The Bill Henson ‘kiddy porn’ fiasco

By skepticlawyer

I don’t have time to write a proper post on this, but I will make two points that seem to have been missed in all the brouhaha. This has turned into a proper post by default, partly through offline questions and partly through reading other blogs around the traps.

First, it is not possible for a child (<18) to consent in the circumstances under which the photographs were taken. The creation of child pornography (or even fairly innocent nudie pics of young girls – Henson’s problem is the public display of same) is treated in much the same way as rape. No doubt there are plenty of 15 year old girls who ‘consent’ to sex with men who are well over the age of consent, but it is still technically rape, because they are deemed incapable of consenting. Most US jurisdictions use the phrase ‘statutory rape’, which does make things clearer, at least for non-lawyers. The law draws a bright line in part because drawing a wriggly one leads to extraordinary confusion. Unfortunately, ‘bright-line’ rules occasionally lead to absurdities, and this is clearly one. Parents, also, cannot consent on their child’s behalf. This is why courts can override Jehovah’s Witness parents who refuse blood transfusions for their children, but cannot do the same to the parents themselves.

Second, I know Hetty Johnson personally – she’s also from Logan City originally – and she served the city with considerable distinction, first as local councillor (Democrats, then independent) and then as a child protection advocate. I find it difficult to imagine her going off half-cocked. Maybe she has changed since I knew her, or allowed herself to be embroiled in a moral panic of sorts. People involved in child protection – in part because child sexual abuse really is distressingly common, especially in step-family arrangements – do get very wound up about what they do, and anything that appears to legitimize it. The situation is awkward, especially as Henson’s photographs depend on the viewer’s gaze, rather than anything intrinsic. A paedophile, unfortunately, will get off on them. That said, a paedophile will also get off on the Bonds underwear catalogue.

In the meantime, there are two excellent threads on this issue (including some of the images) at Larvatus Prodeo and Junk for Code.

UPDATE: I’ve brought this up from the comments, mainly because it provides links to the relevant statutory requirements:

Part of the issue is that Hetty Johnson has taken it up; it’s clear from a google image search that Henson’s exhibited squillions of times before and nothing has happened. That is the moral panic part of the equation, into which Johnson appears to have allowed herself to become embroiled.

Prima facie, however, photographing naked children (especially those where the sex act is in process) under the age of 18 (or 16 in some jurisdictions) is not something to which the children (or their parents on their behalf) can consent. That is why pr*n sites in jurisdictions where pr*n is legal always go over the top about advertising that everyone on the site is over 18.

In response to tigtog’s question, playing volleyball with all your bits flying about is not obviously sexual, although I do suspect in the current circumstances a display in an art gallery or an advertising catalogue (’come and live in xyz nudist colony’) would generate moral panic. Not moral panic on this scale, perhaps, but moral panic nonetheless. If it went to trial, the lack of sexual charge would probably be decisive, but I’m not making any promises.

The problem for Henson is that he’s clearly – as an artist – playing on the boundary between art and pr*n. I suspect (without trying to read his motives here, I’m not an art critic) that he wants to challenge our depiction of children as asexual beings.

Another problem – and this is bitter experience speaking here – is his images are very similar to some of the artier pr*n pics out there, and his subjects are underaged.

This is the relevant section of the legislation. It’s worth noting that earlier legislation allowed for the admission of expert opinion on artistic merit [s 578C(6)], but also focused on the ‘publishing’ aspect in ways that newer obscenity legislation does not (the old phrase was ‘tends to deprave or corrupt’; the newer enactments are oriented differently). I suspect that David Marr and others who have been discussing this have the old s 578C in mind, not the new s 91H, which is designed to catch many more fish in its net.

It’s characteristic of much recent criminal legislation that it is drafted to resemble a strict liability regime in ways unimaginable to drafters in days gone by. Modern legislation is interpreted ‘purposively’, which means where the statute does not provide a convenient definition, it is useful to look at preambles and parliamentary debates/final reading speeches.

One such speech on the section in question is here.

