Daddy’s Girls and Beautiful Boys: Children’s Sexual Encounters in Graphic Media

(Last Updated On July 19, 2019)

WARNING: The following article contains images of child sexual abuse which may offend sensitive viewers. Not recommended for children under 18. 

You’ll have to excuse me, because this article will be long. But I think it’s warranted and long overdue.

I must confess, my recent discussions with a respondent to our blog who goes by the deceptively mundane, everyman moniker “a parent” has gotten under my skin in a big way. The underlying accusation, though not put into these words exactly, is that Pigtails in Paint is guilty of “sexualizing” children. This we do, according to “a parent”, by repeatedly claiming—whether doing this directly or indirectly he does not say—that children are worthy objects of the sexual attention of adults, or in terms of art, by attempting to “normalize” what some critics refer to as the “pedophilic gaze.”

Let me be absolutely clear here: I object nearly outright to the concept of the “sexualized” child, as well as to “normalization.” These words are loaded language, armchair psychobabble/political spin designed to instill by default the opposite notion that the “normal” child is by nature asexual, a being entirely without carnal thoughts, feelings or motivations, their minds and bodies veritable blank slates upon which only pubescence justly and impartially writes the erotic code that makes them into what we designate in our culture as a full-on adult.

The problem with this viewpoint is three-fold: first and most obviously, there is a ton of evidence that contradicts this supposition, as almost any reputable expert on children can tell you; second, it neglects to incorporate the fact that authorities—parents especially—control the dialogue and shape children sexually whether they believe they are doing so or not; second, it ignores the reality that the moral panic surrounding child sexuality, child sexual abuse and pedophilia (which are related but not inseparable issues) have grown in strength over the last few decades, to the point that we now have an aegrescit medendo situation where children and adults alike are being harmed as much or more by the overreaction of society as by the folk devils to which it is responding.

In one of my replies to “a parent” I held up as evidence for this two major examples: the side effects of conservative regions where girls are more likely to get pregnant because of lack of decent sex education, lack of access to birth control, and so on (not to mention getting stuck with a baby before she’s ready thanks to harsh anti-abortion measures in those places), and kids themselves getting arrested as sex offenders after being caught up in sexting cases. I will add to those the following:

  • The sex offender registry, which has resulted in more problems than it’s solved, foremost among them that it creates a perfect hit list for legal, physical and social persecution.
  • The courtesy stigma, name-calling, threats, and educational shutting-out and funding issues that many scholars and researchers face when exploring these issues, especially when their conclusions do not match social and cultural expectations or feed into the biases of politicians.
  • The growth of a powerful and unduly influential victim culture surrounding sexual abuse which often exploits the moral panic for its own gain at the expense of many innocent people and organizations.
  • The blatant exploitation of the sexual abuse moral panic by political entities and demagogues, particularly on the right but also on the left, utilizing it as propaganda against their political rivals. (See: Pizzagate and Qanon)
  • The largely unhelpful “stranger danger” myth, which invests in children a lifelong dread of mostly benign strangers and takes the focus off the real source of most sexual abuse, the child’s own family.
  • The unhealthy guilt complexes, body image issues and fear of intimacy that many children learn as a result of being taught that good/normal children are sexually (read: morally) pure, a personification many of them are simply unable to live up to, and which our society goes to great lengths to enforce, one way or another.
  • And, of course, the irreparable harm that has been done to artists such as Graham Ovenden and Jock Sturges and their subjects, forever tainted by their names being dragged through the thoroughly raked muck—not to mention art as a whole, the entire history of children in art being reinterpreted through the child pornography/child exploitation lens, and many artists unwilling to tackle what has traditionally been a favorite subject for them, the nude child or youth, due to fears of social stigma and/or legal reprisals.

There are others, but these are quite sufficient, I think, to get the point across. We at Pigtails are primarily concerned with the last one.

The thing about “a parent” is that he comes across as quite reasonable in general, and that concerns me more than a thousand trolls posting death threats or idiotic insults ever could. Those types of people tend to be so broadly ignorant and clownishly obnoxious that their take on these matters cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, “a parent” has positioned himself as an admirer of simple child nudes, which is understandable. As I have said on a number of occasions, child nudity cannot be equated with sexuality across the board. The conflation of those two things is mainly a Western conceit, predominantly in the Anglophone West: Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. So far, so good.

Another thing is that “a parent” does not believe in the asexual child (or so he claims), and so none of what I wrote above is directly applicable to him. But he plays into this prejudice regardless, because one cannot extricate the idea that children are asexual from the position that they should be seen as such when we look at art featuring them. How is “a parent” able to compartmentalize these two conflicting ideas? His argument basically boils down to this: the artist and the art observer can think such things in an abstract way, but an artist who acknowledges this directly in their work is in violation of the all-important taboo and that must remain forbidden lest it endanger children. In essence, then, intellectual recognition of this scientific fact is fine, but woe to the artist who explores this concept directly in his or her work, who has the unmitigated gall to present the sexual child in imagery. That can only be, according to “a parent”, a sign of a pedophilic wet dream expressed on paper or canvas. Artists who present children erotically must be pedophiles, or why else would they create such work? Moebius? Pedophile. Tamburini and Liberatore? Pedophiles. Neil Gaiman? Obviously a pedophile. I mean, not only did he create the Lantiman of Sauk, he also wrote a rather stirring defense of lolicon with his essay Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech? on his web journal.

Examples of the traditional arts (drawing, painting, sculpture—I’m purposely avoiding dipping into photography here) that either play with eroticism or where children and sexuality meet in some sense are Paul Peel’s A Venetian Bather, Jules Marie Auguste Leroux’s The Mirror, Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa, Donatello’s David, Louis Ricardo Falero’s The Planet Venus, works by the Die Brücke collective featuring Fränzi Fehrmann, and Ramon Casas i Carbó’s Flores Deshojadas (Depetaled Flowers), to name a few. But what I want to focus on here is what all of the links in the paragraph above this one have in common: they all feature work from comics artists and writers.

More than any other medium, these have been the target of would-be censors. It’s probably no accident that the one time in American history where an artist was actually convicted on obscenity charges it was for his comics, a medium that has long been viewed as little more than children’s funny books or superhero fantasies by ignorant snobs who don’t understand it. In any case, Mike Diana‘s story is fascinating and should be studied by anyone with an interest in free speech issues and legal precedent. In the late eighties and early nineties the teenage Diana wrote and drew a series of comics with extremely gruesome content—graphic violence and mutilation, rape and child sexual abuse, incest, and likely the most damning offense in the small Florida community where he lived and worked, religious blasphemy—published them in very limited runs at his own expense, and sold them via mail to about three hundred customers around the US for two dollars a pop. Diana had the bad luck of producing his ostentatiously subversive and distasteful work at the same time as the Gainesville Ripper was operating. Diana even became a suspect in those murders, though he was eventually exonerated there. Still, the obscenity charges stuck.

While I cannot defend Diana’s work on its merits (I’m not going to share any of it here; just google it if you’re curious—honestly, it’s so badly drawn and noxious in content that it makes my head hurt to even look at it), the idea that an artist who created something which involved no actual children and that’s about as far from erotic as one can get seems patently absurd to me. I mention this case because it is the extreme, and because, far from accomplishing the goal of “protecting” children from Diana’s work, which almost certainly would’ve been ignored otherwise and slipped into obscurity, all his Kafkaesque trial and conviction really accomplished in the end was putting the spotlight on him and his atrocious art, and now any child who has access to the internet can google it for free. Diana has even had his work shown in international museums. Ho-hum.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s get to the examples (besides the ones I’ve already linked to). Here is a single panel from a comic I will wait to identify. Out of context, all we can really discern about this image is that it is sexual. The female in bed is performing fellatio on a man, who hovers over her. I will clarify further, because it may not be immediately obvious: the female is a child. Take a good look at it, and withhold judgment if you can. Is this the sort of thing “a parent” would have the government censor?

Now I will identify this image. It is a single panel from the Ignatz Award-nominated semi-autobiographical comic Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Dreschler. This image comes from my own copy of the comic, the square-bound softcover first edition published in 1996 by Fantagraphics. It’s a comic that deals frankly with a young girl’s sexual abuse at the hands of . . . well, a father (not “a father”) during the late fifties and early sixties. In between episodes of sexual abuse, the girl’s life is filled with moments of irony and pathos, such as when her parents take their four children to present gifts to a poor black family during Christmas. The fact that the comic is not subtle about the abuse and does not shy away from depicting it gives Daddy’s Girl a disturbing power that simple fiction could probably never achieve. By design, you cannot look away or consider the abuse as an abstraction. Dreschler forces you to confront it head on. Here are a few pages of this sequence—called Visitors in the Night—for context.

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (1)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (2)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (3)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (4)

I ask again: is this the sort of image that “a parent” would have the state censor? Perhaps. He says:

So my view is that this particular highly specific kind of expression (a drawing graphically depicting sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) should be illegal, even where there’s no proof of direct harm.

He offers a specific set of criteria by which he judges what should or should not be illegal. Many of Dreschler’s images would fall into that category by default. That would be a huge shame, because the work would lose much of its shock value without these scenes. In fact, I’d say it would be nearly impossible for this comic to exist as what it is without such scenes. Maybe “a parent” would differ on that point, but there can be little doubt that these scenes make the work more disturbing than it would otherwise be. And that is the point of them.

Says “a parent”:

Suppose, for example, there is a pen-and-ink drawing in comic-book style of graphic sexual abuse involving an older adult and a prepubescent child. And suppose the artist did not work from photographs or live models in making this drawing, so it can be claimed that there was no “real, direct” harm done. (I’m pretty sure such a thing would be illegal under our current laws, but I’m not absolutely certain, and I’m definitely no expert.) Besides serving as child pornography, what’s the purpose of such a drawing?

I offered an example which fits this description exactly. (And no, such images are not illegal per se, at least not in the US—this has been tested multiple times, and with the exception of Mike Diana, all those artists won their cases.) So, what is the purpose of such drawings? According to “a parent” they can only serve as pornography to stimulate pedophiles. I wonder what Dreschler would think of such an accusation? Maybe I should ask her.

Here is another example from a different comic, Phoebe Gloeckner‘s A Child’s Life. This too is semi-autobiographical . . . and disturbing. Gloeckner’s character Minnie Goetze is a thinly disguised stand-in for her, though Gloeckner herself has never confirmed this, referring to her work simply as fiction. That’s understandable, as she doesn’t just tell her own story—she recounts events from other girls’ lives as well, including a girl called “Tabatha”:

Phoebe Gloeckner – A Child’s Life (1998)

Is this image erotic? Would it turn some folks on? Possibly. But that is not the intent of the artist. Calling this or Dreschler’s blatant depictions of sexual abuse “child pornography” is ignorant and insulting to both of them. Alright, “a parent” might say, so biographical work which clearly isn’t designed to titillate the viewer might get a pass, but what about examples which are less obviously negative?

