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Henson versus Hanson Land

Henson versus Hanson Land
by Tony Phillips

As I woke on Sunday to the changed clock I foolishly turned on the radio and was suddenly transported into a world of foofaraw. A bevy of Labor politicians and me-too Liberals were railing again in moral panic about that artist/fiend Henson actually being invited to a primary school in his quest for possible models. Had the clock actually gone back, like 50 years? Or just 4 or 5 months?

The Sunday Age even headlined Victorian Premier Brumby conducting a “probe” over the matter. Such behaviour certainly seemed alien to me. Like the PM I felt “horrified and revolted”. But not by the event but by this media report.

Briefly I contemplated the possibilities of succession. Could the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, the civilised world, get out of this starkly Hanson Australia and make it to a Henson one? By civilised I mean civil, tolerant, secular and lacking in respect for ignorance. Able to distinguish between different spheres of human activity, knowing something about such human activities as art, and lacking in prurience.

This would not do of course, it was the heights of arrogance and ignorance to think it would. The inner suburbs are by no means uniformly civil, in fact possibly less so these days since the cost of entry is so high. Nor have I any reason for believing the middle and outer suburbs, and the regions, don’t have plenty of people who would also flee a Hanson Australia given a chance.

Yet this was another Hanson type phenomenon, the absolute downside of democracy with its race to the bottom. Populist poll driven politicians, yelling in chorus behind the pack, terrified of producing any sort of leadership for fear they might incur blame. A similar logic was evident in the United States all last week over the Wall Street bailout. In the Henson case it’s not about pollies appealing to the majority, the majority is in all likelihood made up in small part by those appalled at the philistinism and witch-hunting, and a larger group to whom the issue is of little real concern one way or the other. They see it precisely as a foofaraw. However, since Henson’s photography has been associated with “children” and “sex” it is a red button issue for the mass media and has resonance in swing voter land. This is an area that, if not exactly contiguous with Hanson land, overlaps with much of it. These are votes both sides of politics want and, as we can see, are willing to stoop down very low to get.

So Henson is vilified for pursuing his art and the rest of us disgraced just to pander to probably less than 10% of the population, the hysterics, the damaged, the ignorant and the superstitious. Led of course by the moralizers and wowsers always ready to demand a restriction of our freedom to their standards. As David Marr pointed out on Radio National on Monday morning, the issue of protection of children, which is a real issue, is one that the moral police gravitate to because it is one of the last areas where their demands might be heard. In such cases of moral panic the liberalism and the democracy begin to part ways as a media fed mob mentality rises.

What to do? Well first we can keep railing at ignorance, though it’s a never ending task. Second, turn the guns of liberalism on the outrageous remarks of the politicians. Henson has done nothing wrong under the law and for lawmakers to be carrying in this manner is actually an appalling dereliction of their role in our political system. Indeed arguably undermining of it. They need to be called on this, every one of them.

Apart from that, I note the big thing pollies all understand is votes, unfortunately only as geographically distributed. They need to be focused by the emergence of a Henson group of voters, who will be resolutely not voting for illiberal cretins in future elections. Which I guess brings me back, not very enthusiastically, to the inner suburbs. Perhaps we can hope that these seats can become much more marginal in future. Preferably they should be in danger of being a major-party-free-zone. For this to be effective it will have to include Liberal as well as Labor seats, otherwise the result will just be a return to the wedge politics on race and other Hansonisms so profitably pursued by John Howard. But I certainly don’t want to vote for the kinds of dickheads I heard making puffery on the radio on Sunday morning and I hope there are very many currently on both sides of the big Party divide who will agree.

Further reading

Marr in the SMH Monday 6 October http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/arts/bdavid-marrb-rage-ignores-some-facts/2008/10/05/1223145173119.html

Peter Craven in The Age Monday 6 October http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/no-nudes-today-zealots-rule-ok-20081005-4udi.html

A report of Julia Gillard’s frankly embarrassing interview on the ABC website http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/10/05/2382327.htm

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I may reconsider my position... but

"The girls body and soul laid bare for all the world to see."

Kath, I would agree that the girl's body was laid bare for all to see, but not her soul.

It is the observer's soul that reacts to such a posed and sexually sophisticated (misleading, deceptive) image (as with all imagery) - and in this forum and elsewhere it has been been the observers' (contributors) souls that have been laid bare for all to see. The image itself is but the benign catalyst that excites the minds and imaginations of the observers.

No one has yet to provide any morsel of evidence proving those involved in Bill Henson's work have been disadvantaged.

In fact Kath have you considered the irony in your concern for those young models?

That image you posted has now been observed and analysed by many more viewers. Some may have even got off on it; maybe you have encouraged others to seek more of the same; encouraged that which you abhor.

Why would someone so concerned for the welfare of children use same to prove a point? You could have simply described the image to us rather than exposing  a child (you claim to care about) to the ogling eyes of many more observers - unkown lurkers whose souls are anything but laid bare. Who knows?

