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R. Danielle EGAN / Gail HAWKES
"Girls, sexuality and the strange carnalities of advertisements - Deconstructing the Discourse of Corporate Paedophilia"
Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 23, No. 57, September 2008

Eerst wordt het rapport kort samengevat.

"Given the potential consequences of such outcomes, it should come as no surprise that ‘Corporate Paedophilia’ created a frenzy, albeit a short-lived one, in the Australian national media and caused heated debate on several blogs across the country."(307)

De auteurs zelf zijn "two feminist scholars studying the discursive production of childhood sexuality in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."(307)

"After reading the reports, we are struck by the connections we see between the epistemological assumptions guiding contemporary discussions of the sexuality and sexualisation of girls and their resonance with debates on children and their sexuality over 150 years earlier. Although the materials creating risk may differ, we contend that the conceptualisation of the problem, the outcome and its dangers are strikingly similar." [mijn nadruk] (307)

De auteurs leggen uit dat The Australian Institute - waar het rapport vandaan kwam - een denktank is die kritische aandacht heeft voor de rol van de economie in het openbare leven en dat ook zij onderschrijven dat er kritisch gekeken moet worden naar de kwaliteit van het marktdenken en naar de gevolgen van overconsumptie onder volwassenen en kinderen. Maar ze maken zich toch zorgen over de uitgangspunten in het werk van Rush en La Nauze die erg lijken op die van de 'sexual reform movement' einde 19e, begin 20ste eeuw.

"As two scholars who have studied these movements and their implications, we are wary of the potential duplication of what sociologist Kristin Luker terms the ‘double-edged sword’ of reform agendas which can unwittingly create double standards and inequality in the name of protecting women and children from social evil (Luker 1998, 629)."(308)

"There are a number of questions guiding our exploration. How is the sexuality of girls constructed within the discourse on corporate paedophilia? What are the implications of such constructions? To what extent does the identification of girls’ sexuality as problematic reproduce past constructions of the pathological nature of women’s sexuality? How does a report that seems to place the welfare of girls at the centre often render their voices and their sexual decision making impossible and even pathological? Finally, how might we propose an alternative paradigm that encourages new questions and a new understanding of the lives of young girls and boys in our contemporary culture?"(308)

Kritiekpunten:

"Within both texts, childhood sexuality remains an unoperationalised variable occupying a taken-for-granted quality. How one operationalises a key variable, making it into a concept measurable within definitive methodological standards, is a central tenet of social science methodology and thus it is a striking omission. Moreover, although their title suggests that the report is analysing the effects of sexualisation on all children, the findings focus most specifically on girls."(309)

[Goed gezien.]

"One is left to wonder: does sexualisation only pierce the consciousness of girl children? Is sexual expression or curiosity problematic only when it is found in girls? Does such a lack of elaboration unwittingly grant boy children the patriarchal assumption that male desire is natural, inevitable and thereby acceptable? In contrast, are girls passive, endangered and overly susceptible to the influence of corrupt images and desires (Walkerdine 1997; Evans 1993; Jackson 1982)?"(309)

"We contend that the assertions offered by Rush and La Nauze rest upon three foundational assumptions. First, that the sexuality of girls is a seemingly paradoxical phenomenon understood as simultaneously present (and once catalysed, quite dangerous) and absent (that normal sexuality is something that will come much later). Second, that childhood sexuality requires the catalysing influence of an external force that must ignite sexual instinct, thereby eschewing the possibility of volitional sexual expression. Third, that girls are assumed to be incompetent and incapable of making sense of their own experience and therefore in need of parental and state intervention; to this end, a girl’s best interest is rendered intelligible solely through a prism of adult decision-making practices. Their suppositions illustrate the continuity between the contemporary debate on sexualisation with the epistemological frameworks of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century discourses that created cultural ‘truths’ about the modern child and its sexuality." [mijn nadruk] (309-310)

Meer over het eerste punt:

"The risk of the sexualisation is that it fosters sexual expression in bodies that are supposedly free of sexual desire. Sexualising content may pose an even greater threat because a girl’s desire, once initiated, can move beyond the celebrities she sees on the pages of a magazine or on the television screen, to men she actually knows."(310)

