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Perverts in the shrubbery

Paul Walter is a longtime Webdiarist, self-described as middle-aged, who completed a Bachelor of Arts degree a couple of years ago as a mature age student. He has been masquerading here for the last two days as “Paul Walker” because of some email and password problems, which have now been resolved. However, his style was inimitable, so we knew who he was … Anyway, earlier today Paul made some comments about the brouhaha over Bill Henson’s allegedly pornographic photographs. I invited him to contribute a thread starter, and to my amazed delight he responded very promptly thus:

Don't know about a "small piece", but here are a few thoughts issuing forth at random concerning the time travellers’ return to the dark ages, also inspired by a visit to the Friends of SBS website an hour ago.

So, here it is. I think it's your debut piece for Webdiary, Paul - but whether or not it is, thank you. 

Perverts in the shrubbery
by Paul Walter

We shall dedicate the following to the now-sleeping Roland Barthes of "Mythologies" fame, as his famous tract continues its fifty-ish-ith anniversary.

At SBS, the writer discovered more concerning the perplexing stubborn ongoing refusal of the government to abide by election promises and remove deliberately intrusive advertising from SBS (has any one else been taken aback by the absolute lack of comment concerning ABC and SBS financing and independence over the last few months ... or the severity and rapidity of the decline of Fairfax and Murdoch?). So the theory that Rudd has spoken out of induced ignorance and resulting priggishness is strengthened, although the alternative theory relating to the damping down of a new front just opened by Devine in the Culture Wars on behalf of political allies encircled Stalingrad style still has much appeal. Now, I will add following thoughts.

The ALP is happy to inherit a dumbed down media surviving on prurience as factuality and where real issues are excluded, same as it is happy to inherit Howard's ASIO and weakened corporate law or IR provisions, for example.

For instance, the nerve shattering silence, except in terms of neo liberal boosterism concerning what the privatisation of NSW electricity is really about (Carr, "Vanuatu" Keating consultancies only mentioned in passing, etc ) – just one example. Thank heaven for Ian MacDougall’s exploration of this elsewhere. Richard Tonkin’s posts also constitute a long-term example posts of the forgotten art of broad sheet journalism, dealing with hard issues of equity, power and reality-shaping, ignored like the plague by mainstream press and media controlled by the likes of Ron Walker and Shaun Brown.

One sees Fairfax online following Murdoch subterranean of the gutter, now expending much space to urgent problems like the colour scheme of Myf Warhurst's knickers or the rampaging behaviours of female state school teachers vis à vis their male students.

In this sort of fevered environment, where "morals" are defined in terms of sexual behaviour exclusively, rather than through, say, financial corruption or moral sanctimoniousness, the Mirandas become rails runners for opinion dominance. And faux outrage over dubious artworks is just another obvious mode for distraction from real world issues.


I hear someone claiming that this writer is thus downgrading pedophilia as an issue?

No, just the opposite.

Of course it is not a minor issue. Therefore, it should not be cynically exploited as a culture wars stalking horse for other hidden agendas of political control through its (ab)use in the manipulating of the emotions and the offending the sensibilities of those with genuine concerns or who have been the real victims of abuse.

Look, this antic has provoked some intelligent comment in the op ed pages of the Age and SMH in response; for more involved investigation a visit is commended.

Back here, the Mirandas will have problems of contradiction as to their targets in what otherwise could have been a righteous war against commodification/reification of youth, as well as the separate problem of child sexual exploitation. But Dahvine painstakingly avoided mention of the lucrative field of endeavour in prurience worked intensely and daily throughout the media and press that also employs her, with her focus on a typical isolated soft "out sider" rightist target; the abstracted/abstract artist intellectual who is offside to "our" society by being more interested in examining its values than unthinkingly upholding them. Such an individual likely has intellectual concerns against prurience and such an attack is therefore likely libellous as well as misleading.

The one exception was Devine's helpful attack on Dolly magazine for its unconditional promoting of anal intercourse as a desired (de rigueur, if you like) behaviour option for thirteen year old girls, regardless of the health and pain/discomfort factors for participating fashionistas.

But even here, we ask are we examining an unexamined system and its underlying imperatives, or indulging in de facto legitimisation of that system by creating an impression that Dolly is just an isolated atypical example of component failure rather than the system exemplar?


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Don't do it Jenny Hume !

I agree and disagree with much of what you write but that makes for a lively debate and this subject has been one of the most discussed on this board as well as just about everywhere else.

If you leave the board there'll only be Eliot Ramsey for me to battle with. And he's making too much sense at the moment.

Now Melbourne photographer artist Victoria Larielle is to stage a nude kids exhibit - this is becoming a case of the most fascinating proportions and where it ends who can tell?

I believe one factor could overcome some of the problem: at present we have no categories of this material as they do in the UK. where the most dreadful rape type pics of small children that involves adults are classed as catergory 1 type and carry the severest penalty, but photos of just naked children are classed as type 3 and carry a lesser sentence. It's all a very sticky problem but at present we are treating the crime as though a teen girl who nicks a bit of make-up from Woolies is equal to a vicious gang of bank robbers who may bash a bank teller.

Mind the chair Michael

If you leave the board there'll only be Eliot Ramsey for me to battle with. And he's making too much sense at the moment.

Well sorry Michael but when the Lataan type attacks start up I can no longer be bothered. They just dumb down the site.

By the way, was not aware that we battled very much. Now I could take your comment to say that there are only two on the site, Eliot and me who write nonsense with which you can do battle and now he has betrayed the thin ranks of the nonsense makers. But nah. I know you better than that. I know most people well enough here to know those who deliberately seek to offend, and those who might unwittingly knock over my chair. 

Cheers mate. You too Kath and Richard. See you around late September so long as all continues to go well for you know who, and the rain stays away. At least with no rain there is no farming to do.  I am getting used to this drought I must say. An ill wind it is that blows no good as they say.  Who they are I would not know.

thank you Angela

Thanks Angela for taking the matter seriously and for your gracious comments.  And Ian MacDougall for the link to the article by Guy Rundle. 

I am no prude...I love the pornographic Japanese 15th and 16th century wood block prints of copulating men and women.  They show sex in all its intimate ferocity and tenderness (to my eye at least).   Those prints are indisputably art and they are indisputably pornographic.  One classification does not negate the possiblity of the other. 

I am not opposed to cinematic sex: I adore the film "In the Realm of the Senses" and the woman who introduced me to it;  I love as well the work of Almodovar and the feminist film maker (Breillat?) who made Romance and others using explicit footage of sex.

But I am opposed to using subjects under sixteen.  I am very much opposed as well to presenting those subjects, as Rundle is at pains to point out, in ways that show the subjects as bruised, despoiled urban waste; just so much junk flesh for the pleasure of those who don't have to live with the reality that Henson's aesthetic vision presents.

Henson will be reconsidering the wisdom of persisting with his subject matter in the face of earlier criticism.  He may be wondering what a future wiil be like where he sits in a room with a junior constable as they both look through his image bank and the constable says:

"What is the name of this child?  And where is the consent?"

That clearance

The actual photos were not checked for clearance, only those on the websites with the boobs covered. That is so bogus but the complaints were only about the websites and that is all ACMA covered.

Now will you stop the hysterical nonsense. Enough. I do not want my grand daughters photographed in the nude for wankers to wax over about the lighting.

Got that?


The feminist viewpoint

"Anyone who believes that the great artists of the past waited for their models to reach puberty before daring to portray them naked is a blind fool.

Renaissance paintings are festooned with the naked bodies of babies displayed in the most fetching of poses; small naked boys sit splay-legged on the steps of temples and astride beams and boughs. The public that saw them included pederasts and pedophiles, but nobody deemed that a reason for not showing them. The Christ Child sat astride his mother's knee displaying his perfect genitals. Though dirty old priests might have taken guilty pleasure from contemplating them, the rest of us are still allowed to see them.

More reticence is observed with female figures, mainly because female models were hard to come by, but the first genuinely female nudes were often pubescent or prepubescent. The closet Venuses of Cranach and Baldung, for example, have the undeveloped hips, small, hard, high breasts and pallid nipples of 13-year-olds. Botticelli's Venus is hardly older. Greuze's girls, with their white bosoms glimpsed through disordered clothing and tear-filled eyes, are not only very young but violated as well. Bouguereau's Cupidon (1875) and Child at Bath (1886) are far more disturbing images of vulnerable immaturity than anything created by Henson, but paint may do what photography may not. If Henson had painted his young subjects, the police would have no situation to investigate."

- Germaine Greer, 2 June 2008

Deshabille moppets and the Rise of Dixie

Richard:  I've been waiting, Eliot,  for someobody to bring up Nabokov's Lolita, which was in my high school curriculum, and have been surprised that nobody has. 

Or the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's fussing around the deshabille Alice Liddell in between writing Alice in Wonderland and crafting sermons for Christ's Church Oxford?

Perhaps since Lolita went off the banned list even in Alabama in 1982 there's little cachet to be had turning the clock back quite that far?

To what do such moral panics actually refer?

Richard Tonkin: "Well, there you go.. the pictures Rudd called "revolting" have been cleared for general release. Not "R" nor "M", but "G" ..."

An outcome which, based on the historical precedents set by other such moral panics, was entirely predictable.

The real question is: What do such moral panics actually refer?

The great moral panics of the late 1950s, the 1960s and early 1970s were perhaps convulsions erupting around the immense demographic changes that ushered in distinctive youth cultures (comic books, rock and roll music, videos, etc) combined with growing permissiveness and openness about sexual relations.

