Pathetic Political Posturing: Attacking MTV’s “Skins” As Child Porn

Calling it “the most dangerous show on television,” the Parents Television Council has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether MTV’s “Skins” violates federal child pornography statutes.

The show’s sins are that they (1) show teens having and enjoying sexual activity, and (2) employ teen actors to portray these teens.

For years, the Parents Television Council has staked its claim to Ozzie & Harriet paranoid nostalgia territory. They say that shows including Hawaii Five-O and the NFL Playoffs are unsuitable for family viewing. Maybe they mean families that don’t have TVs—or cell phones, the internet, or friends. Their vision of “family” is some weird amalgam of Amish purity and North Korean isolationism.

“Child porn,” of course, is to American culture what garlic and a cross are to vampires. So almost a dozen national advertisers have already dropped out, including Wrigley, Taco Bell, Subway, and GM. GM? Maybe they’d planned ads saying “teens, since you’re going to have degenerate sex that puts your life in jeopardy, do it in a spacious GM car.”

Referring to TV showing a naked 17-year-old’s butt (running down the street away from the camera) as “child porn” is cynical posturing. It proves that the PTC has no real interest in children. I said this when they went to the FCC, predicting that Janet Jackson’s Superbowl nipple would topple civilization (the Egyptian revolt notwithstanding), and I say it again: the PTC’s agenda is about accumulating power and manipulating the public, not about protecting children or families.

America’s child porn laws—among the strictest in the world—are meant to protect children from being exploited by selfish or damaged adults. Claiming that such laws criminalize an honest look at the lives of teenagers just perpetuates the teen isolation, adult ignorance, and family fragmentation the PTC and child safety advocates claim to oppose.

Describing bare teen butt or a storyline about teens using erection drugs as child porn trivializes how the creation of real child porn damages actual, living children. And the PTC is entirely disingenuous when it says it wants to protect the poor teen actors in the show. Every minor in front of the camera has to have a parent’s (not to mention an agent’s) approval. Child labor laws and other industry standards are protecting these young professionals. The PTC knows that better than most people.

It would be interesting to speculate what the PTC would say if these teen characters were played by adults. Wouldn’t they find that terribly salacious? One can just imagine them thrashing around—“adults modeling inappropriate adult behavior for teens—on a show supposedly about teens. Disgusting, immoral, and dangerous.”

And, by the way, eligible for legal interpretation as child porn. Yes, American law prohibits producers from claiming that “lascivious” material features underage performers when it doesn’t.

Finally, let’s address the PTC’s question of “Skins” leading innocent teens to hell via the demon of sexuality. Parents, if you haven’t done anything to teach your kids about sexuality, values, and decision-making, and “Skins” is their sex education—you’ve already made a few mistakes. Now’s the time to address this. Compared to this deficit in their life education, the question of whether they watch “Skins” is trivial.

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