"Minor Thrills in Cyber Space: Underage Tease Sites Play Ring Around the Rosy with The Law"
by Dan Kapelovitz
Illustration by Mitch O'Connell
Ogling a XXX photograph of a 12-year-old girl can land a man in prison, but checking out non-nude teen Web sites offers a jailbait-quality peep experience that is protected by the First Amendment. Modern-day Humbert Humberts can visually devour a smorgasbord of childlike innocence on dozens of "Chick-Click" Web pages. Take a peek at what's going on online.
One of the basic rules of the Internet smut business is that sex stimulates both penises and profits. Consequently, the most lucrative coners of the World Wide Web showcase the nastiest possible product: Pissing, double anals, splooge showers and gang-bangs are common money making online attractions.
Belying this maxim are a number of increasingly poplar, PG-rated girlie pages that are devoid of tits and ass but replete with coy preadult sexuality. Non-nude teen Web sites occupy an online niche somewhere between Teen Beat magazine and Hustler's Barely Legal, teasing around one of society's biggest no-no's--child pornography.
Chris Lee (a pseudonym) is the 21-year-old founder of NonNude (www.nonnude.com). Lee believes the proliferation of teen Web sites is dictated by the simple law of supply and demand.
"There are a lot of those adult Web sites out there; it's mostly really hard-core stuff," says the Seattle resident. "The traffic I get is nothing compared to the adult sites; but people want the choice. I offer an alternative."
TeenBeauties: The Inspirational Teen Site (www.teenplanet.org) is a fairly typical underage sleaze site. On the TeenBeauties home page, a tan, young, attractive girl, still sporting the peach fuzz of adolescence, bites her lip seductively. Some of the site's clickable snapshot galleries are grouped by body part: Teen Feet; Teen Belly; Teen Butts; Teeth, Braces and Tongues. Other collections of photographs include Teen Cheerleaders, Soccer Teens, School Outfits and Teen Latina. The photographs range from the mundane to the shocking.
On the innocent side of the spectrum, a photo-booth print shows a pair of girls with braces, arm-in-arm and smiling; in another, a pair of teenagers wearing tank tops and shorts stroll at an amusement park; one girl consults a map.
Less innocent is a shot of a youngster perched on an inner tube at a waterpark; her wet bathing suit is pulled taut over her nipples and suctions into her belly button. In another snapshot, a girl who appears to be no more than 12 years old sits on the toilet, presumably pissing; she grins with her knees together and her chin on her fists. A pair of Japanese schoolgirls wearing red tartan skirts and white blouses pose together in another photo. One ingenue smiles as the other girl reaches around from behind and squeezes her tiny breasts.
ChickPage (www.chickpage.com) runs a disclaimer on its home page: "You will not find any nudity or pornography here!"
A perusal of its contents, though, indicates thatChickpage may be playing fast and loose with the term pornography. The site features a Kewl Cleavage and Bra gallery, where young girls, many of them wearing training bras, smoosh their budding breasts together. In Chickpage's Panties section, a girl is shown with her pants down around her knees. Another is spread-eagled on a bed wearing only bra and underwear. One girl lifts up the back of her plaid skirt to show off her ass, barely covered by white panties.
Since teen sites are non-nude, they are thought to be non-pornographic and therefore not subject to child-pornography laws.
Though TeenBeauties takes pains not to show any actual nudity, the sexual nature of the site is apparent. TeenBeauties is sponsored by www.loveworks.com, a sex-toy company that hawks anal probes, strap-on dildos, blow-up dolls, butt plugs and penis enlargers. The presence of explicit ads implies that non-nude teen Web sites are in fact pornographic--if not in content, in context.
Nonetheless, Lukas Bednarik, the 20-year-old Web master behind the Toronto-based TeenBeauties, insists that his Web domain is innocent, age-appropriate entertainment.
"I wouldn't classify it as adult material," Bednarik says. "You could look at it that way; I don't know."
Bednarik dismisses the notion that the people who visit his Web site are hard-core sex consumers. However, adults rove these sites, leaving the footprints of their online presence in the form of e-mail exchanges and posts on message- board confabulations.
"What they think about, I don't know," Bednarik says. "Obviously, some people are perverted. I can't help that."
Bednarik is 20, only two years removed from being jailbait himself; but the average age among non-nude teen Web masters appears to hover around 16. Given this fact, it's possibile that the seemingly-disturbing teen-tease sites are an innocent manifestation of young boys showing a healthy sexual interest in young girls.
Adults of course, are represented among both Web surfers and site operators; overall, non-nude teen Web sites appear to be the domain of youngsters with a sprinkling of grownups, much like a Scout troop.
The Internet of the acne-prone starts somewhere in the neighborhood of Butterfly Island (www.butterflyisland.com), a fantasy Web site designed for girls from ages eight to 12. On a recent visit, the site ran no banners, and a digital counter at the bottom of the home page had not yet reached 50,000.