"The gendered aspects of this discourse on sexual danger and its promiscuous outcome have a long history. The construction of girls in the discourse of sexualisation mirrors earlier patriarchal discourses on the pathological nature of women’s sexuality, its susceptibility to corruption and its resistance to autonomous control (Hawkes 2004)."(311)

"There is an echo here of an earlier moral panic: the provision of contraception for ‘under-age’ girls in the 1980s and 1990s (Hawkes 1995), in which medical arguments about the dangers of disease masked concerns about the essential ‘sexual irresponsibility’ of teenage girls unable to control their sexual behaviour. Less than a century earlier, opponents of the provision of birth control to married women, especially working-class women, argued that arming women with protection would ensure sexual promiscuity (McLaren 1978; Hawkes 1995)." [mijn nadruk] (311)

Het gebrek aan operationele definities in de twee rapporten roepen nog veel meer vragen op.

"Sexualisation, for Rush and La Nauze, ‘is the act of giving someone or something a sexual character’ (2006a, 1). This process is considered problematic because it moulds the sexuality of children ‘into stereotypical forms of adult sexuality’ (2006a, 1). What does this exactly mean? Is it the acquisition of knowledge of the body and its capabilities, of the mind and its desires? If so, then whither [wat dan met ... GdG] sex education for the young? Is it pre-pubescent sexual sensibility? Is the game of dress-up, which often promotes stereotypical gender roles, the same sexualisation? If the widely accepted developmental stage of childhood sexual curiosity and sexual play includes adult clothes and make up is it the same as ‘sexualisation’? What are stereotypical forms of adult sexuality? If girls resist stereotypes but act sexually, is this an expression of sexualisation? Is sexualisation always inevitable and unidirectional? None of these aspects are critically assessed."(312)

"Children who express sexuality are always and already deemed tainted by the market, making any manifestation outside of this equation impossible. Within this logic, any coupling of childhood and sexuality is a manifestation of stereotypical adult sexuality qua sexualisation and thus deviant."(312)

"... the insistence that children’s sexuality is endangered from a contemporary and corrupting presence in its life is anything but new. Sociologist David Evans, in his text Sexual Citizenship (1993), highlights the cyclical nature of moral panics surrounding popular media and its effects on the sexuality of children. Narratives on the risks associated with dangerous novels in the 1890s, comic books in the 1940s, television in the 1980s, and the Internet in our contemporary culture, share a similar plotline: fears about the corruption of innocence and the concomitant need for protection. Cumulatively, the hazards of popular media in the life of the child have been a reoccurring theme of moral panic over the past 150 years (Lumby and Fine 2006; Evans 1993; Spigel 1993)." [mijn nadruk] (312)

"Representations of sexualised children by adults for audiences that include both children and adults have had an enduring place within anglophone culture. We are not arguing that they have all been positive; instead, we want to highlight that sexualisation is far from new, nor is it monolithic is its manifestation. As art historian Anne Higonnet notes, there are many different kinds of sexualisation and ‘some forms endow a subject with a sense of power and personhood, which is the opposite of objectification’ (Higonnet, quoted in Najafi 2002/03, 2)." [mijn nadruk] (313)

"These conceptual associations close down any discussion or reflection that acknowledges the rights of the child as a sexual being in its own terms. Rather, the sexual child can only be in peril, defined as such in terms of adult (male) desire rather than in terms of their own subjectivity and awareness. The discourse of corporate paedophilia restricts the sexuality of children to either risk or danger." [mijn nadruk] (313)

Ook kritiek op het idee 'age appropriateness' bij Rush-La Nauze:

"The notion of ‘age-appropriate behaviour’ is a common thread within the discussion that surrounds both reports; suggesting that an awareness of self, bodily experience and the possibility of interpreting contemporary cultural messages all represent a distortion of what is being uncritically designated as ‘age-appropriate behaviour’. Girlhood sexuality is conflated with sexualisation; as a result, sexuality, outside of the context of exploitative corporate messages, is rendered impossible. Held in reserve until its natural emergence much later in life, ‘normal’ girls are seen as essentially asexual beings.(...) Because childhood is constructed as inherently innocent and asexual, it follows that the idea of popular culture invading and corrupting innocence would signal a truly dire situation." [mijn nadruk] (314)

"This process of sexualisation identifies the presence of more culturally entrenched aspects of youthful sexuality; that sexualisation is something done to children by adults. Thus the use of the term paedophilia negatively conflates autonomously gained sexual awareness of the young person as premature and by association with pathological adult sexuality, axiomatically damaging. The deployment of paedophilia here is so unreflective as to be, at best, irresponsible and, at worst, actively comprising the very protection this discourse seeks to extend." [mijn nadruk] (315)

Voor allerlei conclusies ontbreken de data.