Okay, let’s take one from Neil Gaiman’s (that perv again!) multiple award-winning series The Sandman, from the one-off issue Ramadan, drawn by the fabulous P. Craig Russell. (Side note: I have the first three of Russell’s Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde books, and they are absolutely gorgeous.) Ramadan is not really about child sexuality or abuse (you can read a summary of the story here if you’re interested, though I recommend reading the actual comic), but it does feature a relevant scene which I remember being somewhat controversial at the time the comic came out in the early nineties:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan (detail)

Here is the full page for context:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan

So now we have an example of straight fiction, nothing autobiographical here. There is a single panel (with an inset) in the whole of the story that fits our topic, and unlike Dreschler’s or Gloeckner’s comics, it does not portray it negatively. In fact, the description written by Gaiman makes the “beautiful boys” sound quite appealing. We see no actual sex there, but arguably the boys are drawn sensuously. Is this, then, child pornography? Of course it isn’t. The drawings reinforce the text, but the intent here is certainly not to arouse the viewer. They are presented as part of a larger tapestry, a lovely scene to reinforce that the narrator is a man who enjoys the pleasures of the flesh, be it women or boys. Since the story’s point-of-view character is Haroun al Raschid, the caliph of a medieval-era Middle Eastern city, it makes absolute sense that his perceptions are not modern, and that Gaiman and Russell, presenting us this scene through Haroun’s eyes, would give us boys that are sexually provocative, not presented as victims but as willing and knowing partners, even if they are technically sex slaves. Now, I’m quite sure Russell does not approve of child abuse, and I know Gaiman doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would’ve been ridiculous to offer this scene judgmentally, through modern eyes. It would’ve been obvious and clumsy, taking the reader out of the story.

“Okay, but why include the images at all? Surely they weren’t necessary,” I can hear “a parent” grumbling now. That is beside the point. It is not an artist’s job to go out of their way to avoid triggering sensitive readers. No one doubts that the abuse of young boys occurred in harems like the one described. That’s a historical fact. To gloss over that detail is to feed into political correctness, and the more artists do that, the more they will be expected to do that, until they face arrest for not doing it. Censorship will not stop where “a parent” thinks it should. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. As Gaiman himself said in Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?:

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.

Whether I find any images of children sexually provocative or not (some might find that image by Dreschler to be arousing; I certainly don’t), my tastes should not be the deciding factor on whether something is illegal or not. Nor should the tastes of “a parent”, nor should the tastes of any particular person or group of persons.

Says “a parent”:

Well, I feel that freedom of expression is very, very important. But it’s not really freedom of expression that’s at issue. It is freedom of a highly specific and narrow range of expression, namely depiction of children as objects of sexual desire. Out of all art and ideas, I think this is an exceedingly tiny slice of a huge pie. Any legislation in this area would leave the vast, overwhelming majority of artistic expression completely unimpeded.

I doubt very much that “a parent” actually believes this, or that he would stand against it if, say, adult porn was on the censor’s chopping block. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt it. He adds, in defense of his view:

It’s critical to realize that child pornography is not on even ground with other “ideas.” We not talking about appealing to the thoughts or the emotions. Appealing to sexual urges–particularly to urges that must harm children if they are fully gratified–is a different basic kind of thing from other types of expression.

Okay. Disregarding for a moment the fact that this is special pleading, I have to ask why is “child pornography”—remember, we’re talking about drawings here—different? Because it is the image of a crime? No, I’ve seen actual photos of murdered children (I wish I hadn’t, but they’re out there)—those are also images of actual crimes, yet they aren’t outlawed. But images of violence do not encourage some unspecified fraction of humanity to commit more crimes, right? Do we know this for a fact? I mean, there have certainly been murderers who have claimed that violent imagery pushed them towards their own murder sprees. Who’s to say it isn’t true? Ah, but it’s a very small percentage of humanity who would be influenced to those ends, eh? Well, “a parent” himself says that pedophiles are such a meager minority that censoring images that might influence them shouldn’t be considered on the same level as other sorts of images, and he says “normal” people, which he defines as the vast majority of humanity, is appalled by such images, and certainly aren’t turned on by them. In other words, not only is he guilty of special pleading, he’s also spouting the bandwagon fallacy as a defense.

Are there folks who get off on violent imagery? Unquestionably. But “a parent” suggests that sex is somehow very different from other provocative concepts like violence, because it doesn’t appeal to thoughts or emotions. Well, what the ever-loving fuck does it appeal to then? A base drive? Is violence not a base drive in us too? Are some people not compelled by their lizard brains to violently destroy that which they hate and fear? Of course they are. But that’s different, because . . .

Because why? Because it doesn’t appeal to pedophiles. That’s it. That’s all it comes down to in the end. They are a tiny minority says “a parent”, and children are too precious and vulnerable to risk them being abused by those few weak souls who might be (not have been, not definitely will be, but might be) encouraged to offend. Look, the only reason to outlaw actual child porn is because it’s consumption encourages the production of more, and we are talking about actual abuse in that case. Children are offended against for the explicit purpose of the production of child porn. In other words, it can only exist because sexual abuse has been committed, and the producer(s) did so with that express purpose in mind. But to extend that argument to drawings, paintings and the like where no real children were actually harmed in its production, on the grounds that it might cause a few people to act out on their sexual urges, is a clear example of thought-crime. You can argue that pedophilia is more than thoughts or feelings all you want to. Hell, I’ll even agree with you on that. But the fact is, when you get right down to it, you are outlawing a thought, an idea, a concept. Make no mistake: if we can outlaw erotic drawings of kids on the grounds that it might cause some people to commit sexual abuse, then it’s not a stretch to suggest that adult porn could likewise be outlawed because it might push some people into rape (sex drive, right?), but we don’t outlaw it on those grounds. Not in America anyway.

Ah, but that’s not why adult porn exists, “a parent” will say. And around and around the circle we go. Most artists, even those who deliberately draw pedophilic erotica, aren’t sitting there thinking, “Ha! I’ll make drawings in order to push people into molesting kids! Mwa ha ha ha!” To make that argument is to assume that anyone with the least bit of interest in such content is inherently immoral, prone to abusing kids and seeking to make others like them. “A parent” says if such content is allowed to exist, kids will be abused because of it. He states it as fact, yet offers no evidence to back it up. Well, I know of a country where a great deal of such content exists, is legal for purchase, indeed is found in comics and magazine shops all around the country. I don’t think I even need to name it. And yet there isn’t scads of child rape and abuse happening there. In fact, that country has low crime rates all the way around. Moreover, many studies show that where porn exists legally, sex offenses tend to plummet. Why would it be any different for child erotica? After all, sex with kids is forbidden across the board, unlike sex with consenting adults. Clearly, having such outlets is more beneficial than harmful. But, by all means “a parent”, offer me evidence which demonstrates that I’m wrong and I’ll reconsider.

Finally (whew!), I will offer this. Here is a comic which actually condones child abuse, brought to you by way of the Kids Tract Club. You reckon it’s been influential?

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (1)

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (2)

17 thoughts on “Daddy’s Girls and Beautiful Boys: Children’s Sexual Encounters in Graphic Media

  1. I am certainly not the only contributor and reader who feels disturbed by the increasing monopolisation of the comments by a narrow range of topics (paedophilia, childhood sexuality, abuse and pornography), under the impulse of one particular reader who posts repetitive long comments with a monolithic and stereotyped presentation of the complex reality underlying these topics.
    (1) It stifles informed discussion on the art works and artists presented here. Who did notice my recent comment on Mark Twain?
    (2) I think that this discussion is off-topic. Raising the objection of “paedophilia” to a visual artwork or to a song is a red herring: any love and any art, whenever it is caring and respectful, is good and healthy. Such type of attack allows any contemporary mediocrity to tarnish the reputation of great artists and writers: one raises oneself not by great works, but by lowering those of others. Moreover, all contributors to this blog can have their own (somewhat hidden) opinion on the above-mentioned topics, that is part of their personality, and it does not interfere with our common goal. Myself, I have unconventional views on these topics and on many other social and political issues, but I do not present them on Pigtails, there are more appropriate channels for them. If you are interested in unending lengthy learned discussions on paedophilia and intergenerational sex, go to a blog like Heretic TOC, but not here.
    (3) I encourage commentators wanting to raise serious topics to base their discourse on scholarship. Don’t rely on mainstream media, nor on the “experts” whom they invoke, they always pick the ones telling what they want to hear. Read works by various scholars, by historians and ethnologists if you want to know social norms in older times or other cultures, and by sexologists for the topics of the current discussion. In this respect I noticed a great variety of opinions among researchers, some very controversial but respected by peers, and also a wide variety of feelings and reactions among children, a sizeable minority among them totally contradicting what is widely believed about childhood. Variety is a feature of nature, as Kinsey noticed both for insects and for human sexuality.

    • I agree. I’m changing my mind on allowing further discussion. This ends now. I appreciate everyone who has offered their opinions, whatever they may be, but Ron and I have no intention of letting this go on any longer. All the relevant points have been made. Enough.

    • I read your comment about Mark Twain.
      And I agree with the decision by Ron and Pip to finally end this series of very long dissertations.

  2. Hi Pip,

    A appreciate your willingness to have a dialog. For those interested in the whole discussion, it may be enlightening to read what I actually wrote in context. My first comment was posted under “Pierre Brun illustration from Revue des Arts Décoratifs” from June 3, and there was some ensuing discussion in the comments there. Later I posted a comment under “A Little Clair-ity: The (Un)tainted Love of Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills” from July 25, 2013. Again, that led to more discussion there.

    You may recall that I didn’t set out in the first place to discuss censorship. I’ve never advocated the government’s censoring Pigtails in Paint, nor have I advocated any changes in the laws. I would have said practically nothing about that subject if you hadn’t directly challenged me to define my views. When I made an attempt at doing so, it was not without raising this caveat: such definitions are very difficult to put into words, and thus my words on the subject are imprecise and incomplete.

    That said, I think our views on the censorship of child porn differ in two major ways.

    First, unlike you (as far as I can tell), I believe current laws in the U.S. do prohibit some content strictly on grounds that the content itself has an overall negative effect on society. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia: “The law enacted 18 U.S.C. § 1466A, which criminalizes material that has ‘a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting’ that ‘depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene’ or ‘depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in … sexual intercourse … and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value’. By its own terms, the law does not make all simulated child pornography illegal, only that found to be obscene or lacking in serious value.”

    Here’s another quote from the same article: “Attorney James R. Marsh, founder of the Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., wrote that although the Supreme Court’s decision has been criticized by some, he believes it correctly enables legal personnel to fight crime networks where child pornography is made and sold. Child pornography is illegal in the US and is not looked at in terms of the typical guidelines of the First Amendment, due to the assumption that it always harms children when it is made, sold, and/or owned.”

    There’s a judgment call involved, but some works can be seen as generally harmful to children even if no children were directly harmed in their making. The quotes above are about federal laws, but states may also have their own laws, some of which may be stricter than the federal ones.

    The second way our views on censorship appear to be different is that you would advocate for relaxing such laws, whereas I don’t. I think it’s reasonable to have them, even given that there are costs, including the risk that courts may at times interpret the law as criminalizing works that some people see as nonpornographic. In my comment on censorship, I attempted to get into more details about why I feel this way.

    Discussions about this subject involve broad abstractions, so they often end in misunderstanding. At any rate, it doesn’t seem useful to take certain things I said out of context and try to apply them letter by letter to specific works of art. I was trying to communicate a general viewpoint, not to come up with ironclad rules that could be applied to every situation.