UPDATE II: Well, I’ve now had a slew of emails asking me what I think, the law apart. Well, get ready for the libertarian with both barrels. Basically, I think that porn created with the consent of the parties involved (ie, delimited by contract) should be legal. If people get their jollies looking at porn, then so be it. Prohibition of victimless crimes has never worked, and viewing/making pornography is much like drug use. Illegality actually creates a mass of negative externalities that we (ie the taxpayer) finish up coughing for.

Aesthetically, it is not possible to have art (or advertising, or whatever) entirely defined in the eye of the beholder. If people are getting their jollies looking at the Bond’s underwear catalogue, that is not an argument for banning the Bond’s underwear catalogue.

Where does this leave Henson? This lawyer still thinks he’s a bloody idiot for taking nudie pics of underage kids. Even though they’re nice nudie pics of underage kids. The fact that he’s taken a lot of his photographs in various Eastern European countries (notably Romania) where consent is, ahem, more easily facilitated suggests that he might be aware of the issues, too. Word: next time, Bill, find an 18 year old who looks 13, and this whole issue will go away. Should he be prosecuted? No, of course not. In days gone by, this was called wasting the court’s time, and would have been greeted with guffaws. However, s 91H is so broadly drafted – largely in response to moral panics about child porn, advertising and ‘child sexualisation’ – that God knows what the outcome is likely to be.

That said, I do prefer the lawyer’s bright line with respect to consent, so if people want to look at kiddy porn, they’re going to have to settle for 18 year olds who look pre-pubescent, or CGI.

UPDATE III: Kim has written the mother-of-all exercises in nuance here.

UPDATE IV: More useful legal opinion on the consent issue here, from Justice Hampel, formerly of the Victorian Supreme Court (via Saint).

UPDATE V: The UK is looking to close the CGI loophole that allows for digitally created images of minors; this is very bad law indeed (via DEM).

UPDATE VI: I wrote this comment over at LP, in response to Brian‘s excellent post. It should probably go here, as well.

Interesting where this has gone. I should point out that when I supported tigtog’s ‘release and waiver’ suggestion, which is – as Dr S suggests above – almost identical to the regime for scientific studies – I was doing so in part because tigtog was honestly addressing the legal complexities. Parliaments make the laws, yadda yadda, but we lawyers (and the police, in the case of the criminal law) have to apply them to the facts. Law can be a scalpel, but even as a scalpel it’s an imprecise tool.

This means that it is very easy to drag law’s failures, blinking and squinting, into the sunlight. The ’special case’ is always easy to find (and it very often tugs at our heart) but perfect justice is impossible. As Richard Epstein has argued, we have to accept that ‘95% is good enough’. I still maintain (and I’ve said this at greater length at our place) that Henson was a fool to use minors in this way. He’s put himself in the law’s way, which is a little bit like tangling with a semi-trailer. You just don’t do it if you can help it. Does that make this fiasco part of Richard Epstein’s 5%? Quite possibly. Does that mean we should change the law? Maybe. Does this make Henson a pornographer? Of course not. Is he vulnerable to civil suit, as Steve suggests? Most definitely, and at greater risk of loss than he would be in a criminal prosecution, if Justice Hampel (formerly Vic SC) is to be believed.

Hard cases make bad law, simply because there is no right answer. Generous souls on both sides (and I particularly note PC’s comment about 7 Up above and Su’s contributions on one of the other theads) that there is something in the other side’s arguments.

One thing – independent of the law – is the media involvement in this. I’ve been arguing for years that pre-trial media speculation in cases like this (before someone has been charged, which is the point where they have to back off under the current regime) should be regulated far more heavily than it is (yes, you read that right, I’m actually advocating greater oversight of a bunch of corporations). Henson is now at risk of not getting a fair trial, simply because of the amount of piffle generated in the press on all sides.

UPDATE VII: There is an excellent post on exactly how these laws work in practice (using an earlier case) available at Marcellous’ place, one of our commenter’s blogs. Before you read it and assume that Marcellous is doing the lawyer’s trick and defending the indefensible, remember that the party in question has (a) served his time and (b) has been pinged for republishing police fact sheets and witness statements, none of which he generated himself. There’s is also a free speech issue buried at the bottom of it, but then – as Marcellous points out – we don’t have a great deal of that in Australia, either.

37 Comments

  1. Posted May 29, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    “The creation of child pornography (or even fairly innocent nudie pics of young girls – Henson’s problem is the public display of same) is treated in much the same way as rape.”

