Infantile Fixations


I can’t stop thinking about naked children and I’m not sure who to blame. I’ve narrowed it down, however, in case I need to prepare a hasty defence for the Thought Judiciary.

At the time of writing Hetty Johnston, Olympia Nelson and News Corp are all possible suspects. As is any eager public advocate for the immediate disrobing and/or protection of children. Others in the perp walk of my mind include Bill Henson, Vanity Fair and, of course, the Supreme Pontiff. Who, as it happens, has been in town and therefore disposed to examination.

On Thursday, Ol’ Joe Ratzinger threw it down to eager fans. Unfortunately, he had nothing to say about Miley Cyrus and naked children per se. But after his helpful revelations at Barangaroo that greed and, indeed, violence, were not, like, actually good things, he did lambast grimy sex generally. However, he chose not to mention until the weekend the grimy sex performed by Catholic clergy upon an unwilling infant flock.

I did not hear these insights personally. However, my friend Nicole, who called Thursday night from Sydney to read bits out of the new David Sedaris book, did. It is true that we talked mostly about the possibility of sex with the stubbornly homosexual (and fully grown man) David Sedaris. And then, we talked a little about Il Papa’s star turn. This is what Nic divined: apparently, there are many bad things in the world. Such as sex performed: (a) with prophylaxis; (b) on telly; or (c) outside the sanctity of Catholic marriage.

"So," I reasoned. "Sex with the very great writer David Sedaris would be right out."

As a recovering Catholic, of course, I did know that lust for contemporary queer humourists would qualify me as a venial sinner. And, as a recovering reader of newspaper opinion, I had heard that both the television and the internet are naught but, as the holy Mitteleuropean put it, a "poison to corrode what is good". But where Ratzy and I begin to ethically diverge, perhaps, is in distinguishing the brand of poison.

As you may know, David Sedaris’ new book is very, very funny. So, the apostolic gist was obscured by our reading of the HILARIOUS chapter where David decides to buy his boyfriend, Hugh, a skeleton. ("I’d like to buy him a skeleton," said Nic. This didn’t make any sense but was funny nonetheless.) However, Popes do tend to keep things conceptually simple at Mass. So we might imagine that The Successor Of Blessed Peter meant to convey that smutty television results in smutty deeds. Or, to purloin his most holy eloquence direct from a news source, the "exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment" is dangerous.

What I’d like to suggest, besieged as I am by unwanted and non-erotic mental images of naked children, is this: it is not exaltation of filth that is the problem. Rather, it is the censure of filth that has begun to produce great trouble. I’d like to suggest that is the cultural fixation on prohibiting images of naked children that will, in turn, create demand for more images of naked children.

Here is a little something of what I mean. When you want to illustrate circular hypocrisy, News Corp is such a handy apparatus. First, the reader is enjoined to feel horror at the distribution of "Raunchy Miley Pics". Then, the reader is directed, by uppercase, to SEE THE PICTURES HERE.

The art world, as you’ve likely heard, has lately evolved its own highbrow duplicity where kiddie porn is concerned. First, of course, there was the famous Henson exhibition.

Significantly, if accidentally, the public debate that followed demanded an answer to the question: why can’t I stop thinking about naked children? The argument did prompt some good civic stoushes. But the dickheads at Art Monthly quashed the therapeutic potential of this brawl. They pulled a News Corp with this image.

The artist’s venerable husband insisted that the image of this latest naked child was taken from "a highly researched body of work". But, he failed to mention that: (a) the picture is crap and looks a lot like those icky 1970s "Love Is"… wall hangings; and (b) that the decision to place it on the cover of Art Monthly was reactionary editorial pish.

The display of Henson’s lavishly gorgeous works became 08’s liberal touchstone. Until Art Monthly put that annoying child on its cover. When she’s not serving as grist for the News Corp mill, she’s on the telly saying "Kevin Wudd made sure I nearly thwowed up" et al. Gawd. Miley Cyrus is far less precocious.

So here we are again, Il Papa, in the eye of a self-stimulating kiddie porn hurricane. Where everyone, in one way or another, is thinking about naked children all of the time.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.