October 16, 2015
Do you ever think the the world would be a better place if a whole category of people would just die? No, I’m not talking about Trump supporters. They can be helped. I think I’m pretty good at understanding why people do the horrible things they do. Many people view school shooters, serial killers, Nazis and the Koch Brothers as just plain “evil,” but I look for the complex series of sociological, psychological, and biological variables to understand how they got to the point to make those choices.
Andrea was bopping around Instagram the other night. I was telling her about some crazy Japanese anime I’ve been writing about in my new book. Suddenly, she threw her phone down on the bed and clutched her chest. I figured she saw some bizarre Japanese drawings, maybe of women and eels. Nope. It was child porn. Real child porn.
Her eyes filled with tears and she handed me the phone. It was a profile called Cumfun and the first picture was a blindfolded girl, about 8 or 9, being forced to perform oral sex on an adult male. I didn’t look at any of the rest of it, but out of the corner of my wincing eye I could see that all the pictures were of children in sexual situations. He claimed to have a Snapchat account as well, which probably means he was the one doing the abusing.
I wanted to puke for so many reasons. As a parent of a girl, this is not just an abstract social problem. But also that this vileness could exist on America’s favorite photo sharing site. This is the site that banned #Goddess and pictures of women breastfeeding. Of course, plenty of porn slips on to Instagram. I discovered this last summer when I hash-tagged a picture from #Cancun. I don’t know what hashtags Cumfun used and I don’t want to know.
We were in a state of shock after seeing what could never be unseen. As soon as we got our bearings, I immediately called the 24-hour hotline for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST/1-800-843-5678) and reported the site. I had to thank them for the important work they do which suddenly had become very real. By the next morning Cumfun’s profile was gone. I was ready to call a friend at the FBI if it wasn’t.
So there are two issues here I am confronting.
The first is the lack of oversight on an app that I love and spend way too much time on (@blazakr). Cumfun had a lot of photos posted so I have to imagine that he (maybe she) had been on Instagram for at least a few weeks. How could this happen? Instagram clamps down on breastfeeding pictures but it’s oblivious to videos and pictures children being raped on its platform? And we just stumbled onto one. How many more profiles like this are on Instagram?
The second issue is the sickening reminder that child pornography is even more of a pervasive problem now thanks to electronic media. These are somebody’s children. Children who will grow up with all the psychic scars connected to child sexual abuse. I can suggest some important research on serial killers and show you that it often turns out very badly. Typically those children grow up to perpetuate their victimization on their own children. So, yeah, sometimes I hate the world.
On one hand, the social scientist in me wants to understand the causes of pedophilia. There is some pretty fascinating research that has found, among other things, that MRI scans of pedophile brains reveal less white matter than normal brains. White matter helps to pass nerve messages through the brain. Interesting, right? Yeah, no.
The other (more emotional) hand says who cares about white matter. I have a child that some monster may want to molest at some point. Just cut his head off now, white matter and all. I have plenty to worry about as a parent; Cozy getting splinters or becoming overly dependent on Elmo for her emotional needs. I don’t want to have to think about some dude with a “psychiatric disorder” kidnapping my daughter, filming her rape and sharing those images with other “sick” people. Good lord. Seriously?
But the reality is we have to prepare her for this darkness in the world. We have to let her know that there are people that will hurt her very badly just because they can. They might be strangers or they might be someone she already knows (which is actually more likely). We have to teach her to trust her gut and protect her body. We have to teach her to scream and fight and go for the eyes. And we can’t wait until she’s headed off to college. More like kindergarden. It is soul crushing to even think about.
I want Cozy to know the world is a beautiful place, filled with joy and excitement. I want her to take risks, reaping the rewards of a chance taken and learning from her failures. But she needs to know there is a dark force out there that will crush her for sport. There may be a scientific explanation for what they do (and therefore a real cure), but for the moment, I would be happy if they just died. I’m a compassionate person, but I also hope that “Cumfun” is headed to prison where he will be low pedo on the inmate totem pole. I don’t really care about what is wrong with his brain. I care about those kids in his Instagram profile.
What I can do right now is to encourage everyone who reads this to pressure Instagram into being more vigilant about allowing people to use Instagram for their exploitation of our children. And for Goddess sake, if you see something, please report it right away.