Wednesday, June 21, 2006

U.S. v. Weber (9th Cir. - June 20, 2006)

How much do you want to know about penile plethysmography? This is a family blog, so I won't tell you -- even though I'm dying to -- precisely what the practice entails. Let's just say that if you're a man and we're interested in learning if you are sexually attracted to, say, little boys, we strip you down, put a measuring device on a certain part of your body, show you pictures of various things (including little boys), and then measure whether (and how much) a particular circumferance changes in response to various pictures. Get it? Hopefully I don't need to draw an actual picture. (I could insert a link here, but I ain't gonna do it.)

Anyway, if you're interested, this opinion by Judge Berzon is the definitive work on the subject. The case is about whether a defendant convicted of possession of kiddie porn can be ordered as a condition of supervised release to participate in penile plethysmography. Judge Berzon says: "Maybe". This may seem facile, but she does an outstanding job of both reviewing the practice and of assessing how the various (and very important) interests at stake should be weighed in deciding whether an order to participate in penile plethysmography is permissible. It's really a great, and comprehensive, opinion. And also interesting. At least to me. I never knew that there was such a well-established body of literature on the efficacy of putting little thingies about your thingie. Or how to fake out the thingie. And lots of other neat, sex-related stuff as well. But now I do. And so can you.

P.S. - Judge Noonan concurs to say that the answer should be "No" rather than "Maybe"; in other words, that an order compelling penile plethysmography should never be allowed. Which is plausible. But don't forget that Judge Noonan is super darn Catholic. (Like me, I might add. Except for the super part.) As a result, his attitude towards the practice is, I think, more than a little bit affected by his global attitude towards various related subjects. So it wasn't surprising at all to me that he wouldn't allow a thingie to be strapped to your thingie and shown various pictures to see (and measure) what transpires.

Which -- like Judge Berzon's view -- also seems entirely plausible to me; both positions seem very reasonable. But, sadly, this also leads Judge Noonan to include -- in his very short concurrence -- a line like this one: "The procedure violates a prisoner's moral integrity by requiring him to masterbate." I can see why that would be a big deal to Judge Noonan. But the predicate assumption is simply flatly wrong. Yes, the machine has to be calibrated. Which means, yes, you do have to get the defendant aroused. And, yes, one way of doing so is by tactile stimulation.

But there are other ways as well. The practice doesn't "require him to masterbate." Again, it's a family blog, so I ain't gonna list the alternatives. But let me just suggest that one of them -- at a minimum -- is to think sexy thoughts. Most of us can "calibrate the machine" -- if you know what I mean -- without the need to resort to the topic of the 1991 Divinyls song. At least I can; hopefully, until the day I die.

Anyway, a definite must-read for those interested in the measurement of the nether regions.