A Little Clair-ity: The (Un)tainted Love of Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills

(Last Updated On March 7, 2018)

Here’s something new, and a refreshing change of pace.  Although I don’t ordinarily dip into music (other than the visual aspects of it such as album covers, music videos, etc.), in this case I will make an exception.  There may be other examples in the future too, since music is an art form, though I am a little out of my element.

Anyway, I would like to draw attention to a song that perfectly illustrates the seemingly gargantuan disconnect between artists and the culturally unengaged when it comes to issues involving children, sex and love.  In late 1972 pop musician Gilbert O’Sullivan released a winning ode to a girl he greatly adored, Clair Mills.  This was nothing new—love songs are a staple of pop music and have been since its origin.  What made this song different is that Clair was a preschooler O’Sullivan sometimes babysat—the daughter of his manager, in fact.

Okay, so it’s a sweet song about a little girl.  So what, right?  Well, when you consider some of the lyrics in the light of today’s pedo paranoia, the situation becomes a little more complicated.  Lines like “I don’t care what people say, to me you’re more than a child” and “But why in spite of our age difference do I cry; each time I leave you I feel I could die” the meaning changes from a simple display of affection and admiration for a child’s innocence (a theme so clichéd in music of the late ’60s and much of the ’70s that even true believers began to find it cloying, and rightfully so) to something a little deeper and seemingly more romantic.  It would appear, then, that this song is what it sounds like: a romantic love song for a 4-year-old.  But what exactly is romantic love?  Is sex a necessary component of it, and if so, is it possible that a romantic attraction to a child must be tainted and uncouth by design?  I wonder.

In my estimation we have far oversimplified these issues in modern times, accepting as a given that there can be no healthy “romantic” (a loaded word) relationship between adults and children.  Now, before I go on, let me offer a little, er . . . clarity here: the immediate impression of many to such a statement is that to even consider the possibility that it is anything less than entirely loathsome for adults to be ‘in love’ with children—especially those that aren’t their own—marks you out as a vile and detestable defender and/or practitioner of kiddie rape.  There is no middle ground for a lot of people, and therefore no quarter shall be given to anyone broaching such ideas.

It should be apparent to any thoughtful person that this simplistic black-and-white view of a very complex and deeply misunderstood issue is more than a little problematic.  In any other context such thinking would be immediately and correctly aligned with a totalitarian worldview.  The Nazis, the Fascists and the Stalinists could only have stood in awe of the degree to which Western society has come to embrace the absolutist stance towards this matter that has taken root here amongst a mind-boggling array of political and social factions, bookended though it may be by the false/extremist feminists and the hardline religious types.

Photographer/Designer Unknown - Gilbert O'Sullivan - Clair (cover) (1972)

Photographer/Designer Unknown – Gilbert O’Sullivan – Clair (cover) (1972)

All of that being said, is it to be assumed that O’Sullivan’s ode to a beloved child is an open and blatant admission of a pedophilic attraction to a small girl, and if so, how did it fail to make waves when it was released?  After all, adult-child sexual encounters were still largely condemned by most of society even in the free-wheeling 1970s.  Does this mean that everyone in that decade was so hopped up an drugs that they barely noticed the sexual connotations in the song, which, to add insult to injury, had the unmitigated indecency to become a #1 hit in much of the English-speaking First World?  If all of that isn’t shocking enough, there was even a proto-music video made at the time that depicts “Uncle Ray” and little Clair frolicking together en plein air, with the little girl wearing a pedo-fetish dress if ever there was one that unavoidably flaunts her tiny panty-clad behind for O’Sullivan and all of his perverted ilk to gawk at.  And my God!  O’Sullivan joyously fondles that same behind right on camera!  Why hasn’t his head been served on a platter and delivered to Oprah yet?!

