrowly constructed when they deal with issues of conflicting rights as sexuality relates to both privacy and religion, and must be based on real harm to specific victims rather than pander to broad prejudices of bigots and irrational masses.
As a long term naturist who’s reviewed developmental psychology and social psychology studies of child development comparing nudist and “textile fetishist” raised kids, I know that social prejudices coercing costume compulsion do on average harm kids, whereas nudist parenting practices on average result in teens with 18 months greater developmental maturity in several key areas (personal identity concept, boundaries awareness, decision-making skills) than for their costume-compulsive peers. In fact, indoctrinating kids to be costume-compulsive is a cause of teen suicides and lesser emotional pathologies, when in a “too much is never enough” economics driven culture many teens expect themselves to be not just models with specific body types and huge costume and makeup and salon services budgets, but airbrushed modifications of those. Reliance on Nikes or mall textile costumes to define oneself is far less healthy than mature concepts of a functional human.
I have assisted victims of bad laws defend fraudulent molestation complaints, including one divorce related extortion case where a friend was prosecuted after a psycho girlfriend of the X2B had her husband show the young kids porn videos on what was later found to be stolen video gear that husband was fencing, to enable the sick mother and friend to take the kids to police with the trigger for cops gone wild, worse than Joe Francis rapes, and plant the suggestion, “how would they know this (porn video scenes) unless daddy did something to them?”
I’ve also known “convicted sexual offenders” whose “crime” was having a boyfriend over the state age of sexual consent as teens, a year before unConstitutional laws were repealed or overturned, but not invalidating lynch mob convictions essentially where the crime was being a normal gay teen rather than having same ages heterosexual partners.
Lesbians have less often been targets of equivalent due process and other rights violations, also a form of due process violation by corrupt politicians and lynch mob voters and jurors. That’s not to say there isn’t long term harm decades later to victims of real molestation, and I’ve known some of those too, but that use of legal process for malicious or wantonly negligent civil rights abuses is unjustifiable subversion of government into the role of violent criminals.
For nudist and naturist families, as well as liberal arts involved communities, costumes are no more than that, or occupational task safety tools. To presume otherwise as many people do is often an excuse to wrongfully attempt to impose personal prejudices on others, or sidestep responsible parenting of kids who almost necessarily will be exposed and have to live alongside people of very different ideologies and practices than their own families.
That’s where sorting out legitimate causes of cognitive dissonance and dysphoria as real emotional consequences of values conflicts and life skills, from presumed religious or social bigotry based “standards” that are little more than personal or subculture preferences or prejudices, is essential to the rational development of legitimate public policy and law. Most people never spend adequate time inspecting their own issues of that nature, never mind looking at society broadly. As such, they’re less than competent as parents, or citizens. As our society continues to diversify, the importance of changing that grows rapidly.
It’s an old quote from a dead guy, but remains true: “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are not even capable of forming such opinions.” — Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions
In our society, we need to see most people doing what old Albert suggested most people are incapable of doing. Were we to restrict baby hatching to adults with those developed faculties, we could easily reverse overpopulation related aspects of global warming. That kind of bias could be far more easily justified in public policies in tax codes and otherwise, than present ones that result in de facto dysgenics, where the only current USA positive birth rates are to the lowest IQ demographics of baby hatchers unlikely to be competent parents in this complex society.
BTW, presumably, you meant no one is claiming “pedophilia” (in the commonly used erroneous definition?) is NOT wrong or damaging? As discussed above, IMHO that needs to be refined among medical pathology and thought policing versus criminal law restricted to actual molestation of pre-pubescents, also separating out consent issues for teens who under many religious and cultural standards even if not some legal “bright lines” are sexual adults entitled to rights as such.
Spam_I_Am: What I see is certain people refusing to support their position other than trying to be divisive (by trying to divide the participants into opposing teams), or by throwing out non-sequiturs like “life is unfair sometimes”, or “it’s just collateral damage”.
I have a funny feeling that the writer of those things would be rather outraged if I had used the same phrases in response to the idea that children should be protected from pedophiles.
Grimly: Count me as an experienced parent, for what that’s worth.
@FromtheHip, I have to confess that I struggle with the long monologue form as an effective way to connect with someone who might not see eye to eye with you. I mean, we could spend hours just on the issue of how society might shift behavior from the legal to the medical arena, but you bring up a whole lot more than that in a single post.
Nana: ok, as far as sexism goes, I say again: MY SON (12) DOES NOT THINK THAT NUDE PICTURES PAST 3 YEARS OF AGE SHOULD BE DISPLAYED IN PUBLIC. We are a progressive, liberal, way more tolerant family than most in the Midwest. WE LISTEN TO OUR SON WHEN HE TELLS US WHAT IS APPROPRIATE.
Baroness: That’s your son’s opinion. And good for you for listening to him. But frankly, it does sound like you have influenced his opinion.
