Where do I draw a line?

Where people share what amounts to child porn in WhatsApp groups
published: (updated: )
by Harshvardhan J. Pandit
blog personal

My phone beeped for a new message notification in one of the boys groups on whatsapp where much filth and crap is shared that boys generally find funny. Sexist jokes, racist connotations, and things like that are sometimes thrown in, and enjoyed. To me, it’s OK to laugh at these kind of things as long as they aren’t offensive (they’re just jokes) and they’re not degradative (they don’t look down upon someone). But I’m often lost as to where do I draw the line.

Today, there was a video in the group, which turned out to be a child, might be around 3-4 years old, still a toddler. So here the toddler lay without his pants (most toddlers are, no big deal, right?); and some adult guys around him were showing him a porn video on their phone. My brain screamed right there, and I wanted to fling it as far away as I possibly could. But I was afraid of what happens next, and had to watch where this leads to, and so I skipped to the end. Upon watching all that porn, the toddler touches and plays with his penis, and everyone around him find great amusement and fun watching that. All of this took around 5 seconds as I watched, skipped to the end, and deleted the video straight off my phone. What puzzled me greatly was, how could people find this funny? And if they’re so ignorant, how do they even think about issues like child-abuse and rape, that are filled with incidents small and benign that people suffer for years.

My reply to the video was this - “that’s sick, and just if you didn’t know, could be considered child pornography” and a general “you’re sick!” to the person who posted it. The following conversation ensued:

OP (original poster): You’re judgemental Harshvardhan Pandit. And now do we have to set restrictions on what to send in this group? Everyone? This was supposed to be a chick free group. Not people reacting like chics group.

Great! So now we also have exaggerated sexist tendencies on top of the previous issue. As far as I recall, the group was made by boys, because there were a lot of things that we, as boys, were interested in discussing that the girls found boring and tedious. Like sports, like guy jokes, like being freely able to talk to other guys without watching their language, those sort of school-boy things where being with or around a girl meant holding your tongue. But since when this turned out to be a situation where complaining was a female-only attribute is what I do not know. 

Why is it that guys expect other guys to just get along and not complaint and anyone who does is labelled to be a female in some not-so-nice terms. So even if someone does speak aloud what’s going on, peer pressure makes sure that they don’t speak out much far, and are immediately labeled a female, with suggestions hinting that female means something inferior or undesirable. Classic sexist behaviour.

Another quirk was the following sentence: "Are the boys of this group doing that child abuse?"

No, the boys are not, but by sharing such things, they are also participating in it, and are guilty of that. The very idea that watching something is fine even though it is wrong, only because none of them are involved in it is absurd. When things begin to get heated up, an argument comes up along the lines of “comment on the video, not on the person sharing it”. When you share something as a joke, or as something funny, you are liable for it. You are participating it, endorsing it, accepting it. So whatever is perceived as being sick, wrong, evil in that video is also applicable to the person sharing it as an act of enjoyment.

Something about awareness came up, whereby I added that awareness doesn’t mean sharing videos. When people make documentaries and awareness videos, they do not show the things happening on video. A rape documentary does not show people being raped. Hence, the statement “So why don’t you take it as an awareness n chill” is just another way of saying, “shut up, and shut up!"

It’s not long before peer-pressure comes to work. With statements like, “I thought we;re all friends here and can share all kinds of crap”, “Everyone has their own views”, “Reacting like this makes you a pussy”. And the reverse-trap, where they spew out all the weird kinds of porn I’ve watched and justify their actions as “I didn’t judge you when you watched that, so why are you judging me now”. Well, for one, when I watched that porn, it was PORN. It was an adult-only business where everyone involved did something totally legal, with consent, without any form of trauma, physical or mental to anyone. On the other hand, the video that started all this featured a child, that does not even understand yet that boys and girls have different anatomies!

Resorting to peer-pressure is the most popular group tactic all over the world. And it’s not only in schools that boys do it, but all humans do that whenever they are in a group. Usually, it goes for nudging people to do something, or bonding, or cajoling. But in instances like these, where a wrong purported by a few members of the group is ultimately accepted and propagated by the rest because of peer pressure just exposes the woeful hazards of not standing up for yourself, or even worse, for not thinking for yourself.

What really pushed my boundaries was how much time and arguments it took to even bring out a little realisation into people that this video constituted child abuse or child pornography which is one of the greatest evils that sadly exists today. According to the canadian law (which I found to be very clear, and specific, and which is mostly similar to all other laws on this topic): 

from: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/section-163.1.html

  • 163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means (a)(ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ of a person under the age of eighteen years;
  • Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age)  Notably, the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity.  A picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive.

So under legal terms, the video in question is definitely classified as child pornography which means that is an incident of child abuse. The question is, why does it take so much effort just to make people think that this is something sick which should be stopped at once. In a group of 10, most guys do not volunteer into the conversation at all. They act like they are innocent bystanders, who take no stands, and who make no comments. I do not know what they are afraid of. Is it of expressing their opinions or is it of alienating themselves by potentially hurting someone? The ones who do pitch in want to establish some sort of peace, or at least that’s what I think they want to do, because they keep using words like “chill, calm down, it’s ok we got it, you’ve made your point.”. They behave as if the only thing wrong or worrisome is that I am worked up, and by calming me down, everything goes back to the way it was.

Then there are people who are so averse to arguments and opinions being expressed, that they demand that I voice my opinion and shut my loud mouth for good. I wonder whether they lack a spine, or are just afraid of standing up on their own. Why is it so hard for people to have an opinion about something that they already have participated in? Or why are people so averse to arguing on topics that would only result in broadening their own thinking capabilities? Why has the motto “live, and let live” been expanded into “…as long as you don’t make me think”???

I’m utterly confused and befuddled by now, as to what does it take for a person to realise that something is wrong. What action or demonstration triggers a silent alarm inside their head. Should the video have contained the child being actually exploited for it to be considered wrong? Should the video have contained more violence? Films and media that contain such connotations are usually hints and depictions. An incident of rape in a film is an act, a viewable demonstration of the story. That does not make it justifiable or comparable to actual videos being shared depicting similar acts of violence. Why then, do such videos of children go under people’s radars? 

In my age (I’m 25 years old), people around me, my friends and colleagues would soon get married and start families. Some of them already have. If not themselves, they would certainly themselves around kids. How would their brains not be affected by this video? I do not mean to imply that they will turn into child abusive individuals, but certainly, their brains have now accepted this incident, so this kind of actions are justifiable to be done around them. They would find it funny if it was in another video, or happening right in front of them. Would they now stop it then? Where and when exactly, would their thought process kick in? Where do they draw a line?