Unfortunately, there are people out there on which the facetious nature of the above paragraph will be entirely lost.  A lot of them.  And herein lies the problem.  A thoughtful, even-headed person will soon realize that this song “Clair” uses the language of romance in a transcendent way to underscore a relationship that young Clair herself has framed in her own mind, innocently or not (your definitions of the word ‘innocent’ may vary, faithful readers), as romantic (“Will you marry me, Uncle Ray?”)  I have myself been the recipient of just such a request by a girl of around the same age.  In that case I am certain it was very innocent.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Back to Gilbert and Clair.

How do we know that Mr. O’Sullivan wasn’t a creep who really did take advantage of this little girl?  We can start by reading Clair’s own words in response to a slew of insults and attacks that appeared at YouTube underneath the above video.  The poster of the video corresponded with the now middle-aged subject of the song, pointing out the horrendous libelous attacks on O’Sullivan’s character, to which he received the following reply:

Sorry you have to read the awful posts about the song Clair..
I was a toddler !!!!!! Please feel free to tell them that from me.
He is also a very kind and lovely man who I adore still to this day and I would ask them kindly to refrain and respect our wishes.

And there you have it, folks.  It is the statements of these outraged citizens who have been the most hurtful to Mills, not the innocent and well-meaning O’Sullivan.  And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with much of society with regard to this issue.  In their effort to stand squarely and unquestionably in the corner of justice, they have been too blinded by their own emotionalism and moral indignation to see the real complexities twined beneath the seemingly straight-edged surface of these things, and they often wind up doing more harm than good in the process, which is the inevitable result of taking any moral position, regardless of what it is, too far.  That’s why they can listen to a song that cleverly one-upped the teen love ballads of the era with a charming, audacious and somewhat tongue-in-cheek romantic ode to a preschooler and hear only a tribute to the object of a child molester (or at best an encouragement to child molesters), or why they can look upon photos of naked children by Jock Sturges or Sally Mann and see only sinister motives behind the photos.

But I can’t help coming back to this question: who are really the ones obsessed with child sex?  Is it people like Sturges or O’Sullivan?  Obviously not.  I have a few quotes that I read from time to time, to keep things in perspective.  Here are two that really apply:

All seems infected to th’ infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundic’d eye. – Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism

 

Every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of evil. – Mary Wollstonecraft

 

Photographer Unknown - Gilbert O'Sullivan and Clair Mills, The Australian Women's Weekly (June 6, 1973)

Photographer Unknown – Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills, The Australian Women’s Weekly (June 6, 1973)

Editor’s Note: I was quite moved by the O’Sullivan-Mills relationship and though such relationships are reasonably common, we are fortunate in this case to know about it because of one of the participants being an artist and expressing himself through song. However, I feel it important that those who have not personally experienced this kind of relationship get a firmer understanding of what is happening and a conventional Freudian interpretation is highly misleading and overly simplistic. These relationships can be complex and deeply emotional and no patent and lazy platitude is going to shed real light on it. It should never be naively assumed that because Mills was 4 years old at the beginning of this relationship, that she was simply a passive or subordinate participant. This is a real relationship involving two people and each contributes and benefits differently.

Before going on, I should say something about the nature of genuinely abusive relationships. Almost without exception, these situations involve desperate people that, because of their life circumstances, are not capable of engaging in and appreciating more sophisticated relationships. In the case of O’Sullivan and Mills, we are dealing with people with some leisure, who can enjoy the pleasures of life and have the ability to express compassion.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the cuteness and behavior patterns of children and babies motivate adults to treat them with tenderness and affection. I am reminded of an uncle who told me that he never dreamed he would be such a devoted father until after the birth of his two daughters. A man’s bond to his family is complex because, unlike a woman who literally experiences a series of hormonal switches upon pregnancy, birth, and suckling that help establish her attachment with her child, a man’s bond is emotionally triggered by his psychological involvement in the family. Therefore, it is possible for a man who does not have his own family to become attached to another–perhaps that of a sibling or close friend. This, I believe, was the allure from O’Sullivan’s point of view, and with sufficient affection and attention on the part of Mills, that relationship would have strengthened and evolved over time. Of course, as an adult O’Sullivan was capable of expressing a more adult notion of love through songwriting. This could be confusion over the intensity of his paternal-friendship love, but most likely it is a reflection of the difficulty in communicating this level of emotion to a general audience.