Huge numbers of people born around the late 1940s and early 1950s started reaching adolescence at the exact same time that the western world was entering a period of unprecedented economic prosperity.

Young people were consuming distinctive, often radically original, cultural products (everything from mini-skirts to television) and simultaneously exhibiting unprecedented, highly conspicuous openness in a range of behaviours.

I think that may have driven the panics back then. The realisation by the Greatest Generation that they were ceding power to the Baby Boom generation of the Youth Quake.

But the modern paedophile hysteria has been going on for at least a decade, and seems to focus with almost complete randomness on this or that person, this or that institution, often in ways only tangentially connected with actual episodes of child sexual abuse.

The new elements that seem to get people especially excited are digital images and the internet.

Is it just my impression, or do people who one might be expect to be reasonably and genuinely concerned about child welfare, and who otherwise may actually express a reasonable degree of concern about, say, sexual abuse within the family, schools, or other institutions, go completely berserk, however, when it comes to images of young people on the internet?

It seems to me it's the supposed "power" of new media, and the mystique of digital technology itself, which contributes to the underlying anxieties driving the sorts of melt-down we saw in recent days over the "G-rated" Henson images.

An accident looking for somewhere to happen

In order: thanks Paul, not so much for your consideration which while appreciated was misplaced, (although I'm sure you share my concerns,) but for the utterance of that which I have long been aware but to which I could only bring myself to allude; "make the little slut feel guilty".

The mean spiritedness of minds. Jenny, I’ve read your last post carefully and if I’m going to take issue with it, it is "then that is something her mother should have thought about when she agreed to let her daughter take part in the exercise. If the public has to remain silent on photos of children that it considers pornographic just because the children in them might be affected by their voicing their concern, then I am sure the because of this line;paedophiles will be very happy indeed." Not her father also? Did either of them think it would ever come to this? No one to date has defended my charge that the association of Henson’s work with paedophilia is dishonest. Why invite this from me when you should know by now that I’m going to deliver? TITS AND MUFF DO NOT EQUATE WITH PAEDOPHILIA. (Settle Scott, you’re shouting.) At the end of it I’m left feeling sad and worry about the future of WD. Sad at the loss of innocence; mine, but I was ever naïve. I’ve been accused of bravery, (Yes Minister,) but bollocks to that.) To myself I am inviolable; I know what I am and I recognise the same qualities in others in this forum. Gentle, caring and protective and for those who cannot or will not see, your opinion of me will only serve to put a curl on my upper right lip.

Richard: It was unlikely, Scott, that discussion of such a sensitive topic was not going to become a bit volatile at points. It doesn't make me worried about the future of the site. I think it doesn't hurt to know the personal boundaries of the contributors here, and our stronger awareness of each other can only be a benefit when it comes to discussing other matters.

It's been a hard one, and as Fiona has said it has required a certain level of bravery from many contributors to post what they have. Perhaps our contributions have enabled our many readers to possess much more knowledge in forming their opinions than they would have otherwise. I like to think so.

Who is this self-appointed "public"

Scott Dunmore, who is this self-appointed "public", that sits in judgement like Mme Defarge at the bottom the guillotine in Tale of Two Cities, this self-appointed Committee of Public Safety that has filled with such limitless conceit it conflates to some superior wisdom, that it presumes to speak on behalf of the rest of us, without even the manners of a prior consultation?

As for Jenny Hume:

Reread David's corollary to Richard's comments: Your name was not directly mentioned in the context you are claiming it was, but if conscience dictates and "cap fits", you are quite welcome and eminently deserving actually, in light of certain previous comments as to the wearing of it.

For my part, I am utterly sick of myself and others trying to maintain an open mind being implicated by association as some sort of "pedophile" by a certain group of posters, because I dare hold an opinion that a work of art is a work of art rather than what others, frankly out of ignorance and prejudice to me, deem it to be.

As for Damian Lataan, I gained more from even one of his erudite posts than the whole catalogues of certain of others. It was a sad day when he was driven from WD after incessant, malicious misrepresentation of his position on various topics by others less well informed.

Richard: Paul, if you look out a westward window you'll probably see a cloud of steam over Brompton. That will be me walking this afternoon off.

Will all superhuman editors please stand up?

Richard: You will be familiar with #5 in Margo's list of 'expectations' in Webdiary Ethics:

'5. Robust debate is great, but don't indulge in personal attacks on other contributors.'

Margo has always had from day one a stated and understandable policy against taking posts down once they are put up, though it has happened many times through the history of the site. I have not been able to find a formal rule for editors to that effect, however. Nor should there be one, simply because editorial mistakes and oversights inevitably occur, particularly in the present circumstances of shortage of editors and thus overwork of the few volunteers who do it. (NB: I myself have volunteered - in an email to Fiona, but have not yet been assigned a forward post .)

Rules are important for expediting the business of any organisation, and Webdiary is an organisation of sorts. But hidebound rules have always in my experience been counterproductive to constructive organisational aims, and should be avoided. Where something that should have been stamped DNP (do not publish) because it violates WD Ethics manages to slip through, there should be no problem in taking it down again. Editors, whatever their private thoughts may be on the matter, are not subject to divine guidance.

Paul Walter: (re June 2, 2008 - 4:36pm) Your advice to Jenny is "Your name was not directly mentioned in the context you are claiming it was, but if conscience dictates and 'cap fits', you are quite welcome and eminently deserving actually, in light of certain previous comments as to the wearing of it.

We might call this your Clayton's ('the drink you have when you're not drinking') apology to Jenny. But we won't, because it is not so weak as to be meaningless. It is the very opposite of an apology, not that I thought you were inclined to give one anyway. It is an anti-apology. It is the apology you give when repeating the accusation that provoked the original demand for an apology.

"For my part, I am utterly sick [sic] of myself and others trying to maintain an open mind being implicated by association as some sort of 'pedophile' by a certain group of posters, because I dare hold an opinion that a work of art is a work of art rather than what others, frankly out of ignorance and prejudice to me, deem it to be."

Admirably unselfrighteous.

Now let me get this right. You who are valiantly trying to maintain an open mind have been smeared as 'some sort of pedophile', not directly, but by association, by 'a certain group of posters' whom you choose not to name, 'directly mention', or take up any specific issues with. Your daring or otherwise on matters of art and aesthetics we can leave aside for the moment, as in any case it would pale beside your admirably unselfrighteous demeanour.

However, your second paragraph is in breathtaking and hyocritical contradiction with your first. 'Your name [Jenny] was not directly mentioned in the context you are claiming it was, but ... you are ... eminently deserving actually, in light of certain previous comments...". (That is the meat of what you said. Only the marbling fat has been deleted.)

And of what is Jenny so eminently deserving in your view? Of guilt on the serious charge of desiring harm to the girl concerned (as Henson's photographic model) and of hoping that the mother should suffer. Well that was the worst of it anyway.

Clearly, you cannot provide a direct quote from Jenny to that effect. Apparently your own imagination is all you have to go on, while at the same time claiming that you have been indirectly smeared yourself as a pedophile by certain unnamed others.

Your smear of Jenny, cited above, is by no means indirect at all.

In my view, your original post should have been DNP'd, as should your above anti-apology as well.

The issues you raised in your original threadstarter are important, as I believe the robust discussion has shown.

Your subsequent comments do you no credit at all.

David: See above. Also (from June 2, 2008 - 4:50pm) "I certainly do regard comments by you [Jenny] and others as tantamount to accusing other Webdiarists of perversity, primarily by asserting that the photographs are obviously sexual in nature - which is actually the main point in dispute - and thus those who don't see it are perverse. Numerous comments by you and Ian have made this assertion, but we let them through as being close to but not over the edge. Pot, kettle."

I would challenge this on two grounds. Firstly the sexual nature of the photographs has never been in dispute. Go back to the start of the comments and follow them through if you don't believe me. One way or another, sex was a major theme of the discussion right from the start, and long before I ever got involved. (Luckily, drugs and rock'n'roll were left right out of it.)

Secondly, you are playing on words here (perverse/pervert) and I cannot believe that this or the etymology involved escapes you. The debate was not about sexual vs non-sexual (asexual?) but about sexuality-plus-art versus just plain sexuality period; at least in part. My major concern has been re Henson and the law, and as I pointed out, I have no trouble with pornography as such.

I have never accused anyone of 'perversity', because I have never assumed that anyone was so blind as to not see the sexuality in the photographs published.

BTW, please forgive my subjectivity on the matter. Perhaps Dr Freud would find me interesting. Then again, those photographs were not exactly a Rorschach test. So perhaps Freud would pass me by.

Pot and kettle? Simply your final unsubstantiated generalisation, David. You will have to be more specific. Pot and kettle nothing. You are starting to sound like a tinker's caravan.

David R: how about this one, from an earlier post of yours, Ian:

If a photo of a naked, say, 14 year old female locked in amorous forepleasure with an 18 year old male is OK, at what point down the conceivable female age line would you say 'this far and no further.' 10 years old? 5 years old? 2 years old?

The use of "amorous forepleasure" in this is a classic "have you stopped beating .." furphy, and presumes agreement with your side's view of the photos and the whole debate - and then you extend it into presumptions which are, to my mind, accusatory, and justify a robust response. So, maybe we should have canned the debate once it got so heated that people were clearly offending each other (both sides, again). Or maybe it isn't possible to have a robust debate, in which case we can all go home. As in every dispute of this nature, the editors try very hard to see all sides and not be partial, whichever side of debate we happen to be on. We call 'em as we see 'em, and try and explain why and how we saw 'em. No superhumans here.

