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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's not just about Henson

As the debate about Bill Henson's nude portraits of young teenagers drags on, we need to worry about the immediate threat to Henson's liberty, and his good reputation as one of our fellow citizens, but also about general policy issues and about how the debate would have gone if it had been someone less famous.

At least in the media, Henson is being accused of serious crimes - which must itself be traumatic - and his freedom is at stake, as is his good name as a fellow citizen. He could end up being stigmatised as something akin to a creator of child pornography. But there are also issues of principle here, together with legitimate concerns about the direction of public policy and the development of our general social environment, here in Australia.

Let's keep this idea somewhere at the front of our thinking: in a modern pluralist society (or a liberal society, as I like to say) many people will have different responses to Henson's work, and many parents will have different views as to whether they would be happy permitting their children to take part as models in the way that's currently under discussion. The key thing about a liberal society is that it permits such differences and counts a wide range of different critical responses - and a wide range of different uses of parental discretion - as being "reasonable" for the purposes of the law.

The ethico-legal principles of a liberal society require that the coercive power of the state be exercised with great reluctance, and if it is going to be exercised at all then countervailing values, such as artistic expression, must be taken into account. Accordingly, it is relevant that what we're dealing with is, irrespective of all the differing judgments about its meaning or value, work that: (1) is genuine individual expression, and not something prepared for an overwhelmingly commercial purpose such as product advertising; and (2) of a certain level of artistic quality.

Even if some well-informed people have adverse critical responses to Henson's portraits, we ought to be defending the artist's right to create them and also the rights of the young models to take decisions, in consultation with their parents, to participate. This is not the sort of situation where the clumsy machinery of the criminal law should be involved, and it's incredibly dangerous for art and expression if, as a society, we are too quick to wheel out that machinery to settle cultural disagreements.

Perhaps a bit more needs to be said about this. I doubt that anyone who is defending Henson is unaware that paternalism has more role to play when we're dealing with younger people than when we're dealing with competent, consenting adults. But where does that get us?

In discussing the issue on her blog, Alison Croggon has made an important point, which I'm happy to adopt, though it has more weight coming from her than from me, since she is actually a parent of teenagers. Like Croggon, though, if I were the parent of one of the young people who are at the centre of the controversy I'd want them to talk it over with me first before they decided to be photographed nude, and I'd want to know quite a bit of detail. I'd reserve my right to veto their plans. That's what parents are for, the way this society works.

But I also agree with Croggon about the following: if they were smart young people who knew their own minds, I'd happily let them pose for any of the portraits that I've seen, in the circumstances I've seen described by people who are familiar with Henson's work methods. In fact, I'd be proud of them for doing so. I certainly wouldn't want the law coming in to overrule my judgment - implying that I was, in effect, an abusive, or at least unreasonable, parent for not stopping them. My concern would be to be careful and protective, but also supportive of my child's values and projects as far as possible.

Many people tend to think that every social issue must be resolved by having a law about it, at least if there's something like nudity involved, or anything that can be construed (by prurient minds) as "sexual". The extreme paternalism about nudity, as opposed to all the other decisions of consequence that are made by many people, including young teenagers, suggests to me that the human body is still, at some level, widely seen as problematic; there's a prudishness and shame about the body lying behind this debate. It goes back to St Augustine, at least ... and beyond to St Paul and even Plato.

Interestingly, we seem (as a society) to be much less keen to prevent teenagers or children making other kinds of decisions. We let them poison their minds with, say, fundamentalist religion - though the effects on their flourishing can be much worse (leading, them, perhaps, to live an entire life based on the ridiculous lie that our planet is only 6000 years old). In fact, we let parents do all sorts of things - and acquiesce in all sorts of initiatives from their children - that I consider far less reasonable than what was agreed to by parents who let their children be photographed by Bill Henson.

Of course, the positive experience of posing for Henson has now been poisoned. Now I'd be much less inclined to let my hypothetical teenage child take part. Again, I'm going to explain this by adopting a point that Croggon has made: I don't think it would have been psychologically harmful in the normal course of events, but now that the prudes and panic-mongers have made such a big issue of it, it might well be. I would be loath to let my child put herself (or himself) at the risk of having her image described as "revolting" by the prime minister, and of being the subject of endless discussion in the mass media in the way that has happened. With regret, I'd probably now veto participation in Henson's photography sessions. The prudes and panic-merchants have managed to do that much damage already, whether or not Henson is ever charged or convicted.