    How on earth did we get here?

    I know you are just stating what you think the law is, but I would have started at the point that if a proposition sounds ridiculous, there must be something wrong with it.

    And I can’t share your high opinion of Hetty J at all. I don’t know about where she started, but I judge her from where she is now, and that is riding the apocalyptic horse of a contemporary moral panic.

  2. Posted May 30, 2008 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Read s 91H, Marcellous. Then compare it to the earlier legislation. Then read the second reading speech. The people who came up with this stuff clearly didn’t mean it to be ridiculous. In fact, they just ‘meant it’, period.

    I should also point out that I have tried to be very reasoned – nay nuanced – in this debate, in part because I knew Hetty personally for a number of years. The arts community have done themselves no favours in dismissing her as a philistine.

    FWIW, I think she’s clearly in moral panic territory here, but that just dismissing her concerns is contributing to the polarizing characteristic of the debate. I disagree with her – as I think I’ve made clear, but I’ve tried to keep the tone moderate.

  3. Posted May 30, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    [… I have been mulling over whether to post some thoughts on the current debate over the exhibition of Australian photographer Bill Henson …. I would direct people to an interesting post on the Skepticlawyer site, who writes with much more authority on the legal issues than I ever could, and expresses an opinion that sounds like the one I have in my head, but cannot quite get out today!…]

  4. Posted May 30, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    What makes you think I haven’t read this section, SL?

    Even before we get to the defences, you have to consider “depicts or describes, in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons.”

    I have written here about the very similar Commonwealth provisions (save that the relevant age is 18 in relation to one Geoffrey Leonard, who, probably understandably, lacks Bill Henson’s high-power friends. Leonard has fallen foul of the proscription of dissemination on the net of “child abuse material.” Hetty Johnson had a part to play in that story too, as you can see if you click through to the youtube link there, assuming it is still live.

  5. Posted May 30, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m adding your link to my post, Marcellous, for the simple reason that it gives a clue as to how these laws work in practice. I agree with you that Leonard is in a much grayer area than Henson, but I also think it’s very clear that child abuse campaigners have managed to change materially the way many ‘reasonable persons’ would view such material.

    I hope you don’t get any more idiots accusing you of sundry weirdnesses as a result.

  6. John Greenfield
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    SL

    Re Hetty Johnson. What is exquisite about The Luvvies’ latest diabolical being on the wrong side of a public debate is just how in love with Hetty they were when she got rid of Hollingworth as GG. Ah Luvvies, the gift that keeps on coming. 😉

  7. Posted June 2, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    And anybody who knows Greek knows pornographia was the place in ancient Athens where the skanky prostitutes – pornai – had to apply for a licence to “work.” The more fragrant hetaerae – such as “Pericles’ tart Asphasia” were spared such insult.

    Pornai refers to slave-prostitutes in ancient Greece. I’ve never heard that the term added to graphis denoted a licence or a place to get one. In fact I believe that the pornai were not licensed; licensed prostitutes were on the next level up but below the hetaerae – the courtesans.

    As far’s I’m aware pornography means the writing of or about harlots.

  8. Posted June 3, 2008 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I know you won’t believe me, John Greenfield, but I’m probably a luvvie but I was never keen on Hetty J.

  9. John Hasenkam
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    It is well known that paedophiles hang out at Arts centres waiting for the next set of images to salivate over.

    How ironic, when I googled the name a Google ad for porno movies came up! Yeah, the publicity is really helping stamp out porn …

    Just the other day there was a study claiming that women in bikinis stimulated men. Ya think? Who would have thought. Must ban bikinis, children must bathe fully clothed, and men must stop wearing Speedos.

    It has been argued, and I believe there is some empirical evidence for this, that those men most opposed to homosexuality do exhibit sexual arousal when confronted with provocative male images. Well it’s a long bow but you just gotta wonder …

    “Even before we get to the defences, you have to consider “depicts or describes, in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons.”

    What is a reasonable person? That is so vague. Which legal draftsperson came up with that? Hey SL and LE, think you two could have fun with that in court?

    I can’t establish who is making all the fuss.

