Diego Kaplan, who directed the film Desire, available on Netflix, is defending his choice to depict a child masturbating in the film. In a statement published at Variety, Kaplan defended the scene, comparing it to a shark attack.
“Despair is a film,” he said. “When we see a shark eating a woman on film, no one thinks the woman really died or that the shark was real.”
Really? The main problem with this is that there are no laws against filming shark attacks or pretending to be attacked by a shark. There are very serious laws, however, about NOT FILMING CHILDREN IN A SEXUAL SITUATION or depicting them as doing so. No one claimed that the children were actually sexually assaulted while making the scene (although I believe it is abusive to portray them in such an exploitive way) or that the child in question was having an actual orgasm. She was, however, depicted as having an orgasm (quite a long, drawn-out one with slow motion and sexualized panting like a porn actor). But the mere depiction of this appears to violate the law. Whether Kaplan’s intent was to break the law or not, he is still subject to it. Further, Netflix is responsible for what they stream online. They should have lawyers who tell them not to engage in anything that could even look like child porn.
When I contacted the Department of Justice and asked for clarification on the law, they responded by sending a copy of the statute that, to me, makes it clear that depicting a child masturbating is a crime. As I read the statute, the child does not have to be actually masturbating. Just the idea of it transmitted on film seems to be the legal definition of child porn.
Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokesperson for the DOJ, described child porn:
“As to what constitutes child pornography, that is defined in 18 USC 2256 in relevant part as a visual depiction of an individual under the age of 18 engaged in actual or simulated sexually explicit conduct, which is defined as sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal; bestiality; masturbation; sadistic or masochistic abuse; or the lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person,” she said. [Emphasis added]
Actual OR simulated, Mr. Kaplan! You have admitted that you made a visual depiction of a minor child simulating masturbation. I think that is a crime in the United States, and if there is any justice at all you will be held accountable for it. At times like this we must ask ourselves if our laws mean anything. Here we have a person who has defended his choice to apparently violate our child protection laws. Will he see justice? Or will our law enforcement turn its back because he is a powerful Hollywood director? We’ve seen that happen for many years and countless women were abused and degraded by the likes of Harvey Weinstein. I thought we were at a #MeToo turning point, where we’ve had enough of this sexploitation! There was more outrage over grown women on a casting couch than there is about Kaplan using minor children to simulate masturbation for entertainment purposes. What the hell is wrong with us?
If we cannot stand up and say that this is wrong and that it cannot be allowed to go unpunished, then I don’t see how can we prosecute anyone under these child pornography laws. When does the unequal application of the law start applying? If Kaplan and Netflix get away with making and distributing this material, then what is to stop defense attorneys all over the country from defending their clients’ right to use children in sexual films under the guise of “simulated” conditions?
Kaplan’s defense gets worse.
“Of course this scene was filmed using a trick, which was that the girls were copying a cowboy scene from a film by John Ford,” he said. “The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers. Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is ‘Making Of’ footage of the filming of the entire scene.”
My problem here, of course, is that I don’t believe there is a trick on earth that can make depicting a child engaging in masturbation legal according to U.S. law. There is no codicil that says, “any depiction of a minor child engaging in sexual activity is a crime and punishable by law unless you are a Hollywood director and the parents say it’s okay.”
Not only that, but these children have no idea how they were used! How will they feel when they come of age and they understand it and realize that the film is out there forever? What will high school be like for them? Does anyone care that these girls could not consent? Where are the cries of outrage over the way they were used without consent? Are we to accept that parents can consent on behalf of minor children to be used sexually now? What is this fresh hell?
The question of whether the children were harmed physically is not the issue. It’s how the director chose to represent them on film, which he admits was sexual in nature. Kaplan doesn’t even deny it. Instead of apologizing for the complete inappropriateness of this scene and offering to recut the movie, Kaplan dared to call his critics depraved. “Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.”
Are. You. Kidding. Me? How the scene was filmed is not the issue, but that it exists at all! And if you are offended by the legal definition of child porn, dear reader, you are the one who is depraved according to the guy who made little girls bounce on pillows in slow motion, panting to porn music. Hollywood has been getting away with this kind of degenerate excrement for years. Brooke Shields was exploited back in the ’70s and they got away with it, not because it wasn’t child exploitation, but because no one was able to stand up to the big money and power of Hollywood perverts.
Have we had enough yet? Let’s not allow Hollywood to get away with it again.