It is not a premise for judging this situation. Who here asked the girl how she felt about it?
JJBirdy: My son (who is 2) has many naked pics because he’s my nature boy who enjoys a good undressed romp in the well-enclosed backyard of his grandparents’ house. That said, I haven’t posted any of these exposed pictures on the walls nor have I posted them on any of my social sites where I post many pictures. I think the taking of the photos was not for the intent of being pornographic but it wasn’t a good idea to use them as art on the wall, especially since the child is 10. So calling them child pornographers is a bit much.
FeelTheForce: Interesting. I’d say that if the couple were to hide the photos and only look at them secretly and in private then it would be porn. Having them hanging in their home, I bet they viewed them as art.
As others have pointed out, It is difficult to say without seeing the photos. Maybe it was obvious in the photos that she was nude, but no “private” parts were showing? we just don’t know all the facts here.
As a side note, I am appalled at the fact that we’re calling each other pedophiles based upon a few comments in this thread. Can’t we have a simple discussion without name calling? Good lord people.
TeaLibby: I don’t think this is pornography. Any parent has taken a picture of their children nude. I have a few of my own. I have to agree with FromtheHip on this issue as well. What’s done in my house, dammit, leave it alone. Now if I sell the photos or post them on the internet for perverts to check out, in the sense, it might be porn. Otherwise, leave my photos alone.
Petalblossom: Simply said: None of us can determine the nature of these pictures since we cannot see them. That said, it’s doubtful they’re pornographic since they were on display in public areas of the home. See, no emotion first.
Ivy_Inverness: Petal is correct. The presumption of innocence has been lost here altogether. Also, I believe in protecting children, but the “moralistic” swing away from individual rights is appalling. As many others have stated, insufficient information to make an informed judgment. Those who jumped up and screamed, “pornography” with such scanty evidence are the same folks who believe in lynching without a trial.
Valkyrie: I think there are several issues to untangle here, and I’ll try and do that, and give my opinion on each.
1) Is taking nude photos of a 10 year old automatically pornographic?
I would say, no. Depends on the context, what the child is doing in the photo, whether the image is sexualized and whether the child feels comfortable.
2) Is it a good idea to take such photos?
3) Is it a good idea to publicly display and/or distribute the photos?
Definitely not, and very possibly illegal as well. Not sure how child pornography is legally defined.
Someone I know is now on the sex offenders register because she took a photo of her 7-year-old nephew playing in the garden in the nude, and had it reported by the developer.
4) Is it damaging for children to be photographed in the nude?
If they are comfortable with it, and not because they are victims of sexual abuse and so conditioned to it, if it is not a sexual picture, and if it is not displayed or distributed to cause them embarrassment, then I don’t see why it should be damaging.
Grimly: Kari actually presented a choice, and we are focusing on one side at the expense of the other. Would it be helpful to use an example that anyone can see for themselves? The photographs of Sally Mann are for sale at artnet.com.
Valkyrie: I wouldn’t class the Sally Mann’s as pornographic, although I imagine there are pedophiles who would find them arousing. Personally, I find things like children wearing t-shirts saying things like ‘boy toy’ much more disturbing.
DrinkenDrive: It strikes me as quite a strange thing to do and possibly embarrassing for the kids to have those pictures hanging up but child pornography it isn’t unless the kids have more to say about the way the pictures were taken.
Unfortunately, it looks like the US will head the same way as the UK with adults being scared to interact with kids in any way. You only have to look at this discussion to see that it didn’t take long for someone to be implicitly accused of being a pedophile.
CoffeeCopper: There is one small but CRUCIAL detail I didn’t get in the original story. Were these pictures of a naked child, or were they pictures in which the child was naked?
There is a difference between ‘nude’ and ‘naked’. One can pose without their clothes and convey something entirely different than sex, while some women are clothed when they pose in overtly sexual images.
What is pornography? If you define it merely by nudity, Anne Geddes should be arrested, and Betty Page is appropriate for children.
DrinkenDrive: “What is pornography?” To most people, it seems to be “Someone somewhere might get off on it” hence the hysteria over filthy pedophiles hanging out in every conceivable public space possibly recording children.
RunWild: I have children and they are often naked, I think nothing of it. I sometimes have baths with them and they often sleep naked in my bed with me. YIKES! Does that make me a pedophile? Er… I hope not!
I think the police should question the woman who reported them for having a mind that automatically thinks a photo of a naked child is “perverted.” What a sad world we live in.
Warrior_Princess: Ummm, a 10-year-old child’s naked photos, displayed in a place accessible to people other than family members…something sounds wrong in here. Freedom, alternate lifestyle…all that is fine… but are there some limits, somewhere? The world is not a nudist camp…so why display pics in public view? Nope, something wrong with the parents, for sure. I am not saying that they’re pedophiles but they need to develop their social sensitivities and common graces.
Adieu_Mluv: There’s not a parent out there who doesn’t feel a tug on their heart when they hear of a case and they don’t even get the real story.