The young Mills would have had a lot of appealing qualities that she would not be conscious of which would facilitate a special bond, and that, simply put, is interpersonal chemistry. Even one who is generally good with children would likely have a special bond with a particular favorite and with whom there is a strong reciprocity. The most obvious benefit to the child is that she gets additional attention which certainly promotes healthy development–being held, consoled, fawned over, etc. More subtly, the girl gets a lot of feedback about her value, character and emotional needs which she subconsciously uses to judge the quality of relationships later in life.

Those fortunate enough to be involved in these kinds of relationships experience intense emotional attachment and perhaps the best word to describe it is romantic. But whatever word is used, it is a genuine form of mutual love devoid of inappropriate sexual connotations. -Ron

Wikipedia: Clair (song)

Wikipedia: Gilbert O’Sullivan

41 thoughts on “A Little Clair-ity: The (Un)tainted Love of Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills

  1. I was pretty innocent when Clair came out in 1972, so I don’t think I was tainted by a perverted mind when I found it disturbing. I have no idea how it got played on the radio back then or now, and I’m not going to even try to address that here. I just want to address the song itself. I have no doubt the little girl’s infatuation for Uncle Ray was completely innocent because I also dreamed of growing up and marrying men who were old enough to be my father. My crushs were born from the attention and kindness they showed me. As a child, getting married just meant I got to live with the man I loved. I had no idea that sex was involved. I didn’t even know what sex was. O’Sullivan, on the other hand, takes that expression of wanting to marry him to a really weird place. As an adult whose very business was to understand the power of words, wrote that it caused him to cry and feel like he would die every time he left this toddler… Really? I never even felt that way about my own children. There are additional phrases and words that are beyond subtle and should rightfully be questioned. Clair Mills has defended him, I presume because he probably truly was kind to her (most pedophiles are to children), and hopefully, he never acted out on his feelings. Still, it doesn’t take away the disturbing choice of words he used in the song that gives the listener the impression that he never had an adult relationship that moved him so strongly. in his life. I find that kind of concerning, to say the least.
    The only reason, I’m even commenting on this subject is because children are molested and sexually abused every day in this world at the hands of friends and family members, and sadly adults who should know better, can’t see what’s right in front of them. Maybe they are feeling guilty for interpreting possible innocent behavior as something dirty. Just as in the case for O’Sullivan’s song Clair, it could be considered an innocent happy tune or it could be an artist expressing truly vile desires that wouldn’t be expressed anywhere else., Whatever it is it shouldn’t be ignored. The world isn’t all Disney, and all I can say for sure is, I would have never let O’Sullivan babysit any of my children.

    • So often readers will make utterly predictable comments and they are tolerated to some extent. But it is my hope with Pigtails to impress upon readers what real little girls are like and to respect them as such. Although I do not agree with the commenter on all points, she does make a couple of statements that I feel should be be emphasized.

      1) Although girls often do fall in love (become infatuated) with older men, it must be understood that that relationship is a completely emotional one and might best be characterized as a romantic inclination. Sometimes the girl has been taught that marriages include becoming pregnant and having children, sometimes not. This is a separate mechanism from that of lust and sex even when the girl is a little older and has learned some of the facts of anatomy and intercourse.

      2) It is also perfectly natural for the adult object of such adoration to project his adult psyche and have incidental thoughts of a sexual nature. However, it does not mean they should be expressed publicly or even explicitly in confidence to the little girl. It is perfectly sensible that someone would feel uneasy seeing such sentiments expressed openly. But just because thoughts and impulses occur to us does not mean we act on them in even the slightest way. It is the responsibility of the more mature party (if he is so inclined) to allow the girl to indulge herself a bit while guiding her about the reasonable boundaries in her society as needed. This is her ever-so-charming way of learning the give and take of romantic relationships which is more complex than the vagaries of sex which come into full play when she is older. It is so important for adult men in our post-industrial, co-ed society to learn that a girl’s tastes change dramatically with the onset of her first menses. A hormonal (sexual) trigger has been activated and a whole new set of standards come into play despite whatever sublime amicability that may already exist in a romantic relationship. That is why it makes no sense in societies where the girl has a say in the marriage, for her to commit to a decision until at least about the age of 13. The opportunity for little girls to have extended contact with older men is a relatively new thing and we are still adapting (once such adaptation may be the creation of the Carrollian tea party). In a tribal society, girls would normally be segregated for the most part and any romantic/sexual education would come from the other women.