  10. John Hasenkam
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Replace “reasonable people” with “a random selection of the general populace where the selection is in accord with the accepted principles of statistical analysis.”

    Could that work?

  11. Posted June 3, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Lawyers are usually perfectly capable of making ‘reasonable person’ clear in practice. It does, however, become more difficult when the definitional ground underneath the phrase has shifted – which is what’s happening here, I think.

  12. John Hasenkam
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure they can SL but in this context it does become very problematic. For example, European movies have a much more relaxed attitude to sex on the screen than in Aus. Who is being more reasonable here? Them or us?

    This is about a general societal attitude towards sexuality and and that shifts and floats with the times. If we argue that Hensen is not offending reasonable people aren’t we then saying that the protestors are unreasonable? Can we regard differing values on this matter as being reasonable or unreasonable? I just don’t know. That’s why I thought perhaps an approach that calls upon the opinions of the general populace as guide is better.

    Help!

  13. John Hasenkam
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Wicked question LE! And there I was hoping to avoid some moral minority controlling the debate. I suppose, but I’m no statistician, one would have also take into account p values and confidence degrees. That is, even if it comes in at 48-52, a good legal eagle could argue on the grounds of the vagaries of statistical analysis … . Oh well, another idea bites the dust. I’m getting used to that.

  14. Posted June 3, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The legal concept of ‘the reasonable person’ does depend on a degree of social uniformity – google ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ (how the idea was originally expressed) to get an idea of its evolution over time.

    When, as you say, there is disagreement across a large n over p value, you start to realise how hard it is.

    I can fully imagine Henson’s trial in front of a deeply divided jury (selected fairly randomnly, but not as randomly as I’d like – jury service is too easy to evade) left – as Marcellous says – with all the hard questions that lawyers want to dodge.

    That said, lawyers (judges) often want to dodge the hard questions because they know they’re unrepresentative of the general population, often in particularly blinding ways. Indeed, in jurisprudence, there is a serious debate about the wisdom of a very powerful judiciary because they are so unrepresentative of society (mostly blokes, for a start, but blokes with fairly ‘luvvie’ values, to use JG’s phrase).

    It’s a tough one.

  15. John Hasenkam
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    The unrepresentative nature of the judiciary is a necessary evil. It’s hard work in law, you have to be bright, that alone makes it unrepresentative. Where’s the wisdom of Solomon when I need it?

    Thanks for education SL and LE, now I must sleep.

  16. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Must ban bikinis, children must bathe fully clothed, and men must stop wearing Speedos.

    There’s a time and a place for hanging meat … and the beach isn’t it.

  17. Nanu
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Law on child pornography has been upheld as constitutional

    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    UNITED STATES v. WILLIAMS
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/06-694.ZS.html

  18. Nanustalker
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    L/eagal –
    Problem…I guess…is that court have to make decisions that carry further than the original argument. I thought their reasonings quite good regardless that the 2(?) weren’t convinced. Shit like this hits home and the pressure I’m sure tests the best juris’purists.

  19. Nanustalker
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    (PS – I thought “L/eagal” clever????)

  20. Geoff Leonard
    Posted June 14, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Photographing an 18 year old (or 16) in a manner that makes him or her appear to be 13 year old will not take you outside the compass of Sect 91H Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which reads:
    (1) Definitions in this section:
    “Child pornography means material that depicts or describes, in a manner that would in all of the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons, a person under (or apparently under) the age of 16 years.
    The relevant words are contained in the parenthesis.

  21. Gregory Carlin
    Posted June 15, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    When we do get our thing done, and that’s a when, not an if, we hope to get all the previous material as well, when we tackled indecent images of children in the UK, we made it retrospective.

    ‘The new Sexual Offences Act is due to come into effect in May 2004. One important change involves the definition of a ‘child’ under the terms of the Protection of Children Act 1978. Currently the Protection of Children Act defines a ‘child’ as a person under 16 years of age and makes illegal the manufacture, possession and distribution of indecent photographs of children under 16. Section 45 (2) of the new Sexual Offences Act will raise the age of a ‘child’ for the purposes of this Act to 18. The effect of this will be retrospective, applying to all such images, regardless of when they first came into circulation.’

    So in my view it would be as well, for galleries in Oz, to understand, that if we send money, to lobby for new legislation, or if we go ourselves, it *has* to be retrospective, just like the UK.

