Mumbrella & the morals police

19 Apr

At the Mumbrella website you’ll find blogs and discussion about “everything under Australia’s media marketing and entertainment umbrella.”

You’ll also find an article titled “Stop making sex objects of women and kids,” written by morals campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist in November 2011. This article is “one of the most commented Mumbrella has ever published” and as a consequence, Tankard Reist has been invited to speak on her topic at the Mumbrella360 conference  in June 2012.

In the title of Reist’s article we see immediately the manipulative conflation Reist and her campaigners make with adult women and girls. As I’ve argued many times, we have two very separate issues here, on the one hand the alleged “objectification” and “pornification” of adult women, and on the other the alleged “sexualisation” of children. Reist and her followers make no such distinction and this is the first reason to suspect their claims are less than rigorously addressed.

Reist and her followers seem to offer an outstanding example of the “third person effect,” that is, they inhabit a psychological space in which they perceive advertising as having far more effect on others than themselves. While they can argue that themselves and their children are somehow exempt from an unwilling transmogrification into pornographic sex objects by viewing mass media advertising, everyone else outside their circle of friends and like-minded colleagues is unable to resist this hypersexualised state, resulting in a mortally crippled society in which everyone (except them) is either demanding sex  or offering sex 24/7, including children. In short, only Reist and company manage to retain agency, while the rest of us lose ours at the first glimpse of female flesh.

I say this because every time I read one of Reist’s fanatical rants, I ask myself who is she talking about? She is not describing anyone in my circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours, extended family and community. I may lead a comparatively sheltered life, on the other hand I do get out. I’m also middle class and perhaps Reist’s demographic in danger exists in another milieu? Is Reist in the process of creating a class of deviants and their children who unlike her and hers (and me and mine) are infected with hypersexuality through their inability to resist the unrelenting assault of advertising, and are thus eroding the very foundations of our society?

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND WHERE CAN I FIND THEM AND RE EDUCATE THEM BEFORE WE ALL DIE IN SEXUAL SQUALOR?

I have heard distressing reports of teenage girls feeling obliged to provide boys with blow jobs, however I attributed this more to Bill Clinton who changed the definition of sex for generations of young people when he declared fellatio was not really sex, and therefore one ought not to feel guilty about it.

There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal more flesh about than when I was a teenager. Though watching the Brady Bunch the other afternoon, I noted that the skirts the girls wore to high school were little more than pelmets, and they also sported high heels, footwear they aren’t allowed to wear to school today.

It’s also true that the representation of female sexuality in advertising is a narrow one, and we ought to be railing about the lack of variety the industry offers. Reist and her followers would no doubt argue there should be no such representation at all, and trying to work out just what they would find acceptable is a pointless task. To them it’s all “sexualised.” But as I argued here in an essay titled “How to induce a moral panic about sex ” there’s a big difference between “sexualised” and sexy:

According to the American Psychological Association’s definition (I don’t trust them about much, but they’re helping write the book on this so they’re a primary source) “sexualizing” women means denying acknowledgement of anything other than our sexuality, according us value only because of our sexual appeal to the exclusion of all our other characteristics, constructing us as “things” for sexual use rather than seeing us as people with the capacity for independent action, and inappropriately imposing sexuality upon us.

So are the researchers confusing sexualization, which according to the APA’s definition is pathological, with sexy? The definitions of which are: arousing or intended to arouse sexual desire, and being sexually aroused, neither of which are, I hope, considered pathological by anyone. There is a world of difference between the two terms. Sexualization we may well get upset about, as a particular form of dehumanization. But sexy?

Is it a case of having failed to successfully demonize the sexy, a pathological disorder is the next step in the reactionary battle to control expressions of female sexuality?

The danger is that while sexy is a description of normal human pleasure, replacing it in the vernacular with “sexualized” throws any possibility of female sexual representation out the window. Every public display of female sexuality is interpreted as sexualized, and therefore pathological.

What kind of a lesson is this to teach our girls about their sexuality?

One can only hope the Mumbrella conference will offer its audience balance, and invite a speaker who will challenge Reist’s moral rhetoric with some common sense and research-based counter arguments. At the very least, Reist needs to make it clear just who it is she is talking about, rather than continuing with sweeping generalisations about “women” and “kids.”  Perhaps she could tell us how she herself avoids the pernicious influences of the advertisers to maintain her sexual integrity, and how she protects her children from objectification, pornification and sexualisation. This could be really helpful, because no matter what outside influences a child must deal with, the tools for survival are acquired in her or his family.

While Reist spends an awful lot of her life viewing (and, bizarrely, reproducing on her website for others to view) images she finds unacceptable, it seems she is unaffected by them. Why then should she claim the rest of us will be damaged, when she (and her followers) remain apparently unscathed?

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50 Responses to “Mumbrella & the morals police”

  1. samjandwich April 19, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    A wise woman once introduced me to a collection of thoughts that I think are quite useful, the second of which is:
    “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

    Jennifer I know you’ve argued against ad hominum argumentation in the past, however in this case I just can’t see doing so as anything other than entirely reasonable.