      I know these ideas are especially hard to assimilate for those who are not parents or have not experienced this kind of platonic relationship first hand. And I am delighted that important ideas like this can be brought across to those readers who really need to hear it. Thank you again, -Ron

    • When I first read this post a while back, I had the impression that the song was probably innocent, perhaps taking a normal adult’s nurturing love for a child and making a sort of “romantic” parody of it. But I got that impression strictly from the post. A moment ago I went and listened to the song. I think it gives a different impression.

      I have to agree with Jane that the lyrics of this song express pedophilic sentiments. I’d like to call attention to a few key phrases. First:

      “I don’t care what people say; to me you’re more than a child.”

      As I’ve said at greater length in other comments, a recurring element in the rationalizations and fantasies of pedophiles is the false notion that children can be viewed as autonomous, fully understanding of romantic relationships, able to reciprocate an adult’s romantic love as an equal, ready to choose whether to enter a romantic relationship–in short, as “little grown-ups.”

      What does “more than a child” mean here?

      It seems pretty obvious to me that the sentiment here is “more deep, sophisticated, grown-up than a child–someone I have feelings toward on a more grown-up or peer level.” The remaining lyrics support this interpretation.

      Consider this fragment: “But why in spite of our age difference do I cry?”

      The term “age difference” in a context like this almost universally refers to a difference in ages between partners in a romantic relationship of peers. To speak to a toddler of “our age difference” is beyond peculiar. The difference between the man and the child here is not quantitative but qualitative: one is a grown man, the other a toddler. But this lyric shouldn’t surprise us, because he’s already said that she’s “more than a child” to him, which is to say, he views her as more of a peer.

      And then there’s this fragment: “Nothing means more to me than hearing you say I’m going to marry you. Will you marry me, Uncle Ray?”

      An adult suffering under no delusions about the nature of a child would see “I’m going to marry you” as a little girl’s fantasy, motivated, no doubt, by sincere feelings, but obviously not to be taken seriously as a declaration of any kind of romantic intent. A child this age has practically no understanding of the nature of marriage or any romantic relationship, nor even any inkling of what a romantic bond is like. It’s possible she came up with the idea of marrying Uncle Ray on her own, based on some imaginary idea of what it might mean to be married, no doubt involving closeness and affection. Then again, at this age, it’s at least as likely that Uncle Ray gave her that idea, particularly when one takes the lyrics of this song into account. He is obviously strongly motivated for her to have that idea, because “nothing means more” to him than to hear her say it.

      Be that as it may, this fragment comes across as the man’s sincere belief that the little girl is expressing a true romantic intention, which is further evidence that the way he feels about her is disconnected with the reality of what children this age are really like, and what the limits of their understanding are. And the statement that “nothing means more” to him than this declaration of intent to marry is plain alarming.

      When my son was a toddler, he did tell me he loved me, and it did warm my heart to hear it. But I also knew he was a toddler, and that he loved me even when he was expressing his anger toward me, and even in those times when he was too busy with his own projects to be bothered. It’s the adult’s job to understand the nature of the relationship, because the child can’t. The child’s love feelings are strong, real, sincere, yes. It’s great to hear them spontaneously expressed in words. But what would it mean if I said that those words were the most important thing in the world to me? It would mean I had saddled my son with the responsibility of rationally choosing whether to be in the relationship and communicating his intentions to me. It would mean I had viewed him as a peer instead of a toddler.