I agree with Eliot, this is a religious thing, a thing of the mind. When someone proves to me just one of Henson's models have been traumatised (other than from the publicity of do gooders) then I may reconsider my position.

Until then, if the only harm done  exists only in the mind of the observers then so be it. For those who find the images offensive then don't look at them for god sake. For those who don't find them offensive then why should anyone care, unless of course we want everybody else to think like us.

That image has told me absolutely nothing about the subject, except her physical appearance, yet, paradoxically this thread has been a revealing window into the souls of people I have never observed (visually).

 Justin: "Why would someone


Justin: "Why would someone so concerned for the welfare of children use same to prove a point? You could have simply described the image to us rather than exposing  a child (you claim to care about) to the ogling eyes of many more observers - unkown lurkers whose souls are anything but laid bare. Who knows?"

Because, like a Doubting Thomas they would not believe without the proof. (And believe me, I  did seriously consider  not posting that image Justin!) Sometimes there is no other way.

How often have you heard it said, that unless one has seen something with one's own eyes.. how can one make a comment or informed decision?

Whilst I will agree that Henson does some beautiful scenery shots, there is also a dark side to his work. His preoccupation with young girls, photographed  in suggestive  and provocative poses, is certainly disconcerting, and achieves nought in my opinion.


And keep frothing, Paul Walter.

"Savanarolian superstition, authoritarianism and flat-earth ignorance".  

Exactly like the fundamentalists, you are suggesting that an absurd apocalyptic scenario will result if people don't precisely follow your world view.

Hey, it's ok if people have different opinions, Paul. Haven't you worked that out yet? 

Frank Moorhouse

Is a very nice guy , Tony Phillips, -(but who isn't?) - and a marvellous novelist.  (Love "Dark Palaces "- didn't care for many early short stories. Love the way he lives, in RAC Sydney). But I don't see any particular reason to give more weight to his opinion on this  than to anyone else's.

I have enjoyed reading your posts, and I would think that the conversation has drifted far from your interests and attitudes. 

At the same time, I think that it was in your first post that you suggested that those disagreeing with you were "hysterics and wowsers" - a point of view that Paul Walter has frothingly pursued.

Once someone has such a mindset, rational discourse is unlikely.

An interesting read

This thread, that is.

I notice Tony Phillips comment:  " a pre-naughty"  (er, is this a coy term for pre-sex?) "photograph, as suggested by the subject's knees, which are provocatively, one might say invitingly, placed wide apart in an invitation."

In that most men here seem to say that they were not provoked, and would have rejected the invitation, one can only feel that the photographer, Henson, failed.

Protocols of depiction, Moorhouse weighs in

The Australia Council has called for submissions for the creation of protocols on how children are "depicted" in art funded by them.

Note, "depiction in", not "treatment in the making of", art. There are Stalinist overtones here, as in: out with the formalism, in the with the... what?, national socialist conservative realism? The AC want to design rules for what can and cannot be in the actual artistic product. In a beautiful twist that Orwell could have written they finish their invitation for submissions by stating this all about promoting freedom of the arts. And war is peace. Did someone just spot Cheney flying into Canberra? If this is some politician's idea of dealing with the debate by putting it to bed in a committee they really have no idea, it will only inflame it. it will make an episode of the Hollowmen for sure.

Writer Frank Moorhouse had some angry comments to make about this. You can find them in an edited podcast version of his speech to the National Young Writers' Council. It's quite short and worth a listen.

When I see such a commissarian approach I think again its shame we have such little liberalism in our major political parties. You have a Labor party that is often weak on human rights and is getting weaker all the time on equality because of its seduction by neo-liberal economics, and a Party of the Vested Interest that stands against human rights and pinched the label Liberal for itself. Vale again the Australian Democrats I suppose.

Phillip's head.

Tried to explain this to them yesterday,Tony,  but like everything else it just washed over them.

I conceded I understood their concerns about child safety; did they understand the concerns of those of us concerned for civil liberties in a country that seems inching towards authoritianism.

Nope. Not even the ghost of an acknowledgement.

Like you, I don't want to bequeath to a new generation the burden of Savanarolian superstition, authoritarianism and flat-earth ignorance of the creationist/ Sarah Palin sort, and remain resolute against the hung-up "censor at any cost" gang.

Gay activist worried pop music a bad influence on lesbians

Now this is really weird.

"Fake" bi-sexuality, or "fake" lesbianism is a threat to the well-being of "real" lesbians, whose sexual identity is based on their "genetic" instinct according to Tim Duggan, the co-founder of the gay and lesbian website www.SameSame.com.au

"What does this say to girls struggling with their own sexuality? When Perry steps out with her boyfriend, or Origliasso settles down with a guy, or Lohan courts the next headline with a bloke, the mixed messages are extremely confusing."

It's gone backwards since the '60s, big time, hasn't it?

Sad but true

Eliot: "Its gone backwards since the sixties..."

Problem is, "it" never really left them.

