It is a clash of conflicting trends that promises only to intensify in the coming years. Record numbers of American men are viewing suggestive images of adolescents and even child pornography, while, at the same time, highly publicized cases of child rape and murder have sparked an enormous public outrage toward sex offenders.
This growing interest in the bodies of children has authorities alarmed. “The threat is frighteningly real…” former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales once said. “Child exploitation and pornography is growing rapidly, and it must be stopped.”
A negligible percentage of adults with an innate sexual attraction toward children has always existed. These men are what would be considered true pedophiles and some of them have molested thousands of children.
But a disturbing trend is emerging: “regular guys” who are seeking out child pornography in record numbers. “The vast majority of people [we have arrested] have never been charged or even suspected of crimes against children,” FBI Special Agent Pete Gulotta stated. “This is very disconcerting to us in law enforcement. It tells us that the people who get caught are either very unlucky, in that they were caught the first time… or it tells us that they have been doing this and getting away with it for some time.”
The idea of the sex offender being a greasy weirdo with obvious problems has been dispelled by the arrest of such notables as rock star Pete Townshend (child pornography) and Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (attempting to seduce a child online). This is an escalating problem that is not going to just go away.
The recent growing fascination with explicit images of children is not simply happenstance: there are legitimate, attributable reasons involved. The first is the ongoing sexualization of adolescent girls in our culture. For instance, Hollywood has produced a number of movies which portray young girls as sexual objects; e.g. Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby.
Another contributing factor to this alarming trend has been the promotion of child sex through the use of cartoons in men’s magazines such as Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler. Dr. Judith Reisman was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice to direct a two-year content analysis on this subject. “Our study documented each issue of Hustler averaging 14.1 children and pseudo-children alongside 47 images of crime and violence,” she wrote. “52 percent of child photos were sexually explicit and most cartooned children were sexually violated.” (1)
“Also contributing to this obsession with young bodies is the law of diminishing returns: sin does not satisfy.”
Also contributing to this obsession with young bodies is the law of diminishing returns: sin does not satisfy. The first time a guy (maybe as a teenager) sees an image of a topless woman he is thrilled, but over time those pictures fail to excite him; he wants to see more. He advances to full nudity, but again, it is only a matter of time before he feels a need for something more explicit. This brings him into the realm of X-rated pornography. When the thrill of this begins to diminish, he begins looking for something to take its place. For many, this is child pornography.
Another element that further exacerbates the problem is the proliferation of websites offering “legal child pornography.” One method pornographers have concocted is to use computer technology to alter innocent pictures of children into the simulation of a child engaged in sex. Websites are also available that offer videos of adolescent girls seductively dancing in skimpy outfits. One of these sites received 32 million hits from 357,000 visitors during a nine-month period in 2002. (2)
Then there are the “conventional” adult entertainment sites that offer explicit images of teenagers. According to one expert, these sites receive 7-8 million hits a day. (3) They claim their actors and actresses are at least 18-years of age, but they are made to look and act younger. One such purveyor bragged, “We make the girls look as fresh and as cute and cuddly as possible – ‘adorable cupie dolls,’ I call it… I put it to the girls this way: ‘You’re 18 with the mentality of a 14-year-old. You want to experiment, you want to try things. Anything your parents told you not to do, you’re gonna want to do.’” (4)
The last and most obvious reason for the increase in the sexual interest in youngsters is the proliferation of child pornography available on the web. Some people believe there are upwards of 100,000 child porn sites generating annual revenues between 3 and 4 billion dollars. Part of the problem is that the web is not confined to the United States. According to Ernie Allen of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 122 countries have no laws addressing child pornography on the Internet. He says only 5 countries (the U.S. being one) have strong enough laws to make an impact on this crime.
Authorities Fight Back
In 1993, while investigating the disappearance of a 10-year-old boy from his Brentwood, Maryland neighborhood, FBI agents discovered two men who had been sexually abusing children for a quarter century. The offenders had set up a private computer bulletin board service to “chat” with boys and share images of child pornography. That discovery led investigators to a larger ring of computer pedophiles. As a result of this case and others, the FBI created a nationwide task force (code-named Innocent Images) with the goal of breaking up networks of online pedophiles and stopping sexual predators from using the Internet to lure children into illicit encounters.
“During the early stages of Innocent Images, a substantial amount of time was spent conducting investigations [of] ‘chat rooms’ in which teenagers and pre-teens can meet and converse with each other,” an FBI bulletin states.
“Investigation revealed that computer-sex offenders utilized the chat rooms to contact children… Chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships.”
There has been a dramatic increase of investigations since the task force’s humble beginnings in 1995. There were 113 cases opened in 1996, which expanded to over 2,400 in 2005—a twenty-fold increase!
“We have no idea how many pedophiles are out there.”
Today, more than 200 FBI agents are assigned full-time to the Innocent Images program. In addition to them, scores of local law enforcement agencies are also working with this task force within their local communities. For instance, it was the Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department that investigated and arrested Bryan Doyle.
One of the bright spots of this federal program has been a 95% conviction rate of investigations they have initiated. “We have no idea how many pedophiles are out there,” says agent Pete Gulotta. “We only know the ones we catch. It is like fishing in a pond full of hungry fish. You throw lines in with bait and keep catching fish. You really don’t know how many fish are in the pond until you stop catching them. We haven’t stopped catching them yet!”
It is a frightening thought that millions of American males are regularly viewing child pornography and even more so that many of them are acting upon those evil images. As chilling as this is, none of it should take the Christian by surprise. At the end of the Revelation we are told, “When [the time of fulfillment] comes, all doing wrong will do it more and more; the vile will become more vile…” (22:11 LIV) It is no wonder then that Paul described the last days as a “perilous” time when men would become obsessed with pleasure. Yes, “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (II Timothy 3:1-4, 13)
God is extremely patient, but history tells us that a civilization can cross a line of evil where divine mercy is exhausted and divine judgment must fall. Persistence in sin can and will only end in certain doom. “Unnatural vice… sends up a cry to heaven that the righteous Judge must answer.” (5) Once the “cup of iniquity” has become full, sentence is pronounced and overwhelming punishment is sure to come.
It seems as though the pervasiveness of the national moral decay that began in the ‘60s has intensified over the past decade. How much farther can we as a people go before facing God’s wrath? Only God knows the answer to that question.
(1) Dr. Judith Reisman, Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler (1953-1984).
(2) New York Daily News, May 12, 2002.
(3) Jan LaRue, Part II: The Road to Perversion Is Paved With Pornography, Human Events Online, 4/20/2006.
(5) J. O. Dykes, The Biblical Illustrator, Gen. 18.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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