      Taken overall, the lyrics of this song ignore the actual nature of a toddler–the limits of her understanding and her reliance on parents to make decisions for her in dealing with all the complex realities of the world, and to keep her healthy and safe. A toddler freely imagines, pretends, and speaks boldly about what she herself knows she doesn’t understand. It’s how she plays and learns. She expects her parents to know what’s really going on and to ensure that she’s going to be okay, and she expects trusted adults to help her grow to understand her world and fit the puzzle pieces together.

      Faced with “I’m going to marry you someday,” a responsible man in the girl’s life would tell her in age-appropriate terms that he loves her too, but someday, when she’s older, she will fall in love for real. Even if little Clair sincerely came to Uncle Ray with the idea of marrying him, her tacit expectation was that he, an adult she trusted, would gently set her straight if that was actually a bad idea. The fact that she continued declaring her romantic love for him only shows that instead he gave her the impression that what she felt was real romantic love and that he reciprocated it. By doing that, he was already exploiting her–manipulating her into believing her feelings were romantic in nature and appropriate as such, because such beliefs on her part suited his fantasies about her.

      In my humble opinion, the idea that a toddler can experience actual romantic love is patently silly. Romantic love is, by nature, a bond between postpubescent peers, as it is the bond that leads to and is reinforced by mature sexuality. I believe pubescent preteens can and do fall in love with peers (as in Moonrise Kingdom, Melody, etc.), though it’s fairly rare. But the feelings of a toddler toward an adult, while they can be very strong, are really nothing like romantic feelings with the exception that both are kinds of love. Naturally a toddler girl, with her limited understanding, is prone to conflating the two unless and until a trusted adult explains the difference.

      I think this song comes across as a pedophile’s love song to a toddler. The evidence (e.g., Clair’s own statements) suggests that the man didn’t sexually abuse the girl, and we can hope that’s the case. But an adult whose view of the relationship is so completely out of touch with reality, who sees the girl as “more than a child,” cries over her “in spite of” their “age difference,” takes her seriously when she declares her intention to marry him, and furthermore teaches the trusting little girl that a serious and appropriate romantic relationship exists between them–well, I have to wonder where her parents were while all this was going on.

      • Look, you clearly have different views on this stuff than I do. You’re entitled to your opinions, of course, but this has gotten to the point where it seems to me that you have an agenda. You’ve been careful to express your views within the guidelines of the site, which are fairly loose with respect to responses by readers. We generally only ask that they be respectful to the posters and editors here, and that they don’t make sexual or obscene comments about the art or its subjects. Obviously you’re not going to do the latter, and you’ve done an exemplary job of the former, at least in terms of your content. And yet, your replies are so overly long and repetitious that I can’t help but feel you are expecting to wear us down to the point that we ignore your replies so that you can pick apart the more challenging aspects of our site by sneak attack. There’s also something of a ‘guilt trip’ quality to your replies, which go hand-in-hand with your self-appointed designation as (and continuous need to remind us that you are) “a parent,” making it clear that you view this status as the ultimate and final arbiter of what is moral and immoral with respect to children. Perhaps that’s not the case and you’re just verbose—and, it has to be said, a smidge condescending—in general. I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, I am putting the brakes on this. Keep your replies short and to the point, or you will find them not getting posted at all. If you want to write your own essays in response to our articles, then please start your own blog, don’t try to commandeer ours. You are officially on notice.

        That being said, it’s also quite obvious to me that you completely missed the point of the song. Did you even read my article? Because you did not address my assessment, you simply bypassed it and went for the surface interpretation, avoiding the deeper context, the sly satirical element. In fact, I suspect you do this rather often with art. It’s not hard to understand why: you’re a conservative at heart, bound to the explicit rather than the implicit, like those conservatives who are “strict constructionists” of the Constitution. And, like those conservatives, your interpretation is likely to be a shallow one. You take everything at face value, don’t you? No, I reject your interpretation entirely.

        • I am sorry. I did not mean to offend anyone, The only agenda I had was to make an attempt in expressing that you don’t need a perverted mind to think the song wasn’t innocent (as some previous commenters stated). I also didn’t realize long posts were reserved for those who agree with the writer/editor’s agenda. I am signing off and will not visit this site again, therefore I will not see any additional posts or replies. Again, apologies and best of luck!