    In putting forward the proposition that, as you say, advertising etc is “constructing us as “things” for sexual use rather than seeing us as people with the capacity for independent action, and inappropriately imposing sexuality upon us”, I just think we are seeing nothing other than a projection of MTR et al’s own experience on viewing this stuff.

    A healthy person would look at an image of a woman engaging in sexual activity and think “that looks like fun, because I can see this is a human being with thoughts and feelings like everyone else, I can see she’s acting on her sexual preference, but I know implicitely that her life is far more complex than this five-minute clip depicts – however even a five minute clip gives a small insight into her personality, se that’s a start”. Or alternatively if the image looks a little suspect: “this makes me uncomfortable, I can sense an element of coercion, manipulation, or non-consensuality about this scene, and so I’m going to regard it as virulent and switch it off from my life”.

    Whereas an unhealthy person just thinks “what a whore”.

    It’s quite simple really. the perspective of MTR is that of an unhealthy, diminished human being… but because she is incapable of recognising herself as such she just keeps on trucking.

    (and MTR, if you think that’s some kind of insult or personal attack, then that’s just proven my point. I have nothing against you, I’m just making a non-judgemental observation about the sort of person you are. I’m concerned for your welfare and state of mental health. I think it would be in your best interests to expand your mind a little, but since you insist on attempting to impose your dysfunctional thinking on me then naturally I’m going to put myself first and counteract).

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    • Jennifer Wilson April 19, 2012 at 10:33 am #

      Oh, brilliantly said Sam Jandwich & there are occasions when the ad hominem is quite all right. I would only add that an unhealthy person also feels compelled to impose their vision on others, and to exercise inordinate amounts of control to repress and silence any vision other than their own.

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    • helvityni April 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      Sam, your Wise Woman is very wise indeed, I often express similar sentiments taught to me by my sages…

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  2. samjandwich April 19, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Yes that’s true. And just for the sake of form, we should probably say that considerations are quite different when talking about kids!

    Ooooh yes, and thank you for reminding me of that ravishing Marcia Brady 🙂

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  3. RedGlitter April 19, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    if whatever it is MTR is against, was to end tomorrow, wiped out of human history, what would she complain about? she probably consumes way more porn than the average male adult… much like Revy Fred Nile or his staffers with thousands of hours of porn on their parlimentary computers in the name of “research” (http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/fred-nile-caught-in-web-porn-scandal-20100902-14nuc.html).

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  4. hudsongodfrey April 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Hello Jennifer,

    I don’t know that Bill Clinton did much more than to perpetuate the double standard that would have us tacitly acknowledge the answer to Rich Hall’s question, “If the leader of the free world can’t get a blow job what chance do the rest of us have?”

    I think that there’s actually less flesh on display now that in the 1970’s. Further back than that I’m not able to say. Maybe it was all that much more delightful then. These things could be subjective. Examples abound in film and literature of conversations or writing about sex that are often far more stirring than anything occasioning actual nudity!

    So if it isn’t double standards or just nudity what is the source of their ire? I think Reist makes her cardinal error in assuming that advertising is all about subordinating the female body to exploitation by males. Here she fails to make adequate concessions to the fact that women are complicit in advertising on their own undertaking and that a good deal of the time the target market is women themselves. Something else is going on here and it may even be objectionable to some people, but sexualisation probably doesn’t explain the dynamic involved in advertising at all properly because it doesn’t comprehend the psychology of selling so much as that of being offended by what they perceive to be mere objectification.

    Jennifer gives a fairly accurate definition of what sexual conservatives mean by their coined term “sexualisation”. So whereas she says to demonise the merely sexy is wrong I would agree but go on to say that advertising that sells to women by appealing to sexiness isn’t really about objectification in the true sense of the word because the women shown variously project confidence, happiness and empowerment through their sexuality in addition to the subtler aesthetic appeal of their undeniable beauty as characteristics that women may aspire to in buying the products. The fact that confidence, happiness, empowerment and aesthetic beauty are not purely reducible to sexuality for its own sake runs counter to the kinds of objections that Reist would raise.

    The absurdity is compounded by any reasonable pondering as to whether advertisers might otherwise be expected to use less than attractive women in their efforts to promote fashion and beauty products the express purpose of which is to improve women’s appearance. Surely the panacea to too much sex in advertising, if that is the view one wants to take, is simply to refuse to purchase those products.

    Better still as Jennifer rightly concludes children need to be taught, or better still equipped with, faculties for filtering the mixed messages and exaggerated promises advertising and other cultural expressions will inevitably create from time to time. Moreover Jennifer is right to observe their own apparent immunity to the travails of modern media could well be viewed as something that can be transferred to others. Whether they are entirely right to do so at the expense of more sex positive views is also a fair question.

