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"Everybody knows we must think of the Dr Stephen Harrington children!"
A series of interrelated concerns:• Marketing of commercial products to young people generally• Selling of ‘adult’ fashion to young children (girls)• Promotion of ‘unhealthy’ or ‘unrealistic’ body image• Children becoming adults (having sex) ‘too soon’• Sexualising children will invite/provoke paedophiles• Heightened risk of children being exposed to pornography at younger ages• General “Pornification” of society
"Corporate Paedophilia" (Rush and La Nauze, 2006)"Images of sexualised children are becoming increasingly common inadvertising and marketing material. Children who appear aged 12 yearsand under, particularly girls, are dressed, posed and made up in the sameway as sexy adult models. ‘Corporate paedophilia’ is a metaphor used todescribe advertising and marketing that sexualises children in these ways.The metaphor encapsulates the idea that such advertising and marketingis an abuse both of children and of public morality.In the past, the sexualisation of children occurred indirectly, primarilythrough exposure of children to representations of teen and adult sexualityin advertising and popular culture. The very direct sexualisation ofchildren, where children themselves are presented in ways modelled onsexy adults, is a new development.
"Corporate Paedophilia" (Rush and La Nauze, 2006)Two specifically sexual risks follow from the sexualisation of children,which reduces the sexual distinction between children and adults.Firstly, children may be encouraged to initiate sexual behaviour at anearlier age, well before they have full knowledge of the potentialconsequences....Secondly, because sex is widely represented in advertising and marketingas something that fascinates and delights adults, the sexualisation ofchildren could play a role in ‘grooming’ children for paedophiles...”http://www.tai.org.au/documents/dp_fulltext/DP90.pdf
A series of interrelated concerns:• I dont have the time to address them all (e.g. Anorexia...)• But, I will try to pick out some common themes, and issues.
Theme 1: Vagueness of the concerns From selling clothes, to paedophilia...“They could all be presented as being porous, so commentators could slip from one to the other as though they were the same thing, with any of them being either a cause or an effect — girls are buying into raunch culture (Rush and La Nauze, 2006: 4) because there is too much sex in the media (2006: 5). Or girls are becoming anorexic (2006: 7) because of raunch culture (2006: 4). Or more children are being abused (2006: 3) because they are becoming sexual too early (2006: 2). Or children are becoming sexual too early (2006: 2) because of too much sex in the media (2006: 5).Academic research would recognise each of these topics as distinct, andas having quite a distinct aetiology.” (McKee, 2010: 134)
Theme 1: Vagueness of the concernsIll-defined terms, leads to a massive (?) over-statement of what is highly sexual/pornographic, and its prevalence in society.• "The three most popular girls’ magazines in this genre are Barbie Magazine... Total Girl... and Disney Girl... A content analysis of a sample edition of each of these magazines demonstrates that in the case of the latter two, approximately half of the content is sexualising material, and in the case of Barbie Magazine, fully three-quarters of the content is sexualising material." - Corporate Paedophilia• Complaints to the ASB re: Honda Odyssey Ad
Theme 1: Vagueness of the concernsComplaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau:• “Showing people in such a position is pointless. What has sex got to do with selling a car?”• “I feel that such explicit scenes implying what is happening is not suitable for my foster children 8 yrs and 5 yrs to see but I also find it offensive to myself and my husband has shared similar feelings, it is not necessary to use sexual innuendos to sell nice cars.”• “The ad has highly sexual/adult themes could possibly give ideas to young teenagers regarding other possible means of having sexual intercourse, that being in a car in an isolated place.”• “I do not believe that I have to watch other’s (sic) sex lives on advertisements.”
Theme 2: Dubious claims regarding "effects"General lack of evidence for the assumed effects of pornography.• "Substitut[ing] ideology for rigorous empirical analysis" (Weitzer, 2011: 666)• The "addiction" discourse (see last weeks lecture)• See "effects" theory (week 2)• McNair reading...
Theme 2: Dubious claims regarding "effects"General lack of evidence for the assumed effects of pornography."Why, if pornography is so harmful in sexual terms to women and children, has theincidence of sexual violence declined in those countries where pornography hasexpanded the most, and is today most commonplace?Why are attitudes towards homosexuality and other sexual minorities more tolerantwhere pornography circulates with relative freedom?Why, if pornography is cause of such damaging beliefs on the part of men, wereattitudes towards women and gays so much more backward and hostile in the agebefore porn became mainstream?Why, if porn is so harmful to women, and reinforces the misogynistic attitudes whichfuel rape and other crimes, are women as a group treated so much worse in societieswhere even the mildest forms of pornography are banned?" (McNair, 2013: 84)
Theme 2: Dubious claims regarding "effects"Fashion vs. Sexual Intent"If an eight-year-old puts on lipstick and pearls and high heels she is not asking to betaken to dinner at Aria. She is dressing up like her mum. If a ten-year-old girl nags hermum into buying her a pair of sequinned shorts like the ones she saw in the latest KylieMinogue video clip she does not want to have her bum squeezed or leered at. She isfantasising about being Kylie and having all that attention and fame and all those coolfriends. If a fifteen-year-old girl spends her allowance getting a Brazilian wax she’sdoing it to torture her father, shock her mother, and spend a week being the coolest girlin school. She is not angling for a career in pornChildren are constantly playing at being grown-ups as well as just being kids it’s veryimportant to avoid a literal reading of the mimicry that children engage in. And yet that’sprecisely that political and media commentators do every time a new fashion trend orpop star catches on with a young female audience." (Lumby and Fine, 2006: 224)
Theme 3: No historical perspectiveShifting attitudes towards childhood and protection• How were things different 150 years ago?• Judith Levine (2002): “In the 1950s, plenty of teens had sex, but it wasn’t considered troublesome because it wasn’t pre-marital.”• “Every generation searches for new ways to horrify their parents by flaunting their emerging sexuality and independence.” (Lumby and Fine, 2006: 226)• McKee: Children are the only group in society we can legitimately claim to "protect"
Theme 3: No historical perspectivePornographys place in culture•"Golden age of porn"?•... was the 1970s.
