Parental Exemption In Texas Pornography Law Questioned

A case currently winding its way through the Texas legal system is putting the idea of parental consent and parental intent to the test in a case where a father showed adult pornography to his three young daughters, apparently as part of a "birds and bees" talk. The issue was brought to the attention of authorities after the 8-year-old, during the course of a therapy session, revealed what the father had done. The case eventually fell to James Farren, the Randal County district attorney. The only problem? According to Texas law written in 1973, while it is illegal to show pornography to minors, there is a parental exemption carved out. If a parent consents to the viewing (and in this case the parent was actually the instigator), then no charges may be filed.

Farren, who wants to prosecute the father, eventually decided the charges should be one of child endangerment, which could lead to a two-year prison sentence if the father is found guilty. Outside observers are undecided as to the idea of the state inserting itself in "the talk," as everything may turn into a discussion of intent. "It may be impossible to define with precision what a parent should be permitted to provide to a child in the course of 'the talk,'" says George Dix.

Dix, professor of law at the University of Texas, says it boils down to whether the father was mistakenly using pornography to illustrate the birds and the bees, or if there was a more sinister intent to the display, which some have felt could lead to abuse. Especially troublesome to Dix is the idea that disputes such as this often lead to parental rights, as is the case. After it came to light that the father had showed pornography to his daughters, his estranged wife is attempting to gain custody of their three daughters. Prior to this, the three girls had been living with their father.

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