    In short they fail to demonstrate the harm from which they’re ostensibly protecting others, but to which they are apparently immune. What that leaves them with is a relationship with expressions of sexuality that is characterised by negativity towards it and a certain amount of censoriousness, but based mainly on offence. The most ludicrous expression of this is their constant externalisation of something that is their problem not ours nor the fault of advertising and the media.

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  5. 8 Degrees of Latitude April 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Just quickly off the top (good post btw):

    I think we can all agree that a lot of advertising is complete tosh. And we can certainly concede – though “welcome” is probably a better and more accurate term – that there is a widely held desire to be sexy. I think the principal problem from which people like MTR draw their determination to control everyone and their basic urges stems from the belief that people have some sort of proprietorial hold over others. This is especially so in conventional relationships in which we have been conditioned to believe we should all be at least apprentice angels.

    A better way is to suggest that trust is more important than monogamy (that’s not my line: it’s from a Savage Garden song). Which isn’t to say I think we should all get out there and behave like rabbits, which is what MTR apparently believes everyone other than herself is doing, or worse, would like to.

    But it does suggest we should get a grip on ourselves – not in the Bill Clinton way I hasten to add – and consider the reality of the human condition. MTR and others are welcome to place themselves in purdah should they wish to do so. The rest of us would surely much prefer to get on with life as we choose to live it.

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  6. Ray (novelactivist) April 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    A few points –

    I’m writing this from Paris. As you know the French have a more open attitude to the erotic than the puritanical Anglos. I’ve been very impressed with the large number of children (of all ages) visiting the galleries, where of course, there’s lots of nudity. Gustave Courbet’s controversial, detailed portrait of a vulva, ‘L’Origine du Monde, is on featured display, without any warnings. Anyway, see http://novelactivist.com/10311/paris-day-2-musee-dorsay-and-helmut-newton/

    I’m with Hudson. Having lived through the 60’s and 70’s I can say with certainty that we live in more conservative times. In fact the current concern over ‘sexualization’ is due to two things – a conservative rear guard action to the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s and moral panic over the child abuse scandals of the 80’s. The turning point was one Brooke Sheilds, who had appeared in nude photos when she was 10 and full frontal nudity as a child prostitute in ‘Pretty Baby’ by Louis Malle (the full frontal scene was cut, but there is plenty of other nudity). Then she appeared in ‘Blue Lagoon’ and then controversially in an ad for Calvin Klein where she says ‘nothing gets between me and my Calvins’. Interestingly Brooke has said recently that she regrets none of it and that she so admired Malle that she did her thesis on him at university (she’s very smart and studied ‘French’ culture). This was also at the time when the photos of David Hamilton were very popular, ‘coffee table’ books and in France the photographer Irena Ionescu was pushing her daughter Eva as a nude model.

    http://novelactivist.com/873/the-lure-of-aphrodites-mirror-brooke-shields-and-eva-ionesco/
    http://novelactivist.com/1022/brooke-shields-update/

    So compared to then, we are actual living through more conservative times.

    What drives MTR? Basic Anglo wowserism – the belief that sex somehow demeans women and girls. Nice girls and nice ‘feminists’ have nice sex. The rest are ‘victims’ of sexualisation. How can it be any other way? Nice girls simply don’t enjoy being naughty – someone must be forcing them.

    I’m with you Jennifer. I don’t see the problem in my circle. I helped raise two girls, both who seemed to escape ‘sexualisation’ and who are nevertheless sexually confident women (one’s a doctor of genetic medicine).

    As for the whole imbalance around oral sex, girls being ‘pressured’. I spoke to a gen-x woman who assured me that, at least in her circle, it was the other way around. It was the women pressuring the men for oral.

    As for girls being pressured into sex – again, look at the ‘sharpie’ culture of Melbourne in the 70’s. And another personal anecdote from my childhood during the sexual revolution. A friend of my younger sister openly said she wanted to loose her virginity ‘before’ she got her period, and tragically, a few years later, the very beautiful younger sister of her best friend died of an accidental overdose at a party when she was 14 – and she weren’t no virgin neither. And this was middle-class suburban Australia.

    Oh yeah, and then there was ‘golden girl’ – no-one knew her age (she looked 13/14 but I was told she was 16) but she turned up at the Berri Confest alone, didn’t wear much the whole time. She was a sweetie. Gentle. A hippy. People took her as she was.
    http://novelactivist.com/photos/confest-’79-people/golden-girl/

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    • Doug Quixote April 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      Interesting Ray. (As an aside, any post which contains more than one link will be treated as Spam until Jennifer rescues it – if I’m wrong Jennifer please say so.)

      MTR’s trap is to pile up anecdotes and then quote them as evidence. They are not very good evidence, heart rending though they may be.

      Piling up our own anecdotes, I would argue, is not particularly helpful either.

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      • Jennifer Wilson April 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

        I think spam allows three links before it grabs. Maybe it is only two, as Ray’s comment was held for moderation.

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    • Jennifer Wilson April 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

      You are in Paris? Paris France, not Paris Texas ? I hope you are having a wonderful time there because it’s really boring here.

