1. Blacksmith11

    Blacksmith11 Member

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    Where is the line regarding children in stories.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Blacksmith11, Aug 17, 2018.

    As various cultures past, present, and future have wildly different ages of consent or legal laws on children, I would like to know where the line would be drawn where a Mod would say, within the rules or totally against the rules and call in the boss for disciplinary action.

    Two categories could cause problems. Sex and occupation.

    Sex:

    For example Ancient Rome had child prostitutes and marketed them openly. A time traveler story set in that time period would be utterly shocked at how open and accepted it is.

    The making of black eunuchs required a method of castration that had a 10% survival chance and was nothing but mass murder on a wide scale by Ethiopian Christians of Black Male Children.

    Girls in Europe were married as young as 12 with 8 not being unheard of until relatively recently in the 19th Century and only recently have loopholes been plugged with minimum marriage age laws. Medieval Time Period Stories would have a hard time getting around their 28 year old king marrying a 12 year old girl to cement a political alliance of the 14 year old prince marrying an 8 year old princess to secure a peace treaty. Parents would arrange child marriages to ensure their kids had a future of relative wealth and security.

    In the US 19 States don't have minimum marriage age laws and the US has the most child marriages in the world, all of which are legal. Not something to be proud of.

    Many cultures have no nudity taboos or incest taboos. Especially Japan for the latter and nudity is accepted.

    Many cultures advertise and parents allow their girls to wear harem girl costumes, especially South America. Of course the US markets Bikinis to little girls as well. Some cultures veil girls as young as five such as the Rashaida Tribe.

    Also toddlers will masturbate and so will little kids, as an EMT I had to explain to some panicked parents who called us over that, that it is normal and if concerned go to their doctor.

    Occupation:

    Children were often involved in trades they have since been banned from due to health and safety issues.

    For example, children often went to war in a support function on the front lines and were often killed in those support functions. This doesn't include actual child soldiers.

    Factory work in the 19th Century and early 20th involved mass child labor under horrid conditions with few if any safety devices. Children often were killed, horrifically maimed, or died from exposure to work chemicals.

    School paddling is still legal in 19 US States and remains a widespread practice in three of them: Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas still have routine paddling of students in rural districts. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming paddling is not unheard of, but also not illegal.

    Thus the question goes:

    Where is the line in addressing these issues. Obviously direct explicit text of children having sex is barred by site rules, but what is the line on how children interact with a highly sexualized world which they know far more than we like to think or acknowledge.

    Also where is the line on children where they may be potentially harmed or killed. Obviously explicit and graphic depictions of harm would be barred except for legitimate scenes decided on a case by case basis IE a court testimony, police report, etc which are for the legal purpose of solving a crime or providing medical care.
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In my opinion theres no line really except for the legal one around child pornography … i.e its fine to refer to their being child prostitutes in ancient rome, but not to then write a graphics ex scene where one is abused
     
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  3. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    I agree with moose, writing sexual scenes with children is a big no, but recgonising they did or (still do) these things is understandable for worldbuilding.
    However on the bit of working, I have read a lot of historical fiction, many of which is from the child's point of view, working in terrible conditions and things. This is accepted for whatever reason, despite the fact it is no easy read, so I think you're fine there!
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, gonna side with @big soft moose and @I.A. By the Barn on this matter.
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Holy shit it's Barnie... where you been dude/dudette (It's been so long I can't remember which you are)
     
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  6. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    @big soft moose i'm not quite sure how to reply, I've just been places, i guess? (its dude btw, dude ;))
     
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  7. Floran Bailey

    Floran Bailey Member

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    I can speak only for myself here but the line seems to have more to do with the intent of the writer than the content of the story.

    If the writer in some way glorifies what is demonstrably abusive they inevitably will receive backlash from all but fringe audiences.

    However there is a distinction between depiction and glorification and controversy seems to arise more in the grey area between the two than in the nature of the act described.

    It's one thing to describe the conditions and repercussions of child labor, it's another to romanticize, fetishize or promote it as anything other than damaging. Cultural context doesn't change the fact that the practice is harmful and while it can be interesting, even helpful to explore the ways in which people historically rationalized abuse, you have to remain cognizant of what it is. Abuse.

    And that's where people have trouble. Because if you describe a violent or abusive act in great detail, repeatedly, it's probably fair to assume that your goal isn't historical realism (because otherwise you'd describe dysentery in great detail as well and at a much greater frequency) or an exploration of the fucked up parts of human psychology. At that point you're probably doing it to get a reaction. Which is in a way exploitive.
     
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  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I disagree with the comments above regarding the legality of writing sex scenes with minors. In the U.S. this is protected by the First Amendment. There are books that depict minors in sex scenes and provide some description of what is going on.

    There was a law in the U.S. that went to the arguably more serious issue of virtual depictions of child pornography, such as computer-generated images. The Supreme Court struck that down on First Amendment grounds, saying:

    “The mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it...The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought. . . . The court's First Amendment cases draw vital distinctions between words and deeds, between ideas and conduct."

    Congress had to amend the law to exempt material protected by the First Amendment. It’s not likely you’d see a prosecution merely because a book describes minors having sex. That’s protected. The book would have to be “obscene,” which takes it outside of the bounds of the First Amendment. That’s a hard thing for the government to prove.
     
