Direct Engagement 2-- Kincaid Reading

Appreciation: This article is all about the sexualization and eroticism of children. As a society we repeatedly sexualize and eroticize the image of the gender neutral child, while we punish those who act on the fantasies that we create as a society. Kincaid uses many examples, like Macaulay Culkin in his coppertone advertisement where pictures of an androgynous Culkin playing while a cute dog pulls down his swim trunks eroticize the image of the androgynous child, but when Culkin gets older he loses his appeal. He discusses how the Michael Jackson scandal and all the jokes that followed were a necessary construction of society, and had these events not occurred society would have created an instance where it was equally constructed through a different entity.
His thesis states that "erotic children are manufactured -- in the sense that we produce them in our cultural factories, the ones that make meanings for us. They tell us what 'the child' is and also what 'the erotic' is. I argue that for the past two hundred years they have confused us, have failed to distinguish the two categories, have allowed them to dangerously overlap."

Critique: This article raised many questions for me. While I was reading the beginning, I was getting mental images of Willy Nesler sitting on trial, ready to tell his story and his mom going crazy and shooting his molester. I was getting images of the Michael Jackson trial, and how the press went crazy over his alleged offenses and even though he was found innocent, how society had already found him guilty. The Macaulay Culkin reference also hit close to home, I was raised on Home Alone movies, and when Kincaid pointed out that after Culkin grew into a more sexualized body, that is, less androgynous, he became much less popular. These examples raised some questions for me:

  • Why is our society so obsessed with child molestation?

  • Why are small children exploited in the media for entertainment, and why are certain images of children so much more desirable than others?

  • Could the mediated representations of children really be somewhat responsible for creating them in an erotic paradigm?

  • Are child molesters really confused about the erotic nature of children?
  • Once I read his thesis I got a strong feeling in the pit of my stomach. I understand Kincaid's point of view, that mediated images of children as erotic beings and also as pure and innocent beings are contradictory at best. However, it seems almost as if he is justifying the molestation of children based on the idea that mediated images confuse normal people into thinking that it is ok. For me that is extremely problematic, child molesters are not to be given a reason to excuse their behavior. Children may be sexual beings by nature but they are not able to consent to sexual acts, and certainly should not but put into those kinds of situations.
    His argument that therapists and other adults can help in creating false memories of molestation is very interesting to me. It has been documented that some therapists are responsible for helping to create false memories, but it is problematic to suggest this as a basis of dismissal of a child's claim of molestation,
    The bottom line for me is that it is important that our children as a society are protected from unwanted advances from both trusted and unknown adults. It is normal for children to experiment sexually, but adults do not need to take part in that experimentation.

    Construction: There are two ways that I would like to think about what I can do with this article. It is important for me as an advertising and media student to realize the complications that the media might be making on its projected images of children. I certainly do not want to prolong or contribute to this problem.
    Also, I think this article has an interesting parallel to the concept of heteronormativity in children. Children are taught that opposite sex relationships are standard. I think that scandals like the Michael Jackson example are so much more outrageous than most because he was a Man preying on little boys. Same sex molestation tends to get a bigger buzz than opposite sex molestation, simply because it is more societally problematic. My feeling on the issue is that child molestation is not ok regardless of its orientation.

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