in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sexy kids?! (standing nakedly in Bill Henson’s creature workshop)

In life we experience all kinds of nakedness: the prosaic nakedness of the bathroom; the passionate nakedness of the bedroom; the shameful nakedness of exposure, ridicule or medical examination.

As with a lot of other things like eating, shitting, fucking, giving birth and dying, nakedness is something so fundamental that it goes without saying – it’s something that’s an inescapable part of being one of the naked apes we are. We can’t not be naked, just like we can’t stop needing (and wanting) to eat, shit, fuck and die – all we can do is try to cover up these underlying facts of life. Don’t we though? One of the weirdest things about our (already very weird) species is that we’re ashamed of most of these things, the very things that make us who we are. You can’t imagine a prudish chimpanzee, a snobbish dog or a bashful guinea pig – and yet, homo sapiens spends a huge amount of time, effort and money trying to cover up the bare facts of its existence.

But not only are people freaked out by their own bodies – a lot of them will do everything in their power to control, cover up or otherwise censure the nakedness of others. All this at the same time as most people expend the overwhelming amount of their energies either directly or indirectly trying to get naked with somebody. It’s the war we are: if homo sapiens has an instinct that’s stronger than the desire to cover up and force others to cover up (for shame, for shame), it’s the instinct to expose ourselves to ‘that special someone’ as well as see them and (everyone else) stripped bare. The only thing stronger than our discomfort with nakedness is… our desire for nakedness. In fact people will pay anything, build anything, risk anything (including the lives and minds of others) just for the opportunity to experience their preferred nakedness.

The weird ironies of all this are compounded by the fact that, even though some nakedness is so scandalous and overpowering that people can lose their job, their lives, their careers and their families over it, other kinds of nakedness are considered so normal that to even to mention it would mark out the finger-pointer as the weirdo. In the change-room of my gym, the majority of men seem not only happy but in fact incredibly eager to get aggressively naked, and will think nothing of towelling their ballbags (with one leg up on the bench) while carrying on a conversation with another mate (also starkers) about ‘fully blown hemis’, ‘eyeleted rims’ or the best way to ‘re-lube yer bearings’.

In some cultures, the sight of a human leg is considered so shocking that it warrants a beating or imprisonment, while, among certain other groups of Australian men, genitals are mentioned every second or third word, and it’s not uncommon for some men to even name each other as a ‘mad’ set of women’s genitals as a term of endearment.

But in Australia (as in almost every other part of the world), the one thing that we must never do is make any connection between the nakedness of children and the sexual desire of adults. Nude kids aren’t sexy, dude. And if they are to you… well, you’re in trouble… especially if you’re involved in anyway with depicting naked children in a way that’s deliberately sexual. This is called ‘child pornography’ – you may have heard of it. But what’s pornography anyway? Well, pornography is a representation of erotic behaviour, one designed to excite sexual desire. If this involves children in any way, it’s a crime in this country and an abomination in the eyes of most. I guess you could say it's the worst of the worst. Getting steamed up right now? You may well be a monster.

But there’s a full spectrum of porn out there that’s not considered quite as monstrous: from soft porn to scat porn to snuff porn, the people’s demand to see whatever depraved representations of sex/nudity turns them on is unfathomable and endless, and its use as an enjoyment is more common than many codes of football. But what about things that neither depict erotic behaviour nor are designed to turn people on? Think of, I dunno, Disney cartoons, or David Attenborough documentaries. You may well be turned on by either: but if you were, that would make you a pervert – at least in the eyes of most people. Normal or not, it’s probably uncommon. Hell, the internet might show you that you’re not the only one – who knows? And if you’re not interfering with other creatures in any way – who cares? If you find meerkats or Bambi particularly nasty, that’s up to you. Just take my advice – keep it on the low low.

So what about material that is a representation of nudity? And, moreover, a representation of a child’s (partial) nudity? Well, let’s ask: is Bill Henson’s topless thirteen-year-old a representation of erotic behaviour? And/or is the image intended to excite sexual desire? If the answer to either was no, then you’d have to ask yourself…. if it’s not a representation of erotic behaviour AND it’s not designed to turn you on, then what is it? Well, it could be a lot of things to a lot of people. It might be art, it might be controversial – but it’s not pornography. That is unless all human nakedness is sexy to you – something rather hard to fathom with all the late night footage on TV of the naked roadside corpses in Burma. So what if you do find an example of nakedness sexy, and it’s of a figure that is neither a) of erotic behaviour b) designed to be sexual AND c) under no circumstances allowed by law to be sexy… where does that leave you? I’ll ask it another way: do you make any connection between the nakedness of a child and your own (adult) sexual desire? None? Good. You do? Well then, that makes you a pervert… and maybe even a paedophile. For shame! And on that note, here’s a joke:

Q: What’s the biggest cause of pedophilia?
A: Sexy kids.

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

My photo
PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.