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  9. Ashley Watters

    Ashley Watters Member

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    I am having trouble defining the intent of the original question. I thought the question was pertaining to this site only. If that is the case then an answer may be simple.

    If Blacksmith11 is referring to the published work, then the answer is not so simple. I would suggest any published work impacts the author's brand. A story which describes how a character is impacted because of child exploitation can have a great impact on the reader's emotions. The reader would become more invested to see what became of the character. Describing the acts may risk losing readers for this story and future works. It comes down to your comfort exploring this issue and your target audience.

    In my unpublished story, Ragged Hearts (working title), I describe an eleven year old female character's uncle leaving her room fastening his belt. The abuse has a large impact on her and the story. I do not need to include this as it is more backstory to the main characters. I will heavily weigh my beta readers' thoughts on whether to include this in the story. I feel it should be included because it lends to the theme of the book beginning. At the same time I could work around it.

    It is your responsibility to weigh your decisions on how they will affect you. Be prepared to live with the consequences.
     
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  10. prettyvisitors

    prettyvisitors New Member

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    I haven't read it since I was 8 (I know) but The Lovely Bones has reference to child sexual abuse, so I think if you want an example of handling it carefully that may be the way to go, since the book was received so well.

    I'd generally advise not using sexual abuse as motivation if that's the case in your story. There are many blogs, videos, etc on why that is rarely handled successfully in media.
     
  11. severine

    severine Member

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    There's a child character in my current project who is assaulted. That's the only word I use. My MC comes across the assault taking place and intervenes. The child is beaten up a little and obviously traumatised, but that's the end of the matter. I don't go into details - it's up to the reader to insert their own interpretation. I'm not interested in writing detailed child abuse, so it's left vague for a reason.
     
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  12. LordWarGod

    LordWarGod Banned

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    Personally, I don't ever draw lines when it comes to dark material. I have a scene in my story where a starving 11 year old girl is caught stealing from the kitchens of a mob boss. She is caught in the act, brutally raped, skinned alive up to the head and then beheaded slowly with a dull knife. What they do next is hang the body up on a street lamppost with her intact head stuck on the pointed top of the lamp and put a sign around her neck that basically mocks the girl in a graphic sense. Her younger brother searched for a week to find his sister only to see her corpse and would not have recognized it had they also skinned her face off too.

    I describe the details in a very graphic sense and while it upsets me to write it, I still don't see the point in sugar coating it. But then again, like everybody else in here is saying, you might shun readers and publishers alike. If you really want to go for it, be prepared for a whole lot of backlash where people accuse you of writing it for shock rather than plot advancement or sentimental meaning. I don't care, I've seen too much fucked up stuff in my lifetime that I dislike it when people intentionally remain ignorant to these things.

    The line for most people is set where their moral safeguards halts them. I don't believe morality exists, I don't believe there is any such thing as good or evil so my views on the world is really grey with everything. I don't like law, I don't like prisons, I don't like the idea of punishment because none of it makes any sense except for catharsis. So, for me, I wouldn't care if you depicted this sort of content in graphic detail so long as a real child isn't being harmed because then, you're just impeding somebody else's life and how they live it. Same reason why I don't care about drawn child porn, it's drawn and if it isn't depicting real children then I don't care. Yes, it's strange to find children sexually attractive because they're not fully developed, I can't see where the fun is in all of that. No breasts or ass and their child-like faces with massive heads that haven't matured just looks weird, also they have the mind of a child so there's pretty much almost nothing you can relate to with them on a romantic level. So, why do pedophiles find children so sexually stimulating? Real answer? Mental illness.

    If you take a really big step back and just take a look at the big picture, you'll realize that every single thing that we deem a crime has a root cause. It all leads back to four things that we have ingrained in this society; currency, religion, culture and government. Each of those things will trigger our survival instincts and cause conflict and competition in society. In fact, those four things are the cause of all conflict and competition. There is no such thing as good or evil, there's just people and what they get influenced by will lead them to their final destination. None of us had a say in how we were influenced, we just ended up here as we were raised. It doesn't matter if the person "knew what they were doing", the ultimate problem is that if they were raised differently, they would've made very different life choices than the ones they made now and very likely be very different people. Mental illness is a huge exception to this as it acts outside of typical human behavior and can be unpredictable, it's the result of the mind not behaving correctly often through chemical imbalances or genetic faults somewhere in our DNA.

    So, where is the line drawn? You really want to know? It's an illusion that is determined by the influences of society and we're the ones that follow what we are influenced by. There's a reason why child prostitution was openly accepted in Ancient Rome, there was a reason why children were forced to work labor jobs such as working in the mines in Victorian England. Basically, the "line being drawn" goes back and forth in history and will continue to do so in the future. The primary reason why having sex or sexualizing children is so taboo is because they physically cannot have sex, their brains are not fully developed and cannot understand consequence or self-reflection and because they are perceived as innocent beings that must not be defiled in any way possible. That's the primary reason for real life child porn and prostitution being taboo and illegal in most of the world.

    But in books, it does not matter at all. There's no real child being hurt, there is no crime being committed, there is absolutely nothing dangerous about it at all. Just like drawn child porn, it will never harm a child or a person. So, there you go, I don't think there is a line when it comes to written or drawn material, even if I find this sort of stuff really strange and uncomfortable to think about, I will defend peoples' rights to draw or write this sort of material.
     

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