Okay, I know the baby is a boy, but this was too good not to mention. You’ve all seen the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album by now, I’m sure, but here it is again:
Well, a recent Yahoo News article on the album revealed something lead singer Kurt Cobain said concerning the album:
What, you thought some mother let her infant son be submerged in a pool with a $1 bill on a hook? Someone in the DGC art department added the single on a fishing line to Kirk Weddle’s now-famous photograph. As for the controversial decision to include the baby’s penis on the cover, Cobain would only allow it to be censored on one condition: A sticker was placed on the cover that read “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.” Thankfully, the art was left unedited, and Nevermind went on to become one of the most iconic album covers ever.
Did you catch that? Cobain said the only way he would agree to censoring the baby’s penis is if it contained a sticker reading: If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile. It’s funny and piquant precisely because there is, in my estimation, an element of truth to it. Now, I don’t believe for a minute that everyone who objects to child nudity in art is a closet pedophile. However, it is evident to me that many people are so opposed to such images precisely because they have at some point had feelings towards children that make them uncomfortable, and therefore they overcompensate, projecting and externalizing those confusing feelings. I consider those feelings normal; I am certain we’ve all had them at some point. It doesn’t make you a child molester because you may have had fleeting sexual thoughts or feelings about a child or youth.
More importantly, I think there’s pretty strong evidence to support the notion that by making an issue so taboo, we in fact contribute to the appeal of violating that very taboo. Human instincts are like rubber bands–the farther you pull them back, the harder they will snap when they eventually do. Likewise, the more you tell people they cannot have something, the more they will want it, and in their self-denial of that very fact they will become cruel and suspicious, and then you have on your hands a moral panic, which is precisely what we’ve got with this issue. Unfortunately, the real victims of this nonsense are the children themselves, who are forced to live up to a standard that for many of them is unachievable because, after all, they are human beings. That, in a nutshell, is one of the main reasons this blog exists.
The ‘let kids be kids’ argument is fundamentally a straw man argument, because it assumes that kids are one-size-fits-all when it comes to sexuality, and that size is 0. When kids do express sexual feelings or an interest in exploring their sexuality, when this is discovered they are often punished just as much as any adult who violates a child, only in a different way. Their feelings are invalidated, called improper and the child is considered ‘sexualized’ (the child-sized equivalent of the word ‘whore.’) Sometimes, in certain circumstances, the child is forced to wear the label ‘victim’ even when they were clearly not victimized. This needs to stop, because in the end it is far more harmful than helpful.
Edit: There’s a short but fascinating article that came out two days after this post was published, about Spencer Elden, the baby featured on the cover. It is here. – Pip