Regarding legal consents etc, the problem (if there is one) is that until a kid has reached a certain age, it’s their parents that are charged with making decisions in her interest. That’s what society decided is fair. Sadly, too often parents fail to cope appropriately with this important duty. (One could perhaps say their decision making is as poor as that involved in them becoming parents in the first place.) I’m not sure why the parent-child relationship is so hallowed.
If the child is happy to invite people into her home where she knows there’s a picture of herself displayed, and doesn’t cover it up, then I’d have a hard time believing she is remotely affected let alone traumatized, but overblown PC reactions might start to make her feel guilty about not having been ashamed of it, and thus, in fact, cause trauma. True, lots of abuse victims find the situation normal, but lots of people who were not victims also find their situation normal and would be incensed to have others insist otherwise. It’s possible she’s one of those.
It’s sad that even when a kid goes on international TV to say she’s totally fine with her nude photos (as happened in the Australia case), she still gets dismissed as ‘just a kid’ as if she’s too young to know any better.
Underneath our fur and feathers, we are all completely naked, to quote a muppetism! There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. An additional factor in the cases mentioned is that they all involved established professionals. Would it have been better had they taken pictures of someone else’s child instead? What of other professionals who happen to be parents? Could professional doctors be had up for abuse for examining their offspring’s genitals?
I think the issue is not that the parents took photos of their kid and displayed them, it’s that some people are generally uncomfortable with ANY nude pictures of humans between certain ages. It seems to be between about 5 and the age of legal consent for everything. Oh, unless they are pictures in adolescent development texts.
I think naked photos of humans can be artistic, but most attempts at them (moody black and whites) are nothing more than snaps. It was possibly a bit tasteless to display them but plenty of people display tasteless pictures in their homes.
You know what’s even more tasteless, possibly even disgusting, yet widespread, being displayed in millions of homes? Images of a man being tortured to death.
Someone, I forget who, posted: “WE LISTEN TO OUR SON WHEN HE TELLS US WHAT IS APPROPRIATE.”
Really? So then can’t these other parents also listen to their kids when they tell them what they think is appropriate? Or is it that what is ‘appropriate’ for any kid to tell their parents or other adults actually depends entirely on what you think?
PEARL_NEKLESS: I think its also important to note, given the numerous mentions of concern about these pictures being ‘on public display’, that they do in fact appear to be on display only in the privacy of the parents home.
So, the ‘public’ are not exposed to the photographs, only invited guests and friends.
Which, of course, brings up the issue of what is permissible for us to display within the private confines of our own homes and whether or not people who take offense at what we might have hanging on our walls etc, have a right to pursue a legal action against us just because they feel offended as a result of entering our space.
Now knowing that the family are naturists also suggests to me the photographs were almost certainly not ‘pornographic’ in nature. That some people, nonetheless, might find sexual stimulation by viewing said photographs is no reason to charge the photographer with a crime, nor outlaw the taking of such imagery.
Adieu_Mluv: why display pics in public view? Inside one’s own home is “in public view?” Maybe to peeping toms and paparazzi.
Angieplastie: I haven’t read all the comments, so sorry if I repeat anything. Without seeing the pictures, nobody can judge this. If it’s full-frontal, legs-spread, porno-posed nudity, then yes, it’s child porn.
But it could be that you can only see her bare back, for example.
Adieu_Mluv: Is it fair to say that pornography is anything that has been created for the express purposes of sexually titillating or arousing others?
Wonky_Waiter: I lack time, alas, to read all of the comments, but what I’ve read always made sense, as in, there is the principle and the reality. When you make a law for the country, you have to set up some borders, well, some ahead of the real danger.
Like: if you prohibit shooting someone with a gun, you can’t allow people pointing guns at others, even if they won’t ever shoot: how do you know in advance? Then, they had to regulate the toys faking guys: they’ve been used to threaten people and rob them. See what I mean? I can’t say I’m any happier to see any pic of me nude as a baby. I don’t see the point of it: the genitals can be easily covered without making it an ugly photo.
Is murder an art? Is stealing an art? Is torture an art? Is horror an art? Gore? Concentration camps? See? The question is not here. Art is not a cover for just anything. Yes, in these troubled times, let’s be just simple and prudent, instead of getting lost through stupid attempt for philosophy.
If you really want to care about philosophy, search if you should not do something about the poor, the sick, the enslaved people, the homeless, war, etc. That’d make more sense in my eyes than the elitist thinking about such things, like “should we allow nude pics of any kind provided someone finds it’s art?” By luck, the basic worker has better to do of his time, and is, for such matters, smarter than middle-class people, lol.
Kargy_Korvette: It’s pretty much impossible to judge without seeing the photos. Nude doesn’t have to mean pornographic or even erotic.
Grimly: But you can see the photos that Sally Mann took of her children, and not only in the privacy of her home but online. Should Ms. Mann be arrested? It seems to me that the law is inadequate for serving the needs of all concerned.