I'm not saying that the state should never have the last say where parents and their children are in agreement. Take two cases at opposite ends of the spectrum. It's clearly fine if a parent lets her teenage girl go topless on Bondi Beach (if the girl wishes). No one in their right mind would want a law about something as harmless as that. But maybe it's not fine for a parent to let a young teenage girl dance topless at a strip club - where she is going to be confronted with quite different dangers.

It may not be possible to draw lines that are absolutely defensible with no
exceptions, but there really are reasons, it seems to me, why it would usually be reasonable for a parent to go along with her teenager being photographed by Bill Henson in the ways we've seen, but not so reasonable for a parent to go along with her teenage girl posing for intra-uterine shots in Penthouse. A lot of this, unfortunately, involves subtleties such as taste and context, but those subtleties do matter - and some of it isn't all that subtle.

There are, then, issues of paternalistic concern for young people, though I hasten to add that there are also legitimate concerns about the ongoing infantilisation and disempowerment of young people by our social institutions (something that has become a serious problem for modern societies, which are plagued by the consequences of having created an adolescent maturity gap).

We must not forget that there are also genuine issues here to do with freedom of artistic expression. While it's correct to focus on the proper role in the criminal law for an element of state paternalism, we mustn't forget the ugly fact that, within some sections of the Australian community, there's widespread distrust - sometimes verging on contempt or hatred - of artists and intellectuals. Politicians are usually wise enough not to whistle this out of its kennel as a populist electoral tactic. However, it's the sort of vulgar populism that they've descended to in the current debate, and I think we have good reason to be fearful about where it will lead them now they've started. Not to mention where it will lead Australian society (this is not a crude slippery slope argument - there are genuinely nasty outcomes that could occur, and there are genuinely temptations for politicians to go down a populist road that leads to a certain amount of repression).

Artists and intellectuals need a wide margin in which to operate without having to fear criminal punishment and stigma. Like Henson and his work or not, it seems clear to me that he operated well within that margin - indeed, with great care and sensitivity, by all accounts. But serious efforts are now being made to narrow the margin, and I don't expect those efforts to cease any time soon.

Right now, the priority lies in defending Henson's liberty.

However, it would be just as important to defend an unknown artist, as discussed over here. If it had been someone less celebrated, we might not be able to confront politicians with the same prudential arguments ("think of Australia's international cultural reputation"), but I don't think we should eschew those arguments in the present urgent situation. When dealing with governments on policy issues, it's unwise to throw away whatever bargaining power you happen to have. But it would, nonetheless, be equally important to defend an unknown artist's liberty, reputation, and freedom of expression, as it is to defend Henson's.

The main difference is that with Henson we don't have to start from scratch: his fame and success don't give him any more right to be defended, but they do assist in putting the defence together. They provide some quick and compelling evidence of the fact that his work is of artistic seriousness and value ... and that fact is definitely relevant to public policy and to how his work should be regarded by the law.


Anonymous said...

Anyone other than an elite and celebrated artist who has spent (almost) his entire working life obsessed by the theme of "emerging sexuality" of teenagers would be considered a pervy, dirty old man. Just what is it about Henson that makes him any different, or which raises him beyond criticism? His intent?

I simply cannot believe that Henson doesn't get off on this stuff - the making of it and the adulation it has garnered him. He has achieved the pedophile's greatest desire - to be praised, celebrated and rewarded for the sexualisation of children.

Anonymous said...

Russell Blackford said...

"Even if some well-informed people have adverse critical responses to Henson's portraits, we ought to be defending the artist's right to create them and also the rights of
the young models to take decisions, in consultation with their parents, to participate. This is not the sort of situation where the clumsy machinery of the criminal law should be involved, and it's incredibly dangerous for art
and expression if, as a society, we are too quick to wheel
out that machinery to settle cultural disagreements." ---

"In my opinion art is a kind of anarchy, and the theater is a province of art. What was missing here, was something anarchistic in the air. I must modify that statement about art and anarchy. Art is only anarchy in juxtaposition with organized society. It runs counter to the sort of orderliness on which organized society apparently must be based. It is a benevolent anarchy: it must be that and if it is true art, it is. It is benevolent in the sense of constructing something which is missing, and what it constructs may be merely criticism of things as they exist." By Tennessee Williams

SH: Mahatma Gandhi favored the ideal of "enlightened anarchy".