    It’s sad to me that so much of this post is about censorship, because it doesn’t address the two original points I raised. The post does begin by taking a stab at describing my points. It goes on to object not to the points themselves, but to the general concepts of “sexualization” and “normalization,” which are terms I can’t recall using. Next, it takes issue with the view that children are asexual until puberty. Of course, as I’ve repeatedly said, this isn’t a belief I really hold. The post mentions that I’ve said this, but you go on to claim that nonetheless I “play to” that “prejudice,” because you feel that I’m only okay with treating childhood sexuality in some abstract way, not with depicting it directly. This leads into your discussion of my supposed views on censorship, and that discussion consumes the rest of the post.

    When I first found Pigtails in Paint, I was happy to learn that not only does it present beautiful art featuring little girls, but it actively defends some ideas I espouse, such as that nudity is not equivalent to pornography, and that child nudes have an appropriate and important place in art. At that time, I read through many of the posts. While I was doing this, I mentioned the site to a lady I know, and she immediately asked if any of the little girls were naked. Of course I replied yes, and her reaction was that this made her quite uncomfortable–the ostensible reason being her assumption that any site featuring pictures of nude little girls must have at least a hidden goal of arousing pedophiles. I defended the site, pointing out that not all nudity is pornographic, that there are many legitimate nonsexual reasons for having child nudes in art, and even for tolerating more child nudity in society in general.

    Soon after that, I started to get the feeling that some statements made in the text of the posts and responses to reader comments might not be quite innocent, and hence maybe this lady had a valid concern. For example, at one point you said that adults having sex with children is a bad idea, but you went on to say that it’s a bad idea because “you can never be sure which way it’s going to go for the child, no matter how much care is taken by the adult.” Implicit in that statement is the concession that sexual abuse might actually be good for a child, and also the idea that an adult might abuse a child “carefully.”

    I know these discussions are complicated, and my feelings of queasiness were just my feelings. But eventually I began trying to answer for myself the question of whether the statements are truly problematic or merely appear so on the surface. After all, they might be seen as hypothetical, involving some proposed culture radically different from the one we actually live in, or some set of very atypical circumstances, or some other such counter-reality. Yet somehow I still felt the underlying assumptions to be dangerous, and I wanted to nail down why. This line of thinking led to two general observations, two objections to some of the textual content of Pigtails in Paint. These two observations, which I expressed in my first comment here, might be briefly restated as follows:

    First, many of the discussions, such as the one I quoted above, seem to have as their context an imaginary world in which children are fully autonomous. How is it that we’re discussing sex between an adult and a child without ever considering the important role of parents in any child’s life? The above-quoted reply was to a post written by you, and one line of this post says, “Most people currently seem unable to accept the fact that kids–even prepubescent ones–are sexual and can not only be participatory but willing sexual partners.” In actuality, prepubescent kids “can” be “willing sexual partners” only to the extent that they have been divorced from their parents. Normal prepubescent children want to obey and please their parents and will certainly not willingly engage in activities their parents have identified as dangerous or harmful. A statement like this assumes an absence of proper parental guidance. What’s more, the statement seems to imply that the child’s “willingness” is somehow a mitigating consideration, or at least a neutral fact. But this “willingness” can only be attributed to the child’s having been tragically manipulated into agreeing to something he or she doesn’t understand–manipulated by an adult trusted as an authority figure. Also, the term “sexual partner” implies a peer relationship of consenting equals, which of course can’t really exist when a child is involved.

    Pedophiles fantasize about children as little grown-ups, and molesters “groom” children to break them free from parental influences. So I have to think that ignoring the role of parents in a child’s life is an appreciable problem in some of the text on this site.

    Second, childhood sexuality has its own specific nature. Normal prepubescent children are not asexual, but neither do they have adult sexual feelings, urges, or behavior. They may be intrigued when copulation is explained to them in matter-of-fact terms, but they don’t have any desire to try it. Some of them find the idea gross. Some fear it. Some simply accept that it’s a thing they’ll understand better when they’re older.

    It’s naive to think our society’s taboos fully succeed in repressing childhood sexuality. Children still play doctor, and a majority of the time they do it in secret, against their parents’ wishes. We have to conclude, then, that prepubescent sexual curiosity is sometimes strong enough to overrule even the natural desire to obey parents. If children had adult sexual desires, some *would* engage in adult sexual behaviors. This would be a measurable phenomenon even in a prudish society. As it stands, the phenomenon is practically nonexistent, which supports my assertion that childhood sexuality is not like adult sexuality.

    I remember having a friend in middle school who had a girlfriend for a while. He broke up with her because she wanted to kiss passionately. They actually did engage in this behavior together, but he didn’t enjoy it, whereas she did, and that was the breaking point for them. Even at twelve or thirteen years old, this most basic practice of adult sexuality was still distasteful to my friend.

    Prepubescent kids tease each other with the suggestion that the other person has adult romantic or sexual feelings. To them the idea feels yucky.

    When I was in elementary school, there was a playground prank among boys that went like this: “Say ‘mother, may I’ and spell ‘cup.'” The other boy answers, “Mother may I see you pee.” The first boy laughs at the second until he gets the joke. This kind of embryonic burlesque humor gives insight into the nature and depth of prepubescent sexuality. Kids are quite interested and quite curious. A child might really like to watch one of the opposite gender pee if he or she could do so without embarrassment. I once had an elementary-school teacher who gave the boys a tour of the girls’ restroom (when it was otherwise unoccupied of course) and vice versa.

    I think prepubescent sexual curiosity can extend well beyond the ordinary desire kids have to unravel a mystery. Young kids seem to have an actual drive to see or even explore the genitals of the opposite sex, leading to games like “doctor.” But the idea of even serious kissing, let alone full-on adult sexual activities, is naturally repulsive to kids. It’s a pedophilic fantasy that young children want to have adult sex. Even when a child is manipulated into going along with sex with an adult, and even in cases where he or she might experience pleasurable sensations, the very idea of it still strongly opposes what feels normal and right to a kid, and this alone is enough to create lasting trauma.

    The lack of adult sexual impulses in children is not caused by cultural prudery. It’s inherent in the nature of childhood sexuality. In what culture ever, in the entire recorded history of the world, has grown-up sex between prepubescent children been the norm?

    This second objection applies, I daresay, to your post here. You claim my comments about censorship play to the prejudice that prepubescent children are asexual, using the argument that if children are sexual, we ought to be able to depict them erotically, whereas I balk at art that puts children in an erotic context. But I think you’re conflating childhood sexuality with adult eroticism. Images of children being sexual in grown-up ways, or images suggestive of this, do not depict childhood sexuality at all. Some of the innocent pictures on this site do, such as those in which children of opposite genders have an obvious excitement and interest in each other. I don’t have a problem with such images. In fact, what I really set out to express with my comments was not objections to any of the pictures here, but rather objections to parts of the text.

    My goal was obviously not to see the text censored. What would have been the purpose of posting comments about such a wish here? Rather, since the subject is complicated, I was hoping you or other posters would respond to my comments by answering the objections themselves directly so I could learn more about your point of view. If possible, I’d like to come away without reservations about the site. If not, I’d like to understand precisely why not–exactly where we part ways.

    Now, in this post, you defend two comic-book depictions of childhood sexual abuse not on grounds that they express childhood sexuality, but on the entirely different–almost opposite–grounds that the shock value of such graphic depictions helps to show the full reality of abuse, and that without those depictions, the art would lose its power because it would be forced to treat abuse in abstract terms. Personally, I think this assumes a false dichotomy. An artist is not dealing with a hard choice between a purely abstract suggestion of abuse and a direct graphic depiction of it. Nonetheless I see the works you presented as being well chosen “gray-area” specimens where judgment should be exercised carefully. Evidently the current legal system has not censored them, which to me is evidence that it’s ultimately doing its job to your satisfaction. One problem with the “shock value” defense, though, is that all child pornography is shocking to most people, so producers of it can always claim that their goal as artists was to be shocking, even in cases where their real goal was just to sell porn. Exactly what it is that makes the specimens you showed feel reasonably nonpornographic is tough to define precisely, but it seems to involve the context, a sufficient lack of realism, and a deliberate jarring edginess or ugliness.

    If you want to argue that there are nonpornographic reasons for these depictions, I can grant that this is true, although I feel that the art might be at least as powerful (and have a broader audience) if its depictions were less direct. But if you intend to argue that these are realistic depictions of childhood sexuality, that I can’t see. These works place children in gruesome situations that would have to wreak havoc on any child’s sexual development. Normal childhood sexuality can’t really be explored artistically in a context with hardcore sexual abuse.

    You seem to suppose I would be in favor of censoring adult porn. I wouldn’t. When two adults have sex, they’re both mature enough to consent, and they generally don’t harm each other. When an adult has sex with a child, the child is not old enough to consent, and there is always harm. Your claim that the cases against adult porn and violent content are essentially no different from the case against child porn is kind of chilling. You really don’t see the difference?

    First, porn *is* in a different class from other art. This isn’t “special pleading” because it’s a claim that’s easy to support with an obvious reason: one looks at porn in order to feel sexual pleasure. It’s a unique kind of imagery capable of stimulating sexual arousal and drive. Porn is typically used as an enhancement to either actual sex with a partner or masturbation. Thus, it isn’t generally viewed for the same reasons or in the same contexts as art proper. As its purpose involves a kind of physical stimulation, in a certain sense it’s like a drug.

    What porn makes a person want to do is have sex. Since having sex is a legitimate adult activity, regular porn doesn’t drive toward anything harmful per se. Yes, you could say that some people, when sexually stimulated, may desire to rape, but inciting someone to rape is not the purpose of porn, just as inciting to violence is not the purpose of a thriller movie. Each has a legitimate place in society.

    By contrast, consider child porn. For the person aroused by it (i.e., for *everyone* who actually uses it qua pornography), its effect is to stimulate a strong desire to have sex with a child. But adult sex with a child is never a legitimate activity. Child pornography always leads its consumers to take pleasure–perhaps very great pleasure–in their arousal and drive to have sex with children. This is its primary purpose and the principal effect its creators and their customers seek. This is why people with perverse sexual desires will pay a lot of money for it, and that, in turn, is why children are exploited to create it.

    Unlike adult porn or violent content, child porn precipitates a drive to do something harmful *whenever* it’s used. By its very nature, it generally increases danger to children in several ways.

    Our laws proscribe illicit drugs. Use of these drugs leads to pleasure, which is why people spend a lot of money on them. But along with that pleasure come other effects that are harmful to society. It’s untrue that every time someone uses meth, a robbery is committed, but it’s observable that in a community where meth use is widespread, more robberies are committed overall. Illicit drugs act directly only on the minds of their users, but indirectly, through the users’ ensuing actions, they generally tend to hurt other people in the vicinity. The same may be said of child porn.

    It feels strange to be so involved in arguing that all child pornography is harmful. Most people seem to take that for granted. When I first came to this site, I had the impression that it was only advocating for healthier, more open views of child nudity and natural childhood sexuality. Eventually I started to see statements that seemed to at least border on defending the validity of adults seeing children as objects of sexual desire. If the latter is any part of the purpose of this blog, then I feel that it’s a dark and dangerous place. But perhaps I’ve just misread your intentions.

    Now, I’d like to be so bold as to ask whether you would be willing to respond to my two original points.

    Thanks again for an interesting discussion.