On the animated digital cartoon, pulsing butterflies hover over the mountains, foothills and beaches of a tropical paradise. Clicking on a butterfly opens a window to photographs of costumed young girls enacting fantasy adventures. One youngster is a spy, another is a space rebel; other tikes portray elves and mermaids. Among the models who pose for the photos, one face recurs often, a 15-year-old girl known by her screen name, Jennifer.
Jennifer's Hangout is a Web site linked to ButterflyIsland that features Jennifer exclusively.
In her hangout, Jennifer is often wearing a bikini, sometimes with the straps pushed down her shoulders. In other photos, she accentuates the bulge of her young breasts with her arms.
On the site's home page, Jennifer poses in an animated cartoon bedroom, which includes clickable pieces of furniture, each leading to galleries of photographs. On a nightstand sits Jennifer's clickable bio, which reveals that she is a Scorpio, weighs 101 pounds and stands 5'2", which she concedes is "kinda short for a model, but good things come in small packages." The young lady's measurements are 34B-26-35.
In addition to the main page, Jennifer's Hangout has a pay site, as Jennifer herself explains on her membership page:
The membership area contains some behind-the-scene QuickTime videos and wav file greetings (coming soon) as well as other neat stuff you won't find anywhere else.
There is no nudity and never will be so please don't ask. We are always open to costume ideas. Let us know. And please, be respectful!!! Luv Jenn
"We know that there is a certain amount of dirty-old-man traffic that is gonna come through; so we deal with it," says Lou, the Web master of both Jennifer's Hangout and Butterfly Island. "If I get any e-mail that I find even slightly disturbing, it's like, 'Hey, FBI.com, here you go.'
"If they say, "I want to see her naked,' I say, ‘Wouldn't we all?' " Lou adds. "But that's not what we're gonna do here."
Lou's not-entirely-critical attitude toward pedophilia may stem from the fact that it's good for business.
"Jennifer's Hangout right now is generating all of our income," Lou says. "And it's from guys who want to see this pretty girl in her bikini, and we're using that money to fuel Butterfly Island. The irony is that all of these dirty old men are paying for this thing which is gonna benefit girls."
Also, Lou admits that he is among Jennifer's admirers.
"Jennifer is one of the most beautiful creatures ever to grace the Earth," he gushes in a portrait gallery. Elsewhere in Jennifer's Hangout, he adds, "She has the type of beauty that is in the league of Grace Kelly, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Ashley Judd."
Lou says that Jennifer is his next-door neighbor, and that Jennifer's mother is fully aware of the photographic relationship he has with her daughter.
On the World Wide Web, adults and minors come into uncomfortably close contact, perhaps because that contact is thought to be virtual, and therefore harmless. Nonetheless, the fact that adolescent girls far below the age of consent pose provocatively for the camera is alarming to some observers.
"Photographs are used by pedophiles basically like currency," says Jack Samad, of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. "The intent of producing it is to purchase other photographs from other pedophiles."
Samad fears that child molesters will misuse the photographs they find on teen sites to induce children to commit lewd acts.
"In a child's mind, they assess, ‘Well, golly, if it's shown in a picture, then it must not be illegal or wrong,' " Samad says.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, First-Amendment activists vigorously defend the teen sites.
"This is a free country, and it's great if some teen, not being forced against their will, wants to act provocatively on the Web," says David Wasserman, a First Amendment lawyer and board member of the Free Speech Coalition, an adult industry group. "Instead of talking dirty on the telephone, it is being able to show yourself audio-visually on the Web. Times have changed, and people just have to learn to accept that."
Websurfers seem eager to embrace such shifts in society's moral compass. Estimates of the number of non-nude teen Web sites range from 200 to more than 1,000. The Non-Nude Coalition (www.n-n-c.com) alone contains links to 428 such sites.
TeenBeauties' Lukas Bednarik had trouble finding an Internet Service Provider willing to accommodate the volume of Websurfers that stream to his site, which had to move five times in a two-month period due to traffic overflows. "It's pretty crazy," Bednarik says.
TeenBeauties claims to receive some 10,000 unique hits per day, and double that number when return visits are included, but Bednarik has not yet found a way to cash in on the e-commerce bonanza, primarily because he's had difficulty attracting sponsors.
"Advertisers are not too keen on the content," says Bednarik. "Teen Bra and Panty--that's a problem. I figure most of the advertisers are like parents, and when they see teens on the site, its almost like it's their own children."
Eric Thompson, the 17-year-old founder of ChickPage (www.chickpage.com), has also encountered trouble stemming from his site's subject matter.
"I was doing pretty good off of [my Web site], but I lost one of the advertisers due to content," says Thompson, who holds down a day job at a department store. AdCast, a banner brokerage, removed its ad from ChickPage's main page.
"They said, ‘It's not something our advertisers are looking for,' " Thompson says. "Now I'm down to probably $400 a month."
Almost every single underage-girl site contains some form of advertising, most often from explicit sex sites. Mainstream companies, such as MTV, the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated also run banners on non-nude teen sites. Advertisers often have no contact with the Web sites that run their banners; it's entirely possible that the august Wall Street Journal doesn't even know that it's advertising on Web sites that openly tease rigid cultural taboos.
