Prop 35-Back to the 1950s

November 2012

The meaning of this proposition, and the now trendy movement that has been reduced to the buzzword, "Trafficking" became clear when I spoke to the program manager of California Against Sexual Exploitation, the group that is sponsoring Prop. 35.

Our discussion was about this section of the legislative summary in the Voter's Guide that was mailed to the tens of millions of California voters under "Expanded Definition of Human Trafficking." that read:

"Specifically, the measure defines more crimes related to the creation and distribution of obscene materials depicting minors as a form of human trafficking. For example duplicating or selling these obscene materials could be considered human trafficking even if the offender had no contact with the minor depicted."

This is not the human trafficking that this law purports to combat, but rather increased punishment for those who partake in what had been called "Paraphilia," sexual behavior that is atypical or extreme. This is a culturally defined activity, that may or may not be harmful to others. In earlier years police morals squads made a living either arresting or shaking down those who deviated, such as homosexuals or purveyors of obscene publications. Such loosely defined pornography now includes accepted classic works of literature that would seem tame compared to the current best selling novel "50 shades of Grey"

The movement towards enlightened acceptance of such activities as part of healthy human sexuality has broadened social tolerance, requiring that before such activities can be criminalized they actually harm others rather than simply give pleasure to consenting adults. It is now both "uncool" and illegal to consider arresting a couple who enjoy a sado- masochistic fling, or commercial activities that provides sexual gratification.

Criminalizing the copying of a sexually explicit picture of an unknown sixteen year old girl, an interpretation that is now refuted by the sponsoring organization, still is representative of the excesses of this proposition. Other aspects of adolescent emerging sexuality that may extend beyond the legal age of majority, even if engaged in consensually with one a few years younger, could realistically lead to the "adult" being stigmatized for life as a registered sexual offender.

While this law is not supposed to be a redefinition of statutory rape or pornography it so expands the loaded word "trafficking" to include all of these activities and more. This would quietly foster a regression to an earlier more repressive era- not for traffickers but for everyone.

It is difficult to counter the emotionally loaded slogan of "ending human trafficking" since it requires understanding the real causes of this scourge, desperate conditions around the world for billions of people, and the elaborate networks of this commerce culminating in a back room in LA or a dangerous workshop in China. There are those professionals, such as John Vanek who managed the San Jose Police Department human trafficking task force, who have done extensive evaluation of the defects of Prop 35, but were not selected to present their well articulated case in the Voter's Guide. In todays attack ad climate, neither of the two major political parties will take the risk of being accused of being soft on traffickers, so they have endorsed this law, even while many of their key officials are aware of its adverse consequences.

As voters on a referendum, we are citizen legislators with an obligation to seriously evaluate the laws that will shape our society. This law's effect on combating human slavery of any kind is acknowledged by the Attorney General to be minimal, This referendum, more than others, injects the fear of dire legal consequences for behaviors that had been proscribed in the repressed era of the 1950s. I know, since I lived through it; and believe me, we don't want to go back there.

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