When child images shock: A history

From Jodie Foster to "Skins," underage sexuality rattles the public. A primer on what passed, and what didn't

Tracy Clark-Flory
January 23, 2011 6:01AM (UTC)

MTV's "Skins" did not invent sex, and it didn't invent cultural angst over underage sexuality, either. The raunchy show is just the latest pop culture entrant to spark anxious debate over what is and isn't child pornography. As the network's executives reportedly huddle behind closed doors, trying to determine the legal risk of showing underage actors nude and in countless steamy scenarios, observers are left to administer the classic obscenity test of "I know it when I see it." The problem, of course, is that people see these things very differently. What appears to one person a touchingly innocent black-and-white photograph of a nude toddler can seem prurient and exploitative to the next -- and these perceptions shift in reaction to our changing social landscape. Nothing makes that clearer than a survey of the major child porn controversies.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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