The sort of sophisticated manipulation of kids by media mentioned above receives surprisingly little comment, despite (ignored) mention of said issue by some better-educated posters to this thread  earlier, against the relatively miniscule probem of a tame photo. Is that because some don't understand what's being said; eg, what's at stake?

Perhaps exploitation is ok after all, only provided it's window-dressed to some arbitrary even false notion of aesthetically "noice"?

A case in point....

 Kathy Farrelly: "It is what the picture is signifying. The girls body and soul laid bare for all the world to see. A part of her innocence  ravaged by a probing camera."

How is the girl's "innocence ravaged"?

How is her soul "laid bare"?

While using very evocative language, what is the substantive content of such statements?

According to what criteria can we characterise the model's "innocence". How would you, in ways which her parents or the model herself cannot state more authoritatively, demonstrate her "innocence", anyway?

How do you "ravage" a moral abstraction like "innocence"?

How do you lay bare a "soul"? And whose "soul" is it anyway?

If it's the girl's, why would you presume to dictate the way she dispenses her own 'soul'? On what possible authority would you presume to usurp her parents or her self in that respect?

And what does the picture 'signify" in any objective, unequivocal sense?

Why is your personal interpretation of its "significance" privileged over that of the model, her parents and the artist?

The language used to justify the fear-filled reactions to Henson's art are, in the most literal sense, 'non-sensical'.

They are purely visceral, emotional, almost hysterical reactions couched in evocative, febrile language that conceals information rather than reveals it.

It's language that doesn't actually convey 'sense' in the way that a statement about objective states conveys 'sense'.

It's not like saying 'Smoking 20 cigarettes a day is statistically more likely to result in your getting cancer or heart disease'.

It's more like saying: "I just don't like it, therefore it shouldn't be allowed and so frolick off."

Does that sound familiar?

Hanson, instead of Henson.

please, the issue!

Whilst on the subject, an actual contribution rather than lies and insults.

This writer commends Melbourne Uni Philosophy faculty lecturer, Dr Lesley Cannold's article, 7/10, in the "Age" ;" Look after our children without hysteria".

The whole article, that is.  Here's an excerpt:

" Yesterday was a big day for my child- the start of term he has attended since kinder and the first day of work for the new principal...he had to fight his way through a media scrum.

Yes, he attends that school...both my kids."

Cannold continues:

"So as the moral panic cranks into gear, I want to set the record straight. I am not 'revolted and horrified' (PM), 'outraged' (Turnbull)...betrayed (Heffernan). that the former principal of my child's school escorted a godparent of a student of the school- internationally renown artist Bill Henson- through the playground so he could see whether any of the children might be appropriate models.

Cannold is not:

"...Horrified, outraged, revolted... that after Henson identified one boy and one girl the principal- not Henson- contacted the chldrens parents, gave them the artists number, then bowed out leaving the decison to contact Henson to the parents...".

I await comment.

I should have gone to a respected newspaper in the first place, rather than think I'd get the truth from malicious hysterics at this site.


Ian M (Ed): Paul, a link to the commended article would help a leavening of the malicious and hysterical readers at this disrespected site on their way to enlightenment via reading it.

what is wrong with content in preference to adhominem

Ian, I presume it was you who also edited out a previous post of mine. What about just moderating, instead of taking sides?

Am sure it they want to read Cannold, have given them ample directions.

Will they fail to work out I am talking about the Age, which day etc,  thru incompetence or arrogance-hard to tell. If either, God help them!

Appreciated your take on the Cannold article; btw, if only the bits I included!!!


Paul, and for the benefit of latecomers who have just tuned in, I said  "a link to the commended article would help a leavening of the malicious and hysterical readers at this disrespected site on their way to enlightenment via reading it."

It is customary on this site, so to do, in order to save the reader time, which the writer should assume is just as valuable as his/her own. Including such writers as your worthy self.

Note that this is a case for method, not for a side.

Methinks Eliot makes a little sense

"Basically, it's a reliigious rather than scientific standpoint.

So, you cannot win."

That's what I was thinking Eliot.

Objective, abstract effects

Justin Obodie: "Can anybody name one, just one, participant of Bill Henson's work who claims to be disadvantaged, in anyway whatsoever, by the experience?"

The standard dodge in response to such requests for evidence is to shift the focus from specific empirical claims to generalities about the "moral" or "cultural climate".

It's not this or that person who is harmed, nor this or that outcome which can be demonstrated. It's "the general climate of our culture/civilisation/morality that is being eroded by such filth".

The rude pictures create an "environment" in which children are 'sexualised" and women are "objectified" (whatever those things mean).

As a result, children/women are 'deabased/degraded/oppressed' not in specific terms you can point to, but abstractly as a "class/group/social group".

In other words, any attempt at quantifying specific outcomes deriving from the "filthy pictures" will entails a retreat into abstractions.

The model for that sort of rhetorical ruse is the marxisant "methodology" that characterises "exploitation" and "oppression" not in terms of individuals and what actually happens to them, but "objectively" in "class" and "world historical" term'.

Basically, it's a reliigious rather than scientific standpoint.

So, you cannot win.

