Michael Jackson’s porn collection reveals something we should already know

Michael Jackson

Despite the fact that five different boys made allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson, and that he was charged with seven felony counts of child molestation and two felony counts of providing an intoxicant to a minor under the age of 14 in order to seduce him, a jury acquitted him of all charges in 2005. He is said to have paid out almost $200 million to as many as 20 of his victims in order to keep them quiet.

Now, seven years after Jackson’s death, buried reports from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department reveal information the public should have known all along.

After Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was raided by sheriff’s deputies in November 2003, authorities’ reports, published yesterday by Radar Online, reveal a collection of images of child nudity and semi-nudity*, sadomasochism, and numerous “mainstream” porn magazines and videos.

Much of the pornography found in Jackson’s mansion, like “Hustler’s Barely Legal: Dirty Teens Come Clean,” “The Girls of Penthouse,” “Unbelievable Anal,” and “Naughty Neighbors” is considered completely normal and acceptable by our oh-so-liberal public. Some of the imagery, reports say, were “young-themed,” depicting “teenage or teenage-looking young girls, often engaged in sexually explicit activities with males.” The concern with this material, considered tame and harmless by most of society, the reports make clear, is the way in which it was used to groom the children Jackson preyed on — to desensitize them, lowering their inhibitions in order to normalize the abuse to come.

Let’s keep in mind that, today, boys are likely to become porn users before the age of 18. Research shows that the average age a boy first sees porn today is 11 and a survey published by Psychologies in 2010 found that a third of 14- to 16-year-olds had first seen sexual images online when they were 10 or younger. An American study found that 53 per cent of boys and 28 per cent of girls between the ages 12-15 said they used sexually explicit media. Even in the ’80s, before the internet made pornography practically unavoidable, most young men had been exposed to Playboy before they finished high school, often when they were as young as 11 years old. Online pornography has been connected to an increase in coerced sexual acts (i.e. teenage boys pressuring teenage girls into things like oral and anal sex) and in “sexual attacks” by children. In 2015, filmed child sexual abuse (sometimes referred to as “child pornography”) increased by 118 per cent online, where it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Filming the rapes of girls and women to post online has become commonplace.

What’s horrifying about the discovery of this material in Jackson’s home is not only that it reinforces the fact that he was a serial predator, but that the imagery used to groom his victims is no different than that which so many children are viewing online as part of their unofficial “sex education” on their own.

It’s not only individual abusers like Jackson who are grooming children, but, in fact, the porn industry itself. The legal porn industry. Not the illegal, even more horrific industry that exists on the dark web.

If we can understand that showing children and teenagers pornography, whether it be Playboy, Hustler, or the more extreme videos we see online today that include gang-rape and many other forms of sexual violence (you know, the “normal” stuff), why is it that we continue to treat pornography as harmless? Only someone who is completely delusional could claim it is only adult men who are porn consumers, particularly when the porn industry is intentionally preying on younger customers… So how can we continue to pretend that, say, a 14-year-old boy watching a video of a woman being face-fucked until she vomits is “harmless?” And if your argument is that, well, it’s harmful to him because he is not an adult, at what point does this stop being harmful? On his 18th birthday? Why?

Despite the fact that countless media outlets across the U.S. have been reporting on the “shocking” material outlined in these reports, what was found in Jackson’s home was perfectly legal.

Jackson used legal pornography to groom boys for molestation, but boys of the same age see the same (and worse) material online, every day, of their own accord. Oftentimes they use that material to guide them in their abuse of girls. Grown men use pornography to guide them in their abuse of women and children every day. Why is it acceptable that the most sought out genre of porn is “teen” if we are not, as a society, ok with men sexually abusing underage girls and boys?

The reality is that so long as this kind of material exists, is legal, and viewed as “normal” and “harmless,” it will be accessed by children and teenagers. Putting aside the fact that it is not any less harmful for an 18-year-old to sexualize the abuse of women than it is for a 17-year-old, it’s long past time that liberals stop turning a blind eye to the reality of pornography.

Our “shock” at the material found at Jackson’s home is due to what? Are any of us unaware that sadomasochistic pornography exists (and, in fact, is very common)? Are we shocked that he had pornography in his home? Or that this kind of material is used to groom girls and boys everywhere into accepting the normalization of things like incest, rape, and violent sex? Are we shocked that male predators incorporate pornography into their predation?

This is, I’m sad to say, the reality of porn today. It sexualizes young women and children and it normalizes abuse. What men use as masturbatory material on a regular basis is, indeed, horrifying, but it’s not abnormal. Abuse, incest, molestation, rape, prostitution, and pornography exist on a continuum, and it’s time we start to recognize and address the real impact of that.

*While clearly pedophillic in their purpose, considering the context, the images of children found were not described as sexually explicit or determined to constitute child pornography, in the reports, which is why I haven’t labelled them “child abuse.” They are clearly disturbing and connected to child abuse, nonetheless.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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