"An analysis of how race, class and sexuality might affect children’s understanding of the media or how they engage with these images is missing. Moreover, how various children might be confused by, desire, reject or experience some combination therein while watching sexualised or sexualising media is omitted."(316)

"The inevitability of their message leads one to wonder whether any public or pedagogical intervention would help girls. Relegated to their fate, girls are seen as always already destined to be promiscuous. Any recognition of a sexual subjectivity has been silenced, screened off from discussion by the spectre of the paedophile and of the dangerous (prematurely sexualised) girl-child body. We argue that, in the end, Rush and La Nauze create a rhetorical - as opposed to empirical - link between media consumption and sexual activity (either consensual or non-consensual) in girls."(316)

"To this end, the possibility of conscious experience and decision making on the part of girl children is nullified. We argue that this conception ultimately denies girls agency, thereby undercutting the very possibility that Rush and La Nauze seem to want: a better life for girls. The narrative of risk and protection absents the voices of girls, in all of their complexity, from both process and solution. Recalling strategies of past discourses of sexual protection, girls are pacified by the scrutiny of experts and the discourse of protection."(317)

"Education scholar Marie Wilkinson illustrates the importance of placing the voices of children at the centre of policy debates that seek to address their best interests (Wilkinson 2005). Children are often absented from such discussions owing to their marginal status within the world of adulthood. As a result, many family-friendly social policies unwittingly ‘disguise and occlude’ the interests of children (Wilkinson 2005, 63). With this concern in mind, we are curious as to how the questions of scholars and activist might shift if we put the voices of girls and boys at the centre of the current concern about sexualisation. How would research and policy making look different if we took children seriously as ‘social agents in their own right’ and made their autonomy and their rights, as sexual citizens, the starting point (Alanen 2005, 35)? How might our solutions transform if we began from an understanding that sexuality is a complex social site that can be pleasurable and deeply fulfilling and extremely painful if exploited? Starting our conversations with these questions in mind, we believe, could significantly change the direction of our discourses on sexualisation as a process rather than an unwanted outcome.
Several conceptual shifts would have to take place to make this idea a reality. First, we believe that innocence should be removed as the criterion against which a girl’s relationship to sexuality gets measured.(...)
There is another problem with innocence: it allows for no specificity. Innocence, owing to its overarching and archetypical status, denies the materiality of girls’ lives. Race, class and sexual identity seem to disappear from the conversation altogether. Do girls of colour relate to corporate advertising in the same manner as white girls? How do queer girls interpret these images? Do working-class girls desire sexualised imagery in the same manner as middle- and upper-class girls? Why is the sexual subjectivity of boys excluded? How do boys of various races, classes and sexualities understand and make sense of such media? The invisibility of ‘the sexual(ised) boy’ in the current discussions intensifies the gaze of anxiety on the sexuality of tween girls in ways that perpetuate ‘double standard’ constructions of the sexuality of the young."(318)

"Although children’s voices have been taken seriously in other fields of policy analysis, they have been missing in discussions surrounding their own sexuality (Mayall 2005; Robinson 2005).(...) If we want to make the lives of children better in all domains, sexual and otherwise, then we must take them seriously as ‘knowers’ of their own experience."(318)

"Third, we need to move away from the presumption of sex negativity in our conversations with children. As we have already suggested, when conversations around sex are conceptualised as dangerous, dirty or pathological, the outcome might be more harmful to children than helpful. Children might be less likely to report when sexual exploitation has occurred owing to feelings of shame and they may be less likely to talk to parents or other adults about sexual questions, curiosities or problems (Robinson 2005; Krivacska 1992) (...) In the face of this research, sex negativity and the denial of childhood sexuality is not only inappropriate but demonstrably counter-productive. Children should be viewed as sexual citizens and collaborative social agents in policies concerning this integral part of their everyday lives."(319)

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