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    • Darrell April 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Thanks Ray.. for reminding me of Brooke Shields etc.. I recently recieved a phone call the other night from my ‘very concerned’ seemingly ultra-conservative borther who was very worried about me.. since I posted a link to a Nudist website on Facebook the other day.. And he said I was promoting ‘child porn’ because the website showed images of naked teenagers.. ie. under 15 years.. While I tried to explain to him that this was nonsense since it was not a child porn site.. But simply a site promoting a healthy image about the naked human body.. No matter what age we may be….. But he would not listen to ‘reason’ at all & contiued to argue with me, calling me sick & in need of help etc.. OMG.. anyway I said, thanks for your opinion anyway… He also has 2 teenage daughters.. so no doubt he is full of fear aboout what will happen to them as they become increasingly sexually mature….. And how dare a disagree with him.. since the majority of normal people agree with him etc etc…….

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      • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

        Darrel,

        There have been several studies on the effect of a naturist life style on children. The results indicate either a neutral or slightly positive effect.

        Your brother should go to Europe, especially Germany, which has a very established naturist movement and naturist youth groups.

        You may be interested to know that several courts, including the US Supreme Court protects naturist magazines and books as free speech. They have ruled that naturism is a legitimate political and social movement that is free to promote its philosophy.

        Your brother is wrong – offensively so. Naturists have rights and naturist children have rights too.

        But we live in Australia which is rather like America in its attitude to nudism. Which is counter-productive. With our beaches we are missing out on naturist tourism.

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        • Darrell April 22, 2012 at 10:29 am #

          Thanks Ray,

          I have read about the legality of the site & the whole philosophy of naturism etc in an increasingly paranoid world…… And I also study ‘weird’ subjects like astrology & psychology etc etc too.. So I am just being true to myself….. as I say to all who don’t agree with me.. And who have not have done any kind of deeper enquiry into the diversity of life etc….. I have learned to stand up for myself over the years often in the face of much censor.. dissapproval & condemnation….. But that’s just life isnt it…… “Know thyself”.. & “To thine own Self” et al…….

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  7. Doug Quixote April 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    It seems to me that Tankard Reist’s attitude to sexuality and female flesh is not greatly diifferent from that of the Islamic mullahs – that is, if all women were snazzily dressed in burqa or niqab and therefore no image of any sort were available, there would be no sexualisation “problem”

    If you are reading, Melinda, you might care to say just where you might differ from those views.

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    • Ray (novelactivist) April 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      But of course, being dressed in a burkha is a form of sexualisation – it is a statement about women and sexuality. Hiding something does not stop people thinking about it (as the rate of sexual abuse in the ME indicates).

      Here’s the thing. I’m currently in France. It has one of the largest nudist camps in Europe at Montalivet. I should say naturist village, because it has privately owned holiday homes, rental accommodation and caravan and camping areas, and shops. During the peak summer season it holds around 10,000 people. It started in 1958 and some families have been going there for generations.

      Must be a hot bed of sexualisation right? Let’s not be coy here. Nudists let it all hang out, women included. No hiding external labia, no hiding spontaneous erections. Thing is, its family oriented. There are loads of kids raised as naturists running around. And kids can forget themselves. They don’t care. I bet the adults can’t control themselves right?

      Except the reality is that these places are remarkably asexual. After awhile, nobody notices or cares. And kids are safe and run around naked and have a great time.

      The lived reality of naturists (which began in Germany over a 100 years ago and is well established there) disproves much of what people like MTR claim.

      Sexualisation is all in the mind. In her mind. Something can only have a sexual meaning if we say it has. Once small feet were sexual in China. In Japan the back of a Geisha’s neck is considered very erotic. What was sexy yesterday is not sexy today and so on.

      Censorship only feeds curiosity.

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      • Jennifer Wilson April 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

        And there was a time when the sight of a woman’s ankle made men mad. You are right, of course. As well, to see everyone as “sexualised” one must first have certain attitudes towards sex.

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    • Jennifer Wilson April 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      The whole thing comes back and meets up with itself – perceiving women as “sexualized” is implying that we incite men to bad sexual behaviour, otherwise why would being “sexualised” even matter?

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      • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 4:28 am #

        The word is badly misused. Sexualised means to make something sexual that isn’t naturally sexual. I can ‘sexualise’ a banana by making a phallic symbol. Sexualised and sexual are two quite different words.

        Often this is about preferred types of sexualisation, because conservatives sexualise children just as readily as the advertising industry. When we cover a young girl’s chest we sexualise it. Girls’ chests are physiologically identical to boy’s until puberty. There is no actual difference. Yet conservatives expect that girls cover their chests – to train them (and us) to think of them in a sexual way. I’ve even known girls to rush to cover themselves when caught topless whilst their brothers run around topless without a care.

        So this is not actually about sexualisation as such, or rather, sexual socialisation. It’s a debate about appropriate sexualisation. Or, sexualisation we approve of versus sexualisation we disapprove of.