CoffeeCopper: “Is it fair to say that pornography is anything that has been created for the express purposes of sexually titillating or arousing others?” Only if you want to be sensible or rational about it, Adieu_Mluv. As far as I can tell, people have little interest in rationality.
FromtheHip:“It is no measure of sanity to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jeddu Krishnamurti
It was 1964 that saw Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart become the brunt of jokes that “porn is whatever gives the judge a hard-on” after he penned an opinion in Jacobellis v Ohio explaining why the notion of pornography is so arbitrary and subjective as to evade any valid means of being defined under core principles of US law in common with British law, without reaching additional issues of religious bias that make a later case like FCC v Pacifica Foundation judicial error or malice, as that court later pretended “indecency” was somehow a legal concept rather than an issue of subjective religious prejudice to its roots. Convicted felon-founded Citizens for Decent Literature, inc. was an Amicus party to Jacobellis, and was the first in a string of successor RRR organizations including NFLF, CDC, and ADF that have advocated legal tactics to censor Constitutionally protected speech of others, or Operation Rescue that advocated and organized regional campaigns to send criminal operatives (bastions of national morality) into bookstores and libraries with magic markers and razor knives to vandalize books and art, including among other targets those of Jock Sturges, David Hamilton, and Robert Maplethorpe. At one point, Operation Rescue was convicted under RICO statutes as a criminal mob operation rather than a legitimate religious advocacy group, along with its principals personally, though that mostly reflected their criminal terrorism and lesser crimes against women’s health clinics and their patients.
It’s interesting that most of those calling for criminal persecution of legal speech, or violating THIS SITE and likely their own ISP TOS with libelous accusations of pedophilia, are from the region of the US that brought us Hess v IN and Barnes v Glen Theatre inc, both lynch mob cases of RRR tactical censorship of legal speech, in the region whose Appellate court competes with Texas for 2nd worst in the nation for civil rights protection. Raising kids in such regions is often more challenging than in less RRR infested regions, as they need to be trained in skills that recognize most neighbors and friends as pathological, while still being functionally socialized to deal with them. The easier course of indoctrinating kids to be like sick neighbors is overdue to be treated as serious child abuse, difficult to enforce on such a large scale.
Under core principles of US law, all mala prohibita, what are loosely called “victimless crimes”, are Constitutionally suspect as reflecting prejudices of some advocacy group to marginalize and deny rights to neighbors. That generally includes speech content censorship, drug laws, “nudity” laws (try to define “nudity” in a substantive, neutral manner), and sexuality based laws. A reversal of archaic Puritan/Calvinist bigotry in US laws and roots in Common Law would call for protecting au naturel persons on Main Street equally as those with funny hats, sideburns, or other costumes related to their religions, both for persons for who naturism unto itself is a religion or others for whom it’s an element of religious practice that harms none, and for those entitled to merely be free of oppressive laws based on other people’s dirty dogma. There’s no valid reason to oppress a passive state of being that doesn’t affect others via law, even if many immature people have personal issues where they need to grow the fuck up and deal with human diversity.
This includes the use of White House regime FCC process to harass and intimidate broadcasters, who for commercial reasons in catering to audiences full of intolerant bigots already tend to self-censor heavily. Courts have recently reversed some large FCC fines driven by rabid fundy organizations, ruling that RRR tactics to use the FCC to impose chilling prior restraint by broad brush means and using amorphous legalese definitions designed to be impossible to clearly understand is fundamentally not legal. The importance of broadcast censorship isn’t whether Janet Jackson has good taste in non-piercing nipple jewelry, or whether war is cruel (Private Ryan). This is a question of whether censorship is tolerated to marginalize and subordinate real people and their real lives, by public policy that declares their values and lifestyles squashed from visibility in order to favor dogma of hate cults.
American Family Association, Don Wildmon’s organization, and its members who’ve joined his campaigns to file FCC complaints about programs and FCC licensees in markets those filing the complaints could not possibly have personally viewed, deserve to be prosecuted for large numbers of felonies they’ve perpetrated in their censorship campaigns. In addition to various regulatory violations, filing a false complaint about alleged broadcast “indecency” as AFA in one case managed to instigate 17,000 individual complaints, is a Federal felony under 18 USC 1001. When most people filing via AFA could not possibly have watched the programs on the stations against which they filed, those AFA members’ and supporters’ actions were clearly felonies. Unfortunately, a non-GOP FCC Commissioner with whom I’ve discussed these issues in public on the hearing record and in the shadows is likely correct, that the FCC nor DOJ (Justice) will not do their duty and pursue criminal investigations of AFA false filings absent marching orders from Congress.
I’ve made many filings with the FCC over the years, and never had an application denied, while in the two cases where I’ve filed petitions to deny renewal of broadcast licenses, both licensees were driven out of the industry along with facing serious legal costs and FCC fines.