    ‘For the purposes of sections 48 to 50, a person is involved in pornography if an indecent image of that person is recorded; and similar expressions, and “pornography”, are to be interpreted accordingly.’

    We will want indecency linked by statute to child pornography. The indecency hurdle, will be as per the UK.

    ‘In Regina v. Graham-Kerr, Stocker L.J. said that the appropriate test in the case of the Protection of Children Act was that as stated in R. v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391, which uses the formula ‘recognised standards of propriety.’

    This, and the use of the word ‘impropriety’ by Lord Parker, point to the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and inappropriateness, rather than that any amount of shock or disgust be caused in those forced to see it’

    Say hello to your new draft legislation.

    Respectfully submitted

    Gregory Carlin

  22. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    Okay, the obvious non-lawyer asking but, I thought that ‘retrospective’ law is extremely frowned upon?

  23. Gregory Carlin
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    David Marr, was pretty contempuous, but so was NAVA, a lot of the complaints came from various authorities overseas.

    They didn’t know it was family viewing, because they’re not Australians, or Japanese, or that way inclined.

    So the references to ‘three’ complaints is a crock. Other galleries were searched in Europe, why not report that?

    Why this dialogue with Oz thing? Why not kick it out so everybody can play? Like the FBI, CEOP, IWF, RCMP, Interpol, all the galleries which have banned his kiddie fetish stuff.

    Milan because Caravaggio was born there (I think) and I know they’ve never had a photog as good as Caravaggio, maybe they’re not camera people, like the S. Opera House is as cool as the Sistine Chapel

    Or S. harbour is like the Bay of Naples, well maybe, but mostly no.

  24. Posted July 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    It continues.

    Because of all this nude kiddie stuff I’ve finally started noticing cherubs in classical art. I took a Korean fellow on a tour and he really liked the cherubs.

    Does this mean that we’re consuming child pornography? Perhaps they should ban Veronese.

  25. Posted July 7, 2008 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    why is it that no one has commented about bill actualy viewing these children totally naked and interaction (seting up poses) with them. mmmm… is that legal??? is that not carnal knowledge. How many men and wemon are in prison fro just this. I know a man who was charged under the telecomunication act for having a deleted image of an underage girl’s face and electrical wires on her tongue, 2yr susspended sentence wqs given for this.
    Where is the ballance here. It’s bull shit.

    Try taking pis of a naked underage girl today, then wait until she feels bad about it and has u arrested for child sex abuse and get 5 yrs prison. go ahead try it, if u dare.

  26. Posted July 7, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    David that has to be one of the most astute, well-developed and nuanced things I’ve ever read. :)

  27. Alice James
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    It is of concern that the art censorship/freedom of speech issue seems to have been co-opted to deflect focus from something truly sinister in the institution-protected grooming and sexual exploitation of this young girl by All and Sundry.

    For a high profile journalist and card-carrying civil-libertarian to corrupt debate by asserting that the Police raid on the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery was triggered solely by the actions of a ‘right-wing’ journalist (ignoring the significant fact that there were several community complaints to the Police) and an hysterical child-advocate in an over-sensitive climate is one thing – but to invoke libertarian, anti-censorship, democratic principles while in negotiations with his publisher, Michael Heyward (a friend of Henson according to recent reports: http://article.wn.com/view/2008/10/09/With_friends_like_Marr_Henson_not_short_of_enemies/) to write ‘The Henson Case’, is quite another.

    Is Marr suffering from delusions of omnipotence?

    To assume that the especially cosy relationships between the Oxleys, Sue Cato (Henson’s one-woman PR machine), Jen Minchin (Tolarno Galleries), and Alison Croggon (Theatre Notes) are beyond question or reproach seems oddly naive for a lawyer and journalist of Marr’s standing.

    Is this another slip akin to his report upon Henson’s school recruitments?

    Has it not occurred to him that there may be something ‘irregular’ (if not incestuous) about the relationships between the artist, the family, the gallerists, and his publisher that could imperil his integrity as an impartial journalist, for example (with the exception of the girl’s family), given their intimate links to Bill Henson during Croggin’s repeated drafting of the 2020 Open Letter?