        The opposite of sexualisation is desexualisation, and it seems to me that half of this debate is about desexualising natural sexual behaviour.

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        • Jennifer Wilson April 20, 2012 at 6:45 am #

          So the APA and Tankard Reist’s crowd have appropriated the word and made it pejorative. I remember reading your blog on this, it’s very good, will find it again and link. Yes, I agree it is about sexual socialisation and also taste – aesthetics, which is also about class.

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          • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

            Yes, they’ve appropriated it and turned it into a pejorative. It’s an inelegant and unnecessary word anyway. What was wrong with eroticised and sexual socialisation? It’s also a dog-whistle term.

            I’ll try to find an appropriate link because there are several places I discuss it on my blog. But basically ‘sexualise’ means ‘things I don’t like’.

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  8. Mindy April 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    When I first became aware of the campaign there were some really suss ads out there featuring children. My test is if you can swap an adult model in a bikini for the child model and the pose doesn’t look out of place, then ur doin it rong. There were a number of children’s clothing catalogues that fell into this category. Now, the campaign has been successful and children are photographed looking like children again and I think that perhaps the campaigners are seeing sexualisation everywhere, instead of congratulating themselves on their success.

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    • Doug Quixote April 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      I hope you are right, as regards the absurd precocity sought by the advertising industry.

      The campaigners however, see it merely as step 1 of their banning and censoring wowser agenda.

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    • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 1:19 am #

      Poor test Mindy, coz not every adult pose is sexual. Much of this is in people’s imaginations.

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  9. Mindy April 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Ray, I should have been clearer – if you can put an adult woman in the same pose and she wouldn’t look out of place in a men’s magazine then it is no pose for a child. I have seen children’s wear catalogues with photos of prepubescent girls leaning back with their knees open – poses that are intentionally sexually suggestive with adult women – so what are they doing in a kids wear catalogue? I think it is probably just laziness on the part of the photographer or whoever is setting up the photo shoot, but still is that something that we want to be promoting. It’s the clothing we are supposed to be looking at, not the model so much. I applaud MTR and her crew for fixing that issue, but now I think they begin to see things that perhaps aren’t there.

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    • hudsongodfrey April 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Who’s sexualising the image of a dressed child in a way comparable with a naked woman? Is it the photographer or the viewer? And if the former then do you really mean to say that photographers have to take so perverse a view of their own work as to project the most debased interpretations with a paedophile might make in order to self censor any possibility of sexualisation no matter how remote?

      I suspect that it might be more appropriate to view images of children in terms of the innocence that is present in childhood and from that childish perspective. Kids are wonderfully uninhibited with an innocence we should celebrate rather than repress. There’s nothing intentionally sexual about it and nor should there be. If a viewer chooses to project their own perversion onto such a sight then that is something that they bring to an image which is probably their own fault.

      On occasions where we feel sure that a photographer is complicit in the some kind of perversion then at the best of times we make a subjective judgement about their intentions. Dealing with that problem raises the sticky question of how we interpret intent based on the kinds of imagery we ourselves cannot look out without seeing it as sexual. The psychology behind why anyone would be unable to look at say a naked child without experiencing discomfort prompted by feelings within themselves that they regard as wrong, fearful or needful of being repressed raises many issues people are deeply uncomfortable with. The result of that I would posit is that these things are argued from offence rather than harm because if there is harm it is either to a taboo we don’t want to discuss, a religious precept that we don’t want to cite or to a psychological demon that we don’t want to acknowledge. Consequently as Ms Reist well knows, what matters most is how loudly you shout rather than what it is that you’re actually shouting about.

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    • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Mindy,

      It actually ceased to be just about clothing centuries ago, well, actually millennia ago. Fashion is about many things, status, culture, sub-culture, a personal statement. The fashion industry understood this a long time ago. You are selling an image.

      It is difficult to talk about photos without seeing them. I know I have looked at photos that people like MTR have claimed sexualise the child only to be mystified by that claim. Thing is, I have a background in photography with a Degree of Fine Arts in Cinematography. I can describe to you the history of ‘posing’ from classical art through to contemporary photography. Many of the classical poses are just that, classical. And here’s the cruncher: children have been ‘posed’ like adults since the beginning of art. The Rococo period contains many ‘sexualised’ portraits of young girls – in fact the theme of loss of innocence is very common.

      ‘Posing’ is a language and there are poses that are agreed are intentionally erotic, again I can list the elements and even grade them from mild to extreme. But the other thing to say it this language, like all language, changes. Poses that were considered risque once are considered cheesy today.

      I’ve written about this recently http://novelactivist.com/10130/intentional-and-interpretational-sexualisation/

      MTR and her cohort have an overly paranoid view of how photographers work with models, especially child models. You can’t actually over-direct them. It is best to let them play at posing and take lots of shots. The selection of the photo is done at the editing stage and photo editors are educated in the issues of posing. As I see it we seem to have a group of outsiders and amateurs attempting to define what is and is not appropriate – yet what is their qualification? Their opinion alone?

