Throughout the last weeks of September, community members gathered at the Mobius art gallery in downtown Boston for a series of conferences entitled “Testing the Limits.” Each night featured a panel discussion on a different type of controversial speech. The series was sponsored by the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression (BCFE). The BCFE is a non-profit free speech and arts funding advocacy organization founded in 1990. What follows are accounts of the conference from several Beacon reporters.
Child Pornography Defined
Panelists attempted to define and examine child pornography at a “Testing the Limits” event on September 27. Court cases and incidents fusion between child pornography and art were discussed. The two main speakers were Lawrence A. Stanley, a lawyer of eight years who specializes in child pornography cases, and Artist Maxine McDonald.
Stanley dominated the evening’s discussion, speaking out about the problems that occur when child pornography is not clearly defined. The discussion began with Stanley defending twenty-nine drawings by different artists whom he represented in child pornography court cases.
“People should not assume that when they see a picture of a naked child it is pornography,” Stanley said. “When the image actually depicts sexual activity, then that’s something different.”
The BCFE agreed with Stanley on the definition of child pornography.
“One of the things the Boston Coalition of Freedom of Expression defends traditionally in child pornography cases is that if there is actual photographic documentation of a child being raped that should be impounded and used as evidence for the crime,” Jim D’Entremont said.
Stanley also commented on some of the misconceptions of child pornography and the severity of punishments for it.
“I spent years searching the Internet and only found 12 images [that could have been child pornography] that were scanned in from old magazines and just circulated over and over,” Stanley said.
“You can’t buy child pornography magaziens and there isn’t some kind of underground publication either.”
Stanley was involved in a case where three people made movies and passed them onto 12 other people. The filmmakers were each sentenced to 25 years in prison. Stanley said that was the biggest child pornography case ever solvedby the US government.
The issues of child abuse in relationship to child pornography was also briefly discussed. “Images of a child used to seduce another child are wrong.” Usually candy is used,” Stanley said.
“The state takes kids and looks at their genitalia to see if they have been abused and suddenly the children are being abused by the state,” one audience member said on the subject.
McDonald, who is also a high school film teacher, spoke of her experience as a victim of censorship and child abuse laws. In 1994, McDonald took color and black and white pictures of her grand-children naked. When she went to pick up the developed prints at a lab, she was arrested.
“I thought the conference went well,” D’Entremond said. “If people learn a little and are inspired to learn a little, then that’s good enough.”
published on The Berkley Beacon, October 3, 1996