Thursday, September 4, 2014

The naked two-year-old

<This video> caught my attention.

The photographer Wyatt Neumann takes pictures and shares them. He posted a series involving his 2-year-old daughter Stella, who was sometimes naked or half-naked. There was a significant protest online that shut down his Instagram account. In response, he decided to mount an art show featuring some of the pictures juxtaposed with the angry and hateful comments they engendered. Some of their complaints were along the lines of, "It just isn't right!" The more specific objection was, "You are encouraging pedophiles!"

Neumann is right to strike back against this hysterical reaction. It's freedom of expression, and the intent is clearly not pornographic. It is sensual at times. He does not capture the sanitized life of a 2-year-old, he captures the real life which is by no means entirely clothed.

I doubt Neumann worries much about danger to his daughter from publicizing her pictures. I assume that he rightly thinks that the chance of some psychopath deciding to stalk her is minuscule -- surely she was far more likely to die in a car crash every day of their trip. I'll guess that he knows life holds many potential dangers and refuses to be scared by extremely unlikely events.

I don't know what he thinks of the idea of pedophiles looking at his daughter's pictures and thinking sexual thoughts. Given that he went ahead with the art show, I figure it doesn't bother him very much. I see nothing but health and sense in his attitude.

But what about the outraged others? Those who want to hide all childish nakedness lest it encourage the pedophiles? I doubt it would seriously occur to them to ask the pedophiles -- to have a dialog. They imagine nothing from us but evil intent wrapped in duplicity.

I am not only a pedophile, but happen to be one of the few who is actually attracted to girls as young as three. Maybe as young as two and a half. Maybe Stella. My reaction? I was moved by the artistry and by how Neumann captures what we are rarely presented with publicly -- the sometimes-naked aspects of a girl's life. Having raised three daughters myself, I know all about the proportions of various states of undress. I find it hard to discern any effect of pedophilia in that reaction.

Stella is already attractive to me, and within a year turn she would match the age I find most attractive. But even with her age bumped up a bit I don't think I would have found the pictures especially erotic. A fully clothed picture featuring a particular smile might have been just as alluring, or a video of her skipping around a certain way, or humming to herself.

I have an online friend who is also attracted to girls this young. He found many of the pictures quite erotic. Quite possibly he masturbated while looking at them. But I know his fantasies would not have included the likely actual reactions of this girl to sexual activity -- anxiety, confusion, fear, pain. He was perhaps imagining a different, imaginary girl who would be content with the activity. One who looks like Stella but is most definitely not Stella herself.

My pal and I are just two people. I've argued <before> that it's best to assume that pedophiles cover the same range of personality traits as anyone else. It's wise to assume this also applies to the rather small subset of pedophiles who are attracted to 2-year-old girls. A few might fantasize about hurting the girl and getting pleasure from it. A few might boast online about how much they'd like to do that -- as might a few people who just like saying shocking things. I suppose their comments could be the tiny grain of truth behind the reactions of the zealots. But I can't find any harm in the private fantasies of pedophiles, even in the rare case that they were sadistic fantasies.

If you want to suppress pedophilic desire, you'd better not just hide children's nakedness -- you'd better hide the children themselves.

Using new brain imaging techniques, scientists have shown that straight men's brains light up in a certain way when they are shown the faces of women. Gay men's brains light up when shown the facts of men. And <pedophiles' brains light up>  when shown the faces of children. The face is all it takes -- no genitals required. The pedophile is attracted to the child as person.

Years ago, someone went online infiltrating the "boy love" message boards, interested among other things in what they said about their sexual fantasies -- what sort of porn they were most into. He was surprised to find that what they discussed most was Hollywood movies with boys in prominent roles. The boy as whole person.

The most conservative strands of modern Islam, for instance in Saudi Arabia, have an attitude towards women's sexuality that I find highly repugnant. Whenever they are in public, women must cover their bodies and faces lest they inflame the passions of men. While it is true that men's sexual attraction system is visually oriented, the men who rule these societies project the male reaction to women's faces or hair (let alone bodies) onto the women and make it their problem. The men don't own it as their own problem. It's not about the women's sexuality at all, it's about the men's.

If it is the whole child, or even the child's face that arouses a pedophile, one theoretical option available in any society is to make the children cover up. Avoid arousing sexual thoughts in the minds of pedophiles by making children effectively invisible. It wouldn't totally work -- a small figure shrouded in shapeless black would lead to intense curiosity about what lovely creature might lurk beneath. But it is in any case impractical and an outrage against the freedom of children. Women, men, children -- all should be free to wear as little as they want. If ordinary men find naked women arousing, it's their problem to keep that reaction private. If pedophiles find naked children arousing, they have the same responsibility. It is well within the powers of both kinds of men to handle this, whatever radical Islam may say.

Some ardent feminists want to reshape the male mind so that the female body by itself engenders no sexual reaction. I think this is both unrealistic and an unjust intrusion on another person's psyche. The moderate, defensible position is that women do not want men's sexual reaction to interfere with treating them as whole, full people -- the sexual aspect isn't to be denied but to be set aside. The moderate, defensible position regarding pedophiles is that children (or we on their behalf) do not want a pedophile's sexual reaction to them to interfere with treating them as whole, complete people -- the sexual aspect isn't denied but is set aside. In both cases this allows later for solitary, private activity -- masturbating to memories or to pictures. With grown women, of course, it is sometimes appropriate to gently indicate a sexual interest that might be reciprocated. With children, it never is appropriate. That is the only important difference I can think of.

1 comment:

  1. But I know his fantasies would not have included the likely actual reactions of this girl to sexual activity -- anxiety, confusion, fear, pain. He was perhaps imagining a different, imaginary girl who would be content with the activity.

    I think sexual fantasy is often like this. Teen boys, for example, paging through a Victoria's Secret catalog, may fantasize about or brag about what they would do with one of those models. But put that boy in the same room with the actual woman and nothing would happen. The fantasy is very different--separate--from reality.

    People often fantasize about situations that would be abhorrent in real life. Rape is one of the most common sexual fantasies and yet in real life, rape is a dangerous, frightening event, not the erotic fantasy.