    • What. There’s bunch of baseless, uninformed assumptions in your reply and you still have the gall to say that they are hard-stated facts?

      Where are you basing your thoughts on these matters? Have you thought about it from the opposite vantage point or have you kept to yourself in your echo-chamber? Have you read any of the leading research conducted by developmental and behavior psychologists? Or are all these thoughts that you have based purely on your own presumptions, based on surface-level interpretations of the complex, still fledgling field of childhood development?

      And what of the porn-causes-people-to-have-sex malarkey? That’s a load of BS. Not only are there research papers — quantitative data on the availability of porn vs amount of sex or availability of porn vs number of sexual abuse cases, but the low number of sexually active adults in a country such as Japan with readily available (although mosaic’ed) pornography and the practically nonexistent amount of child sexual abuse cases because of the legality of simulated child pornography.

      And also, from my ongoing personal, non-academic research, I found that the whole notion of putting childhood innocence on a pedestal is increasingly appearing to be one of the many ugly vestigial idealist artifacts left over from the Victorian Era forced down the gullet of every society that was born from it and every society that yearns to become it.

      Do you think you stand above research conducted by hardworking thinkers and doers just because you are ‘a parent’ and have observed a few children that you yourself have groomed with your own interpretation of how a childhood should be?

      It’s dangerous thoughts like this that erupts the world in a hate-fest frenzy that ruins an important aspect of humanity that we’ve still yet to become accustomed to, based on limited, bigoted understanding of the world.

    • Hello, a p,

      Please forgive me if this comes across as pedantic. I teach college level courses in critical thinking and critical theory, so I’m afraid it’s in my nature. Unlike Pip, I believe you have good intent, and I welcome the chance to debate and defend issues the mere mention of which can lead to censure and condemnation. But this is not the place for that. This is not my website, nor yours.

      I had not been following the other discussion regarding the song, and I didn’t get very far backing through it before my eyes started to glaze over. I can see where you might get some of the assumptions you have brought to this endless discussion, and I confess I’m not entirely clear what point some of the posters were making. I also note with great sadness that another poster raising concerns in that discussion misinterpreted Pip’s rather curt criticism of your long posts as being directed toward her and decided to leave the site and not return. I’d like to think Pip made some attempt to follow up in an email so as to clarify. But this is why it’s important to keep it clear and simple, something you have not seemed willing to do, hence Pip running out of patience with you.

      The problem with very long comments (such as this one- guilty as charged) is that they tend to put people off as being tl;dr. And if those people have already decided they don’t agree with you, they are even less inclined to wade through excess verbiage. Responding by essentially saying, “But I have to be long winded to make my point,” even if there’s validity to it, will do nothing to change their response. So you have to modify yours.

      If you are a writer, as you say, then surely you understand the importance of judicious editing. You acknowledged as much when you said, “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.“ Indeed. That would be greatly appreciated. But then you said, “I’m not out to write my own blog here. My goal was only to get my thoughts across.“ Which makes it that much more essential to be concise. Elsewhere you said, “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.“ That may be the case, but a “conversational style” is what’s called for here. If you can’t meet that expectation, you will simply continue to alienate people and eventually be blocked.

      I can’t for the life of me figure out exactly what you hope to accomplish at this point. You’ve said what you have to say. What are you now expecting to happen? Do you want Pip to make some sort of policy change? He’s made it clear that he won’t. And what sort of change could you actually want him to make? What outcome would bring this to a close? Pip has already suggested that he believes the only way to conclude this is to stop printing your comments. Is he correct?

      Your repeated premise seems to boil down to, “What about the parents?” Okay, I’ll bite: what about the parents? I don’t think anyone here disagrees about the importance of parents in maintaining a child’s well being, so what else are you expecting anyone to say?

      You said, “How is it that we’re discussing sex between an adult and a child without ever considering the important role of parents in any child’s life?“ Huh? That’s like going on an environmental forum and saying, “How is it we’re discussing air pollution without ever considering the important role of oxygen in human metabolism?” Um, yeah. What does that even mean? You are arguing (quite vigorously) a position that no one here disputes, making the whole thing a non-issue.

      As to more specific points you’ve made…

      You said, “At one point [a poster] said that adults having sex with children is a bad idea […] because ‘you can never be sure which way it’s going to go for the child, no matter how much care is taken by the adult.’ Implicit in that statement is the concession that sexual abuse might actually be good for a child.“ First of all, how on earth are you drawing that implication? Because the poster didn’t flatly say, “It’s always bad”? So what? The poster agrees it’s a bad idea. But you’re going to criticize that because his reasons aren’t as absolute as you think they should be? If someone says, “Taking random pills is a bad idea because you don’t know what they’ll do to you” (implying I suppose that they might be vitamins), will you attack him because he didn’t say all pills are bad all the time? The whole argument is stupid. For heavens sake, take yes for an answer!

      You said, “Pedophiles fantasize about children as little grown-ups, and molesters ‘groom’ children to break them free from parental influences.“ This is an utterly unsupportable generalization. How many “pedophiles” (I’ll go with your definition) have you interviewed? How many do you know? (Hint, more than you realize.) The only ones you know about were arrested for some other related crime. How many are out there not committing crimes? We have no idea.

      And you might be surprised to find out that pedophilia takes many forms. There are many who get no sexual gratification from the idea of adult/child sexuality. There are those who are only aroused by sexual activity between children, with no adult involvement at all. You cannot generalize this. Not that that has stopped many many other people besides you from doing so.

      You said, “It’s naive to think our society’s taboos fully succeed in repressing childhood sexuality.“ Agreed. Who are you telling this to? Given that it’s a frequently expressed perspective of this site, you can’t possibly think anyone here believes otherwise.

      Then, “If children had adult sexual desires, some *would* engage in adult sexual behaviors.“ Again, agreed. but then you offered this gem: “In what culture ever, in the entire recorded history of the world, has grown-up sex between prepubescent children been the norm? “
      Seriously? Okay…

      Melanesia:
      Weiner, Annette B. The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. United States of America: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 1988.

      Northern Canada:
      Kjellström, Rolf. (1973). “Eskimo Marriage: An Account of Traditional Eskimo Courtship and Marriage.” Stockholm : Nordiska museet.

      Southern Africa:
      Tobias, Phillip V. (1978). The bushmen : San hunters and herders of southern Africa. Cape Town : Human & Rousseau.

      Tahiti:
      Oliver, D. L. (1974) Ancient Tahitian Society.Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press
      Oliver, D. L. (1981) TwoTahitianVillages: A Study in Comparisons,Provo, UT: BrighamYoungUniversity Press
      This last example is noteworthy because of the connection of Tahitian culture and the very unusual history of Pitcairn Island.

      This is four examples I found within minutes on Wikipedia; I didn’t even bother to consult my academic resources. It’s one thing to engage in oversimplified generalizations, but when you offer blanket absolutes that are instantly disproven with just a tiny amount of research, your credibility takes a nosedive.

      Here you go again: “Unlike adult porn or violent content, child porn precipitates a drive to do something harmful *whenever* it’s used.“ Another unsupportable absolute. Easily disproven, to wit: I’ve seen child porn, and yet I’ve never been driven to do something harmful. Case closed. Want more? So have you. You’ve seen stuff on this site that many would call child porn. Can I assume you were not driven to do something “harmful”? Come on, man, think it through. You disprove your own assumption just by making it. The only harm you cause is the same caused by numerous other moral guardians who vilify something merely because it bothers their personal sensibilities.

      You admit that yourself: “It feels strange to be so involved in arguing that all child pornography is harmful. Most people seem to take that for granted.“ There’s the issue. The fact that it “feels strange” means little. A feeling is no substitute for actual information. You’re right that most people take it for granted. It’s exactly that assumption that causes so many problems. People take all sorts of nonsense for granted. That proves nothing other than that closed-mindedness is widespread.

      Meanwhile, here’s one of the rare bits of research that actually went to the heart of the subject, the “victims”:
      James A. Inciardi (1984) Little girls and sex: A glimpse at the world of the “baby pro”,Deviant Behavior, 5:1-4, 71-78,DOI: 10.1080/01639625.1984.9967632
      He interviewed young girls involved in child pornography (and prostitution) and although he ties himself into knots trying to prove they were motivated by “fear,” nothing in his evidence actually supports that conclusion, and he ultimately concedes that “they did not seem to be traumatized by their early association with sex.“ I am not defending nor advocating these acts, simply pointing out that absolutes never hold up.

      And further, he notes the subjects of his study were in fact drawn into these actions by family members who were already involved in the “business,” thus answering your question of “what about the parents?” in a way you probably don’t like.

      I could go on at greater length but I suspect it would accomplish little. You’ve made your mind up. You’ve made your position clear. Okay. Leave it at that, please. I’m going to.

      I thank Pip and the others for indulging me his one last time. Cheers!

      • Hi Arielle,

        I have a career in the physical sciences that generally requires a postgraduate degree, and at which it would be impossible to succeed without a capacity for “critical thinking” considered pretty extreme by comparison with the average career.

        We don’t know each other, but I think we’ve now established that we’re both intelligent people, so my suggestion is that we each start by trusting that the other has a valid point of view and then discuss the facts under consideration, without undertaking critiques of personality or style.

        I suspect actually that “nonconversational” comments are only really unwelcome to people who don’t like what the comments are saying. For example, many of Graham Ovenden’s remarks quoted on this blog seem quite formal in style, but he isn’t accused of being condescending. Those who respect him will grant him permission to express himself in his own way. But what do people here know about me? There’s nothing dastardly going on. This really is just how I communicate. Is the perceived formality in my writing style really a sufficient reason to dismiss me as unworthy to share my views?

        The real problem with my comments is that I came here and wrote rather involved arguments to the effect that some of the text seems to have questionable implications. I’m sure that seems rude to many people, seeing as how the good folks at Pigtails in Paint have obviously put a lot of hard work into creating and maintaining this site as well as defending it from would-be censors. Where do I find the audacity to come along with volumes of elaborate rhetoric saying negative things about it?

        I can understand that point of view, but my perspective is quite different. Much of what I’ve said has been prompted by Pip’s queries or accusations (and now yours). Most of it has been defensive. As everyone involved well knows, these are complicated subjects. If I have to defend myself from accusations targeting my character, or charges that I believe things I don’t really believe, I feel that I have some right to attempt a thorough and thought-out defense. Pip’s post here is also quite involved. Would you call it “long-winded”? Long comments will often feel tedious to people whose skin they get under. But since this is a public forum, I think it’s reasonable to expect that not everyone who reads my comments will start with a bias against them. A large portion of what I’ve said seems to be pretty uncontroversial among the general populace.

        Now, I think I’ve stated my purpose many times and maintained the same basic purpose all along. I raised some objections. I’d like to know how the “staff” (principally Pip at this point) would answer them. You seem to feel that I’m wrong about my view that childhood sexuality is fundamentally different from adult sexuality. You seem to feel that children have grown-up sexual impulses and feelings. Does Pip feel that way? If so, how would he defend that view in light of the rationale I’ve put forward? That rationale is not really difficult to follow, though one could debate the finer points ad nauseum. I’ve also put forth the observation that from my vantage point it looks like some of what is said here assumes that children are autonomous, whereas in reality children actively rely on their parents and other trusted adults to make decisions for them. What’s Pip’s answer?