Never in dispute?

Ian MacDougall: "Firstly, the sexual nature of the photographs has never been in dispute."

Well sorry, but two hundred posts here and many more elsewhere indicate quite the opposite.

Employed in the statement above,"sexual" is so vague as to allow the possibility of just about anything. Sexual as in provocative? therefore leading to "erotic" (shockhorror)?

Or "sexual" only in that that the beings involved were living, not inanimate; photo and subject were of opposite s*x?; that the photos are "sexual" rather than, say, "artistic" eg, that sexual negates artistic somehow?

Which of course leads me to a brief digression, as to Angela Ryan’s comments about "laconic" ( as against her urgings re Jenny Hume possibly along the lines of Dana Vale's "Stay Brave and True"exhortations to beleaguered Alan Jones back during the Kash for Komments affair of a few years ago).

Well no, no necessarily here either.

Precise (or "laconic", if some prefer) language rather than vague, loaded, emotive language is actually very important in this sort of debate. Objectivity rather than subjectivity, unless we are introducing certain feminist notions which belong to a different debate anyway.

The loose terminology employed by certain people has actually led to much confusion and resulting alleged ill-feeling (not from me).

But if, using the above case as exemplar, the problematic use of sexual is a sloppy misnomer for, say, erotic, well for a start a number of the male contributors, including this poster, have confirmed forthrightly that Henson’s photos provide absolutely no erotic inputs whatsoever (if only people would read other posts!).

So, if Ian's comment indicate that he claims all posters find the photos erotically stimulating, his case collapses through neglect in the reading of previous posts , for a START.

But I need him to define much more closely exactly the meaning of sexual in the context he wishes me consider his point, if the debate is to be "moved on", as they say.

Cherubs, nymphs and Germaine

Paul Walter: Noted.

Eliot (re June 2, 2008 - 4:15pm), Greer missed the point completely in her article you linked to, because she failed to address the power aspect which is behind the law on adult-child sexual contact, and thus of associated issues like art relating to it whatever way. The inevitable lopsidedness of the power involved made the taboo and the law, and the taboo extended to cover photography and other art.

Consider the elitism in her opening paragraph:

WHEN the forces of public order march into art galleries and walk off with exhibits deemed to be offensive, two things are certain: one, that images which the vast majority would never have seen or wanted to see will be made famous and will be looked up on the internet by slavering hordes, and, two, a great deal of nonsense will be talked by a great many people. When the police removed half the images from Bill Henson's show at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, the usual babel broke out. Some averred that the images were art and therefore not pornography, and that their confiscation was a kind of sacrilege. Others insisted that their suppression was censorship and not to be countenanced.

Germaine, of course, knows better.

Well, bully for her.

"Amorous forepleasure"

David: The use of "amorous forepleasure" in this is a classic "have you stopped beating .." furphy, and presumes agreement with your side's view of the photos and the whole debate - and then you extend it into presumptions which are, to my mind, accusatory, and justify a robust response.

Now fair crack of the whip!  Presumes agreement? Have a look at the Bill Henson photo published with Bill Nolan's review of Henson's work in The Age. Just how much am I presuming?

David R: given that photo was reviewed in 2005, and wasn't taken down during the "G"-rated farce, it presumably is not one of the photos being considered for prosecution and has nothing whatsoever to do with the controversy. Just presuming back at your presuming. There is certainly no evidence here for your claim in your "hypothetical" that he is 18 and she is 14.

I admit that the young couple concerned are not in the back seat of an FJ Holden, so I did have to study it a bit before I could work out what was going on. But even allowing for a certain deliberate ambiguity sought by the photographer, I think we can see that while only down to her underwear and not exactly stark naked, the young woman in the picture is arguably on the way to all the way. (If in my own youth I generally only got part of the way to all the way, at least it was not for want of trying.)

What is ambiguous is her age, and hence it is reasonable to wonder where the legal barrier of the age of consent comes into play before anything else comes into play. Just which side of the legal line is she on? Hard to tell.

Now take her out of the scene and put in say 10 year old and 5 year old models in the same position with the same bloke. Is it not reasonable to ask the sex-plus-art school just where they would draw the line?

All judgements in art are subjective. I will argue that happily. But "have you stopped beating your wife?" is a question which cannot be answered either way without damning the answerer. How on Earth does "where would you draw the line?" fall into that category of question?

Volks Wagner gives green light to Sibling Ribaldry

Ian MacDougall: "Eliot has chosen not to answer the following question. So I would ask you Justin, and those of a stance supporting yours, where you would draw the line."

Well, actually, that's just a variation of the "defending standards" argument that has been employed throughout when Henson's enemies have been unable to provide evidence of any harm been done to anyone.

If you recall, right back on May 26, 2008 at 12:41pm I said;

"The morals police, having nothing by way of evidence, will take a step back, claiming instead that Henson and the art community are contributing to an overall  "decline in standards" or that Henson's work is conducive to "a climate which encourages perverts" or "indirectly influences the welfare of children though these particular children, we are sure, are in good care"

The fact is, there is no "single line" that any of us should "draw" with respect to what other people think is "moral".

In the absence of evidence of harm, we should do nothing.

The other dodge being employed is to demand "proof that harm has not been done", as if such a thing could be possible, especially when the morally panicked actually confuse their "values" with "fact". So, when they see their "values" threatened, they feel they are the victims of some kind of "factual" attack?

Take consolation that at least Henson's images don't "encourage" incest, like this outrageous filth from Richard Wagner;

Fricka: "My heart shudders, my brain reels; marital intercourse between brother and sister! when did anyone live to see it; brother and sister physically lovers?

Wotan: "You have lived to see it today...That these two love each other is obvious to you, listen to some honest advice...smile on their love, and bless Siegmund and Sieglinde's union..."

- Gotterdammerung, The Ring of the Nibelung 

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Richard:  I've been waiting, Eliot,  for someobody to bring up Nabokov's Lolita, which was in my high school curriculum, and have been surprised that nobody has. 

Send in the fools.

Again thanks to Michael de Angelos. You like Greer too eh? On reflection shouldn't be surprise given I'm so fond of her myself.  For me, I suppose, a consequence of a process of mellowing both on my part and hers, since the strident days of thirty or forty years ago. Funny how many women hate her. Because she can say it like is, as to human relationships without concessions to sentimentality and the need for a good emotional alibi.

Whilst at the Age I went further, reading an interesting article by a photographer concerning the paranoid reactions toward him in an age of obsessive surveilance.

Then a gem. Hidden in the Lifestyle columns of allplaces, and buried under a welter of ads, an article entitled "Girls gone wild?" , by one Sonia  Harford. The site is easily identifiable by a posed and slightly  (unlike Henson's) erotic photo, comparatively speaking.

A purportedly drunk girl out at night sits in a gutter with microskirt rucked highup round her thighs, with long legs akimbo leading down to feet clad in the spikiest, kinkiest  stilettos you've seen for long while.

No one will whine for months on end about this tarty, fruity little public- open photo, because the  Henson photos are judged on different and to my mind, artificial criteria.

But mention of it is included because the lamentable understanding or comprehension of so many contributors to this thread, as to what might constitute "erotic" , for a male. And on top of that,  so many "experts" who  have never been male in their lives and therefore couldn't , authentically, know what turns men on any way.

But back to article.

It dawned on me that so much of  Henson is hated and especially by women, because it is out of the habituated context of cheesecake and advertising that relies on a type of market sanitisation that sentimentalises eroticism to alow for its socially accceptable commercial employment .It relates to an image of "femininity" that hides rather than uncovers reality, honesty and reality. People who look at  Henson's photos won't feel comfy like they will in the presence of the conventional photos, because as both men and women, in being forced to confront "the Gaze", they are forced back onto an unsentimental vulnerability , where all the layers and veneers that disguise the real person, both from others and self,  ( as society intended) have been peeled away.

In short, Henson is spookily  "different"  because of the  context ,  precisely precisely because it is smart enough to refuse habituated complicity and consciously transgresses structural and associated cultural norms. Its interogating established forms as good art has done since the Impressionists.

Out of the context that art lovers would have seen the photos let alone distorted further, through the lens of emotion ridden mass media distortion, the conversation between artist and audience is distorted by alien noise and a sort of loud, ignorance based braying, but this has itself provided an interesting social eventing, that people like Michael De  Angelos, Fiona Reynolds and others elsewhere, have had the wherewithal to seize upon.

Vicious comment, Paul Walter

Paul Walter, I am getting sick of the vicious personal attacks you make on me..

That is the sort of stuff we read on TB and Damian Lataan's site, and yes often posted there by Webdiarists seeking to personally insult, deride and belittle others here personally. But such has no place here and thankfully most have now been banned or left WD. 

I ask that the editor take down that comment and request Paul Walter apologise to me.  I take particular exception to the insert (the desired harm to the girl) and the hopefully the mother should suffer, implying that that is what I wrote and wished to see. Similary the assertion that people like me are nothing more than vulgar hysterics indulging etc etc. That too is offensive in the extreme.

No need to send in the fools. But they are more than just foolish.

If that sort of stuff is allowed to return to WD, then I for one want no further part of the site. I will wait for that comment to be taken down and for Paul Walter's  apology.