Show me the evidence

Can anybody name one, just one, participant of Bill Henson's work who claims to be disadvantaged, in anyway whatsoever, by the experience?

Jenny, I have stated on a number of occassions I would not have allowed my daughter to pose naked as a child.

If others wish to do so then that is there business.

Now can anybody supply me with empirical evidence in relation to the above question?

Empirically speaking

I would never allow my kids to run around all day in the sun, especially in summer. Other parents did and still do, that is their decision, although I think they are galoots and for very good reasons.

Those parents who allow their kids to hang out unprotected in the sun are potentially sentencing their kids to death. I know a number of people, some very young who have died from skin cancer. One just last month, only 32 years old, two kids and a husband. Excessive sun exposure was the probable cause of a particualry aggressive  melonoma. Devastating stuff and totally preventable.

Those parents who allow their kids to be photographed naked are potentially sentencing their kids to what?

Death? No.

Emotional trauma? Maybe, but only that caused by those who want to make a big deal out of it.

I suppose the test would be: of all those kids photographed by Bill Henson how many kids or parents have experienced any sort of trauma - other than that created by the do gooders.

Can anybody name one, just one, participant of Bill Henson's work who claims to be disadvantaged, in anyway whatsoever, by the experience?

If not then this is all a thing of the mind and reality does not reflect the do gooders concerns.

More nasty stuff - be warned

You know if we were all albatrosses we wouldn't be having this discusion.

But I must admit this image did disturb me somewhat.

PS. Editor - for some reason my link tool don't work. Had to do the HTML thingy. Hope it works.


A thought.  It just occured to me that I and several others have said that we find nothing erotic in the photos.

Well, even if we had found something erotic in them, would it have mattered, if no one else was involved?


 Who is that  little micro-manager I see over there, with the pair of asbestos mittens and a mad glint in their eye.

the missing link

Justin, perhaps you grabbed the wrong tool.  The thread issue here involves whether others did or have done the same thing.

Like the photographer or vendor, or others later.

I suspect not,others think not.

As to your photo, a golfer would have been proud of it.

The camera Never lies,you fool yourself.

This discussion seems to have rounded on the LAWSON-MENZIES Internet catalog entry, a photograph by Bill Henson, of a recumbent girl; as a cautionary exemplar  of the Interrnet as disseminator of filth, and therefore, of Bill Henson as predatory photographer.

 Some thousands of words later, I see here  no arrival at some consensus. I find this disturbing.

I have looked long and fearfully at the thumbnail image taken from the auction House catalog; have read the various interpretations and pronouncements above, but find myself at a loss to "explain" this image.

Please have another look at it . If I adopt for a moment a male gaze, the girl is/hasbeen clearly  available in every sense of the moment, and the camera has merely documented the tryst. The girl is "on display" as would a butterfly  be shown pinned to the lepidopterists table.

If this is what Bill Henson allowed by it's display and sale, then he deserves all of the opprobrium that is his due.

There is another photograph, also by Bill Henson; of the same model, and "taken" at the  same time. You will not find it on the Internet, so I cannot provide a link.

You may discover it for yourself if you once more open the offending image, expand it to fill the screen, and then rotate clockwise ninety degrees.

It remains a thin, under-exposed and poorly manipulated print that should not have left the darkroom: but there it is ....


I see it.

You have a very keen eye Susan.  Couldn't have put it better myself.

Susan and Kathy (sigh)

Susan and Kathy, back to my point about women ( who have never been men,  btw! ) making unwarranted asumptions, claiming to know what turns men on.

Once more, from mine and several other male points of view expressed over several thousands of words, the Hensons photos are not pornographic, although bold; have little or no erotic value. Will return you both, along with Malcom B Ducan, back to the comment of Mark Bahnisch elsewhere, that the case concerning these photos has been already before a court of law, no sexual conduct was involved, as against real pornography (which also involves a reifying corruption of the gaze) and there was no offence (apart from against the tastes of certain prudes ) committed.

That leaves the photos most likely as exercises or pictorial essays involving philosophy, aesthetics, art and politics discourse, most likely concerning what can/ could or should be explored, or not , as to human discourse and possible reasons why that is the case.

Scott: One small edit, hope I got it right.

The women here have valid concerns.

Anthony: "These claims that Henson's obviously eroticised photographs of children are not eroticised beggar belief.  I have not witnessed such blatant disengenuousness since my property settlement." I agree with Anthony, here

 Paul: ."Once more, from mine and several other male points of view expressed over several thousands of words, the Hensons photos are not pornographic, although bold; have little or no erotic value"

Just because an opinion is expressed over  several thousands of words doesn't make it any more valid , Paul. Please do not give the impression that the males here  all agree with you Paul. Anthony does not, nor do Alan and Ian. 

Please also do not disparage the views of the women here.

We have valid concerns. We have daughters of our own.

 We would not want them to be photographed in such an indecent manner.

Btw , I am also curious to know if you had a daughter, would you let here pose like the girl in Henson's picture? Would you then be happy to display such a picture on your loungeroom wall for all to see.