        I’ve known all along that my remarks are unlikely to change Pip’s mind, or yours, or anyone’s who has already firmly made it up. I haven’t come here with the goal of changing someone’s mind. I’ve come here with the goal of clarifying what views are actually being espoused, because I honestly can’t tell for sure based only on what has been written.

        Whatever one thinks about children and sex, one can always make an impassioned plea for free speech, but free speech isn’t the issue. We can stand up in mixed company and assert that “children are not asexual,” but what does that mean? What does it mean when Pip says it? Does he feel that art presenting children as objects of adult sexual desire is ethically okay? I don’t mean should it be censored. I mean does such art have a place in a decent society. Is it morally defensible? And does Pip really feel that sexual abuse doesn’t always harm children?

        As he is wont to point out, this is America. Pigtails in Paint is not going to be censored on the basis of the text. It would even be legal for a site to *advocate* abusing children, provided it didn’t display child pornography or directly facilitate the abuse. It would be legal, but it wouldn’t be right. What I’m interested in is that question of what’s right–specifically, the beliefs of this blog’s editors about what’s right.

        Why? Well, Pigtails in Paint presents itself on the surface as simply an art blog with a particular focus. This is what I think you get if you read through the introductory materials. And part of its purpose is defending the validity of art featuring nude children. No problem so far. But if one reads through all the posts, at times a more controversial voice seems to emerge, though it’s often couched in rather fuzzy language. I don’t feel confident that I understand exactly what’s meant by all of the statements, but they sometimes seem to be arguing in support of adults viewing children in grown-up erotic ways. I’d like to know (and it seems to me others would too) whether this is in fact what’s being advocated. What’s the real position of the blog? How would its editors answer those two objections I raised?

        If, as you say, I’m arguing a position that no one disputes, I would expect two outcomes. First, I’d expect Pip to answer my comments and simply say, “I agree.” Second, I’d expect some clarification of why there are statements here that seem very much to dispute that position. I gave a few examples, but there are others. I’d expect, simply, “What I really meant by that was . . .” Such responses might easily have come in answer to my very first comment here, and that would have been the end of the matter. Instead, we appear to have circumnavigated the issue and gone all over the place: talking about censorship, whether I have some nefarious ulterior motive, whether my style of communicating is likable, whether my personality is suspect, and so forth. I keep coming back to my two original points, and I think they have yet to be answered directly by the editors.

        Personally, I believe there’s a big difference between saying “sexual abuse hurts children” and saying “sexual abuse might or might not hurt children, but let’s avoid it anyway, because we’re not sure.” There are many people who feel that the idea that sexual abuse could be neutral or even possibly good for a child is dangerous because it’s the exact self-delusion that permits molesters to harm children without a guilty conscience. It’s like saying, “armed robbery might be good or bad, but let’s not do it, because you never know which way it will go.” The person who says that seems to want to be supportive of the robbers while still claiming to have said robbery is bad. If Pip really believes that sexual abuse might be neutral or good for a prepubescent child, I’d like to know that’s his view. If not, I’d like to know what he meant when he made that statement. This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request under the circumstances.

        Yes, I said “Pedophiles fantasize about children as little grown-ups, and molesters ‘groom’ children to break them free from parental influences.” This is a shortened restatement of points I’ve made repeatedly, which omits nuances that should be understood from the context. I don’t think you really know to what extent I do or don’t understand pedophilia, except that I’ve made it clear I’m not an expert. Suffice it to say that I’ve actually come into contact with pedophiles and seen the fantasizing I mentioned firsthand on more than one occasion. I think that allows me to claim it exists. And it’s not hard to surmise that if one wanted to argue for the legitimacy of pedophilia as a sexual orientation, such a fantasy would be necessary. Of course not all pedophiles would so argue. But I gather that some significant number do, and that’s enough to raise concerns about the idea itself. (As for the other point, I think it’s widely understood that many molesters “groom” their prey to get them to disobey parents and keep secrets.)

        When I asked in what culture grown-up sex has been the norm between prepubescent children, of course I knew that it would be possible to search the Internet for sources claiming to document such cultures. Just now, for fun, I went and dug up the following reference claiming to document the existence of sasquatches:

        Bigfoot Encounters in New York and New England: Documented Evidence, Stranger than Fiction. Robert E. Bartholomew, PhD, and Paul B. Bartholomew, B.S. Hancock House, 2008

        I found this in under a minute with a simple web search. Does it prove sasquatches are real?

        If we wanted to get deeply into a pseudoscientific debate, we could each come up with various “experts” (people with degrees who have published their opinions) to take our side. But I don’t think such an approach would be fruitful or necessary. From many well-understood cultures, present and past, there is copious solid evidence about what the societies are or were really like (as against anecdotes from a few individuals claiming to have observed aboriginal people in some isolated locale). If prepubescent children were actually driven to engage in adult sex, it stands to reason that we would know about it by now, and that the consensus of mainstream experts would either be split or in favor of that view. What we have, on the other hand, is no credible sociological corroboration, along with a succession of mainstream pillars of developmental psychology going back to Freud who unanimously don’t believe it. In any case, the mere presence of erotic games in a tribal context wouldn’t qualify as usable evidence. Without a much deeper study, it would be most reasonable to chalk that up to simple imitative play. Remember too that adolescents, however young, don’t count. It’s well established that mature sexuality arrives with puberty. The question was about prepubescent kids.

        I said, “Unlike adult porn or violent content, child porn precipitates a drive to do something harmful *whenever* it’s used.” You answered, “Easily disproven, to wit: I’ve seen child porn, and yet I’ve never been driven to do something harmful. Case closed.” But it looks to me like you didn’t even address the case. Have you “used” child porn qua porn? I’m guessing not. My statement was almost a tautology, because stimulating this drive is the very thing child porn is used *for*.

        You said, “The fact that it ‘feels strange’ means little. A feeling is no substitute for actual information.” But when did I suggest it was? I’ve written many long comments (including the one you were answering) that call to mind actual information and present careful arguments. I ended this particular comment by stating some of my feelings about the discussion, partly because I’ve so often been accused of having an ulterior motive that I’d like to interject a little humanity. This is me. I’m at this site, which I got interested in as an art blog, and I suddenly find myself trying to make a convincing argument that child pornography is bad. That’s kind of surreal. How did it come to this?

        Still, I daresay that a majority of beliefs people take for granted are in fact true. (Consider the huge number of little things you take for granted.) People aren’t universally stupid. Although general acceptance of a belief doesn’t make it so, such acceptance is still worthy of consideration.

        One of the strangest things about this discussion is that I find myself being approached as if I were lacking in wit and social graces simply for having put forth some of those generally accepted views. It would seem to me that if what you believe goes against the broader consensus, you are as entitled to your opinions as anyone, but you ought not be so surprised when you meet someone who sees it the other way. To denigrate such a person on the basis of his or her beliefs is to denigrate most people in our society. It’s certainly possible that we’re all mistaken, but by the numbers alone it’s unlikely that we’re all idiots.

        Thanks for listening.

        • Jeez, I can’t believe I’m still in this (assuming this gets printed). Actually yes I can. I do this for fun. It’s in my nature, as I said. I have a long history of arguing on the interwebs; I cut my teeth on Usenet, where I earned a reputation as so tireless a debater they eventually accused me of “arguing for the sake of arguing.” And they were probably right. Perhaps I’ve now met my match.

          I mentioned my academic background merely as an apologetic disclaimer because I’ve also been told I can come across as needlessly pedantic, and was offering fair warning. It was not my intent to start a game of “my diploma is bigger than yours,” but I now realize it sounded that way and I regret even bringing it up.

          But I think my warning was warranted. What you took as a critique of personality and style was me merely trying to advise you against continuing a course of action that could potentially get you blocked. You do you, that’s great, but personality is irrelevant. If you won’t follow the rules, you don’t get to play the game. Period.

          People can say whatever they want, as long as they follow the rules, and you can dispute them at your leisure. What you do not get to do is complain to admin because you don’t like that they said it in the first place. It doesn’t work that way. If you don’t like the rules then go play somewhere else.

          True, Pip’s stuff is also long winded. But he runs the site so he can do whatever the hell he wants. His house his rules. Besides, if he (and I) have been long winded in our replies to you, it is because we take you seriously enough to address your points in as much detail as you have presented them. But notice it is only in response to your own long comments. It would be much easier to just toss off a short dismissive reply, as others have done. It may still reach that point. Or perhaps no replies at all.

          You’re right, we don’t know each other. I am not affiliated with this site and have never met Pip or Ron or anyone else. I know as much about them as they do about me, which is to say almost nothing. Let’s not kid ourselves; everything I say about myself could be a total lie and no one would have any way of knowing. So all we can do is take each other at face value.

          If your comments are unwelcome, it is not because people don’t like them but because they are baseless. You might come along with volumes of elaborate rhetoric but what you actually need is volumes of elaborate evidence, of which you have none. Rather, you attempt to argue circles around people until they break down in sheer frustration. I know that because I’m very good at it. I wager I’m better at it than you are. Wanna play? Bring it. Let’s see who holds out longest. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! Fortunately, Pip has no intention of letting that happen (I hope). His rules.

          Yes, you’ve stated your purpose many times. Got it. Now say something new. You do keep coming back to the same points and it’s tiresome. Over and over and over. It would be one thing if you kept adding new content, but you haven’t had any to begin with. Just unsupported personal opinion. Your questions have been answered, at length. Perhaps you reject those answers, I don’t know, but for whatever reason you keep hammering away. Enough! Move on.

          I do not believe your views are “wrong,” rather they are unsupported. That’s not the same thing, although plenty of people try to take the one for the other.

          Your opinion of child sexuality is clear and simple. You claim to know mine, but in fact my opinion of child sexuality is that I really don’t know. Child psychology is incredibly complex, and the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure.

          No, this is not just America. I’m in the US, and I assume you are as well, but some here are in Europe or elsewhere.

          Some molesters do “groom” their prey to get them away from their parents. But far more molesters *are* the parents or other family members. Let’s be clear about that.

          If you are seriously equating anthropology and cryptozoology, I don’t know what else to say in regards to that. Are you really calling anthropology “pseudoscience”? I… I… I’m at a loss for words. And that’s very rare for me.

          “There is copious solid evidence about what the societies are or were really like (as against anecdotes from a few individuals claiming to have observed aboriginal people in some isolated locale).”
          Anecdotes? A few individuals? Claiming to have observed? Some isolated locale? Wow. I’m really trying to give you the benefit of the doubt on this. Okay, here’s one more chance to put me in my place and set me straight:
          “Copious solid evidence.” CITE IT.
          “It’s well established that mature sexuality arrives at puberty.” CITE IT.
          “A succession of mainstream pillars of developmental psychology going back to Freud” Freud? Freud??? You mean the guy who literally wrote the book on children being sexually attracted to their parents? That Freud?

          I am not denigrating you. I am saying you need to change your approach. Instead of continually restating your personal opinion and alluding to some ambiguous consensus, you should offer direct concrete proof of these things. Or else stop.

    • Excuse my late reply I’ve been occupied with other projects.

      There’s a judgment call involved, but some works can be seen as generally harmful to children even if no children were directly harmed in their making. The quotes above are about federal laws, but states may also have their own laws, some of which may be stricter than the federal ones.

