diablogging 'bout kincaid

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I'll admit that I had a hard time "rejiggling the terms" of child molestation. But the more I read and reread Kincaid's "Producing Erotic Children," I started to dig in to what he was saying.

My first reaction is to the language he uses to construct his critique: he uses imagery of vacancy and simplicity as indicators of the eroticized purity, innocence, and liberty. He argues that this lack of complexity in our construction of children opens up the possibility for writing our own fantasies onto that blankness. The 'vacancy' is thus filled by our constructions of eroticized, sexualized children. While I'm not positive that I fully grasp or agree with Kincaid's argument, his discussion of blankness, smoothness, blandness, blondness, bleached-ness (or whitening), youthfulness and vacancy as connected and the sites and sources of obsession and eroticization seemed to have some merit. If the equation of youthfulness = beauty = sexual desire makes sense when applied to socially appropriate sexual subjects, who's to say that there is some invisible line that protects that same logic from being applied to children?

I think what's on the flip-side of this vacancy/blankness/silence language is what's at stake. Kincaid talks about purity, innocence and liberty as qualities that are attributed to children, things to be protected and preserved. He also draws our attention to the connections that purity, innocence and liberty have to sexualized adults (particularly women)--the desire for purity, innocence and virginity is so overplayed it's ridiculous. But Kincaid talks about why these qualities are eroticized, arguing that they demand protection while simultaneously eliciting the desire to despoil.

I think what this leads to is to agree with what Kincaid argues, that the current terms of the conversation (the scandal-free kind) perpetuate all the wrong things. They allow us to know and yet not know about a 'taboo' topic--the possibility of sexuality in children. The current terms actually shut down different conversations, and instead, like Kincaid argues, the same answer-less questions get asked, leaving us feeling politically and socially conscious, but ultimately unmoved and inactive.

5 Comments

This helped so much!
Thanks, Kate.
#Imanerd (I'm going to use that all the time, even when hashtags don't apply or make sense. Thanks to @Mary.)

I think it is interesting that you see the imagery provided by Kincaid as producing children as sort of a blank slate. It is all too common for children to be the most important and least important aspects of our society. What I mean is that while they are held up on this pedestal of purity and innocence, they are often marginalized and ignored. They are not given a voice of their own to speak their desires and are often spoken for by adults. I find an interesting tangent here to the expectations of women in our society. They are expected to be youthful, hence the shaving, waxing, botox and emphasis on remaining slender. When they are married they assume their husband's last name, as if he can now own and speak for her.
What I found interesting also was the use of male children in his article, the white male child is the image of purity here. I wonder if not including different races of children or different sexes was an oversight or intentional?
Why do you think that our society is so youth obsessed?

I think, particularly in relation to our class discussion on Tuesday, that our obsession with youth plays into the idea of the child queered by innocence. We talked about how "youth" is a vague term, an in-between term, not qute child and not quite adult, and that this vagueness represents an opening for meaning-making. Meanings get placed onto the bodies of "youth," and "youth" becomes a protracted state--a woman of 47 can yearn to be youthful (a signifier of innocence), with "baby smooth skin" and no wrinkles. She is then, supposedly, desirable. I think that the disconnect between youthfulness as desirable but youth(s) as possible objects/subjects of desire is where the space for queering is made/found.

That was perfectly put katie, I do not have much to add on to that, but that, that is what I feel even the kincaid article is getting at. This notion of youthfulness or the wanting to be younger and desired is how the "probability" of molestation can occur. Not in the sense that because you want to be younger that now your a molester, but that the fact behind you wanting to be younger looking is that people tend to fingd that look more desirable and that could be the reason why molestation could happen. which is what I think Kincaid was trying to get at.

I totally agree with what you are saying here. This was very much true for me at the time that I was going through a trial which I was not a part of. lol. My parents spoke on the behalf of me which I thought was so dumb, but I was glad because I was very nervous to speak, afraid of my true feelings at the time and the reactions I would get if I exposed what I felt really happened to people I did not know.

But to try and answer your question about why our society is so youth obsessed, I feel that this is so because that is a time in your life were you can be the most care free and ignorant as you want, because you have so much learning and experiencing to do as you grow older. So for women who are getting older (and with age comes more responsiblity) They may come to a point in their lives were they just want to be a kid again, and in doing so they have to look and play the part. shoot, there are times know when i want to be a kid again and not work and have no bills or responsibilities to worry about. lol. I think we all do at times, just maybe some more that others.

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