Child pornography involves sexually explicit images of a person who is recognizably under the age of 18. The U.S. Code 2251 refers to the images as “visual depictions.” 

The Code of Virginia 18.2-374.1 provides a much more detailed description of the visual depictions that are child pornography. 

Visual material

Photographs and videos are, of course, visual depictions, but so are a number of other materials. The law specifically lists sculptures, digital images, drawings and films. A prosecutor may then argue that a cartoon fits within the definition if it depicts one or more of the following: 

  • Nudity: exposing genitals, buttocks, breast or pubic area  
  • Sexual excitement: depicting the genitals in a condition of stimulation or arousal 
  • Sexual conduct: acts or simulated sexual acts, whether or not a person is wearing clothes that cover the genitals 

A person may also face charges if he or she watches cartoons depicting minors and including bestiality or sadomasochistic abuse. 

Identifiable minors

To qualify as child pornography, the material must include an identifiable minor. It is illegal to look at a depiction of a minor who is a recognizable person, even if the one viewing the image does not know that person. Also, the image is still child pornography even when the person it depicts is no longer a minor when someone else views it. 

A person could even face child pornography charges if the creation, adaptation or modification of the depiction occurs when its subject is an adult. The key is that the depiction is intentionally and recognizably a minor. 

Other matters of note

If the subject of the images is between the ages of 15 and 18, the penalties may not be quite as harsh. When the age of the viewer is within seven years of the age of the subject, the penalties may also be lower. The law allows judges considerable discretion in the range of sentencing options, so the presentation of the defense may make a significant difference.