Barely legal

Sure, these tweens are earning money for college. But they're also posing online in bikinis.

Topics: Broadsheet, Pornography, Love and Sex,

With college costs ever on the rise, more and more teens may be encouraged to make and save their own money for the future. And now, it seems, the earning options for young girls are exploding. Paper routes and ice cream scoops? So five dollars ago. Today, all they need is a flattering bikini, maybe a nurse’s outfit.

That’s right: thanks to services like Child Supermodels, which — with the permission of parents — creates members-only Web sites of tween girls wearing skimpy bathing suits and holding power tools, these kids can save for college, and pedophiles can have a field day without breaking the law. Everybody wins!

Basically, because the girls are clothed, the sites are legal. That, and because prosecutors would have to prove “lascivious intent” on the part of the parents or site management in order to win a case. According to a recent MSNBC report, “that would be particularly difficult given that the pre-teens are being presented on the Web sites as ‘models’ rather than sexual objects.” Apparently, these sites operate “in the legal gray area between innocent imagery and child pornography.”

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Gray area? “The lip curls. The laugh is mirthless,” says I Blame the Patriarchy, who alerted us to this story. “Gray area,” my aging ass. I get that 1) as child porn goes, there is, arguably, worse, and that 2) intent can be tough to prove. But come on. Check out some of the sites, as long as you’re not on a full stomach or interested in becoming a paid member, and I dare say you’ll know it when you see it. “Bambi” is on her hands and knees. “Tiffany’s” shorts are mighty short. (Oh, and there she is, back/butt to the camera, reaching around to untie her bikini top.) “Jessi the Kid” is shown dressed as a firefighter (prop: big hose), a carpenter (big drill) and a cop (handcuffs).

Don’t try to tell me Jessi’s just a big fan of the Village People, or that her site/videos are actually aimed at, say, her peers — though they do, as her mother points out to MSNBC, offer yoga instruction and a recipe for an “excellent salmon dish.” It’s not as though Jessi’s depicted doing teen things, like, you know, blogging. Fans of Hayley Duff are busying themselves elsewhere, I’m sure. And even trusting that the parents’ intent is pure, can they really not know who’s paying to see these pics? They can do whatever they want, of course; I just want to know what they’re thinking. That if you’re gonna get someone to part with his money, it might as well be that perv ogling your daughter?

I also offer this perhaps futile prayer: that when these girls apply to the fancy schools they may one day be able to afford, they write their essays on topics such as “How I developed self-esteem and a positive body image from activities other than Internet modeling.”

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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