          • Hi Pip,

            I attempted to post this a few times under the comment it answers, but with no luck. (When I pressed the button to post my comment, it just redirected me back to the original blog post.) This might be a software glitch, so I’m going to attempt to post it under Jane’s response.

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My answer is somewhat long, but I hope you will permit me to respond fully in my own defense, as that seems only fair. You said you’d like to give me the benefit of the doubt. Please allow me to clarify my intentions.

            In truth, I haven’t been mindful of the blog’s guidelines. If my comments are respectful, it’s only because I actually do respect the readers and editors. I don’t have an ulterior motive.

            Nevertheless, in general, I have written pretty carefully. Although I don’t think my remarks are repetitive per se, I imagine you might be referring to the fact that I’ve expressed some of the same thoughts in more than one comment. This is only because I don’t want to assume every reader has read my other comments.

            As to their length, this stems from the complexity of the subject. If I were to spend a lot of time editing, I might be able to say the same things more clearly and in fewer words. But then, as you observed, I’m not out to write my own blog here. My goal was only to get my thoughts across.

            Even so, I put significant time and effort into my comments. This might be why you suspect I have an agenda. (Why else would I be working so hard?) Please understand that I simply find the subject interesting and feel strongly about some aspects. Many original posts here acknowledge that they touch on controversial subjects, and one purpose of a blog like this, or so it seems to me, is open discussion involving contrasting views.

            I used “a parent” as my moniker in my first comment because I wanted to remain anonymous. I chose it because it expressed the point of view I was writing from. I don’t claim to speak for all parents. I do suspect that my reaction to some of the ideas here would be shared by a lot of parents, at least partially *because* they’re parents. I also think being a parent has given me a perspective nonparents don’t have, but probably most parents believe that. I’ve kept the moniker simply to retain a single identity in all my comments.

            I don’t expect anybody to adopt my point of view just because I told them I’m a parent. I hope readers consider the points I’m making and my arguments in favor of them.

            In many ways I like this site and value its goals. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I didn’t read through so many of the posts just to attack them. Why bother? I approached each post with a positive attitude, looking for agreement. It took significant time for certain themes to emerge, and longer still for me to get my head around what it was exactly about those themes that bothered me.

            If I have any agenda, it’s mutual understanding. I began with the feeling that you and other posters here might benefit from my feedback for a specific and interesting reason: much of the negative feedback you receive seems to come from people averse to all child nudity and any suggestion that children are sexual beings. I’ve seen some of your answers to such people. But my concerns are more focused, and I suspect others with similarly relaxed views of child nudity and sexuality might still share these concerns regarding how the blog tends to see children. It’s one thing to view children as beautiful and worthy of contemplation in all their complexity. It’s a different thing to view them as proper objects of adult romantic or erotic feelings.

            I did read your entire post about “Clair” some time ago, and I was convinced by it. At that time I didn’t bother to listen to the song. It was Jane’s comment that prompted me to go listen to what the lyrics actually say. It was the lyrics themselves that led to my response.

            What I’d most like to see are your answers to my specific points, because I’d like to understand better where you’re coming from. Obviously we disagree, but exactly where do our viewpoints diverge and why? You used the word “challenging” to refer to some aspects of Pigtails in Paint. As I see it, you and others have attempted to tackle these challenges. Yet in all the posts I’ve read, I’ve yet to see my precise objections addressed. I raised them in the hopes that you would address them. It’s not spreading guilt that I’m after, but achieving understanding.

            I’ve done enough writing to believe I’ll make my points more clearly and effectively if I don’t try to limit myself to a “conversational” style. I can see how this might be interpreted as condescending (as an attempt to appear impressive or some such), but I intend the opposite: out of respect for readers, I want to apply such ability as I can muster to the task of making difficult points on a complicated subject.

