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He said that the most sought-after images were new and made in America, and showed interracial couplings. Members reinforced one another’s desires, engaging in communal rationalization. “If the First Amendment means anything,” the Supreme Court wrote in 1969, “it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.” But, by 1982, the public seemed to have discovered child sex abuse, both its trauma and its prevalence. and increasing the likelihood that they will actually molest children.”Child-pornography sentencing laws have been passed rapidly, with little debate; it’s nearly impossible, politically, to object to harsh punishments for perverts.

“We’d pull at evidence from the dawn of photography to prove that child sexuality was once acceptable,” John said. The Supreme Court made child pornography an exception to the First Amendment, since “a child has been physically or psychologically harmed in the production of the work.”Early efforts to suppress the American child-porn trade—a small network of adult bookstores and mail-order services—were so successful that within a decade the market was all but nonexistent. Controlling the flow of images is nearly impossible, because pornography is posted online from other nations, which have different definitions of who is a child and what is obscene. I.’s Crimes Against Children Unit told the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security that the online pornography trade had created a “vast network of like-minded people, who believe it is acceptable to engage in sexual fantasies about children, thus lowering their inhibitions . Melissa Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told me that lawmakers have treated pornography possession as if it were an “inchoate crime.” She said, “It has become a kind of proxy—a way to incapacitate men who we fear have already molested someone, or will in the future.”In prison, the only friends John made were other child-pornography convicts.

In arguing for harsher penalties for viewing child pornography, lawmakers have tended to conflate the desire to view photographs (a crime that can be detected by tracing a computer’s I. address) with actual sex abuse, which is notoriously difficult to prosecute, since young victims are easily silenced. “We picked each other out like black beans in a pile of rice,” he told me.

He adjusted poorly, feeling overwhelmed by a sense of failure.

” Indy-Girl said that because of the “legality of it” she had never acted on her fantasies. She was a bisexual college sophomore, she said, and had learned about sex at an early age. John, a thirty-one-year-old soldier stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had been using the Internet for less than a year. things will work out.” She added, “It’s not like she’s gonna die if you don’t.”They decided to meet at a park in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where they could have a picnic or go boating on the lake.

He began downloading child pornography after watching a television special about how Internet child porn had become epidemic. In the five months since he’d seen the show, he had downloaded more than two thousand images from child-pornography news groups. Two weeks after their first conversation, John drove three hours to the appointed meeting spot. The Military Police Investigations unit, working with the F. I., had recruited two young officers to play the roles of the two sisters.

He paid for the majority of his sexual encounters; he lost his virginity at the age of nineteen to a prostitute at a twenty-four-hour health spa, he said.

Pornography became an outlet for assuming an invented role.

He got a job at a bakery but chafed under his legal restrictions, complaining to his case manager, “I am not allowed to use my skills.” (After his arrest, he had been “other than honorably” discharged from the Army.) To comply with the terms of his probation, his parents put their computers in one room of the house and padlocked the door.In the anonymous chat rooms, he felt free to adopt a persona repugnant to society. They arrived early, spread a blanket on the grass, and waved at John, who was sitting at a picnic table, writing in his journal.He told Indy-Girl that he was a “real-life pedophile,” adding, “At least here I can come out and admit it.”“What’s the kinkiest you’ve done? John said he’d had sex with a ten-year-old while her parents were skiing, and with a fourteen-year-old at a night club in Germany. blaaaahhh.” She apologized for getting “a bit too gabby” and for “being so weird” and “reading into things.” John said it wasn’t her—he worked long hours and was tired. An athletic man with light-brown hair and green eyes, John slowly walked over to the girls, who were playing with a beach ball.By twelfth grade, he noticed that the girls at school whom he found most attractive were freshmen.But his desires seemed academic, his classmates having nicknamed him Fungus.