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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 7:26 pm | Fair 50º


Neil Rocklin: Crush Videos and the First Amendment

CSU Channel Islands professors asked to testify before Congress on 'perversions'

Crush videos are abhorrent depictions of women stepping on animals and they’re mostly viewed by men who become eroticized.

Neil Rocklin
Neil Rocklin

According to Nancy Perry, vice president for government affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, “Crush videos visually depict the abuse and killing of animals, many showing a scantily clad, high-heeled woman stomping, squishing and otherwise torturing animals such as puppies and kittens to feed a sexually deviant audience.”

The distribution of these movies was prohibited with the passage of a 1999 law sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley. But the law also made legal acts related to hunting and fishing illegal, so the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down on an 8-1 vote in April. As a consequence, the 2004 conviction of Robert Stevens for making videos of dog fights was overturned.

The Humane Society spearheaded the rewriting of the law, and the organization requested testimony from Kevin Volkan, a psychology professor and department chairman at CSU Channel Islands, and myself because we are the only clinical psychologists who have written about the phenomena. So, Dr. Volkan and I wrote Prohibiting Obscene Animal Crush Videos in the Wake of United States vs. Stevens, and on Sept. 15 we presented the testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., presiding.

Dr. Volkan testified that “... adults, especially adult males, who have been so taught may also realize that subjecting others to pain is dangerous and socially reprehensible, so animals become the ‘safe’ objects who, when tortured, give these men sexual gratification. Men who are unwilling to torture and kill the animals, or who want to hide their crush activities from society and others close to them, can obtain similar gratification by watching crush videos.”

“The treatment prognosis for those involved in crush videos is very poor,” he added. “Treatment is not likely to prevent the acquisition of a crush paraphilia, curb the current practice of this paraphilia, or prevent a relapse. Given the above characteristics associated with crush paraphilias, I believe that a prohibition on the sale of crush videos is one of the few ways in which the practice and enjoyment of crush paraphilias can be reduced.”

The Humane Society considers this to be compelling testimony that represents animal crush videos as sexual perversions, which can be restricted and not be viewed by the Supreme Court as a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. ACLU lobbyist Michael Macleod-Ball said Volkan’s testimony also contributed to the obscenity argument, a rule of measure that excludes speech referring to explicit sexual acts from First Amendment rights. Animal cruelty is illegal but banning the depiction of such acts inherently violates free speech, he said.

So, the Senate must write a law that will withstand judicial scrutiny. Kyl said it is a virtual certainty that the law will be passed during this session of Congress because of its widespread support, but it must be written so it will not be overturned by the Supreme Court. This experience has been a civics lesson in the role of the legislature, with the judiciary serving as a check and balance.

Our desire is for our professional opinion to result in a well-written law that fits within the constitutional framework of the First Amendment. We await the efforts of the Senate.

— Licensed clinical psychologist Neil Rocklin is a psychology lecturer at CSU Channel Islands. For the past 30 years, he has treated children, teens and adults with a host of psychological disorders, and currently teaches college students about personality development, abnormal behavior and criminal behavior.

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