People need to have their rights to visibly and opening live lives without censoring public existence of themselves meaningfully protected, unless by personal choice and not coercion of illegal laws or abuse of legal process they opt to maintain greater privacy. Anything less means some people are subordinated to pretending to be what they’re not, over issues of core civil rights. That results in any and every supremacist hate cult and its members being criminal child abusers, and not operating within religious or parental rights, when they indoctrinate kids to have the kinds of disabling dysphoria or cognitive dissonance reactions it appears the friend and her parents of this OP had, while lacking skills to cope with not just witnessing the diversity of skyclad pagans and alternate sexualities in private homes, but front and center on Main Street and on broadcast TV. Anything less is unworkable if we’re to uphold core standards of equal protection of religious and other rights for all citizens.
TeaLibby: Sally Mann’s photos of her children can be purchased for use by some sick pedophile who likes to be titillated and aroused by the sight of a naked child. Be it porn or not. To think that some sick a–hole can purchase this picture, get all excited and then go snatch a child off the street and molest or abuse them is just plain wrong. It’s just plain sick.
And believe me, being a child advocate, some of the a–holes do exactly that. Whether it be her right to photograph and display her child’s naked body is one thing, but what happens when like I said, the pedophile is let loose on the streets with a hard on looking for a child to molest? Or if it’s a horny ass woman. Girls do it too. Some people just don’t think about what a photo like Sally Mann’s might do to any of our neighborhood children just trying to play outside.
Spam_I_Am: @TeaLibby: If prohibiting such images in any form is your idea of saving humanity, then I say why stop at that? The logical extension of that would be to just dress all our children up in full burkas since clearly the sight of them doing innocent children stuff in public is way too titillating to tolerate in a proper society.
Adieu_Mluv: Sick a-holes can also purchase pictures of clothed children and get off on them. They can also purchase fashion magazines. They could also just look outside and see plenty of children, titillatingly running around merely being alive. That’s sick. We should anesthetize all children and keep them locked up in boxes in our own homes for their own safety.
Tommy_Tripod: Why the hell would you want nude photos of your 10-year-old? Maybe an infant or toddler… but a 10-year-old? That’s pretty creepy. What 10-year-old would be ok with that anyway?
Grimly: Censorship is not an effective way to prevent the exploitation of children.
Pompadoor: “We should anesthetize all children and keep them locked up in boxes in our own homes for their own safety.”
Exactly! Finally somebody who agrees with me. Soon as the cuteness wears off babies should be put in boxes and fed government approved medication and media.
That’s right kids, enjoy your time, soon as I take my position as benevolent and all knowing dictator y’all be on Ritalin and Fox News 24/7.
TeaLibby:@Spam_I_Am – I’m not saying prohibit the images. I’m saying not putting them out there for sale or for the public taking. I know many people who have nude photos of their children but they’re not displayed as art for sale.
I also know that if a pedophile wants to molest a child that it would happen without looking at photos first and would perhaps do it if the child was dressed in a burka. But do you call naked children outside doing innocent children stuff? Not in this society.
When we reach a proper society (as you call it) then I suppose it won’t be so titillating anymore. But in the meantime, while we are in a not-so-proper-society, I still say protect the children by any means possible. This is all about protecting the children.
Those who don’t live in the “proper society” just yet. Don’t get me wrong on the issue of naturism or one being a nudist either. I go nude. But in the society that we live in now, going nude outside of the proper place is unacceptable because we still have crazies who get so turned on by the naked body that they become violent. Until the tables turn, we have to protect the children. If we don’t they may grow up to live in some psych ward living off yours and my tax dollars. It’s all about the children.
FromtheHip: We’d better prevent kids from playing sports since they’re far more likely to be hurt seriously doing so than to hook up with a real pedophile (as opposed to the fictitious everywhere boogeymen of lynch mobs).
We’d better ban kids from watching TV, since so many do so instead of sports they become seriously unhealthy. That, of course, is prolific, and a cause of considering many parents unfit. It’s no excuse that some homes are in bad neighborhoods where it’s unsafe to go outside when staying inside causes harm to minors.
If kids were raised as most nudist kids are raised, the kids would be less susceptible to pedophiles than those who are raised as costume-reliant kids not taught to deal seriously with real-world issues. Nudist raised kids usually have a healthier balance of athletic risks and benefits than many peers, as well. Costume-compulsive indoctrinated kids are developmentally stunted on average 10% compared to peers by mid-teens, clearly a form of child abuse to those who are NOT raised as nudists.
While we’re banning stuff to protect kids, better ban toilets and bathtubs, where kids drown. Better ban cars and doctors, both causes of many avoidable deaths, even if they serve other legitimate functions too. Better ban blunt objects and personal weapons too, since NCIC data (FBI compiled police reports) shows they’re the tools of most violent felonies and homicides, unlike firearms or knives which together are a minority of tools used in serious crimes.