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  10. Darrell April 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    AND.. meanwhile all this is all very timely.. or as Jung might say beyond mere coincidence etc.. as I am also working on my next blog about the whole issue of superior moralising etc in this world etc.. Astrologically coinciding with two of the major ‘outer planet’s, Uranus & Pluto.. forming a tense square aspect.. ie. *Uranus in Aries.. Uranus representing the archetype of Prometheus & freedom from all forms bondage etc.. while we all know the price Prometheus paid for his bringing ‘enilghtenment’ into the world.. forming a rare square to *Pluto in Capricorn.. Capricorn representing the age old laws & traditions etc….. With this transit making a first quarter square between these two planets that formed an a new phase conjunction in the mid 1960’s.. And we all know what that all led to……. an extreme pent up desire for total freedom from all the bondage & chains of the past etc…… So here we are again… having reached another kind of crisis point in the development of the planetary psyche…… While I wonder how many people would be willing to undergo psychotherapy in regard to all this….. And, yes extreme moralising only serves to continue the damage caused by many generations of shaming the naked human body etc.. leaving the human psyche split open & deeply wounded & ashamed of all that is merely natural within us all…… Meanwhile here are some notes on what we are all going through at this time by astrology & Jungian analsyst Liz Greene.. on the meaning of the transit of Pluto, the Lord of the Underworld.. through the sign of Capricorn….. from her ‘Long Term Horoscope’ report……

    Pluto in Capricorn
    2008 until 2023
    Pluto is the great bass drumbeat of the planetary pantheon, taking a leisurely 249 years to travel around the zodiac. It entered the sign of Capricorn in 2008 & will not enter Aquarius until 2023. Thus the second decade of the 21st century is dominated by this important movement of Pluto through the sign of Capricorn the Goat, concerned with structures, hierarchies, authority & the nature of government. Pluto symbolises those deep underground forces in the Collective psyche which break down & renew that which is old, outworn & past its time. It works like a machine dredging the bottom of a pond, bringing to the surface everything which is rotten & ready for the compost heap, so that new life can emerge cleaner, brighter & stronger than before….

    While I also just posted an image of ‘the Devil’ card from ‘The Mythic Tarot’ on my Facebook wall along with some notes on what, Pan, the Devil, symbolises for us all…… On a divinatory level, Pan, the Devil, implies the necessity of a confrontation with all that is shadowy, shameful & base in the personality. The Fool must free him or herself by gaining knowledge & honest, humble acceptance of Pan, for then he or she can release the creative power which is held in chains by one’s own panic & Self-disgust. Thus he or she comes to the heart of the labyrinth & faces one’s own darkness in the essential darkness of the body, in order to become what one always was – merely natural………..

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    • hudsongodfrey April 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

      What?

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      • Darrell April 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

        Hudsong.. have you read much of Jung.. Of course it is well known he studied various symbolic systems like astrology & the Tarot.. So I am just spelling out what these symbols.. or basic arctypes at teh core of all life processes are saying about this whole mess etc….. I have been studying astrology & the tarot etc for about a decade now….. as this also relates to ‘alchemy’ & depth psychology etc…. I am sure Jennifer might appreciate some of this stuff that exists as archetypes at the core of all life expriences…… LIfe, as the journey of the Fool, in the major arcana in the Tarot etc…

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    • silkworm April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      “On a divinatory level, Pan, the Devil, implies the necessity of a confrontation with all that is shadowy, shameful & base in the personality.”

      Are you including lust in this? Because as I understand it, that is what Pan represents – lust.

      Even in the Jungian archetypology, there is a subconscious or unquestioned moralizing going on.

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      • Darrell April 22, 2012 at 10:45 am #

        Silkworm.. Yes… lust is a base desire……. although the word itself is rather loaded……. What is lust. versus, intense desire? As usual its all about Consciousness & awareness…. of course.. So the whole issue is honestly facing whatever is within onself.. Like, the meditation & depth psychological movement has tried to suggest to us all…….

        While you have raised an interesting question on the meaning of this word.. So I turned to wikipedia for some explanation.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lust

        The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant “purification”. This was the five-year cycle time for the ritual expiation of “sins” called the lustration as practiced in ancient Greek and Roman cultures, occasionally involving human sacrifice. Sexual intercourse was one of a list of sins requiring lustration. Another similar word existed in ancient Latin, lustratio.[2]

        The Seven Deadly Sins, written during the 5th century is a similar list of sins requiring expiation or forgiveness. These doctrines forbade even thoughts and desires for fornicatio (fornication), later generalized as luxuria (lust/lechery).[3][4][5] The concept also was progressively embodied in debates about mandatory Clerical celibacy beginning in the 1st through 5th centuries and following. For example, Henry Charles Lea states that “Sixtus III barely admits that married persons can obtain eternal life” in his “Sacerdotal History of Christian Celibacy” (p. 45). He also states, “Siricius and Innocent I ransacked the Gospels for texts of more than doubtful application with which to support the innovation “. (p. 53)

        However, in the 11th to 15th centuries the northern European usage of the verb still meant simply “to please, delight;” or “pleasure”. A related form “lusty”, originally meant “joyful, merry” or “full of healthy vigor”. See.[6]

        The word “lust” began being used in the 16th century in the Protestant Reformation’s early non-Latin Bible translations. This is despite the fact that the original Koine Greek Bible has no single word that is uniquely translated as heterosexual lust. q.v.