      Explain this in detail, please. How do works which do not involve any actual children cause specific harm to specific children? If you’re going to defend this position, then you owe us an explanation. Whether it was the focus of your replies or not, you said it. Now defend it. I want specifics. I don’t want more vague dismissals about how this is a case-by-case basis. I know that. It could never be anything other than that, because when you have ill-defined laws, they are too easily used as a tool of political oppression. I want you to explain to me how a blanket law against drawing certain things will protect children.

      The second way our views on censorship appear to be different is that you would advocate for relaxing such laws, whereas I don’t. I think it’s reasonable to have them, even given that there are costs, including the risk that courts may at times interpret the law as criminalizing works that some people see as nonpornographic. In my comment on censorship, I attempted to get into more details about why I feel this way.

      Actually, what I’m in favor of is defining the laws well enough so that artists making lines on paper are not lumped into the same category as people who are producing real child pornography with real children. These are in no way equivalent. And unless you can defend banning art that involves no real humans in a way that doesn’t sound like some kind of melding of Orwell’s 1984 and the future crimes department in Minority Report, I think we’re done on this matter.

      Discussions about this subject involve broad abstractions, so they often end in misunderstanding. At any rate, it doesn’t seem useful to take certain things I said out of context and try to apply them letter by letter to specific works of art. I was trying to communicate a general viewpoint, not to come up with ironclad rules that could be applied to every situation.

      Not useful to “take certain things […] out of context?” What you mean is that it’s not convenient for your argument if I focus on the parts of your replies that are most relevant to the issues presented on this blog. Right, well, I’ll get right on accommodating your obsession with twisting our discussions into a pedophile love-fest. Let’s see…

      It’s sad to me that so much of this post is about censorship, because it doesn’t address the two original points I raised. The post does begin by taking a stab at describing my points. It goes on to object not to the points themselves, but to the general concepts of “sexualization” and “normalization,” which are terms I can’t recall using. Next, it takes issue with the view that children are asexual until puberty. Of course, as I’ve repeatedly said, this isn’t a belief I really hold. The post mentions that I’ve said this, but you go on to claim that nonetheless I “play to” that “prejudice,” because you feel that I’m only okay with treating childhood sexuality in some abstract way, not with depicting it directly. This leads into your discussion of my supposed views on censorship, and that discussion consumes the rest of the post.

      I didn’t say that you used those terms. In fact, I specifically pointed out that you didn’t. So you’re complaining about a thing that didn’t happen. The point I was making was that these are the usual arguments we get (as if these words had any real meaning), but that you avoided those buzzwords; so your view is more nuanced than usual. It’s a compliment. But . . . because these terms are now so ingrained in the criticism of anything to do with kids and sex, you are still feeding into those same prejudices by saying things like this:

      The posts I’ve actually made have been similar by analogy. It’s good to advocate for social change in the areas of more openness to healthy nudity and proper expressions of sexuality. But why the parts of the blog that seem to want to fantasize about children as if they were grown ups, or as if they might, under certain circumstances, actually want sex with adults and even benefit from it?

      Where, specifically, has anyone who works on this blog “fantasize[d] about children as if they were grown ups”? I want specific examples. And I want you to define ‘fantasize’ in this context. Where, specifically, has anyone who works on this blog said children could benefit from sex? Again, I want specific examples. If you’re going to accuse us of something you find damning, then produce the evidence. To put it bluntly, put up or shut up. As for saying children might willingly engage an adult in sex or even desire it from the adult, there is evidence for this. There are personal accounts in which the child participants have said exactly that. That is a fact. That does not then mean we endorse abusing kids. Such abuse is still abuse and still potentially very harmful to the child. When I say you will never know which way it will go for the child, that is exactly what I mean. There are times when children have willingly engaged in sexual behaviors with adults and were not traumatized or harmed by it. Those cases, however, are rare. I have said as much on this blog, but in case it wasn’t clear, I’m saying it again right here.

      Anywise, we may discuss these issues more honestly than most people are willing to do, but at the end of the day we are anti-sexual abuse and have been since the beginning. And I’ll also say this (again) for the record: if we do attract some pedophiles to the site, so be it. I’m not going to alter my policy because someone somewhere might get off to some of these images, or get ideas from things we say. I can’t control other people’s thoughts or behaviors, nor would I want to. What I care about is freedom of speech as it pertains to child nudity, child sexuality and child sexual abuse visually and conceptually. This is one of the more important front lines for free expression. Interest in these issues is not as niche as you believe it is. Our hit numbers attest to that. Whatever reason people come here for—whether it be to simply admire the beauty on a surface level, to discuss issues or make observations they may not dare elsewhere, or to work through some issues—all are equally as valid as, if not more valid than, simple shallow surface admiration of pretty kids on paper or canvas. Further, whether it makes you comfortable or not to recommend it to your friends is ultimately not my concern. Art is often intended to be challenging, and that challenge shouldn’t stop where you think it should. That’s not how art works, no pun intended. Continue to admire it in secret if you can’t abide the thought of recommending it. Most people do, I’m sure. But the discussions are just as important as the pictures, and short of them making outright sexual comments about the art, I’m not going to censor that sort of commentary from participants or mold it to fit better with societal expectations. I have no interest in doing that.

      First, many of the discussions, such as the one I quoted above, seem to have as their context an imaginary world in which children are fully autonomous. How is it that we’re discussing sex between an adult and a child without ever considering the important role of parents in any child’s life? The above-quoted reply was to a post written by you, and one line of this post says, “Most people currently seem unable to accept the fact that kids–even prepubescent ones–are sexual and can not only be participatory but willing sexual partners.” In actuality, prepubescent kids “can” be “willing sexual partners” only to the extent that they have been divorced from their parents. Normal prepubescent children want to obey and please their parents and will certainly not willingly engage in activities their parents have identified as dangerous or harmful. A statement like this assumes an absence of proper parental guidance. What’s more, the statement seems to imply that the child’s “willingness” is somehow a mitigating consideration, or at least a neutral fact. But this “willingness” can only be attributed to the child’s having been tragically manipulated into agreeing to something he or she doesn’t understand–manipulated by an adult trusted as an authority figure. Also, the term “sexual partner” implies a peer relationship of consenting equals, which of course can’t really exist when a child is involved.

      Point blank, the focus of this blog is the young girl in art. It is not parents and daughters in art. Girls are more often than not presented in isolation in works of art. That’s fine, because girls are human beings, not little extensions of their parents. They can be considered in isolation as subjects of art and subjects of speculation, even when it comes to discussing their sexuality or (yes, at times) sexual appeal. Recognizing these dimensions as factual and worthy of discussion is not the same thing as giving license to child molesters. We do not do that. If child molesters get ideas from this blog, that cannot be helped, but it is absolutely not our intent. Not even close. And honestly, if people actually cared about the degree of harm caused to children, they would do a better job on taking care of the environment, gun control, spanking, violence in media and all sorts of issues that cause children a good deal of harm. Don’t you dare tell me that these things aren’t relevant. They totally are. Many people, including you, have mystified pedophilia, child sexuality and sexual abuse, and that’s why we’re in the place we’re in. You said as much yourself when you claimed that sexual attraction to children is in some special class all its own. Sorry, but your “pedophilia is oogity boogity” nonsense will not fly with me. Harm is harm, regardless of its origin. Let’s put a pin in that point, because I am going to come back to it.

      Pedophiles fantasize about children as little grown-ups, and molesters “groom” children to break them free from parental influences. So I have to think that ignoring the role of parents in a child’s life is an appreciable problem in some of the text on this site.

      Do they? You seem to know an awful lot about pedophiles and molesters. Wherefore all this knowledge about this disgusting depravity that no one normal person would ever contemplate? Oh, see how easily such accusations can fly? The very discussion we’re having is a sword that can cut both ways. But nevertheless, I’ll enlighten you as to what my own readings (and sheer logic) say about this: real pedophiles have no interest in adults. Why would they want to make kids into the thing that doesn’t attract them? Do you even understand how sexuality works? On the one hand pedos are all about kids’ innocence and angelic sweetness. On the other they want to make kids into wee trampy adults. Yikes. Which is it? As for molesters, I know that most of them attack children in their own home. No need for grooming and getting them away from their parents if you are their parent. When you ignore this reality (as you so thoroughly do) and continue to stress parents’ ultimate control over their children’s sexual lives, then you are helping the real offenders by taking the focus off of them. So which of us is more likely to be giving people “bad ideas”? To me the answer is clear.

      Second, childhood sexuality has its own specific nature. Normal prepubescent children are not asexual, but neither do they have adult sexual feelings, urges, or behavior. They may be intrigued when copulation is explained to them in matter-of-fact terms, but they don’t have any desire to try it. Some of them find the idea gross. Some fear it. Some simply accept that it’s a thing they’ll understand better when they’re older.

      In case you haven’t noticed, everything has its own specific nature. Yes, most prepubescent children would likely be afraid of or put off by the idea of sex, but there have been plenty who weren’t. Those kids exist and should be acknowledged. They may not have the full sex drive of the adult, but they can and do experience some degree of sexual pleasure. These are undenial facts. And once again (because you seem to require this sort of constant reassurance), I will point out that admitting these facts does NOT mean I condone letting adults test kids out to see which ones will enjoy sex and which ones won’t. I am well aware that the majority will not. That’s just one of the reasons I do not condone adults having sex with kids. Another is the fact that their brains aren’t fully developed yet, so they don’t always know what they want or don’t want, like or don’t like. A third is that they’re bodies are not eqipped to handle adult-sized genitalia. And so on. There are plenty of good reasons to object to adult-child sexual encounters/sexual abuse. But facts are facts, no matter how inconvenient, and there is much more at stake here than just protecting kids from molesters. More than ever in our history—at least in my lifetime—our society is in turmoil over whose version of the truth gets to take precedent. But there is only one version of the truth, and I intend to be honest whether or not that hurts my cause, because acknowledging truth where I see it takes precedent over any social or political causes I may have. In fact, one of my central causes is restoring the supremacy of truth to our culture.

      It’s naive to think our society’s taboos fully succeed in repressing childhood sexuality. Children still play doctor, and a majority of the time they do it in secret, against their parents’ wishes. We have to conclude, then, that prepubescent sexual curiosity is sometimes strong enough to overrule even the natural desire to obey parents. If children had adult sexual desires, some *would* engage in adult sexual behaviors. This would be a measurable phenomenon even in a prudish society. As it stands, the phenomenon is practically nonexistent, which supports my assertion that childhood sexuality is not like adult sexuality.

      I remember having a friend in middle school who had a girlfriend for a while. He broke up with her because she wanted to kiss passionately. They actually did engage in this behavior together, but he didn’t enjoy it, whereas she did, and that was the breaking point for them. Even at twelve or thirteen years old, this most basic practice of adult sexuality was still distasteful to my friend.

      Yes, boys tend to be a little behind the curve from girls in sexual maturity. But that’s neither here nor there. Again, nobody at this blog has claimed that children are sexually on par with adults. No one. If you have an example that shows otherwise, then provide it.

      Prepubescent kids tease each other with the suggestion that the other person has adult romantic or sexual feelings. To them the idea feels yucky.