BTW, “personal weapons” in DOJ-speak means human body parts, and to ban those dangerous weapons requires converting humans to headless quadriplegics. All to protect us, rather than deal with complex social problems, and avoid illegal prior restraint, or substitute it for developing mature humans?
Tommy_Tripod: The real pedophiles are the people you would never suspect. The soccer coach with a wife and kids of his own… the “youth pastor” at your local church… grandpa… uncle… all the nice good-looking people who you would never suspect until their faces are all over the news.
Action_Junkie: Aside from verbose name-calling against people who have different philosophies than he does in the name of societal change and cloaked behind the constitutional grounds of allowable actions, FromtheHip makes valid claims.
I simply disagree with him. After all, community standards generally dictate what is considered porn. If you do not like the standards in your community then go elsewhere.
It would be interesting to see a study of how many people interested in violence have large collections of violent materials, how many bigots have bigoted material, how many robbers actually know about robbery, and how many pedophiles have collections of naked children.
You can bust my balls all you want, but I don’t belong to a single organization you mentioned and I still think the laws to protect children should unequivocally take precedence over the right of grownups to do what they wish with their art.
Tommy_Tripod: I’m sick of hearing about how nudity is not sexual. Of course, it’s fucking sexual… you’re displaying your sex organs for everyone to see.
DrinkenDrive: No it’s sexual to you perhaps but not everyone. You associate being able to see someone’s genitals with sex but that’s your problem. You know they even have beaches where people go naked and they don’t suddenly start humping each other.
Valkyrie: Of course nudity isn’t always sexual. I’m nude (or at least naked) at the moment. If I’m in the privacy of my own home, on my own, in the summer I often don’t bother to put on clothes. It’s about comfort. There’s nothing inherently sexual about nudity, it’s a social convention.
Is it only sexual if there is an observer? Because I also did life modeling when I was at university (and occasionally afterward). I certainly didn’t find that sexual, and I doubt whether the artists did.
I was asked to pose nude for a photographer once, one who was doing a series of studies of large women. I did consider it, but decided not to, because I didn’t want to be identifiable for professional reasons (or rather, for social reasons).
Tommy_Tripod: I’ve been to nude beaches… I had to sit down the whole time. I have a hard enough time not getting aroused at regular beaches.
Spam_I_Am: Nudity is not sexual. The perception of the viewer is what makes it sexual.
Surely it is understandable why viewing genitals tends to be viewed sexually in many cultures, but that is mostly social indoctrination-related. In cultures or environments where public nudity is widespread, this connection is not made in the same way.
And BTW – technically the definition of “nude” is “unclothed”. Thus you could have a business suit on, thus not meeting that definition, but have holes cutout for the genitals. And what about the female chest/breasts? Those aren’t genitals. What about the male chest? What makes those sexual or not sexual depends on cultural perceptions.
I don’t have a problem with the general concept that Action_Junkie presented, the idea of the safety of children to some extent trumping adult freedoms. But the real question is what people think is necessary to assure “safety”, and what constitutes “harm.” I’ve asked people to define this in this discussion several times now and there have been precious few responses to that.
Liberty_Belle: Wut? Nudity is not always about sex. I personally think that was a good idea. Like someone said there are nude beaches. There are even nude ranches. Some people just feel more comfortable in their nude state. Shit, I feel more comfortable in my nude state. Especially now. It is so damn hot.
Tommy_Tripod: Nudity isn’t sexual? Ok, let’s take a woman and put her in front of a man. Now let’s strip her naked, and see if he looks at her the same way.
DrinkenDrive: And how is this hypothetical man supposed to now see this hypothetical nude woman?
Pompadoor: Nude beaches are great. I also get a lot of exercise running to the water every time a hot woman walks by. And every now and then I run into the water for no apparent reason just to mess with people’s minds.
“Nudity isn’t sexual? Ok, let’s take a woman and put her in front of a man. Now let’s strip her naked, and see if he looks at her the same way.”
This only proves there’s a difference between a naked and a clothed person. There are several native Indian tribes that walk around naked all day. The relationship between nudity and sex is purely cultural.. or those naked native Indian tribe females are butt ugly, cuz they ain’t giving me no hard-on.
Grimly: I have a problem with “by any means possible.” I have a problem with “should unequivocally take precedence.” It is a pain in the ass to question the means we take, and it’s a pain in the ass to equivocate, but this is the work that must be done, that cannot be shirked.
PEARL_NEKLESS: “If you do not like the standards in your community then go elsewhere.”
This comes in several forms and is a classic fail of an argument.
“Nudity is not sexual. The perception of the viewer is what makes it sexual.”
The problem comes for some when the images are of children below the local age of consent but who are entering or going through puberty and therefore are displaying physical characteristics that have evolved both to indicate the readiness for mating and elicit arousal in potential mates.