            I’ve tried to show my regard for the intelligence of you, other posters, and readers by expressing *why* I feel as I do, in the hope that there can be thoughtful discussion. My comments would be twice as long, half as clear, and actually condescending if I attempted to couch every statement in overblown politeness. I realize I’m expressing disagreement. I hope I’m expressing it respectfully but clearly, and making the best case I can come up with. Your blog has been thought provoking (one of its goals, I daresay), and I’m taking the trouble to express some of the thoughts it has provoked. I believe my comments have been on point, though admittedly relatively long (as the “point” is complicated).

            I gather from your analysis of “Clair” that some part of your interpretation is that it’s satire. But then I see what looks to me like a contradiction: there are remarks that seem to interpret the relationship between the man and toddler as actually romantic. If the song is satirical, then the relationship is really ordinary adult-child love, which is in no way romantic.

            I believe my comments implicitly do answer your interpretation. I would expect a satirical treatment to have the trappings of a romantic song with a subtle nod to the fact that these trappings really stand for an adult’s normal love of a little girl. Instead, the lines I quoted address the “age difference” directly, as an acknowledged problem the writer must deal with in his feelings toward the girl. He says, “I don’t care what people say,” which plainly reacts to the fact that his viewing Clair as “more than a child” is a thing some people take exception to. The tone of both the music and the lyrics is sincere, not ironic. The song treats the subject of a grown man’s romantic feelings toward a toddler girl head on, as a stated issue, and some of the remarks in the post seem to do the same.

            The overall position of this blog toward the relationship between Clair and Uncle Ray seems to run something like this: It was in fact a special kind of relationship, which was, in a certain sense, truly romantic. It was not ordinary adult-child love, such as normally exists between an uncle and his niece. It was something deeper. But you believe this special relationship to be within the bounds of what’s normal and healthy. On the other hand, you seem also to be saying that the more disturbing aspects of the lyrics should be interpreted as satire. That appears to me to be trying to “have your cake and eat it too.” I don’t think I’m looking at this in an oversimplistic way, but then I don’t think it’s especially sophisticated to beat around the bush. The man either felt romantic love toward the girl or not. If and to the extent he felt romantic love, I believe that’s simply pedophilia. I argued in my comments that the lyrics are indicative of the kind of “children are little grown-ups” fantasy commonly seen in rationalizations for pedophilia. I covered why I don’t think it’s realistic to imagine that toddlers have romantic feelings toward adults, and why I don’t think an adult’s romantic feelings toward a toddler are healthy. In fact, I think Clair was probably exploited even if she wasn’t sexually abused, and I gave a rationale for that view.

            I knew I was expressing dissent. I guess I was hoping there could be some discussion of our specific differences, because perhaps there’s more to your opinions than I’ve managed to grasp.

            Personally, I don’t think “conservative” is an insult, and I don’t think all conservatives are “bound to the explicit.” Consider David Mamet, who won the Pulitzer Prize as a playwright. His work is, by any reasonable assessment, quite layered, yet these days his political writings are loved by the right. Many avowed conservatives enjoy classical literature, and one doesn’t relish Homer, Virgil, Dante, or Milton if one is “bound to the explicit.”

            On the other hand, most people wouldn’t call my views on nudity and sexuality “conservative.” I have a large framed picture on my living-room wall depicting nude children of opposite genders embracing. More than one self-identified conservative has balked at it. I believe our society is prudish and would benefit from slackening certain taboos–specifically from more open nudity and natural expressions of healthy sexuality, not to mention treating bodily functions, including reproductive ones, as matters of fact, without embarrassment, and with neither disrespect nor undue awe. I didn’t arrive at these iconoclastic views by taking everything at face value.

            Sometimes we have to read between the lines, yes. But at other times, common sense and conscience seem to urge us to look unflinchingly at what the lines themselves plainly say. I don’t think it’s crass to do that.

