3 min

Read no evil

Such an admission of laziness on the part of a journalist is shocking

I’ve just read three of John Robin Sharpe’s court-approved kiddie porn stories. It’s been half an hour since I finished the last one, and I’ve yet to feel the slightest twinge to rush out and sodomize a pubescent boy.

I continue to monitor my reactions to this dangerous material. I feel like something of a royal taster in this regard since, apart from those involved with the trial, I am apparently the only one in Canada to chance exposure to these toxic substances.

Anyone writing about Sharpe in Canada’s major media feels the need to boast that their virgin eyes have not been sullied by actually reading the writings which were the subject of the charges against him. This does not, however, stop said scribes from weighing in with their opinions about writings they have never read.

The Globe And Mail’s house contrarian, Margaret Wente, asks: “Are you curious about the literary merits of the oeuvre of John Robin Sharpe?… Me, too. So I looked up what the experts had to say.” Such an admission of laziness on the part of a journalist is shocking, but Wente has no problem concluding of Shape that “his entire output is pure smut.” Columnist Russell Smith also discusses Sharpe’s “no doubt egregiously bad pulp-porn fiction.”

Things really get out of hand over at the Toronto Star, whose sentimental attitude to children can be summed up by the title of a series they ran a few years back: Cry For The Children. Canada’s largest circulation newspaper primly crows in an editorial: “The Star’s editors have not read the works in question and have no intention of doing so.” The editors then proceed to list a litany of worries and recommendations, including their hope that no one will “disseminate the disgusting ramblings” that they have never read.

This is craziness. Does no one want to see the stories which have caused the rewriting of Canada’s kiddie porn laws? It’s a sad comment on our hysteria over kids and sex that our media are not one bit curious about materials at the centre of a national debate. Of course, if you hold the opinion that such materials are so dangerous that they must not be seen, the reading of them kind of defeats your argument.

Allow me to disappoint you. If you’re looking for salaciousness, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The stories entitled “The Spanking,” “Let This Be A Lesson” and “Suck It” are surprisingly mundane as far as sexual details go.

Do the works appear to advocate or counsel sex with kids? I can’t imagine. But scaremongers would have us believe that paedophiles are not like you and me – they are so whacko that literature which stimulates them may cause them to lose control and abuse real children. But if these people are so whacko, who’s to say what will arouse them thusly? Maybe it’s kids sucking on straws in advertisements designed to force soda pop down their tender throats.

Painter Paul P, our cover star this issue, speaks of eroticizing the facial features of his subjects. Perhaps it is the images of young eyes, noses and lips which should be banned.

Authors may have intent, but audiences always have the last laugh. There’s no telling what anyone’s personal experience or arousal from another’s communiqué will be. That’s why attempts to determine artistic merit are such a joke, and why kiddie porn laws should focus squarely and solely on work involving the exploitation of actual children.

To be sure, the stories depict criminal acts. But the judge notes that such depictions are not themselves criminal, even if they make those acts appear enjoyable: “If that were the case, then literature describing murder, robbery, theft, rape, drug use and other crimes in such a way as to make them appear enjoyable would likewise be said to advocate or counsel the commission of those crimes.”

Scaremongers believe that such material desensitizes us, and highlights a culture which increasingly permits child abuse. Hardly. Canada has strict laws against sexual assault, and even stricter laws pertaining to children. Our attention to child sexual abuse has waxed, not waned, to the point of a moral panic. That’s why we won’t even look at material that involves kids and sex, and instead conclude that by some strange alchemy, any combination of the two conjures evil forces beyond our control.

* David Walberg is Xtra’s publisher.