But why is all of that a problem?
Problem 1: It is repressiveRepressing sex is not realistic• A wealth of research shows that the more we try to enforce purity and abstinence, the worse the outcomes, in terms of sexual health, teen pregnancy, etc.• Partly related to the linking of sex to violence.
Problem 1: It is repressiveRepressing sex more generally suppresses reporting of abuse?• Jimmy Saville• Catholic Church• "Until the 1980s child sex abuse was hardly ever talked about in the mainstream media, or addressed as a social problem, but kept invisible by a conspiracy of silence." (McNair, 2013: 88)
Problem 2: It creates hysteria and panicMakes rational judgement more difficult•"The problem with moral panics is that they distract people from the real issues and real solutions by suggesting that things like drug abuse, violence or child abuse are the result of a single monolithic external cause like television, Muslims or rap music. But the root causes of social ills are complex - they don’t fit neatly into a headline or a fifteen second news grab. And they certainly won’t be solved by simplistic blame shifting." (Lumby and Fine, 2006: 57)
Problem 2: It creates hysteria and panicPotential to destroy lives•E.g. Satanic Ritual Abuse and Day Care Sex Abuse moral panics•McMartin preschool trial (1984-1990)•Seven people charged with 321 counts of abuse, involving 48 children. Zero convictions.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMartin_preschool_trial
Problem 3: Distracts from real causesChildren as sexual beings?• If an adult sees a child in a sexual manner, it is the adult that we need to worry about, not the child...• Or the media that child consumes.
Problem 3: Distracts from real causes"Recent statistics on child sexual abuse in Australia showthat the abuser is a family member in about 40 per cent ofcases, and is known to the child in 75 per cent of casesThe truly awful thing is that if a child is abused, it is highlylikely the abuser is someone they know and trust, notsomeone hanging around a park with a camera." (Lumbyand Fine, 2006: 249)
Problem 3: Distracts from real causes"Researchers in the area of child maltreatment prevention have not identified theexistence of Video Hits or Total Girl magazine as contributing factors to child sexualabuse. Indeed, they would reject such claims as frivolous. For those people who haveto deal with the reality of child abuse, the idea of using the image of the helpless childas simply part of a chain of argument in order to try to convince a government tochange public policy about something the commentator doesn’t like might seem, at thevery least, tasteless. Rush and La Nauze claim that: ‘The metaphor of corporatepaedophilia draws on a parallel between actual paedophilia and corporate use ofchildren for the financial benefit of adults.’ (2006: 1) Their metaphor suggests that anymarketing of products to children is just as bad as sexually abusing them. For anybodywho has read the stories associated with child maltreatment, who has some sense ofthe reality of the atrocities that are being committed against children, the argument thata child seeing an advert for junk food is just as bad as being sexually abused by aparent seems to go to a level of bad taste that is obscene in itself." (McKee 2010,p.138)
Conclusion:• I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS ENTIRELY UNPROBLEMATIC• "We [are not suggesting] that no-one should care about morality or that ‘anything goes’. Moral panics refer to hyperbolic fears, not to real-life moral dilemmas." (Lumby and Fine, 2006: 57)• Simply that there are a series of complex issues here, and they need to be addressed rationally...• Not collapsed under the need to "protect children".
Conclusion:"It is illegal in every state and territory of Australia for anybody to produce or circulatesexualised images of children. Note in particular that the legislation not only coversimages of children engaged in sexual acts — it also makes illegal the production orcirculation of any images of children in a ‘sexual pose’ or ‘in a manner that is likely tocause offence to a reasonable adult (whether the person is engaged in sexualactivity or not)’.If Rush and La Nauze believe that the images they have identified represent children ina sexualised manner, then those images are illegal in Australia. Why did they not reportthe images to the police? Why did none of the dozens of public commentators whosimilarly claimed to have found sexualised images of children in the public sphere makesuch a report? If it were found that these images did appear to be sexual to a‘reasonable adult’, the producers of these images would then have been arrested andcharged, and these images would have been permanently removed from circulation. Itis my hypothesis that the reason why none of the commentators did this is because theclaim that children are being sexualised in the media is largely a rhetorical one."(McKee 2010, p.133)