Washington misguided in sex legislation

Once again, the prudes in Washington are looking out for everyone’s interests – and ensuring they have no place in modern American society.

As reported by Reuters, buried within a bill (that’s newspaperese for pork) “designed to track sex offenders and prevent children from being victimized by sex crimes” are provisions that could further tame movies and TV shows such as Monster’s Ball and Desperate Housewives.

The stipulation can be found in the Children’s Safety Act of 2005 and “would require any film, TV show or digital image that contains a sex scene to come under the same government filing requirements that adult films must meet,” Reuters reported.

The language was added to the bill by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and intends to hinder the efforts of “so-called ‘home pornographers’ that use downloading on the Internet and digital and Polaroid photography to essentially create an at-home cottage industry for child pornography,” his Web site states. The legislation has passed through the House of Representatives and is awaiting approval by a Senate Judiciary Committee.

The sticking point is that under the bill, which is retroactive to 1995, the definition of a sex scene is broadened to include simulated sex, and therein lay the entertainment industry’s qualms. Because of the broadened terminology, any film or television production containing a relevant sex scene would be required to file what is known as a Section 2257 certificate, so called because of its place in the record books. The certificate requires a list of the names and ages of those participating in the act.

What many in the industry fear is that faced with the option of filing the proper paperwork and waiting for the bureaucratic powers that be to give it their seal of approval or simply cutting the scene in question from the film, many would choose the latter.

Hollywood is, if anything, lazy. One need look no further than the endless stream of sequels, prequels, remakes and remakes of remakes – not to mention the perpetually DOOMed videogame-inspired genre – for proof. Doubtless those concerned are right; more likely than not, movie and TV executives will pull anything from their projects that holds up production and delays release.

More troubling, however, are the legislation’s noble intentions. America’s puritanical codependence with all things porn is nothing new, nor is its well-founded crusade against those who take theirs with toddlers. But we already have heaps of laws on the books that allow for the swift and unrelenting prosecution of kiddie porn peddlers. Does Pence really think that those involved in the so-called “cottage industry” are going to comply with the instituted measures? That they’ll be lining up at the government’s collective door to declare that the people in their films are indeed way too young to be in their films?

He shouldn’t, and if he does then he shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. As is most often the case with misguided laws, the legislation is reactive and the people it seeks to punish are proactive. The act will be minimally effective and potentially extreme in the collateral damage it inflicts. It is hopeful – but doubtful – the judiciary committee will be wiser than the House.