If these physical characteristics go on to induce arousal (as they have evolved to do) in a viewer of the pictures, does this mean the images should never be taken or displayed in the first place?
Is it wrong that such arousal might occur?
Tommy_Tripod: Perception is everything. Why do you think it’s illegal to go outside naked?
Action_Junkie: There is one solution to a problem in the United States. That solution is political. Pass a law or statute that changes the law.
What really irritates me is the people who are too lazy to help change the law. They instantly want to go to the judicial (court) system, because this circumvents the will of the people. When people have no say, then you might as well have a government run not by the people but by a select few who think they know better than everyone or almost everyone else. Sure, there are numerous things that need to be addressed and redressed in the law, but this is what the judicial branch is made for.
Community standards are in place because communities are, uh, different. What plays in San Diego might not play in San Antonio. If you want a homogeneous society in a large country, then you might as well vilify the western cowboys, the Cajuns, the Alaskan natives, the Maine woodsmen & women, the metropolitan New Yorkers, the prairie pioneers, et al.
Valkyrie: PEARL_NEKLESS’s question is a good one, “Is it wrong to be aroused at images of children (at, or even before, puberty)?
Is it the arousal itself that is wrong, or the acting on such arousal? Does accepting that people will be aroused by acts/object choices that are illegal mean that they are more likely to commit those acts?
That’s a difficult question. Should a pedophile who is aroused by images of children, but who never acts on that arousal, be criminalized? With current virtual imaging, it is perfectly possible to produce sexual images of children that involve no actual children (so no harm of individual children in the production). But would this encourage ‘normalization’ of the act of having sexual contact with those children? I don’t know. That’s a question that can be asked of all pornographic images.
People who support pornography in general often state that it can provide a sexual outlet for people and thus prevent rape. People who oppose pornography say that it actually encourages rape. Neither side has actually proved their case, from what I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot more than the average person on this subject).
Tommy_Tripod: Pornography isn’t much of an outlet… it only exacerbates the problem. If I’m single and horny, and I look at porn… it doesn’t solve the problem. It makes it worse. It just makes me want to go out and get laid.
DrinkenDrive: People who oppose pornography say that it actually encourages rape. Neither side has actually proved their case, from what I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot more than the average person on this subject).
From what I’ve read the availability of pornography is negatively correlated with violent sexual crime.
As for whether arousal by such images should be illegal – it pretty much already is at least in the UK. I think this is perilously close to thought crime.
Tommy_Tripod: If you’re referring to child porn, it’s illegal because it’s depicting child abuse. In order to produce these images, some child had to suffer. So in a sense, it’s not being aroused that’s necessarily the crime, but being in possession of something illegal.
DrinkenDrive: I’m referring to computer generated images.
Spam_I_Am: I guess it’s somehow fitting that Orwell was British, eh? England is also now the proud home to the highest number of public security cameras per-capita in the world these days if I recall correctly.
I will accept that pornography doesn’t help you with your personal sexual stresses. But please don’t try to extrapolate your single personal/anecdotal experience to the rest of humanity.
Val makes a good point about “thoughts” versus actions. It is my observation that we have long since criminalized “thoughts” in the USA, England and much of the west, when it comes to alleged pedophilia. Now you can get thrown in jail just for having images on your computer. In regards to her point about virtual imaging, I recall that in the USA people were trying to ban “child porn” based on these computer-generated images as well. I don’t remember if that was part of the “COPA” legislation or some other court case. I find such things bizarre to the extreme.
Valkyrie: Depends on how you define correlation. I know there were figures from Sweden suggesting rape figures went down with the freer availability with porn, but I think that there may be other factors at work, for example, attitudes to women in general, type of porn considered, etc.
The best psychological research comes up with is that men who already have a negative view of women will have it reinforced by watching porn, and men who have a positive view of women will not. So if you think all women are sluts and there for your own gratification (whether or not they want to be) then porn may make you act on that, and help you justify that view. If you think women are wonderful creatures, then porn won’t make you more likely to rape.
Spam_I_Am: There are also vast differences in how women or any other actors or acts are portrayed in pornography. Some purveyors can be relied-upon for consistently portraying women in a negative light, in subservient, demeaning roles, and others the opposite. You can’t just lump everything with nude people in it under one big giant “pornography” umbrella.
TeaLibby: @Action_Junkie: I have to agree with you. We have to protect the children. I must admit Sally Mann’s photo of her daughter is lovely because the child is beautiful. She shows a perfect innocence about her, but that’s what pedophiles like. That’s what turns them on more than seeing the naked child. As far as nudity being sexual, Oh my gosh, if you think that it is, there’s a lot you must learn about sex and your own sexuality. The naked body is a beautiful thing and I don’t think that it was created to be clothed. Lust takes over and makes nudity sexual to some.