      Yucky? I’m surprised you didn’t throw the word ‘cooties’ in there as well. What decade are you in, Ward Cleaver? Sorry, that was low-hanging fruit, I admit. But gosh geewillikers, Grandpa! Wake up. Elementary school kids are dating these days. Clearly their not all that grossed out by it. When I was a teenager, a 10-year-old girl I knew asked me to “go with” (in the parlance of the era) her. It was not a joke to her. She was not smiling when she asked me. She meant it sincerely, and when I turned her down she was heartbroken. She resented me for years afterward. I know this because she eventually became a waitress at the restaurant I sometimes frequented with my parents, and I could tell she still held a grudge against me all those years later.

      The point I’m making here is, don’t underestimate or dismiss the power of kids’ feelings. You do them a massive disservice in doing so. Whether that feeling is desire (on whatever level that exists for kids), romantic inclinations, or whatever they are. Here at Pigtail in Paint we celebrate and examine the girl-child in all of her complexity, including her romantic or erotic fixations, which people like you often sneeringly dismiss as “puppy love” or some other such malarkey. I’ve read numerous accounts of children exploring their sexuality alone, with each other or with adults. Only the latter should be truly proscribed. That’s not the society we live in though. I aim to change that. I likewise dismiss the notion of the unhealthy voyeur with respect to any sort of art, regardless of what it is. I reject that as strenuously as I reject anything, for no one can ever know what benefits others may get from such images; and vice versa, no one can ever know what deficits any sort of art may cause any particular viewer. I get protecting kids from genuine harm and abuse. But I don’t believe they are warranted any special protections from “bad ideas” or harm that might result from someone mistaking art for a manifesto to molest children or in simply being overwhelmed, hypodermic needle-style, by the “drug” of child rape. In short, there is a limit to the degree that kids should get de facto protection from anything, and the limit should lie at actual demonstrable harm. Otherwise, every part of free expression should be cherished and taken seriously, because no part of free expression is safe when we start outlawing things that might result in harm somewhere down the line.

      I think prepubescent sexual curiosity can extend well beyond the ordinary desire kids have to unravel a mystery. Young kids seem to have an actual drive to see or even explore the genitals of the opposite sex, leading to games like “doctor.” But the idea of even serious kissing, let alone full-on adult sexual activities, is naturally repulsive to kids. It’s a pedophilic fantasy that young children want to have adult sex. Even when a child is manipulated into going along with sex with an adult, and even in cases where he or she might experience pleasurable sensations, the very idea of it still strongly opposes what feels normal and right to a kid, and this alone is enough to create lasting trauma.

      Again, you speak about pedophiles as if you know a great deal about them. Moreover, you make the same mistake all critics on these issues do in the end: you ascribe a single feeling or motivation to kids as if they are not individuals but one mass object with a single measurable property. Wait, isn’t there something in the pedophile typology literature about how pedos like to objectify children? Hmm. There is no “normal” or “right” for small children. This is because those are man-made concepts that are not in-born. Children are essentially blank canvases when it comes to right and wrong, and certainly to normality. At best they have animal instincts that might suggest danger in certain situations, but that is not something that’s innate to sexual abuse. I’ve read many accounts where an abused child believed their abuse to be normal until they learned otherwise. In some of those cases they hated the abuse, and in some they didn’t.

      Nevertheless, once more, for the record, I am opposed to sexual abuse in all forms because direct harm is both possible and frequent in those situations. Beyond that, I am not here to judge people’s motivations. If you stay within the laws and cause no intentional harm to anyone, you’re okay in my book. Nor do I advocate changing the age of consent. I have no interest in actual sex with children. My interests stem from being an artist, a disciple of art, and whatever psychological motivations drive me to understand the prepubescent and pubescent girl-child. If you want to call that pedophilia, then you are gravely misusing the term and making the situation worse for everyone involved. In short, I’m not going to kowtow to society’s witch hunt or lump concepts into simple black and white categories for the convenience of your conscience. That’s not why Pigtails exists. If that’s what you want, then start your own art blog about child nudes. In fact, more power to ya. We need more blogs focusing on those issues. But if you just plan to come here and complain because some of our language makes you uncomfortable, well then, what can I say? It’s hard out here for a pimp, son.

      If you want to argue that there are nonpornographic reasons for these depictions, I can grant that this is true, although I feel that the art might be at least as powerful (and have a broader audience) if its depictions were less direct. But if you intend to argue that these are realistic depictions of childhood sexuality, that I can’t see. These works place children in gruesome situations that would have to wreak havoc on any child’s sexual development. Normal childhood sexuality can’t really be explored artistically in a context with hardcore sexual abuse.

      When I use the term ‘child sexuality’, I mean it in a very broad sense. I mean any intersection of childhood and sex in art. I can see where that would be confusing, but I don’t have a better descriptor for all of that. Child abuse is obviously too specific a term to cover all of that. If you have a better term, please share and I’ll consider using it in the future.

      You seem to suppose I would be in favor of censoring adult porn. I wouldn’t. When two adults have sex, they’re both mature enough to consent, and they generally don’t harm each other. When an adult has sex with a child, the child is not old enough to consent, and there is always harm. Your claim that the cases against adult porn and violent content are essentially no different from the case against child porn is kind of chilling. You really don’t see the difference?

      Okay, here’s one area where we are at odds: you say “there is always harm” resulting from adult/child sexual encounters. That is both an unprovable statement and, according to the claims of many victims, simply untrue. I am generally inclined to accept their account of things, just as I am for when victims claim they were greatly harmed. It was their reality, not mine, and unless I have good reason to doubt them, I accept their account of things. I also refuse to play society’s game of rewriting history and dominating the narrative so that all victims are believed to have been unequivocally and irreversibly harmed. This is clearly a lie, and I do not believe it helps abuse survivors to heal by telling them that sexual abuse is the worst thing that can ever happen to them, that they were definitely traumatized, and they have to play along with that narrative whether they experienced it that way or not. This narrative may not create the harm of abuse, but it almost certainly exacerbates it. Sorry, but I’m not into playing games with people’s heads for society’s convenience.

      Now, in terms of comparing the influential effects of adult porn and violent content with child porn, you offer no clear distinction but simply try to emotionally manipulate me into agreeing with you by saying you find my comparison “kind of chilling”. No, what’s chilling is your goal of shaming us into speaking about these issues according to your definition of what is healthy so you can feel better about coming here to look at cute little girls and not have to experience the very cognitive dissonance that this blog was to some extent designed to dispel.

      First, porn *is* in a different class from other art. This isn’t “special pleading” because it’s a claim that’s easy to support with an obvious reason: one looks at porn in order to feel sexual pleasure. It’s a unique kind of imagery capable of stimulating sexual arousal and drive. Porn is typically used as an enhancement to either actual sex with a partner or masturbation. Thus, it isn’t generally viewed for the same reasons or in the same contexts as art proper. As its purpose involves a kind of physical stimulation, in a certain sense it’s like a drug.

      Again with your simple monolithiic view of things! You say that I oversimply your views, and yet you continue to say things like this. People can look at porn for a variety of reasons, not just to experience sexual pleasure. Perhaps they are simply curious, perhaps they are studying porn, perhaps they are looking for points on form. I’ve seen older porn incorporated into artworks. Sure, most people look at porn for sexual arousal/masturbation purposes, but that doesn’t invalidate all the other reasons people might look at it, and it doesn’t inherently disqualify it as art either. Violent media has its own appeal. We get a thrill out of it for one reason or another, including, for some people, a sexual thrill. Now that I don’t really understand the appeal of, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t get to stamp it out if eventually convinces someone to commit rape. Ditto for adult porn. The point I was making comes back to the reason why you believe child porn, including drawings, should be banned. On photos and videos I will agree with you, but only because the images are directly complicit in the crimes they capture; they can only exist to further exploit the very real crime of sexual abuse that has already taken place. Even if some people viewed the images as art and nothing more (I’m sure there are people who would), you can’t get past the fact that the images exist as a direct form of exploitation of the abuse that was already committed, a furtherance of that crime if you will. That argument cannot be extended to drawings, paintings and so on where no actual children were involved at any step in the process of its creation. What your argument boils down to is influence. And I said that, like violence or regular porn, anyone could persuaded in any number of directions by these things, some of them criminal. That is likewise true for drawings of children behaving sexually or being sexually abused. So yes, there is a valid comparison to be made on those grounds.

      What porn makes a person want to do is have sex. Since having sex is a legitimate adult activity, regular porn doesn’t drive toward anything harmful per se. Yes, you could say that some people, when sexually stimulated, may desire to rape, but inciting someone to rape is not the purpose of porn, just as inciting to violence is not the purpose of a thriller movie. Each has a legitimate place in society.

      Correction: what porn does is make some people want to have sex. Most, I assume, have the firm motivation of masturbating to porn, and once they’re sated, they no longer have a sexual motivation for a time. Is that equivalent to “wanting to have sex”? I don’t think you can make that claim. But that’s a side point, really. And who are you to claim lolicon doesn’t have a legitimate place in society? I think the evidence will show that it serves a very useful function, actually. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

      By contrast, consider child porn. For the person aroused by it (i.e., for *everyone* who actually uses it qua pornography), its effect is to stimulate a strong desire to have sex with a child. But adult sex with a child is never a legitimate activity. Child pornography always leads its consumers to take pleasure–perhaps very great pleasure–in their arousal and drive to have sex with children. This is its primary purpose and the principal effect its creators and their customers seek. This is why people with perverse sexual desires will pay a lot of money for it, and that, in turn, is why children are exploited to create it.

      Unlike adult porn or violent content, child porn precipitates a drive to do something harmful *whenever* it’s used. By its very nature, it generally increases danger to children in several ways.

      Well, that’s just straight up bullshit. I have seen lolicon and shotacon in the past, though I’m not a collector of either. Lolicon and shotacon have a unique place in Japanese culture. Though frowned on by many, they are legal and not considered overly problematic by most Japanese people. A major Japanese politician once admitted openly and proudly to reading it, and he was not rebuked or removed from his job. Guess what? Child sexual abuse does not happen in huge numbers in Japan. Actually, Japan has far less abuse than we do, and lower crime rates across the board than we do. Why do you suppose that is? When you make something illicit, you automatically create a high demand for it. Many people are drawn to the forbidden. It’s understandable to outlaw child porn where children were obvious participants. Harm was done in its creation, and more harm is done in its dissemination. But that cannot be said of lolicon. Lolicon has a huge following even in the West, I believe in part because of the danger factor in viewing it, but if you call those people pedophiles most of them will tell you to fuck off. A great many of those people, by their own admission, are not attracted to real kids. Some don’t even like kids at all. Drawings of kids are not kids. They are drawings. Mere symbols. They are figments of the imagination of the artists who created them, and then later, of the consumers who get to share in the artists’ vision. They are not real. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

      Most people will take those drawings as exactly what they are, can distinguish between fantasy and reality, possess a conscience, have no problems controlling their behavior and have zero interest in molesting children anyway. Holding all artists and art consumers responsible for the few folks who somehow manage to slip past all of those natural barriers and abuse a child is just as absurd as holding Tobe Hooper and all horror fans responsible because a few terrible and misguided people might become inspired by chainsaw-weilding Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or holding the entire adult porn industry and fandom responsible because of Ted Bundy’s crimes. Any art or media should only be deemed illegal if its creation involved direct harm to an individual, AND it’s distribution should be outlawed because the images further exploit the victim. Hence, I would include in my ban adult porn in which women (or men) were actually raped, and so-called snuff films obviously. So there are rightful limits even with adults in media. But I would not censor rape scenes in art or sex-based murder scenes where no one was actually harmed, regardless of the artist’s intent (if you can even prove what that is). Why would I change that policy with respect to drawn child sex scenes?