    It turns out Henson approved the final draft (p 82; but p 78 makes for particularly interesting reading!)!

    So many violated boundaries have been ‘normalised’ in this selective restyling of the facts, one may be skeptical of the notion that the prosecution failed and the debate died of natural intrinsic, de jure causes, given David Marr’s energetic and contemptuous revisionism.

  28. Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Alice – Please give me one example of this exploitation to which you refer. Just one. One? Please.

    No I’m not talking about your personal opinions of the work or your mores in regards to the depiction of the nude. I’m talking about actual exploitation.

  29. John Greenfield
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    What is it with David Marr and his obsession with sexualised kiddies and the media? FIrst it was his Alan Jones obsession, now BIll Henson.

    Poor diddums. Now Luvvie Marr feels simply “terrrible” dahlings. He mewls, “I hate the damage I did to people last week. I damaged that principal and I damaged that boy”. But of course, it wasn’t Luvvie Marr who caused “the damage” at all. Who did cause this damage? Why, his Luvvieness now says it was “tabloid rage capped and validated by the Prime Minister”.

    Gee, Luvvie, nothing to do with fact it was you who splashed it all over the Age and SMH or you poncing around the ABC TV and radio all so you could sell your book, was it? Pimping photos of kids groomed by another Luvvie and both for profit.

    Being a Luvvie means never having to say you’re sorry. Oh, and that it is OK For you and fellow Luvvies to skulk around primary schools undressing ten year olds with your eyes scoring kids out of ten as potential exhibitors of their bits, eh?

    What moral galaxy do these freaks live in?

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24493582-421,00.html

  30. John Greenfield
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Given Marr is a gay man he should be very careful. He is playing with a fire whose intensity he clearly simply does not understand.

    He would do well to just zip it.

  31. Posted October 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Given Marr is a gay man he should be very careful. He is playing with a fire whose intensity he clearly simply does not understand.
    .
    I reckon that fire’s come up and scorched him and often. He’s probably copped at least one beating and he’s old enough so that the cops might’ve been the ones giving it.

    Henson isn’t ‘sexualizing’ these ‘kiddies’ Nature is. And Henson’s behavior isn’t out of order. At least that’s what the people involved have said. So what happens?
    .
    Is partially anxiety about a wider matter being focussed here? Is it the Herd screaming down on the Witch – why do they always need someone else to die for their sins?

    There. Are. Questions.

    We ask them. Given that this is emotionally a very charged situation we know that we won’t be able to answer them objectively. Not perfectly; but we should at least attempt to impose the cold light of reason to the matter.

    Also I think Marr very much refuses to zip it. He’s understands the consequences of Judeo-Christian hysteria run wild.

  32. Alice
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    There is a very polished, heartfelt critique of David Marr’s endeavours http://www.aarondarc.com/poppsychology/content/view/380/49/
    which more or less grasps the nettle…..the serial, interwoven opportunism and exploitation in this whole sorry business hardly bears thinking about, let alone enumerating for those unwilling to see.

  33. Posted October 22, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Alice – Thanks for the link. Yes thoughtful. To begin with:

    But what about the rights of children? Aren’t those rights ultimately higher than the right of Bill Henson to explore adolescent sexuality through his photographs? Surely, they are.

    Indeed. In an actual case where there was some conflict of rights the rights of free speech would be secondary to the right of children to be free of…. what?

    What?

    The crux comes from a misunderstanding by this fellow himself, he writes:

    …my empathy and understanding towards children, who live in a world where the predatory damage found in some adults (mostly men) is far too frequently a part of their lives, wins out. If Bill Henson’s desire to explore these themes…

    Well yes I agree. Except Henson is not attempting to explore sexual predation nor is he seeking to arouse desire. I first encountered his work when I was 14. 14 year old boys find almost everything pornographic, but this – no. The adolescence mind is a dark and romantic terrain and Henson makes pictures of it.

    We are told that this might prove to be pornographic to paedophiles. Will it? I find it easy enough to believe. However paedophiles are likely to find a whole range of images arousing. Are we to prohibit baby photographs? Classical painting? Where does it end exactly. Shall I remind you that actual child pornography is produced. There is nothing in the annals of Henson and his Models to suggest any comparable scenarios take place in front of his camera. One model said: He made you feel safe. I don’t think those used to make sex movies for rockspiders would feel that way somehow.