I have just noticed your comment Richard. This photograph is more explicit than the others that were viewed last time. Different circumstances.

I just have to ask the question.: What was going through Henson's mind when he asked the girl to pose with her legs spread apart. What possible reason could there be for such a pose.? If it was an adult female with her legs spread apart wouldn't people say that it was a sexual pose? 


No way

Kathy Farrelly, Last night at a get-together of friends I showed the picture to 7 couples and posed the the following 2 questions.

1. Would you like your 14 yr old daughter to be photographed like that, and would you like it posted on the internet or the school magazine. Everyone said No.
2. Do you consider it art, in the broadest sense.
12 people said No it was not art, 2 said Maybe, and that it would probably be considered art in some circles.

I now pose my own question, would this pic be allowed on the front page of a national newspaper or the ABC 7 o'çlock news, if not, why not.

As for the question, has Malcolm T. invested in a dud art, we all agreed that he had probably made a good investment as there is always someone out there willing to pay good money for anything. After all Australia bought Blue Poles, and I could have painted that with a rollerbrush and done it for half the price.

A bucket with one hole or two, Alan?

 Art or gimmicky ruses by galleryboard darlings.

Blue Polls , at least it had colour.

Hey Alan, been to the National Gallery lately? Have a look at the big white painted white canvas on the white wall.

Wonder what that whitewash cost, eh? 

At least blue polls had colour even if it was done by a bucket. With a hole. Or two.

[Richard:... dear Liza..]

Of course for those who like a bit of old fashion talent and skill there is the MONET exhibition right now. 

Then again, I have a few resident artists so there is not much wall space at our place other than the old paintings from the old house. Mum got 10,000 plus  for one at Sotherbys a while ago. Her grandma painted it.With colours.Apparently it too is at the National Gallery. Didnt see it up.

Some have real talent and some havent, but use clever ruses and have contacts. Not hard to pick the difference.


An easier way Alan

Alan, forget Blue Poles, did you not see Black line on White Canvas in the foyer of the National Gallery? All you need is a large white canvas, a ruler and a black texta pen. How they waste our money!

The response of your friends I think was probabaly predictable. I suspect if you stood on the street and asked a hundred couples you would get the same answers. But your exercise proves the point enough for me.



Jenny, no I did not see Black line on White canvas, but I have just realised that I have fridge door full of my grand-daughters paintings for sale.

I am off to Canberra next week, I am sure there is some idiot from the National Gallery who will buy them.

What I have lost on the Market I can get back from the government.

I will give Edmond Capon a ring in the morning too.

Richard:  Are you planting a veggie garden, Alan?

Kathy, you are wasting your time

Kathy, I note you also asked Paul Walter, " I am also curious to know if you had a daughter, would you let here pose like the girl in Henson's picture? Would you then be happy to display such a picture on your loungeroom wall for all to see."

Well you are wasting your time. He won't answer which I find totally disengenuous.

If you support this sort of use of someone else's under age daughter in the name of art, then you should also be prepared to say that you would allow your own to be used in such a way, and have the photo put on public display.

Interesting the avoidance is it not? Says it all really. Easier to trade insults I suppose.

The comforting thing is that the views of the men here in support of Henson is a minority view. We can be pretty certain of that.

For once I agree with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard et al. They at least can see the real issues, as can Anthony and Malcolm and Ian and of course all the women on this thread.  There are none so blind as they say....good try to shine some light for them though on your part my dear.

Maybe its a male defensiveness thing. If it had been a woman taking the photos they might have felt a little less restrained. They may feel they need to defend the male sex, in fact that does tend to emerge if you read between the lines of a lot of the Henson supporting comments.   

Arrogance to be avoided

Will not be answering your so called question a) because it's irrelevant !

b) Because you and Kathy, exclusively never , respond meaningfully to points I try to raise in my posts, so it's only right that I respond in kind to your emotive claptrap, as I've indicated over a number of perplexed posts over today (Alan's replies cannot be dignified as such).

If I could not have a daughter who avoided both, I would rather have a daughter who thought for herself and was thoughtful, no matter how nude she was, than someone weighed down with prejudice, ignorance and arrogance.

HL Mecken on Puritanism:

"The haunting fear that someone, some where, may be happy."


HL Mecken on Puritanism:

"The haunting fear that someone, some where, may be happy."

Yes Paul Walter. Quite.

Actually, it was HL Mencken who is credited with having said that. So when Kathy says "I think your H.L. Merkin (Ha!)  quote may be out of place here," we can ask  'Merkin? What's he doing here?'

And how out of place depends on where 'here' actually is. The thought comes to me at times that it is The Goon Show, as scripted by Spike Milligan.

The only Merkin I have ever heard of was the subject of a limerick involving a gherkin. The word jerkin also figured, which I took to mean a close-fitting mens' jacket. Also a person called Ferquin, who according to Merkin's father, had an ultimate and rightful claim on the gherkin.

Now where was I? Oh yes.