"This is not the sort of situation where the clumsy machinery of the criminal law should be involved...

The ethico-legal principles of a liberal society require that the coercive power of the state be exercised with great reluctance,.."

SH: Because "anarchy" has a stigma attached to it, some people
have adopted the descriptor of "Libertarian socialism". I also favor your ideal. The standard criticism is that no society is mature enough to function under such a self-imposed responsibility for at least hundreds if not thousands of years. Thoreau said the best government is the government which governs the least. That presupposes a prime maturity level for the governed. Having liberal policies isn't going to bring maturity to the society, that puts the cart before the horse. Having fewer regulations with more liberal policies is going to create opportunity for abuse which will at this time be promptly exploited. Maybe what I question is the premise "ethico-legal principles of a liberal society". I think for a society to evolve to the point of maturity where it needs fewer governmental restrictions is that it has to grow into a balance between liberal and conservative principles, not favoring one side, unless that side is sadly deficient (though there's some of that here).
Anyway, let me congratulate you on writing an excellent essay! It covered quite a bit of ground in a short space and should elicit some debate. As for me, I most likely didn't understand you fully.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Russell, for this clearly argued post. No one is saying these issues are not complex. The problem is, indeed, that they are.

I am interested that nobody seems to be asking young people what they think about the issue of adolescent sexuality and nudity. I'm sure that we would find as much difference of opinion there: but certainly the young people I know are outraged by this whole debate. Also, the issue of child abuse is interesting: I am presently developing an interesting collection of emails from victims of child sexual abuse, or from those who work with such children, which in fact defend Henson and which claim the public scandal is in part a way of not facing the realities of such abuse.

Russell Blackford said...

Thanks, Alison. And congratulations (again) for everything you've done.

Yes, I've also noticed that the voices of young people have not been heard in this debate, though I agree that they would probably be just as divided about it as adults.

One thing that has worried me is that the particular young people concerned are being cast as victims and/or as generic teenagers who are too confused to know their own minds, unable to be trusted with such choices (even if their maturity is vouched for by their parents, who are the adults who know them best), and so on. Henson's opponents often like to characterise this as about children's rights, but it's not about rights at all - no one is denying the young models the right to say no to the idea of participation. It's really about paternalistic protections that would restrict their rights, supposedly for their own good. One thing that annoys me in public policy debate is how paternalists will often try to give paternalistic protections the greater prestige of rights.

The attitude shown to these particular young people has been very condescending, even insulting. If I were in their place, I'd be deeply resentful. In fact, I sympathise with them if, as I suspect, they are currently incensed by the way they've been treated by so many adults from Kevin Rudd down.

Cadiz said...

"I am interested that nobody seems to be asking young people what they think about the issue of adolescent sexuality and nudity. "

The first thing the pedophile movement in Holland did as a matter of fact. The kids voted to work in the brothels, porn factories, and gay bars which financed sexual radiclism in the Netherlands. Thankfully that has now collapsed.

So stick to doing chain letters and leave human rights to the experts.

Anonymous said...

"I simply cannot believe that Henson doesn't get off on this stuff - the making of it and the adulation it has garnered him. He has achieved the pedophile's greatest desire - to be praised, celebrated and rewarded for the sexualisation of children."

He is an icon of the pedophile movement, at this point in time they're also his primary consumers, the thing they like the most about him, was that he got away with it,

pedophilia as a political iniative, is about grabbing yardage, it is rarely about epic victories, however, every so often they win big time, Henson was one of those great victories for them.

This grand artist, isn't being defended too publicly by Europe or the USA, apart from Smee tossing in a piece on his first day on the Boston Globe, he (it must be said)had to use a local rag in Oz.

In Japan they have Henson categorized as an extreme bura-sera fetishist,

the Japanese know he is a pornographer, and they're the last word in little girl porn.

Always trust an expert when the credentials are without peer!

Russell Blackford said...

Well, it seems that a couple of sanctimonious moralists have turned up to make our day. Hi, folks. It's always nice to be reminded that you're out there running your silly arguments against art and freedom.

Anonymous said...

