After a week of conversations, she asked John if he was “r/l” (real life) about the meeting, and when he said that he was she sent him a soft-focus digital image of a girl who she said was her fourteen-year-old sister. “She still has some of her baby fat, she’s kinda embarrassed.” Undeterred, John described how the three of them would enjoy one another’s company: they could have sex in the shower or in a field of flowers. He insisted that he had invented his sexual exploits to impress Indy-Girl. The average sentence is now a hundred and nineteen months, which is about the same as the average punishment for a physical sex crime.He encouraged Indy-Girl to “talk dirty” and “let your imagination go wild,” but she cut him off, explaining, “I’m not the cyber type.”She preferred to discuss the logistics of their meeting, a subject that John approached hesitantly. Child pornography didn’t become a priority for federal law enforcement until the mid-nineties, when the Internet, offering a fun-house reflection of the spectrum of human sexuality, exposed a previously invisible population of pedophiles.
His mother believed that John might have ignored Indy-Girl if only he’d been less “prone to fantasy.”John’s imagined sexual encounters had always surpassed his real ones.“You pick exactly which girl you want, when you want her—you control everything,” he said.“It was pure pleasure without the stuff of reality.”During John’s first year out of prison, his parents were confident that he was “straightening out.” He, too, felt that he was on track to acquire the “trappings of success: a wife, a house, children, a beautiful garden.” Then the conditions of his supervised release were loosened, permitting him access to the Internet.“It filled some deep hole in me that I didn’t even know existed,” he said.He visited online forums devoted to medieval culture and war games, and began downloading adult pornography.