And Editor: please do not DNP this comment. It is not often I put my foot down but this is one such occasion when I am doing so.

Richard:  I was afraid that this thread would get to this point.  Having now read Paul's post, while I find the language to be strong, I don't consider it appropriate to take it down.  As to demanding apologies, it's your right to ask for one.   Is it one for a Webdiary moderator to demand?

Jenny, I don't think Paul's intent was as strong as you believe.  I don't know if the interpretation is correct, or whether it is my role to adjudicate such.

This debate has definitely risen to a level where the conflict of personalities is becoming extremely intense.  I suggest we all take a deep breath and return to posting in the more cordial matter tthat we normally do.

As you can see, I've published your comment.  I have, though, pulled a few bits that I don't think you would have written were you not so upset.

Everybody!  Pax!

Well on leaving that attack on me on Richard

Richard: Well in leaving that vicous attack on me on the site you have allowed Paul Walter to breach WD guidelines.

 I suggest you read again what he wrote, and what I wrote. In no way could what I wrote be fairly interpretated in the way he has done.  I request again that you take down his final paragraph on that comment. If you don't then that as far as I am concerned that is it. I am not going to stay on a site that allows Damian Lataan sort of personal attacks.

It is not about a clash of personalities, it is about fairness and common decency.  Either take that vicious paragraph down along with my comment quoting it,  or cancel my WD registration. I am more than upset and rightly so.  I will respect your decision.

Richard:  I'm certain that Paul wouldn't want to lose your input to this site over a paragraph, Jenny.  Nor would I.  I've removed the paragraph that has offended.  This has also necessitated deleting your repetition of it and your counter.

Like Margo I have a strong dislike for deleting what has been published, and will not be making a habit of it, to say the least.   As for demands for apologies.. do you know how many I've read?  I'm not going down that path.

We need some new threads, folks, so that all our energies aren't all focussed on this topic.  We pulled out of Iraq today and nobody here has noticed.  I'd love somebody to do a thread-starter on that, for starters.

 Added by David R: I published Paul's original post. I did so because I agreed with Richard's original ruling, that it didn't defame you - which it didn't. In fact it didn't refer to you at all, only to some of the people who object to Henson's work. You clearly decided for yourself that the cap fitted. I'm not going to reinstate it (mainly because I don't have a copy), but I don't regard your demand as reasonable, nor would we refrain from publishing similar again, even if we would be sorry to lose you as a regular commenter.

Thank you Richard

Thank you Richard and as you know I have never asked for anything to be taken down before. What was written should never have gone on in the first place but I can accept the pressure you are under now Fiona has headed off.

As for an apology. That is up to Paul Walter but I will not hold my breath on that score.

He has certainly killed my enthusiasm for WD so as far as I am concerned he can now have the floor to himself.

Sorry to have added stress to your day. Your don't need that but I am not one to not stand up when I feel strongly about something.

Richard: As David has pointed out there was more than a good case for not complying with your request. I've stuck my neck out a bit, and while maybe not being technically correct did so in the spirit of trying to restore a bit of harmony to the site. Today has been no more or less stressful than any dealing with this topic, and I think we might all be getting a little strained by the ongoing emotional pressure it creates. It's not worth us busting a gut over.

You shouldn't let this conversation affect your enthusiasm This debate, I'm sure everyone agrees, is a fairly extreme situation.

Over and off

Richard: I have just now seen David's footnote to which David I simply say I did not call it defamation. I called it a vicious personal attack in breach of WD guidelines which it clearly was and based on a deliberate misinterpretation of what I wrote. And no one I suggest would accept that his final generalisation of those who oppose those photos did not include me specifically and that generalistion I found most offensive..

But if you are of the view that such is acceptable then fine. Put it all back on. I can take it off Notepad for you.

But at the same time you can cancel my registration on WD. I did not ask you or Richard to act unreasonably. I asked you to apply WD guidelines which were to me breached in this instance but you clearly disagree.

Scott Dunmore: I really do not know what you are trying to say. I do not recall engaging much with you on this thread. I don't agree with your position on the matter, but so what? I don't judge you personally in any negative way for that opinion. No one here from my observation is calling anyone else a pervert or paedophile. But by golly, those who oppose the photos have been labelled quite a few things.

The day the public cannot speak out fearlessly on such issues as the responsibilities of a parent to a child, on child protection and what constitutes or might constitute child pornography will be a very bad day for our society. That is what the real paedophiles would like to see. As one article in the papers notes, the photos are probably already on their websites. Should we be concerned that that is so. Seems not.

Over and off.

David R: to repeat: not a personal attack, because not addressed to you personally (or any other individual), and therefore not against guidelines, in our view. Nor vicious, in my view. There has been a lot of treading round the edge of personal and vicious by both sides, and we walk that line as best we can while publishing as much as possible. I certainly do regard comments by you and others as tantamount to accusing other Webdiarists of perversity, primarily by asserting that the photographs are obviously sexual in nature - which is actually the main point in dispute - and thus those who don't see it are perverse. Numerous comments by you and Ian have made this assertion, but we let them through as being close to but not over the edge. Pot, kettle.

I could see it coming

Jenny, I don't see how I can make it any clearer. References to paedophilia in this context is dishonesty.

The meaness of spirit which I think I detect stems from the fact that the "moral majority" here seem hellbent on proving that a crime has been commited; with crime comes punishment. My preference is to see no further harm done to anyone and I mean anyone. I could see no victim and in my world - "no victim, no crime".

It came out badly owing to my tech problems, (lesson finally learnt,) all the spaces and lines were stripped and I wasn't singling you out for special mention.

I will be very sorry if you go; we've had so much fun over the last five or so years. It's a bit like finding out one's spouse has been unfaithful, the love is still there but nothing is going to be the same.

Down the track Scott.

Scott, thanks but I need to take time out as we all do. The past seven months have been very emotionally sad and hard which after the events of a few years back I could have done without. And the last thing I need is to try and deal with abuse on line which I usually just ignore. But when it takes the from of inferring that I am the sort of person that would derive some sort of comfort and pleasure at the possiblity of a child being upset and hurt, well that I will not let pass. But it does sap one's emotional energy which for me has been running on low for many years so time to call a halt.

I had a couple of pieces in mind on other issues to post, but they can wait for a few months. Ian is working on something else for WD so he can keep the flag flying while he's house bound.

Before I sign off though I will say that I was not aware that you had offended me or singled me out in any way for anything, so no harm done the friendship. But I confess I don't understand why you or anyone would see the raising of the issue of paedophilia on a thread such as this as dishonest. I would have thought it a very relevant issue to such a discussion, but not in the way it has been taken by some here, ie as somehow implying they might be perverse. I certainly would not believe any here to be that way from what they have written on this issue. I think that reaction might be a male defensiveness thing as men are so often portrayed as the only perpetrators of sex crimes against children. I know that is simply not the case. Women sexually abuse children too, and are often complicit with men in such abuse.

Anyway, time to let it be. I told myself not to open WD today but having done so do not intend to depart ignoring you and Justin whom I respect, even though we do not always agree. But albatross Justin, on your last to me I concur and understand totally. You sure got an early start did you not? Me? I was in that Presbyterian girls school where the facts of life were not even mentioned till year 11, the old 5th year. Can still see the biology mistress blushing. Fortunately all our class was off the land so we were quite well informed.

Now Scott.  I spoke too soon to Michael. It looks like rain up that way so we may be back sooner than expected. I hope so for those farmers paying out 2000 dollars each time they fill the tanks of those big tractors. Don't think we will plant this year. Too risky, to costly.

Now, I really need to go.  See you down the track a bit.

Richard:  Au 'voir, Jenny!


"I certainly do regard comments by you and others as tantamount to accusing other Webdiarists of perversity, primarily by asserting that the photographs are obviously sexual in nature."

If (as you say) you have never seen the pictures in question how can you make that assertion, David?

David R: sorry - what assertion?

We all care

I agree with Jenny, David. I do think that Paul was a bit rough.

 "I certainly do regard comments by you and others as tantamount to accusing other webdiarists of perversity, primarily by asserting that  the photographs are obviously sexual in nature."

When I made  comments stating that I believed  the pictures were erotic, did you think that I was a pervert, David? After all, I saw something sexually suggestive in them, that you and others didn't. Maybe I was the warped one, eh?

I reiterate though,I have never seen nude pics of  children on all fours before. I have, however, seen nude pics of women in that (sexual) position.What does that tell you?

Getting back to your original comment, David, I have never supposed for a minute that either you Paul, Richard, Scott, or Eliot were guilty of any "perversity". I think that you are all decent caring guys, otherwise you would not  take the trouble to comment in such depth!

I reckon  that we  can agree on this much. We DO all care!.

Richard:  The sexism line has not been drawn by the males on this site.  In fact, I have not seen such a display of integrity, honesty and caring by a group of the male sex as I have seen displayed on this thread on this site. As a feminist publican, I consider myself (as would Scott) well-qualified to make this statement:  part of the angst happening around here is that is primarily the opinions of the males that are having scorn poured upon, even though we're (many of us I think) baring our souls in this situation. 

Added by David R later: as a matter of fact, I haven't given any personal opinion whatsoever in this discussion on the pictures themselves, which I haven't seen, or on others' opinions of them, only on my view of the merits of the dispute over whether those opinions were too abusive to be published under WD guidelines. Your second paragraph therefore is entirely from your own mind, not mine. On the first para, I agree that Paul was "a bit rough": I don't agree that he was so to an extent that it required censorship or an apology - the latter being meaningless in my view: if it was so bad that it shouldn't have been published, it should be removed, as Ian said.

