As inevitably happens, some ad for kids’ clothing stirs outrage in a few people who seem unable to look at nude or semi-nude children (or children posed in certain ways) without wanting to jump their bones, and so, believing that everyone must see the ad the same way they do, they raise holy hell and project their dirty, guilty feelings onto all of us. How else do you explain the instant outrage when people see images of shirtless girls and boys doing the oh so erotic activity of . . . standing around with their hands in their pockets, looking bored. So, here is the offending ad. Just look at those kids standing there, baiting pedophiles with their come-hither looks. And, what’s this? The girl in the hat has her arm around a boy! Uh oh, she’s been sexualized!*
Okay, that’s the end of my sarcastic taunting of the the morally panicked . . . for now. 🙂 This ad is not, of course, typical of Mexx Kids advertising, and it was only used in Europe, where people are a little more sane about this kind of thing, rather than Canada where the company is headquartered. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the above ad that originally sparked the controversy. It was this one:
If you’re confused by this advertisement being controversial . . . join the club. And, as usual, I have never heard of this company until the controversy, and now I’m pushing their wares. Mission accomplished?
Beatrice Heydiri (official site)
I loves me some controversy . . .
Oh noes, I am hot and bothered by this!
* Is it ironic that my spell check doesn’t recognize the word ‘sexualized’? I don’t think so.
Your ‘sarcastic taunting of the morally panicked’ is exactly my own rant, except I call them ‘perverted puritans’ whose minds are so filled with vile thoughts that they can’t see anything else.
I do get the point Ellesar makes about the poses. The two kids on the outside sort-of carry it off. The real issue comes down to what you see and what is real. The reality of course is that this is the equivalent of playing dress-up, like little girls and their princess dresses. If you look at it and see the irony in the paradox of the sexualized child, it becomes humourous and cute. If you look at it seriously, it becomes erotic. Which is the appropriate view? Unfortunately, there is a powerful, very vocal group which sees the latter and wants everybody else to see it that way too so they can lobby to get rid of it.
The danger here is that there are some individuals, and though they previously had no sexual interest in children, when told to, see the eroticism in images like these and take a baby step (or another one, they add up) towards the cognitive distortions of paedophilia. It’s a form of BRAINWASHING. Because they don’t share that puritanical bent, they end up going down another wrong road. To protect children, we have to encourage people to see the innocence, not the perversion.
Sorry, but I don’t believe pedophilia works that way. I think it is a sexual orientation or akin to one, and I don’t believe art or media can turn people pedophilic any more than it can turn people gay. That being said, it is certainly possible that certain images can tap into latent sexual feelings that are already there, but there is no way to know what will or will not trigger those feelings because human sexuality is complex and variable and not everyone will have the same “triggers”, so where do you draw the line? Shall the government and the media treat everyone as if they are potential pedophiles and suppress all images that even hint of child sexuality? Better yet, we can force all children to cover themselves head to toe like women in Saudi Arabia. Or, we could just condition people to accept the reality that sometimes children are going to be sexually attractive to some people and it’s those people’s problem to deal with, not everyone else’s. I kind of like the latter approach.
Under no condition should children be used for a campaign with some clothing off and a visual attitude to promote, it only makes representation of sexuality and not the jeans they are trying to advertise, if this is not a pure subliminal sexual context why isn’t there an child wearing X-large size. There is no justifiable reason to advertise the pants with shirtless children when MEXX also sells tops. In a way I view this as a degree of pornography, where any adult pedophile can go online a retrieve this photos and even enlarge them and print them. Wrong enough if the children were four boys, but to even consider the possibility of having shirtless little girls posing literally half unclothed it is to me and I am sure to many a despicable act. I would have only one more thing to say, and it is to express my extreme curiosity to have been in that meeting room and listen what went on, how the propose this outrage, and how they voted on it.
Well, first of all, it is clear that you have little awareness of cultures outside your own. This campaign was created for Europe, where toplessness in very young girls is still a fairly common sight at beaches (although America’s puritanical bullshit is beginning to find its way over there as well.) Second of all, by treating little girls as inherently different from little boys, it is you and those who think like you who sexualize their chests, and that taboo is the reason why anyone would be titillated (no pun intended) by a little girl’s chest and not by a little boy’s chest, as they are identical until puberty. Thirdly, whether pedophiles get their jollies from an ad or not is–or should be–ultimately irrelevant. Shall we completely rearrange our culture just to forbid a small minority from getting pleasure at looking at nonsexual nude images? Apparently so, since that seems to be the direction we’re heading in.
As for why there is no image of children wearing X-large sizes in this campaign, could it be it’s because such children are pretty rare in Canada, where this company and the photographer are based? It’s only in America where childhood obesity has become a standard rather than a rare exception. Sorry, but it is not advertisers’ job to depict unhealthy people to appease the insecurities of the unhealthy. Whether you accept the fact or not, obesity is not simply another lifestyle choice. It’s a health problem, especially for small children, who have higher metabolisms than adults and shouldn’t have a problem keeping weight off. Teaching kids that it’s okay to abuse their bodies and setting them up for a lifetime of health problems that will likely kill them off early . . . that is far more abusive behavior to children than showing them without shirts in an ad. Get your priorities straight, please.
I read about this ad on a paedophile chat site – do I have to go on about NOT being a paedophile? Anyway, I do not like the image, it is obviously putting a very adult spin on the image. I DO NOT mean the toplessness, it is their non smiling faces – (3 of then actually look as miserable as if they were children in a NSPCC ad!), the poses. It looks extremely contrived as ‘cool kids’ 18yo.
I was comfortable as a girl topless until I was 8, and then became VERY self concious VERY quickly. As an adult I hate seeing tiny girls in bikinis, but I can see how some parents would prefer their girl child to be more covered.
The second photo – yes, absolutely mystifying. Personally would have used a female model as it would have worked with the XX.
Sorry, but I simply do not see the adult spin you mention. To me the kids look bored, which I suppose is a sort of unhappiness, but is unhappiness an essentially adult trait? I just don’t see where people are coming from there. As an artist trained in media semiotics, what I see is an ad with signs of a fashion ad: the bored/serious looks on their faces, the (slightly) edgy aspect of all the kids being topless, and the contrived poses, as you pointed out. But none of that suggests to me that the kids are being depicted as sex objects. In fact, as my friend Ray Harris pointed out on his site, this ad actually desexualizes the girls, as they are depicted in exactly the same way as the boys, and without the long and short hair as cues, it would be very difficult to pick out the boys from the girls, whereas in most ads for children’s clothing (and in Western culture generally) boys and girls are often presented with sexual (gender) cues from infancy on.
In terms of toplessness in girls (or child nudity in general), your self-consciousness arose as a result of cultural pressures. It is this attitude that I find unwholesome about Western culture. This self-consciousness is not present in cultures and subcultures where toplessness and nudity are not taboo. Naturist cultures are an especially good example. It is this attitude which I seek to overturn, as it places needless guilt and shame onto children. But I appreciate your input! 🙂
A little girl is exactly the same above the waist as a little boy. The cultural standard that requires her to be covered on top (just because she WILL BE a woman) is idiotically prudish.