John Grisham is not just an author, popular for his legal thrillers.
He is also an American lawyer and politician, meaning that he is part of the legal system that will be responsible for prosecuting and sentencing the paedophiles that are the subject of his recent comments.
But What Did He Say?
Grisham, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, distinguished between what he termed "real paedophiles" and those who look at child pornography on the internet.
He suggested that prisons are too full of "sixty-year-old white men" who happen to have looked at child porn online.
He references a "good buddy" of his who was investigated by the FBI and later prosecuted for looking at images of underage girls on a site labelled "sixteen-year-old wannabe hookers," while he had alcohol in his system.
We should add that the legal age of consent varies between 16 and 18-years-old according to which US state you happen to be in, but the Federal age of consent, across America, is 18.
So when searching out this particular website, the clue that it might lead to trouble, was probably in the title.
Alcohol, we'd like to add, is not an excuse for child abuse, as much as it is not an excuse for violence against women or anything else.
Why Is His Comment Troubling?
His words are troubling for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the distinction he makes between "real paedophiles" and other sorts of people who look at images of child abuse.
The argument that online viewing, rather than real life abuse, is somehow less harmful, is a specious one.
Looking at child porn online, is just as harmful, be it indirectly or not, to the children involved. Giving traffic to the sites which provide the images, justifies its existence in the website maker's eyes. It's a simple case of supply and demand.
Plus, a sexual proclivity for children is a sexual proclivity for children, whichever way you spin it, and viewing child porn online can be a precursor to direct, sexual action.
Is It A Racial Issue?
The second confusing part of Grisham's statement, is that he appears to be making a distinction along racial lines.
Is a "sixty-year old white man" somehow less harmful than a sixty-year-old black or Asian man taking part in the same activity?
Girls Versus Boys
The final, and most disturbing part of John Grisham's invective against the American legal system, is that he appears to draw a distinction between the abuse of young boys and the abuse of young girls, implying that one is worse than the other.
In his defence of his "buddy" who got caught looking at underage girls, he said: "He shouldn't 'a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys."
The suggestion that paedophilia gets worse, the younger and younger the victims are, has been made before. It's a spurious one, but he isn't the first to utter it.
However, the idea that the severity of the crime differs depending on whether the victim is a young girl or a young boy, is preposterous.
Whether his argument stems from an inherent abhorrence towards homosexual child absuse, as opposed to other forms of child abuse, or whether his views are shaped by our damaging history of sexualising young girls before they are of age, is almost irrelevant.
Child abuse is child abuse.