    Do his models suffer the symptoms of the sexually abused? Any of them?

    Now before I proceed let’s be specific. We’re not dealing even with paedophilia. These are adolescents hence the correct term is ephebophilia. The distinction might seem trite but it’s pathologically a different matter. It’s not okay by any means. But we should attempt to understand those things about which we express opinions, yes?

    Ephebophilia is distinguished from paedophilia because, no matter the legal definition of ‘child’ the facts of biology make it clear that adolescents have developed sexual characteristics. In fact that is what adolescence means – as in ‘blooming’. I put it to you, Alice, as I’ve put it to so many others who are, as you say, ‘unwilling to see’ that Henson’s work explores this stage of life. Its psychology.

    Given the changing mores and the more extreme consequences of liberalism we 21st century people must deal with phenomena that our grandparents either didn’t know about or didn’t want to know about – paedophilia, ephebophilia fits into the latter category. Despite the protestations of arch-conservatives to the contrary I’m afraid that these things existed, nay were nurtured in bosom of Judeo-Christian institutions. The paedophilia phenomena has been n the defensive because of sexual liberalism not despite it. Fact.

    Still the licentiousness that comes of moral gray zones can lead to debauchery. I’d understand the anxiety of a parent who lives in a world where this sort of thing is common.

    Your link has references to Henson’s models making mistakes because they were his models. There are no specifics. No quotes. Just again the assumption that nude modelling for an artist is exactly the same as appearing in a John Holmes movie and the lude assertions of masturbation material that follow.

    I haven’t read Marr’s book. Perhaps I’ll do so, sometime. The writer seems more upset with Marr’s dalliance with Alan Jones then anything else. And perhaps over-anxious to disassociate homosexuality from paedophilia.

    Okay. But to use his words against him, his views, your views, have:

    ….nothing to do with Bill Henson, and everything to do with what they decided Bill Henson represents: a projection of themselves

    Exactly. I must say that the assertion of pornography says more about those doing such then it does about Henson. Exploitation? Sexual molestation? Sure. Find some evidence. Henson’s rights to express himself are not more important than a child’s right to be free from sexual predation. But Henson is not a sexual predator. His work has nothing to do with sexual predators. And the argument that they may derive some nefarious inspiration from it would have everything from the Bible to the Beatles banned.

    Again. Evidence. I’m always willing to listen.

  34. John Greenfield
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Adrien

    I think we can all agree that there is an awful lot of stuff to pick through in this issue that can very quickly get personal, nasty, creepy, blah, so I’ll leave it for a little while. Let’s see what – if anything – pans out. Besides, THE really fun iss-you at the moment is which Luvvie will catch the collapsing KKKapitalism!!!

    I reckon if the Luvvie Plodders, Webdiary, and the various wymyn’s blogs took to the streets and started talkin’ about a revolution, Tanya Plibersek and Albo would hitch up their Armani skirts, grab their nearest Gucci handbag, and head for the hills. Or maybe Palmie. Perhaps Luvvie Quiggin will join Margo Kingston and Lefty Kim on stage for a rousing rendition of “Our Talking points united, we’ll never be defeated” or some such. 😉

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] comments on the Bill Henson post, Deus Ex Macintosh said: Pr*n is a definition of taste rather than fact (see my previous comment). […]

  2. By skepticlawyer » Lulz and legals bleg on June 3, 2008 at 7:56 am

    […] despair if your comment doesn’t appear straight away – since I was foolish enough to post on the Bill Henson thingy, our spaminator has become a mite tetchy. One of us will set your comment free in due […]

  3. By skepticlawyer » Art Monthly stirs the pot on July 8, 2008 at 1:15 am

    […] when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, and all the crapola about Bill Henson and his nudie pics had died down, some hippie art mag decides to (a) piss the Prime Minister off and (b) bite the hand […]

  4. By Child porn playwright sought « Floating Life on September 4, 2008 at 10:05 am

    […] The Bill Henson ‘kiddy porn’ fiasco on SkeptiClawyer. …Second, I know Hetty Johnson personally – she’s also from Logan City […]

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