Tag Archives: paedophilia

Paedophilia and hyper-sexualisation: girls will be attacked because of what they’re wearing, right?

30 Oct

Bikini Barbie

 

A few days ago I read this piece in New Matilda by philosopher Dr Mark Manolopoulos on the coexistence of an accepted hyper-sexualistion of children, and strongly condemned paedophilia. The fact that the former is condoned while the latter is condemned suggests a societal hypocrisy that is shameful, is the crux of his argument.

Although Dr Manolopoulos stresses that he makes no correlation between the two, the fact that he situates their coexistence in the realm of the hypocritical and shameful strongly suggests that he assumes a connection of some kind. Without a connection there is no hypocrisy, and there isn’t any shame either.

The first question is one we’ve been debating on Sheep for a few years now: are children hyper-sexualised?

There is only one, extremely narrow representation of female sexuality that is imposed on young girls. The grotesque image heading this text is an example of an ideal of physical sexuality that promises gratification to any male who is attracted in spite of, or because of, its lack of subtlety.

It’s a mainstream wet dream. Consequently, many women strive to emulate the impossible plasticity of the Barbie doll, and some women inflict the same struggle on their daughters in a ghastly mother-daughter bonding that to this observer, does not speak of hyper-sexualisation as much as it does of a desperate desire to be desired, and for the daughters to vicariously gratify the adult woman’s need.

A man or a woman who looks at a child in “sexy” adult clothing and make up and thinks, gawd, she’s so sexy, has something terribly awry with their perceptions and desires. The child is still a child, albeit a dressed-up child, and the adult who cannot tell the difference between dress-ups and the real is sexualising the child rather than seeing the child, and needs urgent assistance.

Can anyone in their right mind really look at a dressed-up child and see her as a sex object?

How many mothers who dress their daughters “sexily” are actually pimping them out to paedophiles? Practically none, I’d guess.

There is no proven correlation between the manner in which young girls are dressed, and their vulnerability to paedophiles. If there was, Dr Manolopoulos might have an argument, but there isn’t, and he doesn’t. Quite apart from the fact that many victims of child sexual assault are boys, who aren’t dressed in anything other than ordinary clothes.

The implication of the doctor’s thesis is the same old same old: girls and women will be attacked because of what we’re wearing. Paedophiles aren’t responsible for their crimes: little girls looking “sexy” provoked them, they couldn’t resist, and their mothers are to blame.

His remedy is, yes you guessed it, ban things.

Personally, I wouldn’t choose to dress my daughter, if I had one, in a manner that is Barbie sexual, but then I don’t dress myself like that either, except once I was in a burlesque show and that was fun.

Blaming paedophilia, or any sexual assault at all on the so-called “hyper- sexualisation” of the victim is yet again shifting the responsibility from the perpetrator, where it belongs, to the victim, where it doesn’t. This is the most shameful hypocrisy society urgently needs to address, but how much easier to demand the banning of clothing and music videos.

We don’t get raped because we wiggle our hips, no matter what our age. We get raped because rapists rape us. How about society tells rapists not to do that, and leaves us to dress ourselves and our daughters however we wish, without having to fear for our safety?

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Bill Henson revisited

11 Apr

I’m putting this upfront again because a new discussion has opened up as a result of my piece in the Drum yesterday on Robert Crumb and Hetty Johnson.

Bill Henson by publik 16 via flickr

Bill Henson has a new photographic exhibition at the Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.

The usual suspects, who art critic John McDonald calls the “despisers of the body” (Spectrum, April 9-10, 2011) have taken up cudgels against Henson’s images.

Interestingly, two prominent objectors, journalist and media researcher Nina Funnell, and Christian conservative Melinda Tankard Reist, both admit they haven’t seen the exhibition, however Reist says she has seen previous works and she knows what Henson is up to.

I haven’t seen this exhibition either, so am in no position to comment. What I do object to, however, is the conservative attitude that any depiction of adolescent nudity is pornographic, and the implication that everyone who views the images of adolescents is doing so from the perspective of a paedophile. That is, the danger they perceive is that all viewers will be sexually aroused in an inappropriate manner, and will want to sexually engage with the young people depicted in the photographs.

Therefore, the photographs  are “a catalyst for forbidden desires” to quote McDonald again, and  as such, should be censored.

Objectors such as Funnell and Reist have as their basic assumption that the young person’s body can only ever be viewed as a sexual object when portrayed in Henson’s photographs, even when they haven’t actually seen them.  They do not allow for any other understanding or interpretation, such as those Henson himself has advanced that are to do with his interest in capturing the liminality of adolescence, and revealing the young person on the threshold of immense change, in the throes of  all the uncertainties and ambiguities that accompany this state.

In the world view of the protestors, there is no room for any interpretation other than the sexual, and they urge all of us to view the images through the eyes and with the imagined desires of the paedophile.

There is something very alarming about their perspective, and something even more alarming about their urgent need to thrust that perspective on everyone else. Funnell tells us breathlessly that Henson’s images are known to be collected by paedophiles. Well, so are Target catalogues picturing little kids in their undies. Does this mean we must order and censor the world around us according to the base desires of the perverted? Does this mean that anything likely to appeal to the paedophile’s gaze must be obliterated from our cultural landscape?

Or are they arguing that any gaze directed towards photographs such as Henson’s is inherently paedophiliac, simply because the owner of the gaze directed it there in the first place?

This attitude turns everyone who visits the exhibition into a vicarious paedophile. It defines all visitors as abusers. It suggests that all those who view the images are compelled to adopt the perverted gaze to the exclusion of any possible other.

And this is what makes people like Funnell and Reist dangerous. They see a world comprised of sexual predation and abuse, and are unable to allow the legitimacy of any other vision. For this reason alone, they should not be trusted in the matter of Henson’s work, anymore than one would trust a paedophile’s limited and distorted perspective.

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