by Benevolent Goddess
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Attributed to Voltaire
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
My house, my rules. You’re welcome to go somewhere else should you not like them.
For the sake of this writing, “minor” is any person under the age of 18 in the US. I know that the age of consent is 16 in the UK for heterosexual couples and 17 for homosexual couples, however, this website is not based in any country but the US so US laws and the law of TheMasque apply. Wizard law applies in stories only on The WIKTT Archive.
The letter of the US law is this: you CAN write or draw pictures of a minor engaged in sexual situation or activity with an adult or another minor. It IS defended by the First Amendment. You don’t have to like it, but it is the law. You can NOT display photographs of a minor in sexual situations or activity with anyone. This is rabidly pursued by several government and international law enforcement agencies.
The only way the FBI will go after someone is if there is physical, visual proof of the exploitation of a child. Written or drawn work is just a fantasy expressed through a work of art. It is not proof of a child being hurt. Shocking? Not really.
Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “…If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man sitting in his own house what books he may read or what films he may watch.”
It comes down to the morality and philosophy behind the First Amendment. Where is a line drawn to decide what is allowed and what is not? In this country, it is drawn at the reality or real potential of harm. Why? Because it must be. Anything less is censorship.
The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was invalidated in 2006 as unconstitutional under the first amendment in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 . In that judgment, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote: “First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.”
If we draw one line at “writing and drawings” what is the next line someone else wants to draw? “Witchcraft”? “Anti-Party/Government” thoughts? “Creationism vs. Darwinism”? All of these can be pointed to for the banning and challenging of books. If we allow one challenge to the First Amendment to stand, more challenges will come. Eventually, one of the challenges is going to be against something that, as individuals, we believe shouldn’t be challenged. The line must stay firm at “actual proof of harm.” Anything else creates precedent for the suppression of thought, creativity and freedom.
We have the right and responsibility to censor ourselves and that which is in our direct control – my website, for example. There is always a case to be made for the rights of others to publish what they think – and not be wrong or illegal. However, individuals, states and the federal government are, of course, free to pursue the case for obscenity or pornography in retaliation. In the end, though, the highest law that is being fought is the First Amendment – and it’s a big one.
I hate it, but if my belief is in the First Amendment, then I also must believe that the Klu Klux Klan can scream and write their words of hate (on their own property) and pedophiliac can write their sickness and draw their fantasies and, while I may be angry and horrified and tearful, I also must defend their right to do so.
"Monsieur l'abbe, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write,”
Evelyn Beatrice Hall.
Closer to home, TheMasque.net – meaning me – allows only work wherein characters that are in sexual explicit situations in the story are all 18 years of age or older. This is for several reasons. The first is, in all reality, because it’s my house and I make the rules. Second, as a "business owner" I didn't want other parents suing me for something that their child came across on the internet (which also accounts for the age checks on the site). Third, it’s because I am a parent and seeing or hearing about children in sexual situations makes me cry. When I was researching laws and possibilities of authors coming to the site I ran across a pay site - it was members only, but on the front page, was a beautifully rendered drawing of a little girl with her underpants around her ankles. I vomited. Then I called the FBI. I was told that there was nothing they could do, though the person on the other end of the phone regretted it. I started bawling. Over the years, I’ve thought about that day many, many times. Every time I do, as ill as it makes me, I must always return to the First Amendment and my beliefs.
This is amended only by JKRowling's Wizard law which splits the difference between UK and US law with the age of majority at seventeen (17) years of age. Because this is a Harry Potter archive, Harry Potter's rules are grudgingly accepted. Because it is begrudging, Time Turner use is, while a fandom favorite plot device, not an acceptable way to get around this rule. The WIKTT Archive story section is the only place where characters are allowed to be portrayed as seventeen years old - in all other places, the rule is eighteen.
Does it make me ill and does it make me cry and want to firebomb someone’s house? Yes. Is it fair and is it “okay”? No. But it is right and it is just and it is our law and I do believe in it.
The bottom line is that on theMasque.net all characters in stories, poetry, articles and essays; all persons depicted in drawings and photographs; all activities blogged about and mentioned in writing challenges and games will be eighteen (18) years of age or older. I or the admins may be nice and ask you to change it or may simply delete your work if it is in question. The only exception is written work in The WIKTT Archive, which is amended to seventeen (17). If you still have a question, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss it.
The minimum age for guests, authors, artists and models on the site is also eighteen (18).
Author’s note: No part of this writing may be excerpted or used without direct and concrete permission from the author.