      Our laws proscribe illicit drugs. Use of these drugs leads to pleasure, which is why people spend a lot of money on them. But along with that pleasure come other effects that are harmful to society. It’s untrue that every time someone uses meth, a robbery is committed, but it’s observable that in a community where meth use is widespread, more robberies are committed overall. Illicit drugs act directly only on the minds of their users, but indirectly, through the users’ ensuing actions, they generally tend to hurt other people in the vicinity. The same may be said of child porn.

      I really don’t want to get into arguing about drugs, but I will say that the majority of the problems would be solved by legalizing all of them. They would be a lot cheaper, therefore most crime committed to feed a drug habit would be eliminated. People would also be far more inclined to come forward and say they had a drug problem if drugs were legal. By the same token, if we didn’t stigmatize pedophilia (not sexual abuse, but pedophilia, the attraction base), more pedophiles who felt they might be a danger to kids would seek help. Let’s be honest: the outlawing of things like lolicon and child sex dolls have very little to do with protecting kids and never did. Again, if people cared so goddamn much about protecting kids from harm, they’d do a lot better on a crap-ton of issues that harm far more children than sexual cartoons ever could. What society is really doing here is something they know they can’t do directly: punishing pedophiles for existing. If society wants to demonstrate to me that they care enough about keeping kids safe that they take all those other issues as seriously as they seem to take this one, then I might be swayed to rethink my view on this. But they won’t, and so I shan’t have to. Indeed, there have, to my knowledge, been only no major studies on the effects of lolicon/shotacon hentai or cartoon child erotica alone on consumers. Wanna know why? Because lawmakers and others know it will likely demonstrate that sexual abuse rates go down when people have access to those sorts of images. In fact, the only legit large-scale study was done on all types of child porn consumption in societies where it was legal for a time and not legal for a time. Know what they found? Exactly what I knew they would. And that was on real child pornography.

      https://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/springer+select?SGWID=0-11001-6-1042321-0

      Now how are you going to convince me that cartoons that involve no real children whatsoever will cause sex offenses to increase if we know real child porn doesn’t even do it? Yeah, I’m going with what I know is true and standing against what I can see is clearly a position based on bias rather than good research, or indeed any genuine motivation to protect children. The evidence clearly is against you on that point.

      It feels strange to be so involved in arguing that all child pornography is harmful. Most people seem to take that for granted. When I first came to this site, I had the impression that it was only advocating for healthier, more open views of child nudity and natural childhood sexuality. Eventually I started to see statements that seemed to at least border on defending the validity of adults seeing children as objects of sexual desire. If the latter is any part of the purpose of this blog, then I feel that it’s a dark and dangerous place. But perhaps I’ve just misread your intentions.

      What “most people take for granted” is of little value in the scheme of things, especially when it comes to art or culture. The reason it feels strange is because, up till now, I expect no one challenged your preconceptions and biases on these matters. Whether you decide from this that Pigtails is a “dark and dangerous place” is ultimately up to you. I will not offer you any easy answers. Perhaps these ideas are dangerous, or perhaps the real danger comes from your need to recast as perverted and abnormal something that is—albeit unusual—healthy and fulfilling to a great many people. If that’s your take, then so be it. Get lost. If, however, you are willing to open up and see the bigger picture here, to understand the full scope of this project and its importance in this era of moral panic and pure propaganda passing itself off as news or worse, as good science, then good on you. I hope it’s the latter, but if it isn’t, then it’s not going to upset me if you bugger off and find another scholarly, well-researched little girl art site to haunt. I mean, they’re a dime a dozen, right? Toodles!

      • Hi Pip,

        I want to quickly address the part where you said, “real pedophiles have no interest in adults.” This is almost as much an oversimplification as ap’s. As I mentioned in another comment, “pedophilia” is complex. As you know, the term is inaccurately used to refer to a range of chronophilias that also includes hebephilia (tweens) and ephebephila (teens). And after that there’s teleophilia, which is attraction to adults. It’s a range and different people fall within portions of it. Some are exclusively attracted to prepubescents (true pedophiles), while others might also be attracted to older “children.” And some “pedophiles” also experience sexual attraction to adults. As I said, it’s complex, not unlike the Kinsey Scale and sexual orientation. Just wanted to clarify.

        • Arielle, I okayed a couple of your replies, but I had to trash one of them. I’m sure you can understand why. Nevertheless, I appreciate your input. Meanwhile, I think Ron and I and the rest of the editorial team need to discuss putting some kind of limit on the length of replies and better define what content will be allowed so we don’t get into this position again. I’m not happy about it. I don’t like being the bad guy in situations like this. But I don’t think we should have to put up with anyone accusing this site of nefarious activities. I’ve defended the site multiple times now against these kinds of insinuations. “a parent”‘s was a little more nuanced and sweetly worded than usual, but it still comes down to the same thing: we are being accused of catering to pedophiles. From this point on, anyone who makes any such accusations against Pigtails in Paint, it’s admins and moderators, or its fan base will have their comments summarily deleted and they will face a permanent ban from accessing the site. Spread the word, please.

  3. (1) It is often believed that simply being a parent gives someone innate knowledge and wisdom about everything related to children. And quite generally one thinks that good parenting means keeping a close watch on your children and doing everything to shield them from effective sexuality. I have been a parent myself, and with hindsight I think that I was not very knowledgeable. Maybe I will be wiser as a grandparent. Nevertheless, as a parent, I have never feared childhood sexuality and paedophilia, and I did not panic when one child was late coming back from a feast at a fiend’s place. The only “paranoia” I espoused was about real safety, like fastening seatbelts in a car. I had been impressed reading in a journal about a woman who had a car accident, her daughter did not have a seatbelt, she flew through the windscreen and crashed on the ground; her last words before dying were “Mum, I feel pain.”
    (2) An argument for justifying censorship of some specific types of art is that it interests a small minority. European culture has a long tradition of persecuting minorities, especially those “who do not want to be and do like anyone else,” for instance Jews and homosexuals. In this respect, I must repeat the famous words of Rosa Luxemburg:
    Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.
    (3) This might interest Pip and other readers. I know an artist who drew pubescent young girls in an erotic context: Stu Mead (www.stumead.com). His work has been featured on his site, but also on wordpress.com blogs, such as “conchigliadivenere” and “americangallery21st” (this one with 3 articles).
    (4) For TKBIK. One should not trust gossip about Kinsey spread by his conservative detractors, in particular the ultra-reactionary Judith Reisman who just did character assassination. Kinsey interviewed many people about their sex life, including during childhood. Since then, there have been many observations of masturbation by toddlers, babies, and even foetuses (seen with ultrasound), and testimonies of orgasms in prepubertal children. I quote from a research paper:
    The current observation seems to show not only that the excitement reflex can be evoked in female fetuses at the third trimester of gestation but also that the orgasmic reflex can be elicited during intrauterine life.
    This would agree with the physiologic features of female sexuality: The female sexual response is separate from reproductive functions and doesn’t need a full sexual maturity to be explicit.

    I have scientific references for those interested.

    • I’ve read a number of scientific references as well. Also, in naturist clubs, I’ve seen many children playing with their genitals. Looking at their faces, you don’t see eroticism, but boredom. Genitals are in the approximate location of resting hands. It is no different than twirling fingers in your hair, or picking at the grass you are sitting on. Busywork for idle fingers. Playing with it is not masturbating. This is a prime example of what I called ‘sexuopomorphism ‘. You can send me some of those scientific references though. I may have read them already.

  4. I’ve been temped to reply to before this, but the rebuttals said anything I would have.I agree with most of what you have said above, especially “Aegrescit Medendo” (The disease worsens with the treatment. This statement, by Virgil, is also translated as, ‘The remedy (cure) is worse than the disease.) I do, however, refute the the NOT “normal” child. Don’t flame me yet. Finish reading and think about what I am saying. I am not siding with the right-wing puritans, but also not siding with more liberal factions either. Truth is often found in the middle.

    You didn’t go into it much when you mentioned “there is a ton of evidence that contradicts this supposition”. I believe you are referring to articles such as those by Alfred Kinsey who documented early childhood orgasm. He did so from reports by child molesters who held a finger against the child’s anus while performing manual or oral stimulation. When the anus clenches, the child is experiencing an orgasm. I don’t believe this to be correct. If somebody was poking my butt while playing with my junk, I think it would clench too, and would have nothing to do with orgasm. Many other articles have similar fallacies, applying adult interpretations to childhood experiences. The truth can only be revealed by those who can think like a child and converse with a child at their level.

    So many researchers let their own beliefs bias their research which is a HUGE problem, especially in psychology where observations are open to individual interpretation . They either sexuopomorphise (similar to anthropomorphise) the child looking for signs of sexuality, or deny any of the child’s interest in sexuality. I’ll use a metaphor to demonstrate. Some people see a Jock Sturges photo and exclaim, “That’s child pornography,” while others look at the same picture and think, “Wow, she hot. I’d do her.” The view we need to take is that neither of those perverted viewpoints are correct, she is simply naked at the beach.

    Prepubescent children are sexually curious. They hear a little bit about sex a lot of the time and what to know what it is all about. This has lead to the excuse, “But they wanted to,” which is usually scoffed at as being improbable. Of course the child wanted to, they were curious about something they were denied learning about. A child is also very sensual. A child who had been sexually fondled by a child molester can enjoy the experience. This has lead to the excuse, “But they enjoyed it,” which is even more scoffed at as being impossible. But, the child is not responding positively to the sexual molestation, but to the sensual massage. To the child, they are not very different. (To the molester/masseuse they are VERY different.) Growing up, including sexually, isn’t a switch, it’s a process.

    In conclusion, I believe that the prepubescent child is asexual, but capable of sexual thoughts and behaviours. But not like the sexually ignorant innocent that puritans want them to be. A proto-sexual being.

    This comment only applies to the ‘true’ prepubescent child. The MOMENT the hormones START to kick in (not when secondary sexual characteristics start to show up a year or so later) the child becomes a sexual being and all I said above becomes moot.

  5. Before seeing this post, I had never heard of QAnon.
    But it only demonstrated to me even further just how sick and fanatical are the
    activists of the ultra-right in Trump’s America.

    • I’d be cautious using the phrase “Trump’s America.” If by that you mean the toxic political environment that has allowed him to take office then I’m right with you. But if you are blaming him specifically for the current mess, then I disagree. He’s a symptom, not the cause, and if he didn’t exist someone else would. It’s a function of the extreme polarization affecting not just the US, but Europe and elsewhere as well, and there’s a fair amount of bile emanating from the ultra-left. Nationalism vs. identity politics. Two sides of the same coin (or perhaps the same side of two coins, to quote Tom Stoppard). Both destructive when taken too far. But I’m a knee-jerk moderate, so what do I know?

      • No, I am not blaming him for all of the current mess. Maybe his election was a symptom of it, but his presidency has made the situation at least twice as bad.

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