In early 2013, a package from Japan en route to a home in Newfoundland was intercepted by Canadian border officials. Local police conducted a “controlled delivery”, arresting Kenneth Harrisson as the package was delivered to his home. The box did not contain drugs or dangerous weapons, but a life-size doll that officials had determined was not of legal age. Harrisson was charged with possession of child pornography (more appropriately known as Child Sexual Exploitation Material or CSEM), mailing obscene material, and smuggling of prohibited goods. These events set in motion a trial spanning six years and raising the question “Can an image, or in this case an object, be considered child pornography/CSEM even if it does not involve any actual children?”
How Canada Defines CSEM
According to Section 163 of the Canadian criminal code, “child pornography” is defined this way:
(a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,
- (i) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or…
By that part of the definition, a doll created in the likeness of an adolescent body can certainly be considered a depiction of a person under the age of eighteen made by mechanical means, however, a lifeless doll, even sans clothing, is not engaged in any sort of sexually explicit activity. However disturbing you may find the idea of a naked child doll, claiming a doll’s mere existence is a depiction of a sexual act is essentially saying that the human body itself, of which we are all guilty of possessing in some form, is inherently sexual and obscene.
The second part of the criminal code’s definition of “child pornography” states…
- (ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years;
This part requires the dominant characteristic of the depiction to be of a sexual organ (or anal region) displayed for a sexual purpose. If Mr. Harrisson had purchased a giant (or very small) rubber vagina, the court could have argued that the dominant characteristic was a sexual organ intended for sexual purpose – but he did not. He ordered a doll, a full-body doll, including arms, legs, hands, feet, a torso, and a head. The sexual organs making up only a small percentage of the doll as a whole. This raises a new set of questions. Had this been only a male masturbation aide and not a doll, would it still be considered pornographic? What if the user fantasized about children while using it?
It may seem ridiculous to argue these points when you consider that we are talking about a doll and not a depiction of a real, living child. Anyone looking at this case objectively can see that the doll in question does not, in any way, fit the definition of the main crime Harrisson was being charged with. For Mr. Harrisson, though, these arguments were anything but silly: his freedom hinged on the decisions of people reactionary enough to spend years arguing over a doll.
What Was Really on Trial?
Much of the prosecution focused on whether or not Mr. Harrisson had intentionally ordered a
In dangerous and shamefully inaccurate statements given in court, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Peter Collins said, “If he (
Although shocking, saying that Harrisson “likely has an erotic attraction to prepubescent children” is completely irrelevant. In no other case would questioning a person’s attraction ever be appropriate in determining their innocence. Would the doll have only been considered CSEM if Harrisson had admitted to being sexually attracted to it? Can a doll exist as just a doll until seen through the eyes of a pedophile, when it then becomes obscene material rendering the viewer worthy of incarceration? Can we punish someone for what we believe to be their thoughts and feelings towards an otherwise harmless object?
After a grueling six year trial, Judge Mark Pike concluded that “he believed the doll linked to Harrisson is child pornography, but the Crown hadn’t proven Harrisson’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” All charges against Harrisson were dropped as the case came to a close in May of 2019. While it’s a relief to see an innocent man go free, it is a very small victory as the fundamental reasoning behind this outrageous case remains seriously flawed. Had the court been able to prove that Harrisson was a pedophile, would the outcome have been any different?
A Real Crime Was Com
While adults wasted six years and untold amounts of public funds arguing over a doll and the intentions of the man who ordered it, a very serious crime was being committed:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.Article 12 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Kenneth Harrisson placed an order for a plastic facsimile of the human body. Had he ever been allowed to take possession of the doll, it likely would have never been seen by anyone other than himself. This man, who’s criminal record had remained clean throughout his entire life, would have continued his peaceful existence while the rest of society remained unaware of what he chose to do in the privacy of his own home.
The government of Canada saw fit to track the package from Japan to Harrisson’s home and arrest him upon receiving it. For six years, this man was denied his freedom as he was harassed and publicly humiliated. Although he was found not guilty, his reputation will be forever scarred by the accusations made in this case. Regardless of your opinion of dolls or people who choose to purchase them, an arbitrary invasion of a person’s privacy is an egregious violation of his rights as a human being and citizen of this world.
Human Rights Extend to All Humans
Through no conscious choice of our own, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. These rights exist specifically to ensure that every single person is treated as what they are, first and foremost: a human being equal to all others. In a sense, these rights protect us from ourselves as they balance the power we allow some to hold through the constructs of government, laws, and morality. If left unchecked, this violation of a man’s human rights unjustly shifts power to those who believe their personal morals supersede the rights of others. This should be especially concerning to anyone whose sexual interests or orientation falls outside of what is generally accepted as “normal”.
No matter what you think of Kenneth Harrisson or what you believe his motivations to be when he ordered that doll, he is still no less human than you or I, and he is entitled to the same intrinsic rights as anyone else. If we turn our backs on him and allow even a single violation of a person’s rights, those who believe they know what’s best for all of humanity will continue to erode our freedoms until there is no free person left to defend you when they deem your way of life unfit. We all share this planet as the human race, and it is up to us to protect each other from ourselves.
It is not always easy to put our emotions and personal opinions aside in order to look objectively at a situation when determining what is right;however, in order for you to say you believe in the sanctity of our universal human rights, you must agree that these rights extend to everyone, no matter how disagreeable you or the majority of people find them to be. This includes those who wish to own dolls – and, yes, even to pedophiles.
- Blaney, Paul H.; Millon, Theodore (2009). Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology (Oxford Series in Clinical Psychology) (2nd ed.). Cary, North Carolina: Oxford University Press, USA. p. 528. ISBN978-0-19-537421-6.
Some casesof child molestation, especially those involving incest, are committedin the absence of any identifiable deviant erotic age preference.
- Edwards, Michael. James, Marianne (ed.). “Treatment for Paedophiles; Treatment for Sex Offenders”.
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- Seto MC (2009). “Pedophilia”. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 5: 391–407. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.032408.153618. PMID19327034.