It's even!

"In fact, I have not seen such a display of integrity, honesty and caring by a group of the male sex as I have seen displayed on this thread on this site."

I have said as much, Richard!

Ditto for the females.

I think that quite a few females have had scorn heaped upon them too, Richard. I, like others, have bared my soul as well!

I think it's pretty even. Don't think that the guys have had a raw (no pun intended) deal here!

Word play David.

David:   Your are right. Paul Walter did not address me personally. He chose instead to refer to me personally by name in order to attack me personally and viciously to someone else. That  makes it cowardly as well as offensive.

And I note he has now comfirmed in his riposte that he certainly intends that last objectional clause in the paragraph referring to me personally by name, to include me as well as unamed others, which with respect was obvious in the first place. If he didn't so intend then maybe he should pay more attention to paragraphing because a paragraph aimed at a person is in its totality aimed at that person.

As for Ian or I and others suggesting that anyone here was perverse, (or do you mean a pervert - it seems to me you avoid the more precise word in  order to be ambiguous), for not agreeing with us that the photos were erotic (or sexual if you prefer) in nature, and in our minds crossed the boundary of the acceptable, well that is indicative of the sort of hysterical misinterpretation to which I objected.  

Let me put this on the record. I do not believe anyone who does not share my view that the photos were of an erotic nature is then some sort of pervert or paedophile.  I am not aware of anyone calling any other Webdiarist such, or even attempting an inference of that kind, but others can speak for themselves on that charge. .

By the same token I have not written anything here that could be remotely seen to be taking delight in or hoping that the child and her mother were upset or harmed over the legitimate public disquiet over those photos, as Paul Walter suggested. But he is not man enough to retract that offensive remark, notwithstanding that you have, reluctantly it seems, now allowed it to be taken down.

Clearly there was always a risk of public disquiet erupting once those photos appeared on the internet, and no mother could claim she would not be aware that they would likely turn up there eventually, if only on eBay as a purchaser sought to onsell. So no one here can take responsibility for the fallout of what I, and many others here, see as an unwise decision to allow her young daughter to take part in the whole exercise. And any upset that the public disquiet may cause them is not sufficient reason for the public to remain quiet on such matters of public concern. But I have in any case to see any evidence that they are in fact upset and harmed by the public debate. Just another assumption being put foward as fact on this site by all appearances.

henson 3

To be shown to be also a sexual being is not the same thing as to be reduced to a sex object.

 That is the fundamental distinction here. If you are unable or unwilling to make it you have nothing to contribute to this discussion but confusion.

I am as disgusted at the raunchification of our culture – e.g. kids made tarty to advertise jeans or bathers in the colour supplements of the Sunday papers – as anyone on this thread. Celebrity and raunch are two of the largest products of the information economy because they consist of words and pictures, both eminently disseminable by the web.

Child pornography has increased exponentially over the last 15 years or so becase child slavery has, slavery of all sorts has. It's now called "human trafficking" and it is the result of the economic collapse of the Soviet Union and Middle Europe and parts of Latin America, brought about by the at-gunpoint application of Friedmanite economics; by the spread of the Sahara and the resource-wars in that part of Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq…

If you want to do something about child pornography, attack its causes.

As for the proposition that the writer/photographer always privileges the powerful over the powerless, the viewer over the viewed, that is such ludicrous poppycock that if I tried to make a list of examples I'd be here a week. That case is most clearly and explicitly stated in the first chapter of Reading Lolita in Teheran, if you want it made for you. The reversal of viewer/viewed goes back at least as far as the Salon des Refusees...

The really interesting questions are: Why Henson? Why now?

Plus ca change. This is where I came in.

Oh come on Richard

I know you are not a naive person! Now that it's quite clear that it's the internet angle the cops are going after of course Henson will be charged if they decide - which I think they are champing at the bit to do - as the producer of the material. Who placed them on the net doesn't even matter but as far as I know both the gallery and Henson had some of the pics on their own websites anyway.

Now some of you may be getting the idea of the treatment that has been meted out to many people over the past few years who have been charged for being in possession of child pornography and most likely, through no fault of your own, believe they had in their possesion material of the most horrendous type. 

Many have been charged with having pictures similar to Henson's without the "artistic" defence - most plead guilty because they are the sort of people who have never ever faced the law before, are married with kids and wish to get the matter over with as soon as possible. They face a sustained campaign by the police and a vicious media that perpetuates, nay almost threatens to tear their lives asunder if they choose to fight ( plus the financial ruin that comes with it). Throw in a few of the worst cases like the recent police prosecutor charged who did have hideous material, and you see how all people are demonised as being of the same catergory.

What we don't have in this country, which they do in the UK, is various categories of defining porn which makes all the difference where the very worst means a jail sentence and the mildest probably probation.

Go the the Age also today to read Germaine Greer's unique take on the whole matter - always gets it right in my mind.

Unfortunately I think she is wrong on one point - if Henson is charged I believe he will be found guilty but receive no more than a fine if that.

Again, you can blame the odious Bob Carr for putting NSW in the position of having extremely bad laws in this matter - they would have been far worse if he hadn't had the always decent Bob Debus with a fine legal mind always battling the legally ignorant Carr who even wanted to backdate the laws during the big bust 5 years ago. All that did for many of those charged was actually bring out dozens of barristers who offered to work at rock bottom prices as they were so incensed at the fool of a premier.

And I wonder now how Edmund Capon and indeed the arts community and especially the gallery in question that hosted Bob Carr at so many functions while he took the dual ministery of Arts Minister at the time feel. All taken in by the ultimate phillistine who was just a budding banker for all his pretensions which were adequately demonstrated when the ABC foolishly allowed him to travel to LA and interview an 81 year old Gore Vidal who finally revealed what a complete plonker Carr really was.

He would be the first witness I would call (and he was the first to seize on racial divisiveness as well - long before J.Howard).

Time to let it be

Ian: "Where do you suppose Cate Blanchett and Mike Carlton might draw the line?”

Would it not be better to direct that question to Cate and Mike?

Guessing the ideological or moral boundaries of another person is generally a useless (and sometimes arrogant) exercise; at least as far as this exercise goes.

In a way the question itself is indicative of the uselessness of where we are going in regards to this matter.

Who knows what really goes on in the corridors and alley ways of somebody else’s mind and imagination, let alone our own?

Who knows what intimate emotions can be stirred by a (very) personal relationship with a work of art (or anything else for that matter)?

This is personal, very personal as Guest Contributor in her own touching way explained to us. Her further analysis of artistic presentation and appreciation should also be noted by all.

Who knows that the pose of a girl and a smudge on a singlet could crystallise the insecurities and dreams of an emotionally isolated (young) observer who so desperately wants to connect, and like us all, love and be loved, while contemplating the moral minefield lying ahead, and the socially conditioned archetypes that may have to be sacrificed, or rather, let loose – the road to freedom?

The visual relationship that develops between the observed and the observer is totally personal, transcends “morality”, is psychologically timeless and for many beyond words.

Maybe that is why art, in its many manifestations, is so important to many, however, because of the complexities of the human condition (especially sexuality) art is quite often misunderstood and confronting. But that is art and what artists like to do, for whatever their motives.

In my personal life art has never motivated me to behave in a manner that betrayed my personal rules of behaviour. It has however touched me in many ways; in ways I’m sure we can all identify with. It helps me experience and understand who I am; and who I am not. It can be your entertaining companion; your consoling lover; your bottle of booze when the blues set in.

So what about you, my fellow traveller, has art (ever) done you no good?

Has art caused you to do ill to others?

Has pornography ever caused you to impose unwanted sexual behaviour on another human being?

Has viewing any visual presentation whatsoever caused you to hurt another human being?

Have you ever needed to ask yourself the above questions?

At the end of the day I suspect we all feel, subjectively comfortable in relationship with all the manifestations of art, pornography or whatever is available to us. We make our own choices. Our problem, as usual, is others; and what lurks in their minds and imaginations; where do their boundaries extend.

We can, if we are not careful, become psychological voyeurs; a pastime that proves nothing, rather exposes our own insecurities, self doubt and superficiality? Unfortunately we usually disregard that possibility.

So what have we achieved (in this particular case)?

What started out as a commercial relationship between an artist and a child (with parental approval); a relationship that up until now has (most likely) done no harm to anyone at all (physically or emotionally), has been turned into the scandal of the century.

Shock and horror from many who claim their objections are purely to protect the child. And now that very child, they so dearly want to protect, has to deal with the fears and anxieties of her protectors; demons that under less hysterical circumstances would never had to be faced; or at least not yet.

If we want to protect this particular child then why create an atmosphere that will threaten her, that will frighten her, that will suggest she has taken part in a revolting, disgusting and pornographic act?

Yes, her parents should have thought twice before allowing her to be pictured naked and allowing those pictures to go public; not so much because of what those pictures may or may not represent; rather because of the very display of behaviour we have experienced from her self appointed "protectors" who use this affair to bring attention to their particular agendas; regardless of her on going welfare and the unnecessary attention she will get.

Pragmatically speaking no (real) good can come of this now – no good at all; it will neither promote nor mitigate paedophilia, only harm an otherwise innocent kid.