I do like that last quote though. "Always trust an expert when the credentials are without peer!" I suppose then we should take the general consensus of academia on this one.

Anonymous said...

Russell, what if Henson *is* getting off on this stuff (the photographing of naked pre-teens)? What if his studio walls are covered by such images, and he spends hours wanking as he gazes at them? Do you concede that is a possibility? Would it change your view?

Tony Comstock said...

"what if'

Ah yes, the perpetual fascination with "intentions". How useless.

There are guys wacking off to pictures of girls in white panties in the Sears & Robuck catalog at this very moment, so how about we lay aside artists' intention, viewers' responses, artistic merit and other various thought crimes.

When contemplating whether or not the making of a photograph constitutes a criminal act, let us conduct a thought experiment.

Let us imagine all the circumstances of the creation of the photograph: where, when, who, how.

Now let us imagine that there is no film in the camera.

Get it? Everyone is there, everyone’s been informed, consented, tricked, bribed, lied to, flattered, compensated. Strobes pop, motors whir. But there is no film in the camera.

If absent the creation of the latent image, there is no crime, then the creation of the latent image is not a crime.

If, absent the creation of the latent image, the circumstances – the where, the when, the who, the how — constitute a criminal act, then let’s prosecute the criminality, and let’s not entertain any foolish notions that including a camera in the undertakings (with or without film) changes the circumstances in a meaningful way.

Simple enough?

Russell Blackford said...

Anonymous, frankly I'm sick of all the wild speculation that Henson is a pedophile or something close to it.

I've had a good exchange with Greg Egan, in response to an earlier post on this blog, and a good exchange by email with Anna Blainey. Both have made points that have merit and have helped to clarify my thinking. The real issue should be about how much paternalistic protection is justified in a situation like this, given that there is already one layer of protection (i.e. the parents, who should be making judgments about the maturity, etc., of their children).

Most of the other comments I've seen (in the numerous forums I've checked out) by defenders of Rudd and the police have either (1) engaged in fantasies about Henson being a pedophile (someone on Facebook even dreaming up a creepy story about how he might have spoken to his models in some sexual way) or (2) been bizarrely Orwellian.

I've seen people arguing that defending artistic freedom is the real conservativism; that imposing paternalistic protections on people is giving them rights (no it isn't; it's giving them protections against their own decisions, and taking away their right to make choices about how to conduct their lives; this may be justifiable in some circumstances, especially with young people, but it should not be dressed up in "rights talk"); that allowing people to do what they want is taking away their power; that stopping them from doing what they want is empowering them; that nudity has only one meaning and is to be equated with sex (nudity has many meanings in our culture and others and can be invested by art with even more; but Henson's detractors don't seem to understand this); that treating people as generic types, e.g. as psychologically-unstable teenagers, rather than as individuals with their own values, commitments, and projects, is showing them respect. I'm starting to feel that I'm living in the twisted world of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

As I review all this, it's no wonder that I'm running out of patience.

Tony, thanks for commenting here. It's better than sending emails back and forth. I'll get to your comment soon.

Russell Blackford said...

Tony, the other day I wrote the following in an email exchange (though not my exchange with you).

Imagine that the family was a Muslim one in a highly anti-Muslim
society which might persecute children who are brought up as Muslims, try to make them feel bad, ashamed, etc. Our usual reaction would be to let the family have its practices and bring up the kid to take part in them as well. We'd not try to stop the parents, though we'd want them to provide a protective and supportive environment in which the kid could grow up. If the
kids who acted as models for Henson came from an arty family where "life modelling" for artists, even at a young age is no big deal, and may even be
approved and praised, I say that we should respect their view of the good (but we should also expect the parents to provide the kids with the most supportive possible environment in the knowledge that people elsewhere in
society may disapprove).

I'm hoping you might agree with this. It's simply saying that liberal societies allow families a lot of lee-way in bringing up their children - even if there's dispute about what way is optimal. Generally speaking, the apparatus of the state should not be used to prevent a family from pursuing its own view of the good (any more than it would be used to prevent parents bringing up their child in a religious tradition). Some pretty clear harm would have to be shown to the children, and the mere fact of having a non-pornographic photograph taken of you isn't much of a harm. In the absence of some strong policy reason such as discouraging pedophilia (which can't be argued here successfully, as far as I can see, because the photos we're talking about don't invite sexual arousal like a Penthouse style photo or a Playboy style photo), ordinary liberal tolerance demands that the state not interfere.

