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Open season on paedophilia

I want to address the Bill Henson censorship issue here soon, but to background it I offer this comment I wrote back in 1997. I think it has some relevance to the case.

But visitors will have to forgive me for failing to offer an accompanying illustration for this post as I doubt that anything could be as salacious as the crude representation of the exhibition that is being shared in the media.(As I say I cannot bring myself to sample it for you here).

I also suggest that this issue -- the attempt to ban the exhibition -- has more than a little relevance to the 'moral' impulse that supposedly 'justified' the federal intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

One wonders that since the exhibition was housed in an inner Sydney art gallery maybe the troops should be pulled out of the Northern Territory and bivouacked nearbye and all local children be vetted for molestation -- primary school by primary school -- within a suitable moral radius of the Roslyn Oxley Gallery.
10 December 1997

Comment by Dave Riley

The continuing brouhaha about paedophilia should give us all cause for thought.

Suddenly -- if NSW MP Franca Arena and various submissions to commissions of inquiry in both NSW and Queensland are to be believed -- the country should wake up to itself and beware the creeping fingers of rapacious local networks of paedophiles.

If your paranoia hasn't yet recovered from the grievous mental harm generated by fear of the red menace, homosexuality, Asian triads or the Costa Nostra, this new threat to your social mores is sure to scare the living daylights out of you. These child molesters are everywhere!

Everywhere, that is, except in your own or your neighbours' family. This feature of the incidence of paedophilia has not been addressed in the manipulated discussion we have been treated to.

Most acts of child molestation, researchers suggest, occur within families or are perpetrated by adults well known to the child, such as a relative or close family friend. It is estimated that upwards of 85% of paedophile acts are of this kind. Without the aid of networks or child pornography rings, the nuclear family can manage quite well as the major franchisee of paedophilia.

But instead of giving this fact the attention it warrants, and addressing the features of family life that may lead to the sexual abuse of minors, we are led to believe that the threat to our children emanates almost exclusively from male strangers.

While a healthy suspicion of unfamiliar men offering lollies or lifts needs, unfortunately, to be instilled in every child in this society, the fanfare generated by the current campaign against paedophilia seems to go much further than that.

One reason for this is the effectiveness of the offensive as a big stick with which to beat the gay community. Despite the low incidence of same-sex paedophile acts compared to male-female paedophilia, it is the molestation of boys by male adults that has been given the larger share of the headlines.

Another insidious aspect of the offensive is not so obvious, however. That is the way the ruckus over paedophilia shores up the gender segregation of the Australian work force. At stake are jobs involving men working with children.

In some areas, parents have withdrawn their children from child-care services in which men are employed as carers. At creches and kindergartens, male staff are often suspected of ulterior motives.

Similar distrust is frequently applied to male nurses and infant school teachers, the suspicion being that they're either gay or sexually interested in young children.

At issue is not whether men can do the job. It is whether men have any business doing it (or wanting to do it) since such nurturing is primarily the role of women who are assumed to be naturally more caring (as against men's ravenous sexuality).

It is a continuing struggle to open a wider range of job opportunities to women by breaking through the stereotypes of what “girls” can do. Now the open season on paedophilia has added another cord to the backlash against women by re-affirming that men should not work in occupations involving young children. And if we can't trust our children with men, then women should stay where they are.

4 Com:

Ben Courtice | May 25, 2008

The media and community exaggeration of the threat of paedophilia is partly driven by the prudish and conservative notions many have about sex. It is the most horrible crime precisely because our society treats sex as such a taboo, "dirty" topic. But there's a lot of other serious child abuse -- beatings, neglect and so on -- which is never viewed in quite the same light. If your old man gave you six of the best every day with a belt, you make jokes about it with your workmates, it seems (whilst nursing your long-term wounds and incurable rage nevertheless). Sexual abuse of minors doesn't allow the same sort of catharsis. Sex crimes cross the border into the "unspeakable" sort of like dismembering your spouse or other ultraviolent crimes.

Undoubtedly sexual assault is a horrific violent crime. But many of the perpetrators were victims, and don't they perpetuate it because of the complex cycle of secrecy and individual guilt? (I'm not trying to say this is it, I'm just making a hypothesis). So when they are abused as kids, they are poor victims, but if they grow up without having resolved their issues (your father did what? Don't be silly, child!) and fall foul of it they are then monsters, not poor sick people.

When adult males are perpetrators it's hard to see them as victims. They must have made a choice somewhere along the way when they could have chosen not to. Male socialisation in so many cases involves being spoilt, given what they want, not having others stand up to their bullying, getting away with it. Compound this with the dominant consumer culture of instant gratification, including porn and prostitution... it's a veritable gordian knot.

Dave Riley | May 25, 2008

Inasmuch as research is conclusive it is very difficult to say much about paedophilia's causation(including pre-existing abuse). A lot of what is suggested seems rather exotic.

But here is a social taboo we need to consolidate and protect regardless of any other consideration that may kick in. What that means in practice is another and very complex question perhaps.

Nonetheless, pedophilia (and incest with minors)is being exploited as a ideological tool that is deployed to achieve a lot of extraneous aims such as a generalised censorship and interventions such as that engineered for the Northern Territory. It's a parallel tothe War on Terrorism mindset.

Hensen's images we are now not allowed to judge but even if they were or were not considerably pornographic -- the end result is that we would suffer under a much more interventionist censorship regime which is creeping back one "paedophile ring" at a time. Thats' the cover and these images were grist for the mill.

Censor the Censors | May 25, 2008


Speaking of Lolita dave. What do you think of the above article repeating all the media stereotypes about the film?

Dave Riley | May 26, 2008

I've not seen that film (Lynne's) version (and I have no especial desire to see it either) but I'm familiar with the review you mention.

I've read LOLITA as I have most of Nabokov's novels and his memoir and there's a sardonic edge to his writing that I appreciate. I think that is developed wonderfully in the Stanley Kubrick version of the book which ages Lolita a few years -- unlike the novel and Lynne's version.

[This is wonderfully aided by the central role of the mother played beautifully by Shelley Winters as Charlotte.]

As for Zanny Begg's critique of the film -- my memory of the book is not up to the comparison. But I do think that Humbert is portrayed as a tragic figure whose sexual preferences (esp his specific obsession with Lolita) are supposedly the cause of his undoing. Thus the strong misogynist theme.

Clearly, Humbert Humbert is portrayed as a victim and Nabokov's plot is a mordant tragedy.

It's akin to Visconti's DEATH IN VENICE where the lead character's -- Gustav's -- obsession with the young boy leads to his undoing; encouraging his final humiliation and death .I've not read the original Thomas Mann novel -- but the film charts Gustav's loss of control at the unbeknown hands of this young boy.

In both instances the adolescents are utilized as devices to drive the depravity -- such that neither Humbert or Gustav are supposedly capable of helping themselves or preventing their compulsivity. So it's like the way women are portrayed in fundamentalist religions -- as a root cause of passionate excesses in men.(But in this case adolescents.)

That the men are the victims even when the object of desire may be a passive agent.

I guess Romeo's love for Juliet was just as tragic ( and Juliet is supposedly only approaching her 14th birthday when the play opens) but both characters are free agents who acknowledge their passion without any hint of exploitation of one by the other. Whereas Humbert and Gustav are aware of what they are engineering and trying to manipulate into being.

And that's the key difference surely?

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