Richard: You've nailed something here at the end, Justin. I met an autograph hunter and her mother the other day, the mother telling me that she didn't know why her daughter had always wanted to be famous. I did, easily.

Let us not beat around the shrubbery, Justin

Justin: Let us not beat around the shrubbery, noting the title of this thread. You never know what wildlife we might start.

Then again, perhaps we should beat on just a little longer.

"The visual relationship that develops between the observed and the observer is totally personal, transcends “morality”, is psychologically timeless and for many beyond words."

Profoundly said. But let me now put that another way: The one-way visual relationship that develops between the voyeused and the voyeur is totally personal as far as the voyeur is concerned, and not readily forgotten, though it may well be indescribable. But then again, descriptive prose and verbalisations are not exactly what the voyeur came for. Morality by the way, is irrelevant. 

Too bloody right.

Now let's cut back to the voyeused. That person has no control over the observers. If the subject of photography, and particularly when the photos are posted on the Web, he/she has no control over the number of viewers nor the ability to select who shall or shall not be allowed to view them. The power relationship is lopsided, the more so the younger the voyeused happens to be. Hence the popularly favoured laws covering such matters as explicit photography and sexual relations between adults and juveniles, however consenting the latter and the latter's parents may be.

Have Henson and his gallery broken the law? Arguably yes. Should the law be changed? It probably will be now, after a police case or two has collapsed. But perhaps not in quite the way the phalanxed 'arts community' would prefer.

Eliot has chosen not to answer the following question. So I would ask you Justin, and those of a stance supporting yours, where you would draw the line. Clearly, the existing law is too draconian for you. If a photo of a naked, say, 14 year old female locked in amorous forepleasure with an 18 year old male is OK, at what point down the conceivable female age line would you say 'this far and no further.' 10 years old? 5 years old? 2.5 years old? Or would you have no limit, and say with Cole Porter: 'anything goes'?

Not to be sexist, how about a 7 year old boy with a 25 year old woman? Or for that matter, a 7 year old boy with a 25 year old man? 

Where do you suppose Cate Blanchett and Mike Carlton might draw the line?  Particularly given their public stances on the matter, it is a legitimate question to ask of you, Justin. I don't know about Blanchett, though next time I run into her in the pub I'll ask her. But I suspect Mike Carlton, for all his wit and opinionation, would spend a long time flubbing his lower lip.

Thank you

Most favoured albatross, as Richard said, you've nailed it.

Context, says Guest contributor

OK.  Speaking to some 30ish men  - young to me, but possibly not to others on the thread.

They were adamant that the photos were NOT sexual in any way, and immediately morphed into the fact that many/most? of their most stylish, successful pursuing females - ok, that's the pick and choose way it is for these guys -- had brazilian waxes.  And that this, which they said was a high school wet dream, was now a total, sometimes physical,  turn off.  They want to have sex with women, not little girls.

They REFUSE  to be turned on by children , but their voices sounded quite angry as they said that  it's becoming more difficult, they tell me, to find young women who haven't succumbed to the infantilisation message of our culture, and altered  the bodies to look more like pre-pubescents .

Bill Henson expresses this perfectly.  he is reflecting a culture, not initiating it.

A sick culture.

I don't think that these young men's  wishes or opinions will matter a jot in the long run, though, to a corporate world.; anymore than mine will.

What sweet naivety from those who see "oh,but it's art" as somehow apart from this.

A meeting point of sorts

At least this hyperbolic thread seems to have established that the images are controversial.

And seen by some to be pornographic

By others to be erotic

And by others to be neither.

Ok?  Are we agreed? 

the images are controversial?

F Kendall, I've had enough

F Kendall, I've had enough of conflict to last me a long time and I have no wish to be combatative but why state the obvious?

I have said myself that the images are mildly pornographic but a blunt Saxon such as myself is never going to make a distinction between "erotica" and "pornography"; by the same token a spade is not a bloody shovel.

The meeting point as far as I can see was that of the condemnation of corporate porn but to date the silence on this has, as the cliche goes, been deafening.

There is something else; apart from Richard's somewhat qualified response I am the only male that has come out and said that, in the "right" circumstances I would allow my daughter to participate in such an exercise.

So what is this? It's alright if it's someone else's daughter but not mine or cowardise?

OK so I never had a daughter and it's hypothetical but it seems; to paraphrase E1 "I am as ill served by named allies as my known enemies."

The law

I'm interested to hear that your barrister mate says what he does Angela Ryan as it seems to me that it is the internet angle that is going to cause grief for Henson and the gallery.

As regards to intent,  the law looks quite muddled and open to several interpretations. As I said previously - Bob Carr said at the time he intended the law to be left in the hands of senior police officers to decide . Always a recipe for disaster. The fact that it's taking this amount of time would also seem to confirm that.

Having never seen these pictures in question, I'm still disturbed that considering the publicity being generated, newspapers are continuing to publish the faces of the children concerned. But this is a timely discussion to be having now no matter what the outcome - it will at least pull into line some of the more outrageous advertising aimed at using children in provocative poses to flog goods.

NB: I've heard the owners of the gallery in question are currently in Switzerland - perhaps they are going to ask for asylum!

Art world , the all powerful with celbrity trappings on parade ?

Hi Kathy, nicely put. Did you examine the interview tape? There seems to be an edited bit in the middle. I always find edited bits interesting after a controversy. Boring, irrelevant or too relevant?

And thanks Michael and Ian for linking those articles by the Arena editor. He certainly giveth sharpineth to the issue points that penetrates even the dulleth of rhetoric speweth moutheths trying to confuse liberty and free speech into an issue with nothing to witheth sucheth. We are indeed out of the Victorian times, our Bibles are written in new English and illustrated in Manga and naked bodies and sexual permissiveness is in general a part of our society , but as so perceptively said in this article, with the safety of limits. (maybe Manga crossed those limits....for another time).

But back to the issue of naked kids photographed in erotica:

:"...There is nothing logical about the way we limit what children can consent to, or their parents on their behalf. But there are cultural boundaries that have deep-seated meanings. Nudity is one of them, and the power of photography is another. Henson's unmistakably sexualised shots cross that line. Whether the parents - or still less the children- don't have a problem with them is irrelevant.

Vogelesang's opponents were fighting bad laws. This one is being fought against a good law that artists want special exception from. Of course, they're going to lose.

And they're going to lose badly if they make it an issue of artistic privilege. People like child protection laws. The existence of a permissive society relies on law limiting the exploitation that it brings. Citing the Renaissance use of models doesn't do it either. Their child protection statutes left a little to be desired...."

Interesting again it is the Age rather than the SMH that seems more able to give air and ink to the issue rather than obfuscation articles by Grattan and others mixing political freedom and censorship up with this topic.

Honestly I start to worry about other articles written by such people and their ability to report the complexities of politics and distinguishing the actual issues ,but that is just my opinion. Does the hard world of politics s the other Arena article describe, also contaminate journalists understanding of issues as the people see them? Clarity comes from a distance sometimes. [David R: and clarity has always been your strong point, Angela ...] How did Margo survive there so long? I wonder what she thinks of that Arena essay about power politics and intellectuals contaminated by such. It was something I didn't think would be written in MSM for at least a decade, depending on, of course, upon whom was writing history.

And our unnamed anonymous contributor who wrote earlier about appreciating the head and neck shot of a girl and now writes :

"..Unless you're arguing that nudity is pornographic in itself*, the photos I mentioned are as much at issue as the others. The issues with the photos involving clothes demand the same kind of meticulous self-awareness in the viewer as the nude photos – some paedophiles like their children clothed.


I am sure they do . I am sure some paedophiles do like clothes on, but luckily some supply them with naked kids so they don't even need to use any imagination.

And why did the photo of the girl and neck mean she was naked or there was any issue with it?? Head and neck are interesting shots and include the facial expression etc, and Henson types can take as many head and neck shots as he likes and all can display them but if the child was naked at the time (and why for a head and neck shot one might ask?) then there are child protection issues here, and if the naked photos of the child are included in sexual and erotic poses then again we have the issue of child pornography.

Whether you appreciate his "art " and own, like so many of his supporters, it seems, a photo of his is irrelevant to the child protection laws and pornography laws regarding children.

Fiona, await with interest your take on the law. What I read seems clear (as clear as such ever is) .A barrister mate has already commented to me that it is pretty open and shut were one to remove the celebrity artist status and put them in a internet site rather than an art gallery. The picture is clearer when viewed through such an unfiltered lens.

Intent is a slippery defense in child porn and protection cases when we have naked children photographed. Especially with plenty of non-disavowed critics and interviewers discussing the erotic nature of his work.

This whole bizarre event is starting to remind of one of Hans' stories.

... The body of the art world moving in unison with all its celebrity trappings as an omnipotent Emperor might parade before the peasants expecting fawning admiration ,yet ... again ... echoing the tale, one might hear the child speak  the all powerful and vain emperor passed by: "there are no clothes".


PS Apparently it made him a better emperor. We shall see.

Sects in the City

Guest Contributor says: 

"Wasn’t our new Prime Minister brought up in that same faith? "

This has been one of the most revealing moral panics in this nation's history, I'd say, for the extent to which it has flushed out doctrinaire control freaks disguised in a host of differing forms.

The anti-Henson crowd seem universally of the opinion that there is some set of absolute moral and ethical standards which dictate universal norms applying to figurative representations of the human form.

Likewise, there are un-ambiguous, timeless norms applying to "childhood" and "innocence".

