Friday, June 06, 2008

it's official

it's not porn. it's art. and it's rated pg.

but even so, i don't want to put the whole picture here.

why not? i'm not sure. i don't find it offensive - my god, i have a daughter and we've always been very relaxed with nudity around the house, as were my parents, and i think she's beautiful. there's something, though, about the power, the potential, of a child, a girl child, turning into a woman. as a mother i think it's lovely and gorgeous and natural. but i know there are people who take that admiration too far, and change it into something sick. maybe my reticence is about what people might think about me putting the whole picture here, and that people might judge me for doing that. i know my intentions are pure, but others don't. much like bill henson, perhaps?

in the main, this is why, i think, that charges couldn't be laid against bill henson:


1 : the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement 2 : material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement.

i don't believe that the photos are intended to cause sexual excitement. that's not to say that they wouldn't for some people. but then we've all heard about paedophiles using department store clothing catalogues and other advertising print matter as "stimulation material".

i feel slightly wrong putting the following interaction in the same post as the above - can groups of words be tainted by association? i feel weird even including my daughter in a post where i've talked about paedophilia - but i give you the conversation i had in the car this morning with my 11 year old daughter.

[radio news - story about world-wide child pornography arrests]

princess: what are they talking about?

mg: um it's about people who have downloaded photos of children that are inappropriate and show abuse, the police have arrested a lot of those people.

princess: gross!

mg: yes, it's a real problem. [goes off on tangent about how maybe it's like people addicted to gambling/drugs/alcohol and the compulsion to do it.]*

princess: i think being addicted to drugs is better than doing that. the children wouldn't want that, and at least with drugs you're not hurting other people.**

mg: yes, you're right there, though the effects on family and friends of drug addicts happen, it can affect everyone around you. if you're addicted to drugs.

princess: yeah...

mg: did you hear the story about the artist, the photographer who had some photos taken away from the gallery by the police-

princess: oh yeah!

mg: i just didn't want, these two stories are different. you know, the people who abuse children, the ones who were arrested for downloading pictures, and the bill henson artist who took photos.

princess: what were the photos of?

mg: well, he takes photos of landscapes, buildings and people. with the people, they are all ages, and sometimes they are clothed and sometimes they are naked.

princess: ew.

mg: remember when we went to all the galleries last year, in florence and paris, we saw so many naked humans, statues, remember david, he was so huge? with his huge penis? and all the naked cherubs and angels-

princess: the top of the vatican ceiling? heaps and heaps of naked-

mg: right!

princess: yeah, in the old days it wasn't a bad thing.

mg: even all those religious paintings we saw, with all the gold and crosses and jesuses, and he was often naked except for a little piece of material across his lap-

princess: yeah!

mg: right. so it's been like this for hundreds of years, the naked body is a natural thing, ok we don't walk around in public in the nude, but the body is beautiful and natural and normal.

princess: mmm [sounding doubtful. she's only 11]

mg: anyway, the photos that caused the problem were of a 13 year old girl and she's naked and in one you can see her little breasts, buds you know, and she has her hands in front of her private parts.

princess: did her parents- she would have given permission-

mg: yeah, and her parents did too.

princess: she would have had to sign forms and all that. the police can't say anything. it's her choice. and her parents said yes.

mg: i think a 13 year old would be able to give permission. especially a 13 year old who is willing to pose for a nude photo, that girl would probably be pretty mature and smart.

princess: yeah, at that age, girls are wanting to get more identity.

mg: what about at 11?

princess: i would never do that, gross, but at 11 you just want to fit in, not be different. at 13, you are being more different.

mg: mmm.

princess: so, now they've made a big deal about it and made everyone look at the photos? before it would have just been in the gallery and not many people would have even known about them.

mg: yeah, maybe the girl now is upset about it.

princess: maybe, i'd be mad at the police. anyway it's ART, definitely!

* this is the only parallel i can think of that allows my brain to process the idea of people gaining sexual gratification from viewing child pornography, that it becomes an obsession and a compulsion they can't control.

** look, she's only 11, no matter how smart she is.


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gullybogan said...

The one thing that wasn't really done in this whole Bill Henson thing was for someone to talk to young ppl, the way you've done, and publish their opinions.

I mean, it's interesting what Germaine Greer has to say, but maybe some teenagers could have put the thing into context for us older folk?

Melba said...

shit i can't decide if that's spam the first one? mmm. has a personal touch.

gullybogan, thanks for that. it was interesting to hear what she had to say. you know the girl in the photos might be pissed off at the complaint snowballing it into a big story, THAT might be her concern, that kids at school or whatever might tease her about it. but somehow a kid who is ok to do those photos in my mind is not a kid who's timid and ill-equipped to deal with shit.

these days too, once kids hit their teens they are pretty switched on. but of course that doesn't mean they are immune to exploitation.

grocer said...

I am glad to have read this post (found via AOF). I have had mixed thoughts about the whole thing.

On the one hand art is often pushing boundaries, thought provoking and fringe culture.

On the other hand photography of a naked adolescent comes very close to a boundary that is socially unacceptable - the abuse of innocent young things. (Let's bear in mind that in some countries a girl this age will be married and expected to produce children.)

The pictures in themselves, as you say, are not sexual and if anyone finds them sexual or arousing, I think it says more about them.

Your dialogue with your daughter reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother as a youngster in the 1980s about cross dressing and Boy George.

Re Huxley - a few others got this. It's a corporate ploy to get blog endorsements for free.