Skenazy: (Dirty) thought crimes

A man in Britain has been convicted for his fantasies.

Robul Hoque, 39, was found guilty of downloading “prohibited images” of cartoon girls, some in school uniforms, doing dirty deeds. The fact that these manga drawings are available on legitimate sites did not sway the judge. Nor did the fact that — oh, yeah — there were no actual humans in the pictures.

Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Free-Range Kids
by Lenore Skenazy

No humans. So how old, exactly, is a cartoon? Is the cartoon 7 or 12 or just shy of 18? Trick question! A cartoon doesn’t have an age, because a cartoon was never born. The life meter never starts ticking.

If owning or admiring the mere drawn image of something illegal is grounds for sentencing, wouldn’t we have to sentence anyone who goes to the Louvre and parks himself in front of Ingres’ “Une Odalisque”? That there’s a concubine, and bigamy is against the law. Move on to the “Mona Lisa,” or you’re under arrest!

More immediately: What if you yourself bought a T-shirt with a big pot leaf on it? Isn’t that like drug possession — or at least fantasizing about drug possession? Wear that outside of Colorado or Washington and maybe you should expect a knock on the door.

And while we’re at it, what would Hoque’s judge, Tony Briggs, suggest we do about all those people — most still in grammar school — who own toy dragons? Aren’t dragons illegal pets — or at least wouldn’t they be if they existed? It doesn’t matter that they’re not real, right? Reality seems to be just a trifling detail. So wouldn’t the kid with a stuffed Puff be guilty of owning (or wanting to own) a dangerous, if nonexistent, beast with the power to both toast and eat people?

Lock ’em up!

Police found about 300 images — some still, some animated — on Hoque’s computer, none of real people. He pleaded guilty to 10 specimen charges and received a nine-month sentence suspended for two years, according to Gazette Live. What’s more, Hoque’s first encounter with the law was in 2008, when he was found guilty of making “Tomb Raider”-style pictures of fictional kids.

You may not love a guy who spends his spare time doing that — or you may. Either way, we’re talking about a hobby. Less disingenuously, we’re talking about someone who wants to look at pictures that probably excite him. Sort of like how lots of people find “NCIS” exciting even though they don’t intend to go out and murder anyone. No kids were violated by Hoque’s hobby, so why is this anything other than a private matter?

As Hoque’s barrister, Richard Bennett, said, “this case should serve as a warning to every manga and anime fan to be careful. It seems there are many thousands of people in (the United Kingdom), if they are less than careful, who may find themselves in that position, too.”

We’ve seen just this past week how third-rail the issue of child porn is. Author John Grisham was practically pilloried as a child rapist for wondering whether our sentences for child porn possession are too high — a thought bubble he felt forced to deny ever having had. (See Radley Balko’s Washington Post blog post titled “In defense of John Grisham” for a gimlet-eyed look at how dangerous it is to even suggest there may be some overkill in our child porn laws, even though someone with a small stash of the stuff can end up with a much longer sentence than someone who actually raped a child.)

So perhaps Judge Briggs is onto something: If you want to fill the jails, just arrest anyone who has ever had a sexual fantasy that involved something other than one man, one woman, a notarized letter of consent (just to be safe) and a condom (ditto).

Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”

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