“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” John Grisham, internationally renowned American crime writer, told the Telegraph.”But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Now why would a world-class author say something so generalised and idiotic? But this wasn’t the end of it. He went on to say that the persecution of sex offenders who did not actually touch or ‘harm’ anybody is the product of an out of control legal system in the USA.

This point of view is typical of someone who is completely ignorant of the severe consequences of online child pornography. It’s obvious in his interview with the Telegraph that his opinion is clearly biased due to connections to an old law school friend who was convicted of child sex offences because of a Canadian child porn sting operation that took place more than ten years ago.  He believes the sentence for his friend was too harsh.

What seems to be the main problem with this inflammatory opinion is that Grisham considers viewing child pornography online as less of a crime than actually physically assaulting children. It’s almost the same logic as the notion that if rape isn’t violent then it isn’t rape.

Child pornography is not as simple as images on a screen.

How do you think these images come into existence? Children may be groomed and taken advantage of in order for such pictures and videos to be produced. Child pornography is a vastly growing illegal trade that centres not just on images but also webcam child-sex tourism, as proven by recent sting operations conducted by humanitarian federation Terre des Hommes; a terrifying 1000 men were caught in 2013 trying to provoke sexual acts online from a virtual girl called ‘Sweetie’ created by Terre Des Hommes to catch paedophiles across the world.

The internet is not being taken seriously as a new platform for sex offenders to commit their crimes and the response needs to be severe in order to deter any offences. What is to stop those merely viewing child pornography from moving on to webcam child-sex tourism or even to committing their crimes in their local neighbourhood. The mere action of viewing these images shows a certain preference and that is not a ‘minor’ issue. Getting drunk is not an excuse for any other crime so why would viewing child pornography be excused? It seems pretty illogical to try and normalize a behavior which is unacceptable and perhaps even evil. It is not normal to want to view child pornography.

Grisham should know not to take such a serious issue so lightly. He studied law, he writes books about crime and murder. He should know better. I know better than to idolise his every word but there is a chance that his position within the writing world may affect the weight given to his words.

While Grisham apologized for his comments the next day, his statement is still there – in print – and it will be there for a long time. He will have to deal with the consequences and maybe, just maybe, he’ll educate himself a bit more.

Header image rights; Mississippi State University

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Rachel Munford

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Blogger, Journalism Student in Glasgow, feminist, and bibliophile.