The Puritans became a post-Elizabethan force powerful enough to overthrow the old order of England, behead her rightful King Charles the First, and go on to close down the theatres, reduce all cathedrals and churches of as much internal decor as possible, and impose as far as they could a stultifying conformity in both thought and dress on the country at large. If you like, it was an early reharsal for an ongoing epic which in time became bigger than Ben Hur: as big in fact as Mao's 'great cultural revolution' in China.

The literature, theatre, folk-song and town life of Britain before Cromwell and the Puritans put it through their wringer (well, at least to the extent they could) had considerable bawdiness. Likewise continental literature. But what intervened after Columbus' voyage of 1492 was the rise in Europe of syphilis, to add to the gonorrhea which had been established since biblical times. This gave considerable force to the argument of the Puritans that catching it was God's punishment for sin. It put a distinct dampener on Merrie England.

The sarcasm of Mencken is enjoyable, at least in small doses. But that quote, like most one-liners,  has to leave out a lot.

People the world over, I think, have a natural disposition to seek happiness; and both for themselves and others. It is hard to be happy in a sea of misery.

Pot meet kettle.

Paul:  I have a daughter who thinks for herself. In fact she is a rather headstrong girl. She, like Richard's daughter said she  would never have her picture taken like" that girl". (this was when I showed her the first pic  last time around) In fact she even said none of her friends would either. With the exception of one poor  girl, who comes from a troubled home, and is always seeking attention.

It really is just not something most young girls would want to do. I won't even bother to show her this recent more explicit pic.

 Somethings are to be  cherished and should remain private.

Getting back to your previous point Paul : " What is so particularly horrifying, in itself, about the sight of genitalia, male, female or otherwise, anyway?"

 The answer of course is nothing. Who said that there was?

That  wowser inference just doesn't wash Paul.

It is what the picture is signifying. The girls body and soul laid bare for all the world to see. A part of her innocence  ravaged by a probing camera. Disturbing to say the least.

 Then there is this, from you:" Because you and Kathy, exclusively never , respond meaningfully to points I try to raise in my posts, so it's only right that I respond in kind to your emotive claptrap, as I've indicated over a number of perplexed posts over today (Alan's replies cannot be dignified as such)."

 How is what I am saying "emotive  claptrap?" To what points are you refering, when you say that I have not responded meaningfully? Why is the  question of whether you would let your  own daughter,(if you had one)  pose like  that girl irrelevant?

 Why do you dismiss outright the views of so many people who say these pictures are shocking and disturbing? Alan has provided us with the views of a group of people who mostly think that the picture is not art.  They would not allow their own daughters' to pose in such a way. Why are their views not valid? I bet Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard haven't seen this particularly intrusive pic, yet.

Susan Denholm is right when she says:  "the girl is/hasbeen clearly  available in every sense of the moment, and the camera has merely documented the tryst.  The girl is "on display" as would a butterfly  be shown pinned to the lepidopterists table."

Prejudice, ignorance and arrogance?

Hmmm.. Pot, meet kettle!

Oh, and one last thing Paul.

Not wanting your daughter's private parts laid bare for all to see, has nothing to do with puritanism, more do do with privacy,  decency and decorum.

I think your H.L. Merkin (Ha!)  quote may be out of place here.


Kathy, you waffle on about Susan Denholm's nonsense ("...the girl is on display" etc)  after blatantly denying you whinge about the sight of genitalia  a couple of  paragraphs previous; surely an utterly disingenuous answer to my previous point.

How can you be so dishonest?

Particularly, when we are then assailed with the treacly Pollyanna-ish wet kleenex about "privacy, decency decorum", etc.

How can I be so dishonest? Shock ,horror.

"after blatantly denying you whinge about the sight of genitalia  a couple of  paragraphs previous."

I said no such thing Paul. Please do not twist my words . In answer to your question: What is so particularly horrifying, in itself, about the sight of genitalia, male, female or otherwise, anyway?"

 I replied: The answer of course is nothing. Who said that there was?

You may accuse me of whatever you wish, (if it makes you happy) however that was my honest answer.

 A man or woman walking nude along a beach would not be offensive to me.Specifically, because there are no  sexual overtones.

The  under-age girl in the picture has adopted an erotic pose.Henson himself has never denied the erotic overtones of many of his pictures(we have been through all this before when Angela quoted an interviewer posing the question of erotic overtones to Henson)

If you wish to ignore  and denigrate the opinions of the many others who disagree with you  then that is your prerogative.

 In my opinion the girl is violated by the camera. Why is Susan's opinion nonsense?  Because you don't agree with her? She has as much right to an opinion as you do to yours.

"Prejudice , arrogance, ignorance, dishonesty, disengenuous, waffle, emotive claptrap, Palinesque mind." Anything else you'd like to add, Paul?

Whatever floats your boat.

what reason could there not be ...

I acknowledged the concerns I beleive trouble you,  Kathy Farrelly, earlier today.

That is far, far more generous than anything  you have attempted as to those I expressed and others also of an opposite viewpoint.