According to these arcadian myths, these "norms" are the only appropriate, decorous subject matter of art, and anything departing from these is "perverse".

It doesn't phase them at all that this or that anarcho-feminist should share the identical standpoint on these issues as Tony Abbott, nor that self-styled post-structuralist Marxists should hear their opinions being echoed by Tim Blair or Miranda Devine.

Basically, the panic has tipped a wide array of sectarian dogmatists into the light of day, and perhaps only someone like the Freudian art and cultural historian Peter Gay could properly articulate the depths of libidinal anxiety which connects all these frantic paranoics, despite their apparently divergent formal catechisms and creeds.

The histrionic outpouring from Henson's critics are very Hansonite, indeed. Which reminds me;

Pauline Hanson remains a potent sleeper in Australian politics. The sentiments she embodies bubble perilously close to the surface of public debate. We saw them last week.

Hanson reportedly visited Camden to lend her support to opponents of the Islamic school.

But so, too, did Kevin Rudd.

Barely a week before the election, Rudd campaigned in the seat of Macarthur, which includes Camden, with the unsuccessful candidate, Nick Bleasdale. Bleasdale opposed the school. So, too, did Rudd.

He did so on "planning grounds", the Camden Advertiser reported.

Those proposing the school have appealed. It could well proceed. The issue is far from resolved.

Strong leadership is required.

It's a golden opportunity for a new prime minister.

- Paul Daley

Don't hold your breath.

Michael de Angelos says:

"How this matter will be resolved is one great mystery. Personally, Henson must be going through hell."

Perhaps if he made an abject expression of contrition before an assembly of the faithful he could be let off by being merely shown the instruments of torture? And that way he could avoid going through Hell?

Henson 2

 Unnamed anonymous one, a sweet little diatribe about artistic value of a couple of photos, not the nude ones I think we are talking of, and not the issue.

Unless you're arguing that nudity is pornographic in itself, the photos I mentioned are as much at issue as the others. The issues with the photos involving clothes demand the same kind of meticulous self-awareness in the viewer as the nude photos – some paedophiles like their children clothed.

The same kinds of issues, arguments, and court injunctions followed the photographer Jock Sturgess for years. He works with very similar material. I have seen several of his exhibitions in local galleries here; I haven't found them pornographic, either. Some of the photos were less coherent than others, but that made them failed art, not pornography.

Richard's comment about let[ing] a miniscule minority of deviants dictate how we conduct ourselves as a culture is close to my position. It's analagous to Thomas Jefferson's refusal to trim his speech to the understanding of a 7-year old.

That was the unspoken belief of the culture I grew up in. The body, especially the female body, could only hope for moral approval as a life-support system for the head. Wasn’t our new Prime Minister brought up in that same faith?  

The shock of the nude is that the rest of the body exists in its own right; it is not also you, it is you; is not elided from existence by the small bathroom mirror or by the psychological deal with the devil your culture let you make at the end of centuries of theological demonization.

The point is...

"Unless you're arguing that nudity is pornographic in itself*, the photos I mentioned are as much at issue as the others.The issues with the photos involving clothes demand the same kind of meticulous self-awareness in the viewer as the nude photos- some paedophiles like their children clothed." 

Couldn't agree more GC!

You will notice in the Erotica clip that I provided, that the  most erotic scenes are conducted with clothes on. Ironically at the end of the clip Madonna is seen completely nude (naughty bits blacked out) in what is probably the least erotic part of the clip, in my opinion. Others may feel differently.

The point I am making however, is this: Certain poses can be highly erotic. Madonna on all fours? Definitely! Madonna head back tilted slightly, not looking at the camera, also erotic. Now, why do we have children posing in such ways so as to convey sexual connotations  normally reserved for adults?

I'm not alone

Guy Rundle writes in today's Age an excellent piece that agrees with what I thiought - the whole Henson matter was a car crash waiting to happen.

Despite those who are being described as the "art crowd" coming to Henson's defence which is their perfect right to do, or Malcolm Turnbulll and his ridiculous claims that art galleries should be exempt from police raids (one of the most bizarre defences to date of the case) Rundle points out the obvious - what happens if these images are turned into postcards and distributed in adult sex shops or via the internet on porn sites?

Another Age article concerns a matter I've mentioned previously - the prosecution of a man for downloading four child sex related fictional stories. This is very disturbing law. People have every right to be thoroughly disgusted by the man's actions but we are talking now about a serious attack on a person's thoughts. Whatever  fantasies lurk in a person's mind, will a day come in the future where authorities are able to probe into the brain and seek them out as well and order punishment for thought?

In a way Bill Henson should be congratulated for opening the door to a section of society mired in hypocrisy including many of his supporters and those who are against him.

How this matter will be resolved is one great mystery. Personally, Henson must be going through hell.

Acclaim to Anthony. Describing shafted trust and betrayals

As Leo Schofield said in his introduction "your signature images are of young people in either dreamlike ecstasy or high eroticism."

And quite a blog commentary running in a similar vein to here. I wonder what reliable polls would show the community in all its demographics to think about this issue.

Hey Eliot:

“Oh, terrific. A "crime" in which neither the "victim" nor the "perpetrator" feel they've done anything wrong, prosecuted according to laws of a State where the "crime" didn't actually take place. Bring it on..."

Yep, that is what happens in child pornography and paedophile cases. Frequently there is a pimp adult who has authority over the child and the child has not the adult perspective and usually blames themself rather than the perpetrators. The pimp is paid.

And yes, the parent unit (not deserving the term mother) should have considered her 12year old's privacy before she allowed and sent her to the darkened studios for naked photos of all her bits by an aging adult who seems to be quite obsessed in such actions and areas. The term dirty old man comes to mind, and is such a label people would use without the "art" label defence.

Both the photos of a naked 12 year old and the deed of taking them are pornographic child abuse. Victorian laws are clear, I think Fiona (she who saves those who cannot spell) will agree as well upon perusal [Fiona: No, I don’t think they are quite as clear as has been suggested – the Vic position is more complex because the Commonwealth legislation is interwoven with it. Bear with me a couple more days – frantic at the moment.], but still await her greater experience with heavy tomes...

Unnamed anonymous one, a sweet little diatribe about artistic value of a couple of photos, not the nude ones I think we are talking of, and not the issue.

The artistic merit of the photos is irrelevant. Political censorship is irrelevant and not the topic. Huge suffering world wide is neither the topic nor issue. All the former are important but not the issue here.

The issue is child pornography and plenty of art critics in the past have discussed the perpetrator photographer's work as sexual in context and suggestion. Naked 12 year old children photographed by elderly male photographer in darkened erotic poses with sexual connotation and such displayed publicly and sold. It doesn't matter how much you enjoy such to look at it. Child pornography...

Again and again, art is not above the law.

As I said before and some wiser heads here have noted, art cannot be used as an excuse for child pornography, no matter how clever it is.

And Eliot, do you promise Nic will leave? Makes it even more gratifying. Cate we'll miss you. You can explain it to your daughter one day.

And Scott, I deliberately linked that one as it was looking at both sides and the irony at the end was indeed amusing. I am not arguing a case, merely expressing my outrage and expectation that the full weight of the law falls upon those involved without fear or favour or art or celebrity status. There is no need to argue any case. That will be the other lawyer’s job.

And Eliot, that Geddes lot was funny. :) I would sue if I was immortalised in the bee costume, I am sure that makes a complex in later life, a sting in the tale unsweetened by anonymity. Yellow is such an appalling colour. At least you have moved on from comparing his work to school photos. Well done.

Although Jenny, Kathy, and the ever balanced Ian have added to the debate for the rights of the child, I think Andrew has put it most clearly, pointing out darker issues that I had not even considered:

"One of the things I want to emphasise is the legitimising authority of art. Hanging an image on a gallery wall legitimises the social relations and especially the power relations embedded and symbolically represented in the image. Who represents who in art and how they are represented has long been a matter of critical appraisal in art theory and history. It is more of a case of who has the power to represent. Given that power, which Henson has as a male artist, the question we should ask is why does he present us with sexualised images of children? What is at stake here? Is it merely a personal obsession or is it a more generalised masculine gaze that sees other people's children as sexual prey?"

It was almost cathartic to read your last bit which so clearly presents the issue:

"What I see in Henson's works is that men can fuck kids with their dicks or their lenses. I believe that the ambiguity of his representation of adolescent and child sexuality symbolically mirrors precisely the way that sex abusers operate: they insinuate themselves into the trust of the family and vulnerable women and children and then violate that trust in the most insidious ways.

Commonly, post disclosure of abuse, the initial response of the non-abusing parents or other family members is disbelief and denial. I think in time that Henson's art will come to be seen symbolically in terms of a massive betrayal of public and private trust."

Although I am not sure how it got past, are our editors tiring? Beautiful use of language.

So can our heroes have feet – or up to the middle regions – of clay and still be heroes?


PS and for those who think child sexual abuse is some uncommon event, are you waiting for the movie to prove it exists? (How could they film it?)

An unnamed friend is a doctor in suburbia. Not a week goes by without a new disclosure by an adult of abuse never spoken to anyone of before. It began to be traumatic for them to go to work. And as the events occurred years ago they are not reportable unless the victim agrees.

It is well and truly time for that Royal Commission into paedophile action, support and protection.

Child porn is the outer scab of such. Rip it off and drain the pus beneath.

(Artistic enough metaphor?)

And here are some pictures of children being children from around the world.

