I just cried through Rory’s valedictorian speech.
As you may have heard, John Grisham gave an interview with The Telegraph in which he lambasted the US judicial system for excessive incarceration—including that of “Sixty-year-old white men in prison” whose only crimes were consuming child pornography.
“…But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”
I’m bemused that someone who writes legal thrillers thinks being drunk is exculpatory when you break the law. (Or maybe he just thinks it is for white men? I can’t imagine why he’d think the system works differently for rich white guys.) Regardless, as proof of his thesis, Grisham spoke of a friend who was caught in a child porn sting and served three years in prison:
"His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled ‘sixteen year old wannabee hookers’ or something like that. And it said ‘16-year-old girls’. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30.
"He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.
See, it wasn’t THAT bad; Child porn isn’t so terrible when the subjects are teenage girls. We have no idea what website his friend actually looked at***, but the way Grisham chooses to demonstrate the relative frivolity of the crime is to describe the children on the site as “sixteen-year-old wannabe hookers.”
I do not have the stomach to engage in a discussion about levels of acceptability in child pornography—even writing this post is making me physically ill. The point here is that, yet again, we have someone using teenage girls (especially, I suppose, slutty ones) as a signifier for people who aren’t worth quite as much as other people. And when you speak this way about teenage girls who are victims of sex crimes, it perpetuates the culture that creates these crimes.
Is Mr. Grisham under the impression that these hypothetical girls actually aspire to prostitution? And this is, what, resumé-building? Or is he just trying to imply that they are super slutty, and so really are choosing this? Does he believe that child porn featuring teenage girls can in any way be a consensual act? Or does that part not matter?
I’m guessing it’s that last one—it doesn’t matter— since his entire discussion is based around the act of looking at these images with little to no awareness of the humanity of the children in them. What matters, to him, is the excessive persecution of the pedophile. Because it’s they who are the real victims here.
That’s the thing—implicit in his comments is the idea that child pornography just happens, and when men of a certain age get drunk and poke around on the internet they cannot help but stumble upon it. Ah, well. No harm done. Who put that porn there? It’s not like they’re perverted or something.
So, what does it mean when comments that diminish the harm of consuming child pornography come from someone who writes bestselling books for children?
I am not going to complain about celebrity authors writing children’s books—guaranteed bestsellers mean publishers can take chances on books whose success is not guaranteed. I cannot comment on the quality of Grisham’s middle grade series, and I cannot say whether or not these books are a cash grab on Grisham’s part or if he truly feels called to write books for young readers (though he has joked that he started the books because he was bitter at being displaced by JK Rowling as the bestselling author in the world.)
Whatever his motivations, these books have sold the requisite crapload of copies; in other words, lots of people are making lots of money on John Grisham: Children’s Book Author.
So my question is: When one of the most famous authors in the western world uses his platform to say that viewing child porn isn’t so bad, really, does the industry have an obligation to respond? Does his children’s book publisher? When he argues that a guy should get a free pass for downloading pornographic pictures of underage girls, what does that mean to a business that depends so much on the dollars of underage girls? How much of a stand do we take for our customers? What is the line here?
Sure, Grisham has apologized. Naturally, a statement was issued. Mistakes were made. Words were said. Regrets were regretted.
But is that enough?
I do believe that when you profit off kids, you have a moral obligation to serve and honor those kids, and I know that this industry is full of people who care a great deal about that obligation. So, what happens now?
Authors are allowed to be jerks and still get book contracts. But when an immensely powerful man with international visibility essentially excuses the consumers of child pornography, when he acts like child pornography is a victimless crime, what does it say if the children’s book industry continues to give him a platform? When we profit off selling his books to the very kids he has essentially pooh-poohed the exploitation of?
I don’t know the answer. But I think it’s worth asking the question.
[EDIT: ****Aaaaand it turns out that yes, Grisham was actually using “sixteen-year-old girls” to make things seem not-quite-so-bad, because his friend was exchanging images of kids younger than twelve as well. The friend, it seems, served 18 months in prison, and Grisham—not at all trading in on his celebrity—wrote a letter advocating this guy get reinstated to the bar. Because trading in child pornography shouldn’t keep you from being able to practice law. And acting like it’s not that big a deal, apparently, shouldn’t keep you from publishing highly visible children’s books with a major publisher.]
I’m so annoyed by that trailer where Anne Hathaway is like, “You might have to decide between seeing your children again, and the future of the human race.”
What kind of a stupid fucking thing to say is that? Her voice echoes in the trailer over majestic shots of space as if it’s something deep and interesting.
These people get launched into space in an effort to find a solution to a catastrophic lack of food on earth or what-the-fuck-ever and Matthew McConaughey is like, “Wait, my kids, though?” How deeply stupid and boring. Is that supposed to be ~*human*~?
we got an e-mail from our building manager telling us that the apartment below us was complaining about the noise.
The noise, which lasted not one full day and which was within perfectly reasonable hours on a Sunday, came from us building our new bed.
I can’t stop thinking about how much I want the complainant to jump out of a fucking window.
Hm? Oh, yeah, I have a handle on my emotions. Why do you ask?
Hahahaha got this e-mail from our building manager this morning:
“Morning, I have received a complaint from this past weekend. Do you have 80% floor covering? This goes a long way to muffling everyday noises and is required by your lease. Please advise. Thanks”
To which I replied:
I’m sorry, but we’ve been living here for close to a year without complaint. Is this a new tenant, or are they just feeling spectacularly cranky these days?
Last weekend we had to build a bed, and for that unavoidable event we apologize. Maybe the tenant has just decided to be annoyed with us.
However, on Sunday we were barely home at all. On Saturday, all we were doing was cleaning. Folding laundry, we hung up one mirror, dishes, etc.
I am happy to go downstairs and talk to the tenant myself if this continues to be a problem. I understand the predicament you’re in, but this most recent complaint is frankly ridiculous. Should we just sit on our couch and never move again, for fear that our downstairs neighbor may complain?
You may feel free to tell them we’ll try to keep the noise down, but if we receive another complaint from them I am going to pay them a visit myself. I’m very sorry that they were offended by last weekend when, for ONE DAY on a WEEKEND inside perfectly reasonable hours, circumstances outside of our control dictated that we had to build a new bed.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Your girl is ‘bout to PAY a VISIT. Cowards shut their mouths real quick when confronted.
Also, wtf, 80% floor covering is required in our lease? What the shit is that? Has my building seriously mandated that I buy a rug? Not happening.
Does your floor count as 80% covered if you live in a studio apartment and your furniture is taking over?
Everyone can eat my dick.