Most teen-site Web masters claim that the snapshots come from the girls themselves; some admit to shooting the photos surreptitiously and to stealing them from other Web sites.
"A lot of them are donated by just regular people stopping by," says Non-Nude's Chris Lee. "Some of them I grab off of newsgroups and stuff like that. And nowadays, a lot of them are from amateur models who are trying to get exposure."
"It started off with the girls giving them to me," explains ChickPage's Eric Thompson. "Now I just play games all day and do my homework, 'cause I go to school. Then I just check my e-mail, and there's like a meg or so of pictures a day. I just sort through those, pull out the good ones and stick those up."
From time to time, a young lady who never consented to have her photograph taken discovers her smiling mug in an Internet sleaze gallery.
"Some girls have e-mailed me [saying] they're not happy about [being included on his site]," says Bednarik. "Some say, ‘I look like a slut up there.' They're non-nude, and above them is a banner of two girls going at it, and that's the problem.
"I don't take these pictures, right? These girls do themselves," Bendarik adds, both defensive and persistent in rationalizing the way he exploits strangers. "They obviously pass them along to someone, and that person passes them along to someone else. They're showing their friends; so what I'm doing is showing 20,000 of my friends every day. That's how I look at it."
Teen-Place (www.teen-place.com) has a policy of removing photographs the moment there is a complaint.
"I know that if there were photos of me floating around the Net without me knowing, I would be greatly disturbed," a Teen-Place administrator explains in an e-mail.
Ethics aside, surveillance appears to be a favored means of accumulating content for teen sex sites.
Jogbraspy (so-named because females in jogging bras are his favorite subjects to film) has been posting snapshots on non-nude Web sites since the Summer of 1998. Jogbraspy prefers to gather images of attractive underage girls by filming them with his compact camcorder, and then using his home computer to lift stills from the video footage.
"When I film, my camera is in plain view; I just make sure to go to areas where cameras don't look all that out of place," Jogbraspy explains via e-mail. "Most do not know the camera is running as they are being filmed. If anyone I have filmed has seen themselves on the Internet, I have not heard anything about it."
A typical Jogbraspy photo shoot exposes a nonconsenting young girl in a public place, zooming in on her ass and her crotch.
A missive from Taper on the TeenBeauties message board reveals the depths to which voyeurs will sink in pursuit of questionable shots of underage girls:
I have a video of my neighbor's hot 15-year-old daughter. I filmed her many, many times while she was sleeping in tight shirts, loose-fitting shirts, dresses that were raised high up her legs with her legs apart and short-shorts. She is never nude and there are no pornographic shots. Plenty of close-ups of legs and her tight blouses though. Has any one else out there done this?
Atopine later bites on Taper's query:
TAPER, I am very interested in your video; if you are willing to make a copy I can give you a copy of my video of my neighbor and friends changing in her room. Please contact me via e-mail.
Online correspondences on some message boards reveal the darker corners of the teen sex-object subculture. One heated thread revolved around a supposed pornographic video of underage girls. The thread picks up with Method Man:
A few persons have asked about what is Dee&Desi. I have heard that there are some movieclips out there (approx 50 min. in total) of these two girls. Their age is around 15. There is nudity where they kiss and strip. They even give a guy a B-Job.
Atomic frog, who runs the message board, corrects Method Man:
15? More like 12 or 13.
Bear jumps into the thread:
Where can I find this movie?
Minime chimes in:
Are there any pictures, even n/n, of Dee and Desi? Anyone with info please e-mail me.
JadeGhost brings the message board dwellers to their senses:
I don't know if you people are naive or what but guess what? You can go to jail for possessing such things. Am I wrong?
Sally logs on to concur:
Possession puts you in jail. Absolutely no doubt. Stay away.
Possessing videos of 12-year-olds giving blowjobs is clearly against the law, but non-nude teen sites are legal. Any attempt at outlawing teen Web sites runs up against a First Amendment wall; banning non-nude teen-sleaze sites is tantamount to banning all underage girls from appearing online. Not all forms of online teen sleaze are afforded Constitutional protection though.
High-tech horndogs have found ways to use graphics programs such as Adobe Illustrator to morph innocent photographs of minors into jackoff fodder. An image of a young girl can be manipulated to remove clothing, add fleshtones and draw in genitalia. Photo-realistic images of children engaged in sex can be created from scratch. Hard-core adult nudie pix can be modified to make the subjects appear prepubescent.
The Child Pornography Protection Act (CPPA) of 1996 made all such forms of simulated child pornography illegal. After a pre-enforcement challenge mounted by the Free Speech Coalition, parts of the CPPA were struck down. It is now legal to generate images of fictitious children engaged in imaginary but explicit sexual conduct. However, computer-altered child pornography that involves identifiable minors can still land a man in jail.
David Wasserman fears that the fight over the CPPA is not over; he expects to see more attempts to restrict online expression in the future.
"It is truly bizarre what has happened to our First Amendment rights," the free-speech expert says. "In the name of protecting the children, we've given up our children's freedoms for the future."
(This article first appeared in the August 2000 issue of Hustler Magazine)
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