Save us from the sexy babies

AN American blogger is berating parents for buying their babies bibs with “hottie” logos. She accuses these parental pimps of advertising their kiddies as prostitots and encouraging pedophiles: “I have to wonder if they think about the child predators who claim that kids are flirting with them or asking for it,” the blogger writes.

This, awfully enough, is where we’ve come to in the hysteria over the sexualisation of children: the suggestion that it is possible to dress a newborn in a way that implies they are asking for sex.

Surely we all agree that babies should be allowed to get about in as much or as little as they like without being accused of looking like uncovered meat (as Sydney’s hardline Islamic cleric Feiz Mohammed put it in his notorious men-are-like-hungry-cats speech back in 2005).

Surely we should never have to worry that our infants’ singlets are too skimpy or their frocks riding too high. Yet there are activists who claim that nappy ads will arouse rock spiders because they show bare baby bums and that footage of kids splashing in bubble baths will provoke perverts because the bouncing could be misconstrued.

There is something deeply disturbing about anyone who looks at an anklebiter and sees sex, regardless of whether these people are pedophiles or concerned citizens working themselves into a frenzy imagining possible pedophilic responses.

Hyper vigilance about the sexualisation of children also blames the victims rather than the villains.
How ironic that many of the feminists who championed the no means no mantra in the 1970s now support the idea that very tiny humans may encourage molestation if they dress inappropriately.

While it’s true that pedophiles often claim their child victims led them on, this is not because of hottie bibs. It is because such people are mentally disordered sex criminals whose heinous deeds must be punished and who must be rehabilitated or removed from the community at once.

Dressing babies in burkas won’t help. In fact it may exacerbate the problem given that we desperately need to have explicit and quite possibly embarrassing exchanges with our kids about their bodies and burgeoning sexualities to keep them safe.

Most of us are happy to rant and rave about the sluttification effect of the Bratz Babyz range.
Yet we’re conspicuously silent when childcare centres ban critical sex education books such as Everyone’s Got a Bottom (believed to be the first in this country to use words such as vulva, vagina, penis and testicles in a child protection context).

Could it be that some of our angst about the sexualisation of children is angst about sexuality in general?
One activist website condemns the sexual appearance of children before going on to condemn the sexual appearance of teens, surely an age where one should be permitted to develop the odd pube or boob.

Kids need the freedom to explore the natural curiosities and quirks of childhood — some of which involves aping adults — without enduring accusations that they’re slutbags-to-be.

Apart from anything else, many of these approximations of maturity have long and harmless histories. Teen mags that depict the adulation of older male celebrities are cited as evidence of the creeping scourge of corporate pedophilia. Yet when I was a little tacker, I had raging crushes on both Donny and Marie Osmond without suffering any ill effects (except, perhaps, for a lingering sheepishness and an odd response to the opening bars of You are My Sunshine).

We also need to ensure we’re not overreacting simply because kiddie trends have changed since we were sprogs.

Most of us are OK with grommets who push micro prams, who totter around in their parents’ clothes or who give each other big sloppy kisses. We know these activities shouldn’t be taken strictly literally or given adult motivations.

We should also accept, therefore, that little girls who apply lip gloss and prance about in midriff tops are not mini Paris Hiltons (thereby inviting all that Hilton invites). They are little girls. End of story.
Anyone who thinks otherwise should remember that kinderwhorism can only ever be in the eyes of the beholder.

- originally published in The Australian on 24-04-2008.

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