And how do we decide who is more "valid", btw?

Go back and read you own last para from your last post. Am sure you will finally recognise the point someof us have been trying to make.

Eg, "If it was an adult female (why not say woman!!) with her legs...apart, wouldn't people say that it was a sexual pose?

 What is so particularly horrifying, in itself, about the sight of genitalia, male, female or otherwise, anyway?

But I will acknowledge where this is due. Unlike another post arriving here just a short while ago, at least you attempted to discuss the thread rather than vilify debaters. What a difference to discuss these issues with an adult rather than a tantrum throwing child .


You are a  true son of Caledon, Scott!

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men...

Paul Walter: "Ok,ok, I understand that most  anti Hensonites are motivated by concern at the protection and exploitation of children."

Well, we have to accept that at face value.

I suspect that more fundamentally there may be other levels and other types of anxiety at work. Certainly, there's a lot of emotion there that can be tapped for good or ill.

Certainly certain people opposed to Henson will make a big show and kerfuffle about their good intentions, though of course they would dismiss out of hand any suggestion by Henson that he, too, was well motivated.

And are good intentions enough either way. Lynch mobs will doubtless always insist they have the greater good in mind when they're throwing the noose over the tree branch.

Back to Salem, eh, Eliot?

And wouldn't you expect to see Jenny Hume there, leading the posse, given her latest tranch of comments.

I have absolutely no reason whatsover to entrust my fate to certain people, given the deficient ethical quality of their responses to points we attempt to make.  We'd be misrepresented all the way to the gas chamber.

And yes, am certain there are "control" issues involved, arising from  fear ignorance and  lack of self reflexivity.

What a terrible problem you have Paul

What a terrible problem you have Paul. It is you that seems to have control issue, you simply cannot let go here. You really should do a bit of self reflection.

Still avoided the question put I notice. So an assumed yes from you stands unchallenged. Funny how you avoid answering yourself.

You are so predictable Paul. Sneering comments with absolutely no substance, of which your latest to me is a prime example. One wonders what point you are making here that might require one to give an ethical response. 

Now you can come back and sneer some more, but what was that you said about wasting time when there are more important issues to attend to? In regard to responding to the above sort of nonsense from you, that makes a lot of sense, so good-bye. Have the last word if you want, it seems that is a need of yours. But it is not of mine. The floor is yours Paul but try not to slip and break a leg.


Sandals and the sexualisation of children

Okay, check out this website.

It's not about the footware, okay?

It's about the boys. And the footware. Apparently this is a big turn-on in certain quarters.

Personally, I don't understand it. But then, I cannot figure out the big deal with Jennifer Aniston, either.

So, what now? We ban pictures of boys in sandals? Or do we just ban sandals?

If sandals can be libidinised not merely for the isolated individual here and there, but to the extent that a sexual subculture starts up around pictures of boys in sandals, where do we draw the line?

The nuances of human sexuality are so mercurial, so subtle, so endlessly shifting, nobody could say with authority and conviction that this or that is not sexualised or sexualising.

So, the uptight mum who gets frantic about Bill Henson sends her kids out to play in the park, under supervision. And to be sure they're comfortable, she dresses them in shorts and, yup, sandals.

She sexualises her children for someone unwittingly.

Next thing, little Johnny is on a Chinese-hosted pedophile site for sandal fetishists.

So, we put them in boots instead? Maybe not.

How about no shoes at all? Naaahhhhhh....

I mean, where does it end?

And what would happen if Henson did this ?

Suppose Henson moves off-shore to work his art. where the age of consent is lower- Albania, Croatia, Italy , Spain (or even some US states) where he would have no problem using models of the age concerned.

Of course he could find older models, who look younger ( would his art be "honest" then?) just to confuse. However in some of these countries it's illegal to use people under 18 for porno films and such, although in some it's not but producers use over 18s as they usually want to flog their stuff elsewhere.

It is a can of worms. What are people exactly proposing should be done ?. Is it the school visit or the works themselves ?. And has Malcolm T. invested in a dud art ?.

A respectful suggestion for Bill Henson

My father who was a keen amateur photographer told me once of a photography competition he had either read about or been in himself where the first prize was taken out in the black and white section by a photograph of an unusual subject: a glass of milk on a pure white tablecloth.

It was a minimum contrast still life.

Having seen the Bill Henson photo of a pubescent full-frontal nude girl linked to by Kathy, I think that Henson is a very skilful photographer. I think that therefore he is perhaps up to the most formidable challenge of all. That is, to take a series of full-frontal nude photos of himself, in a range of poses from the coy to the provocative, to publish them on the Internet and in photography journals, and put them on public display in the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington, Sydney.

I am sure it would get rave notices in the press and that Henson would be able to name his price for every print, and get it.

In short, I think it would do wonders for his reputation.

Malcolm B has it right. Hooray.