        Today, the meaning of the word still has differing meanings as shown in the Merriam-Webster definition. Lust: 1. a: pleasure, delight b: personal inclination: wish 2. intense or unbridled sexual desire: lasciviousness 3. a: intense longing: craving b: enthusiasm, eagerness .

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  11. Mindy April 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    If a child is posed like a model in a men’s magazine designed to arouse grown men then I think the pose is inappropriate for a child. I don’t think I can be any clearer than that. And no, I don’t think it is in my head. You do not need to pose a child like that to sell children’s clothing.

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    • hudsongodfrey April 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Mindy,

      Would you not say that if for example the child’s picture was in a men’s magazine, there might be quite a bit more outrage than there would be if the same kind of photo, spread eagled or not was to turn up in the context of selling children’s clothes in a catalogue?

      Do you think selling is about arousal? If not how do you extrapolate “designed to arouse”?

      If you don’t at least think about these things then chances are you’re willing to make the kinds of judgements that you are making here more arbitrarily based upon your own subjective sense of what offends.

      As I’ve written earlier we can talk about intent, in advertising for example, where the imagery used is designed to promote outrage for the sake of a publicity stunt. I think people have some right to avoid being confronted by gratuitous unsolicited offence. That is something will tend to go on the sensibilities of the majority of people, because if whatever measure you arbitrarily think might be subjectively applicable is open to interpretation. There may be room for others with different sensibilities to see the real good in these images. When they do so what you argue is problematic in that if it is they who have their minds on the innocence of childhood and those who’d be censorious who have their minds on the dark side of inappropriate sexuality, then why wouldn’t we side with the more positive interpretation of any image?

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      • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

        A woman posed in a men’s magazine is designed to titilate, to let the viewer imagine themselves as being able to access what the model is offering i.e. herself. So why use the same pose with a child to sell children’s clothing? Why not show the children doing something children do like looking at sea shells on the beach, or playing on a swing or any number of other things children like to do, reading a book even. Why the need to show the child spreadeagled like a woman in a bikini mag, in a pose that in a grown woman is supposed to indicate sexual availability? I don’t think it was done to solicit outrage, I think it was done without thinking about it at all. How is it possible to interpret an image like that positively?

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        • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

          Mindy,

          Not all women posed in men’s magazines are designed to titillate. This is your prejudice. Believe it or not, but it can equally be about admiring something beautiful. And there is a difference. Sexual arousal and aesthetic appreciation actually involve different parts of the brain.

          There is considerable confusion between the concepts of beauty and sexual.

          I haven’t seen the photo you are referring to so I can’t comment, but I helped raised two girls and they certainly sat around in ‘inelegant’ poses. I think you have a rather unrealistic idea of childhood – “looking at sea shells on the beach, or playing on a swing or any number of other things children like to do, reading a book even”.

          Try also, fighting, farting, being provocative and cheeky, curious and experimental and curious about bodies, babies and sex – and playing at being grown up, and sulking and being rude and vulgar, mean, nasty…. etc, etc.

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          • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

            That pose is. That is why it is used in men’s magazines designed for men to masturbate over.

            Your strawman argument about what children do is beside the point. Do any children’s catalogues show images of children fighting? Why not – because that is not behaviour we want to encourage? Do they show them tormenting animals? Going to the toilet? All things children do, but not things that are usually shown in children’s wear catalogues, so why are sexually suggestive poses okay suddenly? Again, if it doesn’t look out of place in a magazine designed to engender arousal in adults it does not belong in a children’s catalogue. If that makes me a wowser so be it.

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            • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

              Mindy,

              I can’t comment on a picture I haven’t seen. As I said, I’ve seen pictures that others have claimed sexualise and adultify children and in my eyes they don’t. I have also seen images that clearly sexualise children.

              The images used in men’s magazines that are ‘designed’ to masturbate over focus ‘explicitly’ on ‘spread-leg’ genitalia and are restricted. I can assure you that very few men, if any, masturbate to cheesecake photos of women in bikinis or even nudes.

              Therefore I highly doubt that the pose you saw is one used in “men’s magazines designed for men to masturbate over”.

              I don’t think you actually know what is ‘designed’ to ‘arouse’ men. Here’s a clue: hard-core, explicit, graphic, unambiguous, detailed.

              It seems to me that this is about what you ‘think’ is ‘designed’ to arouse men.

