“Garden-Variety Porn?”

I testified as an expert witness last week in San Diego. Mr. N. was on trial for allegedly molesting his three nephews and raping his niece. The police found 5,000 porn images on his computer, which was being pushed as a key piece of evidence. The defense attorney requested my testimony about the typical relationship between collecting porn and violating people.

The American trial system is frankly adversarial. That means the government’s lawyer tried to make me look like an unqualified, prejudiced, drooling idiot. Of course, people do that in other parts of one’s life, but they usually don’t admit that that’s their intention.

The prosecutor started with the usual questions: did I have any education, wasn’t I being paid to render my opinions, did I have tons of experience in dealing with child molesters. My answers were simple: yes, in fact I train other therapists; yes, of course I was being paid–but to explain the science, not my “opinions”; and yes, I had some experience with molesters—not the single most experienced guy in the profession, but among the top 1% in America. All, of course, with a calm, straightforward demeanor.

The prosecutor must have had some personal issue about pornography, because she focused on it way more than was good for her case. And she always seemed on the brink of losing her temper, which of course many people are when discussing pornography. I imagine the jury—a dozen individuals who were somehow unable to get out of jury duty—might be a little put off by that.

The prosecutor referred to photos recovered from the defendant’s computer, which I had already examined. Wouldn’t I agree they were of very young girls? No, I said—the girl in this picture has pubic hair, the girl in that picture has hips, and the girl in that picture has the hands of a 25-year-old.

What about all the anal sex depicted, she continued–didn’t that show an unusual interest in anal sex? Well, there were less than a dozen such images out of a collection of 5,000; more importantly, since 1/3 of Americans play with anal sex, it’s hardly an “unusual” interest.

Well, she persisted, wouldn’t I agree that child molesters often “groom” their would-be victims by showing them pictures of sexual activity? Yes, I agreed, sometimes they do, but none of these photos show adults and minors having sex together, so these pictures probably wouldn’t be much use in “grooming,” I said.

Clearly frustrated, the prosecutor invited me to sound like a complete jackass: Dr. Klein, are you saying that nobody who looks at pornography commits any sex crimes? Of course not, I replied. I’m saying that whether someone consumes routine pornography is not a good predictor of behavior. Most adults enjoy fantasizing about things they don’t want to do, whether the subject is quitting their job, robbing a bank, or having sex with their wife’s sister on Times Square at high noon.

So you’re saying, the prosecutor countered incredulously, that we can’t come to any conclusions about the defendant based on the fact that he has thousands upon thousands of porn images on his computer? Perhaps that he has too much time on his hands, I replied simply. Chuckles of recognition escaped from the jury box.

When the defense attorney summed up my testimony, I could see that the pre-trial consultations we’d had had made an impact. So Dr. Klein, he said, you’re saying that:
* looking at ordinary porn doesn’t predict what a person actually desires or how a person will behave sexually;
* looking at pictures of adults having anal sex doesn’t show a predilection to sodomize 10-year-old boys;
* looking at pictures of young women doesn’t predict that someone will rape young women.

That’s right, I said, looking at the jury in what I hoped was a friendly yet competent way.

Are there no scientific studies that contradict your opinion here, he asked? This is not merely an opinion, I said calmly. And no, there are no credible studies that show a connection between porn viewing habits and subsequent behavior. The single study showing that those who consume child porn are slightly more likely to hurt children than those who don’t has never been replicated.

The prosecutor was determined to get one more crack at me. So Dr. Klein, she said, here’s a collection of 5,000 images, most of them of young-looking women, some of them of anal sex, even a few of what you admit to be so-called art photos of minors. How would you characterize this collection? I looked at the jury and shrugged. It looks like a collection of garden-variety porn, I said. The prosecutor strode toward me with one more photo. Dr. Klein, would you agree that this is a woman with her legs spread with a cucumber in her vagina?

A cucumber—or possibly a zucchini, I said. It’s hard to tell, I deadpanned. And, triumphantly crowed the prosecutor, would you characterize a photo of a woman with a cucumber or zucchini in her vagina as “garden-variety porn”?

I turned to the judge. Your Honor, I said, it’s hard not to make a joke at this point, but I’m determined not to, I said earnestly.

The judge was right on it. Turning to me he said, Dr. Klein, let the record reflect that on the question of whether a photo of a woman with a cucumber—or zucchini—in her vagina is garden-variety porn, you respectfully refrained from making a joke.

No further questions, said the prosecution. You may step down, said the judge.


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One Response to ““Garden-Variety Porn?””

  1. Porn » “Garden-Variety Porn?” Says:

    […] Free Porn – Tehvids.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe police found 5000 porn images on his computer, which was being pushed as a key piece of evidence. The defense attorney requested my testimony about the typical relationship between collecting porn and violating people. … […]

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