Proving once again that the brains of American TV producers are about as vibrant and flourishing as a Dust Bowl-era farm, MTV recently premiered its new controversial show Skins — originally a product of Britain’s E4 network – to much fanfare, high ratings, and questions about whether or not the show is nothing more than child porn with better cinematography and camera work. The show follows the exploits of a gang of teens (all played by real teens, ages 15-19) as they get high, get drunk, and deliver all manner of proper bangings to one-another. Reportedly, none of the episodes have in any way deviated from the original scripts, so everything being shown on MTV is what people in England saw – and had no problem with. But this is America. The subject of sex cannot be broached without someone declaring someone else is a dangerous, dick-wielding maniac that may sex you to death with their poisoned genitals.

The accusations of child pornography come, strangely, from MTV executives themselves, as they believe an upcoming episode featuring a naked 17-year-old masturbating his chemically induced erection will cause some folks to get a wee bit freaked out.

This is a very interesting debate because within it contains an argument MTV will most likely try to use that I’m sure most pedophiles have tried to use during court trials: what is child porn, really? Could a picture of a young girl in her bathing suit at the beach be child porn? Or is it only limited to deranged psychopaths that have sex with children? And, most importantly, in the case of Skins, is depicting teens simulating sexual acts considered child porn?

I’m not smart enough to answer that question, but I am dumb enough to try to answer it anyway: showing real teens simulate sexual acts is not child porn. It’s child softcore porn; and like adult softcore porn, it sucks and it’s frustrating.

We all remember that special time in our youth when we discovered Cinemax and Showtime softcore porn. Ah, what a glorious time that was. Staying up a little late one night while everyone else in the house was asleep, flipping through the channels and finding that one show – you know the one. It was the one that was overly lit and featured the delicate hands-masking-genital-penetration technique. As soon as you thought you were going to get a shot of the good stuff, it was quickly covered by a perfectly timed thigh entering the frame, or a soft crossfade transition to the couple in a new position.

It was fucking infuriating.

But that’s what Skins apparently is…just without the lame crossfades and stuff. In this age where hardcore porn is never more than a few clicks away on the machine you’re using to read these very words, hardcore porn on TV is kind of obsolete. When was the last time you heard anyone even mention the Spice Channel or Playboy TV? You probably can’t. They aren’t culturally relevant anymore.  So with this, everything on the porn scale gets downshifted. Cinemax and Showtime softcore porn are obsolete. You have to pay an extra monthly fee for their softcore porn. So what happens is all the softcore stuff ends up sliding down the television dial, and please ignore the gross mental image that may evoke. The softcore stuff moves from the premium cable channels to the basic cable channels and ends up on networks like FX; specifically, on shows like Nip\Tuck that (before it ended its run) was very obviously trying to compete with the premium cable channels in terms of the sexual content, if in a more careful way.

And that leads us back to Skins on MTV.

Five or ten years ago Skins would have been an HBO or Showtime series. But now with the downshift of boring softcore porn, it’s on MTV, its target audience. But to this younger, tech-savvy audience, Skins is not porn. To them, Skins is no more porn than Red Shoe Diaries or Spider-Babe was porn to those of us that are only 5 to 10 years older than today’s teens. Especially when they have the ability to be sitting on the couch next to their parents watching full-on hardcore porn on their laptops, occasionally sneaking a peak at their parents to make sure they don’t notice or get suspicious. Sure, the show will bring about countless teen boners, but so do the pictures of scantily clad teens on the walls of your local Abercrombie and Fitch, and that’s one of the places kids go to by the clothes they dream of taking off in front of a sexual partner.

Again, Skins is not child porn. It’s simply a product of a pornographic downshift, which means in about 30 years we’re all going to wish we were 5-years-old again when we flip through the channels and find Bert and Ernie using some delicately placed hands to mask the suggested penetration on Sesame Street.