Tony there is the matter of interpretation of Henson's photographs and then there is the law.  The two converge.  I wouldn't mind what sort of images he produced so long they did not use minors to produce them.  I would defend what others might deem obscene in art, theatre, literature and so on so long as the production of those "art acts" did not involve the violation of the rights of any parties involved. 

Malcolm B is precisely right when he raises the matter of bench marks and cut off points.  They are not arbitrary and they are real social facts.  Henson is outside the law in using minors as the subjects of his photographs.

Aesthetically I think them at the least offensive and (note this) pornographically suggestive.  The categories of pornography and art are not of course mutually exclusive -  16 century Japanese wood block prints of intercourse are, in my view anyway, pornographic and fiercely beautiful. 

In the end he could do what he wants - just not with minors.  That is the cut off point.  He is outside the law. 

I'm delighted that Hetty (and others she organised) called the coppers because Henson has been made aware over a long time that he was sailing close to the wind but he arrogantly ignored his critics.  I do not see her or her ilk as dangerous attackers of civil liberties or artistic freedom because had Henson not violated the criminal law they would never have had the grounds to act.  Absent the violation of the law (subject to interpretation by the DPP who found no breach but at least it has been tested) then those who object to representations of minor's sexuality using people of legal age to give informed consent would have to write criticism.  Or demonstrate or something.  But they would have no grounds to call the coppers.

Simple as that really.

Thank you, Anthony Nolan

This topic has aroused high tempers but, thanks I suspect to the intervention of the moderators, the debate has actually been rational if impassioned from time to time on both sides.

Unfortunately, I have spent the last few days with Margo, Fiona Martin, the students and Typhoid Fiona so I have rarely been completely sober (not that I resent spending time with any of them - it is just that SWMBO thinks I have spent far too much time asleeep in Woolloomolloo gutters rather than at home).  

Still trying to sleep the whole thing off.

In looking at the posts that have flooded in in the past few days, I think, whatever one's point of view, this is Webdiary at its interactional best.   I don't agree with some of you but, like Voltaire ... 

Well done kiddies.


What's the difference between an "authentic hard on" and a garden variety hard on?

Kathy's pic didn't give me an authentic one or even a garden variety one but if I had looked at same when I was 14 years old things would have been very different.

But that doesn't say much for at 14 years old me and me wee mate would stand at attention while singing God Save the Queen during school assembly. Never made sense to me but what can you do.

Time to meet the third policeman.

These claims that Henson's obviously eroticised photographs of children are not eroticised beggar belief.  I have not witnessed such blatant disengenuousness since my property settlement.

Had I the opportunity I'd give all of the Snow Whites here the opportunity to talk, privately, with a mate of mine, a copper - Det Sen Con MacCruisken - who works in sex crimes.  Mac is of immense girth and has the florid face a boozer and the gimlet eyes of one whose seen it all.  Her subordinate officers would scare a brown dog.

And I'd like to watch youse all tell her that you don't think those photographs and indeed that particular photgraph  eroticised.  In a pair of porcine buttocks she would tell you.

Oh the flighty innocence of the Web Diarists.  The pure unsullied aesthetic appreciation of a naked nymph on her back.

Youse'd make bloody Humbert Humbert blush.


A topical comparison can be

A topical comparison can be found at Reflections on the Bill Henson witch-hunt

No criticism of Baz Luhrmann intended.

Kevin Rennie 


Henson has many defenders.  

When Germaine Greer published her book on beautiful boys, The Observer critic wrote that she "appears to have turned herself into a middle-aged pederast".

No one seemed to mind. 

F Kendall

F Kendall, How succint.

One does not necessarily have to be nude

Kathy Farrelly: "Tony one does not  necessarily have to be nude to be photographed in an erotic way."

I too find that pictures of clothed models tends to sexualise the models in the way you describe.

Maybe all pictures should be banned?

Nothing new here

We must also remember that the Henson "controversey" is nothing new. We've had many times through history where a moral censorship has kicked in-the Victorian era being one. And it affects not just art but many aspects of society.

The usual story told about Oscar Wilde is one of revenge by a nutty father but it was a deliberate act by the establishment to ensnare a big fish and Wilde was the example. Bosie's father just happened to come along at the right time and helped usher in a long period of gay bashing that was being driven by a Manchester newspaper baron who had discovered the joys of sensational sex  tales to delight his readers.

And the great artists of the time who were commissioned by the Catholic Church were often at loggerheads about nudity with the artists usually winning and those works survive today and I've witnessed dozens in museums around the world that are as "provactive", if not more so than the Henson pic linked to.

And although these may be paintings, not photos, it must be remembered that the laws that govern porn include artistic depictions of children.

If Julia Gillard claimed Henson was "trawling" schoolyards she was obviously factually wrong and using inflamatory language. Kevin Rudd has a right to be disgusted by anything on this planet but his words were unwise in that the pcitures are of young people. He should have been more prudent in his language.

This latest drama can be easily solved by enacting  a stringent code by which outsiders can access the schoolyard and that would have to include everyone from film-makers, artists , photographers and sporting talent scouts (and those who would profit from kid's weakness for trashy food like McDonalds).

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