In the United States, federal law forbids the possession of child pornography. After the passage of Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today, also known as the PROTECT Act of 2003, child pornography includes any obscene images that appear to depict an identifiable minor.2
The PROTECT Act was passed in the aftermath of a Supreme Court case that had held that completely virtual child pornography was protected free speech under the First Amendment, so long as it was not obscene.3 A key component of this ruling was that, because the pornography was not a visual depiction of an actual child, it was a victimless crime.
After this case, Congress passed the PROTECT Act to prohibit virtual child pornography that was obscene and that was transmitted through a common carrier, transported across state lines, or of an amount that indicates an intent to distribute.
At least one person has been charged in the U.S. with possessing pornographic material transported in interstate commerce under the PROTECT Act. In 2008, Christopher Handley pled guilty to obscenity and child porn charges after buying a comic book featuring pornographic manga.4 He was sentenced to 6 months in jail, but was not required to register as a sex offender. He had been facing up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.5
Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have obscenity laws that make it a crime to possess pornographic images of children under 18, even if they are not photographs or do not depict real children.6
In other countries, like Germany, fictional depictions of sexual acts involving children are not criminal. Because such material is not real life and does not depict real people or actual minors engaging in explicit conduct, it is protected by freedom of speech laws.
That message may have been lost on some of the attendees, who leaned in and leered through their camera viewfinders when some of the bare-breasted models, their tops penciled on in bare outline with makeup, plodded by, barefoot. There was a naïve charm to parts, where the children-dressing-up theme and the babe-in-wilderness vibe best jelled.
Elsewhere, things got a bit, frankly, unbecomingly weird. But on the first day of Paris Fashion Week, after a pallid Milan, even the oddest felt bracingly fresh, like a cold water dip. A mad, dangerous courage is a childhood trait surrendered, in most cases, years too soon. 1e1e36bf2d