Shocking reports of the exploitation of young children by pornographic moviemakers and publishers inspired the New York Legistature to ban the use of children in explicitly sexual films and books. It is a necessary and widely supported measure. Unfortunately, its overly broad language would tend to discourage the publication and distribution of reputable works.
Because one outlawed practice – “promoting a sexual performance by a child” – was not modified by the word “obscene,” it could be read to apply to a publisher with the most edifying intentions. Mere nudity, even in the interest of science and scholarship, might be construed as “a sexual performance,” with no need to prove obscenity.
For example, a well-known sex education book, “Show Me,” contains photographs of a little girl and a little boy exploring each other’s bodies, and so might fall under the new ban even though it has been found free of obscenity in several court tests.
The measure should be clarified to make certain it hits the right target – those who recruit and photograph children for pornography, in obscene and not just vaguely sexual context.