Valkyrie: Let me state that I am in total opposition to the sexual (ab)use of children. But I also think that the ‘protection’ of children has gone too far. Many children are so overprotected because of the culture of fear that they miss out on the freedoms I had as a child. That’s sad. In many ways, kids are more at risk from the crap that’s on TV and in video games. TV stations are clearly pedophiles since they frequently sexualize pre-teen girls (I haven’t seen so much sexualization of boys).
I don’t think that there are necessarily more pedophiles around today than in the past, just that the issue is more talked-about. Sexual abuse in the family is not a new phenomenon either. Good sex education at an early (but appropriate ) age, and making it clear to kids that they do have the right to say no to adults when they feel uncomfortable about what the adult is doing is a far better plan, in my view, than wrapping them in cotton wool so that they can never learn to make judgments.
When I was 10 or 11 my mum had to work in London for the day, and left me to look around Westminster Abbey (I was an archeology geek even then). I was actually sexually assaulted in a minor way by some youngish foreign guy in the cloisters. There is clearly a limit to how seriously someone can be assaulted in a public place full of tourists, and the memory is pretty faint for me, but I think it included words I did not understand and some groping I felt uncomfortable with. I didn’t tell my mother, because I didn’t really know how to process it, we didn’t talk about sex in our household. If we had, I might have been able to discuss it with her. I think I was also afraid that my freedom would be curtailed because I knew it was wrong what happened to me.
Was it wrong for my mum to leave me like that? Many would consider it so these days, I guess. But a century ago, kids were working full-time in field and factory and contributing to the family economy. While it’s a good thing that they don’t have that responsibility (in the developed world, anyway) I sometimes think that the balance has gone too far in the other direction.
Tommy_Tripod: Wow, you were molested in Westminster Abbey? That’s one of my favorite spots on London… I’ll never look at it the same way again.
twistontheside: Nudity in no way equals pornography. In most jurisdictions, a nude image of a child is not considered child pornography unless the child is depicted in some sort of sex act.
bowlingreen: “In most jurisdictions” Unfortunately, twist, “most” jurisdictions don’t account for America’s twatwafflishly puritanical and also perversely hyperfocused view on sex/art/childhood, whatever. In general, America just makes itself a laughingstock IMHO.
Which is why I insist on remaining a Canadian citizen until more people pull their heads out of their asses and start thinking for themselves (including those in government).
TwinkleToes: The first point seems to be: has anyone consulted the child in question? (Parents who took the photos, police who confiscated them, people who comment on this thread?) It seems a nonsense to talk about “child protection” when everyone assumes they know better than the child what’s good for her (or him). Is nudity inherently sexual?
I would guess one reason, in a naturist household, for displaying naked photos is to teach the important lesson that the answer is emphatically “no”. I’ve seen plenty of women in clothes which are titillating and arousing. I’ve also been in plenty of naturist groups which are extraordinarily UNsexual, even when we hug and caress affectionately while naked. Intention is everything.
Is there not room for difference between households, without imposing uniform standards on all? In many families, naked photos of children are not on display, and children would be embarrassed if they were. In some families, the children are relaxed about having their nude photos on display. Why do we have to impose one group’s standards on everyone else?
Obviously, some level of protection for children is important. The question is, are children protected by being taught shame about their naked bodies? I would say not. I understand the principle of an age of consent (although I find it odd that in UK, where the age of sexual consent is 16, children as young as 10 can be convicted for murder, as capable of criminal intent and understanding.)
I think there is an important discussion to be had, however, about the principle of saying a child cannot give consent, and their interests are best protected by parents. Does this mean children cannot withhold consent either? So, what do they do when they meet a real abuser? (eg, a father who wants sex, and says “your no doesn’t count, because you’re a child, and I know what’s good for you?)
It seems to me, if one really wants to prevent child abuse, the first step is to teach children that they have the right, and the capacity, to choose to say yes or no to who touches them and how, and to how their body is displayed. And to make a huge fuss if their “no” around these matters is ignored. If I genuinely believed my 10-year-old could not give or withhold consent about a photo of them I had on display (clothed or otherwise), I would think I had done a poor job of protecting them from any potential abuser.
As it happens, I have known a case of a family who had a photo of their naked daughter (aged about 8) on display just inside their front door. I knew the family quite well, their 2 daughters were good friends with my daughter, and I had no reason to believe the girl in question was upset, or incapable of complaining if she was.
Adieu_Mluv: Ok, let’s take a woman and put her in front of a man. Now let’s strip her naked, and see if he looks at her the same way.
Pity all the poor gynecologists having to stare at and probe women’s sexual organs all day. They must be ever so frustrated. Let’s not forget that one of the visible components (on a nude man) also doubles as an excretory organ. Ewwwww!
And that’s about all we have time for tonight. What an interesting debate and it’s a shame we have to leave it but even though the broadcast has ended that doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop.
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This is me, Kari R. Wade, thanking you and wishing you nothing but the best from the bottom of my heart. Remember you’re magnificent no matter what they write about you on the bathroom walls! Good Night!