It is a fact that Kistler pleaded guilty to the accusation of child pornography held against him after pretending to be a male teenager suffering from a terminal case of leukemia through the internet so as to advance his efforts of coercing teenage girls into sending him pictures of the teenage girls that are sexually explicit. Although Kistler admits that he was not conscious of inflicting any harm albeit admitting that he understood what he was practicing was wrong, seeking the causality behind his actuations simply does not end there nor do the causes cease to be analyzed.
Quite on the contrary, it should all the more fan the analysis into wildfire, unto something deeper than what meets the eye. The mere statement that Kistler “knew what he was doing was wrong (Associated Press, 2007)” even though claiming that he was not aware he was causing any harm should all the more incite a rigorous analysis of the case. One way of approaching this problem is through Akers’ Social Learning Theory.
As Akers argues that people learn ‘aggressive acts’ by means of direct conditioning and modeling the actions of other individuals amplified by positive rewards and the evasion of punishment, Kistler might have acquired his pretentious act through what Akers is obviously suggesting. More specifically, Kistler might have resorted to his pedophilic actions after being directly conditioned into the performance of such actions which is reinforced by the existence of positive rewards and the absence of or, at least, the avoidance from an immediate punishment which both prompted him to further commit and sustain his actions.
It can also be maintained that Kistler had more urge of continuing his ‘virtual’ mischief since he was able to, for the most part, obtain sexual pleasure through the means of the internet which could have been an easy method for Kistler to achieve his aims. The pleasure he gets is a form of a ‘positive reward’ at least in the context of Kistler as opposed to the idea that the pleasure he gets is not actually any sort of ‘reward’ to others especially to the victims.
By admitting that he knew that what he did was essentially wrong perhaps in the legal and moral senses, it leads one to the realization that Kistler may unconsciously place his personal actions as behaviors that override any existing proscriptions against them. Thus, by considering his pedophilic behavior as one that is ‘wrong’ yet fulfilling in sexual terms, Kistler eventually treats his behavior as one that is above what is being forbidden or disallowed by the larger society of which he is a part of.
Further, his absence of knowing that he was causing harm—or at least as far as he reveals—holds a reasonable argument that pertains to the corresponding absence of an effort to deliberately put a stop to his behavior. That is, since Kistler was not well aware that he was causing harm to his ‘victims’, there was no apparent reason for him to adjust accordingly or to realign his behavior according to the normal conducts within the society, to legal and moral prescriptions, and to what is prohibited.
Otherwise, had Kistler known the negative effects his behavior has been causing, there remains the probability that he may have discontinued his actions—or he may have not. What is more important is the idea that there are reasons behind Kistler’s behavior albeit having the knowledge that his behavior is one of the things the status quo of the society is against. Nevertheless, Kistler was sentenced to 24 years of federal imprisonment; a contemporary example to the ancient Roman law “ignorance of the law is no excuse” (Brudner, 1995, p. 224).
Since the learning process contains the appropriation of punishments and rewards in the SLT, there remains the implied cause that Kistler initially engaged in his pedophilic behavior and continued to do so after he was able to obtain a ‘reward’ for soliciting sexually explicit images from teenage girls. Even further, his initial behavior of engaging into internet child pornography may have also sprung from a variety of reasons which, after engaging into the act, led Kistler to obtain a ‘rewarding’ experience largely in the form of sexual satisfaction.
Although the far more original causes beyond the subsequent continuance of his actions are of interest as well, the primary concern of the SLT remains to the ‘direct conditioning’ of the behavior of the individual or of, specifically, Kistler. The concept of ‘direct conditioning’ can be illustrated in the case where the experience of traumatic situations in the dental surgery is linked with the occurrence of fear by means of the learning of a correlation of pain as well as distress with the dental situation (Milson, Tickle, Humphris, & Blinkhorn, 2003, p. 495).
Conversely, the case of Kistler can be analyzed in terms of the concept of direct conditioning. That is, the ‘sexually rewarding’ experience of Kistler with regards to his ‘pornographic’ exploits can be seen as one that is associated with the occurrence of the feeling of ‘liking’ what he does through the learning of a correlation of ‘sexual satisfaction’ with online child pornography by pretending as a dying teenage boy and appealing to teenage girls to send sexually explicit images.