All that said, however, the contribution of art to our society is a positive value, and I don't see how we can abandon also arguing about that, as I gather you want to do - especially when there are statutory offences to some crimes that involve findings of artistic purpose.

All this discussion is in a context where the need or otherwise for state paternalism seems to be the important issue, and there's no real basis for suppressing the images themselves, as opposed to worrying about how they were made.

I see a case involving erotic movies with adult actors as rather different. In a case like that, paternalism is simply not an issue because there are no young people to be protected from their own decisions and (again, generally speaking) the state should not be treating adults paternalistically. For that reason, the argument against the suppression of such work is more straightforward: even though it might be sexual - quite explicitly so - in a way that Henson's work is not, it doesn't raise issues about the possibility of legitimate paternalism. That's the difference that I see.

Tony Comstock said...

The muslim family is a nearly perfect analogy to what's at work in the Henson case.

If I seem unreasonably antagonistic to the notion of "artistic merit" playing a part in legal decisions, please remember that "artistic merit" has failed me not once, not twice, not three time, but in every single encounter I've had with the Australian legal system. Every single film of mine is banned in your country. When a system works so perfectly to suppress work that is widely recognized as a significant achievement in cinema, one can't help but to begin to believe that "artistic merit" isn't code for something else.

Tony Comstock said...

And please don't think this is merely an Australian phenomenon. There are merchants here in the US who would very much like to carry our films, but who know that unlike Bill Henson, when the police come knocking, they will simply be clasped in irons and led away. No outcry, no open letter, nothing.

And even if they manage to make a case for their freedom, they emerge from the battle impoverished. Unlike Bill Henson, people won't suddenly be eager to pay double for the merchandise in their stores.

This is how "artist merit" plays out in the real world. Bill Henson's case, the accusal, the impending dismissal will be ultimately be nothing more than a celebrated exception.

Tony Comstock said...

"All this discussion is in a context where the need or otherwise for state paternalism seems to be the important issue, and there's no real basis for suppressing the images themselves, as opposed to worrying about how they were made."

Re-reading and realizing this is our crucial point of departure. To my reading what this paragraph implies is even if no crime has been committed in the creation of an image, the state may still have a "real basis for suppressing images."

I just can't understand this position. By what force or legal theory does the creation of an image transform legal acts into illegal expression? And why is it that this legal theory is only every invoked at the intersection of sexuality and photography?

All of the arguments I've seen made in defense of Bill Henson seem predicated on the acceptance that even when no crimes have been committed, there are some ideas that are so inherently abhortent that the state has the right and the obligation to suppress them.

This view of the role of the state in civil discourse is utterly alien to my understanding of freedom and liberalism. The social benefit of Freedom of Speech is not that it protects artists; that' merely a side note, and what constitutes "art" too subject to the whimsies of fashion to every have a meaningful place in the law.

Freedom of speech exists first and foremost to protect unpopular speech, and especially considering the whimsies of fashion, if we are to enjoy full social benefit of Freedom of Speech, it must be explicitly understood to include expression that is without "artistic merit".

Again, I understand why Henson's supporters have rushed to "artistic merit" as a defense, and it looks like it will work.