Different huh? [Fiona: I’m not sure how a pic of a wedding couple is relevant here, Angela. Rather nice shoulders, though, and I liked that hint of breast…]

The question is...

The question is, if those photos of the naked child in those poses were first posted on the internet, would there be any cause for concern and complaint about them? It would seem Eliot and some others here would think not as they argue so vociferously in favour of them.

Those who say that the gallery should not have put them on the website and if it hadn't then this furore would never have happened are talking nonsense. There is no such thing since the net of a painting or photo simply appearing in a gallery and only in gallery. Many artists now use the net to display and market their works to the general public. Artworks are sold on the net every day through various sites with the image shown for the benefit of the buyer. This photographer like most sells his works so he has no control over how or where they will be exhibited, and or resold, over the net or anywhere else.

So given that we cannot control exhibition, do we allow photos like this, or do we not? Simple as that, and I say, no we don't, not if we want to protect children. Those arguing the case for the photos are inevitably arguing that it is OK to put photos of naked adolescents in erotic poses on the internet. Where does that leave us in the fight against paedophilia I wonder. Up the proverbial creek going backwards I suggest.

Now, I did not see the brochure but I note the comment in today's Herald that the brochure for the exhibition showed one of the more erotic photos. Now I wonder why such would be chosen, and not one of the more mundane.

Whether Henson is charged or convicted or not, clearly there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I ask Eliot and co, where should that line be. Oh I see Ian did that. Can we have some replies?

Richard:  Maybe there's a question too, Jenny, of whether we let a miniscule minority of deviants dictate how we conduct ourselves as a culture? 

Rundle on Henson's art

It is not every day that I agree with Guy Rundle, Arena's publications editor. His Age article on Henson however (Time the best got brighter in defence of Henson) is a minor masterpiece. As Jane Austen would say, it is most agreeable.

The more agreeable for beginning in such a way as to induce, at least in this reader, the impression that here we go again, yet another rah rah rah for Henson and the 100% of the vocal part of the artistic establishment which supports him. The title alone suggests that.

Then comes the sting in the tail.

And the miniscule minority is?

Richard: And the miniscule minority of deviants is? Is it those who oppose photos of little girls nude in erotic poses on the net and in public places, or is it those who think it is OK?

Where is the line to be drawn on such photography and its distribution. Anyone?

Richard:  Some might say it's both Jenny, but I was referring to the latter  If you want to compare Henson's work to what else is out there, I suggest googling "teen hardcore."  I warn you strongly that you will be dismayed at what you find.  My point is that Henson's stuff is nothing compared to what's out there for anybody to see.

whootat-tort-it? and dubbo dunnies


Who would have thought there could be a topic that would cause Andrew Bolt to link to the Marxist opinion piece in support !! (ie the Arundel article, so even Murdoch darlings might read it, amazings. Lucky Eliot)

"...Yet the contradictions are obvious. Do inept but sincere artistsget the same protection? Talented but cynical ones? If reproductions ofthe images can be sold in the gallery, what about in sex shops? How canthese special privileges be defended?

They can’t. The special status accorded gallery artists is simply a hangover of the exhausted high art/mass art distinction...."

Looks like military attack ....and child protection can be used to unify the political spectrum - or divide it.

And it seems, divide the left dramatically.

I must say how surprising some of the opionions from those in the media have been, who must know what they are doing.

What irony.

And Richard, since when is it a defence to say that "others are doing it too"? It just means more in the firing line for assessment as to whether they have also broken laws. If you know the age of the models and they are under Australian jurisdiction, then do ring the police now. No time like the present to clean up Australia.

What I think is difficult about the laws is what Michael has said, in that downloading is a crime, when if it is a novel one may not even know the content has illegal issues. It reminds me of the anti-terrorism laws where one can be innocent of intent and yet be committing a crime.

I remember in recent years there was a proposal for porn to have it;s own internet web designation address, thus to make access limiting easier for children. The porn industry opposed it and got their way. Ah well.


PS did anyone catch Mick Kelties site recently "added " too? very cute.


Makes redbacks seem an innocuous risk by comparison when sitting to read as some do outside.

Now off to the soccer!

Don't intend to

I don't intend to go looking for sites that clearly are indefensible Richard. Downloading and accessing child pornography is not something I need to do in order to know what is out there. I have seen enough by accident to know.

Those sites do not excuse the Henson photos or the posting of them on the net. There is sufficient informed opinion that condemns the photos as being child pornography. And child pornography in any form is illegal.  To call it art and thereby excuse it is to say artists are above the law.

I would be surprised if I was of the minority view on this issue.  

The net thing

Angela, I was not at all saying that because others are doing it it should be allowed.  What I was saying is that on a 1-10 scale of what's out there, Henson's work sits at one.  Looking while we're discussing, the grey patches in my beard have gone white..  and that's without even looking inside sites with certain titles. 

Jenny, there are well informed opinions on both sides of the coin.  It does appear, however, that the onus is going to be on the police to prove that the photos were taken for pornographic purposes.  If they can't are the pics illegal?

At the moment, because it's easily perused by minors, the net-porn breaks laws all over the place, mostly beyond the jursidictions in which they're viewed.  If Henson's work is deemed illegal, and is copied and placed on a website not within jurisdiction, how can he be held responsible?

I note that Google has been removing some sites on legal request.  Perhaps, before worrying about Henson, a globally recognised protocol on porn could be implemented? Through the UN perhaps?  There's no point of chopping of the iceberg's tip if you're only concealing the hazard.

But as I was saying, if the Henson portraits are legal then there's no excuse to not put them on the net.

Classification Board rates Henson net pics 'G:

Well, there you go.. the pictures Rudd called "revolting" have been cleared for general release. Not "R" nor "M", but "G"

The ones on the gallery's website, well they're posted on the net from another country.  See my comment below.

Self Portraits with a difference

Richard, there were no bars on the pictures I saw on the net. Full and clear face view of a child (so easily identifiable) and of her naked young body on one, and another of a naked child with a naked boy boy holding her from behind while another young naked person was holding up one of her legs.. If it is OK to to post this stuff on the net and have it on public display, then why bother having child porn laws at all? If those pictures are given the green light then it leaves it open to kids all over the world having their faces and naked bodies displayed on the net in a similar way, or even posting such themselves.

I can just see it now. Some young person setting up a Facebook type site for kids themselves to post images of their naked bodies in all sorts of erotic poses - Self Portraits with a difference. A billion for some young person there if he or she charges for membership of the site and access.

And why not?. If it is OK for a mother to allow her naked child's body to be phtotgraphed in sensual and erotic poses and displayed in public, and adults in responsible positions rule it G, then you can hardly stop the kids themselves doing it can you?

Justin, I would not agree with the notion you seem to be putting forward that in looking at a picture everyone's response to that picture will always be harmless. You seem to base that notion simply on your own non reactions. That is as good as saying that paedophiles would not be roused on seeing  pictures of naked little girls on the net to go and live out the fantasies of their mind,  and seek their next victim. 

I note the Jihadists push their form of physical art through images on the net as a means of influencing impressionable young minds to recruit more suicide bombers. Oh I think pictures can lead to a lot of harm. What is an image for but to create a reaction of some kind in the eye and mind of the viewer, be it one of simple pleasure or of something quite different? Images are central to the art of persuasion: just ask anyone in the advertising industry.   

And Richard because overseas sites host child pornography does not make it right. The Chinese seem to be able to restrict the net and I am sure with globalization ultimately better controls may be possible. It will just take a bit of will on the part of governments. If they can put a space craft on Mars then I am sure they can find ways to deal with this stuff before it ever reaches a screen anywhere in the world.

And as for the notion that this whole furore does nothing more than upset and harm the child in question, then that is something her mother should have thought about when she agreed to let her daughter take part in the exercise. If the public has to remain silent on photos of children that it considers pornographic just because the children in them might be affected by their voicing their concern,  then I am sure the paedophiles will be very happy indeed. 

Silence the public voices of protest. It seems on this issue some are advocating just that, except their own of course.  

Erotic poses not for children

"....your signature images  are of young people either in dreamlike ecstasy or high eroticism." (Thanks for that  Angela. ) My feelings exactly. I have said from the outset that I felt that the images were erotic and sexually suggestive. If a woman posed in that manner, it would be deemed to be erotic and suggestive. Hand just covering vulva,  head tilted slightly with a look of enraptured delight. Ah, the imagination is  powerful thing.. Women are often photographed in such poses. Not so children. I don't recall seeing such suggestive pictures of children anywhere . Certainly not in anyone's home.  I noticed Angela, that Henson skirted around that question when  Schofield asked if it was deliberate or not!

 Of course the bloody pictures are highly erotic.

 And, as Kevin Rudd said "Let children be children!"

Richard;  Kathy's also provided an interesting music clip.  Erotica was the title of the album, wasn't it?

The Crucible

"The most sickening aspect of this whole sorry affair is the police pursuing a 12-year-old girl "for questioning"."

Like something out of The Crucible, isn't it?

Scott Dunmore, thanks for the link to the Mike Carlton item. The surest sign one is winning any struggle against social intolerance is when Mike Carlton starts insisting that the victims of such repression had all along been "left wing intellectuals".  The great Marxstubator.

Another thought, in certain respects the abhorence the hysterics have shown for the naked human form, couched always in terms of their "concern" for the  "innocent" and "helpless", reminds me of the intense alarm of early European missionaries when they confronted naked indigenous peoples.

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