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              • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

                whatever Ray, it’s not something I want to see in a children’s catalogue. If it takes hard core stuff to arouse men these days then maybe there is a bit too much sexualisation going on…but I don’t think that is necessarily the case otherwise there would be no market for lingere waitresses, etc. But I’m not going to argue this with you any further, I think we have reached the point of going around in circles.

                Like

            • Ray (novelactivist) April 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

              Forgot to add the most important point – if the image appeared in, as a you say, ‘a children’s wear catalogue’ it was most definitely not an image designed to appeal to men. It was an image designed to appeal to mothers. And yes, photographers and advertising agencies understand their markets. They have to.

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              • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

                Well I think given the outcry they got it really really wrong. Since they haven’t tried it again I think they learnt something. Advertising agencies don’t always understand their markets, that’s why we have a Complaints tribunal.

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            • Ray (novelactivist) April 21, 2012 at 12:45 am #

              Well, if there were complaints then there was obviously something wrong, because as we well know such complaints must be justified because people who complain about things are always right, and never have an agenda.

              Like

        • hudsongodfrey April 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

          Mindy,

          The innocence and lack of inhibition in children is a beautiful thing, such images can take us back to our own childhood in a way that has nothing but positive connotations. Uninhibited sexual frankness between adults is pretty good too, but at some point we’re taught to be somehow slightly ashamed of our bodies and we do draw sensible lines between adult concepts like titillating sex appeal and the kinds of things at go to make up sales appeal.

          But seriously if it wasn’t done as a publicity stunt and yet it inadvertently causes outrage the intent seems unclear, in which case why you can’t overlook what the photographer and publishers clearly did remains something of a contradiction.

          Do you mean to say that something which is not designed to titillate somehow inadvertently does titillate, and if so whom?

          What I’ve been trying to suggest all along is that you may be projecting something onto the image that perhaps, maybe, just possibly, you shouldn’t or needn’t.

          Like

          • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

            No, I don’t think I am. Just because it wasn’t designed to be inappropriate doesn’t mean it isn’t. The pose is designed to titillate that is why it is inappropriate for a child’s clothing catalogue.

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  12. hudsongodfrey April 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Mindy,

    Seriously you may be right, but what you argue here only makes sense if you interpret it by taking your second statement over your first. In other words if the pose was “designed to titillate” and titillation involving children is inappropriate then clearly that’s how you came to the view that the image is inappropriate. The image must have been designed to be inappropriate (naughty photographer and/or publisher). I haven’t seen the image you have in mind so I may have to take your word for it, and long as that word isn’t from your first sentence which says “it wasn’t designed to be inappropriate”, because clearly that is contradictory.

    My questions were rather to a different point than to dispute that intentional titillation involving children can be regarded as inappropriate. It was to ask how we know titillation when we see it if we’re simply not quite sure because as seemed to be the case earlier the intention behind the images could not be clearly determined. It becomes a relevant question when the likes of MTR see quite a range of images being offensive whereas a good many others simply do not.

    So if in this case I defer to respect your opinion it is not entirely certain that had I seen the image I would continue to do so nor subsequently would you respect mine. We’d have a subjective disagreement that only seems resolvable by asking a third party for their opinion.

    Who we choose to be that party may variously depend on whose opinion we respect and how we’re expected to show that respect. I could be pretty well certain that if somebody known to me as a libertarian condemned the image then must be truly inappropriate. But it my libertarian friend thought it was okay but others of more demure sensibilities condemned it then I might want to avoid needlessly confronting them with similar material in the future. The problem I think we’re forced to confront in constructing this kind of graduated scale of offence is that from time to time something pops up that the libertine is uncomfortable with, but others we expected to be outraged are actually quite unconcerned by. When that happens a formulaic approach breaks down simply because the subjective nature of our judgements proves unreliable.

    I’m inclined to think that taking a conservative view of all such things needlessly implies an inherent negativity that doesn’t really bear up under scrutiny.

    Given the choices that we have my view would be to take the positive one wherever possible. So when doubtful actions or intentions crop up we should of course act on that doubt but not so precipitously or pervasively as to arbitrarily enforce a conservative code of negativity on the evidence of subjectivity alone.

    I hope you can see I’m not simply trying to oppose you for oppositions sake, but to drive at the wider point of why we choose negativity when it comes to expressions of sexuality in particular. I’m trying to ask whether at times instead of becoming protective and censorious we ought not to embrace a more sex positive perspective.

    And no I didn’t draw exclusively on your comments for those ideas nor intend to direct them as critique of the points you made. They’re there to be said because subjectivity has its counterpoint that needs to be understood before we give credence to the protestations of the MTR’s of this world.

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    • Mindy April 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      Yes, sorry I needed to step away from the keyboard there for a while. I think it is a very fine line between seeing the sexualisation of children in everything, even normal sexual exploration by children, and not recognising when that fine line has been crossed until it is getting blatant. I don’t think it is an easy call to make either way.

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  13. Doug Quixote April 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    There are probably some advertisers willing to accept the adverse reactions, on the principle that no publicity is bad publicity. The saying has been found sadly awry lately – just ask Rupert.

    Like

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