Agora Speaker Series: “PROTECTing the Figure of Innocence: Child Pornography Legislation and the Queerness of Childhood”

April 12, 2019 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Child pornography legislation, first introduced in the 1970s, has persistently expanded to criminalize a wider variety of sexual behavior, and most recently has attempted to address the creation and distribution of child pornography on the internet. In US v. Williams (2008) the Supreme Court upheld the PROTECT Act, a law that deliberately blurs the distinction between real child pornography (images made with real children) and “virtual” child pornography (images that are digitally created or manipulated and do not depict real children). Situating this case at the intersection of rhetorical studies of the law and queer studies, I read the Court’s opinions in Williams as rhetorical and cultural texts that circulate a strategic figuration of the child that emphasizes its sexual purity, vulnerability, and whiteness, and disavows the queerness of childhood desires. I argue that the Court’s decision virtualizes the figuration of the child through the performative “collateral speech” act, ultimately conflating virtual materials with real children. Furthermore, I contend that the language of the law, as it taxonimizes and disciplines illicit desires, also expresses desire through its passionate figurations of childhood innocence and adult sexual morality. 

Location and Address

208B Cathedral of Learning (CL)

Directions and Parking Information

While attending this event you may be captured on film, video, photo, etc. that could be used for marketing or recruiting purposes on brochures, social media, digital presentation, news story, website or any other digital electronic device.