But let me now be the one to invoke the word nuance. I do not think Henson's supporters have thought through the nuances of their argument, likely because they have not lived through the consequences that naturally follow from their position.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to comment on one image, the frontal image which shows breasts but the genitalia are covered by hands. I see this argument being divided into 'just plain naked' vs. pornography. I don't think this image fits neatly into one of those categories.
Pornography uses a criteria of "sexual context". I don't think that is violated, it is too much of a filtered interpretation. Likewise, describing the image from the art side as "showing vulnerability" is also a secondary filtered (abstract)impression.
Physically, the first and primary impact is that of a girl who has budding breasts. She is in the process of changing from a girl into the sexuality of a woman. That is how this image differs from one which uses a 10 year old girl, one which wouldn't depict the impending outlines of a girl who is entering into the nubile stage of her sexual maturation.
So though "sexual context" is not accurate, a "context of sexuality" definitely applies. At least for men, that sort of recognition is instinctual and primary. Physically that image carries one message. The artistic impression or recognition arises from a different symbolic layer of the psyche. The image I'm discussing doesn't show a girl in a sexually suggestive _pose_, it shows a girl who will soon _be_ sexually capable, a subtler type of suggestibility. Earlier I wrote that this was a matter of crossing boundaries. After reading a few hundred comments, I think the majority feel a child protective line has been crossed, or at least approached too closely. They feel that protection of the child is the priority, it is better to err on the side of being too protective, and that the freedom of art, the value of that such an image to the well-being of a child and to society in general is just about completely negligible. Certainly so when weighed against the potentially great damage which might befall even one child for every 100 instances without any negative repercussions. So it is better to have no nude children as subjects for professional photographers rather than have an interpretation of law which might be used by a pornographer as a defense, no matter how rarely. Most people don't want "sexual context" for child photography, and they prefer to exclude images which come close enough point to the context of sexuality, which an image whose primary information is the beginning of the physical development of breasts and aureoles. Because it is hard to write legislation which would encompass images without any allusion to sexuality as opposed to pubescent immature sexuality, it is safer to prohibit all such images which would deny a child pornographer any harbor of defense.
The cost of child pornography to the child and to society is a real cost. The benefits of weakening bans on photographing naked children so that some obscure area of art are protected like some endangered species are so infinitesimal that it does not serve society nor serve our primary responsibility, the importance of safety for all our children at all costs, above all other concerns.
So their is a real difference of values and beliefs between the 'save our children' first portion of society and those who feel the curtailment of the right to photograph naked children for eventual commercial purposes, is the first sign of impending doom for freedom of (artistic) expression. To my view, the artists reactions are just as knee-jerky as the morally retarded prudes. What is the importance of whether a 100 children get photographed nude, to the child or to society? It doesn't amount to a hill of beans except in the heads of yet another offended, selfish, special interest group. For Henson himself, I find it unbelievable that he wouldn't know there were risks attached to making and exhibiting such photographs. I doubt that he thought about how the girl might feel. But she would feel no embarrassment if the photographs were never taken. So the consequences of Henson's actions can be seen as just as much his responsibility (toward her) as Rudd being the cause of her feeling bad. Without Rudd's knee-jerk rhetoric categorization, just Henson being found guilty of violation of some indecency law or employment protection act, would impact that 13 year old girl negatively. So the well-being of her psyche suffering from this situation depends whether the majority of society feels that Henson has committed an impropriety. That fixes the responsibility of who is responsible for any damage done to her psyche; the blame does not automatically fall to those who feel Henson violated the law and want him prosecuted. The fault has still not been determined, which means there is no presumption of fault for Rudd and the girl's psyche. Certainly Rudd's language could have been more neutral but I can't see that as a heavier factor than if Henson is found guilty, as an impact on how the girl feels about all this. I think it is moral presumption rather than objective fact which drives the analysis of this whole situation which includes attitudes constituting a pornographic-like motivation, as groundless, because there is hard photographic evidence of sexuality. There are going to be people who don't agree with "evidence of sexuality", but the rest of the people aren't going to regard them as morally wise, but tainted by their own conflated self-interests,
not beacons of enlightened ethics.

Russell Blackford said...

Steve and Tony, you both make points that deserve being addressed. However, they'll have to wait for a later post.

Briefly, Tony, you and I might well agree in the end. I'm not suggesting that images be banned because of their intrinsic content, as opposed to the circumstances in which they are created. What I am saying is that these are two separate arguments. I may well take a permissive stance on both. But to do that is not to say that one of them is not an issue at all.

My point is that the arguments are somewhat different when we look at, say, Henson's images and, say, at erotic movies involving only adult actors. That's not to hint that I want to ban either; but it is to say that different arguments will come up. I'm trying to categorise and analyse the arguments, which is one of the things I've been trained to do in all the law and philosophy subjects that I've studied. I'm not trying to advocate the prohibition of adult erotica.

I hope you're getting a better idea of where I'm coming from, just as I'm trying to get a better idea of where you're coming from.

Tony Comstock said...

An hour ago I heard from our Australian rep. While we've all been kibitzing about Henson, there was a policy raid on a store in Sydney. She was in a hurry so I didn't get all the details, but what I understood was that the police seize perhaps as many as 100 unclassified titles and warned the shop owner he'd better have the X rated titles off the shelf by the time they returned.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Yes, I've also noticed that the voices of young people have not been heard in this debate, though I agree that they would probably be just as divided about it as adults. "

The Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit did that first,

(that was a no-brainer)

if you want to legalize pedophilia, then have a youth conference about 'rights' and lower the voting age to about 12, which wil do no harm to Henson or Croggon either.

