”Tween Thong Sites”
Concept and photo by Steve Norquist, June 25, 2010. Model: Shai.
"Today we shall discuss the sexuality of children."—Fictional character Hester Post-Quinn, a graduate-level professor at the Institute for Sex Research in Bloomington, IN, from the unfinished novel Son of a Solipsist*, by Stephen Norquist, designed on one level as a sequel to the novel Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
Now that We Be Web Corportation non-nude model website vice-president Jeffrey Libman has been sentenced to 87 months in prison, and owner Marc Evan Greenberg faces a similar fate in August (the VP of We Be awaits trial), most regular Internet surfers have had some exposure to, or at least some knowledge of, the sites similar to the 60 We Be shut down as part of the plea bargaining. Opinions run the gamut from “Hell yeah young girls in thongs!” to “Omigod, this is worse than Miley on a stripper pole!” and “I can’t be bothered with this, there are more important things to worry about,” etc. The “expose” that NBC broadcast as part of its Lost Innocence series, “We Be Web Model Bailey Talks To NBC,” has been on YouTube for some time now, with (of course) a large chunk of “Bailey’s” portfolio slideshowing during the whole clip with a caveat that the photos “aren’t even close to the most lurid!” With occasional exceptions such as the We Be Web case, the proliferation of similar websites featuring prepubescent females in the skimpiest of attire has continued unabated for about 15 years now.
The reason “tween thong websites” generally still exist is because the owners are well aware of where the line of legality is, and how close they may come to stepping over it. If We Be had been operating in South Dakota, for example, and state law were the only concern, I have no doubt that a successful prosecution of Libman and Greenberg could not have ensued, since state statutes still require nudity or depictions of sex, and they provide exemptions for serious literary and artistic value and such. Under Federal law, however, United States v. Knox (1994) set a legal precedent under which persons can be charged with criminal offenses within a legal “grey area.” I also have no doubt that persons with a serious pedophilia might even consider images such as those of our families enjoying a day out at the local lake to be “erotic” or “lewd.” (Some prisoners in the United States are often denied access to advertisements in Sunday newspapers and magazines for fear that they might get aroused by Kohl’s ads featuring kids in bathing suits, for example). It is not hard to imagine some federal prosecutor in Utah or Alabama gathering the immense legal power of the US to bear down upon someone possessing or distributing non-nude images many reasonable people might find inoffensive, based on the idea that anonymous disturbed individuals might consider the images arousing. Knox, and now the guilty pleas to one count each by Libman and Greenberg, only bring such imaginings that much closer to reality, especially in light of the Western cultures’ “pedophile hysteria” juxtaposed with increased marketing of sexuality to young people, written about by Valerie Wangnet and others. Perhaps the trial of the Vice President of We Be could result in a clearer line and less of a grey area. At any rate, governmental attention to “grey area” cases draws resources away from the pursuit and punishment of killers, baby-rapers, and other hard-core criminals, many of whom are unfortunately lurking in our society.
From Lolita, the classic “invention of America in fiction” by Vladimir Nabokov, being banned from publication in the United States for several years in the 1950s, to the Brooke Shields Pretty Baby controversy 30-odd years ago, to the Good Morning America broadcast earlier this year featuring girls in lingerie as young as 8 doing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies’ Dance,” the sexualization of children has been a serious social issue, at least in my lifetime. I believe the matter deserves serious objective discussion unshackled from the screeds of uber-moralists who want all pictures of kids in swimsuits banned from all media on the one hand, and the reactions cultivated by airing, for example, the sensationalized drooling desires of pitiful pedophiles showing up at various Dateline trap-houses on the other. However, I’m thinking that perhaps it’s a subject best left to real-life sex researchers such as those at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University in Bloomington. So this post will remain as my entire commentary for now.
by Steve Norquist, July 12, 2010. *Members of academia.edu may search the author’s profile for a few more details, and status updates, on Son of a Solipsist.
Update 10/7/2011: The We Be case wrapped earlier this year with all three defendants pleading guilty and getting hard time from federal judge Googler in Alabama. Greenberg was given 2.5 years (largely because he had sought legal advice about the legality of the images and was not involved in the photo shoots), Libman got 9 years to go with his previous sentence to run concurrently, and photographer Jeff Pierson got 5 years 7 months. Some of the “tweenage” models in the case appeared in court as a show of solidarity for the defendants. One of them, photographer Pierson’s daughter, stated that the photographs in question were “not even close” to child pornography. The judge stated for the record that he didn’t believe they were child pornography per se, but a “stepping stone.” And life goes on… http://jeffpiersonsprayers.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html
Speaking Truth To Power
The Republican party, obliterated in 2008 when the Democrats assumed the reins of power in Washington, was able to stage a comeback in the House of Representatives by “…plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms.”
—Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, October 14, 2010
Isn’t it refreshing that the “mainstream media” has courageous and truthful voices such as Mr. Taibbi, who recognizes that every last one of the Tea Party Republicans is “full of shit?” Never mind that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who begged President Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq to help the GOP salvage seats in the 2006 midterms while publicly denouncing troop withdrawals as “cut and run,” sponsored close to a billion dollars in Kentucky earmarks in the last two years alone, but is now being pulled along by Jim DeMint and Rand Paul in a Republican push to outlaw earmarks in order to placate the teabaggers. Never mind that earmarks account for less than one-third of one percent of federal spending. Never mind that Sarah Palin and Senator John McCain, who has two or three different positions on record concerning virtually every major policy issue, could have easily won election in 2008 had the Tea Party sprouted in, say, early 2007. If the White House and the Senate don’t grow spines and start standing up to these fools, the United States is in for several years of disaster that will make even the eight years of the W regime look favorable in comparison.
The last real chance for the Democratic Party to salvage itself is in the lame duck session of Congress, now underway. Harry Reid and others are already showing signs of caving in to the GOP on the issue of tax cuts for the rich, which will only cost them more seats in 2012. The Blue Dogs lost half their members in the House, and yet they are still deluding themselves with the idea that if they get rid of Nancy Pelosi as their leader and cave in some more, they can gain some sort of political advantage. Rep. Boren was on Washington Journal this morning continuing the misreading of this month’s election as a call for bipartisanship and an end to gridlock. These people need to wake up and smell the tea. All the Republicans have done for two years is say no to every idea, even the ones they were ostensibly in favor of, and they gained over 60 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate. If Democrats can’t learn to say no to silly ideas like tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, they are in for another big shellacking in 2012.
by Steve Norquist, November 17, 2010