            I accept without anger or ill will your rejection of my interpretation, but I wish it were not stated as a blanket dismissal on grounds that you’ve come to believe I’m a shallow person. I don’t think we learn anything that way. What I wish for (although I realize I might be disappointed) is to know your specific rationale for disagreeing. It would be silly of me to expect people to espouse my interpretation of “Clair” just because I’m a parent. By the same token, should you expect people to balk at my interpretation just because you’ve deemed me an unworthy commentator? Shouldn’t our discussion instead be about the points I’m trying to make?

            Again, thanks for listening.

          • No, it’s not a software glitch. All replies that are not from pre-approved respondents have to be manually approved by us to be seen. Your three duplicate posts were thus deleted.

            So, here’s the deal: I am working on an article which addresses your view that child art with “erotic content” (which you have yet to define or provide any examples of, something I specifically requested of you) should be censored. I could do a wide-ranging post, or series of them, focusing on that in all art forms, but I chose a specific one—comics—because it has been ground zero for the censorship debate for a while, and because I don’t want to get bogged down in this discussion for months. Once I complete that, I will do another post which will be a thorough interrogation of the song “Clair” and why it is meant as satire rather than an endorsement of… what you think it is an endorsement of. Hold off on your comments until these are completed, and you can reply to those with respect to your agreement or disagreement with my views.

            Until then, I charge you to think carefully: with a clinical degree of calm and rationality, you’ve essentially accused us of being a “pro-pedophilia” blog. Can you not understand why that might be a smidge bothersome to us? It’s one thing for uncultured buffoons to scream accusations at us with little or no thought behind it. You are altogether different. So I will defend my views likewise (though not without passion—I am an artist myself after all). But I am NOT going to get caught up in this discussion indefinitely. My patience only extends so far, and I have other things to do besides engaging in an endless debate with critics. So we will narrow our debate to those two posts, you will get two replies for each, and I will limit my replies to two as well. You may make these as long as you wish. After that, the discussion is done. You may make concise points (two or three paragraphs, no more) to other articles beyond that, at least to my articles. Be aware, however, that I cannot vouch for the other contributors/editors here. They may decide to axe your responses altogether. I have no control over them, and their patience may be even more limited than mine. You now have very precise guidelines. Violating these will be grounds for deletion of replies and/or blockage of your account entirely. Please abide by them if you want to continue this discussion. Thank you. – Pip

  2. P.S. Regarding my earlier post today, I had forgotten that the above article already contains a reference to the post from Clair herself that is on the You Tube video.

  3. I hope that everybody who has followed the above link to the
    “proto-music video” on You Tube has also read the top Comment on the list of Comments on that You Tube video.
    It was posted there by Clair herself.

  4. This has got to be one of the most insightful things I have ever read…thank you for sharing. I have always loved this song…more so now that I am a Grandfather with a 3-year-old that I love deeply (and raising). It’s a special kind of love between us that can only be described as an ache whenever we’re apart. Sorry…had to get that out …thx Pip

  5. It’s tragic that things of the past are judged by today’s standards which is unfair. You have to have an idea of what the people then thought & felt about a subject before you impose your own biases & opinions on it.

    O’Sullivan’s “Clair” was a lovely song that many people didn’t even bat their eyelashes to when it was released, as they knew what it meant & in what light it was intended. You see unlike today’s world, people weren’t in a hurry to get carried away by every little thing that came along. It was a innocent & sweet part of my youth which I still enjoy to this day. Music is all the more better that songs such as “Clair” were written & recorded.

    Even O’Sullivan himself sadly observed while speaking on the subject, “Unfortunately it’s the kind of song that can’t be written & sung in today’s world” Sad but true, & just because it means something bad to you NOW, that doesn’t mean this was always so, especially THEN.

    We live a harsher & more inhuman word disguised as being more enlightened & tolerant because we feel free to hate on everything that comes along. We call this “progress” BAH! We live in cursed times indeed.

    • We certainly do live in cursed times!

      Especially when it comes to the treatment of children.
      Every lunatic is able to get a gun and head to the nearest schoolhouse.
      We have a President who tries to terrify people out of coming into this country by yanking young children away from their parents.

      But if you admire an innocent, beautiful picture of a nude child, YOU will be seen as a dangerous enemy of society.

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