As a practical exercise, thouht as a point of law, neither parents nor kids, can consent to photos of children at the centre of sex abuse investigations being

So that was an Ooops! for at least one newspaper in Oz, the problem with Croggon was her contempt for civilized standards, other people's civilized standards might be a better way of looking at it.

Her sign-on letter, lacked legitimacy from a globalist point of view as it might be related to the United Nations (standards).

This is what I know, if you allow 16 year olds to prostitute themselves by selling images, a lot of them will and a lot of them do.

So the future, is not attached to the right of 12 or 13 year olds to consent to nude photography along te lines that Henson is associated with.

Lastly, the biggest censors in all of this, are Alison and her group of group-think cronies.

Russell Blackford said...

Jesus frakking Christ - I didn't see the last idiotic comment here until now. It just shows the kind of twisted, stupid mentality that we are up against.

Of course Croggon and I are not censoring anyone. We are not the state, and we are not even people who are in a position to intimidate anyone into silence. How on earth are we going to "censor" the likes of Andrew Bolt on a issue like this?

Jeff B. said...

Perhaps people should start by using the correct words, rather than magnifying the perception of horrific child abuse. Paedophilia is the sexual attraction towards prepubescent children, NOT post- pubescent teenagers.

To suggest Henson is a paedophile because identified paedophiles use his work as a sexual stimulant is inaccurate and absurd. If that were true, we would be burning all the Caravaggios in the squares outside our art galleries. I expect there are those who would applaud this, and even arrive with their Swan Vestas to participate.

What of the readily available books of Von Gloedens 'Greek' photography?

The real abuse here, as Russel has suggested, is the effect such public damnation is having on those teenagers and parents that have already posed; by and large the condemnation has been of the most sensationalist sort - untutored, unlettered, pompous and lavatorial; in fact, those who seem to take pride in fulfilling every aspect of the stereotype given to us by Barry Humphries' Les Patterson.

I Googled images, and was able to see for myself this lust laden display of sinister sexual salaciousness.... and what did I find?

Non sexual photos of people posed, mis en scene.

I felt like Anthony Blanche, being told by an outraged Mrs Frickhymer-Stuyvesant about these unhealthy pictures, and finding something far more pedestrian. I was, I admit, disappointed that the opportunity to be outraged by yet another aspect of 21st life seemed to have fraudulently presented to me, then denied to me.

Then, I remember child beauty pageants, where little girls are routinely dressed up in all the overtly sexual accouterments of adult bimbos by their inadequate and 'thwarted' mothers; that the same people who now seem to be having fits of apoplexy like to coo over, without comment or complaint. Then I was able to properly luxuriate in the head-pounding outrage I had been looking forward to.

One can always rely on the stupidity of the myopic 'middle' to provide one with the occasional fix of moral outrage.

Jeff B. said...

As an addition to my last comment, I will say that I don't think nude photos of prepubescent CHILDREN, in the context of 'sexuality' is either wise or appropriate.

I think I tend towards Stephen's position on this. I don't know if it is proper for a parent to give consent on a child's behalf, when it is the child who is being publicly viewed by strangers - a CHILD is not really able to consent to something if they don't fully understand the ramifications and potential consequences of what they're being asked to do. Lack of objection is not consent.

If I were a parent, i really cant imagine agreeing to having my pre teenage child used in this way to satisfy an artist's need for personal expression, financial gain and artistic status. To me, this seems exploitative, purely because the child doesn't really have that much power or the personal tools to cope; the child's lack of objection is being taken as tacit consent, and one could argue that the adult behavior which may persuade the child could be construed as a form of grooming : i.e: to get a child to do something they would not normally consider doing for the principle benefit of an adult.

The aim of the exercise is to get a photo of a naked child- and if kindness, respectfulness, parental approval, 'fun' are the strategies to be used, then used they will be.

That is how children are groomed, after all.

cui bono?

Russell Blackford said...

^Groomed for what, I wonder? Really, the above is just a scurrilous slur by someone who sounds as if he has psychological issues about the human body.